Posts Tagged ‘deserters’

In the trenches, near Petersburg

Sept 13th 1864


My dearest Corrie,

Yours of the 7th I have just received and surely there is nothing gives me more pleasure while here that to receive letters from you. After my furlough came back disapproved I intended sending up another, I went to Col. Martin and asked his advice he replied “it was useless if they would not grant the one I sent up in which he said, the appeal was as strong as could be made they would not grant any” so I declined sending any more. You have no idea how bad I want to go home but I see no chance for me unless is should be done through the Secretary of War by my relatives at home and I fear that cannot be done as one of the executors of the will is at home and the settlement of the estate can be made without me   now if I was sole executor the thing might be done. I wrote to Bob to sell my stock because I had no where to keep them. I knew uncle John had as much on hand as he can keep and as I have nothing to feed them I thought it would be best to sell them, some of the hogs are very fine over two years old and would make good pork in the fall but I don’t see how or what to do with them. Oh this cruel war it keeps me nearly crazy all the time   if I was at home and could get to stay here I know what to do but as it is I don’t know what is for the best.

I know if the war should end soon or end when it should we would need all of the cattle and hogs. I want you if you see any chance to keep what of them you can and let the remainder be sold. Do Corrie what you think best and it will please me. If they were sold and had the money for them it would be of little use even for the present and two years hence.  I don’t believe it will be worth carrying not even after independence for there will be so much in circulation it will never be redeemed. I don’t know what advice to give you in regard to the mule. I don’t know that we could hire any body to keep it. I know that uncle John is over stocked and cant keep it. Do Corrie as I said before act on your own judgement.

Bob writes that Gaither advised him to sell all the property – fathers estate. I don’t think the negroes ought to be sold as they can be hired out in either case I want you to get one, if sold buy, if hired hire, he or she can make bread for you while I’m in the army, uncle John needs another hand anyway. There is a good many things I want you to buy at the sale, if I should not get there. Don’t want to buy anything that will eat except a negro or two as “rations” are scarce – I want as little of my part in the estate in money as possible. I suppose from what Bob writes the sale will not take place until November   I would like to know the time as soon as possible. I think I had better advise Bob not to sell the negroes but hire them out. In my former letter I forgot to state that my second court-martial sentenced me to forfeit one months pay and to be publicly reprimanded, the latter I have no received and I think the time has past off so long it will never come – don’t care wether it does or not.

Bill McGimsey has returned to the company although not altogether well. I was in hopes he would get home. I don’t see how I’m to get any cloths from home as I know of no one that will be coming from there this fall. Capt & Jimmy Parks are complaining some  not very sick, the other boys from our neighborhood are generally well. Billy is improving, begins to look like a man. Give rmy love to all and write soon and often and I will do the same.

As ever yours devotedly


Morning 14th   I forgot to state that John Fincannon & Elijah Philips are both dead, died in Richmond.


Sources: Mike and Carol Lawing, eds., My Dearest Friend: The Civil War Correspondence of Cornelia McGimsey and Lewis Warlick (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2000). Original collections of the papers are in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

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Wilmington, N.C. Sept 3rd, 1864

To His Excellency

Gov. Z. B. Vance

In your proclamation to deserters now before the good people of North Carolina dated Aug 27th 1864 in the name of the State of North Carolina and also in the name of the Confederate States, you promise forgiveness to all who will repent and become good soldiers. It is with deep regret and mortification that I am compelled to call on you for the same clemency. I am now in the Military jail Wilmington to be tried for desertion in leaving my company (Co. H, 40th NC) and attempting to go to Nassau in a vessel running the Blockade. I can prove by my comrades in arms that I am not afraid or unwilling to meet the enemy. I can prove by comrades that I never wished to desert the flag of my country. I can prove this to be the cause of my leaving (I do not give as a justification, only as some small excuse as to show I had no based motive) My Capt. is a man of strong prejudices and although a good soldier took a dislike to me & treated me very severely. I tried to get out of his company by exchange (he refusing) I failed to do so. He made me work very hard in the hot sun whilst I have a disease in my head and feared it would kill me solely for this I tried to escape to some neutral place. Had I thought about it as much before as I have since I should have borne my lot more manfully no matter what the result. I regret what I have done more than tongues can tell but it is too late now to wipe of the stain entirely. All I ask is one chance more to show that I can be a good soldier & do what I can to relive my family from the infamy of my being tried as a deserter.

Your offer clemency [torn] abroad who have not only committed the same crime but have doubled it by robbery & theft. Will you not extend the same mercy to me who have never in my whole life been charged with any crime or misdemeanor before; if so, my future conduct shall be so true that you shall never regret it.

Very Respectfully

Your Servant,

Thos. S. Hansley


Source: Governor Zebulon Vance Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh as found on www.ncecho.org.


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August 4th [1864]

This is the day of electing our Governor. No one has any doubt of Gov. Vance’s election but everybody is anxious for him to leave that miserable traitor the self made candidate WW Holden behind. Holden received 3 % of the votes here. I am extremely anxious to hear from Buddy. The deserters announced their intention of returning to Yadkinville and controlling the polls. And I am afraid it will be a stormy day. I wish Holden could be choked.

Source: Malinda Ray Diary, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

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August 2, 1864

We moved out in the country last week. It is mighty pleasant out here but hated to leave Cousin Sally & all of them there right badly; but I hope they will spend a good deal of time with us. Miss Bena went to her own home when we moved out here. She was getting a great deal stronger & better but she was taken sick on going home & has been quite sick ever since. Benny Robinson got home last Saturday week 24th July. He is very lame & uses both crutches. I think he will probably always be lame. Neill Ray is here in the hospital. He lost his foot in one of the fights before Richmond. He seems to be getting on as comfortably as possible under the circumstances, but he is not well enough to go to his home which would be to far in the country to receive proper medical attention. Buddy is still in Yadkin county. That part of the state is in a dreadful condition. It is filled with tories deserters. They rendezvous in Tennessee, near the border and the 4th of July sixty of them entered Yadkinville at night and demanded the keys of the jail; the jailer delivered them up and they released four deserters who were confined for the murder of two respectable loyal citizens. Then they fired on the Village and left it. After that they visited the house of the Capt. of the Home Guards made him surrender his arms. The 18th of July the Home Guard and these deserters met at the Quaker meeting school house & were engaged in a fight two men were killed on either side. They swear they will take Buddy & carry him to Tennessee. They have an special spite at him because he is an officer.


Source: Malinda Ray Diary, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill.

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July 30, 1864

Maj. J.R. McLean

Camp Vance



My attention has been called by Mrs. Speer to your letter of the 27th to her husband, the Sheriff. The Sheriff is absent and will be for a day or two and Mrs. Davis leaves here this morning for Camp Vance. I write to give you some information in regard to the “Yadkin refugees” now in your custody.

There are bills of indictment and capiases in the hands of the Sheriff against Wm, Lee and Ben Willard for the murder of James West & John Williams in the School House fight. Also against Enoch Brown and Hardee Allgood who are said to have been captured with the Willards. These men are all conscripts and have been ordered into service and one of them, Allgood, is a deserter from the Army. It will not do to send them to the county to be imprisoned, our jail is entirely unsafe, to say nothing of the danger of their being rescued by their friends as heretofore. Elkaha did assist in forcing the jail a few weeks ago as can be proven. He did not try to disguise himself.

A very important question is, what is to be done with the balance of these men who went off in that company with the Willards. It is worse than idle to send them to the army, better turn them loose here, because if sent to the army they will be certain to desert and will bring arms with them and perhaps induce others to desert. Doubtless, some better meaning men were persuaded off with them, but very few. If these men are allowed to get back to this country, we are now in a fair way to clean it out. At least the prospect is better than it ever has been. If they come back we shall have terrible times. As to what should be done with the Willards I can only suggest that they be kept in some very safe place until some action is taken in the matter.

Very Truly

W.A. Joyce

I concur with the above. The Willards must not come back, and if they are sent to the army they will come.


I concur fully in this letter

R.F. Armfield


Source: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 1.  Original in the Clewell Letters, North Carolina State Archives.


The story of the “Bond School House Affair” can be found in Frances Harding Casstevens” The Civil War and Yadkin County, North Carolina: A History. http://books.google.com/books?id=VLWLlOHsVIMC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

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June 27, 1864

News today from Petersburg brought by a Maj Shepperd, who left that place on horse back & came to Stony Crk where he took the cars, to the effect that “Petersburg is now considered safe.” The wires were last night working between Weldon & Petersburg, but as the enemy were entrenched 8000 strong within 3/8th of a mile of the R R, it was not considered safe to allow cars to pass. The Danville Road has been torn up at Keysville, a short distance from Clarksville, so no more news of Lee or Breckenridge can reach us for a time. Was startled today by a messenger riding up & putting into my hands a note from Col Bell to Mr E enclosing an official dispatch from Gen Whiting to Gen L S Baker to which Mr E wasrequested to forward with all speed & telling him that a raid had been made upon the Wilmington R R below Goldsboro. Gen Baker was kind enough to write by the servant who “sped on the fiery cross” that it was a “threatened” raid which he did not beleive the enemy had force to make. There is in the papers a most disgraceful account of an advance of the enemy below Kinston, in which tho they were but 300 strong they defeated the 6th Cavalry, Folks, &, part at least of the 67th infantry, killed several of them & took 60 prisoners, losing themselves “but one man & he drowned by falling into Cobb’s mill tail”! Disgraceful truly! The papers call it “botched on our side.” They were piloted by a deserter from Nethercutts Bat named Taylor Waters, & to his shame be it said, from Lenoir County.

Have been much interested latterly curing & drying my own tea! Tea from my own plants & very fine indeed it is. Good judges pronounce it an excellent article! My stock of either time or patience does not admit of my rolling it “a la Chinoise,” tho I tried it partially. I simply dry the leaves slowly on a chafing dish over the fire taking care to bruise them as they become hot & being careful not to burn or scorch them. I have fifty or more young plants from last year’s nuts which in a few years, if they yeild in the ratio that my present number of old plants (eight) have done, will supply me amply — something of an object when tea is, as now, $50 per lb in Petersburg and $25 in Charleston. So much for our late wise Congress tampering with the law of imports. Our present august body is but little better, as it has left the evil unremedied. I have been also busy plaiting straw for Mr E’s hat. Wheat straw is softer than Rye, but the blanched part of the rye is so much longer that one is tempted to forego beauty for ease of manufacture. It is pleasant to feel that we have the ability at least to be independant of these vile Yankees, that in spite of their boasted blockade, kept up with such expenditure of both men & money by them, we are not forced to forego our usual comforts or luxuries. The excesses the wretches commit are almost incredible.

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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Wednesday 18th May & Thursday 19th [1864]

I suffered a great deal with my head yesterday (Wednesday). In bed all day. Mr. Henry went to Asheville & got some sugar. No news further than the news of Monday is confirmed. Banks has surrendered our forces in Va. victors. P. Allen was buried yesterday at Sardis. Mr. Henry in the farm today. Mary Tutt spends the day here. Jinnie & Matt cleaned the side room & one room upstairs after dinner, scoured & scalded. My head not well this morning but now since dinner nearly easy. I had a letter from Sister Lena Monday. They were all well. I finished Willie’s socks today & began a pair cotton gloves for myself of thread I have had ever since I was married. I bought it from home, some coloured thread I had left of knitting stockings. Mary Tutt was going to stay all night as it looked like rain this evening but her mother came after her. I suppose she was uneasy about her. Mary brought my hat & Gus’s today. They are very nice.

Source: Diary of Cornelia Henry in Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journal and Letters of the Henry Family. Clinard, Karen L. and Russell, Richard, eds. (Asheville, NC: Reminiscing Books, 2008).

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