Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 21.djvu/276
268 Southern Historical Society Paper*.
and other camp-fire melodies. The usual games were being played around the tallow dips with as much zest as if a more serious game were not impending ; here and there a few were reading their Bibles before retiring, but only such as were accustomed to end the day in such devotions. The formidable fleet had no terror for these stout hearts. The regulars who had come from the other forts were natur- ally discussing the situation, and after their comparative inactivity seemed pleased with the opportunity to see some active service in behalf of the cause. The brave little boys, torn from their firesides by the cruel necessities of the struggle, were as bright and manly as if anticipating a parade. They should never have been called out for service ; it was robbing the cradle.
What nobler women can be found in all history than the matrons of the Old North State, who, with their prayers and tears, sent forth their darlings in a cause they believed to be right, and in the defence of their homes? Self-sacrificing courage seems indigenous to North Carolina. No breast is too tender for this heroic virtue. Since the ten-year-old son of the Regulator begged the tyrant Tryon, after the battle of the Alamance, to hang him and let his father live, lest his mother die and the children perish, even the boys of this sturdy Commonwealth have been ever ready to rally in her defence. The first life-blood that stained the sands of Confederate Point was from one of these youthful patriots.
The sun set in a cloudless sky on December 23d, and with its part- ing rays the gale subsided. At midnight the blockade runner "Little Hattie" came in, and Captain Lebby came ashore to report his narrow escape from capture. He had passed safely through the for- midable fleet, and thought he had been followed in by one of the enemy's ships, but she had not molested him. He was about leav- ing when the officer of the day reported a vessel on fire up the beach about a mile from the fort. I went on the ramparts and saw what looked like a blockade runner on fire. Captain Lebby thought it must be the " Agnes Fry," which steamer had left Nassau with him for Wilmington, and I so telegraphed General Whiting. I watched the burning vessel for half an hour, and ordered the mounted pickets to be careful not to fire on any approaching boats. I had a good opportunity to note the position of the vessel, and considered her a mile from the fort. General Butler, some years after the war, in- formed me that the wreck was found and her exact position known,