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War Comes to the Blackwater


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During the first three years of the War Between the States, the Franklin railhead was the terminus of the Blackwater - Chowan corridor. The Confederate commissary used this route to deliver the millions of pounds of goods from eastern North Carolina and Virginia that kept General E. Lee's army in the field. The headquarters of the Blackwater Line, which protected Lee's supply line and guarded Richmond's southeastern flank, was here. In the spring of 1863 Major General James Longstreet launched the Suffolk Campaign from Franklin and South Quary. After the "action at Crumpler's Bluff," on October 3, 1862m in which Union gunboats bombarded the town, most of Franklin's civilians fled, leaving the village in the hands of Confederate soldiers. Labor and food shortages beset those who remained. In June 1864 the Federals crossed the James River and flanked the Blackwater Line. Richmond reduced its forces near Franklin, opening the adjacent countryside to frequent Yankee raids. Soon after Lee's surrender at Appomattox in April 1865 Franklin's citizens returned to an occupied, destitute hamlet. Its assets in slaves and money were wiped out. Its bridges and railroad were destroyed and its wharves and warehouses were in decay.

"Those were days full of sorrow and anxiety from morning till night, and through the night the heavy roaring of cannon like thunder and the whole earth full of smoke, and everything in and unsettled condition. One did not feel like work, and where we were located we could not raise a crop, as we were in the border line... my father's farm, and the lame, sick, ????, and ????, and all those who did not want to go to the front were neighbors; no hungry people are. Pig after pig disappeared until there were none left and the same with chickens, turkeys, calves, and lambs, and last of all the beehives."

Jenny Camp Norfleet

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