The Hammock House Duel
Many places are are thought to haunted along the coast of North Carolina have something to do with Blackbeard the pirate. It seems that every place that Blackbeard slept at, dined at or merely sailed by has claims put on them that the Pirate, or his victims, are still haunting it today.
Hammock House is no exception, but that is not the story I'm going to tell today. This story involves a beautiful girl, a hot tempered fiance and a misunderstanding that tore a family apart leaving the Hammock House with spirits unwilling to cross over.
Sitting on the inlet into Beaufort, NC the Hammock House dates back to somewhere around 1700 when a group of captains built the house on top of a hill they used as a guide to bring their ships safely into the harbor passed the dangerous shoals. The captain-owners used the house as a sort of home away from home and invite only gentleman's club.
One of the owners was a young captain named Madison Brothers. Captain Brothers was an ambitious, hard working man and excellent sailor having worked his way up from a cabin boy through the ranks to owner and captain of his own ship in a very short time. Brothers also had one major flaw and that was his temper. He was well known for going off in fits of rage, especially while drinking and was rumored to have killed a few men while drinking. So fierce was his temper that the other captains began to call him "Mad" Brothers.
Captain Brothers had a softer side to him as well, because he had won the hand of a beautiful woman named Samantha Ashby, the daughter of a well off family up north. As the date of the wedding approached, Captain Brothers decided that the wedding should be done in style, and that the ceremony should take place in the Hammock House. It was also decided that the bride would make her way to Beaufort by stagecoach accompanied by her chaperones and attendants while the Captain was to make his way by sea, meeting her there.
So each went their own way out of Baltimore, vowing to meet again in Beaufort where the would be married. The stagecoach made great time and reached town on time, all the while the future Mrs. Brothers laughed with her companions. Unfortunately, the Captains trip was racked with troubles, from a severely ill first mate to storms and broken masts. As Captain Brothers was delayed day after day, he began to feel as if the Devil himself was working against him.
While waiting for her delayed husband-to-be, Samantha's fears were calmed by other captains telling her that Captain Brothers was far to experienced a seaman to be lost. Samantha's spirits were also lifted when she found that her brother Carruthers, a lieutenant in the British navy, was in town while his ship was in the harbor. Seeing as mail was a hit or miss service at the time, Samantha and her brother spent the next few days walking along the beach catching up with what the other had been up to.
Finally, during a party held at the house, Captain Brothers' ship limped into the harbor. Looking through the spyglass at Hammock House, he became enraged at what he saw. "Lights on in every room." he thought, "They must not be worried about me at all!" Yelling profanities, he and a few crewmen made their way to the shore in a rowboat.He burst into the main hall of the house just in time to see Carruthers kiss Samantha on the cheek
in a display of brotherly love.
"Betrayed!" The captain screamed as he drew his sword and stormed at the man who had just kissed his bride. The brother, not knowing this was his sister's fiance, drew his sword and began to defend himself against the angry attacker. Many of the party guests tried to step in and explain to the captain, but the armed crewmen stopped them saying "Affair of Honor, let them be".
Brothers and Ashby fought up the stairs of Hammock House until a slip of a foot proved to be Carruthers demise. "Mad" Brothers, pulled a knife and stuck it deep within the chest of his foe. The Captain then turned, motioned for his crew and without a glance at his bride returned to his ship and left the harbor. No one tried to stop him to explain what had happened, and it is not know if Brothers ever found out whom he'd killed or if he was ever brought to trial for his crime. What is known is that Carruthers Ashby died in the Hammock House that night. His blood staining the stairs.
It is said that lieutenant Ashby made the request that he be buried standing at attention, in full dress uniform facing southeast towards the Beaufort inlet and the Atlantic beyond. Legend states that these request were granted and it is true that if you go to Beaufort you will find a grave of a soldier standing at attention facing the sea. Some say it is the grave of a British sailor who died of yellow fever, but the old timers will tell you it is the resting place of Carruthers Ashby.
The Hammock House still stands today facing the inlet, beckoning ship from atop the hill. It's stairs still stained with blood which some claim appear more visibly when it's foggy or there has been a storm. Others claim that sounds from parties long ago still can be heard along with the sounds of that dreadful battle that took Lt. Ashby's life. As one person put it, "There are ghosts here.. And not all of them are Captain Blackbeard's".