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Emeline Piggott was a Confederate States of America spy from North Carolina. For several years, she hid secret messages in her skirt and carried them between New Bern, North Carolina and the sea ports. She was almost caught several times. Eventually, Union forces arrested her on charges of blockade running, and she was sent back home.
Emeline was born in Harlowe Township of Carteret County, NC on December 15, 1836. Her parents were Levi and Eliza Dennis Pigott. When she was 25, her family moved to a farm at Crab Point, NC. This farm was located just across the creek from where soldiers of the 26th NC were stationed to defend the coast. She met and fell in love with a young soldier by the name of Stokes McRae. Stokes was involved in the battle for New Bern and the regiment was sent north to Virginia
Emeline followed the men of the 26th to New Bern, hoping to be of some help. New Bern fell to the Federals afer only four hours of fighting. She remained in New Bern until the last train carrying Confederate wounded to Kinston. She remained there for several months nursing the wounded.
The 26th NC fought in Virginia and returned the eastern NC to protect Richmond, VA. In May 1863, the regiment was attached to the Army of Northern Virginia and they headed north. On July 1, the regiment took part in the battle at Gettysburg. Stokes, then a sergeant major,was hospitalized with a shattered thigh. He died on August 2, 1863.
In December 1863, Emeline made her way to Concord, NC when the Federals took Kinston. She finally worked her way back down to the coast and her home near Morehead City.
Emeline organized fishermen to spy for her and she passed this information to the proper authorities. Emeline also entertained Yankee soldiers at her parents' farm, distracting them long enough for her brother-in-law, Rufus Bell, to carry food into the near-by woods for Confederates hiding there.
In 1864 Emeline and Rufus were arrested on suspicion of spying while trying to carry supplies and messages across the lines. Rufus was searched and released when no contraband was found on him. An African-American woman was brought in to search Emeline, but she protested and would only submit to a search by a white woman. While the Federals were searching for a woman to search Emeline, she ate some of the incriminating messages and tore others into tiny pieces.
Emeline was transported to New Bern to stand trial. She was allowed to take her cousin, Mrs. Levi Woodburg Pigott with her. One night, someone tried to kill the women with chloroform, but they broke a window in their cell and took turns breathing fresh air until help arrived.
Over the next month, Emeline was scheduled for trial on several occasions, but never went to a hearing. She was unexpectantly released from her incarceration and returned home. After her release, Federal soldiers would sit across the creek and take shots at her house with their muskets.
Emeline was a member of the New Bern Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and in her later years organized a chapter in Morehead City. It was named for her and she held the title of honorary president until her death on May 26, 1919 at the age of 82.
Emeline is buried in the Pigott family graveyard on the north shore of Calico Creek just off of what is now 20th Street and Emeline Place in Morehead City. The graveyard is cared for by the city, but is padlocked. You can see her headstone from the padlocked gate.
- Canon, Jill. Civil War Heroines. Santa Barbara: Bellerphon Books, 2000.
- Kent, Scotti. More Than Petticoats Remarkable North Carolina Women. TwoDot Publishing. 2000.