05/18/06 — Texas hero still remembered

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Texas hero still remembered

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 18, 2006 1:50 PM

A slight breeze ripples a Texas flag above a grave at Willow Dale Cemetery, as it has for decades.

Beneath the simple headstone lies the remains of a young Texan who came with his comrades to North Carolina to fight for his country.

Jared K. White was 22 when he gave his life for the Southern cause. Killed near the end of the Civil War while defending a Wayne County plantation from Union marauders, he is still remembered and honored today by descendants of men who fought in the war.

Jarred White grave

Bobby Williams

The Texas flag files over the grave of Jared K. White honoring his service to the Confederacy and the people of Wayne County.

In March 1865, White and his fellow Confederate soldiers of the 8th Texas Cavalry, known as Terry's Texas Rangers, were defending Belvedere Plantation, located two miles east of Pikeville, from Union foragers. The army of Union Gen. William T. Sherman was advancing into the state, closing in on the remains of the Confederacy.

On March 20, four cavalrymen, including White, were on patrol near the plantation when they came across Union troops stealing food from a woman, her daughter and a servant.

Local lawyer and historian Randy Sauls said it was common for Union troops to pillage local towns and plantations for food and supplies that were not available otherwise.

"The Union were repairing railroads in the area to get supplies to their troops. Until they were fixed, they went on raiding parties to local plantations for things like livestock and supplies," Sauls said.

The rangers killed most of the Union soldiers, but one escaped to the nearby Union headquarters to tell the commanding officers about the rangers. Union commanders sent out a patrol to trap the rangers near Fremont.

Landowner William Benja-min Franklin Fort was looking on that day as the rangers tried to fight off the Union troops. According to his account, reported by his son many years later, the federals were marching towards the rangers, who took cover behind a grove of trees.

White repeatedly rode out into the open field to confront the troops as he and his unit had done in many previous battles. During one of his dashes, a bullet passed through his body and reportedly killed a nearby horse.

Sauls said that, by all accounts, White died instantly. Seeing one of their fellow soldiers fall, the rangers pushed back the Union troops long enough to retrieve his body.

Although some accounts say White's body was wrapped in his army blanket, others say his comrades wrapped him in his horse's blanket. After the fight, the remaining rangers decided to bury White where he fell.

White's father in Texas would have never known where his son died had it not been for two Texas soldiers walking through eastern North Carolina after the war ended, said Dan Boyette, the commander of the local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The two soldiers were walking near Belvedere Plantation on their way back to Texas and were told White's story. Both were neighbors of the White family and promised to tell them how Jared died and where he was buried.

More than a year later, two men in a buggy, followed by a hearse, arrived at the front gate of the plantation, according to Fort's account.

"The father had sent his sons to get Jared. The brothers had enough money to bring him home or to bury him here," said Glenn Fields, another member of the SCV camp.

The brothers decided to bury White at the Confederate Cemetery in Goldsboro, which later became known as Willow Dale. The brothers also had a marble headstone erected and surrounded White's grave with an iron railing.

Upon the news of his death, White's father moved his whole family to South America, so he would never have to again live under the Union flag his son died fighting against. The family would never return to White's grave.

Over the years, it became the custom of the local Daughters of the Confederacy to hold a ceremony every Memorial Day decorating his grave with yellow roses and flying a new Texas flag above it.

In the early 1980s, a new camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans was formed in Wayne County and members began to take up the duties of honoring not only White, but the 800 other soldiers who died in battle in Wayne and surrounding counties, Fields said. Many died at the Battle of Bentonville in Johnston County, which was fought the same month White was killed.

That tradition will continue Sunday with a memorial ceremony at Willow Dale Cemetery at 2 p.m. Members of several camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Harper House chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will be present, along with members of the 1st N.C. Volunteers, a living history unit. Judge Jay Hockenbury of Wilmington will speak.

During the ceremony, wreaths will be placed on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers and a volley will be fired in honor of the dead.

And the Texas flag will continue to wave over the grave of a young Texan who died defending a family he never knew.