April 25th, 1864

Beaufort N.C. April 25th 1864

Dear Brother

I intended to have written you often but have neglected to do so. I should have left for home ere this but Baker[1] had to go to New York and pressed me to remain during his absence to see to his matters. I think he will return in about a week when I intend to leave. You no doubt have heard of the capture of Plymouth[2] in this State by the rebels. It is but a very few days since I was there being about one hundred miles by land from here. It is said our men fought with great bravery & skill under Gen. Wassels,[3] killing rebels Equal in number to themselves. Our loss was slight during the battle after which the rebel savages repeated the scenes of Fort Pillow[4] but less in magnitude though equal in ferocity, Shooting down unarmed soldiers without any provocation. Such outrages in humanity and Civilization should in my opinion be promptly retaliated two for one as a lesson for the future. The Copperheads[5] here justify the act, and commend it for the future. I presume that class of beings in our own town of the Same Stripes will rejoice over all such disasters to the Union arms and will say well done good & faithful allies you are right now go a head for I believe Copperheadism is the same North & South. It is all excitement in this department. An attack on Newbern[6] is daily & hourly expected. The women & children having been notified to leave, many have done so. This place is filled with them. My own opinion is they will not attack Newbern very soon & if they do they will be repulsed with great slaughter. Its defenses are very perfect with a resolute & determined army in side yet it may fall in which Event the scenes of Fort Pillow & Plymouth would afterwards reenacted to greater extent than at Either of those other places as there are many more negro troops here.[7] Gen. Butler[8] is responsible for the fall of Plymouth for had there been one or two of our idle Iron clads there the place would not have been taken.[9] I don’t think the rebels intend to hold it as it is of little or no use to them or to us. The Season here is cold & backward for this latitude. The Blockading Gunboats off Willmington[10] all come here for coal and supplies so we are never without them.

With Kind regards &c &c in haste

Truly Yours

J Raymond

[1] Letter writer’s travel companion and business associate.

[2] A four-day battle at Plymouth, North Carolina, resulted in the fall of the fortified port to Confederate troops. Rumors of a massacre of prisoners there were widespread, but difficult to verify. The most extensive modern investigation of the battle concludes that some several dozen white Unionist North Carolina and African-American troops who surrendered likely were killed by their captors. The town was recaptured by Union forces later that year. See T. Jordon Weymouth, Jr., and Gerald W. Thomas, “Massacre at Plymouth,” The North Carolina Historical Review 72 (April 1995): 125-97.

[3] General Henry Wessels led the defense of Union fortifications in Plymouth, North Carolina.

[4] The infamous Fort Pillow massacre occurred on April 12th, 1864. More than 300 White Unionist and African-American Federal soldiers were killed by Confederate troops after their surrender.  News of this event was widely known in eastern North Carolina at the time.

[5] A derogatory term for sympathizers with the Confederate cause, often in the Northern states.

[6] An important port on the North Carolina coast held by Union forces beginning in 1862. In early 1864 it was threatened by Confederate forces.

[7] Despite Raymond’s sanguine assessment of the situation, the Confederate offensive was a serious threat to Union control of eastern North Carolina. Refugees from Plymouth and Washington, North Carolina, crowded into Beaufort at the time and Confederate patrols cut rail communication between New Bern and the coast. To stabilize the situation, the Union command ordered up ironclad gunboats from the naval base at Hampton Roads. Shortly thereafter, the bulk of Confederate forces in the area were withdrawn to counter a major Federal assault on Petersburg, Virginia. See Browning and Smith, eds., Letters from a North Carolina Unionist (Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 2001), 199-205; and Browning, ed., The Southern Mind Under Union Rule: The Diary of James Rumley, Beaufort, North Carolina, 1862-1865 (Gainesville, 2009), 130-35.

[8] General Benjamin Butler.

[9] Raymond was misinformed about the situation at Plymouth.  Several iron-clad gunboats engaged the Confederate iron-clad ram that supported the attack on Plymouth, but the Federal vessels were either sunk, run aground, or run off.

[10] The port of Wilmington, North Carolina, remained in Confederate hands at this time in the war.

Beaufort NC April 25 1862 pg 1
Beaufort NC April 25th, 1864 pg. 1
Beaufort NC April 25 1862 pg 2
pg. 2

 

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