Monday, September 22, 2008

Watauga County

Here is the first installment. Tell me what you like and don’t like.

Well, I guess I will start with the county that I know the most about: Watauga.

Watauga County, a part of the “lost colonies” was created in 1849. A plot of ground surrounding the local store operated by the Council family was chosen as the county seat, and the town was named for Daniel Boone. According to the 1860 census, there were 4,957 people in Watauga County, including 104 slaves and 32 free blacks. A portion of the white and slave populations were lost in 1861 when Mitchell County was created to the south. In 1860, Watauga County had the smallest population, both white and slave, in the state of North Carolina.

In 1860, the county voted for Bell in the presidential election. In February 1861, when the vote to call a convention to secede was held, 536 men voted against the measure, while 72 voted for the convention. The representative to the May 1861 convention was James W. Council.

On May 11, 1861, Watauga County’s first company was recruited for service. This group of men would become Company D, 1st North Carolina Cavalry. Other companies recruited from the county include Companies B and E, 37th North Carolina Troops; Companies D, I, and M, 58th North Carolina Troops; and a small part of Company A, 6th North Carolina Cavalry. I have documented 987 men (and one woman) who served from Watauga County. They break down like this: 951 enlisted as Confederate soldiers. Thirty-six enlisted as Union soldiers. Another 68 of the Confederate soldiers later enlisted in the Union army. Some of were truly of Union sentiment. Some enlisted out of northern prisons simply because they were about to starve to death. Most of those serving in the Federal army served in the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry and the 13th Tennessee Cavalry. At least two of the 32 free blacks who lived in Watauga County served (volunteered) in the Confederate army: William Henry and Franklin Cousins (Cozzens). Franklin was killed at Second Manassas.

In the summer of 1863, the home guard was created. The 11th Battalion North Carolina Home Guard was commanded by Maj. Harvey Bingham. As with most mountain counties, the war started to come home in 1864. Numerous raids took place with civilian causalities. There were two home guard camps in the county, both apparently named Camp Mast on Cove Creek. One company was on duty while the other was at home. Save for men and a limited supply of foodstuffs, the county did not materially contribute to the war effort.

The biggest event of the war was the arrival of General Stoneman in March 1865. A skirmish was fought in downtown Boone, with the Home Guard losing. After Stoneman left, a Federal brigade under Brig. Gen. Davis Tillson came in and constructed five “forts” in the county to protect Stoneman’s way home. There were at least three Federal soldiers who died while stationed here, and they are buried in the slave section of the old Boone Cemetery. I have also heard rumors of one (or more) Federal soldiers buried across the road from the Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock.

After the war, there was a United Confederate Veterans Camp in Boone, and there was an attempt to erect a Confederate monument in town. What became of the monument, or the funds raised, is unknown. There are three of the state historical signs marking the sites of three of the five forts Tillson constructed. There are no NC Civil War Trail markers.

For more information, see Michael C. Hardy A Short History of Old Watauga County (2005), chapters three and four.

Also see Watauga County and the Civil War

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Mr.Hardy
My name is Ana, I´m portuguese and I´m an entusiastic about the american civil war. Thanks to you I´ve found informations about Banner Elk in the Avery County(Before named Watauga County) that I couldn´t find anywhere else. Nevertheless, I have some questions about the war times. Do you think you could give me some answers? For example how could the families write to the soldiers if they dindn´t knew where they wore? To who would they inscribe the cover? How did they sent the letters? In Sugar Mountain, the confederate soldiers that volunteerd, where putted in wich battalion? I´ve been in annoter web site of yours but I thought I might just ask to be sure.Thank you very much for your time and congrats for your work