Hyde County Raid (II) - March 7 - 13, 1863
Camp routine was broken on Saturday, March 7; the Regiment embarking on the transport Northerner, debarking from it on Monday, March 9, near Swan Quarter, Hyde Co., N.C. The objective of this expedition was in the nature of reprisal for the action of a number of citizens of this county who had formed a "Home Guard," and in an ambuscade had killed several of the 3d New York Cavalry the previous week (March 4). The expedition starting from Swan Quarter on March 9, proceeding around Lake Mattamuskeet, and arriving at Swan Quarter about 6 p.m. on the 11th, a distance of 52 miles via wagon road. The route taken from Swan Quarter was to the west of the lake, thus keeping the latter to the right during the entire march. During this trip, from the time the Regiment debarked until it re-embarked at the landing, a half-mile from Swan Quarter, no attempt was made to maintain discipline. This was due largely to the influence of Capt. Colin Richardson of the 3d New York Cavalry exerted over both officers and men. It was Capt. Richardson's company (F), which had suffered in the ambuscade, and it was at his request that the expedition was sent to Hyde Co. Before leaving Swan Quarter he addressed the men, without any protest from the commanding officer, and apparently with his sanction, in words that would encourage the men to commit excesses. Another reason for the lack of discipline on the part of the 103d was the absence of its field officers, the Regiment apparently being commanded by an officer of another regiment. There is no doubt that this raid was the most discreditable affair in which the 103d Regiment participated during the nearly four years of its service. The caravan that entered Swan Quarter in the evening of March 11, 1863, must have caused amusement even to the pillaged citizens, who had an opportunity to view it as it passed by. Such a collection of animals and vehicles never before (or since) marched in procession on this continent. A true description of this multi-farious, incongruous collection of quadrapeds and conveyances which extended along the east shore of Lake Mattamuskeet, by a genius like Mark Twain would forever make Hyde County a historic place. The citizens of Hyde County, then, as well as now, were descendants of the first settlers of the county, who located there prior to and during the Revolutionary war and certainly every style of vehicle that had been in vogue in that part of the country during the 18th and 19th centuries must have been brought into requisition on this raid. The caravan transported the bulk of what had been the contents of the meat houses and cellars along the route, the men had traveled. The expedition was commanded by Col. D. B. Morris, of the 101st Penna. Regiment, who censured the 103d in his official report in the following terms:
"I would also call attention to a lack of proper discipline among the line officers of the 103d Regiment Panna. Vols. They seem to have little or no control over their commands, and lack energy to enforce proper discipline. To this there are some exceptions, * * * As an instance of insubordination in the 103d * * *, while embarking on board the Northerner from the steamer Escort, the officers and men, contrary to repeated orders, rushed forward before the boat could make fast to such an extent as to endanger life and to render it impossible for the officers of the boat to manager her. Having repeated the order for the men to remain in their places and await orders, and all to no effect, I seized a gun and fired down the side of the boat for the purpose of deterring the men, but with no intention of injuring anyone. At the moment of firing a man rushed forward and was slightly injured." (O.R. Sec. I, Vol. XVIII, p. 181.)
As before stated there was an absence of discipline on this raid, but anyone reading the above the paragraph from the official report of the commanding officer of the expedition can readily see where to place the blame. At no time during the three day's march around Lake Mattamuskeet did Col. Morris make any protest to the officers of the Regiment as to the conduct of the troops. There is no doubt the words of censure are due to the shooting episode on board the boat, to which he refers, to show the spirit of insubordination that prevailed in the ranks of the 103d. But this very episode as told by himself is self-condemnatory, and shows very clearly that the lack of discipline was due to the commanding officer. The steamer Northerner was a heavy draught vessel and the Escort was used as a lighter, transporting the troops from the shore to the Northerner. After most of the troops had boarded the latter, the tendency was for most of the men to move to the side of the vessel where the Escort brought its load. This caused the Northerner to roll to the side next to the lighter. The captain of the Northerner ordered the men back, but as they were slow to respond to his order, he made an appeal to Col. Morris who came hurriedly out of the cabin and ordered the men to the other side of the vessel. The men obeyed, but as soon as the lighter returned with another load there was a repetition of the offense, many of the men not being present at the former time. It was then that Col. Morris rushed out of the cabin, snatched a gun from the hands of an enlisted man, accidentally firing it, the shot taking affect on Private Isaac Shakely, of Co. B, who is still living at this writing, the proprietor of a blacksmith shop at Emlenton, Penna. Had Col. Morris detailed a guard, which was the proper thing to do, there would have been no difficulty in preserving order. The writer witnessed the entire episode and would have the matter too trivial for notice had the colonel's peculiar account of it not appear in his official report. In fact, the "unpleasantness" was due to the fine vintage of Hyde County, free to both officers and men "without money and without price." Capt. Donaghy's account of this raid will be of interest to the survivors who participated in it. He says:
"My company was detailed as a support to the artillery, which consisted of two howitzers from the gunboat Morris, and was drawn by sailors. They were soon relieved from that service by negroes who fell in with the column as we marched along. * * * Co. A * * * Commanded by Capt. Alexander, was in the advance, acting as skirmishers. We stepped out briskly, leaving the main body considerably behind, but reaching a point where the roads crossed we halted until those behind closed with us. We improved the opportunity to fill up, reinforcing our rations with eggs, honey, etc., which I do not remember to have seen paid for. The whole force halted for dinner. The afternoon's march closed with our joining another detachment of our force that had marched by another road. Capt. Alexander and I slept the night on a farm house floor. A guerrilla was captured in the night by the pickets. I do not know what was done with him, but I recall a story that was told me by one of the cavalry after our return to New Bern. On the steamer that took the cavalry to New Bern, was a prisoner -- one of the hated guerrillas, who lay bound hand and foot, on the lower deck. At night when the boat was steaming along the sound the poor fellow was deliberately pushed overboard by a cavalryman. I was horrified by the story, and ashamed to think that a Union soldier would do such a deed, but it was claimed that a guerrilla had no rights as a soldier. We resumed our march at daylight. After we had gone some miles I was ordered with my company to act as convoy to North Carolinians who were enlisted in the Union service and who desired to come within the lines. I marched two and a half miles from the route of the main column, and as I would have to return by the same road, I did not want to leave men enough by the way to organize a force against me; so I took into custody every man we found, about a dozen in all. One was a rebel lieutenant with his arm in a sling. The others seemed like honest farmers, but I would not trust to appearances. At one small house the soldiers were stopped at the door with the word that a woman in labor was within. I thought it might be a ruse to conceal some guerrillas, so I entered the house, and one glance within convinced me that the fair door guardian had told the truth, so with an apology for the intrusion I withdrew. We reached the residence of the people we were to move, and their household effects were loaded on a rickety cart with a sorry specimen of a horse to haul it. When we were about to start on our return a little boy of five or six years of age stood by weeping bitterly because he was being left behind. He was an orphan who had been living with the folks we were taking away, and they did not wish to take him along. None of the citizens present were willing to care for the child, so I put him in the cart and ordered that he be taken along. The grateful look of the little fellow as he dried his tears was my reward. I next assembled my prisoners and asked if they were willing to swear allegiance to the United States if I would set them free. I made an exception in the case of the rebel officer who had been paroled by a Union commander. The citizens answered in the affirmative, and I caused them to hold up their right hands while I improvised an oath of allegiance, to which they all assented. It dawned on me as I proceeded that this was something of a farce. One of the party said he had sworn several times already. They seemed glad to get their liberty, and we started on our return. Our march was much obstructed by the cart, that thumped and plunged over the inequalities of the unkept road and stuck in the mud. The harness was rotten, and frequently halts were made to mend the breaks. Finally the old horse gave out and could go no further. Luckily, one of our boys had captured a horse and that was substituted. The locality was favorable for foraging, but not wishing to let the men stray off, I ordered a halt and detailed several of the men to forage for all. They went out and returned with an ample supply of poultry and other stuff, and with great foresight, they brought also two large iron kettles to do the cooking in. Plundering seemed to have been extensively indulged in by the main force ahead of us, to judge from the debris we saw in the road as we followed after. Books, papers, wearing apperal and household articles were strewn about. We passed by the burning ruins of a family mansion, which we were told afterwards, had belonged to the captain of the guerrillas. From the devastation that was done I would not have wandered if a party of bushwackers had assembled to waylay my little party, and try to wreak vengenance on it, so I kept my men prepared for such an emergency, but we were not molested. Before dark we came to the camp of the main body, and were pretty well used up by a march of about 35 miles during the day. The largest, and as good a chicken stew as I ever saw was made that evening in the captured kettles. Our march was on a raid that encircled Lake Mattamuskeet, a body of water 15 miles long and 6 wide; and looking to the right as we marched we had occasional glimpses of its smooth surface, on which glided a few graceful swans. They were the only living beings we could see upon it. On the third day we completed its circuit and turned again towards the sound. We had started on this raid as foot soldiers, but by this time a majority of out force was riding, mounted upon horses, mules, donkeys, oxen, and even cows, or were drawn by them in vehicles of various kinds, with the family carriage with some pretensions to style to the home-made wagons with wheels constructed of boards nailed together crosswise. It was a grotesque and comical procession, and it amused me greatly, but there was such a lack of order and discipline, that from another view of it I was disgusted. The command was in a condition to be annihilated if attacked by an organized force of one-quarter the size of ours, but I 'did as the Romans did,' and rode part of the time myself on a horse belonging to the commisary. Once I mounted a diminutive donkey and rode along with my feet dangling close to the ground. The animal went along nicely for awhile, but becoming tired of my company, he suddenly rushed under a wagon and scraped me off his back. When we halted for dinner that day some of the boys found a roast of beef just prepared at a farm house and carried it away, and as a faithful chronicler, I must confess that I partook of it. We arrived at Swan Quarter in the evening, and bivouacked in the town. Capt. Alexander, as usual, found a good place for him and myself and some other officers. It was a tavern kept by a Mrs. Lewis, and we slept on feather beds which she was kind enough to spread on the dinning floor for us, apologizing at the same time that officers should have to sleep on beds without sheets. The troops remained in that town all of the next day, and on Friday re-embarked to returned to New Bern."
This description by Capt. Donaghy, one of the strictest disciplinarians of the 103d, is evidence of the 'mad riot' which prevailed on this raid, which, perhaps, in the entire annals of the war, had no counterpart. The regiment embarked on the 13th and returning reached New Bern that afternoon. During the day, while approaching the Neuse river, heavy connonading could be heard which proved to be an attack on Fort Anderson, situated on the north bank of the Neuse, opposite New Bern, by the Confederates, this being the first anniversary of the capture of New Bern by Gen. Burnside. However, by the time the Regiment debarked the enemy had disappeared.
"History of the 103d Regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865" by Luther S. Dickey, Corporal of Company C, With Sergeant Samuel M. Evans as Collaborator. Chicago, L.S. Dickey, 1910. pp. 42-45.
Anyone having information on the actions described above, or any letters, diaries, etc., on this or any other events occurring in Hyde County during the Civil War, please email me.
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