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KINSTON HANGINGS

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Do not quote nor distribute in piece or entirety without the Author's personal permission.  This paper is on file in the Public Library at Wilmington, NC.

KINSTON TWENTY-TWO
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 fourth generation.

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 indiffernces".

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 into eternity.

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
John Paris : 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 2, 1863

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 2, 1863

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 2, 1863.
Celia Jane Brock, widow of John Brock testimony before court of Inquiry October 31, 1865
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, 1862.
Nancy Jones, widow of William Jones, testimony before court of Inquiry October 31, 1865
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 Hoke.
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 2, 1863

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 14, 1862.

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 2, 1863

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 do so.

Extracts from the "Weekly Confederate", Raleigh, Wednesday, February 17, 1864
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,
Major-General, Commanding

WOR, Series I, XXXIII page 867
HDQRS. ARMY AND DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
New Berne, N. C., February 13, 1864.
Major-General Pickett,
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,
Major-General.

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,
Major-General, Commanding.
(Sub-inclosure.)
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. Hill.

WOR: Series I, XXXIII, page 868,869
HDQRS. ARMY AND DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
New Berne, N. C., February 20, 1864
Major-General Pickett,
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 :
TRAITORS EXECUTED.
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
Major-General
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
Major-General, Commanding
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 treason.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
John J. Peck
Major-General
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 useless…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 Union soldiers.
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 Judge-Advocate-General.
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 May, 1864.
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
Assistant Adjutant-General
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 the unit.
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 them.
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 pretext.
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 1864.
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 service.
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 government.
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.
Commentary
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
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