Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
A Town Divided
Ambush of Sanders and McCabe
During the Civil War, neither the North nor the South was totally united over the key issues. Just as some Northerners supported slavery and secession, some Southerners were abolitionist and Unionists. These issues could split families, divide communities, and generate violence. As the “official” war progressed, quasi-military organization were formed to wage another war against soldiers and civilians alike. Ambushes and retaliation comprised the “war within the war” between 1861 and 1865.
A half-block behind you on Road Street, Confederate guerillas shot and killed two men on January 5, 1863. At about 10:30 P.M., Lt. Nathaniel H. Sanders, Co. D, 1st North Carolina Volunteers (U.S.) and Unionist civilian Joseph T. McCabe, a former Confederate soldier, were attacked as they returned from an Emancipation party on the northern edge of town. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had become effective on January 1. Federal troops were required to enforce it, while Confederate guerillas were determined to oppose it.
McCabe fell dead, but Sanders staggered through the streets before collapsing and dying in his brother’s arms at the Grandy House hotel on Shepherd Street. His brother and company commander, Capt. Enos C. Sanders, ordered his men to scour the town
He reported on February 16 that “the company turned out and succeeded in capturing two of the murderers with their guns in their hands. We captured several others, but without their arms. They were placed in prison to await an invest investigation, which was held, and the innocent set free.”
The violence in Elizabeth City, however, was only beginning.
Unionists were not above resorting to violence in confrontations. Confederate Col. Charles E. Hennningsen reported an episode near Elizabeth City on February 10, 1862, during the Confederate retreat.
“Generally the population appear to be very true: there are, of course, some traitors, but fur less disloyalty than in Western Virginia. A painful instance of the latter occurred…[when] a man by the name of Lester [Lister] deliberately shot a [Confederate] private who rode into his yard, and then barricaded himself in the upper rooms of his house, refusing to surrender. …After appearing to consent [to surrender] he suddenly and treacherously attempted to fire at the captain, and did fire afterward several times at the men. I ordered the house to be fired. He was driven by the smoke to the window and shot. …[He] was a very violent Union man, and had been waited on a month previous by a vigilance committee.”
Erected by North Carolina Civil War Trails.
Location. 36° 18.055′ N, 76° 13.365′ W. Marker is in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in Pasquotank County. Marker is at the intersection of East Colonial Avenue and North Elliot Street, on the left when traveling east on East Colonial Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Elizabeth City NC 27909, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named A Town Divided (here, next to this marker); W. O. Saunders (within shouting distance of this marker); Pasquotank County Courthouse 1882 (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Events in Pasquotank (within shouting distance of this marker); Elizabeth City Confederate Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named A Town Divided (about 300 feet away); First School (about 400 feet away); Culpepper’s Rebellion (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elizabeth City.
More about this marker. In the center is a sketch of "‘Watch Meeting, Dec. 31, 1862 —-Waiting for the Hour,” a dramatic illustration of a black family waiting for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect on Jan. 1, 1863" – Courtesy Library of Congress
On the right is a sketch of an "Emancipation celebration, 1863" – Courtesy Library of Congress
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 25, 2012, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 354 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on June 25, 2012, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.