Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Patriots of '61 – The Edenton Bell Battery

Patriots of '61 – The Edenton Bell Battery
"On the 4th of March, Lincoln was inaugurated, but those who loved the Union, and hoped for so much, perceived in his inaugural address not a straw to cling to, and he soon afterwards issued his celebrated proclamation calling upon North Carolina to furnish troops to invade her sister States, and to force them again into the Union; so on the 1st day of May a second convention was held in Edenton, and nominated Dr. Richard Dillard, senior, who was elected without opposition to the State Convention called by Governor [John W.] Ellis, which met in Raleigh on May 20, the anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and severed our connection with the Union.
Warlike preparations at once began, the "Dixie Rebels," a six-month's volunteer company, was at once organized by Capt. James K. Marshall, he was afterwards promoted to the rank of Colonel.  John C. Badham, a Lieutenant in this company, afterwards became a Major in the 5th [North Carolina Regiment] and gave  his life for his country at Williamsburg, Va., May 5, 1862, at which time he held a commission of Lieut. Colonel.
The Edenton Bell Battery was recruited by Capt. Wm. Badham in the winter '61-'62, and left Edenton soon after the fall of Roanoke Island, then went to Weldon, and on to Raleigh with sixty men, there they were joined by Lieut. Nelson McClees, of Tyrell county, with twenty-two men, and by Lieut. Gaskins with about twenty men.  After drilling in Raleigh about two months, they were ordered to Camp Lee near Richmond for instruction.
As gun metal was scarce, Capt. Badham sent Lieut. Jones to Edenton to secure the church bells, and any others he might obtain, to be cast into cannon, in response to Gen. Beauregard's famous call.  He readily secured all the bells except the Baptist (several members objecting), including the town and court-house bells, the Academy bell, and the shipyard bells; these were conveyed to Suffolk across the country in a wagon, and shipped to the Tredegar Iron Works at Richmond, where they were cast into four cannon….
[The cannons were named, respectively], the "St. Paul"; the "Fanny Roulhac," for a devout and patriotic lady, a staunch member of the Methodist Church; the "Columbia"; and the "Edenton." [The first named gun was cast from the bells of St. Paul's Church, the Fanny Roulhac from the Methodist Church, the Columbia from the shipyard bells, and the Edenton from the Academy, Court-house and Hotel bells.]
As the complement of the artillery corps of Gen. Lee's army was then complete, an order was issued that all other artillery in camps should be transferred, for the time, to the infantry service;  this produced great mortification, and disappointment in the company, and Capt. Badham at once dispatched Lieut. Jones to President Jefferson Davis with the following note:
"Sir:  The guns of my company were made of the bells of my town, and have tolled to their last resting place a great many of the parents and relatives of my command, and sooner than part with these guns they had rather be taken out and shot."
Lieut. Jones had not long to wait, the reply came at once that the company would be furnished as soon as possible with both artillery-horses, and harness.  The battery was assigned to Moore's Third North Carolina Battalion. [The battery served in many engagements to include: Winchester, Culpepper Courthouse, Seven Days', Goldsboro, Kinston, Whitehall Bridge, and Bentonville.]
[Late in the war] the battery was ordered to Wilmington, and guarded the railroad bridge at Northeast, from there they went to Bald Head Island, and did guard duty on the coast until the fall of Fort Fisher [January, 1865], when they fell back on Fort Anderson; after the flank movement of the enemy, and the evacuation of Fort Anderson, the battery was located at Town Creek, where they were attacked by the enemy with considerable force, Capt. Badham sent Sergeant B.F. Hunter with one gun, the "St. Paul," to prevent them from making a flank movement while he was engaging them at Town Creek;  Hunter was supported by a detachment of South Carolina infantry who broke and ran, leaving him on the field with but a squad of men.
Hunter stood his ground fearlessly, and when the enemy arrived at the very muzzle of his gun, a Federal officer shouted to him: "If you fire that gun I will kill you!" the Confederate sergeant, with that coolness and intrepidity which hallways characterized him, replied: "Kill, and go to hell!", and then ordered his gunner, William Hassell, to fire immediately.
He was captured and would have been cut down at once, but the Federal officer ordered his men to spare his life, saying, "He's too brave a man to be killed."  About fifteen men were captured along with Sergeant Hunter and sent to prison at Point Lookout, among them Mr. A.T. Bush of this town.
The remainder of the battery fell back to Wilmington and were subsequently engaged at Cox's Bridge, finally surrendering to General Sherman at Greensboro."
Richard Dillard, "Beverly Hall," Edenton, North Carolina.
(The North Carolina Booklet, Volume V, No. 1, July 1905, pp. 30-35)

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