|New stones mark the graves of John Maricle, Henry Evans, and William Bradley in the Boone Cemetery. The haversack and canteen on Evans' grave were placed by the George Stoneman Camp #6 of the Sons of Union Veterans as part of memorial service used a century ago by the Grand Army of the Republic.|
Historian Eric Plaag said the memorial ceremony was "an occasion to do right by these three men, by whom history and local sentiment have often not done right."
Two of the Union soldiers were from North Carolina and the third was from Kentucky. They died of sickness while serving with the 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, a Union regiment which occupied Boone in April 1865 in the days after Stoneman's Raid.
Many Southerners felt betrayed by such "Home Yankees" and never forgave them for the hardships their families suffered during and after the war. The three were buried in a segregated section of the Boone cemetery, and over the years their original gravestones have been vandalized and stolen.
These veterans deserved better. They were loyal to their country, had no stake in slavery or secession, and were not involved in the raid of Boone on March 28, 1865, when Stoneman's troops killed three local men, injured six others, and captured 68.
The three Union soldiers are buried less than 50 yards from Jacob Mast Councill, whose father Benjamin Councill owned the land that became the town cemetery. Dr. Plaag explained the significance: "In late March 1865, Mr. Councill hauled up this hill the coffin containing the body of his son, Jacob Mast Councill, who had been murdered in cold blood by Union occupiers. Two weeks later, Mr. Councill consented to his land being used for the burial of three other men, this time from the same army that had killed his son. May we all be accorded such respect."
Enlistment and muster records give us a glimpse of the Union soldiers. All three were farmers with blue eyes and dark hair, ranging in stature from 5-foot-8 to 5-10. William Bradley, from Rutherford County, N.C., was just 18 years old when he died April 10 of typhoid pneumonia. John Maricle, 29, from Harlan, Ky., died April 15 of measles, leaving a widow and four children. Henry Evans, 33, from Buncombe County, N.C., died April 16 of fever. (Evans' name is spelled Ewins on his new marker, as it was when his original stone was ordered in 1879.)
Watauga County was staunchly pro-Union in 1861, but by 1865 sentiments had turned. The 2nd N.C. Mounted Infantry made life miserable in Boone, so it's no wonder that these men were buried without honor. But it is also important to understand that many southerners joined the Union army, and most of them were not actually fighting to free the slaves. More often, their motive was to defend the nation their grandfathers had fought to establish, or avoid the Confederate draft, or qualify for a Union pension. One of Stoneman's last surviving veterans was a North Carolinian who said he volunteered for the Union infantry "to keep out of the rebel army."
At least 37 Union soldiers died during the 54 days of Stoneman's Raid, including 10 in Salisbury, N.C., five near Martinsville, Va., and five in Watauga County. Gravesites are not known for the other two Union soldiers who died of disease while stationed around Boone: Robert Foster, 17, and James Paine, 33, who were both from Buncombe County, N.C.
(Click here to visit our Union Memorial and Confederate Memorial pages.)The 2nd N.C. Mounted Infantry, under the notorious Col. George Kirk, was assigned to protect the mountain passes around Boone while Stoneman's cavalry raided western Virginia and the Piedmont of North Carolina during the final days of the Civil War.
SPEAKING OF COL. KIRK: Civil War historian Michael C. Hardy has published a new book, Kirk's Civil War Raids along the Blue Ridge, which chronicles how mountain communities suffered under the "Home Yankees." The Stoneman Gazette highly recommends Hardy's books, which have been a rich source of information for our stories.