On 15 December 1871, George Washington Stanton (1835-1894) of Stantonsburg filed Claim No. 10296 with the Southern Claims Commission, seeking reimbursement for the value of a mule taken by General William Sherman’s troops in April 1865. All claimants, in addition to submitting supporting depositions, were required to respond to a 43-question interrogatory primarily aimed at establishing their steadfast loyalty to the Union. In response to #17, which asked who the leading area Unionists were during the War and whether they would testify on his behalf, Stanton responded: “Messrs. Wily Daniel, Spencer Fountain, John & Stanley & Colonel John Wilkinson. John Wilkinson and a colored man, Henry Stanton, are the only witnesses I can now obtain.”
Henry Stanton, called “Harry,” gave two depositions in G.W. Stanton’s support. Though not stated, Harry had been enslaved by G.W. Stanton’s father, Washington M. Stanton, who died in the 1850s, and later by his mother Gatsey Truitt Stanton. About G.W.’s loyalty, Harry swore:
“I come to testify to the loyalty of George W. Stanton. I have known him from his birth. I lived with him, excepting the first year, during the war. Yes, in this way — I could say little, but when I heard Mr. Stanton talked it was that he was against it – that he never meant to go into it, and he never did go into it. We colored folks had not much mainland with white folks to hear what they had to say; but I always could hear Mr. Stanton stand up for the ‘old government.’ Only what I have stated. I heard him tell men who came up after hogs that he never would go. I never did. I had only heard him talk in favor of the Union. I heard Dr. Ward say that Mr. Stanton held himself as a Union man, but that he was as much after his black ones as he (Ward) was for his’n. What I could hear from white folks was that Mr. Stanton ‘had pulled his self away from them.’ and I know that all we black folks felt proud of him because he would not go into the war. Alvin Bagley, Amos Owens, and Col. Wilkinson — Rufus W. Edmondson was, for while, looked upon as a Union man, but he gave up afore the war ended. [Q.: Were you, yourself, an adherent of the Union cause during the War?] Of course I was — that I was ‘from the jump’! [Q.: Do you know of any threats, molestations, or injury inflicted upon the claimant or his family, or his property, on account of his adherence to the union cause?] I heard Joshua Walston and Bill Burrows threaten that he would be arrested. I heard Mrs. Barnes say that her son was killed for the honor of his country and that if she was a young girl she would not marry George Stanton to save his life. Mrs. George Stanton was left by herself by the other ladies of her neighborhood on account of her husband. [Q.: Do you know of any act done or language used by the claimant that would have prevented him from establishing his loyalty to the Confederacy?] I do not know how to answer that question,” and further deponent saieth not. Harry (X) Stanton
About G.W.’s property loss, Henry testified:
“My name is Harry Stanton, my age is 48 years, my occupation is farming and my residence is in Greene County, and my P.O. address is Stantonsburg, Wilson County, N.C. I, being a colored man, am not related to claimant, and have no interest in his claim. I was ploughing in the field with Mr. Stanton’s mules when they took him. Fifteen or twenty Union soldiers rode up to the field, and one came riding up to me in the field, and said Howdy Uncle Sam, I told him howdy. He asked me was that a good mule. I told him he was good but old — I thought I could get him to leave him, as he was all we had got. He ordered me to take him out. I took him out, and he made me lead him down to the gate where the crowd was. He put a little colored boy [Alfred Stanton] on the mule, and the mule throwed him three times but they kept throwing him on, but they made the boy ride him down to Kinston. The boy came back and told me that they sent or gave him liberty to come back — that he was a free man. Mrs. Stanton called me to bring the mule to the house, but the soldiers would not let me, so that he carried him off. That mule was the only ‘work creeter’ Mr. Stanton had at the time; and that is all I know about the taking of the mule,” and further deponent saieth not. Harry (X) Stanton
Alfred Stanton testified:
“My name is Alfred Stanton, my age is 21 years, occupation is a carpenter, my residence is in Wilson County, N.C. I am not related to the claimant and have no interest in his claim. I was not present when they took the mule out of the plow but I met them on the road and Uncle Harry was leading the mule. The Soldiers ordered me to get on the mule. I was afraid of the mule, but the[y] bade me get up. I had to carry the mule to Kinston, Lenoir County, N.C. The soldiers there took him from me and put him in a lot. There were other horses and mules in the lot. I saw the mule there next morning. The mules was taken by United States Soldiers. I know they were called Yankee Soldiers. They had blue clothes. I left Kinston next morning and came home. I did not see the mule after this.” This is all the boy remembered about it — he was then only 12 years of age, and took no notice of what he heard the soldiers say, and further deponent saieth not. Alfred (X) Stanton
Though he was surely living, Henry Stanton is not listed in the 1870 census. According to his son Archibald Stanton’s Greene County marriage license, Henry died before 1878. He was survived by wife Mariah Stanton.
In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: Ellic Respess, 21, Linah Respess, 35, and Alfred Stanton, 18. Alfred Stanton, 21, married Sarah Harris, 21, on 2 January 1873 at G.W. Stanton’s home. Stanton, a justice of the peace, performed the ceremony.
To move the mule the roughly 30 miles to Kinston, Alfred Stanton likely took the road through Snow Hill that was the predecessor to highway NC 58.