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April 2016 Final Web

April 2016

THE 1863 RAPE AND

THE 1863 RAPE AND ATROCITIES OF NORTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA ( or Wild’s Raid though Northeastern North Carolina) by Dr. Dave Strategically, President Jefferson Davis and his administration had written off Northeastern North Carolina (NENC) early in their war planning. It is hard to say why. Maybe, the unique geography seemed too difficult to defend with naval and land forces (combined operations were still in its infancy), or more than likely, the decision was purely political in that Davis may have never trusted North Carolina as the state was lukewarm toward the idea of a confederacy from the beginning. Northeastern North Carolina was even less than lukewarm. Certainly, Northeastern North Carolina had a strategic value in the sense that the region could produce ships and defend Norfolk, a strategic port city for resupplies via the Dismal Swamp Canal, and send vessels into the Atlantic from the Outer Banks. Also, choke points, such as Oregon Inlet, were easily defended by coastal fortifications and naval forces. Why the Davis administration decided not to focus on Northeastern North Carolina is a mystery as he never made any public statements on the decision. Certainly, Davis had the ability to think outside the box, as he had demonstrated while serving as the Secretary of War. As Secretary of War, Davis did approve the first US Camel Corps in 1856. The unit was active from 1856 to 1866. While the experiment was somewhat successful, horses and mules eventually took the place of camels as the soldiers were better able to control horses and mules. Plus, the skill set to control camels was never fully developed. The experiment was disrupted by the Civil War and never had any political support as Jefferson Davis became the President of the Confederacy. The approval does show a willingness to think “out of the box”. Maybe the value of NENC was never presented to Davis and cabinet, or the Davis war policy was: “We are defending our natural rights, and, therefore, our military goals must be purely defensive in nature.” For whatever reason, Davis’ medieval “capture anything but Richmond” war policy left places like Northeastern North Carolina wide open to be occupied by heartless men such as General Benjamin “the Beast” Butler and his fellow Massachusetts traveler, General Edward A. Wild. Both men lived up to their Puritan training and background. Together, they wreaked havoc upon the Southern people of NENC just as had their ancestors had upon Cavaliers generations before in England. Roanoke Island fell to Union forces on Feb. 8, 1862, and the Mosquito Fleet made a last stand in the harbor of Elizabeth City on Feb. 10, 1862. These battles paved the way for military occupation by the likes of a Union Brigadier General, Edward A. Wild, under the direct command of General Benjamin “the Beast” Butler leaving a handful of Camden Confederate resistance fighters to keep the Puritan monsters in check. Wild and Butler were political generals. or what some call today “perfumed princes.” Perfumed princes are men who never see action but get the same status as those who do. These two men created much devastation to Northeastern North Carolina. A newly formed troop under Wild was established from runaway slaves and local buffalo soldiers. Buffalo soldiers were local runaways slaves and noted renegades with Northern sympathies. These forces conglomerated into the 1st and 5th volunteer and the 1st and 2nd North Carolina Volunteers under the umbrella unit of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Wild’s combined units totaled more than 1,800 troops. The combination of Beast Butler and Wild concludes only one descriptive word to explain their occupation of NENC: ravenous. Both men had political ambitions like many scoundrels throughout history. Most newspapers and later historians consider Wild and Butler to be men of “no mercy.” Butler even thought of his own newly formed troops as contraband. Butler had completed the organization of the terror. Now, Wild could be unleashed into the interior of NENC. During Wild’s raid through NENC counties , Pasquotank and Perquimans, Wild turned his attention to Suffolk, Va., and created a path of destruction each step of the way. Every building and farm, which passed through the glaze of Wild, was burned or ransacked. Troops under Wild stole whatever they wanted and torched most of NENC counties and the counties bordering the Albemarle region. Not since Visigoths sacked and burned Rome had civilized people witness so much destruction as was the case in NENC. Many contemporaries of Butler and Wild and, later, historians wrote: (paraphrased) Probably, no expedition, during the process of this war had attended with more utter disregard for the traditional uses of civilization or the dictates of humanity than your (Wild) late raid into northeastern North Carolina and counties bordering the Albemarle. Your stay, though short, was marked by crimes and enormities. You(Wild) burned houses over the heads of defenseless women and children, carried off private property of every description from furniture, jewelry, silverware, crops, food, and livestock. You even arrested non-combatants and carried off women in irons. During one of the destructive raids, the ruthless and selfless men under Wild encountered a skirmish. A small band of Wild’s Raiders were napping, and they were either captured or killed by the combined forces of the 62nd and 68th NC Troops, joined by the naval squadron from the soon-to-be-famous ironclad “The Albemarle.” The Raiders were caught bivouacking at 5:00 a.m. The Confederate units aggressively closed in and surrounded the bivouacked area. A small skirmish ensued. The Raiders were either killed, wounded, or captured. The captured Raiders were sent off to prison. The skirmish was a statement to both Wild and Butler that raids against civilians would not be tolerated anymore. Further, it demonstrated to the Northern occupiers that the local forces could still muster a resistance. Butler and Wild skedaddled out of NENC only to find later more work as occupiers in New Orleans, certainly not as gentlemen in battle. To take a line from the Outlaw Josey Wales, “There is no end to doing good.” One can only guess the mentality of these political generals. Squarely in the eye of the storm, was a place of refuge, Oak Grove Methodist Church. The Church had been in operation since 1814. The land to build it had been acquired from the family of Dr. Walter Reed. The church served as a hospital for the Confederate and Union soldiers alike. The church is still in operation today and is located on Chaponoke Road, Hertford, NC. Ending this essay at Oak Grove gives one insight into the respect the people of the South had for life. Let’s review and ask if Wild or Butler would have cared for wounded Confederate troops or civilians caught in need. Certainly, this doesn’t seem to have been the case; two women were raped on Poindexter St in Elizabeth City during the middle of the day on two different occasions. The atrocity was committed by Butler’s staff. Butler did nothing. Transition to Oak Grove Methodist Church, which was treating soldiers from both sides as needed just a few miles away. Enough has been said; it’s no wonder that many in the South call the Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression” or “Mr. Lincoln’s War”. As Shakespeare’s Henry V stated, “for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.” 38 Albemarle Tradewinds April 2016 albemarletradewinds.com

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