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Dallas T. Ward
The Last Flag of Truce
Franklinton, N.C.: [D.T. Ward?, 1915?].

Summary

Little information has been published about the life of Dallas T. Ward. In the 1900 United States Census for Franklin County, North Carolina, Ward lists his date of birth as September 1846, and his place of birth as North Carolina. That same census shows him married to Virgie B. Ward, with whom he has two daughters. The 1910 census indicates they are still married, still live in Franklin County, and have five daughters. And while the 1880 census lists Ward's job as railroad conductor, later censuses describe him working as a merchant. He does not appear in North Carolina census records after 1910.

The Last Flag of Truce is a sixteen-page, autobiographical pamphlet, published sometime after December 1914. The pamphlet opens with two letters—one from Julian S. Carr of Southern Securities and Investments in Durham, North Carolina, and the other from Walter Clark, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court—both dated December 1914 and both emphasizing the importance of preserving Ward's story for future generations. In his account, Ward, "now past sixty-eight years old," describes a singular incident from his youth: in April 1865, he was selected to be the railroad conductor whose train would carry a party of dignitaries bearing a flag of surrender from Raleigh, North Carolina, to the camp of Union General William T. Sherman (p. 16). This gesture of surrender spared Raleigh the destruction that other Southern cities, most famously Atlanta, experienced during Sherman's campaigns through Georgia and the Carolinas.

In the narrative, the 18-year-old Ward is working as a railroad conductor on "the old Raleigh and Gaston railroad" when he is asked be a part of the mission of surrender (p. 9). Once he accepts, he is charged with making the actual truce flag but has a difficult time because "white cloth was exceedingly scarce" at the time (p. 10). Ward overcomes this difficulty, and then the dignitaries arrive. This group includes, among others, former North Carolina governors William A. Graham and David L. Swain, then the President of The University of North Carolina. As the delegation assembles, Ward reports, "Only a few words were spoken and they were almost in whispers. They realized the peril of the moment, and we started off rather sadly" (p. 10). This statement sets the tone for the rest of Ward's narrative: while he is honored to be working with men such as Graham and Swain, their mission of surrender pains him, because he is loyal to the Confederacy.

The group advances "unmolested" until they encounter Confederate General Wade Hampton, who advises them to turn back, since they are heading directly into Sherman's advancing front line (p. 11). Heeding Hampton's warning, Ward and company—"badly frightened, you may be sure"—attempt to head back to Raleigh (p. 11). Soon however, they encounter Union cavalrymen, who stop Ward's train and take the dignitaries to meet with Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick. While his passengers are away, the Union troops treat Ward badly, sticking a loaded musket in his face, stealing his watch and Confederate dollars and finally, "making sport of [him] and calling [him] little Johnnie rebel" (p. 12).

Eventually Kilpatrick allows Ward and his party to continue toward Sherman's headquarters in Clayton, North Carolina. Behaving in stark contrast to the cruelty of the Union troops who harassed Ward, Sherman himself greets Ward and his companions "cordially" and assures them "that the flag of truce would be respected" (p. 14). Ward's party then dines with Sherman, and Ward reports that "an animated conversation ensued between Governor Swain, Governor Graham and General Sherman" during the meal (p. 14). After dinner, the men spend a peaceful night in Sherman's camp.

The next morning, they set out to return to Raleigh, but before they leave Sherman shakes their hands and wishes them "a safe trip back to Raleigh" (p. 15). Their return trip goes well until they reach Garner, North Carolina. There they again see General Kilpatrick, who advises them that they need to put up another flag of truce so that the Confederate troops do not shoot at them on their return. Ward and company once again scramble to find white fabric, and although they succeed in making a flag, they cannot find a mast on which to display it, so they order Bob, "a faithful old colored hand," to stand atop the coach and hold it up for the trip (p. 15). The party makes its way safely back to Raleigh in time to see Sherman's troops march into the city. And while the new uniforms of Sherman's men are a stark contrast to their "tattered, torn and hungry" opponents, it is the Confederates whom Ward calls "brave" (p. 9). The tale that Ward tells is indeed one of surrender, but throughout it he continually emphasizes Confederate dignity in the face of defeat.

Works Consulted: Current, Richard N., ed., Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993; Howe, M.A. DeWolfe, ed., Marching With Sherman: Passages from the Letters and Campaign Diaries of Henry Hitchcock, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995. First published1927 by Yale University Press; Powell, William S., ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979; United States Census Office, Population Schedules of the Tenth Census of the United States, Washington: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 196-, Series T9, Roll 963, p. 489; ---, Population Schedules of the Thirteenth Census of the United States, Washington: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 196-, Series T624, Roll 1111, p. 60; ---, Population Schedules of the Twelfth Census of the United States, Washington: National Archives, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 196-, Series T623, Roll 1195, p. 58.

Harry Thomas

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