AUTHOR: Sam “Chip” Cook; edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter and Hallie Smith
David Hickson Huff, born in Forsyth County in 1834, was a farmer and waggoner who resided between present-day Winston-Salem and Kernersville, North Carolina. North Carolina marriage records show that David married Matilda Smith on September 7, 1856.
Matilda’s family was a part of the Friedland Moravian Church congregation, and it appears David joined the church, although it is not clear what previous Christian denomination he belonged to. Matilda’s parents were Jacob Smith and Anna Phillips Smith. Jacob had not been raised Moravian but joined when he married Anna. Anna Phillips Smith, Matilda’s mom, came from a long line of Moravians, one of whom was one of the founders of the church in 1771.
Prior to the start of the Civil War, according to the 1860 U.S. Census records, David and Matilda lived with their two-year-old son, Elias Kerner Huff. Not much is recorded of David’s family during the Civil War years, that is, until the end of the war. David did not participate as a soldier for either side; however, he was still affected by the war. By March of 1865, the Confederate cause was coming to an end, and desertions were increasingly occurring from the Confederate Army. Confederate “sharpshooter” units were sent into North Carolina’s populated areas to capture and punish deserting soldiers, which often resulted in executions. According to Adam Domby, one such unit, Company A of the N.C. 1st Battalion Sharpshooters, led by Reuben E. Wilson, seemed to not only target deserters but also those who threatened their place in the social hierarchy or who had insulted them over the years. David Huff and four other men were executed by Wilson and his men on March 16, 1865, near the town of Kernersville. Those sharpshooters reportedly executed Huff for “instigating the expedition for the release of J. Huff, a deserter,” or jailbreaking. That was a charge some in the community questioned. The execution reportedly occurred by firing squad at point blank range. (Domby, Adam H., “Loyal to the Core from the First to the Last”: Remembering the Inner Civil War of Forsyth County, North Carolina, 1862-1876, 2011)
It was not until a month later that David was officially buried at Friedland Moravian Church. Rev. Seth G. Clark of the 10th Ohio Calvary Regiment (Union Army) officiated the service. Rev. Clark was the same chaplain who announced on May 21, 1865, that the Civil War had ended by reading the Emancipation Proclamation at St. Philips Moravian Church in Salem. David’s tombstone reads “Killed by the Rebels,” and his remains are still interred at Friedland Moravian. (See attached photograph. Click to enlarge.)
*Note: David had a brother named Jordan Huff, which may add opportunity, at least, to the accusation that he broke a J. Huff out of jail, leading to the charge against him before his execution. Currently, this is proven to be no more than a coincidence.