Civil War

General Pender’s body servant. Or not.

Daily Southerner (Tarboro, N.C.), 28 October 1921.

William Dorsey Pender, Confederate major general, was born near Pender’s Crossroads in what is now northwest Wilson County. He died after a shrapnel wound to the thigh at Gettysburg. Almost 60 years later, his nephew James Pender was anxious to set the record straight about who had been his body servant.


  • Turner Pender — Turner Pender died 1 April 1924 in State Lunatic Asylum, Austin, Travis County, Texas. Per his death certificate, he was about 83 years old; and was born in an unknown parents in an unknown place.
  • Allen Pender
  • David Harris
  • Rose

Workers at the Confederate hospital.

Did you know Wilson was the site of a Confederate hospital? 

Its remnants stand at the corner of Lee and Goldsboro Streets.

In 1954, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program installed a marker near the original site of the hospital, and the agency’s website features the startling essay below.

“The Confederacy organized its Medical Department late in 1861 and within months, in April of 1862, the North Carolina General Military Hospital No. 2 was established in Wilson in what had once been the Wilson Female Seminary. Dr. Solomon Sampson Satchwell, who had graduated from Wake Forest College and studied medicine at New York University before serving as a military surgeon with the Twenty-fifth North Carolina Infantry, was appointed Surgeon-in-Charge. In the 1864 Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal the Wilson hospital was listed as one of twenty-one principal hospitals in North Carolina. It served those wounded in fighting along the coast.

“The hospital made Wilson known outside of the state of North Carolina. Employing thirty-five to forty people, it also boosted the local economy. Most nurses and orderlies were unskilled soldiers; however, at least seven local women were known to have worked at the hospital as matrons. Their duties included food preparation and cleaning. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad that ran through Wilson provided the military hospital with supplies, including ice and turpentine, used to treat fevers.

“Fighting never broke out in Wilson, but, on July 20, 1863, ‘an immense armament of negroes and Yankees’ advanced on Wilson. Reportedly, a group of invalids from the hospital and local militia defended Wilson by destroying the bridge over the Toisnot Swamp to halt the invaders. All of those who died at the hospital were buried in a mass grave. The hospital closed at the end of the war. When Wilson created a town cemetery, they were re-interred there with a Confederate monument erected over the site. Wilson Female Seminary reopened in the former hospital and received a charter as Wilson Collegiate Institute in 1872.”

The interpretive signboard in front of the building, erected by the North Carolina Civil War Trails program (and badly in need of a good wash), reads:

“This is the only known surviving portion of one of Wilson’s earliest school buildings, the Wilson Female Academy, which also served as a Confederate hospital during the war. Wilson’s location on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, the principal north-south line that was linked to Virginia in Weldon by the Petersburg Railroad, made the town a good site for a hospital after the war began. On April 1, 1862, Confederate authorities seized the building for use as a general military hospital.

“Dr. Solomon S. Satchwell, the surgeon in charge, turned the forty classrooms and other rooms into wards and treated hundreds of patients there. The frame, two-story building had a two-hundred-foot-long facade and a large one-story rear addition. It also had dozens of large windows, essential for summer ventilation.

“Soldiers who died there of wounds or disease were buried near the academy grounds. In 1894, they were reinterred under a burial mound in Maplewood Cemetery two blocks north of here. The Confederate monument on top of the mound was dedicated on May 10, 1902.

“Edmund G. Lind, a British architect who emigrated to New York in 1855 and subsequently practiced in Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia, designed the Italianate-style school building. It was completed in 1859 about two blocks south of here. After the war, the former female academy and hospital served as Wilson Collegiate Institute from 1872 until it closed in 1898, when the building was separated into housing units. This section, part of the school’s rear addition, was moved here in 2005 and rehabilitated.”


Typically, the historical marker essay makes no mention of the men and women performing the hospital’s essential grunt work. Enslaved men and women toiled as nurses, cooks, and laundresses, and the reports Dr. Satchwell was required to file regularly reveal their names.

Daniel, Samuel, Benjamin, Edy, Annie, Sarah, William, Francis, Flora, Eli, Jerry, Matilda, Harmon, Hoyt, Martha, Dorcas, Laura, Mary, Oliver, Alvana, Alfred, George, America, Isabella, Harriet, Rachel, Henry, Joseph, General, Ansley, Tilda, Minerva, Delphia, Maria, Mahala, Nicey, Chaney, Esther, Eliza, Tom, and Charles cooked, cleaned, and cared for wounded Confederate soldiers over the next two years. Pomeroy P. Clark, a Connecticut-born buggy manufacturer who arrived in Wilson in 1851, had a near-monopoly over the provision of enslaved people to the hospital, supplying almost all of the men and women named above.

Muster Roll dated 1 April 1862 showing enslaved people, at bottom left, rented to the Confederate Hospital.

This is curious. P.P. Clark is listed in 1850 slave schedule of Nash County, North Carolina, as the owner of four enslaved people. In the 1860 census of Wilson, Wilson County, he is described as a lumber manufacturer with $2000 in personal property, but is not listed in the slave schedule. We know that in 1860 Clark bought four enslaved people from John P. Clark as trustee of Nancy B. Clark. The adult in this group of four, a woman named Peggy, is not named as a hospital laborer. Peggy had once belonged to Henry Flowers, whose daughter was Nancy B. Clark. Flowers’ estate also included enslaved women named America and Isabelle, and an enslaved man named Henry (known as Harry), who married a woman named Flora around 1859. These four match names of people put to work at the Confederate Hospital, but who were the others? If Clark (who himself worked at the hospital as steward were acting as a broker for other enslavers, would Dr. Satchwell have recorded the workers as “Negro slave hired of P.P. Clark”? 

In addition to enslaved people, a few free people of color worked at Confederate Hospital No. 2. On 26 May 1864, Lemon Taborn and William Jones were hired to perform unspecified work at $11.00/month. Alexander Jones was hired five days later at the same rate and, on June 1, Mord. Hagans came aboard for $10/month. The Jones cousins appear in the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County, and Mordecai Hagans in the 1860 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County.

Muster Rolls, Hospital Department, Wilson, N.C., 1862-1864, War Department Collection of Confederate Records, National Archives and Records Administration; photos by Lisa Y. Henderson.

Confederates and colored water.

I’ve talked about Wilson County’s courthouse monument before. There’s renewed pressure to remove it, but its apologists claim it’s not a Confederate monument at all. Rather, it commemorates veterans of all wars. 

I’ll let y0u be the judge. 

Does the deceptively simple motif below seem familiar? It’s a Saint Andrew’s cross, a notable element of Confederate national and battle flags.

It’s engraved an astounding TEN TIMES around the monument, including the two locations below. (The rough indentation on the front of the plinth? It’s where the word COLORED was gouged out in the early 1960s. There was a water fountain where that little pyramid now sits. Isn’t that reason enough to get this thing out of the public eye?)

Two more. And so on.

The monument went up on Veterans Day 1926, paid for by the John W. Dunham Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Thomas Hadley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It’s on public property, steps away from the county courthouse, a building symbolizing the power and authority of local government. 

Recent North Carolina law makes retiring these relics difficult — but not impossible. I urge Wilson County Commissioners to find a way. 

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2023.

Recommended reading, no. 13: the long emancipation.

Priscilla Joyner was born in Nash County, not Wilson, but close enough for her life story — and the context in which it unfolded — to be of particular interest to Black Wide-Awake readers.

“Priscilla Joyner was born into the world of slavery in 1858 North Carolina and came of age at the dawn of emancipation. Raised by a white slaveholding woman, Joyner never knew the truth about her parentage. She grew up isolated and unsure of who she was and where she belonged—feelings that no emancipation proclamation could assuage.

“Her life story—candidly recounted in an oral history for the Federal Writers’ Project—captures the intimate nature of freedom. Using Joyner’s interview and the interviews of other formerly enslaved people, historian Carole Emberton uncovers the deeply personal, emotional journeys of freedom’s charter generation—the people born into slavery who walked into a new world of freedom during the Civil War. From the seemingly mundane to the most vital, emancipation opened up a myriad of new possibilities ….

“… Uncertainty about her parentage haunted her life, and as Jim Crow took hold throughout the South, segregation, disfranchisement, and racial violence threatened the loving home she made for her family. But through it all, she found beauty in the world and added to it where she could.”

Priscilla Joyner’s family in the 1860 census of Dortches township, Nash County, N.C. She is believed to have been the daughter of Ann Liza Joyner and an unknown African-American man.

Review at

Jerry Borden, Co. C., 14th United States Colored Heavy Artillery.

We met Jerry Borden here and here and here. A veteran of the Civil War, Borden filed repeatedly for a pension, claiming disability stemming from being “mashed by a bale of hay which affected his side and leg.” Finally, in 1906, he was awarded eight dollars a month for a partial disability.

Documents in Borden’s pension file firmly establish his Wilson County roots. In the document below, he attested that he was born in “Wilson county Black creek Depot N.C.” and lived in Black Creek before he enlisted. (Another document set out his birthdate as 10 May 1841.) Borden confirmed he had been enslaved and said his owner at the time of his enlistment was “Arter Borden [Arthur Barden] and at the date of Enlistment John Borden [Barden] (his son).”

In an earlier document, Jerry Borden identified his wife, Mary Eliza Mumford Borden, and children, Christaner (1869), Marria (1870), Sarah (1872), Ester (1875), Isaiah (1877), Henry (1879), John (1881), Willie (1883), and George (1886). With no formal record of his marriage, Borden needed to provide several witnesses to establish its validity.

Borden’s pension payment increased over several years, reaching $27 dollars per month in 1912.

Jerry Borden died 20 August 1914 and was buried in New Bern National Cemetery.

His widow, Mary Mumford Borden, applied for and was awarded a widow’s pension. She died in 1927.

File #506587, Application of Jerry Borden for Pension; File #1097940, Application of Mary Borden for Widow’s Pension, National Archives and Records Administration.

George Applewhite and the Lowry Gang.

When searching for information about the men and women enslaved by Council Applewhite, I ran across this transcription, which appears to reflect an article published on 8 July 1875 in the Norfolk Virginian:


George Applewhite was born in Wilson County and was the slave of Council Applewhite. His half brother, Addison Applewhite, lives in Goldsboro. His mother now lives near Stantonsburg. George was afterwards given in marriage to Mr. William R. Peacock of Wythe and apprenticed to learn the plastering trade. He is a dark mulatto stoutly built about 34 years old. In 1866 he accompanied Mr. Peacock to Robeson where he worked in turpentine. It was there he married a sister of Henderson Oxendine, one of the Lowery Gang who was afterwards hung at Lumberton. Applewhite’s wife now lives in Robeson County being thrown by marriage in association with the outlaws then warring on the citizens of Robeson County he soon became one of the gang and is said to have been a most desperate character. In 1869 he was arrested on charges of being an accomplice in the killing of Sheriff Reuben King for which he was tried and convicted and sentenced to be hanged in Columbus County.

A Wilson County man rode with Henry Berry Lowry?

[NOTE: What follows is an abbreviated account of George Applewhite’s involvement with the Lowry Band. I strongly urge you to seek out a more in-depth understanding of the Lowry War, which was rooted in the increasing marginalization of Native people and free people of color in the antebellum period and fierce conflict arising from conscription of Native men to work for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  As an introduction to the themes of resistance, revenge and redistribution of wealth that intertwine in this period, please see North Carolina Museum of History’s Community Class Series: Henry Berry Lowrie, Lumbee Legend, which features, among others, the incomparable Lumbee historian Malinda Maynor Lowery.]

After a series of raids and murders of both Native and white men, on March 3, 1865, Allen Lowry and his son William were put to a sham trial, found guilty of theft, and summarily executed. Their deaths sparked the infamous seven-year Lowry War.

George Applewhite arrived in Robeson County after the War began, and his 1868 marriage to Henry Lowry’s first cousin, Elizabeth Oxendine, presumably drew him into the conflict.

On 23 January 1869, Applewhite allegedly shot and killed former sheriff Reuben King during a robbery attempt. Applewhite and seven others were arrested in the fall of 1869. In April 1870, he and Steve Lowry were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were sent to Wilmington, North Carolina, to a secure jail in which Applewhite’s brother-in-law Henderson Oxendine was being held, but escaped with the help of Henry Lowry’s wife, Rhoda Strong.

In October 1870, after a raid on a neighbor’s still, a posse cornered the gang at Applewhite’s house. Applewhite was injured in the resulting firefight, but escaped into Long Swamp with others. Henderson Oxendine was captured at Applewhite’s house the following February and hanged in March. In April, Applewhite was ambushed outside his house. Though shot in the neck and back, he escaped. (His children told his attackers he had been shot twice in the mouth, but spit both bullets out.) His brother-in-law Forney Oxendine was arrested. Applewhite holed up at Henry Berry Lowry’s cabin, which came under attack on April 26. Applewhite and Lowry escaped the gun battle and spent several weeks raiding before breaking Forney Oxendine out of jail.

Officials arrested Betsy Applewhite and other family members of the Lowry band in an effort to draw the men out into the open. Lowry threatened retaliation against Robeson County white women, promising “the Bloodiest times … that ever was before.” On July 17, the Lowry band ambushed a police guardsman, resulting in several deaths.

Charlotte Democrat, 18 July 1871.

Shaken citizens demanded a release of the Lowry gang’s wives, and a truce of sorts took hold.

Eight months later, in February 1872, the Lowry Band raided Lumberton, escaping with more than $20,000 from private safes. Henry Berry Lowry was never (officially) seen again, creating a mystery that only burnished his legend to cultural icon. Applewhite, too, disappeared.

The long-winded heading of the New York Herald‘s extensive excerpts from correspondent George Alfred Thompson provides a rough summary of the entire saga (at least from the standpoint of white Robeson County), and the detailed map accompanying the article marked George Applewhite’s cabin with the letter B just south of Shoeheel, or modern-day Maxton. M, between his house and the railroad, marks the place he was shot in 1871.

The Swamp Angels. — The Blood Trail of the North Carolina Outlaws. — How Lowery Avenged the Murders of a Father and a Brother. — Cain’s Brand the Test of Admission to the Gang. — A War of Races. — The Outlaws in the Swamp-The Judge on the Bench-The Ku Klux on their Nightly Raids. — Lowery Breaks Prison Twice. — Sheriff King, Norment, Carlisle, Steve Davis and Joe Thompson’s Slave Murdered by the Band. — Killing the Outlaws’ Relatives When They Cannot Catch the Gang. — A Promise That Was Kept: “I Will Kill John Taylor — There’s No Law for Us Mulattoes.” — Aunt Phoebe’s Story. — The Hanging of Henderson Oxendine. — Outlaw Zach McLaughlin Shot By an Impressed Outlaw. — The Black Nemesis.

New York Herald, 8 March 1872.

Applewhite was arrested in Columbus, Georgia, late that fall. The Herald‘s breathless report mentions that he had committed a “terrible murder in the eastern section of the State at the close of the Civil War,” but this appears to be a misattribution. Applewhite was not in Robeson County at that time.

New York Herald, 6 November 1872.

But was this in fact George Applewhite? I have found no follow-up to this pronouncement, and no report of his extradition to North Carolina. Rather, in July 1875 Applewhite was arrested in Goldsboro, where he had been living for years under the pseudonym Bill Jackson. Two African-American men, Bryant Capps and William Freeman, violently apprehended him, and he was jailed in Columbus County, N.C.

Weekly Telegraph and Journal & Messenger (Macon GA), 13 July 1875.

Applewhite obtained top-notch counsel, who exploited a technicality to win his release under state’s Amnesty Act, which pardoned persons found responsible for political violence in the years after the Civil War. The Act had been intended to shield Ku Klux Klansmen from prosecution and contained a provision excepting Steve Lowry, alone of the Lowry Band, from its protection. (The General Assembly likely assumed Henry Lowry and Applewhite were dead.) After a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling on the issue of whether Applewhite’s appeal of his conviction and death sentence had rendered him eligible for amnesty, Applewhite was freed.

Raleigh’s Daily Sentinel published a sympathetic portrait of Applewhite shortly after his release, outlining his background and questioning his culpability in the crimes attributed to him.

Daily Sentinel (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 June 1876.

Applewhite did return to Goldsboro. His wife Betsy and children remained in Robeson County, and he remarried in 1880. His date of death is not known.


George Applewhite, “The North Carolina Bandits,Harper’s Weekly, 30 March  1872, p. 249.

On 10 September 1869, the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal published descriptions of “the Robeson outlaws,” including George Applewhite:

Though Applewhite is described elsewhere as a dark mulatto, Herald correspondent George Alfred Thompson sought to demonize him by resorting to exaggerated stereotypes:

“George Applewhite is a regular negro, of a surly, determined look, with thick features, woolly hair, large protuberances above the eyebrows, big jaws and cheek bones and a black eye.

“He is a picture of a slave at bay. Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe might have drawn ‘Dred‘ from him.”

And: “Applewhite was an alert, thick-lipped, deep-browed, wooly headed African, with a steadfast, brutal expression.”

This pixelated image of Applewhite, the only version I could find on line, is the only known photograph of the man.


George Applewhite was born in the Stantonsburg area of what is now Wilson County about 1848 to Obedience Applewhite and Jerre Applewhite.

George Applewhite married Elizabeth C. Oxendine on 15 August 1868 in Robeson County, North Carolina.

In the 1870 census of Burnt Hall township, Robeson County: Betsey Appelwhite, 28; her children John, 12, Robert, 10, Emilie, 4, and Adeline, 2; and brother Furney Oxendine, 20.

In the 1880 census of Burnt Hall township, Robeson County: Betsy Applewhite, 38, described as a widow; and children Mariah, 15, Addena, 11, Forney, 6, and Polly, 4.

In the 1880 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina: George Applewhite, 32, plasterer, living alone.

On 12 September 1880, George Applewhite, 32, of Wayne County, son of Jerre and Beady Applewhite (father dead; mother living in Wilson County), married Martha Hodges, 16, of Wayne County, daughter of Graham and Mary Hodges, in Goldsboro, Wayne County.

The last reference to George Applewhite I’ve found is this account of Christmas Day fight between Applewhite and Arthur Williams:

Goldsboro Messenger, 31 December 1883.