Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War's Ragged Edges

By Stephen Berry | Go to book overview

Dissecting the Torture
of Mrs. Owens
The Story of a Civil War Atrocity

BARTON A. MYERS

Colonel Alfred Pike was aggravated. For more than two months he had been hunting for a notorious deserter named Bill Owens in the central counties of North Carolina’s piedmont. On Saturday evening, April 23, 1864, a posse including soldiers and civilians commanded by Pike, who was the deputy sheriff of Randolph County and also probably an officer in the county’s militia, made its way to Owens’s spring just across the county line in Moore County where the men sought Bill’s hideout. When the soldiers inquired as to Bill’s whereabouts, his wife, who was then in the process of washing clothes and monitoring her infant son, told the soldiers her husband was dead. The skeptical Confederates asked Mrs. Owens, whose name was probably Mary, to take them to the grave of her husband. At that point, she began verbally abusing the soldiers. Some of Pike’s men, who were visibly angry, turned to their commander and told him that they could make her talk. When Pike ordered Mary to go with his soldiers, she refused and picked up her baby. Pike

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