Expedition to Juniper Bay & Poplar Ridge, Hyde County
April 6-10, 1863

Co. G, 5th Massachusetts Infantry


[p. 30] Monday, April 6, 1863: Pleasant, mild and still. Completion of work putting up the new barracks. [p. 31] Dudley Buck coming in. Cal has been appointed superintendent of the contrabands and I was over at his place this forenoon writing. This noon we had a new excitement. About a dozen men detailed for an expedition. I ascertained that I was one. We are to start this P.M. on a tug at 4 1/2, ten men under Orderly Stevens. About the same number of Buffaloes 2 are going, the whole under the command of Capt. Ashcraft. We know nothing particular about it except probably going across the sound to the main land on a reconnaissance or recruiting. A 6 lb. gun was taken from Fort Clark to go with us. A gunboat passed the inlet this P.M. supposed from Fortress Monroe bound for Washington. We got ready and went down to Fort H. [Hatteras] at the appointed time with knapsacks, 4 days rations and 60 rounds. The weather however looking rough. Our departure was postponed [p. 32] til tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock. Speculation rife. Starlight but misty.

Tuesday, April 7, 1863: Very pleasant, didn’t start this morning : postponed till noon : some think the whole thing a humbug. Clear and fine. This afternoon we received orders to be ready at 4 1/2 and at the appointed time we left the barracks in full rig and went down to the fort and aboard the brig where we are to remain over night (Quartermaster’s Brig). Splendid sunset. The whole force is aboard and we are to start in the morning on a brig which lays alongside. The following men are from out company : Orderly Sergt. J.P. Stevens, Corp’l T.S. Hall, Privates Frank Cummings, Mike Murphy, Chas. Parker, John R. Nicklis, M.S. Seely, Homer Marion, A.T. Winn, Warren E. Tenney & himself. There are about the same number of Buffaloes with Sergt. Miller [Probably Sergeant Christopher C. Miller, Co. H, 1st NC Union Volunteer Infantry, from Hatteras Island]. A Union N.C. man, Sylvester McGowan 3 and his brother [ John Jordan McGowan ] are going with us. Capt. Ashcroft commands the whole, Lieut. Manning 2nd in command.

[p. 33] Wednesday, April 8, 1863: Fine clear day. Slept between decks last night in among the Quartermaster’s stores. Went aboard the brig Jas. Murray a little before sunrise and steamed off. 6 pounder in the stern. Our course was due west and the low banks of Hatteras soon faded from our view. The water was rough and the small brig rolled about finely. We had lost sight of Fort Hatteras but a short time before land appeared ahead and by 10 o’clock we arrived at Juniper Bay, Hyde County, on the main land.

Juniper Bay, Hyde County - April 6, 1863
by Edwin Graves Champney
(Courtesy of The Outer Banks History Center)

Feeling out way up the bay we anchored as near as possible to the shore. The men got into the life boat and proceeded up a creek which ran up into the woods, the American flag flying at the stern. Mike Seely, myself and three Buffaloes were left behind, detailed to remain. Pleasant and quiet, land low and woody. I laid down in the bow and got asleep until Seely came and woke me up to say that a boat was approaching. When it came alongside we found it [p. 34] contained two Buffaloes and two natives with orders for us to come ashore and bring some rations : saying that they had landed all right. We went up a crooked creek for about two miles, the sides were bordered will tall grass or sedge. (savannahs.) This terminated in a canal with tall trees on either side. We went on till we came to a bridge and a road running at right angles with the stream.

Picket Station - Poplar Ridge, Hyde County - April 8 - 10, 1863
by Edwin Graves Champney
(Courtesy of The Outer Banks History Center)

This bridge was guarded by two of our men and the boat stopped here and we turned up the road to the right and a few steps brought us to the house of a Union man which was the headquarters of the expedition and where we found our boys with the exception of those who were roaming around (foraging). Laid down our knapsacks and had a little coffee and something to eat and went round and visited two or three houses near by. Being in an enemy’s country we carried our guns with us and kept well on our guard. The boys were roaming all round buying eggs, potatoes, &c. The inhabitants were very agreable but seemed a little [p. 35] afraid of us : they said there were no guerillas around there. In a small house opposite our quarters lived two women : one of them Mrs. Henry (Silly Ann) White (husband in the rebel army - 33rd N.C. Regt.) 4 was very pleasant and I spent some time there laughing and talking. We had a nice time at a man’s named Spencer (Secesh) who had three good looking daughters : we stayed there till after dark sitting round the fire place.

Headquarters - Poplar Ridge, Hyde County - April 8 - 10, 1863
by Edwin Graves Champney
(Courtesy of The Outer Banks History Center)

Thursday, April 9, 1863 We kept strict guard last night and I slept hardly none at all. Two men were posted at the bridge and two around the house. My post was front of the house and I was on from 10 to 12 and from 4 to 6 A.M. It was a still clear night and the moon rose a little before 12 M. Today the weather is very fine : made a long visit at Mrs. White’s this A.M. The name of this place is Poplar Ridge : two or three miles above here is a large lake (Mattamuskeet) where the inhabitants are more numerous. The land here is good although a great deal of it swampy. [p. 36] Large trees : huge cypresses in the swamps. A great many of the natives came in today to see the Yankees. I was on guard at the bridge two hours this A.M., carrying loads of household effects down the creek belonging to Union folks who are going off with us. P.M. loafing round. Tenney saw two men prowling round in the woods. A squad of us went down and searched the woods but could not find anything of them. About the middle of the afternoon we evacuated the place and marched down to the bridge in good order : the fireman of the tug, Charley Fulson, carrying the flag, We had a pleasant ride down to the boat which had come further up the creek : Capt. looking back with his glass. A lot of negroes stood along the shore who wanted to be carried off but we couldn’t accomodate them. Capt. Baker, the commander of the brig was off in a boat and while we were waiting for him we had some great fun with the darkeys. We fired the cannon 3 times, 1 shell and two solidshot and blew the whistle as signal for the Capt. & mate. Finally he came [p. 37] and we weighed anchor and dropped down the bay where we remained all night. Met a schooner and made her show her papers. Some of the boys had set the tall sedge which borders the bay on fire and it had communicated to the woods which were all afire presenting a splendid sight in the evening : illuminating the whole bay. We have got one or two families aboard whom we are going to carry to Hatteras and ____ _______ of old traps and rubbish : the whole top of the ------- is covered with their ricketty old tables, chairs, spinning wheels, &c. There are three men, two of these recruits 5 for Ashcroft’s Company. One of them (recruits), Zion Hall has been in the rebel army and was wounded in Maryland last fall : he was in Jackson’s army, 33rd N.C. Regt.

Friday, April 10, 1863: Last night we were stowed round in all sorts of holes : some in the engine room, in the wheel house, under an old canvas in the stern &c. I slept in the forecastle with niggers, Buffaloes, gun decks and hen coops. Up at sunrise, foggy. Trying all this morning [p. 38] to get up steam : it took a long time on account of some accident to the machinery. We got started in the course of the forenoon and after a pleasant trip across the sound reached Fort Hatteras about 1 P.M. Warm and pleasant. Crew of the brig first rate fellows. We found a large gunboat (Miami) aground off the fort and a brig trying to get her off. We were hurried ashore and got off the goods as soon as possible (also the gun) so that our brig could go to their assistance as soon as possible. We marched up to the barracks : washed and had something to eat. The mail had been here since we have been gone and I got some letters and a small package. Walked out on the beach this P.M. Went to bed early. News from little Washington report things serious : New Bern threatened : 5th [Mass.] Regt, marching overland to W(ashington).

Selection (April 6-10, 1863) from Edwin Graves Champney’s Diary for Dec. 21, 1862 - July 2, 1863, pp. 30-36; Microfilm Roll #2898, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. by permission of owner - Edwin A. Champney, 115 Pine Hill Road, Bedford, MA 01730 - August 4, 1997)
(Drawings by Edwin Graves Champney Courtesy of the Outer Banks History Center, Manteo, NC.)


Hatteras Light by Night - Feb. 23 - Mar. 28, 1863
by Edwin Graves Champney
(Courtesy of The Outer Banks History Center)

[p. 228] During the month of April, Company G was still at Hatteras, having no part in the varieties of regimental life at Newbern and the surrounding country, though the men there are learning more about the sea and its moods than they had ever dreamed. When the wind blew hard, as it was inclined to do the greater part of the time, the sand “blows into all the cracks and crevices, fills the bunks, gets into our victuals, blinds our eyes and torments us in every possible manner.” The wind and waves at times would force the waters over the bar, cutting new channel and seemingly endangering the very quarters of the men, yet the same chronicler writes of the men dancing when the waves were almost upon them. “Sand and fine sand! The air is filled with it! Everything covered! Eyes, ears, nose, mouth filled! Awful! Terrible! Cold! It seems as though this was the worse place in the world.” April 8th a squad from the company with an equal number of Buffaloes (native and loyal North Carolinians) went aboard the tug “James Murray,” having with them a 12-pound cannon, and went over the Sound to Juniper Bay, on a reconnaissance, and for the pur- [p. 229] pose of bringing off certain loyal families. The locality was known as Poplar Ridge and the excursion, though enjoyable to those taking part, was quite devoid of incident, all parties returning on the 10th. April 26th, Captain Grammer went to Newbern and returned on the 30th. Of the deeds and travels of the other companies, nominally at Newbern, these men at Hatteras had only rumors.

“The Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry” by Alfred S. Roe; Fifth Regiment Veteran Association, Boston, 1911; pp. 228-229.

. Edwin Graves Champney (1842-1899), Private, Co. G, 5th Regt. Mass. Volunteer Infantry; from Boston, Massachusetts family of artist. Stationed on Hatteras Island from Dec., 1862 - June, 1863.
    2. The definition of the term "Buffalo," has several versions. One comes from a letter by John Hedrick, a Unionist living in Beaufort, NC, who said that the North Carolinians (Union Volunteers) looked like a herd of buffaloes in their new blue uniforms. Initially the term referred only to North Carolina Union Volunteers (native unionists who chose to serve in the Union army), but as the war progress it was also used to include Confederate deserters and blacks who had fled to the woods and swamps of eastern North Carolina and often preyed and the local farmers and citizens for their subsistence.
    3. Sylvester McGowan (c.1818-c.1900) and brother John Jordan McGowan (c.1844-c.1913) were sons of Levi McGowan (c.1794-c.1875) and Sarah “Sally” Eborn (c.1804-c.1879). In an application to the Southern Claims Commission in 1872, Sylvester McGowan claimed that he had been a captain in the Union Army for three years, however no record of any military service for him has been found in the records at the National Archives.
    4. Henry White, Private, Co. F, 33rd NC Infantry, CSA. Enlisted Sept. 9, 1861 in Hyde County, NC.
    5. Recruits: James H. Emory, Private, Co. B, 1st NC Union Volunteers; Enlisted April 10, 1863 at Juniper Bay, Hyde County, NC; age 33.
    William Zion Hall, Private, Co. H, 1st NC Union Volunteers; Enlisted April 10, 1863 at Juniper Bay, Hyde County, NC; age 24. Previously served as a Private in Co. H, 33rd NC Infantry, CSA.

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