Terrell Garren brings full accuracy to Civil War history
by Rob Neufeld
Terrell Garren, novelist and local historian, has produced a work of scholarship that rocks the boat about the Civil War in this region, and then nails it down in its righted position.
Contrary to beliefs bred in the late 1860s, ingrained in families, and perpetuated in contemporary histories, Unionism was practically non-existent in the mountains by the summer of 1861.
It wasn’t until the fall of 1863, he reveals, that locals enlisted in the Union Army, usually as deserters from the Confederate Army; and it wasn’t until after Appomattox that families claimed Unionist ties in order to get government benefits.
“Not a single man from Henderson County joined the Union Army during the first two and a half years of the war,” Garren states in his new volume, “Measured in Blood: The Role of Henderson County, North Carolina in the American Civil War,” weighing in at 588 pages.
In his talks, Garren gives the explanation. “Slavery had been the main cause of the war,” he says, “but it wasn’t the reason most men fought. Soldiers in any war are rarely aware of the politics behind their battles.”
The nearly unanimous Confederate sentiment in the mountains, at the war’s start, had to do with homeland security.
The soldiers, one by one
What “Measured in Blood” has motivated Garren to do is carefully consider the records and lives of each of over 2,000 Henderson County soldiers. He’s precise about his criteria for inclusion: placement in the 1860 census; and in Henderson County regiments.
He’s a quantifier as much as a story-teller, and highlights the sacrifices made in the horrifying war by assigning “sacrifice points” to each combatant based on wounds, sickness, death, presence in major battles, days in service, and time in prison.
For example, there’s Private Ebenezer Henry Wheeler Girvin.
He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg; then ten months later at Spotsylvania Court House. He went back to battle and was wounded in the Siege of Petersburg. On April 19, 1865, hospital records note a gunshot wound to his head suffered at Farmville, Virginia. By the end of the war, he was recuperating.
Then there’s the mystery of John H. Carver.
Carver, a private, was a member of the 1st N.C. Cavalry in J.E.B. Stuart’s Division. Carver had fought in the Seven Days, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg battles before his ghastly race at the battle at Auburn Mills, Virginia, Oct. 14, 1863.
When Stuart found himself flanked on both sides of a wooded hill he’d occupied, he ordered Carver’s regiment to charge through a Union formation in order to allow Stuart to escape with his force around the Federal lines.
Thirty men came out the other side of the charge alive. One was Carver, who stayed on his saddle despite being hit seven times. Listed as “severely wounded,” Carver was furloughed, and then put “on detached service” at his home in the Rugby community of Henderson County.
In April, 1864, “something went terribly wrong,” Garren writes. The muster roll for that period states that Carver was “killed while in arrest and attempting to escape.”
Who killed him? If it had been Confederates mistaking him for a deserter, why would his widow have applied for a Confederate claim for deceased soldiers?
If Union men had killed him, why did the record indicate an arrest? No record of an arrest has been found.
Carver emerges as one of the ultimate sacrificers in Garren’s book.
Another kind of mystery arises with Andrew J, Lanning, several of whose brothers served in the Confederate Army.
Andrew, accompanied by his older brother, William, a wounded Confederate veteran, joined the 2nd N.C. Mounted Infantry (Union) in the fall of 1863 and received a bounty payment of $25 (another $75 to be paid later) on Oct. 1, 1863—that is, after Gettysburg.
The infantry unit had been created to draw in Confederate deserters. On Dec. 9, 1863, Lanning deserted it, never to return. Or did he?
Someone named Andrew J. Lanning signed up with a new regiment, the 3rd N.C. Mounted Infantry, created by the notorious raider, Col. George W. Kirk, who inflated the bounty payment to $300.
Oddly, the 2nd Infantry Andrew Lanning had dark eyes, hair, and complexion; was born in Henderson County; and was 20; whereas, the 3rd Infantry one was 18, had blue eyes and a fair complexion, and was born in Transylvania County, according to enlistment documents.
The explanation, Garren says is that Kirk took kickback payments, and had to avoid Lanning being fingered as a deserter. Lt. Col. J. Albert Smith made formal complaints about Kirk’s fraud.
In his study, Garren backs up his summaries with spread sheets that allow readers to check his math. He includes Union soldiers’ records and slaveholding statistics; and notes current controversies and battle and grave sites.
“Measured in Blood” is dedicated to Barry Hollingsworth, a noted Henderson County Civil War genealogist, who passed away recently.
Measured in Blood: The Role of Henderson County, North Carolina in the American Civil War by Terrell T. Garren (self-published hardcover, printed by Daniels Graphics, Dec. 2012, 588 pages). It is on sale in several local independent bookstores and at the Henderson County Heritage Museum
Visit Terrell Garren’s web page and blog on “The Read on WNC’ (TheReadonWNC.ning.com), and communicate with him there.
Terrell Garren speaks about Measured in Blood at the Henderson County Heritage Museum in the Historic Courthouse, 2 p.m., Dec. 15 (696-4879); and in Moungtain Made, Grive Arcade, Asheville, 4:30 p.m., Dec. 15 (350-0307).
Terrell Garren checked out many battle sites, including this cliff called Rocky Face Ridge, where Henderson County soldiers had died in a battle against Gen. Sherman’s Army, May 7–13, 1864.