Monday, March 23, 2015

Stabbing the Confederacy in the back

MORRISTOWN, Tenn.
     To understand where we are headed, start with the last line of Stoneman's Last Raid, written in 1961 by Ina Van Noppen, a professor of history at Appalachian State Teachers College:
It was a knife thrust into the virtually undefended back of the Confederacy.
     That description works on multiple levels. The Confederacy was already in desperate straits, with its armies flailing against Grant and Sherman on the eastern fronts and totally unprepared for an attack from the west. That's why Gen. Grant pushed so hard to accelerate Stoneman's Raid. He knew that a swift stab in the back could finish off the Confederacy and end four awful years of civil war. 
     Back-stabbing also describes what was happening on an individual level in the mountains, where families and communities were deeply conflicted over the Civil War. 
     In February of 1861, for example, men in Watauga County, N.C., voted 536-72 against secession*. This was a strongly pro-Union county. Yet over the next four years, 950 Watauga men (plus one disguised woman!) enlisted in the Confederate army, compared to only 36 on the Union side. (Thanks to Michael C. Hardy and his books on Watauga County history for these statistics and other benchmarks.)
     What happened? Mountaineers don't usually change their mind that fast. 
     Some of that can be attributed to a groundswell of Southern nationalism once the fighting broke out. More can be explained by the Confederate draft, which began in April of 1862 and required almost all white males ages 18-35 to serve. By 1864, the age limit was 17-50. Lukewarm Confederates and Union sympathizers had no choice. The county's "home guard" had the authority to hunt down deserters or draft dodgers.
Many Confederate 'volunteers' answered appeals
like this one in Floyd County, Va., just to avoid
being drafted. On April 4, 1865, Capt. Stigleman
surrendered to Gen. Stoneman without a fight.

     Of the 950 rebel soldiers from Watauga, only one-fourth of them volunteered before the draft.
     As the war dragged on, hardships increased, and defeat loomed, Confederate supporters became more cynical. Dozens of Watauga men (such as Mose Triplett) originally enlisted with the Confederacy but defected to the Union. Others moved or hid out just across the state line in eastern Tennessee, where pro-Union sentiment prevailed.
     Seven weeks before Stoneman's Raid, a band of Union sympathizers from the Banner Elk area captured the local Confederate outpost, Camp Mast. (If you visit the Doc Watson Museum in the old Cove Creek High School west of Boone, look for the Camp Mast historical marker nearby.)
     Even among the blue-clad cavalry Gen. Stoneman led across the mountains into Boone, there were plenty of Southerners, whom the rebels derisively called "Home Yankees." His 4,000 troops included about 880 from Kentucky and 600 from Tennessee. Two of Stoneman's top four officers were from Tennessee: Brig. Gen. Alvan Gillem from Nashville and Col. John Miller from Elizabethton.
     The principal Union forces in the mountains were the 2nd and 3rd N.C. Mounted Infantry, also known as Kirk's Raiders for their colonel, George Kirk. They were under Gen. Stoneman's command and occupied Boone and Asheville, the mountain towns that Stoneman raided. These "Yankees" included 361 men from Buncombe County, 249 from Yancey, 120 from Henderson, 111 from Madison, 90 from Wilkes, 42 from Rutherford, and 26 from Watauga. This regiment also included over 200 men from Tennessee and 41 from South Carolina, 22 of them from Spartanburg.
     At the end of the war when they finally had overwhelming firepower, manpower, and horsepower, many of these Home Yankees saw Stoneman's Raid as opportunity to settle grudges with Confederates who had threatened them or harassed their families. 
     Here's how Prof. Van Noppen described it:
When Stoneman's raiders came through, these enmities and resentments, having been repressed for four years, burst into sudden flame; and now that they had the upper hand those who had opposed or been lukewarm to the South had their revenge. Pillaging, burning, robbery, and every form of internecine warfare resulted, and the southern adherents reaped the whirlwind which they had sowed. For by far the worst depredations and crimes were committed by neighbor against neighbor and by the North Carolina and Tennessee soldiers in Stoneman's Army.
     It seems to me that several of the men who were shot in Boone during Stoneman's Raid on March 28, 1865 were hunted down by people they knew. Two were killed as they tried to surrender, and others were shot in the back. (Three Union soldiers from Buncombe County and one from Madison died in Boone from diseases that spread in the wake of Stoneman's Raid.)

Professor Ina Van Noppen, who taught at Appalachian State from 1929 through 1967, wrote the first history of Stoneman's Raid in 1961. This marker was installed on the 75th anniversary of the raid in 1940 and now stands next to the Watauga County courthouse. (Photo courtesy University Archives)

N.C. voted against secession
     On February 28, 1861—after the election of Lincoln, and just six weeks before the rebellion exploded at Fort Sumter—North Carolina held a two-part referendum to determine whether the state would secede. Voters across the state narrowly rejected the call for a constitutional convention, 47,333 to 46,672. On the same ballot they were asked to choose local representatives just in case there was a convention, and 83 of the 120 delegates were pro-Union.
    The election was decided by northwestern counties that voted pro-Union by more than 10-to-1 margins. Wilkes County rejected the convention 1,890-51, Yadkin 1,490-34, Guilford 2,771-113, and Watauga 536-72.
     But things changed quickly, as described by historian William T. Auman in his book, Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt:
     North Carolina's Unionism proved to be no match for the centrifugal forces then pulling the United States apart along sectional seams. With the secession of the Deep South, the failure of one sectional compromise effort after another, the secession of Virginia, the firing on Fort Sumter, and the call by Lincoln on each state for troops to force the seceded states back into the Union, most Tar Heel Unionistsincluding those in the Quaker Beltfelt compelled to choose between what they viewed as the lesser of two evils and take their stand with their native section.
     With all those aggravating factors, the North Carolina convention voted 120-0 on April 20, 1861 to secede from the Union.

Where Stoneman's troops came from

     Many of the eyewitnesses exaggerated the numbers of Stoneman's cavalry division. As Emma Rankin wrote of the raid at Carson House near Marion, N.C., "There seemed to us that there were about a million of them, but I suppose there were only a few hundred in the yard."
     Historian Chris Hartley researched the numbers for his book Stoneman's Raid, 1865 and estimated the division at 4,000 mounted soldiers.

First Brigade (1,589-2,162)
Commanded by Gen. Alvan Gillem of Tennessee until April 26, 1865
 Commanded by Gen. William Palmer of Pennsylvania after April 26, 1865
Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry 506-914
Twelfth Ohio Cavalry 683-798
Tenth Michigan Cavalry 400-450

Second Brigade (1,510) 
Commanded by Gen. Simeon Brown of Michigan
Eleventh Kentucky Cavalry 450
Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry 430
Eleventh Michigan Cavalry 630

Third Brigade (600)
Commanded by Col. John Miller of Tennessee
Eighth Tennessee Cavalry 200
Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalvy 400
(Ninth Tennessee Cavalry was originally assigned to the raid but evidently was not deployed)

Artillery (fewer than 50)
Commanded by Lt. James Regan
Battery E, First Tennessee Light Artillery



'Separated only by an imaginary line'
 
     One-fourth of the soldiers in Stoneman's Tennessee regiments were actually from North Carolina. Samuel Scott and Samuel Angel included this tribute in their regimental history for the Thirteenth Tennessee:
     We cannot in justice close this history without paying our respects to the large number of men who joined our Regiment from Western North Carolina. There were probably not less than 150 whose homes were in Ashe, Mitchell, Watauga, and adjoining counties of that state. They breathed the same mountain air and were filled with the same spirit of devotion to the Union cause. Their ancestors, like ours, had fought at Kings Mountain, at New Orleans, and on the Plains of Mexico, and made the name of the "North State" glorious, nor did those who fought with the "Thirteenth" tarnish her escutcheons.
     They came, many of them, to us in the dark days of the Carter County rebellion and gave us their aid and sympathy. There were no people who deserve greater praise for their loyalty than the people of Western North Carolina because there were none whose participation was costlier than theirs. Their old men and brave women went through the same experience of hardship and dangers that we have described as falling to the lot of the men and women of Carter and Johnson counties. These people are endeared to us because they shared with us the march and battle, and the same suffering and dangers. They occupied the same hospitals of pain, they fell upon the same battle fields and were martyrs to the same cause as our own East Tennesseeans. Ours is virtually the same climate, the same habits of life, the same love of liberty, and we worship the same God. We are separated only by an imaginary line, we might say. It seems to us that it would have been most fitting if the great John Sevier could have realized his dreams and formed the State of Franklin, embracing the mountain counties of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. It would have been a grand state. Grand in its patriotism, grand in its hospitality, and grand in its freedom and nobility of character. There would be no happier people that would have been found among its mountains.

     Besides many fine organizations of Federal soldiers from North Carolina, like East Tennessee, her sons were fighting under the colors of regiments of nearly every Northern and Western state during the civil war.
     We believe that as long as there is a member of the old "13th" alive, there will be a warm place in his heart for the gallant "Tarheels" who battled side by side with him under the colors of our grand old Regiment for the redemption of our homes and firesides.
     We would be glad if we had a separate list of the names of the North Carolinians who served in the Thirteenth. We remember the Aldridges, Buchanans, the Dowells, the Calaways [Calloways], the Youngs, the Greens, the Byrds, the Butlers, the Cornuts [Cornetts], the Parkers, the Eastridges, the Fords, the Garlands, the Gosses, the Hughes, the Johnsons, the Mulicans [Mulligans?], the Nelsons, the Lewises, the Prices, the Philips, the Poors, the Pittmans, the Reeses, the Smiths, the Snyders, the Wilsons, the Coxes, Holmans, and many other names that represented loyal North Carolina families. 

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