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Hillsborough (NC) Recorder

Hillsborough (NC) Recorder

July 31, 1861

Page 2




            In the editorial correspondence of the N. Y. Times, written from Fortress Monroe, Va., on the 4th of July, by Hon. Henry J. Raymond, its editor, speaking of the village of Hampton which has been abandoned to the Hessians, he says:

            “It is a very pretty country town, with a fine hotel looking out upon the river, a good military school, three or four churches, etc.  I procured a boat and crossed over to the “deserted village.”  Of the 2,000 or 2,500 inhabitants of this town, not twenty-five remained.  The rest took all the valuables they could carry away, packed the rest in boxes, locked the doors, and fled.  It was the most melancholy picture I had ever seen.  Our soldiers had come over, broken open the houses, rifled the boxes, carried off tables, chairs, sofas and whatever else they could make useful, and wantonly destroyed what they could not take away.  Passing through the deserted streets, I saw through an open door a woman sweeping a little shop.  She said she had left town with the rest, but thought she would come back to look after the few things she had left.  They had all disappeared.  The house had been broken open and everything in it carried away.  This is the general story throughout the town.  I heard of three or four of our men who went into a house where there were only an old man and his wife, and when the latter refused to tell them where they left their money, they broke open the bureau and took $26 which they found there.  In another instance a gang of men went into a house occupied by a lady, a relative of Commodore Barron, who had packed up the family pictures and other relics and put them away.  They broke open the boxes, threw the contents out into the street, and completely stripped the house.  At another house, after taking away what they wanted, they emptied jars of sweetmeats which they poured into the river.  At the house of Mrs. Cary, they smashed to pieces all the glassware they could find, much of which was very valuable.  Passing through the village I came to the old church, said to be the oldest now standing in this country.  It stands a little back from the road, and is surrounded by the graveyard; just in the rear of it, and close to the walls, was the freshly-made grave of a child, with a slight wooden frame around it to protect it from desecration.  Some of our troops had placed an iron rod across the frame, upon which they had hung a kettle over a fire, built upon the grave.

            I could give scores and hundreds of instances of similar outrages.  Is it surprising that the people here look upon us as vandals and barbarians?  By any possible process could we contrive to make them more bitterly and relentlessly hostile toward the Union than in this way.  General Butler, of course, disapproves all this—but that is not enough.  He should have issued a proclamation as soon as he arrived, inviting the citizens to remain at home, and assuring them of the perfect protection of their lives and property.  And then every violation of private rights—every instance of theft or plunder—should have been punished with a rigor which would have effectually prevented a repetition of the act.  If some officer of the regular army—such as man as General Wood, for example—had been here, we should have had none of these disgraces.  If the citizens had remained at home, their property would have been much safer.  But they were afraid to do so, and not without reason.  One of our Colonels one night arrested and brought into the fort, a whole family—including an old lady and three or four small children, on the charge that they were displaying signal-lights for the rebels.  It turned out that they kept a light burning on account of a sick child.  How could anyone feel safe when exposed to such outrages?”


[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]


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