- Historic Sites
In Search Of My Son
In 1865 a father went from New York to North Carolina to reclaim the body of his boy, killed in action. Here is his account of how the task was done
February 1963 | Volume 14, Issue 2
After the burial, we stopped a short time at the house of our friend, Bulkley Edwards, and then came to the City of Middletown and spent a couple of hours with our old and tried friend Nathaniel Smith and wife and family, where, after partaking of a rich repast, we went to the depot, and starting in the cars at half past 7 o’clock in the evening, arrived home in New York shortly before midnight. The day had been clear and cold and the night was frosty. On the following day we were visited with a severe snow storm.
I herewith append a rough sketch, made by me with a pen, of Fort Fisher and its surroundings. [It appears on page 70.]
In the foregoing narrative I have endeavored to state facts with a view of being clearly understood, wholly regardless of style or diction. And now, in bringing this sketch to a close, I desire to express my gratitude to Almighty God, for all the way in which He led me through all the scenes which I have so imperfectly described.
It was at first uncertain whether Edward had been killed or wounded. Yet my impressions were irresistible that it was my duty to go after him or his body immediately. On arriving at Washington, although I was detained the whole forenoon in obtaining a pass, I nevertheless left in a steamer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and could not have left before, for Fortress Monroe. On arriving at Fortress Monroe, I was detained over three days and nights in that military strong-hold. Yet it proved for my benefit—for, during the detention, I was enabled to obtain critical information of Edward’s death, and manner of death, from an eye witness, which I afterwards found I could not obtain from any other source.
The way did not seem to open for me to go direct from Fortress Monroe to Fort Fisher, and I grew uneasy. In the midst of the delay the Ellen S. Terry anchored in Hampton Roads, driven in by stress of weather, bound for Newbern; and as I was acquainted with the Captain and principal owner, I went on board of her, and sailed to Newbern. On arriving at Newbern I felt unpleasant that I was detained there for a day and a night; and yet the delay gave me a fine opportunity to ramble through the place and notice the inhabitants. Besides, on reaching Morehead City the next day, I found, if I had been there the day before, no transport would have been ready to sail for Fort Fisher. If I had gone direct from Fortress Monroe to Fort Fisher, I must have gone without a coffin; whereas on my arrival at Morehead City, our kind brother Middlebrook furnished me with a coffin already made, and the next morning I started with it for Fort Fisher.
After landing at Federal Point on Sunday morning, I feel that I was led by Him who knoweth all our thoughts and ways, in the most direct route to Edward’s grave; and in all my subsequent efforts to effect the removal of his remains, and the almost marvellous manner in which I discovered, from time to time, and obtained the necessary materials to carry out my purpose, I recognize, and, with gratitude, record, my acknowledgments of, the superintending care and goodness of God in dealing so graciously with me in the midst of my fiery trials. So far as I know, not a transport left Fort Fisher after my arrival there, until I was ready to return home; and then, the very next day the North Point started for Fortress Monroe, which was more agreeable to me than to think of coming all the way home by sea at such an inclement season of the year. Moreover, notwithstanding all my exposure and fatigue, I found myself improving in health. My return homeward was rapid; and after my arrival in New York, everything worked favorably until we had deposited Edward’s remains in their resting place and we had returned to our home.
I believe that the bounds of our lives are fixed by our Creator, and we cannot pass them. Edward’s time to depart from us had come; and while I mourn his loss, (for I loved him tenderly) I feel it my duty to yield submissively to the will of the Most High, and to acknowledge that He hath done all things well. Blessed be His holy name. I feel that I am reconciled to this dispensation of his providence, and can say “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord.”