Yankees in Martin County (1862)

The following article appeared in the November 24th, 1862 issue of the Carolina Observer. It was originally published in the Richmond Examiner, November 18th, 1862. Submitted by Lorraine Blount Peckham.

We have some interesting accounts of the recent Yankee demonstrations in North Carolina. The forces of the enemy, numbering about 7,000 men, under the command of Major Gen’l FOSTER, made a raid on Martin county last week. The destruction done by the enemy is said to be frightful. The county from one end to another is one complete scene of desolation and ruin. The Yankee army left Washington on Sunday the 2d inst, on its march for Williamston, and arrived at Rawl’s Mill at sundown, where it was engaged by the 26th N.C. Regiment, which boldly contested its advance, but which was forced to give way on account of the great inferiority in numbers. The enemy was temporarily delayed at the mill by the burning of a bridge, which they repaired during the night, and on Monday morning came into Williamston. It is impossible to give a full description of the various acts of outrages committed by them.

Not a single house was respected – it matters not whether the owner was in or absent. Doors were broken open and houses entered by the soldiers, who took everything they saw, and what they were unable to carry away, they broke and destroyed. Furniture of every description was committed to the flames, and the citizens who dared to remonstrate with them were threatened; cursed and buffeted about by the Yankee villains. Cattle, hogs and poultry were shot down, and in many instances left untouched. Our informant saw as many as fifty head of stock of all kinds lying dead about the streets.

The enemy left town on the evening of the same day on its march up the country. They stopped for the night at F.H. WARD’s mill. Mr. WARD was completely stripped of everything – they not even leaving him enough for breakfast. While on the sick bed his wife was in his presence search and robbed of $500. On Tuesday the band of thieves went into Hamilton, where they enacted the same scenes. A citizen, Bennett L. BAKER, was without cause shot and instantly killed by one of the New York calvary. They were, as is usual with them, accompanied with their boats; which went up the Roanoke river. The army went about fifteen miles above Hamilton, when for some cause it suddenly turned and marched back, taking with some slight deviation in quest of plunder, the same route it had come. The town of Hamilton was set on fire and as many as fifteen houses laid in ashes. On the next Friday a marauding party very unexpectedly made its appearance in Williamston again. No one had any intelligence of its approach from the fact it arrested and kept every citizen it could on its route. During the time the Yankees encamped at Williamston everything which they left unharmed when last there was demolished. Every house in town was occupied and defaced. Several fine residences , among which was Judge BIGGS’ were actually used as horse stables. Iron safes were broken open, and in the presence of their owners rifled of their content. Several citizens were seized and robbed of the money on their persons. Our informant states that not less than eight hundred slaves and the same number of horses have been taken from the county of Martin alone.

On Sunday morning Williamston was fired and no effort made to arrest the flames until several houses were burnt. It appears, indeed, that everything that the most savage nature could suggest was done by the enemy. No attempt was made by their officers, from Gen. FOSTER down, to prevent the destruction of property. On the contrary, they connived at it, and some of the privates did not hesitate to say that they were instructed to do as they had done. It appears that FOSTER is in every respect the equal of Butler or Pope for inhumanity. He is represented as a type of the Yankee monster. The gentleman who has given us the many items of information noted above, says that two ladies at Williamston went to him to beseech protection from his soldier, and were rudely and arrogantly ordered from his presence.