Voices from the Invaders

War in Central and Western North Carolina

"While in Tuckaleechee Cove I received information that the force of Indians and whites commanded by the rebel [Col. William H.] Thomas (formerly U.S. Indian agent for the Cherokee Nation) was near the forks of Little Tennessee and Tuckaseegee Rivers in North Carolina, who had become a terror to the Union people of East Tennessee and the borders of North Carolina from the atrocities they were daily perpetrating. I ordered Major [Francis M.] Davidson with his regiment (the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry) to pursue this force and to destroy it. I am just in receipt of dispatches announcing the surprise of the Indians on the 2d instant [February] near Quallatown. The enemy were 250 strong. Of these, 22 Indians and 32 whites were captured, including some officers. It is reported that less than 50 made their escape, the remainder being either killed or wounded, so that this nest of Indians may be considered as entirely destroyed, nearly 200 of them having been killed. In this affair Lieutanant [Horace] Capron, a gallant young officer of the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, was severely and perhaps mortally wounded while charging the enemy. This was an enterprise of great difficulty, through a rugged, mountainous countryside destitute of supplies of any kind, and Major Davidson is deserving of great credit for the manner in which he executed his instructions."
  Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, Chief of Cavalry, Department of the Ohio, reporting on a Federal raid from East Tennessee into western North Carolina against Thomas's Legion, February 4, 1864. 14th Illinois Cavalry, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps.

"Major: You will repair without delay to the mountain district in the western part of North Carolina, and collect together rapidly the straggling soldiers in that region, and such efficient loyal citizens as may enlist in the regiment [3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry] which you are authorized to raise. As soon as you shall collect a sufficient force . . . you will descend upon the rear of the rebel army under [Gen. James] Longstreet and destroy as much as possible of his stores and means of transportation . . . [Y]ou will move along the railroad into Virginia, damaging the road as much as possible by burning bridges, trestle-work, water tanks, cars, &c., and by tearing up the track . . . . The work assigned you is one of vast importance, worthy of any sacrifice brave men can make. I rely upon your bravery, skill, and devotion to the Union cause, to insure your success . . . . Having completed this expedition you will then proceed with the organization of the regiment [3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry] you are authorised to raise. You have full power to assume command of all United States soldiers you may find separated from their regiments in the district in which you are to operate."
  Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, commanding Department of the Ohio, Knoxville Tennessee, to Maj. George W. Kirk, 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, February 13, 1864.

"Capt. G. W. Kirk, Third North Carolina [Mounted] Infantry, has just returned from a highly successful expedition into Western North Carolina . . . . He marched with about 130 men from Morristown [Tennessee] on the 13th of June, and proceeded, via Bull's Gap, Greeneville, Tenn., and Crab Orchard, to Camp Vance, within six miles of Morganton, N.C. . . . . [He] destroyed a lrge quantity of rebel property, including 1 locomotive, in fine order, and 3 cars, the depot and commissary buildings, 1,200 small-arms, with ammunition, and 3,000 bushels grain, besides capturing 277 prisoners, who surrendered with the camp, of which number he succeeded in bringing into Knoxville [Tennessee] 132, together with 32 negroes and 48 horses and mules, besides obtaining 40 recruits for his regiment and perfecting arrangements for others. He did not accomplish the principal objective of the expedition that is, the destruction of the railroad bridge over the Yadkin River; but made arrangements to do this secretly, it being impossible for him to do it by force. The total casualties of his command were 1 killed, 1 mortally wounded, and 5 slightly, including Captain Kirk himself."
  Capt. Robert Morrow, Assistance Adjutant-General, Department of the Ohio, Knoxville Tennessee, to Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, July 15, 1864.

"Please convey to Col. [sic] G. W. Kirk the assurances of my appreciation of the services rendered by him in his late expedition. You may encourage him all you can, more in organizing the element in North Carolina hostile to Jeff. Davis rather than undertaking those hazardous expeditions. If he could form a series of companies in Western Carolina that could protect each other, and give us the information needed, he would fully earn his compensation and our thanks."
  Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, commanding Military Division of the Mississippi, headquarters, in the field, near Atlanta, Georgia, to Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, July 21, 1864.

"I add my own thanks to you, and through you to the officers and men of your command, for the gallant and successful manner in which you have conducted the expedition. Such daring and hazardous expeditions should be undertaken but rarely. You can . . . render more effective service by organizing . . . a series of scouting companies, who would protect each other, interrupt as much as possible the communications of the enemy, destroy his supply depots, and bring in such information as may be useful to us. Any assistance in my power will be given to enable you to carry out this project."
  Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, headquarters, Army of the Ohio, before Atlanta, Georgia, to Capt. George W. Kirk, 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, July 24, 1864.

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Memoirs of William T. Sherman