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[380] Union lines, without a crust of bread or a change of garments, the father enlists, and receives the Government ration for himself and family. Belonging to one company of eighty men, there are thirty families; of these, two are still outside our lines, with small prospects of even rejoining their kindred; and twenty families, comprising eighty-seven persons, forty-seven of them under the age of fourteen, are with the company in Beaufort.

Before the war these were, of their class, well-to-do people, owning a little land, a few cattle, and some household stuff, but now having scarcely any thing beyond the Government ration. They are generally, almost universally, illiterate, to a degree inconceivable to a Northern mind; on an average, not more than one out of eight can read or write. They have suffered more than the negro from the blighting influence of slavery, and they know it; hence they are willing to take up arms, and if any one doubts their thorough loyalty, let him be referred to the heroism with which the twenty-four stood undaunted beneath the Kinston gallows.

Two specimens, out of many, may serve to show something of the hardships to which their patriotism exposes these people. A man who, in times of peace, was a prosperous mechanic, (a machinist,) having been pressed into the rebel service, managed to make his escape from Wilmington, and at Newbern enlisted in the Second regiment. After a few weeks, he contrived to convey the information to his wife, who resided some twenty-six miles beyond the lines, and she, leaving every thing but a little extra clothing, and some provisions, took her child, only eight months old, in her arms, and, fleeing for her life pursued her way through forests and swamps for forty-eight hours. It was in the month of December last, and during the most severe storm of the winter, that this poor woman waded through partly frozen creeks, eating little, gathering all her available clothing about her infant, and at night afraid to kindle a fire, lest its light might betray her, sinking down exhausted on the wet earth to rest. At last she was almost in sight of our outposts, when, crossing an open field, she was discovered by a party of Fox's guerrillas, and made a prisoner. She was kept, during two days, in an old log house; every article of her own and her child's clothing, except what they wore, were destroyed; threats were made, food was sparingly given; but this brave woman again, and successfully, attempted her escape, and is now with her husband. On another occasion, one of the men, since enlisted, was seized by the guerrillas of Hyde County, and when his wife remonstrated with them, they discharged a musket, loaded with buckshot, at her, wounding her so seriously, that she is crippled for life; and, not content with this atrocity, they deliberately fired at one of the children, a young girl, wounding her in the neck. Both mother and daughter are now in Beaufort. Almost every private in the regiment has some similar experience to narrate, and their perils, in seeking not only the protection of our flag, but a place among its vindicators, would fill a volume.

To those who share the perils of these men, (for the rebels have declared their intention to hang officers as well as privates if captured,) and whose hearts are stung to madness by the cruel fate of comrades, brutally murdered, and again agonized by the woe-begone countenances of widows and orphans, there are two questions, which day and night, with haunting solicitude, press themselves upon the attention. Any disparagements of the thorough loyalty of the regiment, or its bravery, deserve only scorn for reply. Rough in appearance, without banners or regimental music, partly drilled, and not thoroughly disciplined, as it is, the Kinston gallows testifies that it is still a regiment fearfully in earnest.

A line officer in Second Regiment N. C. U. V.

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