This letter was written by William Edward Shallington (1839-1921), the son of David Pender Shallington (1811-18xx) and Penelope Barnes (1814-1870) of Edgecombe county, North Carolina. William enlisted early in the Civil War as a private in Co. I, 3rd North Carolina Infantry. He remained with that regiment until January 1863 when he transferred to Capt. William H. Spencer’s Company of Independent Cavalry (“Spencer’s Rangers”) where he was awarded a commission as 1st Lieutenant. In February 1864, after Capt. Spencer and a few other rangers were taken captive in a surprise raid at Fairfield, Lt. Shallington took command of the Rangers.
In the spring of 1864, the Confederate army reestablished control over most of Tyrrell county which had been under Union occupation for almost two years. Gum Neck fell under the administration of Colonel George Wortham of the 50th North Carolina Regiment who established his headquarters at Plymouth. During the period that followed, conflicts necessarily arose between the roving Confederate bands—such as Spencer’s Rangers—and the local residents who had always been loyal to the Union, or who had “turned traitor” to the Confederacy and taken the Oath of Allegiance to the United States government. In common parlance, the term “buffaloes” was used to refer to any individual—black or white—who opposed the Confederate cause. See NCPedia, “Buffaloes.”
In the following letter, Lt. Shallington speaks of hunting down “buffaloes”—in this case, refugees—who were attempting to flee to the east side of the Alligator river in Tyrree county. [Readers are referred to an excellent article by Roy T. Sawyer entitled, Life on the Alligator River, published in Tyrrell Branches, Spring 2012.]
Tyrell County, North Carolina
June 17th 1864
Col. George Wortham, dear sir,
I avail myself of the opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you of my health. My health is very good at present, hoping that these few lines may find you enjoying the [same] blessing of health, &c. The health of my company is very poor &c. Colonel, I wish—that is, if you could spare my men that I sent you—to send them to camp as I stand in need of them very much. My picket duty is so heavy [and] all my men are becoming sick. I sent a squad of men under the command of a sergeant to Second Creek near the mouth of Alligator River and they found a buffalo making preparations to get to the island. They shot eight rounds at him and supposed to have wounded him. He was moving household and kitchen furniture. They cut the boat to pieces and destroyed his furniture. He had just returned from the island with the boat to move.
I am going to Gum Neck Monday after some buffaloes that are giving the citizens trouble. My men are all tired and worn down at this time.
Colonel, I heard a few days ago that you had been informed by someone that my company was under no discipline. Colonel, there is not an independent company in the Confederacy under better discipline than this is. I am an old soldier. I know a soldier’s duty. You haven’t a man in your command that will obey an order from you sooner than my men will or from me.
I am getting along very well as to provisions at present. I shall make out my muster rolls next week and start for Raleigh. I have nothing more at present—only [to report that] the buffaloes are conveying men to the island every chance. Colonel, please send me my men immediately.
Yours with respect, — Will E. Shallington, Lieut. Commanding Rangers