The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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Franklin County, but after great excitement in all middle North Carolina, and many arrests, the accused were pronounced "not guilty" by the court hastily convened for the emergency.

        When Nat. Turner's massacre of fifty-five persons occurred in Southampton, Virginia, in 1831, the whole of Raleigh was placed under arms. The able-bodied were divided into four companies, each to patrol the streets every fourth night. The old men were organized as Silver Grays. The fortress was the Presbyterian Church, and it was agreed that whenever the State House bell should sound the women and children were to hasten to its protecting walls. At last one night O'Rourke's blacksmith shop took fire. It was night, says my informant, whose hair is frosted now; but he remembers as vividly as if it were yesterday, the women with disheveled hair and in their night clothes running for life through the streets. It was no laughing matter to them. One of our most venerable and intelligent old ladies, (and she is an uncommonly brave women,) although she disbelieved the stories, yet when she heard the loud clangor of the bells at midnight, drew her children around her, determined to beg the enemy to kill them first so that she might see them safe in death rather than be the first to die, leaving them to brutality and torture. But her son, then a mere boy, brandished his deceased father's sword and prepared to defend the household. I hope he will pardon me for mentioning an act so much to his credit. It was our Raleigh poet--James Fontleroy Taylor.

        The negroes were frightened more than the whites. They fled and hid under houses, in garden shrubbery, lay between corn rows, anywhere for safety. There never was a time when the colored people of Raleigh would have risen against our people. It is greatly to the credit of both races that notwithstanding party animosity and sudden emancipation, the kindly personal feeling between the whites and their old servants has never been interrupted. See ante, pages, 127, 128, 222 and 223, touching these matters.


        Gen. Jethro Sumner lived and died in Warren County. His father emigrated from England and settled near Suffolk, Va. His son emigrated to Bute (since 1779 Franklin and Warren Counties) and was sheriff of Bute for some years. When the Revolutionary war began he was appointed, in April, 1776, Colonel of the third regiment of Continental troops by the Provincial Congress of the State of North Carolina. He joined the Grand Army of the North under Washington, and after a campaign he was appointed Brigadier-General and ordered to join General Gates in the South. He behaved with gallantry at Camden. He then joined General Greene and was with him in his southern campaign, and commanded the North Carolina troops at the hard-fought battle of Eutaw, September 8, 1781, where his charge with bayonets contributed to the success of that decisive battle. This was one of the severest battles and decisive of the whole Revolution. General Greene's first line was composed of Marion's, Sumter's and Col. Pleasant Henderson's Regiments, Lee's Legion and Pickens' Corps. The second line was composed of Sumner's Brigade of North Carolina Continentals, under Col. John B. Ashe, Major Armstrong, and Major Blount, with the Virginians on the left and Marylanders in the center. The British were driven from the field, and only escaped annihilation by seizing a large brick house, from which their fire was so destructive that Greene forebore further attack. The force of each was about 2,000 men; of these, 1,200 were left on the field. More than half the force of Greene were North Carolinians. The first line behaved well, but the second line sustained the brunt of the fight. The charge by Sumner with fixed bayonets was brilliant, and the proud Englishman was beaten at his favorite weapon. Many men of each line were transfixed by their opponents, and thus "fighting fell."

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