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Cherokee County and the Civil War

 

Cherokee County Civil War Lawlessness and Depredations

Captain Nathaniel Green Philips of Valley Town, Cherokee County, North Carolina, in a letter to Colonel Cathey dated December 24, 1863, describes the lawlessness and depredations in Western North Carolina. (Philips was commonly spelled both Phillips and Philips in the census records.)

 

In the letter, Philips writes that wartime conditions in Cherokee County have made it unbearable for the Philips' family, and seeks Cathey’s assistance in relocating his family to another area before he has to return to military service. Nathaniel Green Philips of Cherokee County, North Carolina, initially enlisted in Company D, 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment* in June, 1861, and on July 24, 1862, he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in Company I, Thomas Legion. Thomas' Legion was North Carolina's sole Civil War legion and it recruited Cherokee Indians and Highlanders. Original spelling is intact:

 

Valley Town, [Cherokee County] NC
Dec 24 1863

Col Cathey sir the condi
tion of this county renders
it untenable the yankies
and Bushwhackers have
Ruined it, & I will have
to move my family out
& as I will soon have
to Return to the army
I want to move them
in to your county
& my Father is a good
miller & if you have
a good mill he will take
it, & he can bring as good
a Recommendation as you
may desire. I want a house &
8 or ten acres of land

for my family & my
father & mother want
to ____ go with me
I hope you will try
to help me I have been
in the Service nearly three
years & my family has not
got provisions to Do them
a month & the frost &
the Bushwhackers &
Yankies has Ruined this
County so it is impossible
for them to stay here
Let me hear from
you by the first mail
as what I do I must
do promptly Direct your
letters to
Valley Town
North Carolina
Yous Best
N.G. Philips

* The real Private W. P. Inman, portrayed by Jude Law in the movie Cold Mountain, was a Haywood County highlander who served in Company F, Twenty-fifth North Carolina Infantry Regiment. 

Credit: Courtesy of Hunter Library, Western Carolina University; North Carolina Troops, vol. 7, p. 396.

Recommended Reading: Bushwhackers, The Civil War in North Carolina: The Mountains (338 pages). Description: Trotter's book (which could have been titled "Murder, Mayhem, and Mountain Madness") is an epic backdrop for the most horrific murdering, plundering and pillaging of the mountain communities of western North Carolina during the state’s darkest hour—the American Civil War. Commonly referred to as Southern Appalachia, the North Carolina and East Tennessee mountains witnessed divided loyalties in its bushwhackers and guerrilla units. These so-called “bushwhackers” even used the conflict to settle old feuds and scores, which, in some cases, continued well after the war ended. Continued below...

Some bushwhackers were highly organized ‘fighting guerrilla units’ while others were a motley group of deserters and outliers, and, since most of them were residents of the region, they were familiar with the terrain and made for a “very formidable foe.” In this work, Trotter does a great job on covering the many facets of the bushwhackers, including their: battles, skirmishes, raids, activities, motives, the outcome, and even the aftermath. This book is also a great source for tracing ancestors during the Civil War; a must have for the family researcher of Southern Appalachia.

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Related Reading:
 

Editor's Choice: The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865. Volume 2: The Mountains (Civil War in North Carolina) (Hardcover). Description: As with The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865. Vol. 1: The Piedmont, this work presents letters and diary entries (and a few other documents) that tell the experiences of soldiers and civilians from the mountain counties of North Carolina during the Civil War. The counties included are Alleghany, Ashe, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, McDowell, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Surry, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey. The book is arranged chronologically, 1861 through 1865. Before each letter or diary entry, background information is provided about the writer. Continued below...

The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865 (Volume 2): The Mountains, is the soldier's story. It is an A-to-Z compilation of what the "rank and file soldier" experienced during the American Civil War. The Western North Carolina soldiers express their hearts to their loved ones and friends, thus allowing the reader the most intimate and personal view of the war. From triumph to tragedy, the "soldiers' letters" express what few authors or writers can achieve--realism. According to cartographic and demographic studies, Southern Appalachia comprised a unique indigenous people, and by isolating these rare letters it allows the reader the most detailed insight to their experiences. The soldier experienced various traumatic stressors in the conflict: such as witnessing death or dismemberment, handling dead bodies, traumatic loss of comrades, realizing imminent death, killing others and being helpless to prevent others' deaths. Plain, raw and to the point: The reader will witness the most detailed insight to the so-called American Civil War. Intimate and personal: diseases, privation, wounds, loneliness, exhaustion, heartache, and death are all explored. This book includes a lot of information about: Western North Carolina Civil War History (North Carolina mountain troops), soldiers' photos (some tintype photographs too), and rare pictures. For example, on page 143, there is a photo of Gov. Zeb Vance's brother, Robert, at Fort Delaware Prisoner of War Camp; he had been captured by Pennsylvania cavalry in East Tennessee. You may see a rare photo or letter of an ancestor. The maps, which reflect the region, have keys which place each regiment to each respective western county (where the troops were raised). The soldiers - collectively - also present a detailed North Carolina Civil War History. By reading the letters, you will easily form a timeline that is filled with first-hand facts. To be very candid, it is not only filled with primary accounts of the war, but it is one of the best books to read about the war...Creates an indispensable historical timeline of events of the brave men from the Old North State.

 

Recommended Reading: The Secret of War: A Dramatic History of Civil War Crime in Western North Carolina, by Terrell T. Garren. Description:  Civil War crime in western North Carolina is the subject of The Secret of War, by Terrell T. Garren. Based on the true-life experience of Delia Russell Youngblood, the great-grandmother of the author, the book "captures what the Civil War was like in the mountains and throughout the south." After hearing his great-grandmother's story, Garren spent nearly fifteen years researching this story in particular and the Civil War history of western North Carolina in general. It is the story of Joseph Youngblood and Delia Russell of Hoopers Creek in Henderson County, North Carolina. Continued below…

The reader will follow Joseph through his enlistment as a part of Company H, the "Cane Creek Rifles," of the 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment to the Battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia, and to battle in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where he was captured. Taken to the Union Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana, he finally escapes and makes his way down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers into Mississippi. Attempting to make his way back to North Carolina, he is in Dalton, Georgia, in May of 1864 when fourteen Confederate soldiers, including a brother, are executed for "desertion." Ultimately, being recaptured, he goes back to Camp Morton until the end of the war. Told with historical accuracy, names, battles, and places in this story are true to fact. Readers will recognize place names in Henderson, Jackson, Haywood, Cherokee, Transylvania, Clay, Macon, and Buncombe Counties in North Carolina. Family names mentioned include Fletcher, Carland, Lewis, Bishop, Bryson, Freeman, Henderson, Fowler, Whitaker, Wheeler, Summey, Russell, Barnwell, Ward, Lanning, Hammond, Garren, Youngblood, and Blake. What sets this book apart from many, however, is the story of what happened to the women left behind at home. The story reveals how the lowest criminal element found its way into the Union Army. Many mountain men motivated by greed and an awareness of the demise of Confederate authority signed up with no interest in any cause but their own. Union officers who enter the picture include Generals George Stoneman, Alavan C. Gillem, and William J. Palmer. Palmer enters the story late but emerges as a man of genuine integrity and selfless bravery opposed to and fighting this element in his own army. About the Author: Terrell T. Garren is an eighth generation western North Carolinian. He was born in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1951. He earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. A resident of Henderson County, North Carolina, he has been a commercial writer for twenty years.

Dr. Newton Smith of Western Carolina University says, "The Secret of War" is that rare historical novel that captures both the romance and the grit and gore of war on the home front without distorting the history. It is about time someone did the story of the Civil War in the southern mountains right."

Rob Neufeld, writing in the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, has said the book "is a must read" and "as a contribution to our understanding of the most disturbing passage in our history, it is indelible." He further writes, "Fiction? It really happened; and, if it hadn't, the author wouldn't be around to tell it....Although Garren has written fiction, he wants you to treat it as history. After all, at the back of his book, he provides an index."

 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in North Carolina. Description: Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the campaigns and battles themselves were crucial in the grand strategy of the conflict and involved some of the most famous generals of the war. Continued below...

John Barrett presents the complete story of military engagements and battles across the state, including the classical pitched battle of Bentonville--involving Generals Joe Johnston and William Sherman--the siege of Fort Fisher, the amphibious campaigns on the coast, and cavalry sweeps such as General George Stoneman's Raid. "Includes cavalry battles, Union Navy operations, Confederate Navy expeditions, Naval bombardments, the land battles... [A]n indispensable edition." Also available in hardcover: The Civil War in North Carolina.
 
Recommended Reading: Mountain Myth: Unionism in Western North Carolina (Hardcover), by Terrell T. Garren. Description: Civil War historian Terrell T. Garren and author of acclaimed The Secret of War: A Dramatic History of Civil War Crime in Western North Carolina, delivers another masterpiece and challenges previous 'historical assumptions' regarding Unionism in Western North Carolina. Garren says that readers of his new book "may be surprised to learn that Western North Carolina citizens of that day were as much or more dedicated to the Confederate cause than the people of any other area in the entire South." It is RATED 5 STARS, the highest rating, by thomaslegion.net

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