Emeline Piggott

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Emmeline Piggott
Born (1836-12-15)December 15, 1836
Died May 26, 1919(1919-05-26) (aged 82)
Known for On Blockade running charges

Emmeline Piggott (December 15, 1836 – May 26, 1919) was a Confederate States of America spy from North Carolina, USA. For several years, she hid secret messages in her skirt and carried them between New Bern, North Carolina and the sea ports. She was almost caught several times. Eventually, Union forces arrested her on charges of blockade running, and she was sent back home.

Biography[edit]

Emmeline Piggott was born on December 15, 1836 in Harlowe Township, Carteret County, North Carolina. She was the daughter of Col. Levi Whitehurst Piggott and Elizabeth Dennis. She grew up in Harlowe and when she was 25, she moved with her family to Crab Point, near current day Morehead City, North Carolina. There was an encampment of Confederate soldiers across the creek from the farm that were stationed there to help protect the North Carolina Coast.

She met and fell in love with a young soldier by the name of Stokes McRae. McRae was involved in the Battle for New Bern and the regiment was sent north to Virginia. Stokes was born to a wealthy farm family in Montgomery County, NC. He attended and graduated from the University of North Carolina and led a life of idleness until he felt he was called to fight in the Civil War.

Emmeline followed the men of the 26th to New Bern, hoping to be of some help. New Bern fell to the Federals after only four hours of fighting. She remained in New Bern until the last train carrying Confederate wounded to Kinston. She remained there for several months nursing the wounded.

The 26th NC fought in Virginia, and returned to eastern NC to protect Richmond, VA. In May 1863, the regiment was attached to the Army of Northern Virginia and they headed north. On July 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Gettysburg. McRae, then a sergeant major, was hospitalized with a shattered thigh. He died on August 2, 1863.

In December 1863, Emmeline made her way to Concord, NC when the Federals took Kinston. She finally worked her way back down to the coast and her home near Morehead City.

Emmeline organized fishermen to spy for her and she passed this information to the proper authorities. Emmeline also entertained Yankee soldiers at her parents' farm, distracting them long enough for her brother-in-law, Rufus Bell, to carry food into the nearby woods for Confederates hiding there. Rufus was the husband of Emmeline's sister, Abigail.

In 1864, Emmeline and Rufus were arrested on suspicion of spying while trying to carry supplies and messages across the lines. Rufus was searched and released when no contraband was found on him. While the police were looking for a woman to search Emmeline, she ate some of the incriminating messages and tore others into tiny pieces.

Emmeline was transported to New Bern to stand trial. She was allowed to take her cousin, Mrs. Levi Woodburg Piggott, with her. One night, someone tried to kill the women with chloroform, but they broke a window in their cell and took turns breathing fresh air until help arrived. (not fact)

Over the next month, Emmeline was scheduled for trial on several occasions, but never went to a hearing. She was unexpectedly released from her incarceration and returned home. After her release, Federal soldiers constantly harassed her until the Civil War ended.

Emmeline was a member of the New Bern Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and in her later years organized a chapter in Morehead City. It was named for her and she held the title of honorary president until her death on May 26, 1919 at the age of 82.

Emmeline is buried in the Piggott family graveyard on the north shore of Calico Creek just off of what is now 20th Street and Emmeline Place in Morehead City. The graveyard is cared for by the city, but is padlocked. Her headstone can be seen from the padlocked gate.

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Canon, Jill. (2000). Civil War Heroines. Santa Barbara: Bellerphon Books. ISBN 978-0-88388-147-7.
  • Kent, Scotti; Cohn, Scotti. (2000). More Than Petticoats: Remarkable North Carolina Women. TwoDot Publishing. ISBN 978-1-56044-900-3.