Craven County Digital History Exhibit

Benjamin, Epidemic in New Bern,
pages 8 through 12

[p. 8] [Thumbnail image of page 8] [Larger image of page 8]

He was universally beloved, winning enduring friends by the urbanity of his manners and amiability.

In the distribution of justice he was strict, but impartial, and in the performance of onerous duties, faithful and exact, jealous of his good name, with that delicate sensibility

“which men of honor pride themselves so much upon.”

He was prominent in his humanity, and inflexible in purpose. We shall never forget the scene of the execution of six deserters, when the unfortunate men, seated on their coffins, with bandaged eyes, closed forever from the world, bade adieu to the Provost Marshal, their unwilling executioner; the tremulous grasp of the hand in final adieu, as he passed slowly and sorrowfully from man to man, receiving from each parting words of confidence and little keepsakes for relatives, from whom their ignominious end could not be concealed, while a deluge of tears coursed his manly cheeks, choking his utterance, and rendering him almost unable to pronounce the orders, for each "to be shot to death with musketry." But the stern necessity of military discipline fortified his heart, and the soldier triumphed over the man. Alas! little thought he, on that eventful day, how soon he would follow the doomed culprits to eternity's mansion, wasted by a pernicious fever. Major Lawson will always be remembered in New Berne, and by his comrades in arms; and the deep anxiety manifested by all classes of the community during his illness was followed by universal mourning at his decease. There have been but few men in exalted positions who have commanded more admiration than the late Chief Provost Marshal. Major Lawson served with distinguished honor through the Peninsular campaign.

[p. 9] [Thumbnail image of page 9] [Larger image of page 9]

2d Massachusetts Heavy Artillery,
Chief Provost Marshal,
Died Oct.., 1864,
Of Yellow Fever.

Lieut. Col. Walter S. Poor, of the 2d N. C. Regiment, succeeded Major Lawson, as Chief Provost Marshal, and through the pernicious season, as a member of the Board of Health, contributed greatly towards the restoration of the health of the city, and will always be remembered with fervent gratitude.

Col. Poor is most ably assisted in his position by the Deputy Provost Marshal, Lieut. John Walker, of the 132d New York Infantry. Lieut. Walker's amiability and rare social qualities, combined with the courteous bearing and strict discipline of the soldier, will ever preserve to him a legion of friends.

Previous to the death of Major Lawson, Charles Weigand, merchant; Joseph Boetzkes, boot and shoe dealer; J. Breen, merchant tailor; Cipher, on Pollock Street, were stricken down, and the daily average of deaths about this time was from six to eight, the mortality rapidly increasing, so that in one week from the death of the above persons, the interments each day reached the number of from twenty to twenty-five, and a general flight of the citizens commenced. JAMES BRYAN, Esq., a lawyer of eminent ability, and who had resided at the North during the war, was only just returned to New Borne, to engage in the business of his profession, and expired after a brief illness--his wife soon after following him.

[p. 10] [Thumbnail image of page 10] [Larger image of page 10]

And now the pestilence fully established itself as an epidemic, and raged with fearful fatality among native families; in some instances, and not a few, entire households were carried off, leaving not one in the number to tell the tale. We know where the Provost Guard of the 15th Connecticut Regiment nobly performed the last duties to the dead prior to sepulture.

By the 10th of October the city was well nigh vacated. Nearly all places of business closed; those that remained open, were the stores of William L. Poalk, auctioneer and commission merchant, Pollock Street; S. Kahn, corner of Pollock and Middle; T. L. Merrill & Co., Pollock Street; R. Berry, Middle Street; J. Patterson, foot of Pollock Street; W. Ames, South Front Street; Luther W. Holmes, corner of Craven and South Front Street; Andrew Collins, Craven Street; F. Tomlinson, Craven Street; J. McCormick, merchant tailor, Pollock Street.

The 15th of October saw the city a dismal blank,

“Deserted and drear
With howling winds and creaks of the bier.”

While the yellow fever held undisputed sway, and the destroyer reigned a relentless tyrant, there assembled a little hand of courageous, devoted men, drawn together by the most sacred impulses which can inspire the human heart. They met, forming a phalanx of "Good Samaritans," and pledged their lives and all for the great purpose of administering comfort to the sick, and the last sad offices to the dead. They presented truly a noble front, and their record is now given to the world. They stand alone and conspicuous in their deeds and career, and their names should be preserved in an immortality of fame. Self-sacrificing men, men who had ties that bound them to this earth as strong as any ties

[p. 11] [Thumbnail image of page 11] [Larger image of page 11]

of those who had been the recipients of their ministrations. In a time that appalled the stoutest hearts they shrank not, but heroically faced death with all its terrors; and first and foremost was WILLIAM L. POALK, the mainspring, and the head, the mover and originator of the never-to-be-forgotten

                                         [Who sacrificed their lives.]


As they appear in bold relief.

The spectacle was witnessed throughout the woful period by the few that remained in our midst, of the soul sickening and heart-rending devastation of the merciless contagion. The silent, solemn travel of hearse after hearse, with no accompanying friend, save the zealous, fearless minister of God, leading the way, and under the grand canopy of Heaven's erubescent sky, pronouncing the solitary service o'er the departed. Wend your way through the empty streets of the crushed city, and whom do you meet? None, save here and there an officer hurrying rapidly along, as though conscious of his peril. There, turning the corner of Broad and Middle Streets, is one who has just been seized by the fever, trembling convulsively from head to foot, and his pallid visage hidden beneath the collar of his coat. Young man, speed thee homeward, the saffron's hue will soon o'ercloud thy face. The avenger has marked thee for his own, and the morning's sun may see thee enshrouded in thy winding

[p. 12] [Thumbnail image of page 12] [Larger image of page 12]

sheet. Hark! not the slightest sound disturbs the oppressive, dreadful silence. Oh, where are all the people ? Is there no one in the town, none to tread the public ways? Are all gone? Is the town thoroughly, completely deserted? Are all the houses vacant? Poor plague-smitten New Berne! a grievous time is on thee, truly. Hark! again! there's a tramp along yonder pavement--some members of the "Dead Corps" on their way to an afflicted mansion; they reach the threshold, then pause a while, and determinedly enter. It is almost certain destruction to breathe the poisonous air within, and yet they falter not. When all else have abandoned them, these ministering spirits hover around the prostrate forms, soothing their anguish, and ardently essaying to mitigate their unutterable pain, amid the stifling effluvia of the infection. See how tenderly the head is supported, and how kindly these philanthropists proffer sustenance and comforts, hand in hand with potent sympathy.

“Thou most happy power, sweet sympathy,
Thy office and thy nature still the same,
Lasting thy lamp and unconsumed thy flame,
Shall still survive--
Thou shalt Stand before the hosts of Heaven confest,
Forever blessing and forever blest.
No radiant pearl which crested fortune wears,
No gem that twinkling hangs from beauty's ears,
Nor the bright stars which night's blue arch adorn,
Nor rising suns that gild the vernal morn,
Shine with such lustre as the tear that breaks
For others woe, down virtue's manly cheeks."

Retrace your steps to your own domicile, and again you encounter a procession of hearses--the same venerable pastor, the Rev. Father Rouse, its single attendant--the ideal Christian, the beau ideal of God's noblest work.

Front matter Pages 3 through 7 Pages 8 through 12 Pages 13 through 17
Pages 18 through 22 Pages 23 through 27 Pages 28 through 32 Pages 33 through 39


Return to: Craven County Digital History Exhibit
Return to: New Bern Historical Society Section of Digital History Exhibit
Return to: Kellenberger Room

Images scanned by John B. Green, III.  Text prepared by John B. Green, III and Victor T. Jones, Jr.
This page last edited on November 20, 2014.

Hit Counter