Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas

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Senator William Holland Thomas
William Holland Thomas.jpg
(NC Office of Archives and History)

 Cherokee Chief, Confederate Colonel, Lawyer, Entrepreneur, and Politician
William Holland Thomas
 February 5, 1805--May 10, 1893

William Holland Thomas never knew his father, was raised by a single mother in a lowly mountain home, lacked any formal education, but was one of the most prominent figures in western North Carolina’s history.

Colonel William Holland Thomas
William Holland Thomas.jpg
(NC Office of Archives and History)

Thomas served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Indians (the only white man to serve as Cherokee chief) and was elected as North Carolina state senator (1848-1861). Adopted by the Cherokee, Thomas learned to read, write and speak Cherokee, and his cousins included both President Zachary Taylor and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Although he was an entrepreneur and businessman, a self-taught lawyer and Indian Agent who negotiated Cherokee treaties with Washington, Thomas aligned himself with the Confederacy and commanded a unit known as Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders. Furthermore, with the assistance of Thomas' Legion, the Union forces never subjugated western North Carolina, and it is widely believed that without  Thomas's intervention the present-day Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians would not exist. While Thomas also owned more land than any fellow citizen in western North Carolina's history and his "land holdings" rivaled the Vanderbilts, he died penniless. To date, the Eastern Band bestows honor and gratitude to its great white chief, and the North Carolina state Senate recently honored Thomas with Senate Joint Resolution 1171.

Cherokee Chief Yonaguska
Chief Yonaguska.jpg
(Historical Marker)

William Holland Thomas was born on February 5, 1805, in Haywood County, North Carolina, and, unfortunately, his father had died in an accident in the fall of 1804. His parents were born in England, and his mother, Temperance Calvert, was born in New Castle on the Tyne (present-day Newcastle upon Tyne), England. William spelled his mother's maiden name Colvard, since Colvard was, however, a common spelling for Calvert, with many Colvards and Calverts being related. The reason for the misspelling was phonetics. Temperance Calvert was the grand-niece of Lord Baltimore, the Founder of Maryland, and through her Strother lineage, Temperance was cousin to Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States. (Temperance's mother was 1st cousin to Zachary's mother.) Taylor was also 2nd cousin to President James Madison and 4th cousin, once removed, to General Robert E. Lee. He was even father-in-law to (future) Confederate President Jefferson Davis--who had married Taylor's daughter, Sarah Knox. Taylor's son was dashing Confederate General Richard Taylor, hence, brother-in-law to Davis. General Nathan Bedford Forrest commented that if the South had more soldiers like General Taylor, "we would have licked the Yankees long ago!" 
William's father, Richard Thomas, was of Welsh descent. During the American Revolution, Richard fought the British at Kings Mountain, and, while serving in the 11th Virginia Regiment, he was captured by the British and was a Prisoner of War from August 1, 1776, to September 1, 1777. He either escaped or was released and rejoined the 11th Virginia Regiment and continued fighting the British. Like many Revolutionary War veterans, Richard Thomas accepted a Land Grant in western North Carolina.
During his youth, William excelled in biblical studies and mathematics, and, while employed at a local trading post, a Cherokee co-worker taught him the Cherokee language. William was eventually adopted by the Cherokees, and he learned their customs as well as how to write in Cherokee (see Learn How to Speak, Read, and Write in the Cherokee Language). He also learned their legends, history, and culture. Furthermore, at the age of 16, William initiated his first business--his first of five stores--and perfected his organizational, leadership, and managerial skills. With a volume of law books (obtained from his former employer Felix Walker), William also became a self-taught and persuasive lawyer; acquired knowledge that would prove critical to the Cherokees' survival.

Eastern Cherokee Indian Nation
Eastern Cherokee Indian Nation.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Cherokee Chief Yonaguska (Drowning Bear) referred to the young William as Wil-Usdi or "Little Will." Yonaguska was considered the most prominent Chief among the Eastern Cherokees and he also referred to Little Will as his son. Years later, someone read a few chapters of the "Gospel according to Matthew" to  Yonaguska. After hearing the scriptures, the Chief replied, "It is a strange that the white people are not any better after having this so long." William and Chief Yonaguska were strong advocates of the Temperance Society, and the Cherokees eventually signed a pledge stating that they would abstain from spirits (alcohol). Any Indian that partook in alcoholic consumption was subject to a fine or whipping. Many Indians were Christians, they attended the Methodist Church, and the largest concentration of Cherokee Christians resided along the Valley River and near Murphy, North Carolina. Their Christian worship resembled modern-day Pentecostalism and was celebrated with "dancing and shouting," recorded William Stringfield.

Chief, Intercessor, Adviser, Agent, and Lawyer


For nearly five decades, Thomas played a crucial role in Cherokee affairs.
During the 1835 Treaty of New Echota negotiations, Indian Agent Thomas was in Washington* and he successfully lobbied for the right for a number of Cherokees to remain in North Carolina (see Cherokee Treaties). These Indians are the present-day Eastern Band; they were also referred to as Oconaluftee, Lufty and Qualla Indians. His lobbying in Washington had secured the preservation of the Eastern Cherokees from the forced march west, aka Trail of Tears, in 1838 (see The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy), which the Lufty refer to as Nunahi-Duna-Dlo-Hilu-I or Trail Where They Cried. Consequently, during the forced removal, William provided safe haven for approximately 1000 Cherokees; furthermore, it is noteworthy that his intervention is currently reflected with more than 12,000 Cherokees residing in western North Carolina (aka North Carolina mountains). Moreover, it is widely believed that without his  intervention there would not be the Eastern Band.
*Although David (Davy) Crockett allied himself with General Andrew Jackson against the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the Tennessee Congressman strongly and openly opposed President Andrew Jackson's (7th President, 1829-1837) Indian removal policies, which ultimately cost Crockett his political career. Consequently, Crockett relocated to Texas and died in the Battle of the Alamo. (President Andrew Jackson: The Cherokees' Perspective.)

Chief William Holland Thomas History
Chief William Holland Thomas History.jpg
William Thomas and the Cherokee

Thomas's Chest in 1846
Thomas's Chest in 1846.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

(Right) Thomas purchased this chest in 1846, and he used it to store his numerous documents and papers relating to the Cherokee.
During 1839-1840, William was in Washington fighting for the claims and rights of the Cherokees. It was also in 1839 when Chief Yonaguska appointed his adopted son Will as Cherokee Chief. Yonaguska believed that Will was the best choice and that he also held the Cherokees' best interests at heart. Thomas loved the Cherokees, they were his family, and even when the Confederacy was doomed in 1864, Colonel Thomas pleaded with South Carolina officials to immediately send food and clothing (basic necessities) to the western North Carolina Cherokees, lest they starve (O.R. Series 1, 53, pp. 313-314**). Thomas's land purchases constitute much of the Qualla Boundary, and Paint Town, Bird Town, Yellow Hill, Big Cove and Wolf Town were also named by Thomas. Near the Qualla Boundary a monument dedicated to Thomas reflects that he was "the best friend the Cherokees ever had."
**Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; hereinafter cited as O.R.


In the late winter of 1839, while Thomas was in Washington, Yonaguska died. Thomas learned about it in April. Before his death, 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 never to move west. William Holland Thomas became Chief of the Oconaluftee Indians. He was the only white man to hold that office. E. Stanly Godbolt, Jr. and Mattie U. Russell, Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief: The Life of William Holland Thomas, 40-8.

Entrepreneur, Husband, and Visionary

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

Will was also a businessman and his extensive travel experiences promoted his profound vision for lucrative southern turnpikes and railroads. He spent numerous years lobbying wealthy business owners, banks, and the state senate to support constructing the transcontinental railroad, only to see his plans and dreams derailed prior to the Civil War. He often stated to his wife that his dream was to build a transcontinental railroad, because he also believed it was necessary for the South's survival.

Many sources declare that Thomas owned vast amounts of real-estate. His holdings included more than 150,000 acres; with thousands of acres held in trust for the Cherokees. Although a very wealthy man, his selflessness and profound generosity kept him in debt and on the constant brink of bankruptcy. For months and sometimes years, many Indians purchased goods on credit at Thomas's stores. Although the Cherokees were hard workers, many were unable to compensate Thomas because employment in the region was scarce. But even when he didn't receive payment he continued to meet the Indians' needs.

Colonel Thomas Muster Record
North Carolina Confederate Civil War Record.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

He didn't display much affection for the so-called fancy city women because he believed that they were too worldly and self-centered. Senator Thomas found solace in smoking cigars, fishing, and occasionally attending the "theatre." Eventually, at the age of 51, the bachelor William had a romantic relationship with the shy, 24 year old, Sarah Jane Burney Love. Their marriage bond reflects that they married on June 30, 1857, at Sarah's home in Haywood County, with Reverend Banister Turner officiating.
Sarah, affectionately referred to as "Sallie," was the daughter of William's long time friend and former business partner James Robert Love. She was also the granddaughter of the Revolutionary War hero Colonel Robert Love, the founder of Waynesville, North Carolina. Sarah's father, James Robert Love, was also a prosperous businessman, vast land owner, and a respected lawyer in North Carolina. The Loves resided in White Sulphur Springs, near Waynesville, and they equaled the status of Chief Thomas. William and Sarah begat three children: William H. Thomas, Jr. (1858-1898), James Robert Thomas (1860-1936), and Sallie Love Thomas (1862-1954), and many of their descendants currently reside in western North Carolina. (See Cherokees Adopt William Holland Thomas's Descendants.)
Thomas L. Clingman wrote to his close friend Thomas: "As to the dark eyed girl do not hesitate to go totally forward. I hope to get to your wedding soon." E. Stanly Godbolt, Jr. and Mattie U. Russell, Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief: The Life of William Holland Thomas, 79-4.

Senator & General Thomas Clingman
Senator Thomas Clingman.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Thomas Lanier Clingman was a prominent United States Senator representing North Carolina and he also commanded the 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and, later, Clingman's Brigade. Colonel Thomas Clingman, later promoted to brigadier-general, was an ardent lawyer and one of the most outspoken politicians of his era and his proslavery and states' rights positions climaxed with his quote to Congress: "Do us justice and we stand with you; attempt to trample on us and we separate!"
General Robert E. Lee's esteem for Clingman was reflected vividly when he ordered Clingman to defend Richmond, Virginia. Later, at Lee's request, Clingman and his "Bonnie Blue Boys" greatly assisted in routing the Union forces at the Battle of Cold Harbor. General Ulysses S. Grant was a West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican-American War, and he wrote of Cold Harbor: "I regret this assault more than any one I ever ordered." Grant was later elected the eighteenth U.S. President.
North Carolina Senator (1848-1861) and Confederate Colonel (1862-1865)

The Thomas Legion
The Thomas Legion.jpg
(Historical Marker)

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 (aka mountaineer or highlander); and as a self-taught lawyer, he even convinced Washington to exempt approximately 1000 Cherokees from the Trail of Tears.

Will, a North Carolina State Senator from Jackson County, was also one of the largest slave owners in western North Carolina. Jackson County, ironically, was named in honor of President Andrew Jackson; he had signed the act that forced the Cherokees' removal. According to archives and census records, Thomas had owned less than 50 slaves (Jackson County, North Carolina, 1860 Slave Census) before their emancipation in 1865. Many of the slaves were his friends and he even entrusted one slave to conduct commerce and business transactions on his behalf.


Thomas 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." (Cherokee Declaration and the American Civil War, Cherokee Loyalty: Confederate, Union, or Neutral?, and Cherokee Indians and the American Civil War.) While reconnoitering Union positions in Chattanooga, Thomas captured a vidette and he wrote to his wife on June 25, 1862, and stated: "The Indians say as I took the first prisoner each of them must take one to be even." Thomas believed strongly 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 Tactics. 

Cherokee Members of the Thomas Legion
Cherokee Members of the Thomas Legion.jpg
(1903 New Orleans Reunion, 1977 Newspaper Reprint)

(Above) The following caption is 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. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

William Holland Thomas
William Holland Thomas.gif
(Historical Marker)

(Right) William Holland Thomas Historical Marker
William Holland Thomas
Businessman, planter and author
Agent and attorney for the Eastern Cherokees
Member of the North Carolina State Senate and Chairman of its Committee on Internal Improvements
Early railroad builder in western North Carolina
Builder of the first wagon road across the Great Smokies
Colonel of the 69th N.C. Regiment
Commander of the Thomas Legion, C.S.A.
Friend and Benefactor of the Cherokee People
Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina

William Holland Thomas to his wife, January 1, 1861
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.
John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War, 46-7.

Thomas Clingman to William H. Thomas, January 9, 1861 

The obvious policy and purpose of the Black Republicans is to keep the South unprepared and divided until they can get into power, and then their intention is unmistakable — to use all the power of the government to compel the South to submit to their domination, to the extent even of abolishing slavery, should civil war afford them a tolerable pretext. If, however, North Carolina, Virginia and the border States will act at once, they may, by preserving a united South, avert the evils of civil war. John C. Inscoe, Mountain Masters: Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina, 225.

 William H. Thomas to his wife, June 17, 1861 

The mountains of Western North Carolina would be the center of the Confederacy; we shall then have one of the most prosperous countries in the world. It will become connected with every part of the South by railroad. It will then become the center of manufacturing for the Southern market. The place where the southern people will spend their money, educate their children and very probably make laws for the nation. John C. Inscoe, Mountain Masters: Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina, 228.

Alpha Male and Type "A"

During the Civil War, William Thomas was court-martialed three times.

Regarding Thomas's court-martials, President Jefferson Davis wrote that they were "disingenuous and destructive to the Confederate cause."

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

Thomas's Civil War Strategy was the basis for his court-martials. In the summer of 1863, while assigned to Brig. Gen. Alfred Eugene "Old Mudwall" Jackson's command, Colonel Thomas was arrested and awaiting court-martial. Colonel Thomas' Legion had been reorganized into Jackson's Brigade, and Jackson's Brigade consisted of Thomas' Legion only (O.R., 1, 29, pt. II, p. 812 and O.R., 1,  33, p. 1137). Was it a legion or a brigade? This confusing and conflicting command structure was highly contested, so General Jackson had Thomas arrested in June of 1863 and charged with "disobedience of orders." Thomas was sent to Knoxville, Tennessee, to be court-martialed, but Union General Ambrose E. Burnside's East Tennessee invasion intervened and, as a consequence, Thomas' Legion was reassigned thus defusing the situation.


Another court-martial was to occur on February 23, 1864, because of the capture of General Robert B. Vance, brother to North Carolina Governor Zebulon B. Vance. Leaving Thomas at Gatlinburg, General Vance had proceeded to Sevierville, Tenn., and was captured because he failed to post pickets and not as a result of Thomas disobeying orders. Vance remained in a Federal prison until the war ended and even conceded that his capture was a misunderstanding of orders. 
Furthermore, prior to the war, the Vances were bitter rivals of Senator Thomas and they even held opposite views on the ad valorem tax and senate railroad bills (which fueled their bitter rivalry). According to official records and reports, Thomas was not responsible for Robert Vance's capture. However, ignoring official reports, Zebulon Vance believed that Thomas was culpable and used his brother's capture as an opportunity to punish his rival. Zebulon had initially commanded the valiant 26th North Carolina Infantry Regimentwhich suffered the greatest loss of any regiment during the Civil War. Zebulon was North Carolina's Governor (1862-1865 and 1876-1878) and also served in the United States Senate (1879-1894).

War Department & Colonel Thomas
William Holland Thomas Civil War Letter.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

Regarding the capture of Robert Vance, however, Colonel John B. Palmer stated that Lt. Colonel James L. Henry, and not Thomas, should be court-martialed (O.R., 1, 32, pt. 1, p. 76). James Seddon, the Confederate Secretary of War, believed that Vance was partially responsible for his own capture. Regarding the culpability of Vance's capture, President Jefferson Davis had written that "no action is practicable which seems proper." (O.R., 32, 1, p. 77). And on behalf of Thomas, President Davis also intervened, the charges were dismissed, and no trial was held.
On May 11, 1864, Thomas was charged with receiving deserters from the 65th North Carolina Regiment between September 1863 and April 1864. On this occasion, however, General Jackson was relieved of his command and sent to the Army of Tennessee. Again, there was no court-martial. In October of 1864 the trial resumed and Thomas was found guilty of all charges. This court-martial combined a prior court-martial with four additional charges. As with prior charges, he appealed to his dear friend, Jefferson Davis. Davis once more reversed the charges and Thomas was exonerated.
In 1865, William Holland Thomas signed the "Oath of Loyalty to the United States." However, with a prewar taxable property value exceeding $20,000, a 'Presidential Pardon' was also required. President Andrew Johnson, a friend of Thomas for twenty-five years, granted the pardon. The seventeenth President and North Carolina born Andrew Johnson granted Will his pardon on July 5, 1866.
The Golden Years?

Grave of William Holland Thomas
Green Hill Cemetery.jpg
(Green Hill Cemetery)

At the end of the Civil War and advanced in years, William Holland Thomas was emotionally, financially, and physically debilitated (William Holland Thomas and the Results of the Civil War: The Emotional, Financial, and Physical Toll and William Holland Thomas: Insanity and Syphilis?).
Initially, in 1867, he was admitted to the North Carolina Insane Asylum at Raleigh and diagnosed with Dementia. Subsequently, on May 12, 1883, Thomas was admitted to the western North Carolina Insane Asylum at Morganton (currently Broughton Hospital, it catered to western North Carolina, and is approximately 200 miles west of Raleigh). Whether he volunteered or was forced to enter the asylum, he spent most of his latter years at the asylum or under close supervision. There were times when he was placed on what is commonly referred to as house-arrest in his home near Whittier, North Carolina. Ironically, while Thomas was a state senator a bill was placed on his desk; it was a proposal to create and fund Broughton Hospital.

Thomas was well prepared for death, for he had witnessed the loss of every single person that was closest to him: his father had passed away just prior to Little Will's birth; his adopted father, Chief Yonaguska, had died one year after the 1838 Trail of Tears; thousands of Cherokee had died during the Trail of Tears; hundreds of North Carolina Cherokee had been killed by smallpox during and after the Civil War; many of his closest friends had died during America's bloodiest war (1861-1865); on October 1, 1874, Will's mother Temperance had died at the age of 100; his darling wife Sallie had died at the age of 45 on May 15, 1877.
Within one week of Sallie's passing, Thomas was committed to the "Asylum" where he spent his remaining years. Further irony plagued the Colonel, he petitioned the Governor of North Carolina for his release. Unfortunately, once again, his rival Zebulon Vance was North Carolina's Governor.

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

At the age of eighty-eight the great Cherokee Chief, Little Will, went to his final resting place at 2:30 A.M. on May 10, 1893.

William Holland Thomas
William Holland Thomas.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

William Holland Thomas
William Holland Thomas.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

Thirty years prior, General "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire and died on May 10, 1863, and on May 10, 1865, Union troops captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis near Irwinville, Georgia. Thomas dreamed about a transcontinental railroad, and on May 10, 1869, the "Golden Spike" (aka "The Last Spike") was the ceremonial final spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the "First Transcontinental Railroad" across the United States connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. Thomas also believed that the North Carolina mountains would become one of the most visited regions of the nation. Today, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, located mainly in western North Carolina, is the most visited National Park in the United States. (See Southern Appalachian Mountains.)
Two hundred years after Little Will's birth, the Tar Heel State continues to honor and celebrate the beloved Chief with Senate Joint Resolution 1171.
Although Union forces never subjugated western North Carolina, the Eastern Band continues to bestow honor and gratitude to its great white chief. My ancestors were friends with William Holland Thomas and several served in Thomas' Legion of Indians and Highlanders.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Cherokee Reservation.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Cemetery where Thomas was laid to rest
Chief William Holland Thomas.jpg
Chief William Holland Thomas

In Memorial: William Holland Thomas lobbied Washington for the Cherokee to remain in North Carolina and was even on the scene during the 1838 Trail of Tears and persuaded General Winfield Scott, the Indian removal enforcement officer, to allow the Cherokee hiding in the North Carolina mountains to also remain. Without Thomas's intervention at both fronts, there would not be a single Cherokee in western North Carolina. Thomas had spent his entire life, including his massive savings and investments, to secure the right for the Cherokee to survive and remain in North Carolina. Thomas was our Oscar Schindler, and his significance is reflected with the existence of the present-day Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. This website is dedicated in his memory and honor.
Notes: Senator William Holland Thomas photograph, 1858; Colonel William Holland Thomas photograph, ca. 1863, while serving as commanding colonel of Thomas' Legion.

(Bibliography and related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief: The Life of William Holland Thomas. Description by University of Tennessee Press: William Holland Thomas (1805-1893) was a unique transcultural figure. A white man from western North Carolina, he was adopted by a small Cherokee Indian band and later became its chief. Equally at home in a drawing room or at a Green Corn Dance, Thomas served as agent for the Oconaluftee Indians in Washington, protecting them from removal to the West in 1838 along the infamous Trail of Tears. Thomas was also a frontier merchant, a builder of railroads and turnpikes, a wealthy owner of land and slaves, a state senator, and a Confederate colonel in the Civil War, in which he commanded a legion of Cherokees and white Appalachians. Continued below…

In this first published biography of Thomas, the authors depict nineteenth-century America at a turning point and document a human tragedy. An influential businessman and politician who enjoyed a storybook courtship and marriage, Thomas came to ruin when—as a member of the North Carolina secession convention—he committed his loyalty toward his people, family, and region to the hopeless cause of the Confederacy. This investigation of Thomas's life also reveals much about the culture and plight of the Cherokees, their experience with removal, their legal battle to "legitimize" themselves as citizens of North Carolina, and their role in the Civil War. Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief will be of interest to students of the Civil War and of Native American, North Carolina, Appalachian, and Southern history. The Authors: E. Stanly Godbold, Jr., is a professor of history at Mississippi State University and coauthor of Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution. Mattie U. Russell was curator of manuscripts in the William R. Perkins Library at Duke University.

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Related Reading:



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.

Digital Library of Georgia; Museum of the Cherokee Indian; Official Website of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation (; Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers; Vernon H. Crow, The Justness of Our Cause; Duke University; University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill); University of Tennessee (Knoxville); North Carolina Division of Archives and History; National Archives and Records Administration; Library of Congress; State Library of North Carolina; North Carolina Museum of History; Tennessee State Library and Archives; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Thomas Legion Papers: (; Western Carolina University; North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources; E. Stanly Godbolt, Jr. and Mattie U. Russell, Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief: The Life of William Holland Thomas; The Civil War Diary of William W. Stringfield, Johnson City, TN: East Tennessee Historical Society Publications; North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster (Volume XVI: Thomas's Legion), North Carolina Office of Archives and History; John R. Finger, The Eastern Band of Cherokees; Paul A. Thomsen, Rebel Chief: The Motley Life of Colonel William Holland Thomas C.S.A.; Christopher M. Watford, The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers' and Civilians' Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 2: The Mountains; John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War; D. H. Hill, Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865; Weymouth T. Jordan and Louis H. Manarin, North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865; Walter Clark, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-1865; National Park Service, American Civil War; The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Rice University; William R. Trotter, Bushwhackers: The Civil War in North Carolina, The Mountains; John C. Inscoe, Mountain Masters: Slavery and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina; William C. Davis, Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour (1991); Rankin Barbee, The Capture of Jefferson Davis (1947); James I. Robertson, Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend; John S. D. Eisenhower, Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850; Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture; Sean Michael O'Brien, Mountain Partisans: Guerrilla Warfare in the Southern Appalachians, 1861-1865; Noel C. Fisher, War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1860-1869; The Sylva Herald (North Carolina); Smoky Mountain (North Carolina) News; Jackson County (North Carolina) Genealogy Society; Cashiers (North Carolina) Historical Society; Macon County (North Carolina) Historical Society & Museum; American Neurological Association; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Victoria Casey McDonald, A Pictorial History: The African-Americans of Jackson County; General Assembly of North Carolina, Session 2005;;;;; Confederate War Records.

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