When the news of the first conscription act passed by the North Carolina legislature reached the Friends, there was not a little anxiety among them, for they knew that a trial of their faith was at hand, and it is no wonder if there was much questioning as to what it was really best to do. Many who could do so immediately left their homes for the West. They crossed the mountains in small parties, or in some instances alone. But the authorities soon discovered this migration, and instead of banishing the Friends who stood steadfast to their principles, as had before been threatened, they took prompt measures to prevent them from leaving home and sent soldiers in pusuit of those who had already gone. Several parties were thus arrested and brought back. Many hardships were undergone by those who endeavored to make their way westward across mountains and streams and through forests. They avoided as much as possible the sight of unfriendly man, and lived for days, weeks, and even months in caves near some good Samaritan's, who brought food for their sustenance and informed them when it was safe to proceed on their way.
It was not only Friends but many others who were hiding in the woods and caves of the earth, who, from loyalty to the United States government or other causes, were unwilling to go into the Southern army. This fact very soon led to the formation of companies of "home guards," whose business it was to search for, arrest and send to the army all men of legal age who could not produce exemption papers; so that wherever such men went it was necessary to have the papers with them, and Friends were often arrested and caused much inconvenience by neglecting to secure exemption papers and carry them with them.
Just across Deep River from the settlement, and not far from the Friends' meeting-house, was what the people of the neighborhood called the "Bull-Pen," a rendezvous for the home guard. An old school-house was used as a prison for the parents of these men of legal age, whom the guards could not find. By confinement, punishment and torture they endeavored to extort from these aged people information as to the hiding-places of their sons. Oftentimes the poor father and mother were as ignorant of this as the soldiers were, but the sons, after learning of the punishment of their parents, would sometimes voluntarily come forward to relieve them from imprisonment and suffering, and allow themselves to be taken to the front, where they would escape at the first opportunity.
Levi Cox, who lives near there, says the soldiers placed the hands or fingers of the aged men and women between the lower rails of the fence, and with its crushing weight upon them would wait to be told what they wished. In order to increase the pressure upon the fingers or hands, the cruel soldiers would climb upon the fence and seat themselves. Failing thus to secure the desired information, they would sometimes tie a rope around the waist of the women and hang them to a tree. One mother who would ere-long have given birth to another child was so hung in order to make her reveal the hiding-place of her boy, and she died as a result of this cruelty.
In the neighborhood of Cane Creek, Chatham County, lived Joseph Dixon, a man too old to be conscripted, well known in the county, and of good estate. He owned a grist mill, and one day while he was at work there about forty mounted men came up who professed to be searching for disloyal men. The miller, Alexander Russell, had two sons who were fearing conscription, and "lying out." The men at once seized Russell, tied a rope round his neck and rode off to the woods, pulling him after them. Hearing the screams of the miller's wife and children, Joseph Dixon walked out of the mill to remonstrate with the men. They immediately put him under guard and marched him to an old barn about a mile away. They asked him if he knew where Russell's boys were, and, upon receiving a negative reply, they swore they would make him know. Four of the men took him inside the barn, tied a rope around his neck, made him step on a box, threw the rope over a beam and proceeded to draw him up, saying: "You are a d--d Quaker anyway, and by your people refusing to fight and keeping so many out of the war you are the cause of the defeat of the South." As they tightened the rope they said to him: "Now, you have only five minutes to live; if you have any prayers to offer, be quick about it." The good old man told them that he was innocent and could adopt the language of his Saviour: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." They then searched his pockets and found about thirty dollars in bank bills, which they took away. They told him they would not hang hm just then, but they compelled him to get under the horse-trough in the stable, and threatened to shoot him if he looked up. They then brought in the miller and hung him three times. Joseph could plainly hear him strangling the third time. He then promised to try to get his boys to come from their hiding-place, and was released.
After the miller was gone Joseph Dixon was told that they were going to bring some more "Tories" and hang them, and declared that they would shoot him if he left the stable. They went diretly to Micajah McPherson's, a good Methodist man, and hung him by the neck until he was unconscious. They left him for dead, but some one cut him down in time to save his life. The next night, having found one of the miller's sons, John Burgess, they hung him and reamined near until they were sure he was dead, and then told his friends that they might take the body to bury it.
Southern Heroes, The Friends in War Time by Fernando G. Cartland, pages 142, 143, 184, 227-228
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1895