Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Surrender of Fort Macon
Edgecombe Native Takes Fort Without Fight

            It was April 14, 1861. The sun was low in the west when the 54 men from Beaufort and Carolina City [Morehead City], Carteret Co., NC marched from the steamer Cora onto the sandy beach at Fort Macon. The newly recruited company, led by Edgecombe Co. native Josiah Solomon Pender, was there to capture the federal fort that protected the port of Beaufort. The take-over was a gentlemanly, quiet affair. No shots were fired and the fort was turned over with a minimum of ado.
            What led to this quiet change of command?
Josiah Solomon Pender
Taken from "Find A Grave"
            Prior to the start of the Civil War, with no threatening enemies, forts along the coast of the US had been all but deserted. Older soldiers, as a reward for years of faithful service, had been assigned caretaker duties. Most of the forts had fallen into disrepair. Fort Macon was no different.
            There was only one man on duty at Fort Macon in April 1861—William Alexander, 50 years old, a 30-year veteran who had served gallantly in the Mexican War. His wife, Ann L. Livesay Alexander, a Morehead City native, also lived at the fort.
Alexander knew trouble was on the way. Other forts along the southern coast had been captured by state forces. He was part of the Beaufort community, and he had heard the secessionist rumblings. In fact, on April 2, Alexander wrote Col. H. K. Craig in Washington, D.C. asking for a revolver for his protection. On April 12, the day the war began at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., Alexander learned from Col. Craig that he was on his own. There were no revolvers available.
By the morning of April 14, Sgt. Alexander had already received word that Pender intended to capture the fort. He wrote Col. Craig again: “… A company of secessionists led by Josiah S. Pender of Beaufort are today going to seize this fort …am at a loss how to act, in premises, what to do, or where to go. I have served the US Army for the last thirty years, and am now no longer fit for any active service, have my family at the Post, and all of my property. The latter I expect to lose—having no where to move it—and cannot at this time convert anything into money.”
Cover of  Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
May 17, 1872
 From North Carolina County Photographic Collection #P0001, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .
Josiah Pender was a fervent secessionist. It was clear to him that there would be a need to keep the port at Beaufort in southern hands. In anticipation of this, he formed the Beaufort Harbor Guards, a 17-man militia company. He was acting with no official authorization. NC had not yet seceded from the Union and, in fact, would not do so until May 20. On January 9, when local citizens seized Fort Johnston and Fort Caswell near Wilmington [New Hanover Co.], NC, Gov. Ellis, who was not ardent in support of secession, sent state militia to restore the forts to US control. Obviously, Pender could not assume Ellis would support the take-over of Fort Macon.
When news of the Fort Sumter, SC attack was telegraphed to Beaufort, Pender was ready to act. His company, along with other local volunteers, boarded the Cora for the short trip across Bogue Sound to Fort Macon. Sgt. Alexander had no choice but to surrender. He and his wife remained at the fort to pack their belongings and were removed to Beaufort on April 17. Alexander was ordered to remain there to await orders. Those orders never came, and he remained where he was until Union forces re-took Fort Macon in March 1862.
After Alexander’s surrender, the triumphant Pender telegraphed S.C. Gov. Francis Pickens of his actions. He also requested guns for the fort. Apparently, he did not notify N. C. Gov. Ellis.
State Takes Fort
It is not clear when Gov. Ellis learned of the take-over of Fort Macon. However, on April 15, when President Lincoln requested troops from N.C. and Ellis realized that the Union was ready to use force against the South, a decision had to be made. Would N.C. fight with its friends, neighbors and kinfolks, or against them? Gov. Ellis made the decision and ordered the seizure of all federal operations within the state. The Goldsboro Rifles, under the Command of Capt. Marshall Crafton, were ordered to take Fort Macon. In short order, Crafton’s company and the newly formed Goldsboro Volunteers [Wayne County] were on their way to Beaufort. The next day, they assumed control of the fort from Capt. Pender.
Fort Macon was falling apart. The moat surrounding the fort had collapsed. Only 4 cannons were mounted, and their carriages so fragile as to be unusable. The backbreaking work of reinforcing the fort began on April 17. By the next week, there were more workers than could be accommodated. Capt. Henry T. Guion had brought 61 free negro volunteers and 21 slaves. The Elm City Rifles [Wilson County], The Neuse Cavalry [Craven County], The Wilson Light Infantry, The Edgecombe Guards, The Guilford [Guilford Co.]Grays, The Orange Guards, and the Warren Guards had all arrived. Many of them were soon disbursed to other assignments.
Fort Macon today as taken from the shore.
The work continued throughout the summer, and by the end of August, the fort had been completely restored. The refurbished fort was officially turned over to the Confederacy on August 20.
Pender’s volunteer company joined the state forces on May 16 as Company G, Tenth NC Artillery with Pender as their captain. After NC seceded, the unit became part of the Army of the Confederacy. Pender’s son, Walter, only 17 years old, was a lieutenant in the Beaufort Harbor Guards. He was accidentally shot the next year. Some say the accident happened while he was instructing troops in the use of the bayonet. Another story is that he was playing around when he was shot.
Pender was not entirely happy with the situation after the state took over Fort Macon. On June 18, he tendered his resignation unless he was given a better position. The letter, contained in the William & Emmet Robinson Collection at Johnston Co. [NC] Heritage Center, includes the following: “… I have been promised time & again … Men have been promoted … neither practice nor theory in military matters. … I have submitted to be ruled & insulted even by those that knew nothing in regard to their military duties & in all human probability never will. …” The position he wanted was that of Lieut. Col. of Artillery.
Pender did not resign, but there were still problems. His wife was seriously ill in Beaufort; life at the fort was dull. In November, when his request for leave was denied, he left without permission. He falsely claimed that Gen. D. H. Hill had given him leave. He was also accused of having taken items from the Union with a forged requisition.  A general court martial at Morehead City found him guilty, and on 29 Dec 1861 he was dismissed from the Confederate Army for “Conduct unbecoming an officer & a gentleman.”
Col. Lawrence O’Bryan Branch wrote of Josiah, “ … I know him to be brave, enterprising and intelligent, and devotedly anxious for the success of the Cause. …” However, it is likely that Pender was relieved to be free of the restraints of military life.
[Taken from The Connector, Newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogy Society, Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 2004]

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