Nancy White

(Currituck County)

Featured Character – Divided Allegiances

General Map of the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, Showing the Theatre of Operations of the Burnside Expedition, Harper's Weekly, March 1, 1862

Courtesy of the Museum of the Albemarle

In December of 1863 Union General Edward Wild ordered his troops under Colonel Draper to Knotts Island, where they were to “burn pretty freely” the homes and property of Confederates. Draper and his men arrived at the home of Currituck County resident and local guerilla Lieutenant James White and were preparing to burn it when Mrs. White threatened the colonel,

“if you burn my house, there will be no houses left standing on this island.”

To prevent this, Draper insisted on taking Mrs. White hostage, but as she was so far along in her pregnancy, Draper instead settled on taking Nancy, her sixteen-year-old daughter. He then set fire to the house and set out for Norfolk with his hostage. However, Draper’s men were met at Pungo Bridge by Union Colonel Frederick F. Wead and his white soldiers, who had heard that a white woman was being held hostage by black men from Draper’s unit. It seemed that an armed conflict would erupt, but no one was hurt and Draper kept Nancy White in his possession. She was unfortunately kept in Norfolk longer than she may have been due to the fact that the Union army retained her as a witness in a suit Colonel Wead had filed against Colonel Draper.