North Carolina Quakers Refused to Pay Militia Taxes During Civil War

After the American Civil War ended, Nathan F. Spencer compiled An Account of the Sufferings of Friends of North Carolina Yearly Meeting in Support of Their Testimony Against War .

Here are some excerpts concerning Quakers who were persecuted and abused for refusing to pay militia exemption fines:

It was not until the summer of that the great and general trial came. By the passage of a Conscription Act in the Confederate Congress, in , every man between eighteen and thirty-five years of age was required to enter the army. This Act, as early as , was made to include all between the ages of eighteen and forty-five; and finally, in , all between seventeen and fifty years of age. Meantime, in , Friends had petitioned both the State Assembly and the Confederate Congress for relief. The State Government first passed an Act of Exemption, releasing them from military duty upon the payment of one hundred dollars each, and on a similar bill passed the Congress at Richmond, which exempted all who were members at upon the payment of five hundred dollars.

Unlike our Friends in the Northern States, it was not upon a few that the trial came; but upon the many. And in another more important respect our positions differed widely. In our own case, the existing Government and the officers who executed its will, were far from having sympathy with us. We were still loyal at heart to the Government of the United States, and though submitting passively to a temporary usurpation, this was little merit in a community that called for the utmost zeal in the new cause. We testified against slavery, and in the fresh effort to establish it more firmly this was no small offence. Above all, we could not fight, and with the spirit of war so rampant in our midst, that the preaching of the Gospel of Peace gave way in almost every place of worship to a call to arms, the hatred and malice thus aroused fell with much violence upon us.

In proceeding to give some details of the consequent suffering, it may be well, for the sake of clearness, to group them under three heads, viz.:

  1. Cases of suffering previous to passage of the Exemption Act, or under irregular proceedings.
  2. Cases among the Newly Convinced Members, on whom the persecution fell most heavily.
  3. Cases of those who could not conscientiously pay the Exemption Tax.

Skipping ahead to the third of these…

We come now, under the third division, to cases of still greater suffering, and under circumstances which gave the closest possible test of fidelity to Christ as the Prince of Peace. Some Friends accepted the provisions of the Exemption Act; others again could not conscientiously do so. The Yearly Meeting of , adopted the following Minute upon the subject:

We have had the subject under serious consideration, and while, in accordance with the advice issued by our last Yearly Meeting; “we do pay all taxes imposed on us as citizens and property-holders, in common with other citizens, remembering the injunction, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom;” yet, we cannot conscientiously pay the specified tax, it being imposed upon us on account of our principles, being the price exacted of us for religious liberty. Yet we do appreciate the good intentions of those members of Congress who had it in their hearts to do something for our relief; and we recommend that those parents, moved by sympathy, or young men themselves, dreading the evils of a military camp, who have availed themselves of this law, be treated in a tender manner.

In the Spring of two brothers, H.M.H. and J.D.H. were drafted, arrested and taken to Raleigh.…

These were Himelius and Jesse Hockett (William B. Hockett is also mentioned later on). See The Picket Line, for Himelius Hockett’s own take on this.

…Being allowed to return home for ten days they faithfully reappeared. They were soon sent to Weldon, where they were required to drill, and were warned of their liability to be shot if they proved refractory. They were, however, only kept in close custody in the guard-house, and the next month were discharged and sent home. About a year after this, they were included in the Conscription. They were assigned to an artillery company at Kinston, and after various threats were sent to Gen. R[ansom], who declared that his orders should be carried out at all hazards. They were now confined in an upper room without food or drink. Various persons were allowed to converse with them, and, as day after day passed on, so far from sinking under the suffering, they used their little remaining strength gladly in explaining their testimony, and telling of their inward consolation. They felt that, in this time of fiery trial, this did indeed turn to them for a testimony, and that they knew the promise fulfilled. “It shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak.” Their sufferings from thirst were the most acute. On the third night the brothers were wakened from a peaceful sleep by the sound of rain. A little cup had been left in their room, and from the open window they could soon have refreshed themselves. The first thought of each was to do so. They were in nowise bound to concur in this inhuman punishment. Yet an impression was clearly made upon their minds, before consulting each other, that they must withhold, and they scarcely felt the copious showers tempt them. The next morning several officers entered the room and questioned them closely. They claimed it to be impossible for them to retain so much strength without any food, and charged them with having secretly obtained it. They then, in much simplicity, told them of their not feeling easy to take even the rain that fell. This evidently touched the hearts of the officers. Soon after the end of four and a half days’ abstinence, a little water was allowed, and about the end of five days their rations were furnished again. This remarkable circumstance was widely spread and they had constant opportunities of bearing an open testimony to Christ, and not a few of those who crowded around, appeared to be persuaded of the truth which they held. Even ministers of different denominations came and encouraged them to be faithful. J.D.H. was next taken before General D[aniel], who said he would not require him to bear arms, but would set him in the front of the battle, and use him to stop bullets. On declining to work on the streets as a part of the soldier’s duty, he had a log of wood tied on his shoulders and was marched around until quite exhausted. He was next sent to a guard-house, then placed in a dungeon for a day — then in a prison cell. His persecutors seemed at their wits’ end, but they finally devised a rude and barbarous punishment. A forked pole was thrust round his neck, and upon the prongs, as they projected behind it, a heavy block of wood was fastened. This they blasphemously called the Cross of Christ. The soldiers and town’s-people were looking on, while he was thus “made a gazing stock by reproaches and afflictions.” No sooner had the Captain fairly completed this work than in a rage he pulled it off again, and tied another log upon his shoulder, and marched him about till exhausted, when he was sent back to jail.

Meantime his brother H. had been enduring a different punishment. At three different times he was suspended by his thumbs, with his feet barely touching the ground upon the toes, and kept in this excruciating position for nearly two hours each time. They next tried the bayonet. Their orders were, they said, to thrust them in four inches deep; but, though much scarred and pierced, it was not so severely done as they had threatened. One of the men, after thus wounding him, came back to entreat his forgiveness. In the various changes of the next four months, some kindness was occasionally shown to them, hut mingled with much cruelty. It was not till seven months had been passed in these fiery ordeals, that their release was obtained — another Friend thinking it right to pay their exemption money for them. The value of this tax, at that time, was only equal to a little more than a barrel of flour — a small sum indeed, could they have felt themselves easy to avail themselves of this provision. It was no small addition to their sufferings that their families at home were sharing in it. In the extreme scarcity of labor, their wives were compelled to toil hard in the fields to raise the food for the coming winter, and this proved not merely a passing hardship, but left one of them in greatly enfeebled health.

Another brother of the same family, W.B.H. was arrested on the . The officers to whose division he was assigned, were unusually rough and severe. Finally, after a full explanation of his views and the necessity he was under of refusing all military duties whatsoever, the Colonel said he should be shot, and the only favor allowed should be the choice of time — that night or the next morning. After a little pause, W.H. replied, that if it was his Heavenly Father’s will that he should lay down his life, he would far rather do it than disobey one of his commands. But if it was not His will, none of them could take his life from him; however, they might give the order to do so. He then spoke of the three men who were cast into the burning fiery furnace, and of Daniel in the lions’ den, who all trusted in God, and He delivered them. As to the time of his death, he could make no choice. The officer seemed greatly at a loss, and sent him to the wagon yard for the night. The next morning he was ordered out with a foraging party. He explained that he had two objections to this. It was, in the first place, military work, and besides, it was taking the property of others. The Colonel, now greatly excited, came forward and had him laid on the ground, while a gun was tied to his back. He refused to rise with it on. The men were then ordered to run their bayonets into him, but they continued only to pierce his clothes. A squad of men was then drawn up in readiness to fire; but as the order was about being given W.H. raised his arms and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Not a gun was fired, and some of the men were heard saying, “They could not shoot such a man.” The enraged officer struck at his head, but missed his aim. He then spurred his horse repeatedly to ride over him, but the horse sprang aside at each attempt, and he remained unharmed. The officer then left, saying, he was not yet done with him — but was himself killed the same or next day in the battle of Gettysburg. As W.H. was sick at the time of this battle, no attempt was made to force him into it. He found in the retreat, with which he was unable to keep up, a shelter and kind care at a farm house, but was soon taken prisoner by the Union Cavalry and sent to Fort Delaware, as a rebel prisoner. He had been ill there a week before a message could reach Philadelphia. Application was at once made at Washington, and a telegram was promptly dispatched from the War Office ordering his release upon taking an affirmation of allegiance to the United States. But loyal as he had ever been, he could not promise “to support, protect and defend” the Constitution and Government. He had already suffered too much and been too marvelously preserved to flinch now from bearing any portion of his testimony. He was told, while thus apparently upon the eve of his release, that there were two alternatives — this affirmation or imprisonment until the close of the war. But upon a fuller explanation of the nature of his scruples, an alteration was promptly made in the form of the affirmation. He was released, and like many others, found a home in the West till the close of the war allowed him to return to his beloved family. The God whom be served had indeed been able to deliver him.

At the same time that W.B.H. was arrested, four others, having a birth-right membership with us, and opposed to the payment of the Tax, were taken by force from their homes in Randolph County, C. and A.B., brothers, and T. and J.H., also brothers, and cousins of the former.…

In Fernando Gale Cartland’s Southern Heroes, these people are described as “Two brothers, Thomas and Amos Hinshaw, and two Barker brothers, Cyrus and Nathan, their cousins” (see The Picket Line, ).

Other sources list the four as Thomas & Jacob Hinshaw, and Cyrus & Nathan Barker.

I don’t know the reason for these discrepancies.

…Although detained in the army for nine months, they suffered comparatively little from the cruelty of officers; yet the uncertainty of their lot, and the painful surroundings of camp life, kept them in constant dependence upon the care and loving kindness of their Lord. On their passage from Weldon to Camp French, near Blackwater, Va. the Conscripts were packed standing so closely in a car, that they could only rest themselves by leaning on each other’s knees, and were kept in this way without water, and with only the little food a few chanced to have with them for nearly twenty-four hours. They were assigned to the 52nd N.C. Regiment. On declining to drill, they were entreated to pay the commutation tax, and were assured that their money should be used only for civil purposes. They steadily urged that liberty of conscience ought not to be purchased in any way. The Colonel then assigned them to Captain K[incade], and from him and his company their quiet and consistent course won unexpected favor. The Lieutenant, however, for a time was very harsh, and ordered his men to compel them with guns and bayonets to aid in clearing ground for a camp. He was just ordering two men to press steadily upon them with the points of their bayonets, until they moved, an order which they contrived to evade for a few moments, injuring them but slightly, — when Captain K. appeared, and reproving the Lieutenant, told them they might remain quiet for that time. As they trusted in the Lord, He often turned the hearts of their commanders, so that even this same Lieutenant became kind and considerate. All sorts of work were offered to them, cooking, waiting on the sick, etc. But though willing to do the work itself, they could not accept such labor as military service. At one time they were ordered to help bring in some fodder. On refusing, they were first fastened together and then tied behind a cart, so as to force them to run or be dragged three or four miles and back, through mud and water, upon a very cold day. If they still refused to load the fodder, the order was to pitch them into the river, — but such orders were more easily given than executed. Even the wagon master, who at first seemed fierce, relented, and after watching them pass through this humiliating trial, declared he could not help respecting men who stood up to their principles in that way. Their presence in the army became more and more perplexing. The wish was expressed that they would run away, but this they would not do. Furloughs were often given, and a written endorsement on one of these assigned as a reason for it, that “they were of no manner of use in the army.” At the battle of Gettysburg, their prayers were heard, and though often ordered to the front, they were never forced to go. They shared the same lot as their friend W.B.H. and were released from Fort Delaware by the same order.

Such were the heroes of the Army of Peace! Who shall estimate the power of such examples? Volumes may be written upon the impolicy and evils of War, but how feeble are all words by the side of such quiet deeds wrought in the Grace of their Blessed Leader. Most meekly, yet most nobly, did they keep the charge — “You therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Let it be remembered, they were in the hands of men whom slavery had long trained in the exercise of almost irresponsible power. The many lawless and cruel threatenings which they endured exhibit this most clearly. Such threats were not infrequently executed upon others.