Civil War

Take them down, too.

Here are Wilson’s two Confederate monuments. The clock is ticking.

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“Although Confederate monuments are sometimes designated as historic, and while many were erected more than a century ago, the National Trust [for Historic Preservation] supports their removal from our public spaces when they continue to serve the purposes for which many were built—to glorify, promote, and reinforce white supremacy, overtly or implicitly.

“While some have suggested that removal may result in erasing history, we believe that removal may be necessary to achieve the greater good of ensuring racial justice and equality. And their history needs not end with their removal: we support relocation of these monuments to museums or other places where they may be preserved so that their history as elements of Jim Crow and racial injustice can be recognized and interpreted.”

Read National Trust’s full Statement on Confederate Monuments: http://ow.ly/JMUD50AbAuR

Photos, Wilson, June 2020.

Tell them I want to see them.

Camp Near Orange Court House VA., November the 16, 1863

Mrs. Mary J. Edwards, Wilson P.O., Wilson County, N.C.

Dear Sister,

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well at this time and hoping you the same.  Bunyan, I want to hear from you. Let me hear from you, and let me know how you are getting along. Bunyan, I want you to let me know how everything is getting along, and write me all the news. I heard that you have been having chills. I want to know whether it was you who shot your thumb, or not.  Tell Mary Gray to write to me every time she can. Tell Sister Betty to write to me, for I want to hear from her. Tell Nanney also to write to me.  Tell Aunt Penny I want to see her. Tell Uncle London I want to  see him very badly. I have nothing to write, only very hard times here.  We are expecting to have to march every minute. I must come to a close by saying I remain your dear brother until death.  Excuse my bad writing.       George Woodard

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George Washington Woodard, son of James Bullock Woodard and wife Sallie Peele, enlisted in April 1862 as a private in Company A, 55th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. Debilitated by chronic diarrhea, Woodard died 23 March 1864, at a military hospital in Gordonsville, Virginia. On 2 September 1950, in the column “Looking Backward,” the Wilson Daily Times published Hugh B. Johnston’s transcription and notes about letters George W. Woodard sent home from war, including the one above.

“Aunt Penny” and “Uncle London” were, of course, Penny Lassiter Woodard, a free woman of color, and London Woodard, her enslaved husband. Penny Lassiter had reared George W. Woodard after his mother’s death. George’s father J.B Woodard had purchased London Woodard from another Woodard family member and sold him to Penny Lassiter in 1856.

Update: James Woodard’s father, Amos.

A few days ago, the blog of the North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center posted an article on James Woodard, whose Wilson County connection I shared here. This article explores the identity of James Woodard’s father Amos, who is recorded in family lore as having been sold away. Identifying two Amos Woodards from Wilson County who enlisted in regiments of the United States Colored Troops, researcher Cheri Todd Molter speculates that Amos’ sudden departure was due to his having run away to join the Army, rather than being sold away.

The records below offer descriptions of both men. Further research is required to determine which, if either, was James Woodard’s father, and if either were related to London Woodard.

Amos Woodard enlisted in Company M, 14 Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 24 April 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina. He was 18 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with black eyes, hair and complexion. He deserted on 13 July 1865 at Fort Macon, N.C.

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Amos Woodard enlisted in Company I, 14 Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 4 April 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina. He was 18 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with black eyes and hair and yellow complexion. He deserted on 10 June 1865 at Morehead City, N.C., and returned to duty in August.

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Totten defrauds veteran freedmen.

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In September 1867, Major William A. Cutler passed a report up the chain to his superior in the Freedmen’s Bureau.”… J.E. Totten at Joyners N.C. [Elm City] has been defrauding Freedmen by obtaining from them their “Discharges” from the U.S. Army by false representations …”

Bureau R.F.&A.L., Office Asst.Sub.Asst.Com., Rocky Mount, N.C., Sept. 6th, 1867.

Maj. C.E. Compton, Sub. Asst. Com., Goldsboro, N.C.

Major:

Howell Vine (colored) gave me the enclosed receipt, & I feel it my duty to send it to you, as he is anxious to obtain his discharge papers again.

From his statement it seems that he was deceived at the time he gave them into the hands of J.E. Totten and thought that Totten was sent by the Bureau to look after the interest of the freed people.

You will learn by the note written by Cd. Frank H. Bennett (register) that this not the only case of the kind.

I sent a note to the county clerk of Wilson county to find whether Totten had obtained the county seal to the certificate on the back of the claim.

I enclose the letter which I received in reply to the note.

I have the honor to be, Very Respectfully Your Obdt. svt, Wm. A. Cutler, Maj. & A.S.A.C.

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Though his encounter with J.E. Totten apparently took place in Wilson County, and the Bureau made inquiries with the Wilson County clerk, it is not clear whether Howell Vines ever actually lived in the county. Joseph Totten, 29, is listed as a store clerk in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, living in the household of Joseph Conte, 52, “g & gd march retl” [grocery and dry goods merchant retail].

Per muster records, Howell Vine (or Vines) enlisted in Company B, 14th Regiment, U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, on 21 March 1864 in Washington, North Carolina. He was described as 32 years of age; five feet nine inches tall; with black complexion, black eyes and wooly hair. He reported being born in Edgecombe County.

In the 1870 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County: farmer Howell Vines, 36; wife Priscilla, 35; and children James and Jenny, 14, Lucy, 12, Sarah, 2, and  Charlie, 1.

In the 1880 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County: farmer Howell Vines, 52; wife Cillar, 42; and children James and Jennie, 24, Lucy, 21, Sarah, 13, and Charlie, 10.

Lucilla Vines applied for a widow’s pension on 20 July 1891.

North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 15, Letters sent, vols. 1-2, February 1867-February 1868, http://www.familysearch.org; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The Borden “brothers” enlist.

On 25 April 1864, four Wilson County men — Dennis, Edward, Henry and Jerry Borden — presented themselves in New Bern, North Carolina, to enlist in Company C, 1st Regiment, North Carolina Colored Heavy Artillery of the United States Colored Troops (which was later known as Company C, 14th Regiment, Heavy Artillery). All bore the same surname, which was likely a mishearing of “Bardin” or “Barden,” and may have escaped from the same owner, but they were not brothers.

Here is Jerry Bardin‘s volunteer enlistment record:

And a muster record for Dennis Borden:

In 1872, Lydia Borden opened an account with the Freedmen’s Bank branch in New Bern. Per her account card, her husband was “Edward Borden (soldier) — d. of smallpox (1865?)” If this is the same Edward, freedom was short-lived.

Henry Borden was admitted to a military hospital in Hampton, Virginia, in April 1911. He was described as 85 years old; a resident of Bertie County, N.C.; and married to Cora Borden. He died 19 August 1911 in Windsor, Bertie County.

14th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Service Records Who served with the United States Colored Troops, http://www.fold3.com; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865, http://www.ancestry.com; Freedmen’s Bank Records, 1865-1871, http://www.ancestry.com; Register no. 19392-20891, Hampton, Virginia, United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938, http://www.familysearch.org.

Wiley Simms house.

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Wilson Daily Times, 22 March 1975.

Per Kate Ohno, Wilson County’s Architectural Heritage (1981): “Local tradition maintains that this house was built circa 1840 for James or Benjamin Simms, who were twins. The Simms brothers were born in 1787. Wiley Simms is said to have occupied the house after his marriage to Sarah E. Wilkins in 1862. Wiley Simms died in 1876 and the Simms family still owns the property. The house was built in the Greek Revival style and is similar to the Edwin Barnes House. The main section of the house is two stories high with a one-story shed extension at the rear and a one-story kitchen wing. Large, single-shoulder stepped chimneys are on the exterior ends. The attached porch is elegantly designed and is supported by tapered, reeded columns with a Greek key design below the capital. The two front windows and two front doors have typical reeded surrounds with square corner blocks. On the interior a hall-and-parlor plan is followed with a long narrow rear shed room giving access to an enclosed stair. The original woodwork has remained intact as have the unique floromorphic plaster medallions and cornices. Panelled wainscot is found in the two front rooms.”

For more on the 1922 tornado that struck the Evansdale community, see here.

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In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Willie Simms, 29, farmer. He reported $5178 real property. [“Willie” was the usual spelling of “Wiley” in 19th century eastern North Carolina.]

In the 1850 slave schedule of Edgecombe County, Willie Simms is reported with 11 slaves, four women aged 23 to 60 and seven boys and men aged 1 to 45.

In the 1860 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Willie Simms, 38, farmer. Simms, a bachelor, reported $25,070 in real property and $39,140 in personal property.

In the 1860 slave schedule of Saratoga township, Wilson County, Willie Simms is reported with 30 slaves, 13 girls and women aged 3 to 50, and 17 men and boys, aged 1 to 52.

The 1870 census of Wilson County lists many African-Americans with the surname Simms in Wilson County, especially in the southeast section. These include Rose Simms, 37, with her children Milly, 10, Susan, 7, and Lucy Simms, 8 months (plus Mary Hall, 23), listed next-door to Willie Simms.

The estate of Jesse S. Barnes.

The children and grandchildren of Jesse and Edith Jordan Barnes were among Wilson County’s wealthiest planters. Elias Barnes’ estate records are especially rich sources of information about enslaved people, but it is not unique.

Barnes’ son Jesse Sharpe Barnes was, perhaps, family’s golden child. Born in 1838, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and established a prosperous law practice in Wilson. Jesse S. Barnes enlisted in a South Carolina militia company in 1860 and in the spring of 1861 recruited his friends and neighbors into the Wilson Light Infantry. In a few months, he mustered into Company F, 4th North Carolina State Troops as a captain. In April 1862, while enlisted, Barnes drafted his will, leaving all his property to his mother Mahala Sharpe Barnes. A little over a month later, he was killed at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia.

This portrait of Jesse S. Barnes is in the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In “an inventory of the property of Jesse S. Barnes deceased which came into my hands as Executor this __ day of ___ A.D. 1863,” William Barnes Jr. itemized the eight enslaved people Jesse Barnes had possessed: “negro man Cooper Caroline negro woman Clarky negro woman, Wash negro boy Celia negro child John 1 year old Charles 8 months old Celia.” He also noted receipt of fifty-six dollars from John Oats for “the hire of a negro.”

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At the time of his death, Jesse Barnes still owned three of the enslaved people he had inherited from his father — Cooper, Clarky and Celia. Hardy was gone, and he had added an adult woman named Caroline and two small children, Charles and Celia. All returned to the community at Mahala Barnes’ plantation on what is now Stancil Town Road, a couple of miles east of Stantonsburg.

Will and Estate Records of Jesse S. Barnes, images available at North Carolina Wills and Estates 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

The Civil War letters of J.R.P. Ellis, part 1.

The East Carolina University Manuscript Collection’s Josiah Robert Peele Ellis Papers contain photocopies of transcriptions of correspondence by J.R.P. Ellis of Wilson County, North Carolina, to his wife Elizabeth Grimes Ellis while he was serving in Company C of the 43rd N.C. Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

Hugh B. Johnston Jr.’s introduction to the letters describes Josiah R.P. Ellis as “a well-to-do planter who lived in Wilson County, about a mile northwest of Stantonsburg where the road forks in the respective directions of Black Creek and Wilson.” Ellis, born in 1821, was apparently inadvertently drafted, enlisted in the Confederate Army anyway, and was fatally wounded in 1864.

Several letters include references to free and enslaved African-Americans who lived in Ellis’ community, especially in regards to Ellis’ suggestions for hiring labor to work on the farm in his absence.

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Letter #1, undated, probably written late in 1863, to wife Betsy Ellis:

“I was glad to hear that Cole and Tomy got home safe. If any of you come, you will have to get a pass to come over the bridge. Direct your letters to J.R.P. Ellis, Kinston, 43 Reg’t., Co. C, Hoke’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division. I also desire your prayers. Your affectionate husband until death.   /s/ J.R.P. Ellis   P.S. They have stopped the daily mail. The mail only comes Monday and Thursday.”

In footnotes, Johnston noted that Cole and Tomy are believed to have been men enslaved by the J.R.P. and Betsy Ellis.

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Letter #2, dated “Camp near Modern Ford, Dec. 4/63”:

“Dear Wife and Children:

“Having a favorable opportunity I will endeavor to drop you a few lines to let you know I am still living. I left Kinston on Sunday, the 22nd of November. I was sent to Goldsboro and then to Raleigh, and then to Camp Holmes and was enrolled. They told me that I had to go to Lee’s Army or Bragg’s, so I am with the 43 Regt. with Rufus and Edwin Amerson. I got to this Company last Thursday night at 11 o’clock. We left Orange Court House about sunset and walked 15 miles. I had been there about 30 minutes when we received orders to march, so we had to start and march 7 or 8 miles. We were then marched to a line of battle and remained there until day. And then we started and marched until about 9 o’clock and then we met the Yankees and throwed in a line of battle. And then in about ten minutes the sharpshooters were firing. They kept up shooting until night, and then we fell back some 2 or 3 miles and went to throwing up breastworks, and if if you ever saw poor fellows work, then was the time.

“About sunrise the sharpshooters were sent out again. I was sent with them and by the time we got to our post we saw the Yanks coming, and in about 5 minutes they were shooting us and the bullets were coming whistling. In about 10 minutes a ball struck a man in the face, and I had to help tote him off the field with the balls striking all around me. Two struck a man that was on my side a-touching me. There is no use in telling you about being scared, for it will scare the most of the time. We got our breastworks done and I felt tolerable easy under the circumstances. We lay there 4 days a-waiting for the Yanks to advance on us, but on the 4 night they left us and we started after them, but I did not want to catch them much, so we ran them over the Rapidan and then we turned back and marched some 8 or 10 miles and struck up camp and stayed all night, so we started back to our old camp. I helped bury a dead man this morning.

“I received your letter that you send my by A.J. Ellis and was glad to that you and children were tolerable well except colds, and I still hope that you are still enjoying the same blessing. You said something about hiring Eas and Emily. You can do as you please, but I think you had better hire them if they don’t ask too much for them. You had better try to make support if you can. Encourage the children to be smart and saving and careful, for you and they are left dependent on your own exertions for a living, and I sincerely hope you will do well.

“I must come to a close.  /s/ J.R.P. Ellis”

Per Johnston’s footnotes: Eas [Eason] and Emily were “Edmundson slaves.” This reference may be to Wright Edmundson.

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Letter #3, dated “The Camp of the 43rd, Dec. 9th 1863”:

“Dear Wife and Children:

“This may inform you and family that I am very unwell though I am up. I have a very heavy cold and cough. I have to lie out and take the weather as it comes. We have no shelter at all to protect us. I have to drill 4 hours a day. Cooking and drilling take all our time. We have to tote our wood nearly a half-mile. It is very cold here now, and I suffer with cold a-nights. I have not cover enough to keep me warm. I have as much as I can tote, and in fact more if I have to march much, so don’t send me any clothes or cover. I got a permit to go see the boys in Staton’s old Co. I am with the boys now. They all seem glad to see me and it makes me feel proud to see so many of my old friends. The boys are all well here.

“You have no idea how badly I want to see you and the children. I would give all the money you have got to be with you and if I could stay and not be troubled, but that time has passed, I am afraid.  Lieut. Killet wants Wyatt Lynch to bring him a qt. of the old peach brandy. You can let him have it, and T. Barnes wants a qt., too. You can send it, also, and send me a qt. by Wyatt if he will bring it. They want it for Christmas. They will pay me for it.

“Thomas Mumford wants 1/2 bushel of potatoes. Send them if you can by anybody. Write as soon as this comes to hand. Don’t put it off a minute, for I want to hear from you once a week without fail. I must come to a close as Tom wants to send some in this letter, so nothing more, only I remain yours as ever.   /s/ J.R.P. Ellis”

Johnston’s footnote: “Wyatt Lynch (born 1830) was a highly regarded free black of Wilson County. He followed the trade of plasterer and brickmason.” Captain Ruffin Barnes also made reference to Wyatt Lynch, as well as Lynch’s wife Nicey Caroline Lynch, in his correspondence. As a free man of color, Lynch was not subject to conscription as a Confederate soldier and could freely travel the countryside (carrying at all times evidence of his free status), which made him useful as a courier over the relatively short distance from Wilson County to encampments near Kinston, North Carolina.

 

Mrs. Johnson seeks a pension.

In March 1933, Lula Johnson applied to the North Carolina Confederate Pension Board for a widow’s pension.

Johnson’s application noted that she was 60+ years of age; resided at 608 East Nash Street, Wilson; and her late husband was John Streeter, also known as John Johnson. She did not know when or where Streeter/Johnson enlisted, but claimed he was a member of “Company H, 14 W.S. Colord Heavy Artillery.” The couple had married in 1922, and Streeter/Johnson died in June 1932, three years after he had begun to draw a pension. Arthur N. Darden and Darcey C. Yancey were witnesses to her application, which Yancey stamped as notary public.

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Lula Johnson’s application was denied. She was “not eligible” (underscored) for a pension. (To boot, she was “Negro,” underscored four times.) Though the Pension Board did not set forth a reason for denying Johnson’s claim, there is a glaringly obvious one. The 14th Regiment, Colored Heavy Artillery, were United States Army troops, not Confederate. The regiment — comprised of runaway enslaved men and free men of color — was organized in New Bern and Morehead City, North Carolina, in March 1864; primarily served garrison duty in New Bern and other points along the coast; and mustered out in December 1865.

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Here is a record of the military service of John Streeter, alias Johnson. He was born in Greene County about 1846 and had enlisted in the Army in New Bern in 1865. Three months later, he was promoted to corporal. John Johnson had served his country honorably, which did not entitle his widow to Confederate benefits.

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I did not find any evidence that the Johnsons actually lived in Wilson County. The address Lula Johnson listed as her own was that of C.H. Darden & Sons Funeral Home, the family business at which Arthur Darden worked. Was she (or her husband) related to the Dardens? Census records show John Johnson and his wife Mary in Leflore County, Mississippi, in 1900 and 1910, but Mary Moore Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, in 1913.

John Johnson died in Farmville, Pitt County, North Carolina, on 8 June 1932. Per his death certificate, he was about 90 years old; was married to Lula Johnson; had been a preacher; and was born in Greene County to Ned and Manervie Johnson. He was buried in Farmville, and Darden & Sons handled the funeral. (Charles H. Darden was also a Greene County native. )

Act of 1901 Pension Applications, Office of the State Auditor, North Carolina State Archives [online]; U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865  [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.