Fred Carter’s roots run deep in Gloucester
Carter’s great-grandfather Gabriel Carter and his two brothers, James and Andrew, were enslaved on Shelly Plantation, an estate on Carter Creek owned by the Page family. The Pages were apparently “pretty good folks” who treated their servants well, said Carter.
Nevertheless, when the Civil War broke out, James and Andrew fled to Fort Monroe in Hampton and became contraband soldiers for the Union Army, serving in Hampton, Yorktown and Florida, said Carter.
Gabriel, on the other hand, according to Civil War records and accounts he wrote himself, was sent to Gloucester Point to join the Confederate Army, eventually serving as a cook and laundryman for the Richmond Howitzers. He was well regarded by the Confederates, said Carter, and he not only was transferred to a better facility at Yorktown, but he was actually paid to take officers fishing in the York River.
In addition, when Confederate Gen. John B. Magruder was under siege by a much larger force of Union troops under the command of General George B. McClellan at Yorktown, Gabriel Carter was assigned the job of piloting the retreating Confederate Army up the York River to West Point.
After that incident, said Carter, his grandfather was allowed to return to Shelly Plantation, where the Pages made him a free agent who was allowed to come and go at will. A Confederate Army pensioner, Gabriel spent the remainder of the war smuggling seafood to Union soldiers at night. He received payment in gold, burying it in the ground.
After the war, said Carter, his ancestor used the gold to buy three big oyster boats—“the Peterbilt truck of the day”—and he gave one to each of his brothers, who returned to the plantation after the war, and kept one himself. In addition, when the Pages were strapped for money, they sold Gabriel 100 acres of the land where he and his family had once been enslaved.