Thomas' Legion : The 69th North Carolina Regiment

Thomas' Legion
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Thomas' Legion was North Carolina's only Civil War "Legion"

Chief William Holland Thomas
Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Thomas' Legion, which included infantry, cavalry, artillery, and an Indian battalion, fired "The Last Shot" of the American Civil War east of the Mississippi. Commanding Colonel William Holland Thomas was the only white man to have served as a Cherokee chief and his cousins included President Zachary Taylor and President Jefferson Davis. Thomas' Legion recruited Cherokees, one of its soldiers was awarded the rare Confederate Medal of Honor, it served with General John C. Breckinridge (fourteenth Vice President of the United States and cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln), and was assigned to the same division as General George S. Patton's grandfather.
Furthermore, with the assistance of Thomas' Legion, the Union forces never subjugated Western North Carolina. It captured the Union occupied city White Sulphur Springs, North Carolina, and, moreover, was perhaps the only unit to have captured an enemy occupied city in order to negotiate its own surrender. In 2003 the "Last Surviving Union Widow" died; her husband had fought against Thomas' Legion 140 years earlier.

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Thomas' Legion of Indians and Highlanders

Thomas Legion's Flag (February 2007)
The Thomas Legion Flag.jpg
Courtesy Museum of the Cherokee Indian (Photographed by the Writer)

Thomas' Legion of Indians and Highlanders, commonly referred to as the 69th North Carolina Regiment, was officially organized by William Holland Thomas on September 27, 1862, at Knoxville, Tennessee. Its members were recruited predominately from the Western North Carolina counties of Haywood, Jackson, and Cherokee; East Tennessee also recruited many for the unit.
The command initially totaled 1,125 men and contained an infantry regiment and a cavalry battalion. Its artillery battery, John T. Levi's Light Artillery Battery (aka Louisiana Tigers), formerly served in the Virginia State Line Artillery and was added to the legion on April 1, 1863. During the war, the unit mustered more than two thousand five hundred officers and men (included 400 Cherokees, known as Cherokee Battalion). The size of the organization varied as several companies were transferred to meet the exigencies of war. And during the war, Companies A and L of the Sixteenth North Carolina Infantry Regiment reorganized into Thomas' Legion. Unlike a regiment with approximately 1100 soldiers, the "Legion" was a much larger and more comprehensive fighting force and resembled a brigade. The unit was never officially designated the Sixty-ninth North Carolina Regiment, however, there are 75 references to Thomas' Legion (not Thoma[s's] Legion) in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. (Hereinafter cited as O.R.)
As an independent comman it initially reported directly to Brigadier General Henry Heth, and its service proved invaluable in the defense of the vital and strategic Saltworks and railroadsIn May 1864 the unit relocated to Virginia and participated in General Jubal Early's Shenandoah Valley Campaigns and then returned to North Carolina. The unit fought skirmishes and battles in East Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. It surrendered at Waynesville, North Carolina, on May 9, 1865. Legions were rare and few rose to prominence: Phillip's Georgia Legion, Wade Hampton's Legion of South Carolina, and William Thomas' Legion of the Old North State.

North Carolina Secedes
North Carolina Secedes.gif
Order of Secession of Southern states map

Thomas Legion's Officers
Thomas Legion.jpg
(Some of the Legion's officers)

The infantry regiment was commanded by Colonel William Holland Thomas, Lieutenant Colonel James R. Love II, and Major (promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in October 1864) William Stringfield. Its cavalry battalion was under the command of Lieutenant Colonels James A. McKamy  (captured by General George Custer in the Battle of Opequon-Third Winchester Virginia) and William C. Walker. During the conflict, the unit served with numerous corps, division, and brigade generals.
Colonel William Holland Thomas: Cousin to the twelfth President of the United States, President Zachary Taylor; recruited the Cherokee Battalion and Cherokee Life Guard (Bodyguard); and is the only white man to serve as a Cherokee chief.
Lt. Col. William C. Walker had prior service in the 29th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. While at home in January 1864, he was awakened and murdered by outlaws.
Lt. Col. William Stringfield initially served as a private in the 1st (Carter's) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment and then as a captain in Company E, 39th (William M. Bradford's) Tennessee Infantry Regiment (a.k.a. 31st Tennessee Infantry Regiment). He was elected as a member of the North Carolina Legislature in 1882-1883 and to the North Carolina State Senate in 1901 and 1905. He married  Thomas's sister-in-law Maria Love, and died from natural causes on March 6, 1923.
Lt. Col. James Robert Love II initially served as a Captain in the 16th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and he fought bravely in the battles of Seven Pines, AntietamSeven Days Battles around Richmond, and Second Bull Run. He was wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines. While in Virginia, he saw the "Elephant" and served with Generals "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Love was first cousin to Sallie Love, Will Thomas's wife. He was a graduate of Emory and Henry College, studied law, and was a member of the North Carolina Legislature. After the war, he was a member of the North Carolina Constitutional Convention in 1868 and served in the State Senate. Waynesville, North Carolina, was founded by his grandfather Robert Love. Love passed from this earthly life on November 10, 1885.

The Beginning: The Ardent Loyalists

Adams Brothers of Thomas' Legion
Adams Brothers of Thomas' Legion.jpg

"A great majority of the people were poor and had no interest in slavery, present or prospective. But most of them had little mountain homes and, be it ever so humble, there is no place like home...but when the Federal army occupied East Tennessee and threatened North Carolina..." Lt. Col. William W. Stringfield: Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-'65, Vol., 3, p. 734.


Thomas' Legion was named after Cherokee chief, senator, and lawyer, William Thomas. He was 57 years old when the unit officially organized. From the beginning of the Civil War, Thomas believed and pleaded with North Carolina Governors Henry Toole Clark and Zebulon Vance, President Jefferson Davis, and various commanding generals that the mountaineers would be most effective as a locally employed guerrilla unit. These highlanders, moreover, were a unique blend of individuals possessing in-depth knowledge and understanding of their region.
Because of the lack of mountain defenses, bushwhackers reigned and slaughtered non-combatants for most of the war with impunity. Eventually, Governor Vance, President Davis, Generals Martin, Bragg, Buckner, and many others stated that a force similar to the Thomas Legion would have been sufficient for defense of that region.
Its command was comprised of the most diverse group of men. They were politicians, doctors, lawyers, scholars, students, Indians, farmers, miners, merchants, laborers, hunters and trappers. They were Smoky Mountain Highlanders and Cherokee Indians. Few were slave owners and from renowned families. In O.R., Series 1, 53, p. 314, Thomas stated that the Cherokees didn't own any slaves. Most lacked temporal wealth, but as combatants they were rich with skills and abilities. As rugged mountaineers many were descendants of the renowned Overmountain Men of the American Revolution; as trappers and hunters, they were scouts, sharpshooters, geographers and topographers; as politicians, lawyers, and scholars, they were strategists, organizers and leaders; as miners, they were geographers and topographers; as Cherokees, they were men of  impeccable character, unwavering with loyalty, and were survivors of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and infamous Trail of Tears. Chief Yonaguska's warriors were prolific hunters and according to John R. Finger, The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819-1900, p. 62, in one year they provided their community with "540 deer, 78 bears, 18 wolves, and 2 panthers; the number of smaller mammals and birds killed must have totaled thousands." (Also see: Cherokee Indians: Weapons, War, and Warfare and Cherokee Indians: Weapons and Warfare.)

Asheville [North Carolina] News, April 18, 1861

The town was perfectly alive with people who had come to witness the departure of these brave volunteers. The scene was one of thrilling interest and well calculated to melt the stoutest heart to sympathy and tears...The Buncombe Riflemen are composed of first rate material and if they get into any engagement will reflect honor upon themselves and their native section...They are pure metal, no mistake, and will contest every inch of ground with the enemy.

The North Carolina Cherokee: The Die had been Cast

Thomas Legion's Cherokee Veterans
Cherokee Indians of the Thomas Legion.jpg
1903 New Orleans Confederate Reunion

(About) The following caption appears under the original image: Above is shown the last photograph ever taken of the remaining members of the famous Thomas Legion, composed of Cherokee Indians in the Confederate Army. The photograph was made in New Orleans at the time of the New Orleans Reunion of Confederate Veterans. The inscription on the banner, displayed in the photograph, is as follows: "Cherokee Veteran Indians of Thomas Legion. 69 N. C. Regiment. Suo-Noo-Kee Camp U. C. V. 4th Brigade, N. C. Division." Reading from left to right, those in the picture are: front row, 1 Young Deer; 2 unidentified; 3 Pheasant; 4 Chief David Reed; 5 Sevier Skitty; back row, 1 the Rev. Bird Saloneta; 2 Dickey Driver; 3 Lieut. Col. W. W. Stringfield of Waynesville; 4 Lieutenant Suatie Owl; 5 Jim Keg; 6 Wesley Crow; 7 unidentified; 8 Lieutenant Calvin Cagle. All of these men are now dead with the exception of Sevier Skitty, who lives one mile from Cherokee. Lieut. Col. Stringfield and Lieut. Cagle were white officers of the legion. Names of the men in the photograph were furnished by James R. Thomas of Waynesville, son of the late Col. W. H. Thomas, who commanded the Thomas Legion. This band of Indians built the first road across the Great Smoky Mountains.

"[A]n Indian [from Thomas' Legion] always executes an order with religious fidelity. They scrupulously respect private property--there are no reports of depredations where they are encamped. They are the best scouts in the world." Knoxville Register, February 21, 1863

Davis initially stated that the Cherokees should be used to defend the "coast and swamps of North Carolina" (O.R. Series 1, 51, 2, p. 304: September 19, 1861) and this was contrary to Thomas's Civil War Strategy. Fortunately, with Thomas’s  persuasion, the Cherokees were not assigned to the North Carolina swamps. The coastal area was the first of the state's three regions to capitulate, which allowed longer imprisonment for the captured Confederates and greater exposure to the numerous diseases at the POW Camps. However, the greatest threat to the Cherokees would have been the immediate exposure to the disease infested swamps.

Thomas displayed a rare ability because he earned the respect and loyalty of the Cherokee and Western North Carolinian. As an adopted Cherokee, Indian agent, and Cherokee chief, he earned the confidence of the Cherokee; as a North Carolina state senator, he gained the vote and trust of the Western North Carolinian; and as a self-taught lawyer, he even convinced Washington to exempt approximately 1000 Cherokees from the Trail of Tears.

Thomas was in Washington during the Treaty of New Echota negotiations and had successfully lobbied for the right for a number of Indians to remain in North Carolina (see Cherokee Treaties). These Indians are the present-day Eastern Band, and they were also referred to as Oconaluftee, Lufty and Qualla Indians. In the late winter of 1839, while Thomas was in Washington, Yonaguska died. Thomas learned about it in April. Before his death, however, the old chief had summoned the men in his band to form a circle around his pallet in the Soco Council House. They accepted his recommendation that "Little Will" be allowed to succeed him. Yonaguska then advised them to abstain from drinking liquor and to never move west. Thomas had become Chief of the Oconaluftee and he was the only white man to hold that office. (Also see Cherokee War Rituals, Culture, Festivals, Government, and Beliefs.)

The Western North Carolinians had fought the Cherokee for decades. If the Cherokee fight in the  American Civil War will they join the North? Will they remain neutral? On the other hand, the Cherokee had entered into six separate treaties with the United States between 1777 and 1835. In each case, federal authorities had sought to extend the frontiers of white settlement by extinguishing Indian title to land. 

The U.S. had broken several promises, including President Andrew Jackson's unconscionable  betrayal of Chief Junaluska and his Cherokee. The great warrior and chief had saved General Jackson's life at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, and, when "Old Hickory" was elected the 7th President, he forced the Cherokee from their homeland. But by the 1860s, the highlanders and Cherokee were neighbors and, moreover, friends. Cherokee intermarriage with neighboring whites was also more common. Furthermore, prior to his death, Yonaguska had commanded his people to obey Chief Thomas. In 1883, Ziegler recorded that "before Yonaguska died he assembled his people and publicly willed the chieftainship to his clerk, friend and adopted son, W. H. Thomas, who he commended as worthy of respect and whom he adjured them to obey as they had obeyed him. He was going to the home provided for him by the Great Spirit; he would always keep watch over his people and would be grieved to see any of them disobey the new chief he had chosen to rule over them." Also, General Winfield Scott and the United States Army--enforcing Jackson's Indian Removal Policy--had eradicated the Cherokee during that Trail of Tears, and the Indians vividly remembered both Jackson's betrayal and the 4000 Cherokees that had perished. The Trail of Tears, which the Cherokee refer to as Nunahi-Duna-Dlo-Hilu-I or Trail Where They Cried, was also where Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, John Ross, had lost his wife Quatie. (See also: Cherokee Declaration and the American Civil War and American Indians in the Civil War.) In the beginning of the Civil War, Scott was appointed General-in-Chief of the Union Army; he was also a veteran of the War of 1812, hero during the Mexican-American War, former presidential candidate, and during the Civil War was  credited for his superb Anaconda Plan. Other notable soldiers of the Mexican-American War: Robert E. Lee, Braxton Bragg, U. S. Grant, "Stonewall" Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Jefferson Davis.

Consequently, on September 15, 1861, two Cherokee companies (200 soldiers) loyally answered the call to arms. These 200 Indians were originally known as the Junaluska Zouaves--in honor of Chief Junaluska--and Thomas also referred to them as the North Carolina Cherokee Battalion (see: Cherokee BattalionO.R., Series 1, 51, II, p. 304, and O.R., 1, 49, Part 2, p. 754). By the end of the war, muster records reflected that almost every "able-bodied Cherokee," about 400 soldiers, from Western North Carolina had entered into the Confederate Army. Their loyalty was to Chief Thomas and then to the Confederacy. And in O.R., 1, 53, p. 314, Thomas had stated that the Cherokees didn't own any slaves, so slavery wasn't a motive.

According to Neely, North Carolina's Eastern Band of Cherokees, p. 162, "Some Cherokees desired neutrality while as many as 30 joined the Union Army." Oral history states that many of the disloyal Cherokees were later murdered by their relatives because they had betrayed Thomas. The Indians that had joined the Union Army not only fought against their brothers, but after the War were credited for returning to the mountains with the dreaded smallpox. Captured Confederate Cherokees, however, had been held in Federal prisoner of war camps. And after the conflict, the paroled Indians immediately returned to the mountains and most likely with smallpox. (Smallpox is considered biological warfare and is currently deemed a Weapon of Mass Destruction.) Mumps and measles were responsible for most of the Cherokee killed during the war. And after the war, smallpox killed more than one hundred Cherokees. (See Thomas's letter concerning smallpox.)

 President Jefferson Davis's Cousin and Friend

"North Carolina cannot remain much longer stationary; she must write her destiny either under the flag of Mr. Lincoln and aid to coerce the south or unite with the south to resist and defend their rights." William Holland Thomas to his wife, January 1, 1861. John C. Inscoe, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Thomas's cousin, Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of President Zachary Taylor. General Edmund Kirby Smith, U.S. Military Academy graduate in 1845 and commander of the Departments of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, was strongly opposed to allowing Colonel Thomas the ability to operate the legion as an independent command. Thomas had known Davis since the 1840s and often went to Richmond for consultation. During the war, Davis proved to be an invaluable friend. 

Thomas's American Civil War Strategy

1860 US Census for North Carolina Counties
1860 US Census for North Carolina.jpg
1860 US Census for North Carolina

The Thomas Legion
Thomas Legion.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Thomas believed in defensive guerrilla warfare and, since the Union army typically outnumbered the Confederate army by more than two-to-one, he wisely opposed the traditional Napoleonic Linear TacticsThomas was not a Fire-Eater, he initially opposed secession, and during the war a $5,000 bounty was offered to "anyone that would assassinate the Confederate Chief."

For most of the Civil War, the Confederate Eastern Cherokee were equipped with the .69 caliber musket, which could only kill at a short distance (50-100 yards) compared to the Union soldier’s Enfield (200-300 yards). In other words, the Union soldier had a superior advantage, unless the Cherokee, without being detected, could shorten the distance. And guerrilla warfare allowed the Cherokee to meet this objective. (See: Civil War Small Arms, Cherokee Indians: Weapons and Warfare, and The American Civil War and Guerrilla Warfare.)

"Many of them [Thomas' Legion] joined with the promise that they were not to be taken out of the State except in the North Carolina mountain of defense." Captain Robert A. Akin, Company H, Walker's Battalion, Thomas' Legion

The mountaineers, like their Overmountain forefathers during the Revolution, vehemently believed in a defensive war. Their mountain ancestors proved their defensive strategy by surprising and destroying the British Army at two key southern battles: Kings Mountain and Cowpens. Who knew the Western North Carolina geography and topography better than the indigenous Cherokee and Mountaineer?  Thomas petitioned Richmond to authorize the recruitment of "additional Indians and such whites as I may select." His primary goal was to recruit a full battalion and ultimately a mounted regiment to operate as an independent guerrilla unit for the "local defense of the Cumberland Gap in pro-Unionist East Tennessee and Western North Carolina." According to Thomas's writings, Jefferson Davis agreed to arm, supply, and support the unit. In future correspondence with Davis, Thomas stated, "I have increased the Battalion of Indians and Mountaineers to a regiment and am progressing with a Legion. Not for one year but for three years or during the war." (North Carolina Division of Archives and History, April 17, 1862; and Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers, 12-36.) Consequently, Thomas wrote to Davis and "submitted a plan for the defenses of East Tennessee." November 8, 1862, Strawberry Pains, TN. (O.R., Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. II, p. 395

General Ulysses S. Grant, while traveling through the Cumberland Gap in 1864, noted: "With two brigades of the Army of the Cumberland I could hold that pass against the army which Napoleon led to Moscow."

Roman Emperor Hadrian and the world’s greatest military power were brought to their knees by inferior guerrilla bands in the early second century. Because of Rome’s losses to guerrilla raids from the north, it succumbed to a stalemate and constructed a massive wall, known as Hadrian's Wall, to separate the Roman Empire from northern Britain, which is presently referred to as the Scottish Highlands. The Roman Empire never conquered northern Britain, and Hadrian's Wall is considered a great "guerrilla victory." Applying their familiar terrain and home field advantage, King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, with their Greek allies, defended the Pass of Thermopylae and inflicted at least 20,000 casualties on the invading Persian Army. Prior to surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia, General Lee seriously contemplated disbanding the army, creating a massive guerrilla force, and relocating it to the mountains. And in the twentieth century, the Vietnamese excelled in guerrilla warfare and proved to be a very formidable foe.

Thomas had officially petitioned North Carolina Governors Henry Toole Clark and Vance, Jefferson Davis, and General Braxton Bragg. The petition was to employ the Thomas Legion "to defend the passes of the Smokies." And in February 1864, Thomas reminded South Carolina officials that in the beginning of the war, he had urged the Carolinas to “make preparations to defend the passes in the Smoky Mountains for their common protection…and by express permission of President Davis, I raised a legion of Indians and highlanders.” (O.R., Series 1, 53, p. 313.) Richmond had ordered Thomas and the Cherokee Battalion to the Smokies; however, in May 1864 it advanced the bulk of the Legion to the Shenandoah Valley. On May 2, 1864, in a letter to Headquarters Armies Confederate States, Bragg proclaimed that "General Longstreet’s army having left East Tennessee opened all of Western North Carolina, Northeastern Georgia, Northwestern South Carolina, to incursions of the enemy." And in May 1864, Colonel Black, with the First South Carolina Cavalry, stated that although Thomas and the Cherokees were assigned to Western North Carolina, "a wide gap is open for the inroad of the enemy."  (O.R. Series 1, 53, p. 333.) Bragg and Black voiced their concerns the exact month that the bulk of the Thomas Legion was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley.  During the 1864 Valley Campaigns, General Early's Army of the Valley absorbed the majority of the Department of East Tennessee and Western District of North Carolina. By transferring the bulk of both commands into the Valley, it allowed bushwhackers to plunder East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. One incident, the Shelton Laurel Massacre, epitomized the region's lawlessness and anarchy. It is the writer's view, with overwhelming evidence, that the Thomas Legion desertions was the direct result of the Confederacy ordering the majority of the unit beyond the region and defense of the mountains. Also see hellish conditions in Western North Carolina: O.R. Series IV, 2, 732, O.R., 53, 324, O.R., Series 1, Vol. 32, pt. II, pp. 610-611, O.R., 1, 53, pp. 331-335, and Jefferson Davis's Letter of Confidence in Thomas' Legion - January 4, 1865.

While Thomas and the Cherokee Battalion were assigned to Western North Carolina, the wise colonel persuaded and recruited  dozens of Confederate deserters to the Thomas Legion and, most shockingly, as a reward he received a court-martial.

Thomas was a superior leader, outstanding manager, wise planner, and skillful organizer. However, many of his proposals fell upon apathetic ears. He opposed the Conscription Act of April 1862 and stated that it would "force the pro-Unionist, tory, and abolitionist to flee." He believed that these citizens could be best used as "Home Guard" and in non-combatant roles such as sappers, laborers,  and miners (engineers). His vocal opposition to the Conscription Act fell upon apathetic ears, and thousands fled because of it. He also stated that all slaves should be emancipated and employed as engineers and laborers. This too was denied. He desired to allocate the highlanders as a local defense force; after all, they were most familiar with the area. This too was ignored, thus allowing bands of bushwhackers, deserters, and escaped Union prisoners to operate as saboteurs and insurgents and freely exploit the Southern Appalachian Mountains. In 1864, Thomas proposed an amnesty bill which he believed would encourage deserters, abolitionists, outliers, and pro-Unionists to return to Western North Carolina. They could be employed as Home Guard, and this bill would assist in defusing the disaffection and mounting chaos in the mountains. Thomas believed that the bill would keep the Carolinians from killing each other. His amnesty bill, however, failed to pass and the horrific “War Crimes” continued. In May 1865 in White Sulphur Springs (Waynesville), Thomas even conducted what is presently referred to as Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) and Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR). See Cherokee War Rituals, Culture, Festivals, Government, and Beliefs.

 To Arms! To Arms!


The Thomas Legion's soldiers were initially armed with outdated "dusty flintlocks" and "bored-out squirrel rifles." Later, its soldiers were equipped with captured modern Enfield Rifles.

"The mountains are pouring forth their brave sons in great numbers." Raleigh Register, July 9, 1861

In September 1862, Thomas was designated as Colonel of the Legion. The unit, which eventually recruited more than 2,500  officers and men, consisted of infantry, cavalry, and a light artillery battery. The organization was a "Roman Legion" styled unit operating under one command. Though originally formed to protect the Cumberland Gap and Western North Carolina areas, Thomas' Legion was involved in many battles throughout the south. The unit defended the vital and strategic Saltworks and railroads (O.R., Ser. 1, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 716) and was instrumental in constructing and maintaining the Cumberland Gap supply lines. The Confederate supply routes were constructed in the Great Smoky Mountains during the harsh winter of 1862, with the main objective to connect with the Confederate forces in East Tennessee. The unit also guarded the Cumberland Gap, fought the Union army, practiced countless hours of drills, and fought very formidable bands of outlaws, deserters, and bushwhackers--which operated as saboteurs and insurgents. Engaging and fighting bushwhackers was contrary to fighting an organized army. The Union and Confederate Armies applied Napoleonic Tactics  and typically marched into battle and fought. On the other hand, bushwhackers were "masters of the ambush" and wouldn't fight in a conventional manner. The bushwhackers' tactics enabled them to be a very formidable foe; many Confederates even preferred fighting Union soldiers.

Asheville News, February 27, 1862

"I have it from the lips of some Union leaders that the Federal forces intend to sack Asheville, as soon as they can possibly get there. They actually hate Asheville with a perfect hatred." Lt. W. F. Parker while stationed near Knoxville [Parker was a Confederate soldier from Buncombe County, N.C.]

To: Governor Zebulon B. Vance 
Nov. 22 1862

One consideration now animates us all. What will ensure success not what would be most agreeable to us. The Legislature appropriated two millions of dollars to defend Eastern North Carolina and the Western frontiers? Both are now in danger. The western Counties are in danger of being over run by deserters and renegades who by the hundred are taking shelter in the smoky mountains. The men between 35 and 40 west of the Blue Ridge should be furnished with arms and ammunition, and required to aid in guarding their homes and the Confederate should be required to place Military compys at every trap in the Smoky mountains from Ashe to Cherokee. As long as we can hold the Country encircled by the Blue Ridge and Cumberland mountains and their outside slopes we have the heart of the south, which commands the surrounding Plains. The loss of this country larger than England or France is the loss of the Southern Confederacy and we sink under a despotism. W. H. Thomas. (Christopher M. Watford, The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865. Volume 2: The Mountains, 79.)

Gov. Zebulon B. Vance to James A. Seddon, Secretary of War, C.S.A. - January 5, 1863

The enforcement of the Conscript law in East Tennessee has filled the mountains with disaffected desperadoes of the worst character, who joining with the deserters from our Army form very formidable bands of outlaws, who hide in the fastness, waylay the passes, rob, steal, and destroy as pleased. The evil has become so great that travel has almost been suspended through the mountains. (John C. Inscoe, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia, Western North Carolina in the Civil War, 114.)

...continue to 1861-1863 (Skirmishes and Battles)
...continue to 1864-1865 (Skirmishes and Battles)

Highly Recommended Reading: Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers (Thomas' Legion: The Sixty-ninth North Carolina Regiment). Description: Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains, spent 10 years conducting extensive Thomas Legion's research. Crow was granted access to rare manuscripts, special collections, and privately held diaries which add great depth to this rarely discussed Civil War legion. He explores and discusses the unit's formation, fighting history, and life of the legion's commander--Cherokee chief and Confederate colonel--William Holland Thomas. Continued below...

Numerous maps and photographs allow the reader to better understand and relate to the subjects discussed. It also contains rosters which is an added bonus for researchers and genealogists. Crow, furthermore, left no stone unturned while examining the many facets of the Thomas Legion and his research is conveyed on a level that scores with Civil War students and scholars alike.
North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster (Volume XVI: Thomas's Legion) (Hardcover, 537 pages), North Carolina Office of Archives and History (June 26, 2008). Description: The volume begins with an authoritative 246-page history of Thomas's Legion. The history, including Civil War battles and campaigns, is followed by a complete roster and service records of the field officers, staff, and troops that served in the legion. A thorough index completes the volume. Continued below.

Volume XVI of North Carolina Troops: A Roster contains the history and roster of the most unusual North Carolina Confederate Civil War unit, significant because of the large number of Cherokee Indians who served in its ranks. Thomas's Legion was the creation of William Holland Thomas, an influential businessman, state legislator, and Cherokee chief. He initially raised a small battalion of Cherokees in April 1862, and gradually expanded his command with companies of white soldiers raised in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and Virginia. By the end of 1862, Thomas's Legion comprised an infantry regiment and a battalion of infantry and cavalry. An artillery battery was added in April 1863. Furthermore, in General Early's Army of the Valley, the Thomas Legion was well-known for its fighting prowess. It is also known for its pivotal role in the last Civil War battle east of the Mississippi River. The Thomas Legion mustered more than 2,500 soldiers and it closely resembled a brigade. With troop roster, muster records, and Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) this volume is also a must have for anyone interested in genealogy and researching Civil War ancestors. Simply stated, it is an outstanding source for genealogists.

2005-2015 Matthew D. Parker. All Rights Reserved.

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