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Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene’s Twilight Zone See whole poem, "The Main Show," and index of scenes.  (Spotlight opens on the lobby of the theater.  Characters who remain in the lobby enter the theater, which remains dark.  Joan the nurse tells the tour guide to also go in, and the narrator hangs back awhile.) Joan: Go ahead in. I’ll stay with my patient.Anyway, this is a family…See More
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Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
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This is a collection of the four articles that composed a series in the Asheville Citizen-Times "Visiting Our Past" column, Summer, 2009. See also Terrell Garren's Civil War blog.

Tour of Four WNC Civil War sites

by Rob Neufeld

Though few battles took place in the Asheville area, it was of great significance. Many soldiers came from here. North Carolina contributed more men to the Confederate Army than any other state, and, within North Carolina, the western part realized the highest enlistment rate.

At first, Confederate enthusiasm in Western North Carolina was overwhelming. Men fought to defend their homeland. Then a short war for a great cause became an endless one for a pained cause. Mountain men looked to defend their homes. Hunted men formed bands.

As men died—on battlefields, in hospitals, in prisons, and on the lam—the home region became grim. Families starved. Deserters took refuge. Western North Carolina became what Wilma Dykeman called, “The Civil War within the Civil War.”

Asheville and Flat Rock, home in part to wealthy landowners, were Confederate strongholds. In Asheville’s public square and at Camp Patton, troops and trainees gathered. Slaves helped manufacture rifles at an armory. Other African-Americans, some of whose descendants have established communities here, worked in households, trades, and hotels.

The last stages of the war focused on the East Tennessee-Western North Carolina territory that separated eastern and western campaigns.


On Feb. 28, 1861, Madison County men traveled to their county seat to vote against secession. When the next vote took place—on May 13, 1861, a few weeks after Lincoln had called for troops—Unionism had come to seem an affront to a great urgency.

At the ballot boxes, the Madison County sheriff intimidated voters he considered Unionist. He went after a man with whom he’d had a quarrel. After a short chase, the sheriff shot his gun, hit the man’s son, and retreated to a second story perch in a nearby house. The inflamed father killed the sheriff with a shot through a window.

During the winter of 1862-3, Marshall was again tense. Confederate troops were clamping down on insurgents, who had increased in number since Fredericksburg and conscription. The army stationed in Marshall withheld salt and supplies from mountain men, who came down to sack the town.
One group ransacked the house of Col. Lawrence Allen, where his children lay sick with scarlet fever. Allen and the 64th N.C. Regiment retaliated, resulting in the Shelton Laurel Massacre. Major novels have incorporated the story of the massacre: “My Old True Love” by Sheila Kay Adams; “Ghost Riders” by Sharyn McCrumb; “The World Made Straight” by Ron Rash.

Swannanoa Gap

On April 20, 1865, where Old Route 70 crosses the Swannanoa Tunnel, locals won the last Confederate victory of the Civil War. The previous night, Col. James R. Love had marched Walker’s Battalion of Thomas’ Legion from Waynesville to Asheville to join General James G. Martin and stop the advance of the 2nd and 3rd Brigades of Stoneman’s Cavalry.

The “Raiders” included many “tories,” as locals branded them. Col. William J. Palmer, commander of the 1st Brigade, had warned Stoneman that the troops had lost all discipline and devoted “themselves exclusively to pillaging.”

Confederate soldiers and guards positioned themselves in a horseshoe pattern at the gap and along both sides of Royal Gorge. Junior reservists went ahead and felled trees to block the route. The Union cavalry, though armed with Spencer repeating carbines, ultimately retreated to take a circuitous route to Asheville via Howard Gap.

Accounts by Private Charles White of Broad River, a junior reservist in the Home Guard, give us an eyewitness. “We succeeded in making a barricade that no cavalry force would soon cross or clear way,” White is quoted on the trail marker, “but those of us (25 or 30) working on the road to the Swannanoa Gap were trapped” by an early appearance of Stoneman’s men.

Hanging Dog Creek and Valleytown

For a month after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the Civil War continued in the mountains. The last clash—or skirmish, or battle—east of the Mississippi occurred on Hanging Dog Creek, May 6.

Hanging Dog Creek tumbles through what is now the Nantahala Game Land, north of Murphy, and flows into the Hiwassee River, passing under Old Joe Brown Highway, once a Tennessee-North Carolina toll road. Along this road, during the final actions of the war, a deserter-turned-raider named Captain Aker directed his band of men across the mountain boundary into North Carolina.
In Murphy, Aker’s group set fire to the courthouse. It then headed north up the Valley River Valley to Valleytown, as Margaret Walker Freel documented in her Cherokee County history, “Our Heritage.” The raiders were after food. Unlike East Tennessee, eaten up by camping armies, Western North Carolina had game—and livestock.

“With only a small home guard and the women-folks left to protect the vast rugged terrain, raiders found it easy pickings,” says Bill Carver, native Cherokee County author and storyteller. Carver points out that the Buncombe Turnpike and its feeder roads supported a cowboy trade here that beat what would pass out West.

A great memorial to that era survives in the Old Tatham House in Valley Town, near Andrews. In 1833, Thomas Tatham built a two-story log structure for his young wife, Polly, and their future large family. John Parris celebrated Polly in a piece titled, “A Breath of the Past.”

Barely 110 pounds and just five feet tall, Parris relates, Polly raised sheep, wove wool, plowed fields, and chopped wood. “Her home,” he notes, “was a haven for neighbor women during the Civil War, when her own husband and five sons were off fighting for the Lost Cause.”

Aker’s raiders never threatened Polly, for they’d turned and headed home when they’d discovered that Confederate soldiers under the command of Stephen Whitaker (of Thomas’ Legion) were encamping there. “These men were definitely still in Confederate service,” says Terrell Garren, local author and Civil War scholar.

General James Green Martin, commander of Confederate Troops in Western North Carolina, had not surrendered to the local Union commander, Col. William C. Bartlett, until their meeting in Waynesville, May 7. When Whitaker heard, he surrendered in Franklin on May 12.


An impressive stone monument sits hidden in the shade of a yard-side dogwood tree in Hazelwood, outside of downtown Waynesville. “Near this spot,” its plaque reads, “the last shot of the War between the States was fired under the command of Lt. Robt. T. Conley of the Confederate Army, May 6, 1865.”

Within view, the only thing that evokes the 1860s is the road—Sulphur Springs Road, running alongside Richland Creek. It had once been a Canton-to-Sylva thoroughfare, and is now a residential street, superseded by Rte. 23/74.

On that day in 1865, Conley and his Sharpshooters left Thomas’ Legion in Soco Gap to request reinforcement from Col. Robert James Love Jr. and his regiment at Balsam Gap. The news was that Col. Bartlett’s 2d N.C. Mounted Infantry had occupied Waynesville, burning the courthouse and the home of Robert Love, Waynesville’s founder. Following the fastest, though not the shortest path, Conley ran into a Union detachment and chased it back into Waynesville with bullets and bayonets.

Though Lee had surrendered, the war was not yet over in the mountains. Mountain men stayed formed in regiments to have control over truce terms. The truce that Confederate Gen. James Martin had made with Union General Alvan Gillem in Asheville, April 26, had broken down when Gillem’s men turned on the city and sacked it. Waynesville had been sacked by Col. George W. Kirk in February.

Stringfield, who’d assumed leadership of William Thomas’ Cherokee and white legion when Thomas had withdrawn for a while, was a POW. Just a week earlier, Federal officers had captured him in Knoxville when he had gone to sue for peace. After his release, Stringfield would move to Waynesville, raise his family, and play host to Cherokee guests. His gravestone stands behind Thomas’ in the Green Hill Cemetery, off Main Street in Waynesville.

It is from the cemetery that one gets a view of the scene of action after the skirmish at the monument site. On Rocky Knob, eight miles north, and on Old Field Top Mountain, five miles west, Thomas, re-engaged, brought his Cherokee soldiers to build bonfires, perform war dances, and simulate a larger force.

Bartlett called for a peace conference in the Battle house (demolished in 1899, according to the N.C. Civil War Trails marker at the municipal building, next door to the site). Twenty Cherokees from Thomas’ Legion came to the meeting, “stripped to the waist and painted and feathered in good old style,” “North Carolina Troops” reports. Gen. Martin negotiated for a parole for all his men, retention of arms by the Cherokee, and the suspension of bushwhacking raids in the area.

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Overlooked site, Deep Creek, Swain County, NC

On Februrary 2, 1864 the 14th Illinois Cavalry slipped accross the mountains from Tennessee and raided a portion of Thomas' Legion camped at Deep Creek in Jackson County. That portion of Jackson is now part of Swain County. The actual battle site is in what is now part of Great Smokey National Park. Accounts differ but it is likely that the Federals had approximately 500 men with them and Thomas had about 250 men in the camp. Many of Thomas' men were Cherokees.

The Confederate accounts indicate that a serious fight developed with many federals being killed or wounded. The Union account from General Sturgis claims 200 Confederates killed with 22 Indians and 32 whites being captured with less than 50 escaping. This account is clearly exaggerated but it still translates into a disaster for the Confederates and the Cherokees. Many of the captured ended up taking the oath of allegiance with some switching sides.

This was a substantial event. I wonder if there are any trail markers or other monuments at the site?

Terrell Garren
Terry, thanks very much for pointing out this site. Deep Creek has so much resonance. Jim Casada writes great stuff about it in his new book, "Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," which includes lots of folklore and history. The site is not in Clint Johnson's "Touring the Carolinas' Civil War Sites." I know it's at the mouth of Deep Creek. I'll buzz George Ellison and Jim Casada about this.

By the way, Vicki Rozema, in "Footsteps of the Cherokee," writes:

"While in prison, some of the men (Cherokee captured at Deep Creek) learned for the first time that they were fighting for slavery and converted to the Union cause."

I wonder what the source is. Doesn't this suggest that slavery was not talked about much in the mountains?
*** Hello . . . I can't add much firsthand knowledge or insights to any discussion involving the Civil War . . . looking through likely sources I see in John R. Finger's "The Eastern Band of Cherokee1819-1900" (UT Press, 1984), pp. 95-96, that on the morning of Feb 2, 1864, Sturgis's cavalry (400 men and two howitzers) attacked about 300 Cherokees camped at the mouth of Deep Creek (within the limits of present day Bryson City NC) . . . recovering quickly, the Cherokees defended themselves "in close and desperate fighting" . . . Finger, a fine historian, notes that "various accounts" of the conflict "reflect the vagaries of warfare as perceived by opposing soldiers" . . . although it was apparently a raid of some consequence, in that it "was impressive enough to worry [W.H.] Thomas and his superiors about the vulnerability of Western North Carolina," I am not aware of any trail markers or other monuments . . . George

Please see all my recent posts on Civil War sites. You'll note that I referred to the area that is now Swain County as Jackson County. Did the Bryson Portion of the county come from Macon County?

Terrell (and Rob)--The skirmish took place right at the mouth of Deep Creek, where it enters the Tuckasegee River. This is not, incidentally, in the Park. The Park boundary lies some two miles upstream. There are no markers or other indications of the skirmish, and it isn't very widely know locally. I don't know the source for Rozema's information and haven't encountered it elsewhere. The basic details of the event, like anything and everything about the Civil War, will be found in the Official Records of conflict (there are 63 volumes in all, if memory serves.
Jim Casada
Terrell and Rob--Two other thoughts, and they occurred to me while was was talking with George Ellison about another Deep Creek-related matter. First, as a youngster growing up in Bryson City I often heard old-timers suggest, perhaps just to tease gullible lads like me, that the site of the Civil War battle was haunted. The specifically mentioned "haints" hanging out under the bridge which crosses the stream just before it enters the Tuckasegee.
Second, this site is actually a narrow passage, with the brow of steep Lackey Hill overlooking it from the east side of Deep Creek and an equally steep bluff situated on the west side. I had never previously thought about it, and I certainly am no militry historian (although I did have the privilege of taking two graduate-level courses under one of this country's great Civil War scholars, James I. Robertson, Jr.) but the topography here would have been ideal for an ambush.

Jim Casada
*** John Finger: "On the morning of Feb. 2 the federals heard that perhaps as many as 300 Indians were camped at the mouth of Deep Creek. About two in the afternoon they overran the Cherokee pickets and immediately ran on to attack the main body of Indians. Quickly recovering from their surprise, the Cherokees grabbed their weapons, scrambled to a nearby bluff, and fiercely defended themselves. In 'close and desperate' fighting, they were finally driven from this position. After taking some prisoners, Major F.M. Davidson [commander of the 14th Illinois Cavalry under Gen. S.D. Sturgis] returned to Tennessee"
*** it occurs to me that it'd be hard for 30 people (much less 300) to camp at the mouth of Deep Creek it's so narrow . . . maybe the Indians were camped in adjacent flat areas (farther up Deep Creek or where Bryson City is now located) and when attacked made their stand on the bluffs above where the creek empties into the Tuckasegee River?

I think I've found the most probable site for where the Deep Creek event occurred. It is probably a flat area just upstream about a ten of a mile from the confluence of the Tuckaseegee and Deep Creek on the west side of Deep Creek. We know from the records that the Union Cavalry camp up the River. It had to be a site big enough to hold a camp for 300 men.

If you can read all my recent posts you'll catch up with what I've been doing.

Terrell Garren
Interesting, since the Cherokee were known to have some slave owners as well.
Battle of Deep Creek, North Carolina Feb. 2, 1864

To Jim and George, thank you very much for the important comments. It has been most helpful for me to read them.

I would like everyone to know that we are blessed with the most wonderful Civil War source imaginable.
It is North Carolina Troops: A Roster 1861-1865, published by the NC Office of Archives and History. What is so wonderful about the recent volumes is that it clears up a lot of conflicting claims. Brown and Coffey give us a clear understanding of what has been resolved and how. They also explain how some of the questions will go on unanswered because the records are lost or destroyed or were never recorded. At any rate, Volume XVI, Thomas' Legion sorts it out as much as possible. I think 400 to 500 Federals with the 14rh Illinois Cavalry is a solid estimate. Right now I'd say that 200 to 250 men of Thomas' Legion is the right estimate. A battle involving between 600 and 750 men on the outskirts of Bryson City is a big deal, relatively speaking.

As for Vicki Rozem's claim that Cherokees converted after capture because they learned "that they were fighting for slavery." I would argue that this claim was just fantasy. Some men may have claimed that later, just like people in other parts of the mountains who try to distance our ancestors from slavery. It just doesn't hold water, I beleive it can be documented that Cherokees owned slaves.

In all probablity the Cherokees who went over to the Union did so for the same reasons most whites did. It may have been to get out of a Union prison. By February 1864 most Confederates knew what horror lay in store for them in prison. If I had been a Cherokee or White Confederate I beleive I would have done almost anything to avoid a Union Prison. If I had been one of them would I have been tempted in my old age to tell my grandchildren, "we did it to oppose slavery?"

In rgard to the actual site Jim, did you mean downstream instead of "upstream?" At any rate, the fact that it is not in the Park is great news, as I see it. The closer to Bryso City the better. The site should be searched for and identified. It should be marked, preserved and monuments/plaques should be proposed. A whole program should be developed and the Great Skokey Train people should be brought in on this. I can imagine a day when trainloads of tourists come to Bryson City to see real Cherokees in the reinactment of the Battle of Deep, weekly.

Terrell Garren
To Jim and George,

See my comment "Battle of Deep Creek" it seems to have come up out of order? Do you think we can find the site?

Terrell Garren
To Jim and George: Please see my comments on my Civil War blog on this website. It is called Terrell Garren's Civil War Research. I would like for you to comment on the individual Cherokees I've mentioned. I think there should be a monument to Captain Enoli, maybe others. What do you think? What relation is the Shuler Confederate to the Current Congressman?



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