Mitchell land Bristol Ferry Road area 1907

What would you do if your teenage son was kidnapped from a Florida school and conscripted into the Confederate Army? This was the dilemma for the Mitchell family who had strong ties to the Bristol Ferry neighborhood of Portsmouth. The Mitchells had business interests in Florida and their son Colby was in school in Apalachicola. A detachment of Confederate soldiers took young Colby from his school and conscripted him into the Southern army even though he was underage.  The men wouldn’t even let Colby go home to get a change of clothing.  His parents pleaded with the army colonel to release their son, but he was taken to the army camp anyway.  Fortunately the young man had some friends in the camp who took care of him and gave him food as there was “no food for conscripts.”  A few months later Colby was allowed a few days furlough because his health had deteriorated from malaria.  He was forced to go back to camp.

Colby had a severe relapse of his fever, but the kindness of his fellow soldiers pulled him through his illness.  At that time he was able to get another four day furlough to visit his family in Apalachicola.  If the Southern army could kidnap young Colby, his father Thomas Mitchell decided to kidnap him back.  His father took him to a Union vessel that was blockading the harbor and father and son were soon on their way north.  The trip to Rhode Island took several months and father and son had left the rest of the family behind in the south.

Colby and his sisters, May, Cora and Sophie were part of the Bristol Ferry community for many years.  Colby’s story was told in a Newport Mercury article (July 20, 1934) when he was awarded the “Boston Post Cane” – given to the town’s oldest resident.  He must have recovered well from his wartime ill health.  He was described as an eighty-nine year old who was “well and hearty” and living with his niece.