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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 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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Be of good cheer I overcame the world saith one who is mighty

 

Camp near NewbernN.C.

103rd Reg’t, Co., A. U.S.A.,

Friday, April 3rd 1863

 

Dear Father And Mother,

With pleasure I write to let you know that I still am on the land of the living, And still occupy our barrack at Old Newbern.  We have been laying almost inactive since returning from our Hyde Co. Expedition.  If I were to tell you the reason we lay here inactive was on account of the drifting sand you would think it strange, for I suppose the mud covers the surface of the ground around my old native home, this time in the year.  But here the soil is a fine sand and if it rains the water soaks through and the wind from the rivers and plains soon dries off and begins to drift like our snow used to do in old Penna

When writing my last letter I neglected or rather forgot to till you of the Rebels comeing here to Newbern while we were on our march to Hyde Co.  On the morning of the 14th of March our boys tell  us the Rebel Gen. Petigrew came here or near with a force and demanded a surrender.  Gen Foster “would’ent” The rebels got their Canon in range and threw shot Shell and Grape at the 92nd N.Y.V. entrenchments. (92nd is posted on the other side of the river from us, their fort, or entrenchments are between two swamps Consequently there is only one road for that enemy to come in) the 92nd was the only Reg’t that was on that side of the river they lay close behind their breast works and the showers of Iron hail did not much damage, the Gunboats getting [rang] the enimy thought It prudent to retire.  I suppose they had an Idea that they could come in and take possesion after our forces having possesion for one year.  that morning one year ago, Gen Burnside took possesion of this City.

We have had the most pleasent time soldiering since coming here in the first place we have had good barracks, and what makes it far pleasenter for me, I can go to Newbern to preaching.  on last sabbath I was to a sabbath school.  It looked quite natural.  I almost fancied myself seated in old Kuhns-School House.  here were Southern Children in place of our little Pennsylvanians.  There is also a Colored Sabbath school.  The superintendent of the white sabbath (which was a major of one of our Regts here) remarked at the close of the school that there were teachers wanted for this negro sabbath school.  If I live and keep my health and were permitted to stay here, I will go to this sabbath school and learn these poor little negroes all I can, and think it an honerable position in the army of my Lord and Savior.  I would attend this black school regular, but the time of school comes at the time of an inspection (9 Oclock)

As I am writing I hear the boom of the Canon at little Washington about 40 miles from here by land. the Rebels are trying to take it. they will hardly succeed for our Gunboats from here went to lend a helping hand.

A soldier almost feels like yielding to discouragements betimes, But when I begin to fell discouraged, take the good old book, and I see I am carried on flowy beds of ease to what some poor Christians were before me.  when I read and see what Gods people have come through, I fell to say.

“Let Cares like a wild deluge come.

“And storms of sorrow fall.

“So I but safely reach my home

“My God, my heaven, my all.”

If I never should meet you on this side of the grave, weep not for me I’ll meet You in Heaven.

Your son Jno. T.E. [V.D.?] Rupert

 

Written in folds:

Give my Respect to all my brothers, and sisters and tell them to be good little folks.

Give my Respect to James Kline and family.

 

Source: Union soldier, Johnathan Rupert, letter  to his parents.  Tryon Palace Collections, New Bern, NC. Accession # 2008.006.002.

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March 26, 1863

 First Swallow came! They are a little later than usual, but this is a backward Spring. We had snow & sleet on the 20th & 21st in Va the heaviest fall of snow of the season. Hooker’s Army is at a stand-still in consequence. We have another freshet in the River & the Lowgrounds again full of water; no getting to father’s but by canoe. Patrick has gone out to attend to the repacking of the cotton at Hascosea, a Legacy of trouble & anxiety left us by the Christian Burnside & the foolish orders issued to move it last Feb a year ago. Well, I hope this is the last of it, and the ownership will I trust soon be upon the broad shoulders of the Government who can bear it better than we can. Am busy getting three boxes ready to send to our nephews in Charleston. We have not much to send, but poor fellows, anything will be welcome to them, for it is hard living at best & everything is so high that their purses cannot accomplish many dainties.

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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February 1863

Thank God! I can begin my new book with a signal & glorious success to our arms! Thank God! For “He giveth not the race to the swift nor the battle to the strong.”  On the morning of Sat the 31st of Jan the Gunboats Palmetto State & Chicora, accompanied by three small River Steamers, the Clinch, Etiwan, & Chesterfield, all under the command of Com Ingram went out from the harbour of Charleston and boldly made an attack on the Blockading Squadron, succeeding in sinking two & crippling a third, besides putting the whole fleet, thirteen sail in all, (amongst them two first class Frigates, the Susquehanna and the Canandaigua) to an ignominious flight. The Palmetto State opened fire upon the Mercedita, 11 guns 158 men, which she soon sunk in five fathoms water. The officers & men were paroled, but it is feared that most of them were lost, as the Palmetto had no boats & besides was fighting and could not sucor them, & her own consorts all fled.

Captain Tucker of the Chicora, the official dispatch says, “thinks he sunk one vessel & set another on fire when she struck her flag.” The published accounts say that this was the Quaker City who tho she had one wheel torn off & had struck her flag to us managed afterwards to escape. By all the laws of War she is clearly ours & I suppose owes her escape only to the fact of her surrender & our consequent inattention to her and the early dawn which favoured her ignominious and dishonorable conduct. We lost not a man nor did a single shot strike one of our boats! General Beauregard, the General Comdg, & Com Ingram, Flag Officer, issued a joint Proclamation “whereby” they “formally declare the Blockade by the U S of the said city of Charleston to be raised by a superior force of the Confederate States from & after this 31st day of Jan 1863.”  General B put a Steamer at the disposal of the Foreign Consuls to see for themselves that no blockade existed. The French and Spanish consuls accepted the invitation, the British Consul, having previously gone on board the war Steamer Petrel five miles beyond the usual anchorage of the Squadron & reported that with a powerful glass not a vessel could be seen. The foreign Consuls then had a meeting & declared unanimously that in “their opinion the blockade had been legally raised.” So now we shall see whether this boasted neutrality is to be exercised in our behalf or not, for by all the laws of Nations the U S cannot resume it without giving the world 30 days notice.

On the same day was brought into Charleston Harbour the Gunboat John P Smith, captured with her whole crew the day before in Stono River. She mounts one Parrot gun, ten 8 inch guns, & one 34 pounder, & she was almost entirely uninjured, will soon be ready for sea.

My nephew Frank Jones is Ass Engineer on board the Chicora, and was I suppose in the action. As we escaped without the loss of a man, we have an additional & personal reason for thankfulness.

Rumours reach us via Richmond that the Legislature of Kentucky has seceeded from the U S & that her hitherto Union Governor has called for 60,000 men to resist Mr Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. They want confirmation, however, and we must not be too sanguin of a fire in Rosencranz’s rear. Immense preparations are being made for a third Bombardment of Vicksburg, a point which the Abolitionists announce their determination to take. May disappointment be their portion! A second bombardment has taken place at Fort McAllister below Savannah without damage to the works.  The only loss is that of the Commander Major Gallec who was struck by a fragment of a shell on the head & instantly killed. In Tennessee Wheeler’s Cavalry continue to harrass Rosencrans by cutting off his supplies & destroying both transports and R R cars. On Friday the 30th he destroyed 25 transports on the Cumberland & on his retreat on Sat cut off a Locomotive & five cars, taking the guard & passengers prisoners. On Sat the 31st Gen Prior — in command of our outposts on the Blackwater was attacked about seven miles from Suffolk by the Abolitionists 15,000 strong. After an obstinate engagement of three hours he repulsed them, holding the entire battle field, our loss not considerable being less than fifty, the enemy’s supposed much greater.

Late arrivals from the North bring us Burnside’s farewell address to the Army of the Potomac — a weaker tamer, humbler document it would be difficult to find in the annals of Military Literature! He tells them that the short time he has commanded them “has not been fruitful of Victory … but it has again demonstrated an amount of courage, patience, & endurance which under more favorable circumstances would have accomplished great results.” He then exhorts them to a continuance of “those virtues,” bespeaks for their new General their “full & cordial support,” and winds up with the assurance that they will “deserve success.” Not, my Grand Army, that you will get it, simply you will “deserve” it. The rebels under Lee may be so ungenerous as to snatch your well earned “success” from your hands. But be comforted. You have deserved it & the fault be theirs if you do not gain it! Such, my most Christian Burnside, is your exit from the scene of Military fame. You marked your entrance upon it by an assurance to the people of N C, over whom you came to trample, that it was a “Christian” foot which was to be placed upon their necks and you now take your farewell in a manner truly Pecksniffian. Hooker, the Californian black-leg & gambler who denominates himself as “Fighting Joe,” succeeds him. General Lee will scarcly need to take his gloves off to him, “Card shuffler” tho’ he is. Summer and Franklin comdg each an Army corps both retire with the Christian Burnside, whether voluntarily or not does not certainly appear. Summer is said to be the ablest of their Generals, but not being an Abolitionist, the Government is blind to his merits.

Fitz John Porter, Court-martialed upon charges preferred by Pope the braggert & whose trial was postponed by McClellan as he was necessary to the service of the U S, has at length been brought to the bar & not fitting the Procrustian bed of Abolitionism has been “dishonorably dismissed from the service.” The city of New York registers its condemnation of the sentence & offers him the Governor’s Room in the City Hall “in which to hold a Levee.” Such are the beauties of Republicanism!

Mary & Sue came down yesterday and dined with us. I still far from well, confined in fact to the sofa with an obstinate billious attack. The day was mild, pleasant, & promising, so this morning we were doubly surprised to find on awakening that there had been a heavy fall of snow during the night. The high wind accompanying it caused it to drift as it rarely does with us & today the wind is keen & bitter & the driving blasts carrying the light snow before it makes it difficult to keep either warm or dry out of doors. God be with our poor soldiers exposed many of them without tents to the pittiless blast!

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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December 17, 1862

Father’s birthday – sixty nine today. Grant him many happy birthdays, O Lord, each more peaceful & calm than this, tho I was enabled to carry him good news as a birthday offering. We had no mail again last night, but this morning just after breakfast came Mr Price, a government agent who is buying supplies for the Army, for Patrick’s Hay, & he told us that Capt Lucius Johnson of the 17th Regt now stationed at Rainbow Banks came down on the train yesterday and says that there is no doubt that Lee has gained a victory on the Rappahannock, that Burnside advanced four times & was four times repulsed, & on the fourth driven back across the Rappahannock, and that Lee was in pursuit, Burnside killed & his body with us, but that must be a mistake, that Beauregard had telegraphed from Charleston that Banks expedition had said North from Port royal supposed to be destined for a port in NC, that if they wanted 5,000 men he would send them on, that the advance upon Kinston was in force. Prisoners taken say they have 30,000 men. On our side we have 16,000. Gen Gustavus Smith in command, French, Pettigrew, Robinson, & Evans all under him. The prisoners above mentioned say that Foster thinks from the attack we made on Plymouth last week that we have a large force which he fears will out flank him if he marches on to rapidly, falling on his flank & rear from Washington, whilst he pushes on to Kinston. Blessed delusion!

I carried this good news, which after all is but rumour, up to father as a birthday offering & we waited in the most intense suspense for the mail to confirm it. Again to our infinite disappointment no mail came but a letter from Mr. McMahon containing what he was enabled to pick up from passengers on the train. They confirm the news of our victory – say that Burnside has been driven across the river and his troops entirely demoralized, for which O God we thank Thee! May our lives show forth Thy praise. Mr. M also says that since Monday troops have been whirled by as fast as steam could carry them to Kinston, thirteen long trains heavily loaded having passed since then, that at one time the enemy had advanced to White Hall bridge within eight miles of Goldsboro on the Wilmington & Weldon RR, but that our troops being reinforced drove them back beyond Kinston which we retook & held, that it was believed our force was sufficient to repulse and to defeat them in that quarter. Again have we cause for thankfulness to God in thus bringing the plans of our enemies to confusion & rescuing us from a peril which seemed overwhelming. No mail again, Government having seized all the cars & the mail agents are willing I suppose to take a holiday. We must wait for details another day. One thing we may be sure, that Lee ust have greatly gained the better of Burnside or they would never send so many troops from Richmond & Petersburg. Daniel’s Brigade from Drury’s Bluff went down this morning, James I suppose with it.

 

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 Affair at Washington

The facts which come to us from undoubted sources, if the late attack upon the town of Washington, we are glad to say, enable us to correct some unfortunate rumors which have gone out.

The entire command of the expedition was committed in charge of that cool and intrepid officer, Capt. Stephen D. Pool, who at the defence of Fort Macon and in the recent attack upon Washington showed himself to be and able officer.

It is not true that the enemy was advised both at Newbern and Washington of the intended attack.  The enemy was ready for it, but was not expecting it.  We learn that the enemy had determined upon a raid upon Williamson and Hamilton, and that the force at Washington had been reinforced from Newbern the day before, and was to leave Washington that morning for the intended raid.

The expedition against Washington was made with no view or expectation of holding that place, we are informed, but for the purpose of destroying or capturing the “contrabands” in his possession, and if possible to make Washington so hot as to drive the enemy from the place.  Brig. Gen. Martin committed the entire expedition to the direction of Capt. Pool, having previously, in consultation, ordered the plan of attack and the general scheme of its conduct.  About 800 men composed the expedition, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery.  Gen. Martin, it was understood, would remain in the neighborhood to render support or succor which might be needed.

The attack was made on Saturday morning last at day break.  Our force approached quietly until they encountered the pickets at the west end of town, who immediately demanded them to halt.  Lt. Davis, who led the advance, demanded a surrender, when the pickets fired into our ranks.  Our advance had been peremptorily ordered not to fire upon the pickets, but to charge vigorously upon them, but unfortunately, when they fired upon our men, their fire was returned by a number of pieces.  This aroused of course the entire town.  At once a portion of our cavalry charged into the town down Market street, while a portion of the infantry charged down Second street.  As soon as our infantry arrived at the Academy, they were fired upon by the enemy from the building.  Here our men captured four pieces of artillery, with ammunition, which were afterwards served by Capt. Manney and his men.  At this time, Capt. Boothe, who gallantly led the cavalry, was dangerously wounded, upon which a panic seized most of the Cavalry, excepting a portion of Capt. Tucker’s company, who, under his command, gallantly demeaned themselves throughout the whole affair.  A panic had also seized many of the infantry, who ingloriously fled.  The enemy took to the houses at once, and fired upon our troops from the windows, etc.  Our men were forbidden to fire upon the houses, lest they might injure some of the families and children.

The gun boats Louisiana and Picket commenced throwing shells and other missiles upon the town damaging the houses, but fortunately did not set them on fire.  During the fight the steamer Picket was blown up by the ignition of her magazine, killing all on board but 12 persons—the loss was about 60 on board of the vessel.**

Capt. Pool held the town about four hours and then retired, his men slowly dragging out the four pieces of cannon captured.  The enemy’s loss, including the destruction on board of the Picket, was 160, in killed, wounded and missing.  Our loss was 10 killed, 41 wounded and 30 missing, most of whom have since come in.

The conduct of Capt. Pool during the whole affair is highly spoken of.  Capts. McRae and Cobb, of the 8th N. C. Regiment, Capt. Norman, of the 16th N. C., Capt. Manney, of the artillery and Captains Boothe and Tucker of the Cavalry, and others whose names we have forgotten, all distinguished themselves.  Capts. Boothe, Mull and Norman were dangerously, and Lieuts. Grimes and Sinton severely wounded.  Other names among the killed and wounded we have not obtained.

It is understood that the Cavalry companies of Capts. Walker and Lawrence were not in the fight, having “skedaddled” at an early period.  On the fall of Capt. Boothe, his company, it is said, became panic stricken, and got out of danger.  Capt. Tucker, Lt. Utley, and other officers and men of his company behaved with the utmost courage, charging the enemy in all directions and damaging him seriously.  We regret to learn that Corporal Smedes, and privates R. Burns, J. Ling, Winborne, Bridges and perhaps others are missing, some of those it is feared were killed, and others taken prisoner.

The enemy’s force, including those on the gunboats, amounted to about 1,000.  Only about 450 of our men participated in the fight, some of whom, both officers and men, are said to have behaved badly.  It must be considered, however, that the most of them were raw troops, had not smelt powder before, and were engaged in a most hazardous undertaking.  To assault a fortified town, guarded by a vigilant ____, should be undertaken by veteran and daring troops.

Strange to say no negroes were apprehended in this attack.  At the Academy, one large, impudent fellow came out and assailed one of our men, asking “What have you damned rebels come here for?”  The soldier replied with his bayonet, running it through him, killing him instantly.  As soon as they found the Confederates were in town, they all rushed for the boats and got out of the way.

After our forces left, we learn that the Yankees immediately commenced arresting all the citizens who were supposed to sympathize with the Confederates.  During the fight, we learn a most worthy lady received a flesh wound in one of her limbs.

A friend who was in the expedition, writing from Kinston says: “Capt. Tucker won for himself a name for valor and coolness of which any man might be proud.”

From the Raleigh Standard

** More on the role of the Pickett can be found here

 

Source: The Greensborough Patriot, September 18, 1862 as found in Confederate Newspaper Project

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