The Court-Martial of Dugald Hammonds (part 2 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.

On March 10, 1862, Dr. Alfred B. Walter received a captain’s appointment from the State of North Carolina. Walter, a young physician from Lumberton, immediately formed an infantry company that he called the Ashpole True Boys. Dugald Hammonds and 75 other Robeson County men were sworn into service by Captain Walter on the day Walter received his appointment. A month later, the company was mustered into State service as Company F, 51st Regiment North Carolina Troops.

Private Hammonds was present for duty with his company all of 1862 and most of 1863. He was on hand while the regiment was in Wilmington, Kinston and Charleston. He fought with his unit at Goldsboro Bridge and Battery Wagner.  On December 3, 1863, Hammonds was reported as AWOL, his first recorded absence since enlisting. He likely overstayed a short leave taken during the regiment’s transfer from Charleston to Petersburg. Hammonds rejoined his company near Petersburg in January.

On May 16, 1864, General P. G. T. Beauregard launched a furious assault against Union troops at Drewry’s Bluff. During the fighting, the 51st North Carolina was ordered to charge the enemy lines. The regiment overran the Yankee entrenchments, but the momentum of the charge carried the unit well forward of the Confederate lines. During a hasty retreat to safety, the regiment lost 21 men captured. Dugald Hammonds was one of the unfortunate captives.

The Confederate prisoners were marched to City Point. On May 21, 1864, Hammonds boarded a steamer and was transported to Point Lookout, the Union’s largest prison camp. Conditions at Point Lookout were miserable. The prison was overcrowded, food was scarce, and disease ran rampant. But the Union Army offered a way out. Any prisoner who took the Oath of Allegiance and enlisted for three years in the United States Volunteers was released from prison.

On June 7, “Dugal Hammons” took the oath and enlisted in the US Army. He was released from prison and transported to Norfolk, where he was mustered into service as a private in Company K, 1st US Volunteers. Hammonds thought changing his allegiance was a fair price to pay to escape the possibility of death by starvation or disease at Point Lookout. Unfortunately, the young soldier’s suffering would not end with his change of uniform.

NARA Complied Service Record

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