• Carolyn Steele Agosta

Return to camp meeting, after the War

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

DID YOU KNOW that during the Civil War, the Denver, NC, area (then called Dry Pond) put together a company of infantry, known as the Dry Pond Dixies? They were Company G, part of the 62nd North Carolina Regiment, and formed in March, 1862. Their first battle was at Goldsboro, and then they were relocated to Virginia and served with General Robert E Lee during Gettysburg, where they had their largest losses. They also fought at Bristoe Station, the Battle of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Spotsylvania Court House, and Sutherland Station, among other battles, and surrendered at Appomattox Court House with only 6 officers and 60 men left out of 1,296. Nearly half were prisoners of war at the war’s end. 441 men had died as a result of wounds, disease, or in the prison camps.




After the war, camp meeting restarted. And that’s the source of my inspiration for my story “The Amputee – 1866.” Below is an excerpt:


*****


BETWEEN THE SERMONS, the men moved in and out of the arbor according to their urges. Maybe played horseshoes, or a game of mumblety-peg on the benches between the tents. They talked and laughed, enjoying the rare break from their chores. It was in the evenings that their talk turned serious – farming problems, the shortage of supplies, the shortage of cash, the shortage of manpower. Isaac Lester said, “If’n I could just get a couple of farmhands, I could manage. All I’ve got’s me and little Luke. And him only twelve.” The short supply of working men was an acute problem, affecting them all. Not enough able-bodied men, and although few of the farmers in the area had ever kept a large number of slaves, having one or two field hands would have made all the difference.





“Well, I have my brothers, ’cept for Grady of course,” Frank Jenkins said, “but I ain’t got a mule, my plow’s busted and my well’s gone dry. We’re hauling water from the creek.” One by one, other men spoke of the hurdles they were facing, some of them shame-faced that they hadn’t been able to solve their problems on their own, and others resentful because they thought other folk had a much easier time of it.


A few joked about their problems. Hiram Morris said since his foot had been shot off, he’d given up his dream of being the end man in a minstrel show. And Ira Dugger, known before the war for his high-stepping bays and fancy carriage, claimed he still had the best trotters in the county. “You should see them,” he said. “Two grasshoppers and a bay leaf. I challenge any of you to put up a finer matched pair.”


The men all laughed, and Gideon felt emboldened to joke about his missing arm. “There’re so many rabbits and deer taking over my place I’d be in fresh meat forever – if I could shoot’em!” He pantomimed taking a shot with a rifle, his empty sleeve making the point for him. “Now if the blamed things would just stand still!”


Roddy Tucker, in the midst of the chuckles that followed, turned serious and suggested putting down a salt lick for deer and setting himself up behind a fallen log to steady the end of the rifle. “Lord knows we shot a lot of Yankees that way, even when we was wounded ourselves. From behind a fallen tree or the bottom of a ditch.”


From the bottom of a ditch. Gideon closed his eyes, fighting the memories. Two Yankees just swimming in the pond – not looking for any trouble, just laughing and splashing in the water. Their clothes and rifles on the grassy bank. Then the bright red blood on their pale skin as he shot them both dead.


He jumped to his feet, murmured an excuse, and headed toward the privies. Inside one of those dark smelly upright coffins he waited till the trembling stopped. Waited for his head to clear. Better to suffocate in the foul air of the privy than let anyone see this sweat running down his face or his hand shaking, or to hear the moaning he could not keep back, no matter how tightly he clamped his good hand over his mouth. Shooting an enemy soldier on a battlefield was one thing. A man could harden his mind to that. It was the other times, the times he had to kill a man who meant him no harm but was simply in his way that kept coming back to haunt him. That sentry, asleep at his post. The almost grown boy in the cornfield…not even a soldier, just a kid on a farm. But in the wrong place at the wrong time, and about to raise a hue and cry.

*****



I hope you enjoyed the excerpt and want to know more. My book is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.com, or you can link from here: https://www.carolynsteeleagosta.com.

By the way – the Civil War created a great deal of stimulus for the prosthetic limb industry. Between 1845 and 1861, 34 patents were issued for prosthetic limbs, and between 1861 and 1873, 133 additional patents were issued. In January of 1866, the North Carolina General Assembly became the first of the former Confederate states to offer artificial limbs at no cost to the recipient. The program lasted for five years, and assisted 1,550 veterans at the cost of over eighty-one thousand dollars.

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