The Court-Martial of Dugald Hammonds (part 1 of 5)

During the early morning of September 6, 1864, Private Dugald Hammonds was on guard duty aboard the steamboat Effie Deans. Hammons walked up to Corporal Augell and casually said, “If I was you and a man wanted to jump overboard, I would let him, I wouldn’t say a word to him.” Before the end of the day, Private Hammonds was arrested, jailed, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for his remark to the corporal.

Dugald Hammonds was born in Robeson County, North Carolina. His year of birth is unclear, but he was probably born in 1844. The 1850 Robeson County census lists Dugald’s age as 12 years old. But the 1860 census lists Dugald “Hammons” as 16 years old. When Dugald enlisted in the Confederate Army in March 1862, he gave his age as 18, and two years later, when he enlisted in the US Army, he gave his age as 19.

Dugald’s parents, Elkanah and Orra Roberts Hammonds, lived on a 100-acre farm in the Southern District of Robeson County. The couple had five daughters and one son before Elkanah died in 1845. In 1850, Orra shared her household with her five children. Oldest daughter Sallie had married Quincey Godwin in 1848, but the couple were estranged, and Sallie was living with Orra.

By 1860, Orra was living in Lumberton with daughters Sallie and Caroline. Sallie had changed her last name back to Hammonds. Dugald was living next door. He was listed as head of household, age 16, and he shared the house with his niece and three nephews, children of his sister Sallie. Dugald reported his occupation as “Laborer.”

When North Carolina issued its call for additional troops in early 1862, Robeson County responded by raising several infantry companies. Dugald enlisted in one of the new companies, the Ashpole True Boys, on March 10, 1862. A month later, the Ashpole True Boys were mustered into State service as Company F, 51st Regiment North Carolina Troops. Private “Dougald” Hammonds was five feet, six inches tall when he enlisted. He had a medium complexion, black hair and black eyes.

Dugald Hammonds was described as a mulatto* in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Being mixed-race should have disqualified him from serving in the North Carolina military. Several other mulattos enlisted in Company F on the same day that Dugald enlisted. Those men were discharged within weeks “on account of mixed blood.” Private Hammonds escaped detection and served in the 51st North Carolina for two years.

Next post: Dugald Hammonds’ military service

* Hammonds may have been Lumbee. The 1850 and 1860 censuses only classified race as either white, black, or mulatto.

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