Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Your taxes are still paying for Stoneman's Raid

Irene Triplett: Her father was in Stoneman's rear guard
(2014 photo and illustration from the Wall Street Journal)
WILKESBORO, N.C.
     You think the Civil War is ancient history? Think again, fellow taxpayer. There is still one lady living today in North Carolina who gets a $73 check each month from Uncle Sam for her father's service with Kirk's Raiders, an outfit under the command of Gen. George Stoneman that terrorized Boone during the Civil War 150 years ago.
     The Wall Street Journal told the whole story in 2014, which I highly recommend. Here are the details as they relate to Stoneman's Raid.
     Irene Triplett was born in 1930, when her father Mose was 83. Mose (1846-1938) had no children with his first wife, Mary Watson. After she died, he remarried in 1924 to 28-year-old Elida "Lydia" Hall. (She was related to Tom Dula, who used the alias Tom Hall when he was a famous fugitive.) They had five children, but only Irene and Everette (1933-1996) lived to adulthood. 
Mose Triplett (second from right) with his
first wife, Mary (center). They had no children
of their own. Others pictured are Mary's kin.

(Photo from Dorothy Killian, Mary's great-grand-niece)
     Mose Triplett died in 1938, two weeks after participating in the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was housed in the Confederate camp. Triplett told a newspaper he "fooled everybody" and was actually a Union man. "We didn't want to leave the Union, but our neighbors did," he said.
     Triplett actually fought on both sides.
     A native of western Watauga County, he went to neighboring Wilkes County at age 16 to join the Confederacy's 26th North Carolina Infantry. It seems likely that he was drafted (or enlisted to avoid the draft), and there is no reason to think he was a rebel at heart. Six months later, as his regiment marched toward Gettysburg, he developed a fever and was hospitalized in Danville, Va., from where he deserted. Whatever his motives, that decision may have saved his life: Of the 800 men in the 26th North Carolina, close to 700 were killed, wounded, or captured at Gettysburg.
     A little over a year later, in August 1864, Triplett enlisted in the Union's 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry under the notorious Col. George Washington Kirk. These mountain men became known as "Home Yankees" for their fierce loyalty to the Union. We can assume that Triplett was among those who took advantage of the occupation of Boone to exact vengeance against Confederate neighbors in Watauga County.
     "He served his time out with the Union so he would get a pension," his grandson Charlie Triplett told the Wall Street Journal. (Charlie is Everette's son and Irene's nephew). The pension was approved sometime after 1885 and has continued well over a century through his daughter.
     After the war, "Uncle Mose" settled at the foot of the mountains in Wilkes County, where neighbors knew him as a hard man. One newspaper clipping describes him keeping a pet rattlesnake. "He sat on the front porch with his old military pistol and shot walnuts off the trees just to let people know he had a gun," his grandson said.
     He is buried along with his first wife and four children of his second wife in a family cemetery in the Ferguson community of western Wilkes County.

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