Pursuers and Pursued
— Potter's Raid —
On July 18, 1863, Union Gen. Edward E. Potter led infantry and cavalry from New Bern to destroy the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad bridge at Rocky Mount. The infantry feinted toward Kinston and returned to New Bern. Potter raided Greenville, then sent part of his cavalry to Rocky Mount and occupied Tarboro. The raiders damaged or destroyed bridges, trains, munitions, and mills before returning to New Bern on July 23, but the Confederates restored rail service by Aug. 1.
On July 20, 1863, Union Gen. Edward E. Potter led his cavalrymen through Pitt County from Tarboro on the return march to New Bern. After fording Otter Creek and his encounter with Col. Newton, Potter, led by local blacks, took back roads through woods and farms rather than the main roads in an effort to avoid encounters with Confederate troops. Eventually, Potter made his way to the Plank Rd. (Hwy 264 Alt) about 5 miles west. From here, he turned east toward Greenville and then south at Marlboro (Hwy 258) toward Snow Hill. Potter men most likely passed by the James May House on their way through the area. The next morning, from Otter Creek, Confederate Col. William C. Claiborne dispatched Capt. Lycurgus J. Barrett and Co. G, 7th Confederate Cavalry, in pursuit of Potter. Capt. Barrett, a member of the May family, knew the area well. Claiborne took quick cuts from Otter Creek to Ballards Crossroads, six miles east, to try to intercept Potter. On arriving at Ballards, Claiborne learned that Potter was near Snow Hill. He then made his way to Scuffleton with the intent of destroying the bridge there and forcing Potter into a trap waiting for him at Edwards Bridge in Lenoir County. Potter force was resting at Grimsley Church in Greene County.
James May, whose family was influential in the early development of this part of Pitt County, constructed this house about 1854. May descendant Tabitha Marie De Visconti left the house and its contents including a photographic history of Farmville, to the town.
(lower left) Potter's Raid from New Bern to Rocky Mount and Tarboro (Inset) Gen. Edward F. Potter Courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute
(lower center) Capt. Lycurgus Barrett, 7th Confederate Cavalry Courtesy May Museum
(upper right) James May House - Courtesy May Museum