Daniel Bright

Featured Character – Divided Allegiances

Capture of the Forts at Cape Hatteras Inlet-First Day, Fleet Opening Fire and Troops Landing in the Surf

Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

A yeoman farmer and slave-owner, Daniel Bright enlisted in the 17th North Carolina Infantry as a private.  Captured following the Battle of Hatteras Island, Bright spent time in two Union prison camps before his parole in December 1861.  Bright rejoined the Confederacy as a member of the 32nd North Carolina Infantry, but mustered out of the regiment at the expiration of his enlistment in early 1862.  Upon his return to Pasquotank County, Bright joined a local band of Confederate guerrillas.  During Union General Edward Wild’s Raid, Union soldiers captured Bright and burned his house.  At a hearing before General Edward A. Wild, Bright claimed to belong to the 62nd Georgia Cavalry, a regular Confederate force assigned to the Albemarle region.  Unfortunately for Bright, he failed to produce any documents, such as furlough passes or enlistment papers, verifying his status.  At his court-martial before General Wild, local Unionists testified to Bright’s involvement with the local partisans.  Convinced of Bright’s guilt, Wild ordered his execution.  The next day, December 13, 1863, just north of Elizabeth City at Hinton’s Crossing, Union troops devised a primitive gallows within the unfinished post office.  Hanging the rope from a wooden joist, Wild ordered the condemned man to stand on a empty cider barrel.  At a prearranged signal, Federal troops pushed the barrel from under Bright’s feet.  Since the fall failed to break his neck, it took almost twenty minutes for Bright to slowly strangle to death.  As the Union column headed up the road to their base in Norfolk, they left a note pinned to his back: “This guerrilla hanged by order of Brigadier-General Wild.  Daniel Bright, of Pasquotank County.”  Wild’s actions sent a message of fear to Confederate  forces.  Greeted with significant outrage by both Union and Southern sympathizers, Bright’s death played a leading role in the ultimate decision by North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance to pull Confederate guerrillas out of the Albemarle Region.