Interviewer: Mrs. Edith S. Hibbs
Person Interviewed: Alex Huggins
Location: 920 Dawson St., Wilmington, North Carolina
Date of Birth: July 9, 1850
Location of Birth: New Bern North Carolina
Story Of Alex Huggins, Ex-Slave
I was born in New Bern on July 9, 1850. My father and mother belonged to Mr. L. B. Huggins. My father was a carpenter and ship builder an’ the first things I remember was down on Myrtle Grove Sound, where Mr. Huggins had a place. I was a sort of bad boy an’ liked to roam ’round. When I was about twelve years old I ran away. It was in 1863 when the war was goin’ on.
Nobody was bein’ mean to me. No, I was’nt bein’ whipped. Don’t you know all that story ’bout slaves bein’ whipped is all _Bunk_, (with scornful emphasis). What pusson with any sense is goin’ to take his horse or his cow an’ beat it up. It’s prope’ty. We was prope’ty. Val’able prope’ty. No, indeed, Mr. Luke give the bes’ of attention to his colored people, an’ Mis’ Huggins was like a mother to my mother. Twa’nt anythin’ wrong about home that made me run away. I’d heard so much talk ’bout freedom I reckon I jus’ wanted to try it, an’ I thought I had to get away from home to have it.
Well, I coaxed two other boys to go with me, an’ a grown man he got the boat an’ we slipped off to the beach an’ put out to sea. Yes’m, we sho’ was after adventure. But, we did’n get very far out from sho’, an’ I saw the lan’ get dimmer an’ dimmer, when I got skeered, an’ then I got seasick, an’ we was havin’ more kinds of adventure than we wanted, an’ then we saw some ships. There was two of ’em, an’ they took us on board.
They was the North Star an’ the Eastern Star of the Aspinwal Line, a mail an’ freighter runnin’ between Aspinwal near the Isthmus of Panama and New York. We used to put in off Charleston.
Then, in 1864 I joined the Union Navy. Went on board our convoy, the Nereus. We convoyed to keep the Alabama, a Confederate privateer, away. The Commander of the Nereus asked me how’s I like to be his cabin boy. So I was 2nd class cabin boy an’ waited on the Captain. He was Five Stripe Commander J. C. Howell. He was Commander of the whole fleet off Fort Fisher. When the Captain wanted somethin’ good to eat he used to send me ashore for provisions. He liked me. He was an old man. He didn’t take much stock in fun, but he was a real man. I was young an’ was’nt serious. I jus’ wanted a good time. I don’t know much about the war, but I do know two men of our boat was killed on shore while we was at Fort Fisher.
After the battle of Fort Fisher, we was on our way to Aspinwal. Layin’ off one day at Navassa Island, the Mast Head reported a strange sail. ‘Where away?’ ‘Just ahead’. ‘She seems to be a three mast steamer!’ ‘Which way headed?’ We decided it was the Alabama going to St. Nicholas Mole, West Indies.
Our Captain called the officers together an’ held a meetin’. Says he: ‘We’ll go under one bell (slow). Lieutenant will go ashore an’ get some information.’ When we got there she had a coal schooner alongside taking on coal. Our Captain prepared to capture her when she came out. But she did’n come out ’til night. She dodged. Good thing too. She’d a knocked hells pete out o’ us. She was close to the water and could have fought us so much better than we could her. We didn’t want to fight ’cause we knowed enough to jest natu’ally be skeered. She was a one decker man o’ war. We was a two decker with six guns on berth deck, an’ five guns on spar deck. I never saw her after that, but I heard she was contacted by the Kearsage which sunk her off some island.
I stayed in the navy eighteen months. Was discharged at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Admiral Porter was Admiral of the U. S. Navy at that time.
I stayed in New York five or six years, then I cane home to my mother. I was in the crude drug business in Wilmington for twenty years.
Yes’m I went to church and Sunday school when I was a child, when they could ketch me. Whilst I was in New York I went to church regular.
I married after awhile. My wife died about ten years ago. We had one son. I b’lieve he’s in Baltimore, but I ain’t heard from him in a long time. He don’t keer nothin’ about me. Of co’se I’m comfortable. I gits my pension, $75 a month. I give $10 of it to my nephew who’s a cripple.