Thursday, November 10, 2016

Vet's dilemma: Which side would he fight for?

FLAG POND, Tenn.
     One cold winter night in 1947, Anderson Moore was on his way to bed when he stumbled and fell. For the next five weeks he tolerated a painful crick in his neck, until he finally sought care at the Oteen Veterans Hospital near Asheville, N.C.
Anderson Moore (1847-1949)
     Doctors diagnosed a fractured vertebra and admitted Moore into a ward with a dozen young veterans of World War II. That must have made for some interesting war storiesbecause Moore was 100 years old and fought for the Union in the Civil War.
     Hospital administrators tipped The Asheville Citizen, which published Moore's story and asked him the obvious question: Why would a Southerner enlist with the Yankees?
     "To keep out of the rebel army," he replied without hesitation.
     By the middle of the 20th century, it was easy for the public to forget that not all southerners were rebels. In fact, back in 1861 following the election of Abraham Lincoln, the majority of North Carolinians voted against secession. Pro-Union sentiment was strongest in the mountains, where few families owned slaves and most saw no reason to fight against the country that their fathers and grandfathers had fought for.
     Yet as soon as they turned 17, young men like Moore were required to join the Confederate army. If they dodged the draft, the local Home Guard would hunt them down.
     "I didn't have any better sense than to fight," Moore said.
     Actually, he had no choice but to fight. His only choice was: Which side would he fight for?
     When Moore turned 17 in 1864, he walked 50 miles to Strawberry Plains, Tenn., to enlist with the Union Army in the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. Unfortunately, there were not enough horses for all the soldiers. "We weren't mounted," he joked. "We were webfeet."
     He said he fought in a number of skirmishes and minor battles, including Stoneman's Raid. The 3rd N.C. Mounted Infantry was part of Stoneman's rear guard and occupied Boone and Asheville in the closing weeks of the war.
     Moore was born Jan. 10, 1847, in Flag Pond, Tenn., a mountain community just across Sams Gap from North Carolina. His longevity was no surprise, since his father lived to be 108. After the war, Moore became a farmer, was married twice, and had five children, five step-children, and 35 grandchildren. Some of them shared his pro-Union sympathies, because one of his grandsons was named Meade, after the Union general who defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg. 
     Moore lived two more years and was 102 when he died June 3, 1949, at home in Madison County, N.C. As far as I have found, he was the next-to-last surviving veteran from Stoneman's Raid.
 
The nurse quoted in this clipping, Mercina "Jimmie" Pananes McSwain (1922-2013), was the daughter of Greek immigrants and a graduate of Johns Hopkins who met her husband Ray McSwain during the year she worked at the Oteen Veterans Hospital. She became known as the godmother of tennis in the Swannanoa Valley, and the town courts in Black Mountain are named for her.


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