Army Correspondence-2: May 6, 1865

Army Correspondence

Head Quarters 1st U.S.C.T., Raleigh N.C.,

April 17th 1865

Christian Recorder: May 6, 1865

Mr. Editor:-- I must be content to sketch out a short synopsis, of our rout from Warsaw to this place. Sunday morning, the 9th inst. orders to march came early in the morning, everything being in a bustle to be ready at the shortest time possible. The news spread with inconceivable rapidity among inhabitants of the place. The whites were evidently glad on the reception of such intelligence, while the colored were sorrowful, chagrined and despondent. Men, women, and children, had come for miles from the adjacent country to find freedom and patriotism under our flag. Six or seven hundred of these, at least, were women and children in a state of nudity, and without any means of support. To this class especially, I had issued government rations, supplied them with houseroom, and protected in the best manner possible. Several white ladies and slave oligarchs were glad to enter my office in the same humiliating custom which they formerly would have expected of me and ask for a permit to draw from the government, whining under the pretended vengeance they would like to inflict upon their southern degraders. I knew that was all fudge, but it satisfied me to see them crouching before me, and I a negro. But I am leaving the subject.

The news having spread that we were going to leave, the colored people became wonderfully excited. There were hundreds of children who could not walk, women in the same fix and vast numbers thought it impracticable to attempt to follow us into the middle of the State and to remain there was thought to be dead, for the scouts of the rebel Wheeler, were expected in as soon as we left, who would kill and destroy them without mercy. To describe the scene produced by our departure would be too solemn, of time and space permitted. Suffice it to say, many were the tears shed, many sorrowful hearts bled. Vast numbers followed us at every risk, and others started for Willington, where they all are. God alone knows I was compelled to evade their sight as much as possible, to be relieved of such as these, “Chaplain, what shall I do? where can we go? will you come back?” &e. But amid it all we marched off about 9 o’clock, followed by an immense concourse of black and white. And thus we continued, resting at intervals, till we arrived at Faison’s Depot, ten miles up the railroad. Here we joined our brigade, and in rejoining that, joined our Corps, which was rendezvousing from its scattered fragments preparatory to our move upon this place.

Early Monday morning, 10 inst, the drums beat, trumpets were blown, tents struck, horses saddled and geared, and soon the long line of soldiers, marching to the cheering music of the bands, told Faison’s Depot farewell, but told Raleigh to look out for the Yankees were coming.

As we marched out of our respective camps, cheer after cheer went up, and deafening buzzes rang far and wide. And thus we continued all day, passing through a country hostile to us, from every consideration, but at the same time possessing many things which were quite friendly, such as meat, chickens, turkeys, molasses, and a great many things which our boys knew how to make use of. We will not stop here to speak of the many transpiring occurrences which attended our march. Though much was very visible, especially where justice seemed to be paying off some of these old slave-holding rascals in their own coin. In the afternoon of the 11th inst., we arrived and marched through the battlegrounds of General Sherman and Johnston, where they fought at Bentonville, on the 19th ultimo. This was an interesting spot to our corps, as we were not in the sight at the time, though we were closer to the place. The rebel General Johnson had thrown up a line of works near the road where Sherman had to pass, to stop his audacious march, but the same audacity which had led Sherman thus far led him to stop and throw up a triple line of works in Johnson’s engineering. Though Johnson had been there sometime before the arrival of Sherman, yet he only had one line of defenses prepared, and not one of the flanking works, while Sherman in one night built three lines within two hundred yards of Johnson’s main works, and had his flanks prepared in the best manner imaginable. If Johnson’s military genius as displayed at Bentonville constitutes him a great general, then I know I am a greater one, (General Turner.) – The battle-ground being in the woods, the trees were in many places riddled with balls. I was amused at one tree, through which seven cannon balls had passed, yet it continued to stand. That tree must have been a rebel. Be that as it may, however, the tree seems to say, “I won’t fall.” Other trees had every limb shot off without materially injuring the trunk, while several graves told us, here lie the victims of treason’s foul course.

Passing on to notice further, we halted on the 12th inst., we being in the valley to eat dinner, amid the most quiet time we had witnessed on our march, the main army being on the road-side. All at once a terrible musket fire broke out, and such cheering I never heard. This excited us; the Colonel formed the regiment in great haste, preparing for a battle. I mounted my horse and fled toward the firing to learn the result. They told me General Lee had surrendered. Back I went to spread the news, and no sooner was it announced that the most vociferous shouts were given; soldiers ran, jumped up, turned over; officers hugged each other, clasped their hands &e. And all day long from that time, would regiment and brigades cheer, shout, hoop, shoot guns, whole companies join and whistle Yankee Doodle and Hail Columbia until I wished every mouth was crammed full of mush to stop the noise. I had rather hear cannon fire than to hear 50,000 men get to hallooing. Cannons will stop sometime, but men seem never to know what stop means.

Finally, drawing near to Raleigh, we began to form junctions with the various columns of Sherman’s army

About 9 o’clock, Thursday morning, 13th inst., General Kilpatrick entered Raleigh with his cavalry, closely followed by the 15th corps. The rebel Wheeler’s cavalry retreated before him. One rebel lingered behind and shot at General Kilpatrick, expecting his horse would save him, but our men caught him and hung him immediately. He was brave, though. He said he didn’t care a d—n what we did with him, and you may be sure our men did not care since he did not. But our entrance into Raleigh I know will be fully delineated by the northern papers. Therefore, I regard it needless to speak of it in detail. I presume, also, that the Herald….will have the topography of the city so well mapped off, that a description in that respect will also be useless. Our corps, having gone into camp near the city, I was soon in town looking around at the place. Finding some Methodists in my perambulation, I begin to inquire of the state of the churches. One Gentleman referred me to a Mr. Henry Hunter. I went to his house, made his acquaintance, and to my great surprise, found myself among the relatives of Chaplain W. H. Hunter. His wife, Manerva Hunter, is an aunt of the Chaplain’s. Her nine children, Eleanor Hinton, Cela Jefferis, and Patty Turner are married, and Cinthia, Sarah, Henry, Elliot, and George Hunter are single. I am proud to say, this family is as nice a family as can be found in the state. They are clean, intelligent, quick, and stylish. Brother Henry Hunter is one of the oldest leaders and is regarded as a pillar of the church. Sunday, the 16th inst., we had decided upon attending church, but in consequence of the colored Methodist church being both dirty and lousy, in consequence of the rebels having made a hospital of it….the colored people rented an old shop, which would hold about 1200 persons.

Here I preached in the morning, and Rev. J. H. Payne, in the afternoon; after which I received the leaders, 14 stewards, 7; members, 450 or 500, and a fine sumptuous church, and large lot, all paid for, into the A.M.E. Church, and a finer-looking audience I have never seen then I found in Raleigh N.C. I had to congratulate them several times, on their appearance, manners, customs, habits, rules, and social regulations. Though one-half, if not two-thirds of the people are mulattoes, yet there is evidently a higher moral status among them than is usual in this state.

This morning I licensed one preacher and one exhorter, which the first thing of the kind in a generation of years.

But I know you want me to stop. I forget I am writing so much. This I must say; however: There were great fears here last night. The soldiers threaten to avenge the death of President Lincoln on the citizens. I will refer to that next time.

H.M.T.