Emiline Pigott: Confederate Spy

Source: Bellair Plantation Collection, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #87

Emiline Pigott: Confederate Spy

Emiline Pigott: Confederate Spy

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin


This image was taken from a 1903 New Berne (New Bern) calendar. The calendar is in our Bellair Plantation Collection. Emiline Pigott (left) was born in Harlowe Township, Carteret County, on December 15, 1836. Emiline was a spy for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. She carried contraband items in her large hoop skirts.

General Ambrose Burnside landed on the coast of North Carolina on March 14, 1862, at the future site of Cherry Point Marine Air Corps Station’s, Officer’s Club. Miss Pigott’s fiance, private Stokes McRae, and the meager Confederate forces were forced out of New Bern and headed to Virginia. Stokes was killed at Gettysburg and she vowed to carry on his cause.Miss Pigott was caught in 1865 with contraband such as clothing, combs, boots, personal letters and important documents reporting on Union troops, and placed in prison (Jones House). Miss Pigott, a genteel Southern lady, refused to have an African American woman touch her body to search her. She ate an important document and tore up the personal letters while they tried to find someone else to search her. There are different stories as to what happened after she was caught, but she was finally released. She lived to a long life to age 82 and died on May 26, 1919.The Jones House (pictured on the right) at 231 Eden Street in New Bern was built for John Jones ca. 1809; the west wing was added ca. 1820, during the Federal period. Brothers John and Fredrick Jones both owned and operated their own turpentine distilleries. The distilleries supplied large amounts of turpentine for the use in sealing wooden hull-vessels. The house was used as a jail during the Civil War. Referred to as the “Secesh Jail,” it is said to have housed Emiline Pigott. Tryon Palace Commission purchased the house in 1963 as its official guest house; it is also used as a gift shop for the palace.

The information was gathered from these books located in the North Carolina Collection.

Hand, Bill. A Walking Guide to North Carolina’s Historic New Bern. Charleston: History Press, 2007.

Hand, Bill. Remembering Craven County Tales of Tarheel History. Charleston: History Press, 2006.

Sandbeck, Peter B. The Historic Architecture of New Bern & Craven County, North Carolina. New Bern: Tryon Palace Commission, 1988.

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