Item Description: Letter, 22 April 1863, from John McRae to Peter Mallett about McRae’s efforts to round up deserters in Wake County, N.C.John McRae (1793-1880) served as postmaster at Fayetteville, N.C., with his father, Duncan, 1801-1853. He then went into private business in Mangum, N.C., where he resided until his death in 1880. He married first Margaret Scott Kirkland in 1814, and second Mary Ann Shackleford in 1826. He had thirteen children, including sons Duncan K., Alexander, Thomas, and James Cameron McRae.
New Light district Wake N.C.
Col. P. Mallett
I have with the assistance of the militia officers scoured the district for Deserters with out makeing any headway except to drive them away from here or to frighten them to the woods. There is a regular System of communication from house to house & place to place, & before I could reach a place with a squad of men they would be expecting us. When I first came here there was an old woman at the Depot who had been to Raleigh who spread the intelligence before us of our approach & they all left instantly for we visited the whole settlement surrounding 3 or 4 houses at the same time and no one of them could be found or were any sight of them. I have sent Squads out at night to lie in ambush near the paths that communicate from house to house, & they have remained concealed there night & day but could not find any trace of them. I sent (secretly) half the party up to the other side of the district each night, waited till midnight and then went and spread out across the country clean to the River (Neuse) bank lying concealed, while the other squad took the whole settlement on their route in different parties visiting the houses & driving the woods before them as they came back towards us we could not get up with them The whole district is against us & no certain information can be gained any where. The only way in which any thing could be done would be to take the county road from camp & come here in about 2 weeks & drive the district when they are not expecting us then we will be likely to get them. There is always somebody at the Depot to watch for them and let them know if any troops come.
If you desire me to continue here longer let me know & I will keep hunting them, but I don’t believe I can do much here in two weeks time.
I will have a man at the depot to get your orders tomorrow.
John W McRae … Squad