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Brief Report of the Services Rendered by the Freed People to the United States Army, in North Carolina, in the spring of 1862, after the battle of Newbern, by Vincent Colyer.  Printed in New York, 1864

 

“I commenced my work with the freed people of color, in North Carolina, at Roanoke Island, soon after the battle of the 8th of February, 1862, which resulted so gloriously for our country.”

 

Headquarters, Department of North Carolina.

Newbern, March 30, 1862

Mr. Vincent Colyer is hereby appointed Superintendent of the Poor, and will be obeyed and respected accordingly.

By Command of Major General Burnside
My first order from General Burnside under this appointment, was to employ as many negro men as I could get, up to the number of five thousand; to offer them eight dollars a month, one ration and clothes, to work on the building of forts.

 

Read more from Colyer’s report here: https://digital.lib.ecu.edu/13431

Sketch from Colyer's published report "Furney"

Sketch from Colyer’s published report, Colyer was also an artist.

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May 14, 1864 (cont’d)

From Louisianna we hear that Banks has retreated to Alexandria. The Yankee Gunboat Eastport has been blown up & two transport’s captured. The remainder of the fleet is above the Rapids with no chance of escaping. Taylor had captured four thousand prisoners. Price’s success was complete. Marmaduke had captured Steele’s white waggon train. Steele was surrounded. Price demanded his surrender. He acceeded on condition that the negroes be treated as prisoners of war. Price refused & the terms were referred to Kirby Smith who replied “that the negroes should be sent to their owners.” Steele refused to capitulate. Smith was reinforcing Price & it was thought Steele would soon be glad to accept the rejected terms as he was surrounded & without supplies. We have retaken Fort De Russy & Cheneville. The enemy made a stand at Markham but were defeated with heavy loss. Their reinforcements by the river were driven back at Fort de Russy, four gunboats were burned above the falls, & Walker had crossed Red River & was marching South in pursuit of the retreating army. The destruction of property has been immense. Our forces burned the cotton, in anticipation of the enemy’s advance, & the Yankees destroyed private property, dwellings, barns, Gins, Churches — everything in short which could be burned in revenge. The course of their army is a blackened desert, women & children turned out homeless & desolate to perish by the wayside!

In N C Gen Hoke invested New Berne & delayed his attack for the arrival of the Albermarle when heavy firing told him she was engaged on her own element & in the mean time came “the necessity for him to move off,” which we interpret to mean orders to leave New Berne & concentrate in Va, which he has now done. Before marching he tried a coup de main & summoned the garrison to surrender. They demanded four hours to consider it but unfortunately discovered before the time had expired that we were preparing to move off and so refused and Hoke had not time to make them, or in the words of the Courier to give them another “Hoke ache” (hoe cake). He cut their communications with Morehead City & but for the attack on the Albemarle in all probability New Berne would have been in our hands before he was ordered to Richmond as their force is but a small one. Amongst the prisoners captured at Plymouth was the brother of Mrs. Hamilton Polk — Beach of Hartford the second in command. A comentary on this war truly — Brother seems against Brother, tho in this instance it is against brother-in-Law.

Flusser was not, it appears, the immaculate man of honour the Yankees represented him. It admits of proof that with his own commissioned hand he stole Miss Russel’s watch & the inside, the works & jewels, of her sister Mrs Griffin’s from the watch maker’s in Hertford where they had been sent for repair. The jeweler secreted the case of Mrs G’s watch, he having the interior in his work bench in the act of repairing it when Lieut Commander Flusser USN came into his shop & took it. Miss Russel is now residing temporarily in Scotland Neck with my neighbor Mrs Whitaker & her exclamation on hearing of his death was “well now I hope he will have to answer for stealing my watch”! Pattie tells me that he has been seen to chase chickens through the streets of Hertford in full uniform — actually to sully his commissin by chicken stealing! He met his death whilst attempting to drop a bombshell down the smoke stack of the Albermarle! Whilst lighting a slow match the shell exploded in his hand and he was blown into peices.

The official Dispatch of Capt Cooke’s late fight tells us that he encountered nine of the enemy’s Gunboats, two of them very large, from the blockading Squadron. He sunk the largest, disabled two others without serious injury to the Albemarle, but lost his tender. We heard of seven gunboats & four small steamers, but it seems he has done better. The iron clad built at Wilmington, “the Raleigh,” bearing the broad person of Com Lynch steamed out of Cape Fear & dispersed the blockading squadron there, much to the astonishment of the Yankees. She thinks she disabled one as a shot struck her fairly. She was out for hours & not a Yankee came in sight after their flight until she was back in the river again.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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May 7, 1864

No mail today, which is hard on poor Pattie whose brother, whom she almost idolizes, may be in the midst of a bloody battle. Rumours by this train tell us that the battle commenced on the 6th & that Lee is getting the advantage of Grant. Train after train of troops pass Halifax going Northward. Hoke is said to have been ordered to ‘face about,’ leave New Berne, & concentrate at Petersburg. On his approach the Yankees evacuated Washington which fell with hands without a fight & retired into their retrenchments at New Berne. Hoke was following when he received the order above mentioned. We do not understand what it means, for, thank God, our leaders are singularly reticent & we are content to wait trusting in their wisdom.

President Davis has met with a heavy misfortune in which he has the sympathy of the country. One of his children, a bright little boy of four years of age, fell from the piazza of his father’s mansion into the paved court yard below, fracturing his skull & sustaining such other injuries that he died within an hour. God comfort the poor parents. On Mr Davis the blow falls at a most trying period when every energy & nerve is strained in the service of his country. God bless & keep him!

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

 

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May 5, 1864

Burnside is on the move from Anapolis certainly. I have said nothing of the Christian warrior, as his plans & movements have been so uncertain that one rumour contradicted the last. Now, however, he has dismissed his transports & declining to “stand like a sea god distinguished by his yellow belt” again, he marches over land to Alexandria, leaves his negro Brigade along the Orange & Alex R R, & brings his White troops to reinforce Grant. Some change in the Yankee programme has evidently taken place & the key to it is to be found in order of Meade’s announcing to his troops whose term of enlistment expires this month that the date of their mustering into service is not when they were sworn in & signed their enlistment papers but when they left the respective States in which they were levied. This has caused great discontent amongst the “Veterans.” He urges them to comport themselves well & not to sully their Laurels by insubordination & hints plainly enough at Military Law & its bloody enforcement should they neglect his admonition. The Penn Legislature has taken the matter in hand & petition Congress that the rights of her citizens in the army be not disregarded.

Rumours are rife that on Monday last an expedition under Hoke went down to attack New berne, but a profound silence is maintained on the subject by all the papers. Heavy cannonading heard in the direction of Washington. In the extreme west all goes well for us. The Yankees admit a second defeat at [ -- ] & claim to have killed Kirby Smith & Stirling Price. We have heard naught of it & have no uneasiness as regards our gallant Generals. Our Victory at Cane Creek was decisive. The Abolitionists themselves admit that “Banks army is demoralized” & fearfully cut up. More than thirty transports & some Gunboats are caught above a Raft in the Red River by a sudden fall in the water & the crews are blowing them up burning them to prevent their falling into our hands. Great activity prevails in our army in Northern Va, but we know nothing save that a battle is imminent & even now may be raging. God defend the right!

Sophia & her infant are with us this week. She is quite weak but a few days of careful observation of her has lessened my anxiety on her account. Her baby is the best I almost ever saw.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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$300 reward

Ranaway, on the 11th April, FANNY DAVIS, and is said to be taken up with Calvin Walis, and has made their escape and has gone to Wilmington or perhaps are trying to make for the Yankees at Newbern. The said boy is a free boy, a bright mulatto, round face, black hair and very dark, about five feet six inches high, and about twenty-two years of age.

The girl was of good character, and is about fifteen years of age, spare made, about five feet in height, slim face, blue eyes, dark hair. The rascal has a sorrel horse with a blaze in his forehead, and blind; also an old buggy. He may trade his horse and buggy. I will pay the above reward for the apprehension of them both – $200 for the girl or $100 for the boy, delivered to me or confined in Jail so that I can get either

J.W. Stutts

Gold Region, Moore county

Source: Fayetteville Observer, April 14, 1864 as found on www.ncecho.org

 

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April 18, 1864 (cont’d)

Preparations are going on at the North for an overwhelming advance on Richmond. Grant is in command. Gen Baldy Smith is to approach up the Peninsula. Spear is to attack Weldon whilst Burnside tries his old route from New Berne to Goldsboro. Grant himself is to manage Lee. All his corps commanders have been changed & the Yankee Nation is, as usual, jubilant & defiant & as to the result — confident. The Herald (excuse me, my dear Journal, from copying anything from its polluted pages into yours — but I take it second hand, expurgated as it were by the Editor of the Examiner), but the Herald with its usual vanity says “Upon Gen Grant there now concentrates the deepest interest with which The World ever watched the actions of any single soldier. We are now, therefore, at that point which must be reached in all great Wars before the war can go forward with irresistable force to the accomplishment of its purpose. We have found our hero!” This is the seventh Hero that the Yankees have found! I suppose they think “there is luck in odd numbers.” Poor “little Napoleon,” unfortunate “fighting Joe,” Burnside the Christian, Pope the despiser of his “rear,” McDowell, Meade — where are you all now? The North has found a hero! “Sound drums & trumpets blare”! The North has found a Hero! Borardo I think set the church bells ringing when he found a name for his hero “Rodomonte,” but the North is more fortunate still. It has found a hero with name and all complete, “Ulysses S Grant,” the triumphant Hero of their yet unwritten Epic! Yet unwritten, but soon to stand forth traced in characters of Blood, blood alaas, of Southern freemen as well as of Northern mercenaries!

Forrest is still successful in Western Kentucky & Tenn; has captured immense quantities of arms & provisions, burned Steamers, & now holds himself at Mayfield, a thorn in the Yankee side. Rumours of a victory gained by us near Shrevesport, La by Kirby Smith over Banks, but they are rumours only for the truth of which we as yet only pray. Farragut after some days shelling the Forts below Mobile has drawn off saying the place must be taken by land — impregnable by sea. The seige of Charleston still continues. The Swamp Angel slowly shells the city. Three unsexed women were seen the other day to visit the batteries & to pull the strings which discharged a shell into the city. With it I suppose went a prayer from their polluted lips that it might destroy some happy home, kill some mother or helpless babe in that “hive of Secession.” Can we wonder at the men when the women set such an example! They it is, the Northern papers say, who are the principle advocates & practicers of “Miscegenation.” Faugh!

To the astonishment of the Yankees a little Steamer rushed down James River the other day & exploded a Torpedo under the Bows of the Minnesota & was off before they could fire upon her & lost in the darkness. They say, which I am sorry to hear, that no damage was done. We must hope for better luck next time, for it was a gallant & daring act.

Suffolk is again occupied in force & another Regt of negro cavalry awaits the charge of a Battery of Southerners. Recently in Miss we attacked a Regt of mounted Cuffies & not one was left to tell the tale! The negroes have a hard time in the Yankee service. Put by their new masters in the front, they bear the brunt of the day & do not receive from their old masters the quarter or the mercy shown by them to prisoners of war, but are shot down without hesitation, not allowed even to surrender. We desire to have no complications on the subject of negro exchanges.

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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The captured deserters

We mentioned in our last that several deserters from our army had been captured in front of Newbern, two of them executed, and others on trial. The Raleigh Confederate, whose Editor was on the ground, says,

“We learn that among the yankee prisoners taken below Kinston last week, there were forty five deserters from Nethercutt’s Battalion. They were in full yankee uniform, and will of course suffer the penalty so eminently due the base crime of desertion to the enemy. One desert from the 8th Regiment, caught in yankee uniform, was shot on Thursday last, with several others.

Source: Fayetteville Observer, February 11, 1864 as found on www.ncecho.org

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