Emeline Jamison Pigott and Mary Frances Chadwick are legendary figures in Carteret County. Each woman was in their 20s when the War Between the States divided our nation.
Historian Rodney Kemp has ranked these two women among his top, all-time 100 female contributors to local legend and lore.
First up is Emeline Pigott, whose story is quite compelling. She was born in 1836 in Harlowe Township, the sixth of seven daughters of Levi Whitehurst Pigott and Eliza Dennis Pigott. The family moved to a farm along Calico Creek near Morehead City in 1861 when Emeline was 25 years old.
Confederate soldiers were camped on the other side of the creek to defend the coastal community from Union occupation. The Pigott family provided food to the Confederate troops and nursing care to the wounded.
Writing for the May 2012 issue of The Shoreline newspaper in Pine Knoll Shores, Barbara Milhaven said Emeline “hosted parties (in the family home) for Union soldiers, where she was able to gather information about the Federal troop movements. Emeline used the voluminous skirts worn during this time period to aid her in her secret activities.”
“Sometimes wearing up to 30 pounds of extra weight,” Milhaven wrote, “Emeline hid important papers, materials, medicines and other contraband in her clothing. Her courage, pluck and seductive demeanor distinguished Emeline as one of the most successful clandestine operatives, not only in North Carolina, but throughout the Confederacy during the Civil War.”
She would often travel back and forth into Union-controlled territory in a horse-drawn carriage with a brother-in-law, Rufus Wilkinson Bell. If they were detained, Emeline would engage in “flirt and divert” mode, and they would be allowed to pass on.
Writing about his distant cousin Emeline, Mark Green of Memphis, Tenn., said that Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant “made an inspection of Beaufort and Morehead City on Jan. 29, 1865,” and “must have given orders to...put Emeline under surveillance.”
She was arrested on Feb. 8, 1865. The inner pockets of her garments contained a “pair of boots, pocket knives, razors, combs and toothbrushes”...plus 12 handkerchiefs, 50 skeins of wool, needles, spools of thread and pounds of candy.
Emeline Pigott was imprisoned in New Bern, but after several months, she was released without ever going to trial.
Green commented: “It is rumored she threatened to reveal the names of prominent men in New Bern who were making money in collusion with the Yankees.”
“You can’t tell Emeline’s story without covering her relationship with the young Confederate soldier she grew attached to,” Green reported.
He was Montford Stokes MacRae, three years her senior. He hailed from Richmond County and had graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1856.
MacRae enlisted as a private in 1861 and was stationed outside Morehead City. He and Emeline Pigott became romantically involved.
Green said: “Stokes MacRae...advanced to the rank of sergeant major and fought under Gen. Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, Pa., July 1-3, 1863, where Stokes was wounded and taken prisoner.”
He took two gunshots to the leg and died some weeks later at Camp Letterman military hospital at Gettysburg. News of his death reached Emeline several months later.
She lived out her life on the family’s farm. “She never married; her heart was always with Stokes MacRae,” Green remarked.
Emeline Pigott died on May 26, 1916, at the age of 80. She was buried in the family cemetery on the north side of Calico Creek, located on Emeline Place in Morehead City.