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Doc. 78.-rebel barbarities. Executions in North-Carolina.

Beaufort, North-Carolina, March 9, 1864.
The unknown martyrs of this war are many. The madness of rebel leaders and the ferocity of the numerous guerrilla bands who hover about the advancing armies of freedom, are not more noteworthy than the sublime but silent devotion with which hundreds of Southern men are continually yielding their lives, after passing through the ordeal of every form of torture the most devilish ingenuity can invent, as evidence to the existence, in the Southern States, of a wide-spread loyalty to the Constitution and the Union, which neither scourgings, starvation, bloodhounds, nor the gallows can ever eradicate.

An illustration of this, recently furnished in North-Carolina, upon a scale which, in times less tragic than our own, would have caused every heart on the continent to thrill with painful sympathy, but which, amidst the glare of great events, may be unnoted, or, at best, only recorded in a brief paragraph.

When the attack was made on Newbern, on the second of February last, company F, of the Second regiment North-Carolina Union volunteers, was stationed at Beach Grove, the extreme outpost from Newbern. When it became evident that the position could not be held against the overwhelming force of rebels, which was rapidly approaching, the men of this company, having the certainty of an ignominious death before them if they should be captured, proposed to the officer in command to pilot the force at the outpost in safety to Newbern, by paths through the woods known only to themselves. But unfortunately, they were temporarily in charge of officers not belonging to their own regiment, who were either ignorant of the blood-thirsty character of the enemy, or too timid to fight to the death, if fight were deemed impracticable. Had these men been commanded by officers of their own regiment, they all would have escaped, or, as preferable to their inevitable doom if taken prisoners, would have found a more honorable death on the field. As it was, they were sternly forbidden to leave the ranks, and, without a shot being fired, or the stipulation secured that they should be treated as prisoners of war, they were surrendered; nineteen out of seventy only escaping. Of the fifty-one prisoners, twenty-four were immediately hung by order of the rebel General Pickett. On the scaffold at Kinston, these twenty-four heroes met their fate with true courage. In the presence of the rebel forces, and surrounded by the people of their own State, they avowed their entire devotion to the Union. After receiving the consolation of religion, one of their number stepped forward, and, in a firm and clear voice, declared that he and his companions died, as they had lived, “Union men.” One of the victims was a little drummer-boy, named Joey Neal, only fourteen years of age, a fair complexioned, blue-eyed child, an orphan, enlisted in Beaufort by the writer of these lines, out of pure compassion for his destitute state; another, a robust man, Amos Amyett, was tortured for fifteen minutes before the ill-adjusted rope could strangle him to death.

Those twenty-four corpses, swinging between heaven and earth, all that remains of as many brave and loyal North-Carolinians, are not to be forgotten, nor the lessons they teach to be lightly passed over by the rich and prosperous people of the North. The rank and file of the Second regiment, North-Carolina Union volunteers, is composed of native North-Carolinians, every one of whom is threatened with the fate of these twenty-four, if captured; and that that is no improbable contingency, may be gathered from the fact that although the regiment has only been a few months in existence, and up to this time has not been fully organized, detachments from it have, on several occasions, rendered services of sufficient importance to be recognized in General Orders. The men of the regiment fight with a halter around their necks, not because many of them are refugees from the rebel conscription, and Union men who have taken the first opportunity to leave the rebel army, but because every citizen of North-Carolina, taken in arms against the Confederacy, is declared by a statute of that State to be a traitor, and death is the decreed penalty of his offence. Hiding for months in swamps and thickets, and enduring perils and hardships that are almost incredible, these men, (or such of them as are not murdered by the guerrillas,) gaunt with hunger and clad in rags, at last reach our lines. Here they can find abundant and profitable employment as mechanics and laborers; but they are burning for the emancipation of their State and the rescue of their families from the horrors of the rebel despotism; and they enlist, without the lure of large bounties, in the service of the United States which, on its part, guarantees them, or should do so, the same protection afforded to soldiers of the loyal States. Many of them have now been four months in the service, and have never received one cent of pay or bounty. This was the case with the twenty-four hung at Kinston; not a man of them had ever received a dollar from the United States.

But the saddest fact of all is, that a much larger proportion of them than is usual in Northern regiments, have large and helpless families dependent upon them, and these, when the father is killed in action, or murdered after being captured, are left to suffer. In North-Carolina, there is no “Freedmen's aid Society” to foster the destitute families of the “poor white man,” who not only escapes from a worse than African bondage, but, despite the threat of the gallows, takes up arms for the Union.

Here, there is no beneficent State Government, as in New-York and Massachusetts, to provide “State aid” for the families, and to furnish additional bounties for recruits. When the North-Carolina refugee and his family arrive within the [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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J. E. Pickett (1)
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