Uncle fought in Bethel Battle during Civil War

Published 9:53 am Saturday, June 25, 2011

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series of local, historic articles written by members of the Urquhart-Gillette Camp No. 1471 Sons Of Confederate Veterans to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

by Richard Redfored

As a young man in school I was never interested in history, and as I got older I still wasn’t much of a history buff.

Then one day while playing golf with a good friend, he asked me if I knew anything about my family’s background. I told him nothing had ever been said, but I would ask.

So the next day after church I went by my family’s home and, as we were sitting at the dinner table, I asked them about our family history. After my mother shared her family history, I told her why I was asking.

She indicated that she recalled something about one of my father’s relatives being in the Civil War, but could not remember the story. So she had me call my uncle.

He had the information, but could not find the folder so he suggested I call a cousin who I didn’t know existed. Naturally, I became more interested.

I called her and introduced myself, asking if she had information on an uncle that served in the Civil War.

That’s when everything started to unfold. She was so pleased to hear from me and told me she had a lot on our family’s history — about 70 or so pages — that she would send me. I asked if she could give me a little information over the phone.

She said she had just retired from the University of North Carolina as a history professor. She then asked me why I had become interested after so many years.

I told her a friend had asked me to find out because he was a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, and that history was something he appreciated.

I learned my grandmother’s great uncle was the first solider to fall in the battle of Big Bethel in 1 Regiment Company A. I couldn’t believe that after so many years I was finding myself totally involved in learning as much as I could about my past family history.

As we talked, I asked her to send me everything she had on him.

I immediately told my friend I had an ancestor that was the first soldier to fall at the battle of Big Bethel, and his name was Henry Lawson Wyatt.

After a few minutes of conversation, he interrupted and said, “Are you kidding me?”

I told him “no,” and then explained how I had found out. I also let him know that I would be receiving information about my findings. My friend was so proud of what I had found that we met to discuss it at great length.

During my phone conversation with my cousin she told me there was a website with everything I needed to know about Wyatt.

She was elated that someone from our family had taken an interest in our history beside herself.

A week went by and after staying on the Internet for hours, my interest in history was overwhelming. For the first time, I knew why my friend was flying the flags and was so proud. He even has a license plate on his truck to indicate he is proud to be a decedent of a fallen solider.

He invited me to share my findings at Sons of the Confederate Soldiers meeting at Mahone’s Tavern in Courtland, where the group meets the second Wednesday of the month. I was honored to share my family’s history.

I was overwhelmed at the reception. It turned out to be a great group of people with the same dedication.

I was asked to fill them in on the details.

I learned Wyatt was born in Richmond as was the rest of my father’s family and that his family had moved to Edgecombe, N.C.

He was 19 in April 1861 and enlisted as a private. Wyatt’s captain was John Luther Bridges. This regiment was the first of all the North Carolina troops to organize and take the field.

The battle was fought on June 10, 1861, at Big Bethel, which is 10 miles from where I grew up.

After finding all this out, I learned Wyatt was buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. North Carolina showed its gratitude by getting the General Assembly of 1891 to order an oil painting of him at the public’s expense.

On the weekend of this anniversary they had a dedication, which I attended, at Big Bethel

I am very proud to say that I have joined the Urquhart-Gillette Camp No. 1471, that I am a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and also have the special license plate, which I am proud and honored to have.

A big thanks to my friend, John, who sparked my interest in my heritage. When you see the flags flying, you will know now that it’s to honor our heritage and fallen men. God bless them and their families.

RICHARD REDFORED is a member of Urquhart-Gillette Camp No. 1471 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He can be reached at Ricjuredford@msn.com