Monday, August 20, 2018

Does "little history" matter?

Toe River Valley during the War

   This was the topic of my facebook live program this past Sunday evening: does "little history'"matter? Lately, I've been tracing this story from a neighboring county. As the local story goes, during the war, a group of "Indians" crossed over the Tennessee border into the Toe River Valley area of North Carolina. Their mission was to look for and detain deserters. They were camped on the Nolichucky River, or, along the North Toe River.

   So, this group was sent into the Toe River Valley to look for deserters (and there were a fair number of deserters and dissidents hiding out in the area). As the story goes, someone alerted the local home guard that a group of Union soldiers was camped in the area. The home guard took up a position and attacked the camp, killing three and mortally wounding four. One version of the story has dead bodies floating down the Nolichucky River. Another story has the Natives being buried by local people.

   In the existing literature, I see nothing to back up any of this story: nothing in Volume 16 of the North Carolina Troop book series, nothing in Crow's Storm in the Mountains, nothing in period letters or newspaper accounts. It could be that this story is simply folklore, a ghost story. Of course, I often state that in every piece of folklore resides some piece of truth.

Thomas's Legion fighting the 14th Illinois in 1864
   We know that at times, the Cherokee of Thomas's Legion roamed the mountainsides. In January 1863, following the salt raid in the town of Marshall, North Carolina, portions of Thomas's command were sent with other Confederate troops to the Shelton Laurel area to respond to the events in Marshall. At the same time, Thomas himself was ordered to take "200 whites and Indians of his legion, is operating in Madison, and will go into Haywood Jackson, and Cherokee Counties, North Carolina, and Clay County, Georgia, with orders to arrest all deserters and recusant conscripts and all tories who have been engaged in unlawful practices on the Tennessee line of the mountains...."   (OR ser 1, vol. 18, 810-811.) Dan Ellis, the Union guide, reported in May 1863 that Carter County was full of Indians. (Ellis, Thrilling Adventures, 147) Part of Thomas's Legion was back in the Laurel community of Madison County in January 1864, looking for outliers and deserters. (NC Troops, Volume 16, 145-146) These stories alone place the Cherokee right on the border of the Toe River Valley.

   Will I ever be able to prove this story? Maybe... Probably not... But back to my original question: does little history matter? This is not Gettysburg, or Chickamauga. A huge percent of those reading this will have never heard of this story, and many of you will not even be familiar with the Toe River Valley.  For those who might have been killed, and their families back at home, this little piece of the war was just as important in their lives as Gettysburg or Chickamauga, a place many of them never heard of until some story of those great battles filtered back into their communities.

   To answer my own question, yes, "little history" does matter.


Jim G said...

The "little history" of the Eastern NC towns of Kinston, New Bern, and Goldsboro has been parleyed into an economic resource of sorts. Aside from Bentonville and Fort Fisher, the Civil War in Eastern NC gets little mention in most general Civil War literature. But local efforts in researching the events and restoring the battlefields in those places have ignited a growing Civil War tourism industry in those towns.

Will Pistolero said...

Yes it does!Little History fascinates me.It makes me want to get up and do personal research because of little to no legitimate information.I am currently researching the Confederate deserters executed in Dalton which brought me here.Thank you so much for your blog!