Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three North Carolina Soldiers Drown While on Leave at Southport Beach, 1916

“Soldiers Drowned at Southport,” from the Charlotte Observer, as reprinted in the Monroe Journal, August 15, 1916, Monroe, N.C.

While surf bathing off the beach at Southport, N.C., Sunday morning at 10 o’clock, Sergt. W.E. Ardrey and Private Leonard Swain, both of Charlotte, and Private Fred White of Salisbury, all from the Coast Artillery camp of the North Carolina National Guard at Fort Caswell, were drowned when they went beyond their depth.

The three men, accompanied by Privates Alexander, Guthrie, Howell, McCoy, Treascott and Johnson, all of the Charlotte company, had gone to the beach early Sunday morning to go bathing.

According to a report from Fort Caswell, the militiamen had been warned against bathing at that particular place, on account of the depth of the water and the treacherous tide, which it was stated, flows especially strong along the beach there.

According to dispatches from Southport, Sergeant Ardrey was the first to call for help and directly afterward, White and Swain getting in water over their heads, also called for assistance.

Privates Howell and McCoy, who were nearer to the three men than other members of the party, started to the assistance of White who seemed to be unable to make any progress toward shore. They succeeded in bringing him to where the water was not more than waist deep and left him standing there.

Before other members of the party could get to the assistance of Swain, he had gone down, but the men were able to reach the spot where he was last seen to go under, pull him to the surface of the water, and tow him to shore.

In the meantime, White is thought to have fainted or fallen unconscious from the effects of his submersion. He disappeared and the tide was ebbing strong enough to carry him out to deep water again.

Life Savers to Rescue
Privates Bagley of Wilmington and Clute of Raleigh had succeeded in reaching Ardrey and were endeavoring to swim to the shore.

Other militiamen who had started in a run for the Oak Island Lafe Saving Station gave the alarm and Captain Brinkman and crew of the life savers succeeded in getting to the scene in 10 minutes from the statin which is a mile further down the beach.

The life savers arrived just in time to keep Bagley and Clute from going under with the body of Ardrey. At the time the rescue party arrived, they were still struggling to make shore against the strong ebb tide.

Bagley and Clute with the lifeless form the young sergeant were placed in the boat and carried to the beach where resuscitation work was begun on Ardrey. After several minutes’ work over him the experts from the life saving station pronounced him dead.

A search was then instituted for White’s body but up until a late hour Sunday night it had not been found.

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