Peter T. Burgess
Featured Character – Divided Allegiances
Courtesy of Brian Forehand
Peter Burgess was born in 1835 and resided in Camden County.
Before the war, Burgess worked as a waterman. After the bombardment of Fort
and the state’s secession, Burgess joined the Confederate Home Guard.
Burgess’s election as the company’s first lieutenant upset the influential
father-in-law of the unit’s captain. He leaned on his son-in-law, G.
Gratiot Luke, to demote or remove Burgess. According to oral tradition,
Luke made all newly elected officers take an educational aptitude test.
The captain claimed that Burgess failed the exam, and appointed one of his
father-in-law’s friends to the now-vacant position. Upset at his
treatment, Burgess enlisted as a private in the 1st North Carolina Union
Volunteers on August 10, 1862. Promoted to sergeant less than a month
later, Burgess became a heavy recruiter for the Union army. He eventually
convinced forty-four of his friends and neighbors near Shiloh
to enlist in the 1st North Carolina Union Volunteers. Burgess’s men
manned an outlying recruiting post near Washington,
On April 19, 1863, Confederate soldiers mounted a surprise attack on the
Unionists. Forced to abandon their station and retreat toward Washington,
Burgess used the opportunity to escape both armies. In 1866, Burgess
cosigned a petition asking President Andrew Johnson for protection against
Confederate sympathizers. Although he and his fellow Union veterans
received no help, Burgess lived in Camden
until his death in 1903.