Recollections of Woodville
BERTIE UNION (WOODVILLE) ACADEMY
This information provided on the venerable Bertie Union Academy was culled from the files of the Bertie Co. Historical Association in 1960s (now defunct), notes of Stella Phelps in 1972 provided by Margaret Griffin, old letters, entries in Charles Smallwood's diaries, newspaper articles of the day, and W.H. Rhodes published memories.The Bertie Union Academy, later named the Woodville Academy, was a private school in present day Lewiston- Woodville in Bertie County, NC. It flourished from 1823, faltered during Reconstruction, and finally in the early 1900s became a public school until its demise in 1920 when the Lewiston-Woodville High School - later named West Bertie High School - was built. It was located in the center of the Woodville village, [View Map] catty-corner across the road from St. Frances Methodist Church.The village of Woodville was originally built by farmers who ran large farms on the Roanoke River in the Indian Woods, mostly for the purpose of locating their families on higher grounds, and in a healthy place; and for the social advantages denied them on widely separated farms; and for the convenience of sending their children to the Bertie Union Academy. Bertie Union Academy was considered among the finest of private academies in the state, drawing students not only from the Lewiston and Woodville villages, but also from around Bertie and neighboring counties. Dr. Charles Smallwood notes in his diary that his father moved his family from Indian Woods to Woodville in 1831 for the expressed purpose of sending his children to the Academy. Many students boarded at nearby houses – some at the residences of Col. Jesse Averitt, Lewis Thompson, and Rev. A.M. Craig, and at the trustees’ homes. Mrs. Wilder Bird (Frances Watson Byrd) kept a hotel, The Old Tavern [View Map] near the Academy for her brother, Robert Collins Watson. It became the favorite boarding place of a large number of young people who attended the school until it burned in 1880.In 1823 Colonel Jesse Averitt deeded, for $30.00, the acre+ for the school ”situated on the west side of the road leading from Hotel (later named Woodville) to Turner's Cross Roads (now the “Lewiston” part of “Lewiston-Woodville) for the purpose of building a male academy”, although it was never a strictly male academy after the first few years. Averitt was a Colonel in the war of 1812, and lived in what is now called the Averitt-Pugh-Thompson home, near the Academy site. The original trustees were Joseph White, William S. Mhoon, William Pugh, Noah B. Hinton, William Britton, Benjamin Hempstead, Jesse Averitt, James G. Mhoon, and Simon Turner.The original building was a long frame building with large chimneys and open fire places at each end, the only means of heating the building. Soon after, a building was erected for the female students. There was a fence around the entire grounds with a stile instead of a gate. A well was dug near the road, and later filled up, but even in 1972 its location was evident.Bertie Union Academy was renowned for its strong academics and discipline. Some of the most prominent men in Bertie and the state received their education there. Judge Francis D. Winston, at one time Lt. Governor of NC, was a former student. As an adult, he donated a school bell to the school in memory of his mother, Martha Byrd Winston (who was also a student there & married her teacher, Patrick Winston). William H. Rhodes, writer and attorney (see his memoir of the Academy, below), was a student there. Whitmel Hill Pugh, who’d moved to LaFourche Parish, Louisiana to amass great riches, sent his son W.W. Pugh back to the Academy for his education. Lillian Cherry, ardent supporter of St. Frances Church, and winner of several NC service awards, was a student here.The teachers were highly trained and educated men - among these were Patrick Winston (father of Francis and Patrick) and Lee Williams who late became a prominent attorney in Norfolk. Andrew Murdoch Craig, also a minister, and father of Gov. Locke Craig was a revered educator there.
From A.M. Craig's 1874 obituary:"The deceased was at the time of his death a learned, able and eloquent minister of the Baptist denomination, and had been for many years the Pastor of the church at Windsor. He was also a school teacher in the best sense of the word, although he had not followed that profession since the war. His schools at Woodville and at Oak Grove (Windsor) acquired a reputation second to none in the State. He was a thorough scholar, a strict disciplinarian and a kind hearted, fatherly preceptor. There are but few young men of promise in Bertie County who do not owe to his memory the profoundest respect and admiration; for to him they are indebted for the lessons of early wisdom and piety upon which they have built their characters and fortunes."The subjects taught - the three R's, English Grammar, Geography, History, Logic, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Astronomy, Latin, Greek, Mythology, and French - prepared the boys for the best colleges. There were also female teachers at the Academy. From Stella Phelps' handwritten notes "One of the ladies to teach there was Elizabeth Clark of Halifax, an excellent teacher and accomplished musician. Having learned French in Paris, she had even the smallest children saying the Lord's Prayer in French". Helen Clark Thompson (sister to Elizabeth) taught the usual subjects plus Latin, French, Mythology, and Greek after the Civil War. Other female teachers included Miss Pattie Vaughan White who later became Mrs. Henry Holloman of Rich Square (mother of the writer Mebane Burgwyn), Mrs. Powell, and Miss Eliza Bond.Until 1903 there was no public school in Woodville. The children of wealthier parents went to private schools, such as the Academy – or to boarding schools in and out of state - or to grade and high schools in larger towns. Around this time, the Bertie Union Academy became a public school, and renamed Woodville Academy. It was at first a 4 months’ school with a teacher's salary of $25/month. Mrs. Stephen Urquhart (Susan Plummer) was the first public school teacher and Mr. James W. Spivey, Mr. W.F. Early, and Mr. Charles Simons were the School Committee.
From James W. Spivey's (1850-1940) Obituary:"he was one of Bertie's most progressive and enterprising farmers and merchants, being deeply interested in public affairs and a great promoter of education, was the first to advocate the installment of a public school in Woodville."In 1905 the original Academy, by now a public school, was torn down and a new building erected on same site. There were 3 rooms, two huge rooms with a stage for plays. These could be thrown into one large room for dancing by sliding doors. There was also a music room and library combined, complete with a grand piano. For the first time the children from Lewiston joined the Woodville children in this building. The teachers, principals and assistants were Miss Pattie Manson and Miss Elizabeth Smithwick, Mr. Jessie Parker and Miss Pauline Cherry (sister of Lillian Cherry, granddaughter of Moore Rawls), Miss Judith Lassiter (later m. Clarence Rawls), Mr. Curtis Bethea, and Miss Sallie Bond (daughter of Minnie Smallwood and Sheriff Turner Carter Bond), Mr. George C. Spoolman, and Miss Florence Spivey (daughter of James W. Spivey, above) and Miss Annie Cooper.In 1911, the town of Lewiston built a framed school building on the site of the present First Baptist Church, so the children of Lewiston and Woodville were separated again until 1921, when they were brought back together in a brick building on the boundary of the two villages (Lewiston Woodville School, later named West Bertie High School.) At that time, the Woodville Academy ceased to function as a school altogether, but still served as a gathering place for various social events until 1920.The Academy, since its 1823 beginnings, had always been an integral part of Woodville's social life. Many dances, parties, meetings, and festivals often were held there. Articles in the Windsor Public Ledger and notations in Charles Smallwood's diaries verify countless functions there from the 1830s through early 1900s. A 1848 entry in the Smallwood diaries - one of many pertaining to functions at the school - notes “W.W. Pugh's daughters, Mary Eliza and Maria, now residing in Louisiana, are visiting in Woodville and a party was given for them at the Academy.”A 1888 newspaper article eloquently describes a January 8 dance there, prefaced by a full dinner, and dancing the "waltz, polka, quadrilles" to a live band until 1 am, with "all the good people from Bertie, Martin, Halifax, and counties" attending. See Pretty Girls and Gallant Lads - 1889 for a full description.Another 1913 article recalls a German at the Woodville Academy. German Clubs were popular in these days; their sole purpose was in planning social events. The name derived from the German Waltz, a popular dance then. The write-up can be viewed at Gay Times - 1913.Letters written by R.A. Urquhart in 1912 reference the Woodville Academy’s use as a venue for dancing lessons and masquerade parties.In 1911, the town of Lewiston built a framed school building on the site of the present First Baptist Church; again, the children of Lewiston and Woodville were separated. Then in 1922, they were brought back together in a brick building on the boundary of the two villages (Lewiston Woodville School, later named West Bertie High School). This building was purchased by Harrington Manufacturing Company, after the county schools consolidated in 1964, and later demolished. At that time, the Woodville Academy ceased to function as a school altogether, but still served as a gathering place for various social events.The sole remaining building of the Bertie Union Academy was razed in 1985, making way for a new brick home. Mary Grant Spivey (daughter of James W. Spivey, above) had lived here since the 1920s in a part of this building; she had been the piano teacher in Lewiston-Woodville and organist for Grace Episcopal Church until her 1975 death.
THE OLD ACADEMY – Dr. Charles Smallwood
The following excerpts are from Dr. Charles Smallwood's diaries in the late 1800s, recalling his memories as a student of the Academy.I wish it were possible for me to give a true history of this old building and the many instances that have happened there, but the length of time that has passed since I first knew it has dulled my memory of many things that would interest the present generation. I first started to school…. Miss Eliza Bond taught in the female department. At that time there were two buildings, one male department, and one female. The children were all educated at the old Academy and many never attended any other school. The trustees took boarders and many children from other parts of the county went to school there. One incident of my early school days I have never forgotten; although a little funny now, when I think of it, it was quite serious I thought at the time. Mr. Mhoon, who lived above Lewiston, where Mrs. Lewis now lives, had several children who came to school.Among them was a little girl named Betty, I think. One day at noon recess, the children were playing as usual. She was eating and running around the Academy while I was running in just the opposite direction. We ran together, she fell down and commenced crying; as she did so, the biscuit she was eating ran out of her mouth. I thought it looked like hog brains that I had broken her skull, and it was her brains that were running out, and for a while I was badly frightened. The boys and girls played together and some of the girls could jump as high and run as fast as any of the boys. Sometimes they would meet in the female part and dance all during the recess at twelve o'clock. Some of the girls who are grandmothers and old members of the church [St. Frances Methodist Church] are doing the singing and clapping.Sometimes the boys filled the well up with wood and the trustees would let us go six months without digging a well or doing anything to provide water for the school. Then most of us would go to Lewark Swamp for water and one day one of the boys caught a pike in the bottle he was holding in the stream. After a long time the trustees hired Old Jerry Simpson, nicknamed "Old Red Caesar", to dig a well, the one now there, and while digging the boys who were standing around would snatch each others' hats and throw them down the well. Old Jerry would kindly bring them up for a while, until getting tired of the fun, he would put it in the bucket and cover it up with mud and the boy whose hat was sewed thus, would be a mad one when it came out and wanted to fight the whole school.I have known every boy in school but one get a whipping in one day and the one who escaped did so by not telling the truth. In those days, the whip was in frequent use; in fact, it was used without stint. There was a psalm singing rascal who came to Woodville under the assumed name of Richard Williams - he had stolen a horse and buggy in Virginia and was a fugitive from justice. He taught a while, but at last was arrested for the offense, but managed by some means to escape punishment. I well remember the day and how the scholars prayed they might carry him away and punish him. The officer told his right name to a friend. He took delight or apparently did, in whipping the younger scholars. I got so afraid of him I could repeat my lessons to him without missing any, as I knew he would whip me for missing one word. Every day saw me taking at least one if not, two whippings. He stayed one night at my Father's, sang his hymns, and appeared very devout. I had been out in the branch that evening and when I came in my mother spoke to me about getting my feet wet. The next day at school he called me up and gave me a thrashing. I think he left Woodville in debt and I was truly glad when he did go.I can remember the name of Hicks, Harmon, Rev. A.M. Craig, and Brooks who taught there when I went to school. Hicks' usual punishment was to make a boy sit on nothing, back up to the wall, and sit down until you come on a level with your knees and remain in that position; in a short time, the strain on the muscles of the leg became so painful that you would either straighten up a little or sink down a little; in either case a sharp blow with the whip would remind you that you must gain his level again. I had rather take a whipping anytime than to stand it fifteen or twenty minutes. As schools built up through the county, the Old Academy came down, the part the girls were taught in was moved off and sold, only one house is now standing. As I pass by the old place I often think of the many boys and girls with whom I have spent many happy hours in play around the Old academy and wonder what has become of them. I can recall a few only of the many of those I first knew that are now living: Mrs. M.A. Taylor, Mrs. P.H. Winston (Martha Byrd), and Mrs. Nichols - of the girls. W. Capehart and Joe Hardy of Roxobel, Whit Swain, as I have not heard of his death. What a few out of such a multitude of children.One would be surprised to know that Martha, the venerable, gray haired lady, the mother of so many stalwart sons, was in her youthful days the head and front of all that tended to fun and enjoyment. Fleet of foot and action, she could outrun and out jump all the girls at the Academy, and but very few of the boys was a match for in any athletic sport. Time has dealt gently with her and that she may live many years to enjoy in her old age the blessings of a well spent life, and the honors and distinction won by her sons in the different professions in which they are engaged.The majority have long since lain down the burdens of life and have gone to another, and I trust a better land where there is no gray hair, no growing old, no death. The few of us yet left bare the marks of old father time and the number is steadily decreasing year by year. I hope we may spend our years in this world in the service of our heavenly Father, that after death we may spend an eternal youth in that happy land where pain and death never come.
THE DESERTED SCHOOLHOUSE – by W.H. Rhodes
Yet another recollection of the Bertie Union Academy is from an essay “The Deserted Schoolhouse” by W.H. Rhodes from his Caxton's Book: Essays, poems, tales, and sketches, reminiscing about his younger days as a student in 1830 at the Bertie Union Academy. William Henry Rhodes, son of Elisha Rhodes and Ann Maria Jacocks, was born in Windsor in 1822 and was later an attorney in Texas and California. Rhodes essays were posthumously compiled into "Caxton's Book" and published in 1876.Since there is no evidence that the school was anything but thriving in 1852, perhaps his descriptions of an abandoned Bertie Union Academy are fanciful. Or perhaps his visit in the “autumn of 1852” was after a summer’s vacation, prior to maintenance for the coming school year.
His book is digitally reproduced and can be read online: ["Caxton's Book"]
“Oh! Never may a son of thine
Where’er his wand’ring steps incline,
Forget the sky which bent above
His childhood, like a dream of love.”
- WhittierThere is no silence like that somber gloom which sometimes settles down upon the deserted playgrounds, the unoccupied benches, and the voiceless halls of an old schoolhouse. But if, in addition to abandonment, the fingers of decay have been busy with their work; if the moss has been permitted to grow, and the mold to gather; if the cobwebs cluster, like clouds in all the corners, and the damp dust incrusts the windowpanes like the frosts of a northern winter; if the old well has caved in, and the little paths through the brushwood been smothered, and the fences rotted down, and the stile gone to ruin, then a feeling of utter desolation seizes upon the soul, which no philosophy can master, no recollections soothe, and no lapse of time dissipate.
Perchance a lonely wanderer may be observed, traversing the same scenes which many years ago were trodden by his ungrown feet, looking pensively at each tree which sheltered his boyhood, pepping curiously under the broken benches on which he once sat, and turning over most carefully with his cane every scrap of old paper, that strangely enough had survived the winds and the rains of many winters.Such a schoolhouse now stands near the little village of Woodville, in the State of North Carolina, and such a wanderer was I in the autumn of 1852.Woodville was the scene of my first studies, my earliest adventures, and my nascent loves. There I was taught to read and write, to swim and skate, to wrestle and box, to play marbles, and make love. There I fought my first fight, had the mumps and the measles, stole my first watermelon, and received my first flogging. And I can never forget, that within that tattered schoolroom my young heart first swelled with those budding passions, whose full development in others has so often changed the fortunes of the world. There eloquence produced its first throb, ambition struck its first spark, pride mounted its first stilts, love felt its first glow. There the eternal ideas of God and heaven, of patriotism and country, of love and woman, germinated in my bosom; and there, too, Poesy sang her first song in my enchanted ear, lured me far off into the “grand old woods” alone, sported with the unlanguaged longings of my boyish heart, and subdued me for the first time with that mysterious sorrow, whose depths the loftiest intellect cannot sound, and yet whose wailings mournfully agitate many a schoolboy’s breast.I reached the village of Woodville one afternoon in November, after an absence of twenty-two years. Strange faces greeted me, instead of old, familiar ones; huge dwellings stood where once I had rambled through cornfields, groves of young pines covered the old common in which I had once played at ball, and everything around presented such an aspect of change, that I almost doubted my personal identity. Nor was my astonishment diminished in the slightest degree when the landlord of the inn announced his name, and I recognized it as once belonging to a playmate famous for mischief and fleetness. Now he appeared boated, languid, and prematurely old. Bushy whiskers nearly covered his face, a horrid gash almost closed up one of his eyes, and an ominous limp told that he would run no more foot races forever.Unwilling to provoke inquiries by mentioning my own name, and doubly anxious to see the old schoolhouse, which I had traveled many miles out of my way to visit, I took my cane and strolled leisurely along the road that my feet had hurried over so often in boyhood.The schoolhouse was situated in a small grove of oaks and hickories, about half a mile form the village, so as to be more retired, but at the same time more convenient for those who resided in the country. My imagination flew faster than my steps, and under its influence the half mile dwindled to a mere rod. Passing a turn in the road, which concealed it until within a few paces, it suddenly burst upon my vision in all the horrors of its desolation. A fearful awe took possession of me, and as I stood beneath the trees I had so often climbed in years gone by, I could not refrain from looking uneasily behind me, and treading more softly upon the sacred leaves, just commencing to wither and fall.I approached the door with as much reverence as ever crept Jew or Mussulman (Muslim), on bended knee and with downcast eye, to the portals of the Kabbala or Holy of Holies, and as I reached further my hand to turn the latch, I involuntarily paused to listen before I crossed the threshold.Ah, manhood, what are all thy triumphs compared to a schoolboy’s palms! As head of his class, he carried a front which a monarch might emulate in vain; as master of the playground, he wields a scepter more indisputable than Czar or Caesar ever bore! As a favorite, he provoked a bitterer hostility than ever greeted a Bute or a Buckingham; as a coward or traitor, he is loaded with a contumely beneath which Arnold or Hull would have sunk forever!I listened. The pleasant hum of busy voices, the sharp tones of the master, the mumbled accents of hurried recitations, all were gone. The gathering shadows of evening corresponded most fittingly with the deepening gloom of my recollections, and I abandoned myself to their guidance, without an effort to control or direct them.I stood alone upon the step. Where was he, whose younger hand always locked in mine, entered that room and left it so often by my side; that bright-eyed boy, whose quick wit and genial temper won for him the affections both of master and scholar; that gentle spirit that kindled into love, or saddened into tears, as easily as sunshine dallies with a flower or raindrops fall from a summer cloud; that brother, whose genius was my pride, whose courage my admirations, whose soul my glory; he who faltered not before the walls of Camargo , when but seven men out of as many hundred in his regiment, volunteered to go forward, under the command of Taylor, to endure all the hardships of a soldier’s life in a tropical clime, and to brave all the dangers of a three days’ assault upon a fortified city; he who fought so heroically at Monterey, and escaped death in so many forms on the battlefield, only to meet it at last as a victim to contagion, contracted at the beside of a friends? Where was he? The swift waters of the Rio Grande, as they hurry past his unsculptured grave, sing his requiem, and carry long proudly to the everlasting sea the memory of his noble self sacrifice, as the purest tribute they bear upon their tide!Such were my thoughts as I stood pensively upon the block that served as a step when I was boy, and which still occupied its ancient position. I noticed that a large crack extended its whole length, and several shrubs, of no insignificant size, were growing out of the aperture. This prepared me for the wreck and ruin of the interior. The door had been torn from its hinge, and was sustained in an upright position by a bar or prop on the inside. This readily gave way on a slight pressure, and as the old door tumbled headlong upon the floor, it awoke a thousand confused and muffled echoes, more startling to me than a clap of the loudest thunder. But the moment I passed the threshold, the gloom and terror instantly vanished. I noticed that the back door was open, and in casing my glance to the upper end of the room, where the Rev. Mr. Craig once presided in state, my eyes were greeting by an apparition, that had evidently become domiciliated in the premises, and whose appearance revolutionized the whole tenor of my thoughts. Before me stood one of those venerable looking billy goats, of sedate eyes, fantastic beard, and crumpled horn, the detestations of perfumed belles, and the dread of mischievous urchins. I had seen a facsimile of him many years before, not exactly in the same place, but hard by in a thicket of pines. I could almost fancy it to be the ghost of the murdered ancestor, or some phantom sent to haunt me near the spot of his execution. I shed no fear, I heaved no sigh, as I trod the dust covered floor of the “Woodville Academy”, but greeted my alma mater with a shout of almost boyish laughter as I approached the spot where the pedagogue once sat upon his throne.To explain why it was that my feelings underwent a revulsion so sudden, I must relate the Story of the Murdered Billy-goat. Colonel Averitt, a brave soldier in the war of 1812, retired from the army at the termination of hostilities, and settled upon a farm adjoining the village of Woodville. He was rather a queer old gentleman; had a high Roman nose, and on muster days, was the general admiration of all Bertie County. He then officiated as colonel commandant of militia, and dressed in full uniform, with a tall, white feather waving most belligerently from his three-cornered cocked hat. He wore a sash and sword, and always reviewed the troops on horseback.One day, after a statutory review of the militia of the county, a proposition was started to form a volunteer company of mounted hussars. A nucleus was soon obtained, and in less than a week a sufficient number had enrolled themselves to authorize the Colonel to order a drill. It happened on a Saturday; the place selected was an old field near the schoolhouse, and I need not add that the entire battalion of boys was out in full force as spectators of the warlike exercises. How they got through with the parade, I have forgotten; but I do remember that the mania for soldiering, from that day forward, took possession of the school.The enrollment at first consisted entirely of infantry, and several weeks elapsed before anybody ventured to suggest a mounted corps. Late one afternoon, however, as we were returning homeward, with drums beating and colors flying, we disturbed a flock of lazy goats, browsing upon dry grass, and evincing no great dread for the doughty warriors advancing. Our captain, whose dignity was highly offended at this utter want (p.43) of respect, gave the order to “form column!” “present arms!” and “charge!” Austrian nor Spaniard, Italian nor Prussian, before the resistless squadrons of Murat or Macdonald, ever displayed finer qualities of light infantry or flying artillery, than did the vanquished enemy of the “Woodville Cadets” on this memorable occasion. They were taken entirely by surprise, and without offering the least resistance, right-about-faced, and fled precipitously from the field. Their terrified bleating mingled fearfully with our shouts of victory; and when, at the command of our captain, I blew the signal to halt and rendezvous, our brace fellows magnanimously gave up the pursuit, and returned from the chase, bringing with them no less than five full-grown prisoners, as trophies of victory!A council of war was immediately called, to determine in what way we should dispose of our booty. After much learned discussion, and some warm disputes, the propositions were narrowed down to two: Plan the first was, to cut off all the beard of each prisoner, flog, and release him. Plan the second, on the contrary, was, to conduct the prisoners to the playground, treat them kindly, and endeavor to train them to the bit and saddle, as to furnish the officers with what they needed so much - war-steeds for battle, fiery chargers for review.The vote was finally taken, and plan number two was adopted by a considerable majority.Obstacles are never insurmountable to boys and Bonapartes! Our coup d’etat succeeded quite as well as that of the 2nd of December and before a week elapsed, the chief officers were all splendidly mounted and fully equipped.At this stage of the war against the “bearded races”, the cavalry question was propounded by one of the privates in company A. For his part, he declared candidly that he was tired of marching and countermarching afoot, and that he saw no good reason why an invasion of the enemy’s country should not at once be undertaken, to secure animals enough to mount the whole regiment.Another council was held, and the resolve unanimously adopted, to cross the border in full force, on the next Saturday afternoon.In the meantime, the clouds of war began to thicken in another quarter. Colonel Averitt had been informed of the coup d’etat related above, and determined to prevent any further depredations on his flock by a stroke of masterly generalship, worthy of his prowess in the late war with Great Britain.And now it becomes proper to introduce upon the scene the most important personage in this history, and the hero of the whole story. I allude, of course, to the bold, calm, dignified, undaunted and imperturbable natural guardian of the Colonel’s fold – Billy Goat!He boasted of a beard longer, whiter, and more venerable than a high priest in Masonry; his mane emulated that of the king of beasts; his horns were as crooked, and almost as long, as the Cashie River, on whose banks he was born; his tail might have been selected by some Spanish hidalgo, as a coat of arms, emblematic of the pride and hauteur of his family; whilst his tout ensemble presented that dignity of demeanor, majesty of carriage, consciousness of superior fortune, and defiance of all danger, which we may imagine characterized the elder Napoleon previous to the battle of Waterloo. But our hero possessed moral qualities quite equal to his personal traits. He was brave to a fault, combative (45) to a miracle, and as invincible in battle as he was belligerent in mood. The sight of a coat-tail invariably excited his anger, and a red handkerchief nearly distracted him with rage. Indeed, he had recently grown so irascible that Colonel Averitt was compelled to keep him shut up in the fowl-yard, a close prisoner, to protect him from a justly indignant neighborhood.Such was the champion that the Colonel now released and placed at the head of the opposing forces. Saturday came at last, and the entire morning was devoted to the construction of the proper number of wooden bits, twine bridle reins, leather stirrups and pasteboard saddles. By twelve o’clock everything was ready, and the order given to march. We were disappointed in not finding the enemy at his accustomed haunt, and had to prolong our march nearly half a mile before we came up with him. Our scouts, however, soon discovered him in an old field, lying encamped beneath some young persimmon bushes, and entirely unconscious of impending danger. We approached stealthily, according to our usual plan, and then at a concerted signal rushed headlong upon the foe. But we had no sooner given the alarm than our enemies sprang to their feet, and clustered about a central object, which we immediately recognized, to our chagrin and terror, as none other than Billy Goat himself.The captain, however, was not to be daunted or foiled; he boldly made a plunge at the champion of our adversaries, and would have succeeded in seizing him by the horns, if he had not been unfortunately butted over before he could reach them. Two or three of our bravest comrades flew to his assistance, but met with the same fate before they could rescue him from danger. The remainder of us drew off a short but prudent distance from the field of battle, to hold a council of war, and determine upon a plan of operations. In a few moments our wounded companions joined us, and entreated us to close at once upon the foe and surround him. They declared they were not afraid to beard the lion in his den, and that being butted heels over head two or three times but whetted their courage, and incited them to deeds of loftier daring. Their eloquence however was more admired than their prudence, and a large majority of the council decided that "it was inopportune, without other munitions of war than those we had upon the field, to risk a general engagement." It was agreed, however, nem.con. that on the next Saturday we would provide ourselves with ropes and fishing poles, and such other arms as might prove advantageous, and proceed to surround and noose our most formidable enemy, overpower him by the force of numbers, and take him prisoner at all hazards. Having fully determined upon this plan of attack, we joisted our flag once more, ordered the drum to beat Yankee Doodle, and retreated in most excellent order from the field - our foe not venturing to pursue us.The week wore slowly and uneasily away. The clouds of war were gathering rapidly, and the low roll of distant thunder announced that a battle storm of no ordinary importance was near at hand. Colonel Averitt, by some traitorous trick of war, had heard of our former defeat, and publicly taunted our commander with his failure. Indeed, more than one of the villagers had heard of the disastrous result of the campaign, and sent impertinent messages to those who had been wounded in the encounter. Two or three of the young ladies, also, in the girls' department, had been inoculated with the fun (as it was absurdly denominated) and a leather medal was pinned most provokingly to the short jacket of the captain by one of those hoydenish Amazons.All these events served to whet the courage of our men, and strange as it may appear, to embitter our hostility to our victorious foe. Some of the officers proceeded so far as to threaten Colonel Averitt himself, and at one time, I am confident, he stood in almost as much danger as the protector of his flock.Saturday came at least, and at the first blast of the bugle, we formed into line, and advanced with great alacrity into the enemy's country. After marching half an hour, our scouts hastily returned, with the information that the enemy was drawn up, in full force, near the scene of the Persimmon bush battle. We advanced courageously to within speaking distance, and then halted to breathe the troops and prepared for the engagement. We surveyed our enemies with attention, but without alarm. There they stood right before us!"Firm paced and slow, a horrid front they form; Still as the breeze, but dreadful as the storm!"Our preparations were soon made, and at the command of the captain, we separated into single files, one half making a detour to the right, and the other to the left, so as to encircle the foe. Our instructions were to spare all non-combatants, to pass by as unworthy of notice all minor foes, and to make a simultaneous rush upon the proud champion of our adversaries.By this masterly maneuver it was supposed we should be enabled to escape unharmed, or at any rate without many serious casualties. But as it afterward appeared, we did not sufficiently estimate the strength and activity of our enemy.After this preparatory maneuver had been successfully accomplished, our captain gave the order to "charge!" in a stentorian voice, and at the same time (48) rushed forward most gallantly at the head of the squadron. The post of honor is generally the post of danger also, and so it proved on this occasion; for before the captain could grappled with the foe, Billy Goat rose suddenly on his hinder legs, and uttering a loud note of defiance, dashed with lightning speed at the breast of our commander, and at a single blow laid him prostrate on the field. Then wheeling quickly, ere any of his assailants could attack his rear flank, he performed the same exploit upon the first and second lieutenants, and made an unsuccessful pass at the standard-bearer, who eluded the danger by a scientific retreat. At this moment, when the fortunes of the day hung, as it were on a single hair, our drummer, who enjoyed the sobriquet of "Weasel”, advanced slowly but chivalrously upon the foe.As the hosts of Israel and Gath paused upon the fields of Elah, and waited with fear and trembling the issue of the single handed contest between David and Goliath; as Roman and Sabine stood back and reposed on their arms, whilst Horatio and Curiatii fought for the destiny of Rome and the mastery of the world, so the "Woodville Cadets" halted in their tracks on this memorable day, and all aghast with awe and admiration, watched the progress of the terrible duello between "Weasel", the drummer boy, and Billy Goat, the hero of the battle of the Persimmon bush.The drummer first disengaged himself from the encumbrance of his martial music, then threw his hat fiercely upon the ground, and warily and circumspectly approached his foe. Nor was that foe unprepared, for rearing as usual on his nether extremities, he bleated out a long note of contempt and defiance, and dashed suddenly upon the "Weasel".Instead of waiting to receive the force of the blow upon his breast or brow, the drummer wheeled right-about face, and falling suddenly upon all fours with most surprising dexterity, presented a less vulnerable part of his body to his antagonists, who, being under full headway, was compelled to accept the substituted buttress, and immediately planted there a Herculean thump. I need not say that the drummer was hurled many feet heels over head, by this disastrous blow; but he had obtained the very advantage he desired to secure, and springing upon his feel he leaped quicker than lightning upon the back of his foe, and in spite of every effort to dislodge him, sat there in security and triumph!With a loud huzza the main body of the "Cadets" now rushed forward, and after a feeble resistance, succeeded in overpowering the champion of our foes.As a matter of precaution, we blindfolded him with several handkerchiefs, and led him away in as much state as the Emperor Aurelian displayed when he carried Zenobia to Rome, a prisoner at his chariot-wheels.The fate of the vanquished Billy Goat is soon related. A council of war decided that he should be taken into a dense pine thicket, there suspended head downwards, and thrashed ad labium, by the whole army.The sentence was carried into execution immediately; and though he was cut down and released after our vengeance was satisfied, I yet owe it to truth and history to declare, that before a week elapsed, he died of a broken heart, and was buried by Colonel Averitt with all the honors of war.If it be any satisfaction to the curious inquirer, I may add in conclusion, that the Rev. Mr. Craig avenged his manes by wearing out a chinquapin apiece on the backs of "Weasel", the captain and officers, and immediately afterward disbanded the whole army.
Smallwood's earlier diaries
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