I was free born, I got my property by way of work.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Bryant Simmons filed claim #12254 with the Southern Claims Commission.  He was 40 years old and lived near Dudley, Wayne County, where we worked as a wagonmaker.  He lived on his own land, consisting of 51 1/4 acres, of which half were under cultivation.  During the war, he worked on his farm and in a blacksmith shop.

“I was employed, or rather pressed into service, for about 2 years by the Rebels, they made me go and work on breastworks and fortifications [in Kinston NC], they guarded me during the night.”  Also, “I worked on the railroad a few days while the Union army was in here.”

“I was free at the beginning of the war, I was free born, I got my property by my work.  I live on my own land.”  In March 1865, the Union army took bacon, lard, corn, pease, meal, fodder and hogs, saying that soldiers needed something to eat after a march. “I think they eat the hog on the premises …” “There were about 500 lbs. of bacon, sound and good, well dried in my dwelling in the loft worth about 20 or 25 cts. per pound, 20 pounds of good lard in my corn crib … four barrels of good sound corn partly husked … 1400 pounds of good sound fodder standing in the field in stacks .. one hog fat in the woods ….” Simmons was literate and signed his deposition.

Jesse Hollowell, a 62 year-old white farmer, testified that he had known Simmons about 25 years and lived within two or three miles of him. He testified that loyal men regarded Simmons as loyal.

James King, age 60, a farmer and carpenter who lived near Dudley, testified that he had known Simmons about 20 years and lived about a mile and a half from him. They often talked about the Union cause, and Simmons said he hoped the United States would put down the rebellion.  King signed his name to his deposition.

Wife Elizabeth Simmons and daughter Cornelia Aldridge corroborated Simmons’ account of his property taken by General Kilpatrick’s command in March 1865. Both testified that the closest camp was near Mount Olive, about five miles away.  Cornelia Aldridge signed her name to her deposition.