Thursday, April 14, 2016

First in war, last in peace, and still sipping taxes

     By the epic standards of the Civil War, Stoneman's Raid was relatively trivial. 
     Yet it is rich in material for a game of Trivial Pursuit in a category we'll call Civil War Bookends.
     The answers to all these first-and-last questions can be found in the annals of Stoneman's Raid.

     Who was the first man mustered into the Confederate army?
     According to an obituary I found from The Greenville News dated June 27, 1917, it was William T. Shumate of Greenville, S.C.: "Mr. Shumate, according to the story he and his friends often related, was a member of the old Butler Guards, an ante-bellum military organization in Greenville. The guards volunteered for service in 1861 upon the outbreak of the war, and upon proceeding to Virginia, were mustered in. Mr. Shumate was the tallest man in the command, so was placed on the extreme right. The mustering officer took the men from right to left, and this company happening to be the first selected, Mr. Shumate was the first man to be mustered into the service." 
     The Butler Guards, later known as Company B of the Second South Carolina Infantry, organized January 5, 1861—just two weeks after South Carolina voted to secede. They were called to active duty on April 15, three days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and were among several companies mustered in on May 22 and 23, 1865 in Richmond, Va. (We'll reveal Shumate's role in Stoneman's Raid at the end of this quiz.)

     So who was the first to enlist for the Union?
     I don't know for sure, but a tall Ohio schoolteacher named Erastus Cratty Moderwell was among the very first who enlisted April 14, 1861, under a Kentucky abolitionist named Cassius Clay. A tribute to Moderwell in a 1912 memorial book said this was the "first volunteer organization raised for the War of the Rebellion."
     Moderwell became a major in the 12th Ohio Cavalry, which was one of eight regiments in Stoneman's Raid. On April 21, 1865, he impersonated the 6-foot-4 Stoneman, fooled the Confederates, and bluffed them into surrendering the Nation Ford railroad trestle across the Catawba River, cutting the lifeline between Charlotte and South Carolina. Historian Benson John Lossing described this raid as "one of the most gallant little exploits of the war."
     If only wars were always this much fun!

     Who loaded the first gun fired at Fort Sumter?
     Historians may not agree with me on this, but I still like the story told by a Georgia soldier named Thomas Wheat who was captured by Stoneman's troops April 10, 1865, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "I had nothing against the Yankees," he told a New York newspaper, "but I was in for anything that promised a little sport."

     The first shot from Fort Sumter, by the way, was fired by none other than Abner Doubleday of baseball fame. The closest I can tie him to the raid is that he graduated from West Point just before Stoneman matriculated.

     Where was the last Confederate victory?
     Some say it was the defense of the Yadkin River bridge by Col. Zebulon York on April 12, 1865, during Stoneman's invasion of Salisbury, N.C. My vote is for Swannanoa Gap, where short-handed rebels and their one-armed general prevented Stoneman's Raid from crossing the Blue Ridge on April 20 and won a temporary reprieve for the citizens of Asheville. Both of those rebel stands came after Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9.

     Who was the last Confederate veteran in North Carolina?
     A former slave named Alfred "Uncle Teen" Blackburn received the state's last Confederate pension ($26.26 per month) until 1951, when he died at age 109. Blackburn served in the rebel army alongside his master, so you could say that he owed his freedom to a war he lost. Uncle Teen was an eyewitness to one of Stoneman's battalions that burned three mills in Yadkin County on April 1, 1865.


     What about the last Union pension from the Civil War?
     There's one remaining. Irene Triplett of North Wilkesboro, N.C., still gets $73.13 per month from Uncle Sam for her father's service with Kirk's Raiders, a Union outfit under Stoneman's command who occupied Boone, N.C., in April 1865. She turned 86 in January 2016. Her father Mose Triplett was 83 when she was born in 1930 and 92 when he died in 1938, just a few days after attending the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. In effect, your taxes are still paying for Stoneman's Raid.

     Who were the last Confederate soldiers killed in battle with Union troops?
     As far as I have found, the last two were A.C. Wall of Texas, shot on or about May 9, 1865, near Madison, Ga., by Stoneman's 12th Ohio cavalry; and McKenzie "Theodore" Parker of South Carolina, killed May 3 in Anderson, S.C., by Stoneman's rear guard. The last Confederate officer killed in action was probably Captain Charles F. Connor of Catawba County, N.C., who was shot April 17, by Stoneman's 10th Michigan cavalry as they rode through Newton, N.C. There were several Yankees killed later, including two by friendly fire in the capture of Jefferson Davis on May 10.


     Who was the last veteran of Stoneman's Raid? 
     William Magee of the 12th Ohio was one of the last three Union soldiers alive before he died January 23, 1953, at age 106. Magee was an 18-year-old bugler in the regimental band that serenaded the young ladies of Athens, Georgia, on May 4, 1865. The last veteran of the Civil War, a New York infantryman named James Hard, outlived Magee by 48 days.

     Who was the last Medal of Honor winner of the Civil War?
     Col. Charles Betts of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania received the award in 1892 for leading 75 men from Stoneman's Raid who captured the Third South Carolina Cavalry April 11, 1865, near Greensboro, N.C. Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia two days earlier, but neither side had heard the news.


     Where was the last Confederate skirmish east of the Mississippi?
     Let's end where we began, with the long arm of the law—tall Bill Shumate in Greenville, S.C. Sheriff Shumate organized a small force of Confederate veterans who exchanged gunshots with the Union's Thirteenth Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry. The skirmish was May 22, 23, or 24, 1865 a
s the Yankees headed home from Georgia following Stoneman's Raid. There is no mention of the skirmish in Shumate's obituary nor in three books on the history of Greenville County, and there is no historical marker on the likely site near Crescent Avenue. In recent years, however, Union and Confederate accounts have been found that show that the Yankees were on the verge of executing three or four captured Greenvillians and burning down the town—until the Masons intervened.
William T. Shumate

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