(Editor’s note – Reddin Honeycutt was one of Sampson County’s last surviving Civil War veterans when this story was written about him in 1937. He was then about 91 years old. The story appeared in the Wilmington Star-News and was written by Virginia Herring.)
The life of the nonagenarian Reddin Honeycutt, one of two surviving Civil War veterans in Sampson and a prominent minister, has been filled with many interesting instances. Both of his wives were named Jane and both fathers-in-law were named Isham. He is the father of 16 children. His oldest son is as old as his second wife, who courted her before his father did.
His maternal grandfather, Abram Naylor, was an English sailor. He became tired of the Navy and ran away, coming to America about 1800. His daughter, Beadie Naylor, married Hillery Honeycutt, and became the mother of our veteran.
Reddin came along during the days when schools and education were very limited. There was a school term each fall that lasted from two to three months. He attended about nine terms, though he had to be out part of the time for farm work. He proved to be a very apt student. No matter how much he missed he always kept up with his class. His first teacher was Rainy McKlerainy, and he lived at the Honeycutt home. His favorite dish was “fritters” and honey.
At the age of 18 he left home and entered the Civil War on July 22, 1864, in the third year when it was at its hottest stage. He was first put in the Junior Reserves, under Captain A.I. Hicks. Young Reddin showed so much skill with the use of his rifle, having shot so many squirrels, that in December, 1865, he was attracted to Scales Sharpshooters, 38th NC Regiment, Company D, under General Pender, and Captain John Ashford of Sampson County. He held the rank of private.
A year before that in 1863, he had taken his father to Warsaw to catch a train to the front battle lines. This was the last time he ever saw his father. Mr. Honeycutt relates these years as the most horrible, destructive, sinful, and saddest that he has witnessed in the 91 years of his life.
One of the many instances during the war happened on the picket line near the Appomattox River during the waning days of the war. The trenches were hot and the men would leave the trenches seeking to cool off. Almost as soon as they reached the top of the trench they were shot. Young Reddin took a chance, and as soon as he lifted his head a bullet hit the ground near by, spilling dirt onto his face, so he dove back into the trench. Moments later, Reddin slowly eased back to the top of the trench and dug a groove that allowed him to locate the Yankee who was doing the shooting. The man had stopped firing so Reddin put his cap on his ramrod and held it up to make the man think it was his head. The Yankee began firing and Reddin quickly aimed his Enfield rifle and shot him. Reddin never knew if he killed, wounded, or just scared the man away, but the man quit shooting at him.
Another incident occurred when he saw two men shot. First, a unit color bearer was put up and deliberately shot to death by the Yanks. A few minutes later another fellow in his unit named Rufie Strickland was shot, with the bullet passing through him. Everyone thought he was dead but he lived.
On April 2, 1865, Reddin was captured during a retreat from Petersburg, VA, about six miles south of the city at a place called Burgess Mill. He was initially sent to a federal prison at City Point, VA and later moved to another prison in New York, where he remained until June 1865 when he was then released.
Arriving home to face those terrible days of Reconstruction, he learned that his father, Hillery, had been captured at Fort Fisher and taken to a federal prison in Elmira, NY. He escaped but became ill and died within a few days after reaching home.
In the spring of 1865 the war was over but some of Sherman’s men were still in the area. Reddin was left with his mother, five little sisters and a little brother with nothing but 93 acres of poor land under a debt that took it away several months later. He ran the family farm and had to do it all by himself with no one to help.
He stayed with his mother for two years to help his family get back on their feet. In 1867, at the age of 20, he married Miss Jane McLamb, daughter of Isham McLamb. His second wife is Jane Royal, daughter of Isham Royal. Reddin is the father of 16 children, some of whom have died. His oldest child is 70 and his youngest child is 22. He has 15 grandchildren, with ages up to 40.
In 1868 he bought a little farm of his own in Herrings township, about 10 miles north of Clinton, which he paid for and has held ever since those days after the Civil War. He still lives on this farm today and operates it himself. His youngest son, Nathaniel Honeycutt, is living with him. Reddin has given each of his children an education and homes, totaling 700 acres of land free of debt.
At the age of 24 he began preaching and helped to establish Missionary Baptist Churches in Sampson, Wayne, and Johnston Counties. He started preaching under a tree with just a few followers, building the membership strong enough to later erect a church. Beulah Baptist Church has proved to be the best and is one of the most active county churches at the present time. He used to give one-sixth of his time to the Lord. He held regular pastorates at Piney Green, Bealuh, and Mary’s Chapel. He never received any compensation except for some missionary work, which lasted about two years.
Reddin has been a Republican back to the Civil War days. He attends all political meetings, revivals, and all other religious meetings, and attends both Sunday School and church every Sunday. If it is not convenient for someone to take him, he simply walks.
He believes when a person 91 years old will walk several miles to church, it should serve as a lesson to the young folks to get them to Sunday School.
At the age of 78, Reddin underwent a serious operation, but at the age of 91, he is in sound health and very active. His only ailment is the fact that his hearing is failing.
Although his early education was limited due to school conditions of the time, he has educated himself to a great extent from experience, observation, and extensive study of the Bible. Combined with his interest in people, this all makes him a colorful and likable person. Reddin Honeycutt is certainly held in the highest esteem by all who know him.
Read more: The Sampson Independent – Civil War vet led busy life