Northeastern North Carolina suffered enemy occupation early in the war – those that could left the area. The occupation troops had little consideration for the African race they were emancipating, and seemed to consider the people of North Carolina their subjects and whose land would become resorts for Northerners.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Union Captain Murrey’s Toast
“With their young men away at war, Washington and most of Beaufort County came under the heel of the Union Army. They found the town evacuated by its defenders and abandoned by about three-quarters of its inhabitants. All who could possibly leave, and find refuge with friends and relatives further inland, had done so.
The occupation force included units of the 24th Massachusetts Cavalry; 3rd New York Artillery; 3rd New York Cavalry; and some Marine artillery. Gunboats anchored across the river, off the town. Union forces continued to occupy Washington from the end of March 1862, until 20 April 1864.
On March 30, Captain Murrey, commander of the gunboat Commodore Hull, invited six of the older men who had remained in Washington, to dinner on his vessel. He is alleged to have gotten them drunk, then proposed a toast: “To the reconstruction of the Federal Union, a plantation in Georgia with a hundred niggers, and a summer residence in North Carolina.” It is recorded these men all drank with zest to this toast.
During this period, conditions in Washington were growing steadily worse. Older men who were compelled to remain with their business, had sent their wives and families away. Food was scarce. Though the freed Negroes who had collected in the town were given better food than the inhabitants could procure, bands of these Negroes roamed the streets at night, pillaging and stealing. Strong protests were made by the representatives of eastern North Carolina to President Davis, to return North Carolina troops from Virginia, to clear Union forces from their homes.”
(History of Beaufort County, C. Wingate Reed, Edwards & Broughton, 1962, pp. 184-188)