17 November 1862: “No Sentimental Journey”

Item Description: “No Sentimental Journey,” The New York Herald, 17 November 1862, page 1, column 3.

Item Note: The writer refers to Kinston, N.C. as “Kingston.”



Adventures of One of Our Correspondents.


Four Days Experiences Within and Without the Rebel Lines.

Conditions of Life at Kingston and Goldsborough, &c. &c. &c.

Our Newbern Correspondence.

 NEWBERN, Nov. 12, 1862.

You people of the North, who live in fine houses and fare sumptuously every day—who toy with soft tresses, “immaculate” dresses, Paris moustaches and childhood’s fair hair—who are so eager (yet satiated with war news) that an engagement loses all the force and circumstance of a battle unless the laureate wreath of victory is found bathed in the gore of ten thousand victims—who think a general is no general except he slays his thousands (like Samson of old, and perhaps with the same instrument, too), and who are foolish enough to imagine that a residence in the South, at this particular time, is a much-to-be-coveted luxury—can scarcely form an adequate idea of the monotonous and unfavorable existence which is daily led by both officers and men within the narrow confines of this Department of North Carolina. It is true there are some who live well, and perhaps happily—who sport fast horses and tolerable looking carriages—who have “contrabands” in abundance, and more, too, and who not only show off pretty women as their wives, and interesting young misses as their daughters, but who also possess that degree of satisfaction which a good mother and a kind woman is capable of bestowing or receiving. But by far the greater portion of our officers are only “blessed” with drills, reviews, reconnoissances, raids, runaway horses, fevers, quinine, contrabands and whiskey. Now, after witnessing such sights for a very long time past, it is not strange that your correspondent should attempt to find something new—the wherewithal to instruct and amuse the readers of the HERALD—even at the risk of life and liberty.

With this object in view I resolved on visiting Goldsborough and Kingston—of course without permission from Jeff. Davis or any other Confederate traitor. After several days of anxious inquiry and resolute perseverance I arranged a plan for carrying my object into practical effect, and succeeded in securing the services of a faithful contraband, whom I managed to make still more faithful by lining his pockets with the “thirty pieces” of silver and his belly with a heap of good living.

To avoid wearying the reader with minute details, I will refrain from fully explaining how we commenced, and, in part, prosecuted our journey. Let it suffice, I write that on a fine November afternoon myself and sombre guide left Newbern in our rear on the Neuse road, proceeded thus for several miles, then struck a blind path through the woods, reached the Neuse river just about dark, crossed that stream and travelled slowly and cautiously all night, through woods and amidst swamps, and over brush covered roads—more property paths—that felt as though they were springing up but to let us spring down, often meeting runaway slaves and tar burners, both of whom were easily silenced with a few pieces of “white” money, and reached Swift creek, below the bridge, and at a turn above the enemy’s videttes, during the early hours of the morning succeeding the day on which we started. In crossing the creek we experienced considerable difficulty. In one or two instances we not only came near injuring ourselves, but also losing our horses.

A few miles further on, and we reached the habitation—perhaps I may call it the plantation—of a good though secretly Union man. To this gentleman I had letters of introduction. I say “gentleman;” but, according to the flimsy conception of the diseased Southern mind, I presume I would only be justified in styling him plain John Doe, from the fact that the standard of the chivalry knows no fellow being as a gentleman unless he is a slaveowner, a slave driver, a Confederate soldier and a traitor; otherwise, and he is one of the poor, miserable white trash, of which God knows there is plenty in this neighborhood.

At this house I remained several hours. In the interim a squadron of cavalry, termed “light horsemen,” passed the place without stopping. I did not see them as well as I desired to, owing to the fact that on their approach all the doors and windows in the house were closed, and so effectually that it would have been a hard matter for any other than the initiated to imagine the building inhabited. In the outset my guide got frightened at the near approach of the enemy, rushed up stairs and out on the roof, shutting the scuttle on the outside. When that nigger came down he looked as relieved as though he had taken a box of seidlitz powders, and the effect had been instantaneous.

By the time we were ready to proceed onward I had changed both front and rear. My costume consisted of an old slouched hat, with the top half out of it, a pair of old worn out shoes, a dirty pair of what were once coarse, while pants, and a coat of some sort of awfully rough material. In fact, I was completely rigged out to represent one of those of the poor white trash order.

My Union friend conveyed me to Kingston in a dilapidated two wheel wagon, by dint of breaking numerous sticks on the back of a horse that made evident its anatomy through a tight fitting skin.

On arriving at Kingston I was introduced to several persons of the poorer class as the son of my Union friend, as having just got back from the North, by hairbreadth escapes through the clutches of Yankeedom. [The reader must know that the son I represented died in Boston during April last, and that my Union friend is now in Newbern, and being well provided for.]

I had a much more difficult task than I expected to play my part with success. The people asked me all kinds of questions, and some of these were of such a ridiculous character as to convince me the poorer classes have but an unqualifiedly meager idea of Yankeedom and its institutions. Even those in tolerably good circumstances possess not a great deal more intelligence on the same subject. While at breakfast some gossiping damsels dropped in to see “the curiosity. They boasted and bombasticated about the glory of their cause and the strength of the South, and almost in the same breath lamented they hadn’t got any pins.

Everything is in readiness to burn the bridges adjacent to Kingston on the approach of the Yankees.

I got a pass to go to and return from Goldsborough. I went there in the cars. I was much surprised on my arrival to find the place but a comparatively small one. Neither is it over pleasant at this time for a residence. There are a great many people at Goldsborough aside from the soldiers.

No matter where I went, or in what direction I looked, I found immense quantities of corn. As regards this article, there is not the slightest evidence of a tendency toward starvation, or so much as a lack of it. The fields are full of it and so are the barns.

I did not see or find the whereabouts of a great deal of bacon, although I was told there was plenty on hand to suffice for a year to come.

On every plantation there is a superabundance of porkers. I asked one gentleman why they were not salted, when he frankly confessed to a strenuous want of salt. Of all the necessaries of life this was the only thing I found that they actually stood in immediate need of. To supply this deficiency the Southerners, as far as I saw, have resorted to an ingenious mode of getting salt. They are hard to work digging in the bottoms of their smokehouses. At Kingston, one Captain Carroway, of the Confederate cavalry service, has by this means procured an immense quantity of salt; so much as to surprise all his friends and neighbors. The salt thus made is very dark in color, and poor in quality; but the people seem resigned to everything, and say “it will do.”

The soldiers are tolerably well dressed. All of them wear something of a gray uniform. I saw no barefooted ones. Many had on good warm stockings and were dressed quite neatly for mere privates. The women are doing everything they can to supply the troops with stockings, under clothes and other et ceteras. It is these female creatures that appear mainly to keep up the secession excitement. They drive and keep their husbands and sons in the rebel army. They never refer to the Yankees except in the vilest terms, and it was thus that I found the wildest embitterment against the people of the North.

To distinguish an officer from a private is often a difficult matter. As cloth is high and tinsel dear, the officers never appear in full uniform—or any degree of uniform—except on special occasions.

To my surprise I saw several Irishmen and Dutchmen doing infantry duty in the rebel service. I was surprised, from the fact that the nations thus represented have been and are now seeking the wide field of freedom, something not at all attainable under Southern rule.

When the rebels happen to take a few of our men prisoners, the convey them to Kingston, and there march them through the streets.  This they call “taking them to the railroad depot.” But it seems to me that this railroad Jordan is an exceedingly long road to travel. On these occasions the people come out of their houses to see the damned Yankees, and make such remarks as are the fit offsprings of an evil mind and a misguided heart.

There are not many people in Kingston, and those now there say they will leave the place the moment they hear the Yankees are coming.

The military authorities, both at Kingston and Goldsborough, say they can whip the Yankees if they will only go away from their gunboats. They [?] are not afraid of anything in the gunboat [?] that can be sent up the Neuse river.

One Confederate officer told me that if Gen. Foster’s army should advance they would retreat into the interior of the State, thereby causing the Yankees to follow them up, to the fatigue of their troops and the endangering of their artillery; that, if the weather was fine, they would delay an engagement until such time as it was bad; that then they would take up a position in the neighborhood of some swamp, causing the Yankees to cross it, and delay the latter here until the swamp became impassable after a few hours’ rain, and by this means capture the Yankee artillery, if not totally defeat the Yankee forces. This officer tried to look the mien of a deity. He certainly had all the corpulency of an alderman, and affected much of the airs and importance of a “Jiggadier Brindle.”

Both at Kingston and Goldsborough the women of all classes were tricked out in calico—faded in a vast majority of instances. Sun bonnets were all the go and come. Silks and little finenesses were among the things that appeared to be found wanting.

An extensive genuine “contraband” trade is carried on between the lines of the two armies. Tea, coffee, sugar, salt, pins and et ceteras find their way to Kingston and Goldsborough, by a systematized underground method, from Newbern and other points in possession of the Unionists.

The boasting of both men and women about the productive abilities of the South is disgusting. A man will jingle his spurs and significantly say “Southern;” will throw out his chest, and slap his breast, and wink; and exclaim “Homemade,” or pull up the legs of his boots, and complacently remark “Tanned South, by God.”

As there is a general lack of snuff, the women are, of course, half crazy for it.  As they cannot get it in sufficient quantities for general use, many of them have taken to the villanous practice of chewing tobacco.

The negroes are beginning slightly to manifest a general spirit of insubordination. Owners of this kind of property are treating their slaves more kindly. Almost every day negroes are shot in different parts of the country for attempting to run away. The owners of Sambos are in constant dread, as they go to bed at night, of finding only footprints in the sand next morning. Those who own a great many slaves are sending the most likely of them into the interior of the country. It is not an uncommon thing, on roads far from a military headquarters, to see contrabands tied hand and foot on their road to the interior. Some poor creatures are handcuffed, their feet tied and then thrown into wagons and carts, and thus transported.

I found plenty of liquor everywhere I went, yet a general lack of whiskey. There was plenty of apple brandy (the “new dip,” as they call it) and peach brandy. To the new dip all hands appeared to be immoderately addicted.

To show the excitability of the Southern women, I relate this fact. One woman was telling me about a small fight between both sides a short time previous: “Would you believe it,” said the unfair one, “the Yankees came down on father’s place, and they had a fight, and they killed all his chickens.”

The fortifications at Kingston are so situated that they can be easily taken. In fact, I do not believe they are designed as a real protection to Kingston, but merely to cause a delay in the event of an advance on our part, so as to enable the rebels to prepare for a real stand further inland.

I had scarcely got to Kingston before my advent was hailed as a new conscript. I asked for a few days to look around, which was willingly granted, but with the understanding that at the expiration of those few days I would be required to “volunteer” in the rebel service. Oh, who wouldn’t be a volunteer, with bristling bayonets all around you, a bowie knife at your heart, and the conscript law for—your liberty?

Both at Goldsborough and Kingston the wildest stories are in circulation about the armies in Virginia. McClellan is regularly disgraced once every twenty-four hours, and as regularly do the rebels gain an astonishing victory. Unlike Northerners, these people clutch at every straw of a tendency toward success, and believe—for the time being and a long time afterward, either through ignorance or excitability—such stories in untruth as are set afloat by military authority, to feed the flame of excitement that is necessary to be kept up to prevent the people from stopping to consider the drift of their unlawful course. No pains are taken to contradict a lie, provided it is favorable to the Southern cause; but a good deal of ingenuity is resorted to to stop or adulterate (weaken) rumors of little reverses or great defeats.

The female portion of the people of the middle order have been told so many absurd stories about the actions and intentions of the Yankees that they fear their approach about as much as they would a pack of wolves. Hence it is they leave their homes and everything they cannot instantly carry away the moment the United States flag is seen approaching even a single house or a small town. It is not safe for any one with a knowledge to the contrary to contradict such stories. Those who attempt to do it are looked upon with suspicion. The slave interest has made the slave master desperate, and he will tolerate nothing that be can put down which may eventually help to weaken or defeat his plans.

From several conversations with these people I learned that they were of the impression that the people of the North were actually suffering for the want of cotton. There is plenty of cotton in the interior of North Carolina. In the course of my little journey I suppose I saw as much as or near 1,000 bales.

The idea of foreign recognition is strong. They believe such recognition will end the struggle in their favor. As a generality they look upon England and France as, if left to themselves, treacherous to Southern rights, but consider strongly that cotton will make both those nations act in accordance with the South’s material interest.

I talked with some of the people about Governor Vance as a Union man. They told me such an idea had no foundation whatever, and that Governor Vance would sustain the South against a reunion as long as ever it laid in his power, and to the fullest extent of North Carolina’s ability in men and money. They told me that some few tried to start the question of reunionism on the occasion of Vance’s election, but that it was only a dodge to draw out and find out who were ill disposed towards the confederacy; and on that very movement many have since been arrested and imprisoned.

In writing this unique account of my journey I have endeavored to be as brief as allowable, and get as many truths as possible within so small a compass.

Many of the assertions may appear strange after what the North has been led to believe in regard to North Carolina. Yet I am right, and have been very particular to give nothing of a questionable character.

By an ingenious mode of proceeding I reached Newbern but a few hours ago, and after an absence of one hundred and four hours.

Item Citation: The New York Herald, 17 November 1862, page 1, column 3.  Wilson Library, North Carolina Collection.  Call number C071 N561.

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