Names of men hanged
Reprinted with the permission of the Author, J. Kenneth Davis
Do not quote nor distribute in piece or entirety without the Author's personal
This paper is on file in the Public Library at Wilmington, NC.
From February 5th, 1864 to February 22nd, 1864 twenty- two deserters were
executed by hanging at Kinston, North Carolina. The court martial and
subsequent hanging was carried out by the 54th Regiment, North Carolina Troops,
Confederate States Army. Fifteen of these men were from Jones County and had
all started their service in the 8th Battalion North Carolina Partisan Rangers.
The question begs to be asked is how so many men from one company could desert,
join the union army, be captured, tried as traitors and executed by hanging.
Four of the principals, excluding the 22 that were hung, are Colonel Nethercutt
, commanding officer of the 8th Battalion (also the 66th Regiment), John Paris,
the Chaplain of the 54th Regiment( the regiment responsible for carrying out
the executions), Major General G. E. Pickett, CSA and John J Peck, Major
General, Union. Now look at the Investigation after the war, examine the John
Paris diary, take information from the records of N C Troops and from the
publication War of the Rebellion, ad draw your own conclusion:
THE NORTH CAROLINA PRESBYTERIAN
VOL. VII. NO. 15.} FAYETTEVILLE, N. C., WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 1864
For the North Carolina Presbyterian
THE DESERTERS DOOM.
It is a fact not to be denied that the crime of desertion has been, and still
exists, as a serious evil in the Confederate army. This evil is to be found in
a greater or less degree to prevail among the troops from each one of the
states belonging to the confederacy. It is not my purpose to discuss the
various causes at present that produce this state of things, but simply to
notice some of them. Every State is jealous of its own honor, and the true and
loyal citizens of each one cannot fail to feel some degree of mortification to
know that man, claiming to get their fellow citizens, who had voluntarily
stepped forward at their country's call, enrolled themselves as its defenders,
received the bounty and outfit of a soldier from the government, and taken upon
themselves the most solemn obligations of the oath,-"I, A, B, do solemnly
swear that I will bear true allegiance to the Confederate States of America,
and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies
and opposes whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the
Confederate States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according
to the rules and articles for the government of the armies of the Confederate
States; so help me God,"- when they learn that such sworn, defenders of
their country, and all that life holds dear, have disregarded these solemn
obligations, turned their backs on upon the public enemy , forsaken the post of
duty, taken to the woods to conceal themselves from the faces of all true men,
to live by robbery and plunder, or else go over to the enemy, Arnold like,
enlist in his service and fight against their country and friends for pay; they
must be sorely grieved.
The good people of North Carolina have had much cause for regret and
mortification; to know that in the western counties, especially those lying on
the seaboard, so many of this class of wretched men are to be found. Every good
man is a patriot. A patriot never deserts his flag of the land of his birth.
Owing to my official relation to the army and the service, it has fallen my lot
to come in contact with and make the acquaintance of, deserters of almost every
grade that the service, affords. I have labored to obtain information as to
their private and past history, education, moral and religious status, &c, and
I have arrived at the conclusion that the deserter , under all and every
circumstance, belongs to the wicked and abandoned grade of society morally,
that can be found in the land. They are generally illiterate, ignorant and
vicious. Possessed of prejudices, proceeding from gross ignorance, against
government and government officials ; they can readily listen to any appeal
made to these prejudices, let it come from what quarter may. Hence an easy
matter for them to learn to despise their country and its cause, for the simple
reason, they are possessed of no governing principle by which conduct is
regulated. But the most mischievous influence in promoting desertion from the
ranks of our armies in the field proceeds from disloyalty at home; a disloyalty
that has its home in the bosoms of persons not in the military service; men
whose temporal welfare has in general been promoted by the war; who grown fat
by speculating upon the commodities of life, &c., but at the same time in their
hearts an attitude hostile to the independence of their own country. These men
are certain exert a baleful influence upon that class of our soldiers whom they
may dare to approach. They frequently venture to write to such as they call
their friends in the army, beseech them to come home with the promise of their
being protected, while they fail not to denounce the war, perhaps call it the
"rich mans war and the poor man's fight;" and to make his chapter a
full one adds, "we are whipt," "the country is ruined," &c.
These appeals coming from the home circle are potent for mischief, and soon
make their marks upon the ranks. The ignorant, vicious and dissipated receive
it with avidity; and too often act promptly upon its suggestions, abandon the
post of duty, travel hundreds of miles on foot to reach the place of fancied
security, make their home in the woods, brave the dangers of being retaken,
tried , condemned and shot or hanged as deserters; or else walk a more brazen
faced treason, go directly to the enemy and take up arms against their country.
The number of letters found in our camp, or intercepted, from the disloyal
croakers at home establish most conclusively the position assumed above. Our
government of official cannot watch the movements of such too closely, or apply
the remedy of the law too promptly for the good of the country. Here is one
proposition that every man must understand a like : If a man is not for his
country, he is most undoubtedly against it. If I am against my country, I have
no right proceeding from any law of God or man to stay in it, for my presence
would be more deleterious to its welfare than the presence of an openly avowed
enemy. It is a sad misfortune that North Carolina has so much disloyalty at
home to contend against, in this mighty revolutionary struggle. But such was
her misfortune in the revolution of 1776. Such is her misfortune in the
revolution of 1861. The character and infamy of the Tories of the former
revolution , constitute the character and infamy of the Tories of the later.
In our late campaign against Newbern , we captured in the ranks of the enemy ,
with arms in their hands, and dressed out in the Yankee toggery , twenty-two
men , who were recognized and proved to be deserters from the confederate
service. They have all been tried by court martial , found guilty, condemned
and suffered the penalty of death upon the gallows. They were all turned over
to our brigade for execution. At the instance of Brig. Gen. Hoke I attended
them in confinement, in the character of a minister of the gospel, and
accompanied them to the gallows. Thus I learned their history and heard their
confessions . On Friday, the 5th instant, Joseph L Haskett and David Jones, of
Craven County, deserters from the 10th Regiment, were executed. They were
illiterate men; neither of them could read. Admitted they had deserted, but
insisted that the Yankees compelled them to take the Oath and enlist. These
were the most unfeeling and hardened men I have ever encountered. They had been
raised up in ignorance and vice. They manifested but little is any concern
about eternity. They marched to the gallows with apparent indifference . Jones
, though quite a young man never shed a tear. By deserting the flag of their
country they were guilty of perjury, but they seemed to regard it with
indifference. With this state of feeling they were launched into eternity.
On Friday the 12th, five more of the prisoners were brought to the scaffold. As
all these executions had to take place within twenty four hours after the
publication of their sentence, I had only that space of time to devote to their
religious instructions before they went to the bar of God. The names of these
men were , Amos Armyett, Wm. Z Irving, Mitchel Busick, Lewis Bryan and John
Stanley-all deserters from Nethercutt's Battalion, and from Jones County. Upon
entering the cell in which they were confined, I asked if any of them were
members of the church. Armyett replied that he was and had been a Methodist for
years, that he was prepared to meet his judge in peace. But as I don't admit a
man's lips as a test of his Christianity , I taught them only as sinners
against God of the most heaven-defying character. I urged upon them the
importance of making a full and complete confession of all their sins, before
both God and man; yet I am afraid these men were willing to look the great sin
of perjury, of which they were guilty, fully in the face. Yet each one , before
starting to the gallows, professed to have made his peace with his God, and two
were baptized in the Christian faith. I suggested to them that they owed to
their fellow man one duty, viz: that they should give me the names of the men
who had seduced them to desert and go to the enemy. This they readily assented
to, and gave me the names of five citizens of Jones County as to the authors of
their ruin, disgrace and death, which names I took down in writing and handed
it into the Generals office, and they no doubt be properly attended to. At the
gallows , Armyett, who was the oldest of the five, made as chief speaker the
following confession, written down as delivered.
" I believe my peace is made with God. I did wrong in volunteering after
I got to Newbern. I would rather have laid in jail all my life than to have
done it. I have rendered prayer unto God to forgive my sin. I trust in him,
and in him only. "(The prisoners all said they feel the same way.)
Mitchel Busick said:"I went to Newbern and they (the Yankees) told me if I
did not go in their service, I should be taken through the lines and shot. In
this way I was frightened into it." They all declared, We wish a
statement made to the N. C. Troops that we have done wrong and regret it; and
warn others not to follow our example.
The reader will discover that these men were silent upon the great sin of
perjury in deserting our ranks; and in their confessions began where they ought
to have let off, viz: at Newbern. Armyette was regarded by some of the citizens
of Jones County as being the ringleader, and probably was, but they gave the
names of others as their seducers. He was no doubt a bad man, of no ordinary
character, as he had the hardihood to profess to be a Christian and yet
practicing the great crimes of perjury and treason. They went upon the
scaffold with a firm step and were launched into eternity together.
On Monday, the 15th instant, thirteen more marched to the gallows. I made my
first visit to them as chaplain on Sunday morning. The scene beggers all
description. Some of them were comparatively young men. But they had all made
the fatal mistake. They had only twenty four hours to live, and but little
preparation had been made for death. Here was a wife to say farewell to a
husband forever. Here a mother to take the last look at her ruined son; and
then a sister who had come to embrace for the last time the brother who had
brought disgrace upon the very name she bore, by his treason to his country. I
told them that they had sinned against their country, and that country would
not forgive; but that they had also sinned against God, yet God would forgive,
if they approached him with penitent hearts, filled with a godly sorrow for
sin, and repose their trust in the atoning blood of Christ. They gave,
apparently, marked attention to my ministration of the word and prayer. On the
next morning before they were carried to the scaffold, I visited them again,
and had with me as companions Rev. Mr. Thompson, Chaplain of the 43rd , Rev.
Mr. Schenck, of Guilford Conty, Rev. Mr. Hines, Missionary to the brigade and
Rev. R R Michaux, N.C. Conference. After reading a chapter and prayer, I
administered the ordinance of Christian Baptism to eight of these poor
condemned wretches, after the manner that Paul and Silas administered it to the
Jailor and his household in the prison at midnight in Phillippi. They had
received no religious visit from anyone except the one from myself the
preceding morning, and one in the afternoon, at my request, from Rev. Mr.
Thompson. I administered baptism at the request made on the morning before.
Dr. Schenck had just offered up the concluding prayer and we were talking to
the recipients of baptism, when a voice called out at a little iron grated
window by the door(the door being locked) about fifteen inches square, "If
there is anyone in the prison that wants to be baptized by immersion, I have
authority to attend to it. This was a disturbance, but no one made any reply.
After a few moments the voice called out at the window again, and said, If any
of the prisoners desire baptism by immersion, I have authority, I have leave to
take them down to the river and immerse them. At this stage of the
proceedings, as disgusted as we all were, Rev. Mr. Schenck spoke out and said:
This is an outrage upon the solemnities of this hour. Men, I am an old man and
an old minister, and I speak as your friend; don't suffer your minds to be
diverted by any such appeals as this addressed to you. You have been baptized
into the Christian faith; you can do no more. You are not saved by water but
by the atoning blood of Christ. Put your trust in God alone.
We came out of the prison, and, before I had left the door a distance of ten
feet, the Colonel , commanding Brigade, rode up, and addressing me
said,"have you sprinkled any of those prisoners in the cell". To
which I replied, No Sir, I have baptized them in the name of the Holy Trinity.
To which he replied, I will not discuss technical terms in theology with you.
About this time the officer on guard unlocked the door again, and gave notice
to the prisoners that a minister who had authority to baptize by immersion was
present, and if any such desired it, the minister would carry them to the river
under a guard and immerse them. Two of the prisoners had refused to give me
the names of the men who had persuaded them to desert; now came out and were
marched off to the river. Of the sequel, I know nothing. If the reader will
pardon this episode, I will resume the thread of my narrative.
The thirteen marched to the gallows with apparent resignation. Some of them I
hope were prepared for their doom. Others I fear were not. On the scaffold
they were all arranged in one row. At a given signal , the trap fell, and they
were in eternity in a few moments. The scene was truly appalling But it was as
truly the deserters doom. Many of them said I never expected to come to such a
end as this. But yet were deserters, and as such they ought to have expected
such a doom. The names of these misguided men were, John I Brock, Wm. Haddock,
Jesse Summerlin, A I Brittain, Wm. Jones, Lewis Freeman, Calvin Huffman,
Stephen Jones, Joseph Brock, Lewis Taylor, Charles Cuthrell, W. C. Daughtry and
John Freeman. Ten of them were deserters from Nethercutt's Battalion.
On yesterday, the 22nd , William I Hill and Elijah Kellum were carried to the
gallows and hanged as deserters. Kellum was quite a young man, unable to read,
but guilty of the dreadful crime according to his own showing. He professed to
die in peace, and received the ordinance of baptism before death The other
looked very much like an impenitent man, and died leaving a wife and three
helpless children to bear the disgrace of his heavy crimes unto the third and
This makes twenty-two. Will there be any more? I fear there will be. The
knell of vengeance has sounded. The right man is here in the right place, to
vindicate ------- law and ------ of the State; and deserters in North Carolina
must now open their eyes, from the mountain to the seaboard. Desertion has
become in our army a desperate disease, and desperate cases require desperate
remedies. Let fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and wives, exhort their
friends at all times to be faithful to their country under all circumstances.
Respectfully, John Paris
Chaplain 54th Regiment N. C. T.
Kinston, North Carolina, February 22nd , 1864
Extract from The Buffaloes of Eastern North Carolina
Beginning in October 1863, the Second North Carolina (Union) recruited three
more companies in Beaufort, Companies A. C. & F. Members of Company F.
suffered the worst fate of the three. Composed mainly of troops who had
formerly served in the Confederate army (Turncoats), Company F defended a
Federal position at Beech Grove, near New Bern, on January 15, 1864. Two weeks
later on February 2, after being constantly "menaced by the enemy,"
most of the company surrendered to the gray-clad army. Confederates under the
orders of Gens. George Pickett and Robert F. Hoke, Tried and hanged twenty-two
members of the company between February 5 and 22, near Kinston
Extract from the report to board of inquiry dated October 19, 1865 signed by W.
H. Doherty,Capt. President of the Board
After the capture of these men at Beech Grove, North Carolina, they were
confined in the court-house at Kinston, North Carolina, until they were removed
to the dungeon of the old jail at the same town, where they remained until they
were executed under most cruel and debasing treatment, and were rescued from
starvation only by their friends supplying them with food. Nor did the outrages
perpetrated upon the victims of the wholesale slaughter cease with cruel
treatment or death itself; these dead bodies were striped of their clothing
almost or quite to a state of nudity. To be contemptuously left for relatives
to gather up and inter , delivered to experimental surgery , like a command
felon, or scooped into a common grave at the foot of the gallows, while their
families were insulted , robbed of their property , and left to depend on the
charity of friends (while those that befriended them were themselves in
danger,) or suffer for a mere subsistence.
The following men were executed at Kinston, North Carolina from February 5th to
the 22nd, 1864
February 5th, 1864
Joseph L Haskett, Private NCT Volume I page 56 Company B,10th Regiment N C S T
( 1st Regiment N C Artillery) Born in Craven County where he resided as a
farmer and enlisted at age 26 , June 12, 1861 for the war. Captured at Fort
Macon April 26, 1862 and paroled until exchanged in August 1862. Deserted
November 15, 1863
David Jones, Private NCT Volume I page 57 Company B, 10th Regiment N C S T (
1st Regiment N C Artillery) Enlisted in Lenoir County November 15, 1862 for the
war. Deserted November 15, 1863.
John Paris Diary, Friday, February 5th. "Requested by Gen. Hoke to visit
two Deserters who are to be hanged at 12 Oclock, named Jones and Haskett; they
were found in the enemy's lines in arms against us. They ere the most hardened
and unfeeling men I ever encountered, and met their fate with apparent
North Carolina Presbyterian- April 13, 1864
: Letter dated February 22, 1864 by John Paris
They were illiterate men; neither of them could read. Admitted they deserted,
but insisted that the yankees compelled them to take the oath and did enlist.
These were the most unfeeling and hardened men I have ever encountered. They
had been raised up in ignorance and vice. They manifested but little if any
concern about eternity. They marched to the gallows with apparent
indifference. Jones, though quite a young man, never shed a tear. By deserting
the flag of their country, they were guilty of perjury, but they seemed to
regard it with indifference. With this state of feeling they were launched
John Paris Diary-Wednesday, February 10th.
" Everything quite as usual. A Court Martial is Known to be sitting, and
we expect the deserters we have prisoners will fare badly".
John Paris Diary- Thursday, February 11th.
"Requested by Gen. Hoke to visit five more men in prison who are to be
hanged tomorrow. Found these men in great distress apparently. The oldest one
among them professed to be a Christian, whilst practicing his perjury and
treason. I wrote letters for three of them to their friends".
February 12th , 1864
Amos Amyett (Armyett)
North Carolina Presbyterian, April 13, 1864
: Amos Amyett replied that he was and had been a Methodist for years, that he
was prepared to meet his judge in peace. Amyett was regarded by some of the
citizens of Jones County as being the ringleader, and probably was, but they
gave the names of others as their seducers. He was no doubt a bad man of no
ordinary character as he had the hardihood to profess to be a Christian and yet
practicing the great crimes of perjury and treason.
William Irvin, Private NCT Volume II, page 589 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County January 21, 1863 for the war. Present
or accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops
October 2, 1863
Mitchel Busick, Private NCT Volume II page 586 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County June 28, 1862 for the war. Present or
accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops October
North Carolina Presbyterian, April 13, 1864
Mitchel Busick said, I went to New Bern and they(the yankees) told me, if I did
not go into their service, I should be taken through the lines and shot. In
this way I was frightened into it.
Lewis C Bryan, Private NCT Volume II page 586 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County May 15, 1862 for the war. Present of
accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops October
John L. Stanley, Private NCT Volume II page 592 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County February 9, 1863 for the war. Present
or accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops
October 2, 1863
North Carolina Presbyterian, April 13, 1864
I suggested to them that they owed to their fellow men one duty, viz: that they
should give me the names of the men who had seduced them to desert and go to
the enemy. This they readily assented to and gave me the names of five citizens
of Jones County as the authors of their ruin, disgrace and death, which names I
took down in writing and handed it into the Generals office.
John Paris Diary-Friday , February 12th
. " Baptized John L Stanley and William Irving in prison before going to
the gallows. These prisoners five in number all made some confession of
penitence at the gallows for their crimes, but said nothing about their
perjury. They all went upon the scaffold together, and paid the forfeit of
their lives for their crimes of treason.
John Paris Diary- Sunday February 14th. "Informed this Morning of the fact
that thirteen men who are in prison, will be hanged in tomorrow as deserters.
Went to visit them in prison. The scene was truly a moving one. Preached in
Camp at 12 Oclock."
February 15th, 1864
John J Brock, Private NCT Volume II page 586 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Transferred from Company C, 13th Battalion N C Troops June 7,
1862. Present or accounted for until transferred to Company C of this Battalion
in October 1862. NCT page 604, Company C, 8th Battalion NC Partisan Rangers
Transferred from Company A of this Battalion in October 1862. Present or
accounted for until transferred to Company D, 66th Regiment N C Troops October
Celia Jane Brock, widow of John Brock testimony before court of Inquiry October
Her late husbands name was John C Brock; he was taken prisoner at Beach Grove,
near Newbern, North Carolina, in February, 1864, by the rebel army. She lives
four miles from Kinston, North Carolina; saw her husband on the Saturday week
before he was executed; he was confined in the dungeon of the jail; he told me
that he got only one cracker a day, all the other prisoners said they got one
cracker a day each; she said she fed her husband and the others, or they would
have starved. General Hoke was in command then; Captain Kib. Davis was in
command at the jail. She took the dead body of her husband home and buried it.
He had been stripped of most of his clothes; her husband was baptized at his
own request, on the morning of his execution, by the Rev. Mr. Camp, a Baptist
preacher of Kinston, North Carolina, in the Neuse river
William O . Haddock, Private NCT Volume II page 588 Company A, 8th Battalion N
C Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County July 15, 1862 for the war.
Transferred to Company C of this battalion in October 1862. Co. C, 8th
Battalion N C Partisan Rangers Transferred from Company A of this battalion in
October 1862. Captured December 14, 1862 and paroled. Date of parole not given.
Present or accounted for until transferred to Company D, 66th Regiment N C
Troops October 2, 1863.
Jesse J Summerlin, Private NCT Volume II page 592 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County July 7, 1862 for the war. Transferred
to Company C of this Battalion in November 1862. NCT page 608 Company C, 8th
Battalion N C Partisan Rangers Transferred from Company A of this Battalion in
November 1862. Present of accounted for until Transferred to Company D, 66th
Regiment N C Troops October 2, 1863
Catherine Summerline, widow of Jesse J Summerline testified In New Bern,
October 31, 1865.
That Jesse Summerlin, her late husband, resided near Kinston, North Carolina;
that he was at the time of his murder by the rebels a soldier enlisted in the
service of the United States, in the 2nd Regiment of North Carolina loyal
infantry; that he was taken prisoner by the rebels about the first of February,
1864, and hung by them at Kinston, North Carolina, on the 14th or 15th day of
the same month; saw her husband in the dungeon of the jail at Kinston, North
Carolina, on the day before he was executed; was allowed to visit him for a
short time on that day and also on the morning of his death; Sheriff Fields was
present at the execution; he took the dead body of her husband from the gallows
and delivered it to her. The soldiers had stripped the body of all but the
pants; she got the body of her husband next morning after execution and carried
it home; got a coffin and buried it. Some time afterwards, Colonel Baker, or
the rebel army, visited her house, took away her horse and all her provisions;
her house was in Jones County, North Carolina; she has five small children and
is in destitute circumstances. Captain Southeron, of rebel army, was in charge
of the prison in Kinston at the time; she was kept under guard three days and
nights after the murder of her husband at her own house in Jones County, North
Carolina; her husband with twelve others (most of them her neighbors) were hung
together from one pole or beam in an open field near the town of Kinston, North
Carolina; she was present but dared not to look on. She heard the platform fall
and saw four or five of the dead bodies, viz: John Brock, Joel Brock, Hardy
Doughty, Stephen Jones, Andrew Britton and William Haddock, who gave her his
clothes to take to his mother, who was her neighbor. The bodies were stripped
in some cases naked all but the shirt or pants. Andrew Britton sent word by her
to his wife to meet him in Heaven; her husband was conscripted into the rebel
army and carried off by an armed force; therefore, he deserted and came to
Newbern and joined the Union forces. She has not yet applied or received any
pension form the United States government.
Andrew J. Britain, Private NCT Volume II page 586 Company A, 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County May 15, 1862. Detailed as a musician
from March 1, 1863 through June, 1863. Present or accounted for until
transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops October 2, 1863
J. H. Nethercutt, testimony before court of Inquiry November 7th, 1865
Believes that A. J. Britton was the leading man in the desertion of men. Does
not know if Britton ever enlisted in the rebel army.
William B. Jones, Corporal NCT Volume V, page 238 Company M, 12th Regiment N C
Troops Resided in Camden County where he enlisted at age 40, May 30, 1861.
Mustered in as Corporal. Present or accounted for until transferred to 2nd
Company B, 32nd Regiment N C Troops in October, 1861. NCT Volume IX page 25
Previously served as Corporal in Company M, 12th Regiment N C Troops ( 2nd
Regiment N C Volunteers). Transferred to this company in October, 1861, with
the rank of Corporal. Present or accounted for until he deserted on May 10,
Nancy Jones, widow of William Jones, testimony before court of Inquiry October
Her late husband's name was Wm. Jones; resides in Lenoir County, North
Carolina, twelve miles from Kinston, North Carolina; her husband enlisted in
the United States army in January , 1864; was taken prisoner by the rebels in
February, 1864; belonged to the same company and regiment in the United Sates
army as the others that were hung at the same time with him; saw her husband in
the jail the evening before he was hung, February 14,1864; could not take her
husband home for the want of a conveyance; at first the Union men were afraid
to help her, and the rebels cursed her; said it was too good for him. On
Wednesday next sent her son, a boy fifteen years old, and her nephew of
seventeen years, to bring home the body; they searched a long time and at last
found it in an old loft in charge of a sergeant and guard that refused to give
it up at last the doctor gave them it, which was stripped of all covering
excepting the socks. This was a week after execution; her son received the
body, brought it home and buried it; she was obliged to walk home twelve miles;
has five children and no home.
Lewis Freeman , Private NCT Volume II page 588 Company A, 8th Battalion N C
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County January 20, 1863 for the war. Present
or accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops
October 2, 1863
Calvin J Huffman, Private NCT Volume II page 589 Company A, 8th Battalion NC
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County February 11, 1863 for the war.
Reported on May-June 1863 muster roll as " absent wounded and with
leave." Present or accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th
regiment N C Troops October 2, `1863.
Stephen H. Jones, Private NCT Volume II page 598 Company B,8th Battalion NC
Partisan Rangers. Born in Lenoir County where he resided as a farmer and
enlisted at age 27, May 15, 1862 for the war. Reported on muster in roll dated
Kinston, N C July 23, 1862. No further records.
Elizabeth Jones, widow of Stephen H. Jones, testimony before court of inquiry
October 31, 1865.
Her late husband's name was Stephen Jones; she lives in Lenoir County, North
Carolina. One and one half mile from Kinston, North Carolina; her husband
volunteered in the rebel home service; in about twelve months was conscripted,
then he deserted and came within the Union lines; some time in December, 1863,
was taken prisoner by the rebels-same time as Jesse Summerlin; he was in jail
in Kinston at the same time her husband was imprisoned there, and saw General
She visited her husband during the two weeks he was kept in prison before his
execution- at first in the court house, at last in the dungeon of the jail; she
carried him a bed quilt to sleep on; visited him the morning he was hung, just
before the rebels took him out for execution. On that occasion thirteen were
hung together; she received his dead body, carried home and buried it; Major
Nethercutt was there at that time. She is poor; has but one child, and no home.
Joseph F Brock, Private NCT Volume II page 586 Company A, 8th Battalion NC
Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County May 15, 1862 for the war. Mustered in
as Corporal. Appears as Private on November-December 1862 muster roll with the
remark "Paroltd prisoner and absent with leave". Later reported as
captured on January 28, 1863 and paroled on February 5, 1863. Reported as
Private after November-December 1862. Present or accounted for until
transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops October 2, 1863
Lewis Taylor, Private NCT page 592 Company A, 8th Battalion N C Partisan
Rangers. Enlisted in Jones County January 24, 1863 for the war. Present or
accounted for until transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C Troops October
Charles Cuthrell,Private NCT page 469 1st Company H, 40th Regiment NCT (3rd
Regiment N C Artillery Born in Craven County where he resided as a farmer and
enlisted at age 23, January 20, 1862 for the war. Captured at New Bern March
William Harvey Doyety (Doughtery) Private, NCT Volume II page 587 Company A.
8th Battalion Partisan Rangers Enlisted in Jones County July 16, 1862 for the
war as a substitute for Joel A Heath. Present or accounted for until
transferred to Company C of this battalion in October 1862. NCT page 604
Transferred from Company A of this battalion in October 1862. Present or
accounted for until transferred to Company D, 66th Regiment N C Troops October
John Freeman, Private NCT Volume II page 588 Company A, 8th Battalion N C
Partisan Rangers. Enlisted in Jones County January 20, 1863 for the war.
Present or accounted for until Transferred to Company F, 66th Regiment N C
Troops October 2, 1863.
John Paris Diary-Monday, February 15th.
Baptized eight of the prisoners before they left the prison. The distress of
women and children was truly great, wives of the prisoners. The thirteen gave
the names of the men who had induced them to desert and I gave them into the
General's office. The thirteen were arranged on one Scaffold and ushered into
Eternity at a given signal".
John Paris Diary- Sunday, February 21st.
" This morning I learned of the fate impending of two more deserters who
are condemned to be hanged on tomorrow. Visited them in prison, and heard the
sentence of death read to them. It fell with a dreadful weight upon their
feeling. They insisted they should not be hanged, as they had been persuaded to
Extracts from the "Weekly Confederate", Raleigh, Wednesday, February
Public Execution. J. S. Stanley, Lewis Bryan, Mitchell Busick, William Irvin,
and Amos Amyett, of Nethercutt's battalion, lately found themselves as
deserters to the enemy, have been tried and hanged, thus paying with their
lives the penalty of their crime. These men, we believe, were from the county
of Jones. They were poor and ignorant men; but some of them had near relatives,
and all of them had friends. The hearts of their have been sore stricken by
their sad, and disgraceful end. Are they only to blame? They left the service,
and assumed that of the enemy, on the plea of some fancied wrong done by our
government in the removal of Colonel Nethercutt's command from the outpost
service, in which they were engaged in Jones and Onslow counties, into General
Martin's , and the ordering them to Wilmington. This slight supposed grievance
furnished the excuse for their great crime.
If these poor , deluded men have friends or kin-and we know Colonel Nethercutt
at least to be their friend so far as to see that they have justice-they ought
to search the press; and if it be found that pernicious counsels have led to
this deplorable crime and its attending calamity, the blood of these men
appeals for justice upon all guilty-the instigator as well as the actor.
February 22nd, 1864
William Irving Hill, Private NCT page 257 Company K, 41st Regiment NCT (#rd
Regiment N C Cavalry) Born in Beaufort County where he resided as a farmer and
enlisted May 16, 1862 for the war. "Deserted and joined the enemy January
1, 1864" and enlisted in Company F, 2nd Regiment N C Union Infantry on
January 2, 1864
NCP April 13, 1864
The other(Hill) looked very much like an impenitent man and died leaving a wife
and three helpless children to bear the disgrace of his heavy crime unto the
third and fourth generation
Elijah Kellum, Private NCT page 755 Company K, 61st Regiment N C Troops Born in
Jones County where he resided as a teamster or farmer prior to enlisting in
Jones County at age 25, July 16, 1862 for the war. Reported present in
November-December, 1862. Reported sick in hospital at Wilmington in
January-April,1863, by reason of "morbi varii". Enlisted as Private
in Company F, 2nd Regiment N C Infantry(Union), December 1, 1863. Was
subsequently captured be Confederate forces and hanged for desertion.
NCP April 13, 1864
Kellum was quite a young man, unable to read, but guilty of the dreadful crime
according to his own showing . He professed to die in peace and received his
ordinance of baptism before death.
John Paris Diary- Monday, February 22nd. "Went to visit prisoners at nine
Oclock. Prayed and talked with them. Kellum professed to be prepared for death.
Hill was calm and declared that he was not afraid to die.
Extract from the " Western Democrat," Charlotte, North Carolina,
Tuesday, February 23rd ,1864
Traitors Executed. J. S. Stanley, L Bryan, Mitchell Busic, William Irvin, and
Amos Armyett, or Nethercutt's battalion, who had deserted their colors and gone
to the Yankees and taken up arms against their land and kindred, were hanged in
Kinston on the 21st instant. The prisoners were accompanied to the gallows by
Hoke's and Bartow's brigades. They ascended the scaffold with a firm and
elastic step, and seemed to bear up under their trials with much fortitude.
They had but little to say, except Busick, who entreated his old comrades in
arms to stand by their flag and never desert it under any circumstances
whatever, lest they should come to the ignominious end of those who were then
about to die the felon's death and fill a felon's grave. "oh, that I was
never born," one of the prisoners was heard to exclaim in his anguish a
moment before the trap fell.
War of the Rebellion-Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Series I, Volume 33 page 865, 866
HDQRS. 18th Army Corps, Dept. of VA. and N. C.
Fort Monroe, April 14, 1864
Lieut.. Gen. U. S. Grant, Commanding U. S. Armies:
GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose official copies of the correspondence
between General Pickett, commanding Confederate forces, District of North
Carolina, and General Peck, commanding U. S. forces in said district, relative
to the execution of certain prisoners belonging to the Second North Carolina
Regiment. Many of these men were conscripted by the rebels. All of them were
citizens of the United States, who owed their allegiance to our Government; if
misguided, they forfeited their allegiance, repented, and returned to it again.
They have only done their duty, and in my judgment, are to be protected in so
doing. I do not recognize and right in the rebels to execute a United States
soldier because by force or fraud , or by voluntary enlistment even, he has
been once brought into their ranks and escaped therefrom. I suppose all the
rights they can claim as belligerents is to execute one of the deserters from
their army while he holds simply to the character of a deserter during the time
he has renounced his allegiance, and before he has again claimed the protection
and it has been accorded to him. Therefore by no law of nations and by no
belligerent rights have the rebels any power over him other than to treat him
as a prisoner of war if captured.
I would suggest that the Confederate authorities be called upon to say whether
they adopt this act, and that upon their answer such action may be taken as
will sustain the dignity of the Government, and give a promise to afford
protection to its citizens.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
WOR, Series I, XXXIII page 867
HDQRS. ARMY AND DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
New Berne, N. C., February 13, 1864.
Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina, Confederate Army:
General : I have the honor to include a list of 53 soldiers of the U. S.
Government who are supposed to have fallen into your hands on your late hasty
retreat from before New Berne. They are the loyal and true North Carolinians
and duly enlisted in the Second North Carolina Infantry. I ask for them the
same treatment in all respects as you will mete out to other prisoners of war.
I am , very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN J PECK,
WOR, Series I, XXXIII page 868
Headquarters Department of North Carolina
Petersburg, Va. February 17, 1864
Maj. Gen. John J. Peck,
Commanding U. S. Forces, New Berne, N. C.:
GENERAL: Your communication of the 13th instant is at hand. I have the honor to
state in my reply that you have made a slight mistake in regard to numbers, 325
having "fallen into your(our) hands in your (our) late hasty retreat from
before New Berne," instead of the list of 53 with which you have so kindly
furnished me, and which will enable me to bring to justice many who have up to
this time escaped their just deserts. I herewith return you the names of those
who have been tried and convicted by court-martial for desertion from the
Confederate service and taken with arms in hand, "duly enlisted in the
Second North Carolina Infantry, U S Army." They have been duly executed
according to law and the custom of war.
Your letter and list will, of course, prevent any mercy being shown any of the
remaining number, should proper and just proof be brought of their having
deserted the Confederate colors, many of these men pleading in extenuation that
they have been forced into the ranks of the Federal Government .
Extending to you my thanks for your opportune list,
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. E. PICKETT,
List of prisoners captured before New Berne and executed at Kinston, N. C., as
deserters from the Confederate Army: David Jones, J. L. Haskett, John L.
Stanly, Lewis Bryan, Mitchell Busick, William Irving, Amos Armyette, John J.
Beck, William Haddick, Jesse Summerlin, Andrew J. Britteau, William Jones,
Lewis Freeman, Calvin Hoffman, Stephen Jones, Joseph Biock, Lewis Taylor,
Charles Cuthrell, William H. Daughtry, John Freeman, Elijah Kellum, William J.
WOR: Series I, XXXIII, page 868,869
HDQRS. ARMY AND DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
New Berne, N. C., February 20, 1864
Confederate Army, Petersburg :
GENERAL : Soon after your retreat from New Berne I had the honor to address you
respecting 53 loyal North Carolinians who had fallen into your hands; they
having been duly enlisted into the Second North Carolina Regiment , I asked for
them the treatment of prisoners of war.
Your attention is called to the inclosed slip, cut from the Fayetteville
Observer of February 8, 1864, setting forth that some of the prisoners taken
near New Berne have been executed, which I hope will prove to be unfounded :
Among the prisoners captured by our forces near New Berne were several
deserters from our army. We learn by an officer just from the spot that two of
these have already been executed and others are undergoing trial.
Having reported this matter to higher authority, I am instructed to notify you
that if the members of the North Carolina Regiment who have been captured are
not treated as prisoners of war the strictest retaliation will be enforced. Two
colonels, 2 lieutenant-colonels, 2 majors, and 2 captains are held at Fort
Monroe as hostage for their safety. These officers have not been placed in
close custody because the authorities do not believe that nay harm is intended
by you to the members of the Second North Carolina Regiment.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN J. PECK
WOR: Series 1, XXXIII, pages 867, 868
Headquarters Department of North Carolina,
Petersburg, Va., February 16, 1864.
Maj. Gen. John J. Peck, U. S. Army,
Commanding at New Berne :
GENERAL: Your communication of the 11th of February is received. I have the
honor to state in reply that the paragraph from a newspaper inclosed therein is
not only without foundation in fact but so ridiculous that I should scarcely
have supposed it worthy or consideration; but I would respectfully inform you
that had I caught any Negro who had killed officer, soldier, or citizen of the
Confederate States I should have caused him to be immediately executed.
To your threat expressed in the following extract from your communication, viz:
" Believing that this atrocity has been perpetrated without your
knowledge, and that you will take prompt steps to disavow this violation of the
usages of war and to bring the offenders to justice, I shall refrain from
executing a rebel soldier until I learn your action in the premises, " I
have merely to say that I have in my hands and subject to my orders, captured
in recent operations in this department, some 450 officers and men of the U S
Army, and for every man you hang I will hang 10 of the U S Army.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. E. PICKETT
WOR: Series I, XXXIII, pages 869, 870
Hdqrs. Army and District of North Carolina,
New Berne, N. C., February 27, 1864
Maj.-Gen. George E. Pickett,
Department of North Carolina, Confederate Army :
General: February 13 I had the honor to address you in respect to 53 North
Carolinians who had fallen into your hands in your late operations about New
Berne. As they were truly loyal men who had duly enlisted in the U S Army, I
requested the same treatment of them as should be meted out to other prisoners
of war. No allusion was made to the question of your right to place these men
upon any other footing or to the matter of retaliation.
In your reply of the 17th you inclosed a list of 22 who have been executed at
Kinston, and express the determination to punish the balance if proof is found
of their desertion from your service.
These men, in common with more than half of the population of the State, were
ever loyal to the United States and opposed secession until put down by
arbitrary power. A merciless conscription drove them into the service, and for
a time compelled the suspense of their real sentiments but were powerless to
destroy their love for the Federal Union. With tens of thousands they seized
the first opportunity to rush within my lines and resume their former
allegiance. Had these men been traitors to the United States at the outburst of
the rebellion their claims upon it for protection and sympathy under the
circumstances would not have been strong, but in view of their unswerving and
unflagging loyalty I cannot doubt that the Government will take immediate steps
to redress theses outrages upon humanity and to correct such gross violations
of usages of civilized warfare. In any event ;my duty has been performed, and
the blood of these unfortunates will rest upon you and your associates.
In your communication of the 16th you threaten to execute 10 of the officers
and soldiers of the U S Army for every one of your men, prisoners in my hands,
which I shall execute under the orders of the President of the United States,
which I have inclosed for your information. This announcement , taken in
connection with the execution of the North Carolinians and similar proceedings
elsewhere, evinces a most extraordinary thirst for life and blood on the part
of the Confederate Authorities. Such violent and revengeful acts, resorted to
as a show of strength, are the best evidences of the weak and crumbling
condition of the Confederacy.
This wicked rebellion has now attained that desperate state which history shows
is always the shortest of revolutionary stages, The friends of the Union
everywhere truly interpret these signs of madness and recklessness, and are
making one grand rally for the utter overthrow and final extinction of all
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
John J. Peck
Extracts from"Little Souled Mercenaires"? The Buffaloes of Eastern
North Carolina during the Civil War by Judkin Jay Browning
On April 20,1864, a small army under the command of Confederate General Robert
F. Hoke captured the 3,200 man Union garrison at Plymouth, North Carolina. Once
the Federal surrender appeared imminent many United States soldiers chose not
to remain in the garrison, instead fleeing by any means available. Cpl.
Nathaniel Miller seized a canoe and fled down the Roanoke River to be rescued
by the union steamer Ceres a week after the surrender. First Sgt. James H.
Mitchell "buried" himself in the swamps for over ten hours before
finally escaping to Washington in Beaufort County. Pvt. Laton Gardner, along
with two others, "lay in water in the low grounds two days & one
night" before wading more than ten miles to Union lines.
Others sought alternatives to physical flight. Cpl. Worley Butler and Pvts.
William T. Cullipher and James Hassell removed all evidence of their
identification and assumed the names of soldiers in other regiments. They
changed their names because they did not want their Confederate captors to know
who they really were-fellow North Carolinians.
The executions had a substantial impact on Federal dispositions of the
Buffaloes. Soon after the hangings, union General Innis Palmer complained to
Secretary of State William H Seward; "The North Carolina troops I consider
as the execution of the Carolina troops at Kinston had very much
demoralized the whole of them." Palmer found them so ineffective that he
"placed all in the sub-district of Beaufort, where, as they feel secure,
they will, I hope become reliable."
WOR, Series II, Volume 8, Page 903 , 904
War Department, Washington City, May 2, 1866
Hon. S. Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representative:
Sir: In reply to the resolution of the House of Representatives of April 16,
1866, directing the Secretary of War to communicate the Judge-Advocate-Generals
report and other information respecting measures which have been taken to bring
to punishment the murderers of certain Union soldiers belonging to the First
and Second Regiments of North Carolina loyal infantry, alleged to have been
tried and executed under the orders of the rebel generals Pickett and Hoke, I
have the honor to transmit herewith the Adjutant-Generals letter of the 1st
instant on the subject, covering and enumerating all the papers and
correspondence on file in the Department.
Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
E. M. Stanton
Secretary of War
Adjutant-General's Office, Washington, May 1, 1866
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War"
Sir: In compliance with your orders I have the honor to submit copies of papers
called for by resolution of the House of Representatives dated April 16, 1866,
requesting a "report of the Judge-Advocate-General and such other
information as may be of record or on file in his department on the subject,
which will show what are the facts in the case and what steps have been taken
to bring to justice and punishment the murderers of the following named Union
soldiers, belonging to the First and Second Regiments of North Carolina loyal
infantry, alleged to have been tried and executed by orders of the rebel
generals Pickett and Hoke, under the pretext of their being deserters from the
Confederate service, viz: Jesse J. Summerlin, Hardy Dougherty, Stephen Jones,
David Jones, William Haddock, John Freeman, Joseph Brock, Sergt. Joseph H.
Fulcher, William D. Jones, Charles Cuthrell, Elijah Kellum, Mitchell Busick,
Lewis Freeman, Joseph L. Haskett, William Irving, Amos Amyett, Stephen Jones,
John J. Brock,"
The papers herewith are:
Letter of Maj. Gen. B. F. Butler to General Grant, inclosing copy of
correspondence between Maj. Gen. J. J. Peck, U. S. Volunteers, and the rebel
General Pickett, concerning the execution, &confinement of loyal North Carolina
Extracts from North Carolina rebel newspapers.
Report of a board of inquiry, and report upon the alleged murder of a large
number of U. S. soldiers by the rebels during the spring of 1864, convened at
New Berne, N. C., October 19, 1865
Additional proceedings of same court.
Proceedings of second board of inquiry in case of murder of Union soldiers at
Kinston, N. C. , in 1864
Report of Judge-Advocate-General of December 12, 1865, on memorial and other
papers relating to the barbarous slaying upon the gallows of certain Union
soldiers at Kinston, N. C. ; papers hereunto appended.
Report of Judge-Advocate-General of December 30, 1865, to the Secretary of War
on the same subject.
Letter of Maj. Gen. J. J. Peck, U. S. Volunteers, of December 22, 1865, to
Letter of Judge-Advocate-General of December 30, 1865, to Secretary of War.
Report of a board of inquiry convened at Raleigh, N. C. , January 17, 1866, in
relation to the murder of the U. S. Soldiers by the rebels in March, April, and
Abstract of testimony taken before the board of inquiry convened at Raleigh, N.
C. , January 17,1866, in the matter of the murder of certain U. S. soldiers at
Kinston, N. C. , by the rebels in 1864
Letter of Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger, stating that to enable him to complete the
investigation ordered by the Secretary of War in relation to the murder of
certain U. S. prisoners of war at Kinston, N. C., by Pickett and Hoke, he
desires to be furnished with copies of certain proceedings of the rebel
court-martial which tried said prisoners , with Dr. Francis Lieber's
indorsement thereon stating that these proceedings are not among the records of
the Archive Office.
The papers submitted show that the investigation of this transaction has been
continued, under the commanding general Department of North Carolina, from the
19th of October, 1865, and was progressing until the receipt of the resolution
of April 16,, with the view of coll;ecting the whole testimony in proper form
for such action as the President might direct.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. Townsend
8th BATTALION N. C. PARTISAN RANGERS
After the Ordinance of Succession was passed in North Carolina on May 21,
1861,a company of men, known as Wards Company, was raised in Jones County. This
company was mustered into service on June 22,1861,as Company I, 17th North
Carolina Volunteers. On August 22-23, 1862 the 8th Battalion N. C Partisan
Ranges was organized at Goldsboro with two independent companies . This two
companies became Company A & B. ( Most of the men were from Jones County). Four
other companies were added to, or organized from, the companies in the
battalion. At its final organization the battalion consisted of six companies.
These units comprised Company C, D, E, and F. The first two companies added
were F and C. Then followed D and E. There is no explanation for the lettering
of the companies, but they were each designated as to the date they came into
As a Partisan Ranger organization, the battalion could either be cavalry or
infantry. It began as a cavalry unit, but by August , 1863, it was reported as
an infantry unit. It is doubtful that all the men were ever mounted at one
time, and the scarcity and price of horses prohibited the men from acquiring
After the battalion was organized the two companies were moved to Trenton,
Jones County. Company A reported a skirmish with the enemy two miles southeast
of Pollocksville on the Mill Creek road on August 26, 1862. Three of the enemy
were killed and two were captured without loss to the company. The companies
remained at Trenton, where the third company was formed, through October, 1862.
In December, 1862, the three companies of the battalion reported their station
as near Kinston.
The battalion remained in front of Kinston to picket the roads between that
town and New Bern. On February 13th , 1863, Company B and C were surprised
while on outpost duty at Sandy Ridge and lost forty-three men captured. During
General D. H. Hill's unsuccessful move to capture New Bern, March 13-15, 1863,
the battalion co-operated with General Junius Daniels Brigade. At Core Creek a
detachment of the battalion engaged the enemy skirmishers with a portion of the
50th Regiment N C Troops. Following the failure of the attack on New Bern the
8th Battalion remained in front on Kinston.
The 8th Battalion was reported on the upper Trent Road. A fourth Company was
added in March-April , 1863, and a fifth company was added June 1, 1863. On
July 8th the 8th was reported in the vicinity of Trenton. By this time the
Battalion was being reported as an infantry organization. The sixth company was
mustered in on September 25, 1863, at the battalions camp near Kinston.
By Special Orders No. 24, Paragraph 20, Adjutant and Inspector General's
Office, dated October 2, 1863, the 8th Battalion N C Partisan Rangers was
consolidated with the 13th Battalion N C Infantry to form the 66th Regiment N C
Troops. On that date the battalion ceased to exist as a separate unit.
John H. Nethercutt
In 1860, John H. Nethercutt was the Sheriff of Jones County. He was mustered
into service on June 22, 1861 in Company I, 17th N C Volunteers. On April 29th,
1862 another company of men was raised in Trenton and mustered into Confederate
service and joined Co. I, 17th N C Volunteers to become the 8th Battalion, N C
Partisan Rangers. John H Nethercutt was appointed to command the unit at the
rank of Captain.
Transferred from Company A upon appointment as Major August 26, 1862. Present
or accounted for until Transferred to the Field and Staff of the 66th Regiment
N C Troops upon the consolidation of the 8th Battalion and the 13th Battalion
to form the Regiment October 2, 1863. Appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the
regiment to rank from the date of consolidation.
The 66th first did picket duty in Wilmington, and then in March, 1864 it was
ordered to Weldon and Plymouth , North Carolina. On May 12, 1864 the 66th
arrived in Petersburg, Virginia and engaged in battle at Port Wathan Junction
on May 15, 1864. Assigned to Kirkland Brigade the 66th took part in the
fighting at Bermuda Hundreds. From June 1 to June 3, 1864, it engaged actively
in the battle of Cold Harbor. At the battle at Cold Harbor , Colonel Moore
received a fatal neck wound. John H Nethercutt was promoted to Colonel on June
3, 1864 and given the command of the 66th Regiment , N C Troops.
After Cold Harbor, the 66th returned to duty at Petersburg as part of Hokes
Division. They were positioned on the North side of the James River to engage a
part of grants Army to prevent their participation in the siege of Petersburg.
On December 22, 1864 the 66th Regiment was ordered back to North Carolina. The
66th broke camp on the morning of December 22, 1864 and marched to Richmond and
crossed the river to Manchester where it remained several hours in the snow and
sleet waiting for transportation to Danville. They reached Danville , Va. on
December 23, 1864 and made their way to Greensboro with what transportation
they could get. In Greensboro the unit took the train to Wilmington. Colonel
Nethercutt wired the Governor in Raleigh that some stimulant must be provided
his troops to withstand the cold. A barrel of corn or some type juice was
waiting for them at the depot. As one participant stated , that it did not take
long before the only thing left in the barrel was a sound. That was a jolly ,
merry group of soldiers from Raleigh to Goldsboro. From Goldsboro they traveled
to Wilmington arriving there on December 24, 1864. On Christmas Day they were
marched to Sugar Loaf Hill below Wilmington. In this area they skirmished with
Union Troops and endured shelling from the gun boats attacking Fort Fisher.
On February 22, 1865 the unit retreated to Goldsboro and then to Kinston where
they arrived around March 7, 1865. On March 8th, 9th,and 10th of 1865, General
Hokes Division engaged in the battle of South West Creek and Wise's Fork. The
66thwas commanded by Major D. S. Davis during this fight. Colonel Nethercutt
was acting as General Hokes Chief of Staff since he was from Jones County and
familiar with the ground. At least half the Regiment was left dead on the
battle field , were wounded or captured. The other half was cut off from the
army and had to make its way from the rear of the union army through the swamps
to Kinston where the defeated rebels had retired.
On March 11th , 1865 the unit marched to Goldsboro and then to Bentonville ,
where on March 19,20 and 21 of 1865 they engaged in a memorial battle. Major
Davis again commanded the 66th and again the unit came under severe attacks.
Colonel Nethercutt was assigned command of the Brigade of Junior Reserves.
After Bentonville, the army retired to Selma, then to Raleigh, Haw River,
Greensboro and finally to Bush Hill near High Point.
On Tuesday, May 2, 1865 what was left of the 66th Regiment, less than a hundred
men out of an original of one thousand one hundred, stacked arms and signed
their paroles. The weary men scattered to their homes.
Colonel Nethercutt went back to Jones County where sometime after the war ,
while at home with his family, he was assassinated by someone who apparently
wished to avenge punishment he had received during the war. The general
consensus is that Colonel Nethercutt was a most gallant, capable officer
Extract from testimony given to Court of Inquiry on November 7th, 1865 by
Colonel J. H. Nethercutt, CSA
Resides in Jones County, North Carolina; has lived there fourteen years; took a
part in the rebellion; held every position in the rebel service from private to
colonel, remembers the hanging of a number of United States soldiers in
February, 1864. Some of the men who were executed had belonged to his command
in the confederate service.
These men had volunteered into the battalion of Nethercutt rangers, under
promise , from General R. Ransom, rebel mustering officer,that they would not
be removed from their homes. They were, however, ordered by the confederate
government to be enrolled in the 66th Regiment North Carolina Troops, by
General Clingman, and to report at Goldsborough. About that time, 8th and 13th
battalions were thrown together, and constituted the 66th Regiment of North
Carolina rebel troops. Witness was appointed lieutenant colonel of said
regiment, by order of J J Selden, the rebel Secretary of War.
These men, who were thus enrolled, never consented to the change-were greatly
dissatisfied with it; never appeared at any muster of said regiment, never
answered their names, nor were in any way active members. The men complained
that they were unfairly treated.
Regiment formed in October, 1863; General Pickett in command of Eastern North
Carolina. Witness had no desire for this consolidation; A. D. Moore was
appointed colonel, and witness lieutenant colonel. The men above mentioned
(those hung at Kinston) fled to the Union lines because of these arrangements.
Witness believes that these men were not in sympathy with the rebellion and
wanted to get away from the rebel ranks, using the change of service as a
Witness was ordered , in February, 1864, by General Hoke, to come to Kinston,
North Carolina, and recognize his own men among the prisoners; saw some of the
men in the court house. This was after they had been condemned. Witness asked
General Hoke to reprieve these men. Hoke said he had orders to hang them, and
would do so. Witness believes the order came from General Pickett, but cannot
swear to the fact.
Extract from testimony given by Z. B. Vance before the court of inquiry on
March 2, 1866.
My name is Z. B. Vance; reside in Statesville, North Carolina; was Governor of
North Carolina in 1864, and resided in Raleigh.
Question. State what you know about the status of the State Troops or
organizations for local defense of the State of North Carolina in 1863 and
There were two classes, home guard or militia, and State Troops which could not
leave the state without my authority. General Martin, of eastern North
Carolina, ordered these detached bodies into the 66th Regiment. Nethercutt's
Battalion rebelled against it, and went in not very cheerfully. The great
difficulty did not arise until the regiment was ordered to Wilmington, claiming
they were raised for local defence around the Neuse River &c. Some 250 or 300
took to the woods and refused to go, but all came up except about fifty.
No official report was made to me of the execution of the deserters at Kinston
in federal uniforms. Major General Pickett, I believe, was in command of the
expedition, and being sujperior to General Martin, temporarily took command. I
think General Tony Baker was in command instead of General Martin.
There was some account in the newspapers of the hanging of twenty.
I am inclined to think that the Confederate government did not keep faith with
those local troops, who were found to be of little, if any, benefit to the
I know Colonel Fenabee, who raised a command for the local service on the
Chowan River, was forced into the regular service by the Confederate
I did at various times make appeals to confederate authorities in behalf of men
of this State. These men were enlisted entirely for local defense, and every
effort was made to transfer these organizations into the regular service of the
Confederacy when they were found to be worthless.
I myself favored transfer to regular service where it could be done without
violation of good faith, but in these instances of Nethercutt's Battalion it
was a violation of their enlistment agreements.
Extract from Report of Board of Inquiry Report dated October 19, 1865, Special
Order Number 217, Headquarters Department of North Carolina.
The object of this disgraceful sacrifice of human life, in the opinion of the
board, perpetrated on the part of the leaders, was to terrify the loyal people
of North Carolina, to make them subservient to their foul scheme of rebellion,
and to bring contempt upon the government its victims represented , of which
the slaughter of friends and neighbors of these loyal people, the manner in
which these murdered men were treated, the contempt shown to the persons and
property of the widows, also the contemptuous language with references to the
uniform of the United States by General R F Hoke, in appealing to the pride and
sensibilities of Bryan McCullem, is sufficient evidence; and that they were
determined to use these men for this vile purpose is evident from the fact that
they were refused either counsel or testimony favorable to them ; and on the
part of those who volunteered to put these men to death, through a spirit of
brutish blood-thirst, and a fiendish greed of gain. Those directly implicated
in the execution of these men were as follows, viz:
The court-martial, of which the board were unable to learn the names of the
members; the rebel General Pickett, who ordered the execution; the rebel
General R F Hoke, who performed the executions; Colonel Baker, who robbed and
persecuted their widows; Blunt King, and another voluntary hangman, known as a
tall dark-complexioned man, with a cross or squint eye, and a resident of
Raleigh, North Carolina.
It is the opinion of this board that these men have violated the rules of war
and very principle of humanity, and are guilty of crimes too heinous to be
excused by the United States government, and, therefore, that there should be a
military commission immediately appointed for the trial of those men, and to
inflict upon the perpetrators of such crimes their just punishment.
Jones Country did not fare well during the War of the Rebellion. The Union army
held New Bern and the Confederate army held Kinston. Jones County was caught
between them. The two forces were continually having skirmishes and then
retreating to home base. While out on these adventures either side would take
any thing they needed from anyone. The population in Jones County was as
terrified of the Yankees as they were the Confederates.
The men that were hanged from Jones County could not have been cowards. They
had served for two years with the 8th North Carolina Partisan Rangers before
becoming deserters. One of the contributing factors to the desertion was
certainly the fact that they had signed on as North Carolina troops, were
promised they would protect their home area, and then ordered to become part of
the 66th Regiment, Confederate States of America. There was open dissension
about that order. The former sheriff of the county, J. H. Nethercutt , who had
led this battalion since its existence, was not overly pleased with the order.
Even former Governor Zeb Vance in his testimony after the war said that the
Confederate government had no right to force them into the 66th Regiment.
The Confederate government argued that they were disbanding the 8th North
Carolina Rangers and that the men could be mustered out and not obey the order
to join the 66th Regiment. However the minute they were discharged they would
be conscripted into the Confederate army. That was a real catch 22 and no pun
is intended of the title of this work. Around 300 men took a walk and deserted
the new Regiment. All but fifty returned. These were hard times and the fifty
probably did not stand much of a chance on their own, so many of them joined
the Union forces at New Bern to survive. Part of this survival included being
able to stay close to their families and to provide for them. Desperate times
call for desperate actions. The Jones County boys that were executed in Kinston
were most unfortunate in having their unit over run by the Confederate so soon
after their changing sides.
The timing was right for the Confederate government to make a statement. It was
clear that the South was in trouble. Only the open port in Wilmington was
keeping the fight alive. Desertion was a problem in all the States. So, the
government sent the message that if you deserted and were caught you would
receive swift and final punishment. Desertions continued to plague them, after
this tragedy at Kinston, to the end of the conflict. One benefit that came to
them was the fact that the Buffaloe Soldiers were rendered ineffective. Even
the Union commanders did not want them in the front, so they were reduced to
becoming the rear guard.
These Jones County boys certainly used bad judgment but they were not the
unfeeling, ignorant and vile men that the Chaplain and others made them out to
be. I am certain that there were a few among them that probably deserved to
hang, but not all twenty-two. Probably the most truthful thing said about them
was that they were poor. Their trial was a mockery of Justice. No one could
remember who served on the Court Martial Board, probably because there was no
Court Martial. They were not even represented by counsel. They were not
permitted to have any testimony on their behalf. Even after they were dead
their families were abused.
After the war, Colonel Nethercutt testified that he believed that Amos Armyett
was the leader of the deserters. Could this have cost him his life? Shortly
after his testimony he was murdered at his home. We can not judge this affair
with our 21st century views of justice, right and wrong or the best course of
action that should have been taken.
J. Kenneth Davis