Archive for the ‘Civil War’ Category

Civilian Casualties of War, 1863

August 13, 2018
[Public Domain clip art from
https://www.wpclipart.com/American_History/civil_war/Various/hanging_during_civil_war__by_Pyle.jpg.html%5D
     The history of Randolph County’s turbulent civilian life from 1861 to 1865 is an aspect of North Carolina’s Civil War history that was first explored by Bill Auman in his meticulous and influential research, sadly only published after his death.  Auman recounted numerous stories of organized resistance to the war effort, often amounting to civil insurrection, that plagued local and state government all through the war.  Examples that made it into publication in contemporary newspapers have been known for many years; the well-known episode of Deputy Sheriff Alfred Pike’s torture of William Owen’s wife to find his hiding place has recited and published in numerous articles and books- perhaps the county’s best-known example of poor behavior during the war.
    Asheboro was the headquarters of the government and the military during the war, and Asheboro at the time had no local newspaper.  Events are only known when residents wrote to other newspapers, in Fayetteville, in Greensboro, or in Raleigh. Most events were never recorded in the news at the time they happened, and many stories are virtually impossible to confirm.  Such stories survived, if at all, as oral history.
    Local writer Ralph Bulla recorded one long after the event, the death of Alson Allred in 1863.  Bulla heard Allred’s story and was guided to his grave by elderly residents of the Coleridge area 113 years after it happened.  Alson, supposedly “hiding out” from the Confederate draft, was captured near Deep River South of Coleridge, taken to Buffalo Ford, tied up, stood on horseback, and hanged from a large maple tree.  Allred’s 17-year-old wife arrived after the execution, and members of the local Bray family who witnessed it could not forget her “hollering and screaming.”  Allred’s crime was said to be that “He laid out, they caught him and killed him,” and so it was justifiable.  [“Civil War Hanging Recalled,” by Ralph Bulla. The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro N.C., 2 June 1976, p10A.]
The basic facts of the story are easy to confirm. Alson G. Allred’s grave is to be found in the Gardner-Moffitt Graveyard, Brower Township, on the East side of Riverside Road, just past 5151 Riverside Rd., about 0.3 mile south of the bridge over Richland Creek.  The location is about a mile and 3/4 east of Moffitt’s Mill, the local post office located where SR 1004 crosses Richland Creek.

His tombstone shows that he died January 5, 1863, and was 20 years old (born 18 August 1842).  The graveyard is apparently in the close vicinity of what was the Elisha Allred homeplace.  Allred’s parents and close family members are buried here. In the 1860 census, the Elisha Allred family were neighbors of James and Louisa Gardner, who are also buried here. (Louisa or Levisa Allred, b. 1826, was Alson Allred’s oldest sister).

[Randolph County, 1865]
According to the story, Alson Allred was captured at or near the present site of 5795 Riverside Road, about a mile further South from the cemetery. The site is some 3.5 miles south of Coleridge, which didn’t exist in 1860, and about 6 miles south of Buffalo Ford as the crow flies.  Although I have yet to find official confirmation, the school house at Buffalo Ford was apparently used as a regional headquarters for the Home Guard, a base for their searches for conscripts and deserters, and a detention center for those captured.  After his arrest, Allred must have been taken directly past his own home on the way to Buffalo Ford.
    There is no record of Alson Allred’s wife’s name, or indeed of his ever being married.  There is no record of his service in the Confederate military, nor any record of his desertion.  Ralph Bulla’s record of the local oral history is literally the only record of Allred’s life and death that has been found.  Since no official record of his execution has been found, a fundamental question must be raised: was Allred’s death a legal execution, or an extrajudicial lynching?  Was he a civilian casualty of the war, or a harsh example of military discipline?
    The first step in answering the question lies in understanding the Confederate conscription system. In the federal system, devised for the Union army and used in every war since, men subject to “the draft” received a number chosen at random, and those lottery numbers are used to induct only the selected men into service.  The Confederate system was oddly and radically different.  In April 1862 the Confederate Congress created a program of compulsory national military service for all white males which required an elaborate, centralized governmental enforcement effort.
    Every white male within a stated age range was automatically considered to be in Confederate service unless released by a medical board or exempt as a public official (Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Constables, Coroners, Clerks of Court, judges, postal clerks, ministers, etc.)  Quakers were not exempt as conscientious objectors (they could pay a fee or hire a substitute). Men engaged in businesses or industries considered vital to the war effort were not exempt, but were considered soldiers “detailed” to work in their usual jobs unless and until called up for actual military service. Thus supervisors in cotton mills, millers, miners, blacksmiths, foundry workers, coopers, and etc. were “Detailed Men,” working at their prewar occupations.
[New York City draft riots, 1862]
    Randolph County is fortunate in that voluminous records of the 7th Congressional District Home Guard have been preserved in various institutions, and this gives us names of hundreds of “recusant conscripts” (what we now call ‘draft dodgers’) and deserters. Most of these relate to later periods of the war, 1864 and 1865, and nothing has yet appeared that relates to the possible capture, court martial trial or execution of Alson Allred.
    One fact argues that his death was in fact an execution: no records of an inquest into his death can be found in the Randolph County court records in the State Archives.  The Coroner or his deputies were legally required to assemble a jury and review the circumstances of any “unnatural death” in the county.  Two examples from the period are illustrative:
    When D.F. Caudle of Yadkin County died at the home of Claiborne Allred in Franklinville in September 1863, Acting Coroner Alfred Pike held an inquest, assembled a jury of prominent local men (headed by George Makepeace, the superintendent of the cotton mill), who heard evidence and determined that Caudle met his death “by exposure.”  [The legal record is bare of some of the most interesting facts: David F. Caudle married Mary Cooper in Yadkin County on 18 Sept. 1856. A conscript into service, he was listed as serving in the Confederate Navy in Wilmington as of 19 July 1863, yet within 6 weeks he is dead in Randolph County.  I believe that “death by exposure” during one of the warmest times of the year means that Caudle deserted his post in Wilmington, and on his way back to Yadkin county, contracted pneumonia walking home and was probably suffering from malnutrition which led to his death in Franklinville.  See Yadkin Men in the Military, 1861-1865, p 197; RC Gen. Journal Fall 1997, p 25.]
    When word of the death of Peter Garner was received by Coroner Ransom Lowdermilk, apparently weeks after the event, his body was exhumed on May 13, 1864 and a jury of southern Randolph County men assembled to view the cause- “Various gunshot wounds to the left side of head and body,” and to bring in a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown. [On April 24, 1864, Garner (“a detailed soldier from the army”) guided the Sheriff’s posse to arrest the leader of an outlier band (“the notorious Bill Owens has at last been captured,” said the Fayetteville Observer.)  Garner, born in 1833, was listed as an “overseer” in the 1860 census, and was known by the nickname “The Hunter” for his work in finding and capturing outliers.  Within a week of his assistance in the capture of Owens, he was assassinated while fishing in Richland Creek by some of Owens’ men.]
    When no inquest is conducted into the circumstances of a death, the assumption is that it occurred by natural causes– unless it was a public execution.
    A deeper examination into the family of Alson Allred also raises questions.  His parents Elisha and Barbara Allred had a family of five boys and four girls.  One other boy is buried in the Gardner-Moffitt graveyard, James M. Allred, born 6 October 1845, died 4 April 1865. What was a twenty-year old white male doing home in April 1865? There is no record of a Coroner’s inquest into his death, either- was it from natural causes? A note on his tombstone in the online service “Find a Grave” erroneously reports that he was a member of Company M in the 22nd NC Regiment- that is James A. Allred, who survived the war. The only record of a “J.M. Allred” among North Carolina troops is on the list of “Major Hahr’s Battalion” published in Walter C. Hilderman, They Went into the Fight Cheering: Confederate Conscription in North Carolina (Boone: Parkway Publishers, 2005), pp233-234).  Major Frank Hahr’s two companies of “light duty men” were part of Colonel Peter Mallett’s conscription bureau. In October 1864 they were sent to Wilmington, where they were stationed during both attacks on Fort Fisher, in December 1864 and January 1865.  The roster of Company B contains the name of “J.M. Allred,” listed as “Deserted.” If this is our James M. Allred, he must have made it back to Randolph County by April 4th, when he died- whether of disease or by execution, can’t be determined.
    In fact, a military service record can be found for only one of Alson Allred’s four brothers: William Harrison Allred, born 11 June 1840.  He is listed in Confederate payroll records as a teamster in Tennessee and Georgia in the fall of 1863, but on May 16, 1864 he was wounded in the shoulder at Petersburg, Virginia and taken prisoner.  He was sent to the military prison in Alton, Illinois, where he signed the Oath of Allegiance. He married Martha Moon in Randolph county in 1868, and died in 1925 in Benton County, Arkansas. [Fold3, Confederate conscript records. There appear to be two different Oaths signed, which may indicate that there are two different William H. Allreds  in the file.]
    None of Allred’s other brothers (Henry Branson Allred, b. 1825; Clarkson L. Allred b. 1827; and John Tyson Allred, b. 1831) have military service records.  Clarkson Allred is listed on a list (attributed to the Fall of 1864) of the hands detailed to work at the Salt Works near Wilmington.  Were the others “hiding out” from the army? Was Alson the only one caught, and executed as a lesson to his brothers?  Was James also caught and executed?  None of these questions have easy answers.
    One final quirk to the story of Alson Allred: on March 24, 1865, two weeks before the death of his son James, his father Elisha Allred committed suicide.  We know the facts, because, once again, Coroner Ransom Lowdermilk conducted an inquest. The body of 62-year old Elisha Allred was found hanging in his barn, his mouth filled with cotton. His wife Barbara testified that he left the house to feed their stock, “after having expressed the previous night his indifference to living.” Their daughter-in-law (perhaps Naomi Moffitt, who married Clarkson Allred on August 7, 1855) discovered the body.  The verdict was “death by hanging, having jumped from the tailgate of his wagon.”
    What made Elisha Allred so despondent that he took his own life? Why put cotton in his mouth- the rope around his neck would make it impossible to cry out. Was it because he had said something he felt remorse over?  There is only so much we can do to fill in the blanks around the life of Alson G. Allred- but the real story is no doubt much deeper and richer, and more sad, than the single newspaper account we have.
    And I believe that there were dozens of similar stories in Randolph County between 1861 and 1865, most of which we will never see even this much evidence to document. Randolph County during the Civil War was itself a battlefield, and there were dozens of casualties, whether civilian or military.
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The Jonathan Worth House and Lot

July 9, 2018

Jonathan Worth (1802-1869) is usually cited as Asheboro’s most famous former resident, on the basis of his two terms as Governor of North Carolina from 1865-1868.  There is little in Asheboro to remind us of him, however, except a state historical marker, and that has been moved from the site of the original courthouse to a spot in front of the current courthouse.  (It still says ‘located one block south,’ which is now inaccurate).

This past winter and spring, one of the last living witnesses to Worth’s life and residency was lost.  The oak tree located in front of the Frank McCrary house on Worth Street was once located in the front yard of Governor Worth’s house.  After suffering storm and insect damage it was gradually removed over a couple of weeks, and now no trace of it remains. It was estimated to be more than 200 years old.

The Randolph Room in the public library has no photograph of the front, or North side of Worth’s house, but we do have a vintage view of the eastern side, that faced Main Street.

It belonged to Governor Worth’s grandson Hal Worth, and County Historian Laura Worth, Hal Worth’s widow, made notes all over the back of it.  “Home of Jonathan Worth in Asheboro, NC, 1824-1864. Located on site of C.W. and J.F. McCrary houses.  Picture made at a family gathering for the Silver Wedding anniversary of David G. and Julia S. Worth, who had moved from Asheboro to Wilmington.”  Julia Stickney, a native of New York, came to Asheboro to teach in the Female Academy. She and David Worth were married in June 1853, after his graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill, so the picture must date to the summer of 1878.  David Gaston Worth was the only son of Governor Worth and his wife, who also had seven daughters, and many of them can be assumed to have been present for the photograph.

Thirty persons have been caught by the photographer, and most of them are unknown.  Miss Laura notes that the lady seated in the center of the detail above, wearing a white bonnet and shawl, is Sarah Dicks Worth, wife of John Milton Worth, who must be the dark-bearded standing man two persons to her left- slightly out of focus since he must have moved during the exposure.  The standing group to the far right of the detail, who are to the left of the large tree in the original, are noted by Miss Laura as “Mrs. Elvira Worth, seen with the Walker children.”  The young man to her right must be Herbert Jackson, her son by Governor Worth’s law partner Samuel Jackson who died in 1875. Evelina then married Samuel Walker, who died just three months later, leaving her with three step-children. (She would later marry once more, in 1883, to Eli N. Moffitt.)

The couple to the right of the tree is not identified, but given the occasion the man and seated woman could be the anniversary couple David and Julia Worth.  They had eight children, of whom only sons Charles (b. 1861), George (b. 1867) and James (b. 1869) survived to adulthood. the 8 and 10-year-olds may be the boys seated on the grass in front of the couple, while the young man in uniform could be 17-year-old Charles. Another  young man in uniform standing behind Sarah Dicks is probably Hal M. Worth, grandson of John Milton Worth, the son of his only son Shubal, who died in the Civil War. The uniforms with U.S. Army-style kepi caps are almost certainly those of the Bingham School in Mebane, which had become a military school in 1873. The Bingham School was operated by Robert Bingham and his wife Delphine Worth, another daughter of Governor Worth. The Binghams and their two daughters and two sons are probably one of the other couples in the photo.

The odd structure in the left foreground is an ice house where pieces of ice cut from frozen ponds during the winter months could be stored below ground, packed in sawdust.  Here is a diagram of one from Fredericksburg, VA–

 

 

As interesting as this single photograph can be, it tells us very little about the Worth property.  Jonathan Worth was a successful lawyer in Asheboro for 40 years, and owned several other farms Randolph and a plantation in Moore in addition to his Asheboro home.  His home survived only a few years after this picture- Sidney Swaim Robins says in Sketches of My Asheboro that he saw it burn one winter night, around 1885.

For additional information we can turn to an advertisement posted in various North Carolina newspapers when Jonathan Worth began his move from Asheboro to Raleigh to take up his duties as State Treasurer in 1862.  It reveals, in great detail, that the house was only one part of a community of buildings and structures that encompassed an entire block of downtown Asheboro- from Worth to Academy Streets, and from Main to Cox Streets. Early Asheboro, as an antebellum southern courthouse town, was a village of clustered farmhouses rather than an urban collection of townhouses. The ad provides an insight to daily life in early Asheboro that no photograph can adequately coney.

VALUABLE PROPERTY FOR SALE.

THE undersigned baring recently undertaken public duties, incompatible with proper attention to the property hereinafter described, will sell at Auction, for Cash, (currency) at 12 o’clock M., on the 29th Jan’y next, (unless sooner disposed of at private sale,) his Tract of LAND in Moore County, on the Fayetteville and Western plank Road, about half way between Carthage and Asheboro’, containing about 507 Acres, of which some 50 or 60 acres is probably cleared, and well fenced. and some four acres good Meadow. It has on it a comfortable DWELLING, Kitchen, Smoke House, Barn, Store House, spacious Stables, &c.

The sale will be made at the premises, and immediate possession will be given to the purchaser. He will aIso sell, at private sale, his Lots and Residence in the town of Asheboro’, with, or without Two Farms near the village. One of the farms about a mile from the village, contains about 100 acres, 80 acres of which is in cultivation. It has on it some 8 or 10 acres of good meadow. About 40 acres is seeded, in good order, with a superior variety of wheat and with rye and winter oats. The remainder is in a good condition for a corn crop. Three-fourths of the outside fence of this place is built of stone. The other tract, about 3 miles from the village, contains about 305 acres;– about 60 acres in cultivation, some 16 acres of which is seeded in Winter oats– the rest intended for corn next year.

The property in Asheboro’ consists of several contiguous lots, containing about 10 acres, all of which is in excellent condition; has on it an orchard of more than 200 trees, in bearing condition contesting of choice varieties of apple, peach, pear, cherry and other fruit trees;– about 3 acres of highly fertilised and productive meadow.

The dwelling is 62 x 20 feet, with a wing 18 x 26 feet, both two stories high. The rooms of the main building are all plastered in plain hard finish style; four of them spacious and with good, fire places; one a dormitory, without fire place, and one a library room, fitted up with moveable shelves, &c. The wing has two rooms with fire places, a dining room and one room without a fire place, with fixed wardrobes, and a spacious and dry cellar under the building. The out-buildings consist of a kitchen, three negro houses with two rooms in each of them, four of the rooms having each a fire place, and one of them a stove; well house with pantry, a large smoke house, carriage house, wood house; two offices each with two rooms and one fire places; a framed barn 54 x 80 feet, with stable room for 8 horses, space for sheaf wheat enough to produce 600 bushels; two ceiled garners capable of holding each 600 bushels of grain, with a basement story to shelter cattle; and also separate cow houses; a stone milk house supplied with a constant stream of cool spring water. The buildings are all in excellent condition, and have been recently painted.

Persons desirous to make further inquiries, can apply to me at Raleigh, to my son or brother residing in Wilmington or to my brother in Fayetteville, or to my son in- law S.S. Jackson in Asheboro’, who is duly empowered empowered to make a sale.
As I am about to remove lo Raleigh l can give immediate possession.
JONATHAN WORTH.
Dec’r 27 1862

 

The Randolph County Confederate Monument

August 17, 2017

Confed Monument Ron Baker Photo CT

The Randolph County chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was organized in 1906 at the suggestion of Mrs. E.E. Moffitt, the daughter of Governor Jonathan Worth.  “The paramount interest of the organization” was to erect a monument to Confederate veterans in Asheboro.  The ladies raised money for the statute through numerous public events: “Bazaar” sales, a “Biblical cantata,” an “Old Maids’ Convention,” a “Batchelor’s Congress,” a “Spinster’s Return,” a “home talent concert,” and through sales of post cards.

IMG_0421Their final appeal to the general public was published in The Courier of 26 Feb 1909: “We have set our hands to the sacred task of erecting in the town of Asheboro, near our beautiful new courthouse, a monument to commemorate the bravery and valor of the Confederate Soldiers of Randolph County who fell in the War between the States.”

IMG_0423“We would that all men in looking upon it might feel that it was a fit expression of the glory of the dead and of the love and reverence of the people for whom they died. It will speak to generations yet unborn of the simple loyalty and sublime constancy of the soldiers of Randolph county who fought without reward and who died for a cause that was to them the embodiment of liberty and sacred right.”

Mullins catalog1

More than a hundred individual and business donors contributed to the final cost of $1700.  The monument was ordered through the “Blue Pearl Granite Company” of Winston-Salem.  The base of Mt. Airy granite is 9’6” square and 22 feet tall.  The 6’ tall statue itself was purchased from the W.H. Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio. 

Mullins catalog2

It was Number 5608 in their catalog, “Confederate Infantryman/ Six Ft. high from top of base to top of head. One-eighth plate base 20x20x5 inches. Made in sheet copper, antique bronze finish; also in sheet bronze.” The company’s 1913 catalog featured a full-page photograph of the Asheboro statue atop its granite pillar.

Mullins catalog3

The Mullins Company sold statues of all varieties of soldier, both Union and Confederate, officer and enlisted man.  After World War I they sold many more modern tin soldiers to memorials around the country. One page of the 1913 catalog prints a poem, “The Blue and the Gray”:

By the flow of the inland river,

When the fleets of iron have fled,

Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,

Asleep are the ranks of the dead;

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment day;

Under the one, the Blue;

Under the other, the Gray.

 

No more shall the war cry sever,

Or the winding rivers be red,

They banish our anger forever,

When they laurel the graves of our dead.

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment day,

Love and tears for the Blue,

Tears and love for the Gray.

IMG_0422

The monument was unveiled Sept 2, 1911 at the two-year-old county courthouse, at a public event attended by an estimated 3,000 persons (about twice the population of Asheboro at the time).  The keynote speaker was North Carolina Chief Justice Walter M. Clark, a Confederate veteran and author of the Regimental History series N.C. Troops.  Congressman Robert N. Page delivered a “Eulogy to Old Soldiers,” and the President of the Randolph Chapter of the UDC, Miss May McAlister (the grand-daughter of Dr. John Milton Worth), unveiled the monument. It was “presented by” E.L. Moffitt, the President of Elon College; “accepted for the veterans” by the State Auditor, W.P. Wood; “for the county,” by county attorney H.M. Robins; and “for the town” by Mayor J.A. Spence.  Bands played, songs were sung, and the UDC hosted a dinner on the grounds of the Presbyterian Church across the street, at which 250 watermelons were cut and served to the crowd.

Walter Clark b1846Chief Justice Clark in the war

Chief Justice Clark’s speech was a lengthy and meticulous account of the regimental histories of each of Randolph County’s companies. “To some this recital of bare facts will seem tiresome, but to these veterans they recall memories that will never die. The ‘days of our youth are the days of our glory.’ Bear with me then as I recall the battles, marches and sieges of not long ago.”

IMG_0419He closed by saying “From what I have already said, it will be seen that from the very beginning of the war to its close, wherever there were hardships to be endured, sufferings to be borne, and hard fighting to be done, there the county of Randolph was represented, and represented with honor, in the persons of her gallant sons.”  Absent from Clark’s speech was any “waving of the bloody shirt,” or any reference to “the Anglo-Saxon race” (features of many other such dedicatory addresses). Clark’s only overt political remarks concerned the perceived unfairness that southern states were taxed to provide pensions to Union veterans, but not to Confederate veterans- a position that no doubt resonated with the hundred or more Confederate veterans in his audience.

One hundred years later, just before Veteran’s Day in 2011, an additional footstone marker was installed at the monument to correct the misidentification of Company M, the “Randolph Hornets,” as Company D.  The marker goes on to note eight additional companies which included large groups of Randolph County men.

Hugh falls CT

In mid-September 1989, the remnants of Hurricane Hugo swept up from Charlotte and nearly toppled the statue from its granite pedestal.  An iron armature inside the sculpture had corroded over the years, allowing the hollow statue (which weighs less than 100 pounds) to flip over.  Ad Van der Staak of Van der Staak Restorations of Seagrove, reconstructed the shattered shoe, rifle butt and arm crushed in the fall. The statute was also cleaned and coated with a preservative, under a bid of $4,880. Cablevision of Asheboro donated half the expense, with the county covering the remainder.  Alice Dawson, Clerk to the Board of Commissioners, told the newspaper that the statue would have to be known as “Hugo” thereafter, in recognition of his near ‘death’ in the hurricane.

Vander staak

Hugo and Van der Staak, 1989

IMG_0420

Is Randolph County’s Confederate Monument a monument to White Supremacy?

August 17, 2017

Silent Sam N&OMany Confederate monuments erected at or around the same period were used overtly to advance a racist agenda. “Silent Sam,” on the Chapel Hill campus, for example, was dedicated in 1913 by Civil War veteran Julian Carr of Durham, then the president of North Carolina’s United Confederate Veterans.  Carr stated that he and his fellow veterans , Carr applauded rebel soldiers for preserving “the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South,” and ensuring that the “the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon” lived there.

Carr concluded with an overtly racist and threatening anecdote:

One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterward slept with a double-barrel shotgun under my head.

My reading of the record does not find any evidence that this was the case when the UDC planned or dedicated the Asheboro monument.

Elvira Worth MoffittElvira Evelina Worth Walker Moffitt, Governor Worth’s daughter, was involved with community improvement projects at all stages of her life.  During the Civil War, she organized the women of Asheboro to sew tents out of material woven by the mills in Cedar Falls and Franklinville. During the Spanish-American war she helped establish the Soldiers’ Aid Society in Raleigh; during World War I she was a leader in the War Relief Society of Richmond, Va.

Besides being honorary president for life of the Johnston-Pettigrew Chapter of the UDC, she was honorary state regent for life of the DAR.  She was an early member of the NC Literary and Historical Association and served as editor of the North Carolina Booklet, its history magazine. She was one of the first to suggest that Asheboro and Randolph County needed a public library; she was a founder of the Randolph County Historical Society and of the Women’s Club of Raleigh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe was instrumental in having a bronze tablet to “Ladies of the Edenton Tea Party-1774” placed in the rotunda of the state capitol; and she was the chief fundraiser in building the Stanhope Pullen Gate, which stands at the entrance to the grounds of NC State University. When she moved to Richmond to live with her son, she joined the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and personally launched the movement to organize the Matthew Fontaine Maury Association, presiding just a few months before her death at the unveiling of a monument to America’s first and foremost oceanographer.  Maury’s statue is perhaps the least Confederate of any on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, excepting that of Arthur Ashe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think Mrs. Moffitt and the UDC members would have agreed with Chief Justice Clark (considered one of the most progressive political figures of his era) that the Asheboro Confederate Monument was first and foremost a Veteran’s Monument.  It depicts only a common infantry soldier, not any general or divisive political figure.  While Confederate history can and has often been co-opted to advance a racist agenda, and lately has also been hijacked to provide rallying points for domestic terrorism, the history of the Confederacy is unavoidably the history of the American South, just as much as is the history of slavery.  Monuments such as ours have been part of the civic landscape of the country for decades, and have now become intertwined with the history of two world wars, civil rights battles, and courtroom drama of all kinds. It may be unintentional that Asheboro’s Confederate monument faces South, while the norm was to site them facing resolutely North.  I prefer to see it as a subtle and intentional reference to Randolph County’s reluctant participation in the war, and to the constant desire of its men to come back home.

stalin_budapest_1956_3The NC General Assembly in July 2015, passed the “Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act,” (Senate Bill 22), which prevents the removal of monuments such as the Confederate Statue in Asheboro. But protestors in Durham recently ignored the law and pulled down a similar statue at the old Durham Courthouse.  If such a law did not “protect” our monument, what would be a valid argument against removing or destroying it?

LeipzigBattle of Nations 1945

For an apt comparison out of history, consider the actions of the Allied forces occupying Germany after World War II.  Directive 30, issued in May of 1946, directed the “de-nazification” of Germany by ordering the removal of all National Socialist emblems and insignia, and prohibited the “design, erection, installation or other display” of any monument, memorial, poster, statue, edifice or highway name marker “which tends to preserve and keep alive the German military tradition, to revive militarism or to commemorate the Nazi Party, or which is of such a nature as to glorify incidents of war…”

Denazified monumentHowever, Article IV of the Directive states:

“The following are not subject to destruction and liquidation:

  1. Monuments erected solely in memory of deceased members of regular military organizations, with the exception of paramilitary organizations, the SS and the Waffen SS.
  2. Individual tombstones existing at present or to be erected in the future, provided… the inscriptions… do not recall militarism or commemorate the Nazi Party.”

I would argue that the Asheboro Confederate monument was “erected solely in memory of deceased members of regularly military organizations”, albeit members who served in a losing cause in rebellion against the constituted government of the United States of America. If it was removed at the request of any individual or group which is offended or disagrees politically with the history of the monument, I think a precedent would be created that would make it difficult to refuse an identical request made by any anti-Vietnam War activists.

But don’t people have a point? Isn’t Confederate history racist history?

Heritage of Hate

Yes. 

Despite many modern attempts to re-write history, the war that began in April 1861 was fought by Southerners to defend and protect their “peculiar institution.” Attempts to recast and redefine the roots of the war began in Reconstruction and have continued ever since, particularly during the Jim Crow era in the South.  The only reason for states to leave the federal Union was to keep slaves in bondage. “State’s Rights” was an excuse put forward to maintain the system of Negro slavery.  That was wrong then, and we fought a war to end it. The United States won. The Confederacy lost. 

The more pertinent question in regard to this particular monument is whether Confederate history is Randolph County history.  My opinion as a Randolph County historian is that our local history was significantly different in many important ways from traditional Confederate history.  And our unique local history has never been recognized, commemorated or memorialized in ways that would give it the educational value it deserves.

I’ve been told by those who object to the Confederate statue that their biggest objection is to the inscription, “Our Confederate Heroes.”  I think this is a valid point.  There were many more heroes in the conflict than just Confederate heroes.  Randolph County history of the period is full of examples.

Salt WorksQuaker COs were sent to the Salt Works, run by John Milton Worth.

Our county had one of the lowest slave population percentages of any North Carolina county east of the mountains.  It had one of the highest percentages of “free people of color,” former slaves who had been emancipated before the war years.  This was due to the fact that Quakers historically made up the predominant religious group in the county, and the Friends had been in the forefront of manumission and abolition activities in North Carolina since the 18th century.  The Quakers from Randolph and Guilford counties were in the forefront of those smuggling slaves out of the South on the Underground Railroad.  It is perhaps no surprise that there are no Quaker monuments, as Friends did not even mark their own graves with more than an uninscribed rock until after the Civil War.

The Eagles NestWhen the war did finally come, Randolph County residents were reluctant to embrace it.  When the state legislature called for a referendum on secession, Randolph County’s state senator Jonathan Worth actively campaigned against it. The Greensboro Patriot editorialized, “The 28th of February, the day which perhaps will decide the fate of the Union, is close at hand.… Let every man then who loves his country be at his post… There is a battle to be fought.  A battle upon the result of which hang the destinies of this Nation.  The enemies of our Union have been marshaling their forces.  The hand is already uplifted to strike down the flag of our country!  Union men, to the rescue!  To the rescue!  ….” 

Kabbalistic_red_stringOn that election day, the voters of North Carolina narrowly rejected the secession Convention.  But in the Piedmont, the traditional Piedmont Quaker counties overwhelming voted for the Union.  Chatham County voted against by a margin of 15 to 1; Guilford by a margin of 25 to 1. In Randolph, editor E.J. Hale exulted in the Asheboro Herald of March 3, 1861: “Listen to the thunder of Randolph!” The final vote of 2,579 against to 45 in favor of secession was the largest in the state– 57 pro-Union  voters to every one pro-Confederate secessionist.   That lop-sided proportion struck newspapers in eastern North Carolina as fishy… the New Bern Progress [quoted in the April 11, 1861 Greensboro Patriot], headed its editorial “Something Wrong.”

But whatever it was continued to be wrong throughout the war. Several times each year during the war, government troops were sent from Raleigh to restore civil order and arrest deserters and “outliers,” or draft dodgers.  The county was under martial law for much of the war.  In the election of 1864, the anti-Confederate Peace Party or “Red String” candidates won every elected office in the county, from Confederate Congress to Governor to Sheriff.  Again, the state newspapers cried foul.  But that was the true voice of Randolph County, despite sending more than a thousand of its boys off to war.

red-string            Historian Bill Auman points out that Randolph County in 1861 had the third-lowest volunteer rate in the state.  The enlistment rate for North Carolina as a whole was 23.8%; in Randolph it was 14.2%.  As the war went on, conscription acts were passed by the CSA to force men into service; 40% of the state’s draftees in 1863 came from the recalcitrant Quaker Belt counties, with Randolph contributing 2.7% of its population to the draft that year.  North Carolina as a whole contributed about 103,400 enlisted men to the Confederate Army, about one-sixth of the total, and more than any other state.  But this does not mean those troops were all loyal Confederates; about 22.9% (23,694 men) of those troops deserted, a rate more than twice that of any other state.

engraving      The Confederacy did not publish statistics on desertion, but at least 320 of Randolph’s nearly 2,000 men deserted from their regiments, with 32 deserting twice, five deserting three times and one deserting five times!  Forty-four of these deserters were arrested, 42 were court-martialed, and at least 14 were actually executed. So many deserters and outliers hid in underground dugouts, with their camp fire smoke seeping up out of the dirt, that their rugged mountain hideout took on the name Purgatory Mountain- wreathed in the fires of Hell. Even when they returned to Confederate duty, there was no guarantee that these men would stay.  196 captured Randolph county Confederates took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union before the end of the war, with 67 joining the Union Army.

 

southernvolunteers C&I

Southern “Volunteers”. Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

A case in point is the service history of Frank Toomes, great-grandfather of Richard and Maurice Petty. William Franklin Toomes (Jr.) was born October 25, 1838 in the Sumner community of Guilford County, less than a mile north of the Randolph County line. Frank followed his father into the blacksmithing trade, and when the Civil War broke out, both of them were working as blacksmiths, probably at one of the factories in Franklinsville. Male employees of the Deep River cotton mills and ironworks qualified as exempt “indispensable” employees until late in the war, but at some point the regional Enrolling Officer decided the cotton mill could do without one of its blacksmiths. When the Enrolling Officer came for him, Frank Toomes hid, submerged in the mill race, breathing through a straw. But on December 2, 1863 Frank Toomes was captured and forcibly drafted into Company E of the 58th North Carolina Infantry.  Within days Toomes was sent to the Tennessee western front, and within days, he deserted. On or around February 1, 1864, 23-year-old Frank Toomes entered the Union lines, surrendered and was taken prisoner to Nashville. On February 12th, he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and was assigned to Company H of the 10th Tenn. Cavalry regiment. There Toomes apparently became a good soldier, as he was promoted to 1st Duty Sergeant of Company H on July 16, 1864, and then to Quartermaster Sergeant on June 30, 1865.

Bucked Gagged

There are also numerous stories about Quaker Conscientious Objectors, who even though drafted, refused to bear arms despite humiliation and torture in the army ranks.  Thomas and Jacob Hinshaw, Ezra, Nicholas and Simeon Barker, Simon Piggott and Nathaniel Cox, all Friends from Holly Spring Meeting, were forcibly enlisted in the 52nd NC Infantry when they refused to pay $500 each as an exemption fee.  They refused to hire substitutes and they refused to fight, even after being repeatedly “bucked down”- tortured by having their arms and legs bound so they could not move for hours.  In camp they were harshly disciplined for refusing to carry guns or participate in military training.  An officer wrote that “these men are of no manner of use to the army.” But they were kept in the ranks as virtual prisoners, hands tied and made to march at bayonet point.  Finally left on the battlefield at Gettysburg, where they were nursing the wounded, the Quakers were captured by Federal cavalry and imprisoned at Fort Delaware as prisoners of war. A concerted effort by Quakers of Wilmington, Delaware resulted in their pardon and release by Secretary Stanton and President Abraham Lincoln himself. 

111109_2313_HowellGilli11.jpg

Perhaps the most glaring omission in the Randolph County narrative of its Civil War history is the story of Howell Gilliam Trogdon (1840-1910), a native of the area south of Deep River between Cedar Falls and Franklinville.  The Trogdon family is a classic example of one with divided loyalties; half a dozen served in Confederate uniforms and died on the battlefield or served all the way to Appomattox. Many of those who stayed at home became ring-leaders of the secret anti-confederate Peace movement, the Red String.  Reuben F. Trogdon, who in 1866 won the vote for Sheriff and served as Randolph County’s first Republican elected official, was said to have been the leader of the Red String during the war.  His cousin Howell Gilliam Trogdon, on the other hand, moved to Missouri and became a Zouave in the Union Army.  In the seige of Vicksburg, under orders from Ulysses S. Grant, Trogdon led the nearly-suicidal charge against “Stockade Redan,” a Confederate fort.  Of the 250 men involved in the charge, only Trogdon and two others made it to the top of the parapet.  For his actions in 1863, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor- the first North Carolinian and the only Randolph County soldier ever to win that honor.  Where is his monument?

Memorial_Hall_-_Harvard

When I was at Harvard from 1973 to 1977, we took exams in Memorial Hall, a huge Victorian dining hall built in 1869 to honor the 136 Harvard graduates who died while serving in the US Army during the Civil War. 

We southerners would morbidly joke that Memorial Hall was the country’s largest monument to Southern marksmanship, a pointed gibe at the fact that nowhere among the marble tablets inscribed with the names of those dead Harvard boys were to be found the names of the 71 southern graduates who also gave their lives.  

harvard-memorial-hall-transept

The Memorial Transept. The names of 136 Harvard Union dead are on those marble plaques.

This is still a bone of contention on campus.    http://www.vastpublicindifference.com/2011/05/confederates-in-harvards-memorial-hall.html

Southern monuments aren’t the only one-sided stories of that conflict.  But perhaps the lesson is that we need to learn from multiple perspectives, and tell many stories, to get the full picture of history.  Erasing one side is just as harmful to real education as is ignoring another.

Conscientious objectors 2.jpg

Thomas McGehee Moore: First Mayor of Asheboro?

December 30, 2016
Signature of Thomas M. Moore

Signature of Thomas M. Moore

[I apologize for not posting here since I began at the Randolph Room, but I’ve been busy. Case in point: in August the City of Asheboro asked the library to provide biographies of all of the Mayors of Asheboro. Ross Holt and I actually found two names which had previously been overlooked in former histories, and I compiled this biography of the man who was probably the town’s first mayor, although he had been virtually lost and ignored.]

Thomas McGehee Moore (8 Aug 1806 – ca. 1881)

Probably served as Mayor from 1869-1877

The History of Asheboro (written in 1938 by Mrs. W.C. Hammer and Miss Massa Lambert for insertion into the cornerstone of the new Asheboro City Hall), says “The first mayor of Asheboro, holding office probably in the 1860s or 1870s was Col. Moore. It seems the town got along without a mayor before that time.” (p11) The Rev. J. Frank Burkhead agrees, saying in several of his published reminiscences that “Col. Moore was the first mayor of the City” [The Courier, April 3, 1936.] He also tells the story of Peter Page, a friend and fellow student who made up the doggerel verses “Colonel Moore is the mayor of our town; he keeps things in order by walking around. Mr. Frazier is a very busy man; he goes to the post office whenever he can.” [Rufus Frazier being the headmaster of the Asheboro Male Academy at the time. From The Courier, 1937 and The Tribune, 1938– undated clippings in Mrs. Worth scrapbook].
Though incorporated by the legislature in 1792 there were apparently no elections held and no city government to speak of before 1855, when the General Assembly authorized the election of five town commissioners, and in 1861 established a framework for municipal government. The Mayor was not separately elected, but was chosen by the town commissioners from among their number.
When the 1835 courthouse was demolished in 1914, two different letters signed by “Thomas McGhee Moore, Justice of the Peace” were discovered which had been inserted into the cornerstone of the 1876 entrance pavilion. The editor’s note when these letters were published said that
“Col. Thomas McGehee Moore was a prominent figure in Asheboro for many years, and his memory is revered by many of our older citizens who recall his familiar figure upon the streets, and remember him as the foremost Justice of the Peace of his time.
“He was a cultivated, polished man, a gentleman of the old school, being closely connected with the Mumfort and McGehee families of Person and Caswell counties, prominent and wealthy citizens in the old days.
“Col. Moore lived, with his son Frank, for many years in a residence then across the street and opposite the present residence of Mrs. M.S. Robins. He was entrusted with the drawing up of many of the most important contracts, deeds, mortgages, etc., during his day and time. He was well posted in the law, and wrote a most attractive hand, his work being much in demand in those days long before the general introduction of the typewriter.” [The Courier, 30 April 1914.]
Thomas M. Moore was born in Caswell County, one of ten children of Capt. Robert B. Moore (1752-1816) and Elizabeth McGehee (1769-1852). [Daniel Moore family tree, ancestry.com] On January 13, 1841 he married Elizabeth Hoover, the daughter of the then-Sheriff of Randoph County. “General” George Hoover (c. 1795- 28 May 1842) was a former commander of the county militia regiments who represented the county in the state legislature, 1823-1825. The General and his wife, Nancy York Hoover (c. 1805- 23 March 1863) were the proprietors of Asheboro’s most prominent hotel, the Hoover House, situated at the northwest corner of the Courthouse Square. When the county built a new brick courthouse in 1830, it sold the old wooden courthouse to General Hoover, who moved it across the street and added it to his existing hotel. The string of buildings comprising the General’s family home, boarding house, dining hall and corner barroom added up to the Town’s common name for the inn, “the Hoover Long House.” Hoover served as Sheriff from 1827 to his death in 1840.
Moore seems to have been successful and relatively wealthy during the early part of his life, but by the 1860s seems to have experienced a decline in his fortunes. An anonymous writer stated in that “Across the street west of M.S.Robins lives Thomas Moore; I remember him as a man having a business capacity, in appearance; but I don’t now call to mind his vocation in life. He was a son-in-law of General Hoover, who kept the hotel.” [“Randolph,” “Asheboro Fifty Years Ago,” The Courier 1901.] The earliest records of Hoover’s new son-in-law call him a “merchant.” [The Southern Business Directory (Charleston, 1854), p 391] The source of his title “Colonel,” may have been from early militia service, or it may have been a honorific title related to his service as a Justice of the Peace. A number of Randolph county wedding announcements published in newspapers all over the state during the 1850s list “Thomas M. Moore, J.P.” as the magistrate performing the wedding.
Moore was also a well-known Whig politician, serving as secretary of the Whig State convention in 1854 [2-21-1854] and the county convention of 1860 [The Patriot, GSO, 25 May 1860]. His father-in-law, however, was a well-known Democrat. “General Hoover and A.S. Crowson were the only Democrats in Asheboro,” wrote Peter Dicks Swaim about growing up in the town in the 1840s. [published in the Courier May 11, 1880 and republished October 4, 1951.] Moore was also one of the officers of the local “Good Shepherd Lodge of Good Templars,” a temperance organization. [The Patriot, GSO, 12 Nov 1873].
Moore and his wife Elizabeth had four children who survived to adulthood, three sons and a daughter. The census of 1860 describes Moore as a “retired merchant,” but he was evidently also a widower, as Elizabeth Hoover Moore is not listed. She may have died in childbirth, as her youngest son was born in 1858.
As with many Randolph County Unionists, Thomas Moore was caught in an inescapable situation by the war. When it was over, amnesty was offered to most soldiers and citizens of the Confederate States, but “office-holders” were exempted. This left Moore in a precarious state, as he had come to depend on the income from minor government positions. His application for a Presidential Pardon, filed July 3, 1865, states that-
“He was always before the war commenced opposed to secession. He [was?] both opposed to the [utmost?] of his influence and by his vote [to] the calling of a convention for that purpose in February 1861, nor did his opposition to it cease till by the action of the convention of the state in May 1861, the state was carried out of the Union without any [agreement?] of his, and contrary to his most ardent wishes; but then notwithstanding he regarded it as fraught with the most serious consequences to the people. He felt himself compelled to acquiesce to the actions of his state; but would at any and all times, have been pleased to have seen the Union reconstructed upon honorable terms.
“He is aged 58 years, and a poor man, and found great difficulty in supporting himself and family in the condition of things brought about by the rebellion till in July, 1862, when the office of tax assessor for his county was, at the instance of friends compassionate [to] his situation, tendered him by the authorities of the so-called Confederate States, which he, for the reasons before mentioned, accepted and continued to perform till the surrender of Gen. Johnson’s army last spring; but he performed the duties in a manner as little onerous and oppressive to the citizens as possible.”
[Case file of Applications from Candidates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty Papers”), 1863-67. The National Archives, Record Group 94, Cat# 656621, Roll 41.]
Nowhere in Moore’s application does he reveal that, despite what may have been his personal opposition to secession, he had lost both of his oldest sons to the war. When war broke out in 1861, his 19-year-old son George H. Moore son was living and working as a carpenter among his Hoover relatives in Thomasville. George Moore joined Company B of the 14th NC Regiment, the “Thomasville Rifles,” on April 23, 1861. On the 1st of December 1861 his younger brother Robert A. Moore joined the same company at their camp in Fort Bee, Virginia. George Moore was killed in action at Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 12, 1864. Robert Moore, who was promoted to Sergeant a month before his brother’s death, was “killed on picket” on the North Anna River less than 2 weeks after his brother.
Immediately after the war Moore spent a considerable amount of time working with his brother-in-law Benjamin F. Hoover (1818-1884), a lawyer and Clerk of Court, in straightening out the estate of his mother-in-law Nancy York Hoover, who died during the war. Mrs. Hoover owned not only the hotel, but a lot of real property on the west side of Asheboro (what’s now Church and Hoover streets). Most of her personal property had been in 13 enslaved people, whose value in 1863 declined 100% by 1865. Moore’s wife’s portion of the estate would have passed to her 4 children, sadly reduced by 1865 to two children. Moore only began administration of his wife’s estate in 1868 in connection with administration of the estates of Nancy Hoover and his sons.
That may have provided a dowry of some kind for his daughter Elizabeth Cornelia Moore (28 June 1846 – 13 April 1882), who married Richard Simpson Smith of Guilford County on October 31, 1872. His only surviving son, Benjamin Franklin Moore (1858- ?) is something of a mystery. One reference to him is from one of his father’s cornerstone letters, which states that the 1835 courthouse “was covered in tin this year and painted by Benjamin F. Moore.” [The Courier, 4-30-1914] The 1880 census says that the 22-year-old “works in a buggy shop.” His contemporaries seemed to remember him with a lingering air of sadness. Writing many years later, Mrs. James (Nannie Steed) Winningham wrote that “Col. Moore lived opposite the Marsh place, and after his daughter Cornelia married and went elsewhere to live, he and his son Frank(“Bud”), continued to live there and everyone who lived in Asheboro then will remember good-hearted, unfortunate “Bud” Moore.” [The Courier, 3 Sept. 1931 and manuscript copy in the Randolph Room.]
Thomas Moore’s personal popularity continued to provide him with public work that helped support his family, but often with some unexpected reversal. In 1865-68 he served as Register of Deeds, then as now an elected position. [NC Business Directory for 1867-68, p. 93] He lost that job, as did Governor Jonathan Worth, in a Republican landslide after all 1865 elections were voided by the Military Governor of North Carolina, Ben Butler.
The published financial accounts of the 1876 Randolph County Board of Commissioners list Thomas M. Moore as the “County Ranger,” the official charged with taking stray animals into custody (similar to a dogcatcher, but all livestock ran loose in those times before fencing) [Randolph Regulator, Sept. 27, 1876]. Earlier that same year he had been elected as one of the first three Justices of the Peace for the newly-created Asheboro Township. Before the Constitution of 1868, Justices of the Peace had been appointed by the Governor; afterwards they were elected by township. Randolph County was divided into 16 equally-sized townships in 1868, a survey which put the town of Asheboro in the far northeast corner of Cedar Grove Township. Democrats alleged that this was the result of a plan by the Republicans in control of state government to minimize the voting power of the county seat, which could be expected to vote “Conservative” Party (Southern Democrats didn’t regain the use of their pre-war name until after the presidential election of 1876). Protests resulted in 1876 in the creation of a new 17th township for Asheboro, carved out of parts of Franklinville, Grant, Cedar Grove and Back Creek. David W. Porter and R.M. Free, a Republican, were elected JPs with the Democrat Moore in that first election.
Thomas McGehee Moore evidently died in the fall of 1881, survived by his daughter Cornelia and his son Benjamin. [Application for Letters of Administration by George S. Bradshaw, Public Administrator, 17 December 1881] His wife’s tombstone in the Asheboro City Cemetery is simply titled, “Elizabeth, Consort of T.M. Moore.” She is buried beside a child who died in infancy, and one would expect her husband and parents and perhaps her youngest son to be buried around her. But no markers of any kind are known for General George Hoover, Nancy York Hoover, or Thomas McGehee Moore.

[My biggest surprise in this research was in discovering that both of Moore’s adult sons had died in the War.  Yet more evidence of the devastating impact that the war had on the next generation of leadership in Randolph County- virtually every family in a position of power lost a son or sons.

My current research project: the Sheriff wants biographies of all of the former sheriffs!  I’ve already found one not on that list, too.]

What’s in a Name?

April 13, 2015

grant_sherman_15_cents

It is pretty common, living in Asheboro, North Carolina, for visitors to confuse our community with our cousin to the West, Asheville, North Carolina.

Both of us are named after the 9th Governor of the state, Samuel Ashe (1725-1813), who is best remembered for lending his name to Ashe County, Asheville and Asheboro.

People have had enough problems over the years just figuring out the spelling- “Ashboro” and “Ashville” are the most common variations, to those who don’t realize “Ashe” was a man’s name.

“Asheborough” was the official version during the Civil War, only shortened to “Asheboro” by the U.S. Postal Service in the 20th century.

But whether Ashboro, Asheboro or Asheborough, our town in central North Carolina is often mis-identified with our larger, more liberal and super-scenic cousin to the West.

There are numerous examples known to our tourism workers of people who call or show up in Asheboro, wondering where all those Blue Ridge mountains and beer brewers are…

What I consider as the most notorious example of this name confusion happened 150 years ago, in a letter between two well-known people:

WTS Orders 13 April 1865

 

The next move of Sherman’s army from Raleigh west was NOT, of course, to be Ashville, then Salisbury or Charlotte.  It would have been a relief to Randolph County if he had skipped over us, but the plan was to head for the cotton mills on Deep River, east of Asheboro, and capture the railroad connections in High  Point and Greensboro.  All were to be destroyed as thoroughly as had been done in Fayetteville.

If President Jefferson Davis had had his way, General Joe Johnston would have fought Sherman’s forces tooth and claw, laying waste to Piedmont North Carolina.  Davis ordered Johnston to prolong the fight as long as possible, to cover the escape of the Confederate leadership.  At a meeting with the President, then residing in exile in Greensboro, Johnston entreated him to face reality:

“I represented that under such circumstances it would be the greatest of human crimes for us to attempt to continue the war; for, having neither money nor credit, nor arms but those in the hands of our soldiers, nor ammunition but that in their cartridge boxes, nor shops for repairing arms or fixing ammunition, the effect of keeping in the field would be, not to harm the enemy, but to complete the devastation of our country and ruin of its people.  I therefore urged that the President should exercise at once the only function of government still in his possession, and open negotiations for peace.”

Johnston recognized that the Confederate army was facing an age-old question: who wants to be the last man to die in a war?

Sherman’s men had been in the Randolph County area for weeks, whether spying or encouraging desertion and civil unrest is still under debate.  On March 22, 1865, state troops had surprised local outlier leader Alpheus Gollihorn meeting with a man near Page’s plank road toll house (now Seagrove).  Gollihorn was summarily executed by firing squad, but his companion gained a reprieve by identifying himself as Pvt. William F. Walters of Company L of the Third Indiana Cavalry.  Walters was brought to Asheboro, where his presence created a problem for Lt. Colonel A.C. McAlister, the commander of the local Confederate forces.  Better that Walters had been executed in the field than tried in public with Sherman on the way, thought McAlister, but he deferred to Governor Vance, who ordered a public court martial.  Walters’ trial began in Asheboro on March 28, 1865, and he was eventually found “guilty of robbery and of associating with armed bands of deserters and robbers- of resisting military authority of the Confederate States and of being a leader and counsellor of such armed resistance…”  Walters had been “shot to death with musketry” on April 1, 1865.

In Asheboro, not Asheville.

Randolph County’s First Christmas Tree?

December 24, 2014
Godey's Lady's Book, 1850- a revised version of  the Illustrated London News, edited to Americanize Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1850- a revised version of the Illustrated London News, edited to Americanize Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

North Carolina in 2014 ranks number two in the nation in Christmas tree production, right after Oregon.  Every year the state’s 1600-odd tree farms produce some 50 million Fraser Firs, the most popular type of Christmas tree, worth about $100 million dollars.[i]  Add that to the relentless drumbeat of Christmas music and lights and shopping, it is hard to realize that Christmas wasn’t always the way it is today.

If you flip back to my 2010 post of Nannie Steed Winningham’s reminiscence of the Confederate Christmases of 1862, ’63 and ’64,[ii] you will note that there is no mention whatsoever of Christmas trees.  Santa Claus came down the chimney, as usual, and filled up the family’s stockings with gifts.  There was too much eggnog, and there was a visit by the scary “Christmas Waifs” demanding hand-outs.  But no tree.

In fact, Christmas was not at the time of the Civil War an actual official holiday.  As Dickens had Scrooge point out in A Christmas Carol, it was up to an individual’s employer whether to give the day off from work.  The City of Asheboro itself was created on December 25, 1796, when the state legislature, meeting for a regular work day, passed “An Act to Establish a Town on Lands of Jesse Henley, in the County of Randolph, at the Court House of said County.”  Not until 1870 did Congress establish Christmas as a federal holiday.

Illustrated London News, 1847.

Illustrated London News, 1847.

The modern American versions of both Thanksgiving and Christmas began to take shape during the Civil War period, and both traditions owe much to the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who lobbied regularly for Americanized holidays.   The magazine at Christmas, 1850, printed the first widely-circulated picture in America of a decorated Christmas evergreen; it was a repurposed 1848 engraving of the British Royal Family with their tree at Windsor Castle which had been published in The iIllustrated London News.[iii]  Reprinted throughout the 1860s, the image became the iconic picture of an American Christmas tree.

Minolta DSC

Another influential magazine, Harper’s Weekly, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus himself.  Cartoonist Thomas Nast, a sketch artist for the magazine, created an illustration for the Christmas, 1861 issue to accompany the Clement Clarke Moore poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  That was the first published image of Santa in a reindeer-drawn sleigh with a bag full of gifts slung over his shoulder.

Federal Santa

Federal Santa

However, the fact that Nast also showed Santa delivering copies of Harper’s as gifts to Union soldiers on the war front soured the picture for Southerners.     The Richmond Examiner editorialized that this Northern image of Santa Claus was nothing more than an “Dutch toy-monger,” a “transflated scrub” from New York and New England “who has no more to do with genuine Virginia Hospitality and Christmas merry makings than a Hottentot.”[iv]

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, 1857

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, 1857

It wasn’t that Christmas trees were unknown in America at that time.  The British Royal Family brought the custom into England, and in a backhanded way North Carolina has a tie to that.  The wife of George III, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (the namesake of Charlotte and Mecklenburg county), set up a Christmas tree at a party she gave for children in 1800.  Princess Victoria liked the custom and a tree was placed in her room.  In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the 13-year-old princess wrote:

“After dinner… we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room… There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees…”[v]

The custom became even more widespread after Victoria’s marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, and by the early 1840s there were newspaper ads for Christmas trees that promoted their fashionable German origins and their popularity with children.  The Moravians of Salem are thought to have brought the custom of Christmas trees to North Carolina.  Randolph County had its few Moravians, but even more Lutherans, Amish, Dunkers and other German sectarians.  But I have seen no record of their Christmas celebrations.

tree engraving

Christmas Tree in Church

The first reference to a Randolph County Christmas tree that I know about comes from the manuscript “Reminiscences” of W. M. Curtis, a carbon typescript dated 1940.  Walter Makepeace Curtis (1867-1955), a Methodist minister, was Secretary-Treasurer of Greensboro College for 34 years.  His autobiography begins,

“I was born on February 18, 1867, in Franklinsville, Randolph County, North Carolina.  My home was on an island with Deep river on the south and a mill race on the north.  This race began at a dam across the river at the west end of the village and emptied into the river at the Franklinsville cotton mill.

… My father, Dennis Cortes Curtis [1826-1885] (he always signed his name D. Curtis) was the son of James Curtis, a farmer who lived a few miles south of Franklinsville….

“There was a public schoolhouse for the children of the village near the Methodist Church, but the school was in session only three months of the year, and my father was anxious for his children to have better educational opportunities so he employed a governess… My father was superintendent of the Sunday School in the Methodist Church, and he took me to Sunday School when I was quite small….

 Holly_Tree_by_Chase_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk

“At Christmas we had a Christmas tree in the Sunday School.  The tree was always a large holly with red berries.  Some time before Christmas my father would drive to Greensboro and purchase presents and decorations for the tree.  On the night before Christmas, as soon as it was dark, my little four-wheel wagon was loaded with Christmas things and I, with some help, pulled the wagon up to the church, where my father and others arranged the decorations and presents on the tree.  Individuals were permitted to have their presents, with the name of the recipient on each one, hung on the tree.  There were a good many of these, and it was interesting to hear the names called out.  Each one receiving a present would go forward and get the gift.  This Christmas tree celebration was always held on Christmas Eve, and was quite an event in the village.”

Although Curtis doesn’t give a specific date for this tree, it had to date from before the Curtises moved to Greensboro in 1880, and probably can be attributed to the period around 1875.[vi]

1836-The Strangers Gift Boston first american-christmas-tree

The first published American illustration of a Christmas Tree, from The Stranger’s Gift, printed in Boston, 1836.

This is in accord with the introduction of trees into Christmas celebrations; they often were introduced to the public places at churches, hospitals and charity bazaars, and their familiarity there slowly led people to set up private trees at home.  It also seems to have been understood that Christmas trees were used to provide gifts for the underprivileged.  Varina Davis noted in her 1896 recollection of Christmases in Richmond during the war years, ” like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided…” [http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/on-the-homefront/culture/christmas.html]   As late as 1906 a charity was set up specifically to introduce decorated trees to poor children in London slums ‘who had never seen a Christmas tree’.[vii]

Handrawn sketch from 1812 or 1819 by John Lewis Krimmel of Philadelphia.

Handrawn sketch from 1812 or 1819 by John Lewis Krimmel of Philadelphia.

The first Yule trees were small ones that sat on a table, decorated with dried fruit, popcorn, pine cones and homemade paper chains and baskets for nuts.  A tree was not brought into the house and decorated before December 23rd, “the traditional “First Day of Christmas,”  and the beginning of the 12-day Christmas season that ended on Twelfth Night (January 5th).  To have a tree up before or after those dates was considered bad luck.

A non-evergreen Christmas tree from the 1850s.

A non-evergreen Christmas tree from the 1850s.

Not all Christmas trees were evergreens.  In the late 1800s and, most probably, long before, home-made white Christmas trees were made by wrapping strips of cotton batting around leafless branches creating the appearance of a snow-laden tree.  Only those presents too large to be hung on the tree were placed on the tree skirt underneath the tree.  Most presents were small, and edible gifts were among the most highly prized gifts hung in small baskets on the tree.  During the war, one soldier from a New Jersey regiment recorded in his diary, “In order to make it look much like Christmas as possible, a small tree was stuck up in front of our tent, decked off with hard tack [a hard cracker] and pork, in lieu of cakes and oranges, etc.” [viii]

Thomas Nast, from Harper's Weekly, Jan. 3, 1863

Thomas Nast, from Harper’s Weekly, Jan. 3, 1863

(Even in the early 1960s, those of us who watched “The Old Rebel and Pecos Pete” on WFMY Channel 2 knew that the only proper ending of our answer to the question “What do you want for Christmas?” was “X,Y,Z, -and Nuts and Fruits and Candies.” As late as 1943, the singer of the wartime song “Ill Be Home for Christmas” was longing for “presents on the tree” (not under the tree).

This was a survival of the ancient European tradition.  Decorated trees were part of the stage sets for medieval religious mystery plays that were given on December 24th on the “name days” of Adam and Eve.  Those trees were hung with apples (the “forbidden fruit”) and wafers (representing the Eucharist and redemption).  Bakers made pretzels and gingerbread cookies for the tree that people took home as souvenirs. In 1570 a small tree set up in the Guild-House in Breman, Germany was decorated with “apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers”.  In 1605 a German visitor wrote: “At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc.” The many food items were symbols of Plenty, the flowers, originally only red (for Knowledge) and White (for Innocence).

The 2012 White House tree in the Blue Room.

The 2012 White House tree in the Blue Room.

Americans did not take easily to the foreign custom of Christmas trees.  Franklin Pierce had the first Christmas tree in the White House in 1846.  But President President William McKinley reportedly received a letter in 1899 saying Christmas trees “un-American,” and his successor Theodore Roosevelt banned Christmas trees from the White House because he feared that Christmas trees would lead to deforestation.  Roosevelt, however, was undercut by his own youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, who in 1902 went outside and cut down a small tree right on the White House grounds and hid it in a White House closet.  Roosevelt acknowledged the event in a letter in which he wrote:

Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.[ix]

naststockings

It sounds to me as though Teddy’s idea of Christmas was not very different from Nannie Winninghams- stockings were the place Santa left the presents.  More than 100 years later, what we think is our “traditional” Christmas has been shaped by the media, retailers, film and recorded music of the 20th century more than we ever realize.

[i] WUNC TV website data.

[ii]  https://randolphhistory.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/confederate-christmas-in-randolph-county-2/

[iii] Karal Ann Marling (2000). Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s greatest holidayHarvard University Press. p. 244.

[iv] Marten, James (2000). The Children’s Civil War. University of North Carolina Press. P120

[v] The Girlhood of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty’s Diaries, p.61. Longmans, Green & Co., 1912

[vi] The obituary of Curtis’s mother in the Greensboro Daily News of 23 August 1918 gives frame for this assumption-

“Mrs. Lucy Ellen Makepeace Curtis died at her home, 108 Odell Place, yesterday afternoon, at 4:15 o’clock. For a number of years, Mrs. Curtis had been living with her son, Rev. W.M. Curtis, of this city. Mrs. Curtis was born at Petersburg, VA, December 25, 1839. Soon after her birth her parents, George Makepeace and Mrs. Luc Makepeace, settled at Franklinville, where she grew up. She was married to Dennis Curtis, of Franklinville, October 11, 1860. Dennis was a native of Randolph County and was prominently connected with the Franklinville Manufacturing Company, the Deep River Manufacturing Company, and later with the mercantile business firm of Odell and company of this city.  In 1880 Mrs. Curtis moved from Franklinville to Greensboro when Mr. Curtis became personally associated with the firm of Odell and company….”

[vii] http://westminsterabbeyshop.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree-in-britain/

[viii] http://www.historynet.com/christmas-in-the-civil-war-december-1998-civil-war-times-feature.htm

[ix] http://www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold/the-president-who-banned-christmas-trees-and-the-boy-who-snuck-one-in#ixzz3MVw7I6Qj

From Galvanized Yankee to Race Car Driver

December 14, 2014
R.V. ("Bob") Toomes with his grandson Richard Petty

R.V. (“Bob”) Toomes with his grandson Richard Petty

Randolph County’s heritage of resistance to secession and support of the Red String has been amply documented by the late, lamented Bill Auman in his book The Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt.  But the stories of those opposed to the war have not been documented with as much attention to detail as those who enlisted and served in the army of the Confederate States.  Wally Jarrell’s The Randolph Hornets in the Civil War is a meticulous history of Company M of the 22nd NC Infantry Regiment, one of three Randolph County companies in that regiment. [i]

Southern "Volunteers".  Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

Southern “Volunteers”. Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

The most complete roster of Randolph County’s Confederate veterans was compiled by Gary D. Reeder of Trinity, and published in The Heritage of Randolph County, North Carolina (Vol. 1), published in 1993 but now out of print.  Reeder found records of 1,921 individuals who served with the Confederate forces, but does not consider that an exhaustive list.   Eighty-six of those were with Robert E. Lee at Appomatox, and 132 others signed the Oath of Allegiance in Greensboro after the end of hostilities.

One hundred of those were killed in battle; 7 were reported as missing in action; 74 died of wounds; 345 died of disease.  616 were prisoners of war, and 76 of those died while interned.   489 were wounded; 73 of those were wounded twice; 12 were wounded 3 times and two, four times.[ii]

Not all of those who served did so willingly.  Bill Auman points out that Randolph County in 1861 had the third-lowest volunteer rate in the state.  The enlistment rate for North Carolina as a whole was 23.8%; in Randolph it was 14.2%.  As the war went on, conscription acts were passed by the CSA to force men into service; 40% of the state’s draftees in 1863 came from the recalcitrant Quaker Belt counties, with Randolph contributing 2.7% of its population to the draft that year.  North Carolina as a whole contributed about 103,400 enlisted men to the Confederate Army, about one-sixth of the total, and more than any other state.  But this does not mean those troops were all loyal Confederates; about 22.9% (23,694 men) of those troops deserted, a rate more than twice that of any other state.

Executing a Deserter, 1862.  Harper's Weekly.

Executing a Deserter, 1862. Harper’s Weekly.

The Confederacy did not publish statistics on desertion, but Reeder states that at least 320 of Randolph’s nearly 2,000 men deserted from their regiments, with 32 deserting twice, five deserting three times and one deserting five times!  Forty-four of these deserters were arrested, 42 were court-martialed, and at least 14 were executed.  196 captured Confederates took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union before the end of the war, with 67 joining the Union Army.[iii]  These new Union recruits were derisively called “Galvanized Yankees” by their old comrades.

As the Confederacy was gradually mythologized and romanticized  after the war, a history of desertion, however well supported by friends and family during the war, was not a heritage that was proudly maintained even in Randolph County.  Certainly we never hear anyone boasting about their Galvanized Yankee ancestors.  But the fact remains that many of those who served, served involuntarily.

A case in point is the service history of Frank Toomes.     William Franklin Toomes (Jr.) was born October 25, 1838 in the Sumner community of Guilford County, less than a mile north of the Randolph County line.  He was the son of William F. Toomes (b. 1808) and Sarah (“Sallie”) Jenkins (b. 1812).   The elder Toomes was a blacksmith.  In his Apprentice Indenture, dated August 25, 1824, Abraham Delap agreed to teach William “to read, write, & cipher thro the Rule of Three, and learn the Blacksmith Trade and give him a sett of Tools at $55” when he reached the age of 21 years.  Well before that time there were problems between apprentice and master, as seen in the  advertisement placed in the Greensboro Patriot of October 11, 1825 by Delap:  “Ranaway from the subscriber, three apprentices to the Blacksmith’s Business, named William Toombs. Willis Parish and Henderson Parrish…”  [iv]

Blacksmith and apprentices

Blacksmith and apprentices

According to family tradition, Frank followed his father into the blacksmithing trade, and when the Civil War broke out, both of them were working as blacksmiths in Cedar Falls or Franklinsville.  (The wartime pay records of the Cedar Falls factory exist but do not show either Toomes as an employee, so they must have worked at the nearby Franklinsville or Island Ford factory downstream.)  As blacksmiths, the Toomeses would have been exempt from conscription when the Confederacy first established the draft in April, 1862.  Male employees of the Deep River cotton mills and ironworks qualified as exempt “indispensable” employees until late in the war.  No lists of cotton mill exemptions are known, but one for the Bush Creek Iron Works in Franklinsville exempts 30 male employees.  Exemptions were granted (or not) by the regional Enrolling Officer, who at some point decided the cotton mill could do without one of its blacksmiths.  Again according to family tradition, when the Enrolling Officer came to the mill, Frank Toomes would hide, submerged in the mill race, breathing through a straw until the coast was clear.

On December 2, 1863 (perhaps when it was too cold for a swim), Frank Toomes was discovered; he was forcibly drafted into Company E of the 58th North Carolina Infantry regiment on December 25, 1863 at Camp Holmes in Raleigh.[v]  Within days Toomes must have been sent to the western front, because his very meager Confederate record bears the single remark, “Deserted Jan. 10, 1864, near Dalton.”  [vi]

Nashville TN State Capitol 1864

Nashville TN State Capitol 1864

On or around February 1, 1864, 23-year-old Frank Toomes entered the Union lines, surrendered and was taken prisoner to Nashville.  On February 12th, he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and was assigned to Company H of the 10th Tenn. Cavalry regiment.  Within a week, Toomes was hospitalized with the measles- at that time, a life-threatening disease.   Toomes was admitted to Hospital No. 19, where he recuperated until February 25, when he was transferred to Bed #61 of “G.H.” (General Hospital) No. 8, for treatment of scurvy.

Nashville's Masonic Temple was one of the 3 buildings that made up Hospital No. 8.  It had 368 beds.

Nashville’s Masonic Temple was one of the 3 buildings that made up Hospital No. 8. It had 368 beds.

Occupied by Federal forces in 1862, Nashville had become a major resupply center for the Union army, with numerous railroad, blacksmith and transportation units.  At least 24 separate military hospitals had been created from the comandeered public buildings of the city, each with a specialty.  Number 11, for example, was the “Pest House” (720 beds for contagious smallpox patients).  Number 16 was reserved for the U.S. Colored Troops, and Number 17 for Officers.  Those hospitals were well documented at the time by photography, and in modern times by the Internet.

First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Sts. in Nashville was one of 3 buildings of Hospital No. 8.  It had 206 beds.

First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Sts. in Nashville was one of 3 buildings of Hospital No. 8. It had 206 beds.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the 3rd building of Hospital No. 8.  It had 144 beds.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the 3rd building of Hospital No. 8. It had 44 beds.

A visitor in 1864 wrote “The Masonic Hall and First Presbyterian Church [and the smaller Cumberland Presbyterian Church] constitute Hospital No. 8… As we enter the Hall, we find a broad flight of stairs before us, and while ascending, perceive this caution inscribed upon the wall in evergreen: ‘Remember you are in a Hospital and make no noise.”  up this flight… other cautions meet us, such as ‘No Smoking Here” – “Keep Away from the Wall,’ &c.”

Union Hospital Ward

Union Hospital Ward

The 540 beds of Hospital No. 8 were under the supervision of Medical Director Dr. R. R. Taylor, originally a surgeon with the 4th Iowa Cavalry.  Miss Annie Bell was the Matron (nurse) of the Hospital.

Nurse Annie Bell, Nashville hospital matron

Nurse Annie Bell, Nashville hospital matron

Private Toomes was “transferred to Louisville,” on April 6, 1864, where he recuperated at Brown General Hospital (a 700 bed unit) until he returned to his unit in May.

Union army blacksmiths working on a portable forge

Union army blacksmiths working on a portable forge

It isn’t clear what duties Pvt. Toomes may have had, but it is possible that he was one of the regimental blacksmiths.  A cavalry unit traveled with a portable forge, as horses needed constant hoof care and shoe replacements.

The 10th Tennessee Cavalry was organized and began recruiting in August 1863.  Company H mustered in on February 12, 1864, formed of “men mostly from other states.” [vii] It was under the command first of Capt. Jonathan Haltall, and then of Capt. J.L.N. Bryan.  The regimental history says-

“During the summer and fall of 1864, it was engaged in arduous duty in Tennessee.  Late in the fall [Oct. 13] it was sent to northern Alabama, to watch the movements of Hood’s army, and had an engagement with a largely superior force of Rebels at Florence [October 30; 4 other Union regiments were engaged at nearby Muscle Shoals and Shoal Creek at the same time].  Overpowered by numbers, it was compelled to fall back to Nashville.  [where it was on the front lines at the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30.]  On the first day’s battle before Nashville [Dec. 15, 1864, when Hood tried to break Sherman’s supply line from the city], it lost severely in officers and men.” The four-day Battle of Nashville was also a debacle for Hood, marking the effective end of the Army of Tennessee.

union-quartermasters 9th army corps petersburg 1864

The Regiment spent the winter of 1865 in camp at Gravelly Springs, Alabama, and the conduct of some of its men at that time shows that the unit must have been a tough and unruly group.  Brig. General Richard W. Johnston, commander of the 6th U.S. Division, reported from Fayetteville, TN, on February 8, 1865 that “The troops under my command have killed 18 guerillas and captured 12 since my arrival here, not counting a number of men belonging to the 10th and 12th Tennessee Cavalry Regiments (U.S.A), who had deserted and become guerrillas of the worst type, who have been captured and forwarded to their regiments.”

The 10th Tenn. moved to Vicksburg, Miss., in February; was sent to New Orleans in March, and was in Natchez until May.  It returned to Nashville June 10, 1865.  [viii]

Colt Dragoon Cavalry Revolver, Model 1848.

Colt Dragoon Cavalry Revolver, Model 1848.

Frank Toomes apparently became a good soldier with the 10th Tennessee, as he was promoted to 1st Duty Sergeant of Company H on July 16, 1864.  His file for December 1864 notes that Sgt. Toomes had “Lost 1 Army Revolver @ $2.00.”

Sleeve Chevron of US Cavalry Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Sleeve Chevron of US Cavalry Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Toomes was promoted to “QM Sgt” (Quartermaster Sergeant) on June 30, 1865.  When the regiment was mustered out of service on August 1, 1865, Toomes’ pay for the year (he had last been paid on December 31, 1864) was $275.00, after deductions made for his uniform and clothing.

A US Army Quartermaster Sergeant, ca. 1864

A US Army Quartermaster Sergeant, ca. 1864

Toomes made his way back to Guilford County, where on September 5 1867, he married Susan Thompson.  [Marriage Bond Book 03, Page 451].  His wife must have died within the next two years, for the census of 1870 finds Frank Toomes living with his brother Alpheus.  Alpheus Toomes and his young family were close neighbors to George Watson Petty (b. 1837), another farmer living near Westminister Post Office, Sumner Township, Guilford County.

Toomes Petty House 2013

House built on Branson Mill Road, Level Cross, NC, by R.V. Toomes, 1924-25.

In 1874 Frank Toomes travelled west to Howard County, Indiana, well beyond the battlefields of 1864, where he married again, to Annie E. Davis (b. 1858) on May 17, 1874.  On their return to North Carolina, Frank and Annie settled in the Level Cross community of New Market Township of Randolph County, no more than 2 miles south of his brother, where they had ten children.  Frank carried on blacksmithing, farming, and distilling to provide for his family.  He was successful enough to loan money to neighbors who needed help buying property (see Randolph Deed Book 100, Page 437, where in May 1895, he loans $60 to buy 11 acres).

Toomes Children on the porch, ca. 1930

Toomes Children on the porch, ca. 1930

Frank Toomes died February 21, 1913, 49 years after deserting one army and joining another.  His son Robert Vernon (“Bob”) Toomes (24 Feb. 1886- July 8 1945) followed family distilling business.  In 1924 he built a modern “bungalow” house on Branson Mill Road in Level Cross for his wife Allie Hodgin (1888-1947) and their eight children.  Bob and Allie Toomes’ daughter Elizabeth (1917-2006) married Lee Arnold Petty (1914-2000), a grandson of George Watson Petty of Sumner Township.  Lee Petty and Frank Toomes’ great-grandsons Richard Lee Petty (b. July 2, 1937) and Morris Elsworth Petty (b. 22 March 1939) are all members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Toomes Reunion at the Toomes-Petty House, Level Cross, Nov. 1913

Toomes Reunion at the Toomes-Petty House, Level Cross, Nov. 1913

SOURCE NOTE: When I say “family tradition,” that indicates the information came from the family’s historian Howard Toomes, son of William Howard Toomes, brother of Elizabeth and grandson of Frank Toomes. Family photos and more information came from Brenda Toomes Williams and Rose Toomes Luck (daughters of Frank’s son Ralph V. Toomes), all of whom live within a mile of the Toomes-Petty House on Branson Milll Road. Thanks to Richard Petty and his daughter Rebecca Petty Moffitt for allowing me to research stuff like this while I supervised the move of the Petty Museum back to its old home.

[i] Full disclosure: I contributed photos and information to Wally’s book, but don’t let that keep you from buying it!

[ii] The Heritage of Randolph County, North Carolina (Vol. 1), p.108.

[iii] Ibid, p.109.

[iv] Guilford County, NC Apprentice Records, NC State Archives.

[v] All of the quoted Frank Toomes service records, both Confederate and Union, were accessed through http://www.fold3.com/, a website that specializes in historical U.S. military records.

[vi] Dalton is in the far northwest corner of Georgia, 27 miles east of Chickamauga and 32 miles south of Chattanooga.  It lies at the south end of Mill Creek Gap, a strategic railroad passage through the mountains from Tennessee into the interior of Georgia.  After the Confederate rout at Missionary Ridge in November 1863, Braxton Bragg made his headquarters at Dalton, where he was replaced by General Joe Johnston in December.  There was no further action around Dalton until Sherman began his march into Georgia in May, 1864.

[vii] http://www.tngenweb.org/civilwar/rosters/cav/cav10/memo.html

[viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Regiment_Tennessee_Volunteer_Cavalry

Last Ride on the Underground Railroad

October 16, 2014
Florence Stockage, from the Virginia Historical Society

Florence Stockage, from the Virginia Historical Society

As early as 1786 George Washington complained that one of his runaway slaves had been assisted to freedom by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” Estimates of the number of fugitive slaves who escaped the South along the Underground Railroad network from 1800 to 1860 range from several hundred to two thousand annually.

Despite Levi Coffin’s claim in his autobiography that he was the “President” of what before the age of steam was just the “Underground Road,” the escaped slave assistance network was a classic example of leaderless resistance. Many individuals, both white and black, under no central command, cooperated house to house and neighborhood by neighborhood to pass fugitives along points of safety.

Over his 40-year career, Levi Coffin and his community of Nantucket Quaker emigres in New Garden, Guilford County, NC, smuggled more than 3,000 runaways “contrabands” along the Kanawah Trail, across the Blue Ridge Mountains and through Virginia and Ohio to the Quaker settlement at Richmond, Indiana.

The advent of war in 1861 slowed but did not stop the network’s activities. It did, however, make one important alteration: white federal soldiers, escapees from prisoners of war camps, could also follow the well-worn trail to freedom. Perhaps the last documented escape took place in late 1864.

Prisoners in the Stockade at Florence SC

Prisoners in the Stockade at Florence SC

With the fall of Atlanta and the approach of Sherman’s forces in September, 1864, Confederate forces evacuated the Andersonville prison camp by rail. Eight thousand federal prisoners spent three days in stock cars without food or water before arriving at Florence, South Carolina, a sleepy railroad crossing on the Pee Dee River 110 miles west of Charleston and 107 miles southwest of Wilmington.

The Florence National Cemetery

The Florence National Cemetery

Their arrival on September 15th was a surprise to the local guard detail, a single Reserve company of men over 45 and boys under 18. Without food, water, shelter or even a stockade ready, the prisoners themselves were set to work alongside slaves to build their own new prison.

William S. Burson, a 31-year-old native of Salinville, Ohio, saw a chance to escape when prisoners began tearing down rail fences and ranging farther and farther from the camp. Gaining a guard’s permission to “gather firewood,” he triggered a “Race to Liberty” that broke the guard line as 400 prisoners stampeded into the woods and swamps along the river.

A swamp around Florence, SC

A swamp around Florence, SC

Burson, a private of Company A of the 32nd Ohio Infantry, had been captured July 22nd in the fighting around Atlanta. With two other 29-year-old escapees, Benjamin F. Porter, of the 10th Ohio Cavalry and John Henson, of the 31st Illinois Infantry, Burson built a raft and crossed to the far side of the Pee Dee with no idea of where to go. They were found hiding in a cornfield by a Negro overseer named Will, who fed them and “told us to stay in the woods till night, when he would come back… and put us on the road that would carry us straight to North Carolina; and said we need not be afraid of the darkies, as they were all friends to us. And so we found them to be.”

POWs living in a "shebang" at Florence

POWs living in a “shebang” at Florence

For a week the trio struggled through central South Carolina, chased by bloodhounds, enduring torrential rain without blankets or shelter and suffering diarrhea from eating raw corn. Stumbling blindly through forest and field in moonless, rainy nights, they were frequently aided by negroes who provided them with matches, sweet potatoes, corn bread, chicken and bacon, and risked severe punishment for trading them civilian clothing for their federal uniform jackets.

A long leaf pine savannah

A long leaf pine savannah

By Sept 28th the group made across the state border to the turpentine forests of the North Carolina Sandhills. It was still raining, and Burson, nursing a broken rib and already weakened by two months at Andersonville, was in the grip of a fever and bronchitis so severe that he could barely whisper.

Collecting Rosin in the turpentine forest

Collecting Rosin in the turpentine forest

Three days later, friendly local negroes guided them to a trustworthy member of the Home Guard, who advised them against trying to join the Union forces at New Bern, NC. Instead he directed them to follow the Plank Road northwest to “a large settlement of Quakers in Randolph County,” where “a secret organization” of Union men, would help them through to Tennessee.

This man, though dressed in rebel garb, was Union at heart, and I found that the Jeff Davis was government was losing more by such soldiers than it was gaining.”

Joseph Newlin 1797-1865

Joseph Newlin 1797-1865

When they reached the Randolph County settlements in they were taken under the wing of 67-year-old Joseph Newlin, a well-known Quaker who had almost certainly partnered with the Coffins to help fugitives along the Underground Road. For at least a week the three prison escapees would stay in the county, hidden among various local supporters.

Randolph County, a 30-mile square in the heart of North Carolina, had been gripped by internal guerilla warfare during the Revolutionary War, and old grudges were revived to fuel revenge taken 80 years later. A correspondent in August 1864 wrote that “we are getting right in to war at home, neaighbour against neaighbour.”

Rural Randolph was teeming with “outliers” (draft dodgers) and “recusant conscripts” (deserters) hiding in the woods, ‘caves’, and hills. Today’s site of the state Zoo, Purgatory Mountain, took on that name during the war due to its surrounding haze of concealed campfire smoke. Outlawed and hunted by sheriff, home guard and regular army, these roving bands of young men were a constant source of civil strife. Civilian government came close to collapse, unable to enforce the law or protect local citizens. Troops from Raleigh were frequently called in to round up deserters, punish local collaborators, and guard the factories and polling places.

A civil war deserter

A civil war deserter

Randolph had also been at the heart of anti-slavery activism. The home of more Friends meetings than any other county in the state, it had been the headquarters of the Manumission Society. Daniel Worth, an anti-slavery missionary, had been tried there in 1859 for distributing “incendiary literature.” Residents of the county had voted against secession in 1861 by a ratio of 57 pro-Union voters to every single Confederate. The editor of the Fayetteville Observer explained the vote by saying that the people of Randolph “are attached to the Union, and they felt that the Union was in danger.”

Despite these sentiments, when North Carolina reacted to Lincoln’s call for troops by seceding, Randolph County’s governing elite enthusiastically responded. In 1861 eight companies of troops were raised by the sons of the wealthy farmers and lawyers. At least some county residents also joined the opposing forces at the same time. Howell Gilliam Trogdon, a native of Franklinsville, joined 8th Missouri Zouave regiment and led the “forlorn hope” attack on the Stockade Redan at Grant’s siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Trogdon became the first North Carolinian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor- gaining the Union’s highest military award for fighting his southern brethren.

In 1862 the draft forced more county residents to serve the Confederacy, but even then they couldn’t be made to stay. The desertion rate for the 8 Randolph companies was 22.8 percent, as contrasted with 12.2 percent for North Carolina as a whole. In October 1864 alone, Confederate officials reported 150 deserters in the county.

A prime example of a local deserter was a great-grandfather of Randolph County’s best-known modern resident, Richard Petty. William F. Toomes, a 26-year-old blacksmith, initially avoided Confederate service as a vital employee of a Deep River cotton mill. Drafted into the 58th NC Infantry in December 1863, he was sent to the Georgia-Tennessee front. Within two weeks Toomes had deserted his Confederate regiment and joined the U.S. Army, serving with the 10th Tennessee Cavalry through the end of the war.

The war would prove devastating to the county’s political structure, wiping out most of the next generation of the antebellum power brokers. This first became evident in the election of 1864, held just 6 weeks before Burson arrived in the county, when Peace Party candidates had swept the local vote. Referring to the unsuccessful candidate for governor, a correspondent wrote that “every old Bill Holdenite in the county is elected, and old Bill beat Vance in Randolph!”

William Burson, recovering from his illnesses, was housed near Franklinsville with “a strong friend of the Union, and of course a bitter enemy of the so-called Confederacy.” His host grew to trust Burson, and initiated him into the lodge of the “Secret Order” modeled on the Masons, “the mysterious order H.O.A., which organization was doing almost as much injury to the rebel cause as an invading army.” The HOA, or “Red String,” referring to the Biblical cord of Rahab which allowed Joshua to infiltrate the city of Jericho, had been a major issue in the state elections held in August. The “President” of the order told Burson he had been in the southern army in Virginia, but had “turned his steps homeward, and at once opened a station on the Underground Railroad.”

Franklinsville, like the rest of Randolph County, had been split by the war. One of the state’s premier cotton mill villages, and the largest urban community in the county, its first factory had been founded in 1838 by Levi Coffin’s cousin Elisha, who sold stock in the company to Quakers and anti-slavery activists. The town had been named after Jesse Franklin, an obscure governor and congressman venerated by abolitionists for voting to keep slavery out of the Northwest Territory. In 1850 a Wesleyan, or “Abolition Methodist” meeting house had been established there by missionaries from Indiana.

In the 1850s slaveowners took control of the factory in a hostile takeover, and with the advent of war production was almost entirely diverted into weaving and sewing undergarments for the military. The populace remained pro-Union, however. As early as June,1861, pro-government citizens had warned that Franklinsville had “Abolitionist and Lincolnite among us who defy the home guards”.

Franklinville was one of a number of communities, said an irate Confederate in 1863, “that are thoroughly abolitionized… Those people… read the New York Tribune before the war [Horace Greeley’s antislavery newspaper]…. They wanted a Lincoln electoral ticket- & because they could not get it, many of them refused to vote at all. Go into their houses now & you will find the Tribune and other abolition Journals pasted as wallpaper in their rooms.”

The “President” of the HOA around Franklinville was probably Reuben F. Trogdon, a cooper and post-war Republican sheriff of the county. Burson noted that the Trogdon family was “widely known as being very hostile to the cause of Jeff Davis… so closely watched by the rebels that they… did not dare sleep in their houses at nights. I found among them men who had not slept in their houses for two years, and some who had not eaten in their houses for six months. They were compelled to camp out in the woods, in order to hide from the rebel soldiers who would frequently make raids on the Union men, and if caught… they would, in almost every case, murder them outright.”

The Blue Ridge from Wilkes County, NC

The Blue Ridge from Wilkes County, NC

Burson’s HOA contacts helped him map out a route to join the Union army in Tennessee that took them through all of the pro-Union “Quaker Belt” counties of North Carolina: Guilford, Stokes, Yadkin, Wilkes, Watauga, and Ashe, where HOA contacts could guide them along the way.

Ashe County, NC

Ashe County, NC

In Ashe County they lost their way and Henson and Porter were recaptured and sent back to the Confederate prison at Salisbury. Burson managed to escape on foot, only to be intercepted by more Home Guards while trying to cross the New River. He was taken to the town of Boone, where he escaped with the aid of another HOA member. From Blowing Rock, NC, suffering more trials and tribulations, he made it through Cumberland and Unicoi counties, TN, to the Union lines at Bull’s Gap, in Hawkins County.

Election Day

Burson had walked more than 400 miles in 55 days since escaping from Florence. His first act upon reaching Union lines on November 8th was to vote. It was Election Day, and the Underground Railroad had delivered a vote for Abraham Lincoln from the Unionists of Randolph County, NC.

Boys in Blue

Unconventional Warfare

April 29, 2014

Pineland Money

Confession:  About fifteen years ago, when I was Mayor of Franklinville, I secretly collaborated with the Pineland Resistance Movement, guerrilla freedom fighters seeking to destabilize the civilian government.  They had me in return for a pig-picking in some hot, forsaken section of Montgomery County, and a helicopter ride.  Looking back, maybe I sold myself cheap.

Twice each year the center of North Carolina becomes the fictional country of Pineland as part of the Robin Sage training exercise, the final test for students at the Special Forces Qualification Course held at the U.S. Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg.  Several hundred servicemen and women from the base act as the People’s Republic of Pineland home defense forces, and the aspiring Green Berets play the resistance.  Civilians volunteer to be “trained” as resistance forces by the Special Forces “advisors;” I was a Mayor role-playing an elected official for what they called a “key-leader engagement.”   Using citizen volunteers adds realism; on the flip side, so does seeing a squad of black-clad ninjas crawling up through one’s pasture, or hearing gunfire and flash-bang grenades at midnight.

Pineland Resistance, Fayetteville Observer photo

Pineland Resistance, Fayetteville Observer photo

From the Special Forces press release:  “Candidates are placed in an environment of political instability characterized by armed conflict, forcing Soldiers to analyze and solve problems to meet the challenges of this ‘real-world’ training.  With the help of civilian authorities and local citizens, Robin Sage has been conducted since 1974; before this, similar exercises were run under the names Devil’s Arrow, Swift Strike, and Guerilla USA.  The exercise’s notional country of Pineland encompasses 15 counties in North Carolina, including Alamance… Chatham, Davidson, Guilford… Montgomery, Moore, [and] Randolph…  Special Forces candidates and Robin Sage role-players live, eat and sleep in these civilian areas.”

People's Republic of Pineland

People’s Republic of Pineland

The mythical country of Pineland comes to life for two weeks twice a year, and by the time it’s over, maybe the new Green Berets have learned enough to stay alive in some place like Afghanistan.  As the father now of a son in Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., I hope they learned a lot.  Whenever I hear of a Green Beret in a casualty report, I hope it wasn’t anyone I ever knew in Pineland…

University of Pineland

University of Pineland

The Army calls this an exercise in “unconventional warfare,” though it seems as though the unconventional has become the norm nowadays.  The irony of this part of North Carolina, these central counties, being the heart of the fictional resistance movement is not lost on me as a historian, however.  Pineland has brought the teaching of guerilla warfare into 20th and 21st century Randolph, where the real article inflamed the same ground during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bloodshed and politics went hand-in-hand here during the War of the Regulation in 1771; during the Whig-Tory War of 1780-1782; and during the War of the Rebellion of 1861-1865  There is no accurate count of casualties from any of these eras of internecine conflict, but it is no exaggeration to estimate the dead in the hundreds.  An actual body count would put Randolph, Moore and Chatham counties into the lead as North Carolina’s bloodiest battlefield- yet we don’t even make the list.

Pineland Guerillas

Pineland Guerillas

Colonel David Fanning’s assassination of Randolph County’s militia leader, Colonel Andrew Balfour, wasn’t Fanning’s first murder, or his last.   In his one circuit of the county in March, 1781, Fanning killed Balfour, the head of the militia infantry, seriously wounded John Collier, the head of the cavalry; burned houses and barns, and generally decapitated civilian government by scattering the justices meeting at the county court.  He did the same in Chatham County, and for good measure he attacked state government in Hillsboro, capturing the Governor and Council and taking them prisoners to the British in Wilmington.

Head of the Resistance Forces, Pineland Bob Snyder, retired Green Beret.  AP Photo, Gerry Broome.

Head of the Resistance Forces, Pineland Bob Snyder, retired Green Beret planning an attack in Ramseur. AP Photo, Gerry Broome.

The lack of government and justice after the Revolution insured that simmering desires for revenge would survive in family lore for more than four score years, to surface in Randolph of the 1860s.  A county that overwhelmingly resisted secession continued to resist Confederate government.  Though the county sent large numbers of soldiers into the southern army, it also sent many into the Federal forces, and as many more refused to fight for either side.  As I have written before, North Carolina’s first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor was Howell G. Trogdon of Franklinville.  Many others left the county to fight for the Union or to protect their Quaker families in Indiana or Ohio.

Randolph County was under martial law for much of the war, with government forces supporting the tenuous control of civilian authorities while they searched for deserters, draft dodgers, “recusant conscripts,” “Holdenites,” “Lincolnites,” and other undesireables.  Purgatory Mountain was honeycombed with the underground hide-outs of the “hiders out of the army.” The county had a shadow government, the Heroes of America or Red String, whose members after the war formed the nucleus of the Republican Party.

Chief Kidd's Hideout

Chief Kidd’s Hideout

As civilian officials tried to cope with “an environment of political instability,” some went too far.  Deputy Sheriff Alfred Pike of Franklinville finally captured the leader of the resistance, “Colonel” Bill Owens, only after obtaining information on his hiding place by torturing Owen’s wife and children.  A Deputy for 15 years, Pike was so roundly censured in the press for his tactics that he resigned and moved his family to Texas, and the blow-back cost his boss, Sheriff J.W. Steed, his job in the election of 1864.

Robin Sage 3

This is just part of the story of Randolph during the Civil War that was researched and written by Bill Auman for his PhD dissertation.   It has recently been published by MacFarland, and is available on Amazon.   [http://www.amazon.com/William-T.-Auman/e/B00GXSW0IS  ;  William T. Auman, Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt: The Confederate Campaign Against Peace Agitators, Deserters and Draft Dodgers (2014).]

WTA Civil War Quaker Belt

Buy his book, and read the real story of Randolph’s war.  You will never look at the Confederate flag decal on some ratty pickup truck in the same way again.  Maybe if they knew their own family history, they’d have bumper stickers for The People’s Republic of Pineland, instead.