In the misty light of that rain-driven dawn of March 16, 1865, the battle began at the Gypsy Pine just over the line in Cumberland County. This pine was a famous spot on the old stage road from Raleigh to Fayetteville. Under its low limbs, spreading out like a Grecian bow, wandering bands of Gypsies camped, held their tribal courts, told fortunes, and divided sway from thieving raids on the neighboring plantations.
Tradition has it that when the firing began, the form of a gypsy girl, standing on the crown of the pine, was outlined against the murky sky. In her hand she held a wand which she waved from time to time. As she waved it, cannon and rifle balls would fall harmlessly to the ground.
The line of battle moved on and the gypsy girl disappeared. But as night fell she was back again, her wand exchanged for a fife. Over the bodies of the stiffened dead she piped a mournful lament, stepped off into the wind, and vanished in the darkness.
A pretty story? Maybe. But never a bullet touched that tree, though others were cut down all around it by the savage spatter of artillery and small-arms fire. And never again did the bands of gypsies use it as a camp site.
It stood until a few years ago when lightning accomplished what man could not. Today a blackened stump is all that remains of the Gypsy Pine.
(Malcolm Fowler, They Passed This Way, 1955).