William Holland Thomas' Legion (1861-1863)

Thomas' Legion
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Hand-to-Hand Combat at Strawberry Plains Tennessee - November 8, 1861

"It is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it." General Robert E. Lee

Thomas Legion's Hero - November 8, 1861

Private James Keelan

Interview with James Keelan  

Strawberry Plains Bridge, Tennessee

Confederate Medal of Honor

Tennessee & Civil War Railroads

Reconnoiter of Chattanooga Tennessee - June 1862 

In May 1862, Companies A and L of the 16th North Carolina Infantry reorganized into Thomas’ Legion. The battle-hardened soldiers of the 16th North Carolina had fought in the battles of Seven Pines, AntietamSeven Days Battles, and Second Bull Run. In June 1862, while Colonel Thomas and 40 men from the legion reconnoitered Federal positions at Chattanooga, Tennessee, they captured a single Union soldier, a vidette, but had hoped for their baptism of fire. "The Indians say as I took the first prisoner each of them must take one to be even," stated Thomas in a letter to his wife on June 25, 1862. Subsequently, as they marched toward Chattanooga, Union Brig. Gen. James Negley was ordered to retreat. (Negley, a veteran of the Mexican-American War, would serve as a U.S. Congressman after the present conflict.) Although deprived of their opportunity to fight, the Thomas Legion reconnoiters wouldn’t have to wait long.

Thomas' Legion
Tennessee Civil War Railroad Facts.gif
Western North Carolina and East Tennessee in the Civil War

Cherokees in Battle - September 13, 1862

In 1862, when the Civil War experienced a major turning point, several companies of the Thomas Legion were ordered to Powell's Valley, which is located between Jacksboro and the Cumberland Gap. On September 13, 1862, an Indian company of the legion was ambushed by a Union reconnaissance force at Baptist Gap. (The site is near the Virginia state line and about ten miles north of Rogersville, TN.) Although the Indiana regiment fired a single volley and killed a Cherokee soldier, the Confederate contingent, absent panic or confusion, charged and engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. After answering the volley, and without reloading their weapons, the Indians killed and wounded several Federals. Stringfield said that "the Indians were led by Lt. John Astoogatogeh (or Astooga Stoga), a splendid specimen of Indian manhood and warrior, who was also killed in the charge." The Indians, enraged at their loss, also scalped several of the Federal wounded and dead. While the behavior was met with a sharp rebuke from Col. Thomas, he also commanded the men of the Thomas Legion from ever mentioning the scalping, stating that it would only make matters worse. (But word of such savagery soon spread through the Union ranks.) Many Cherokee leaders were Christians, including Astoogatogeh. He was a man of faith, a professed Christian, and his efforts contributed immensely to the New Testament being translated into the Cherokee language by the American Bible Society. Astoogatogeh was also the grandson of Chief Junaluska, the man who had saved Andrew Jackson's life at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. From September 1862 to June 1863, there was "little to break the monotony of camp life and provost duty" as the Thomas Legion enforced conscription, pursued saboteurs and insurgents, and guarded bridges, block houses, and railroads. It "was hard, disagreeable work," said Stringfield.

Battle of Strawberry Plains Bridge Tennessee - June 20, 1863 

In January 1863, Western North Carolina witnessed the Shelton Laurel Massacre. On June 20, 1863, when West Virginia was admitted into the Union and the newly formed “Mountain State” bid farewell to her divorced Virginia, the day also dealt another blow to the Confederacy. Thomas’ Legion was spread through out the East Tennessee mountains, and at Strawberry Plains 400 Confederates guarded the highly coveted railroad bridge. The Rebel force consisted of 200 soldiers from Berry's and Whitaker's Companies (Walker’s Battalion, Thomas’ Legion) and another 200 convalescents and soldiers from mixed units. Union Colonel William P. Sanders, Army of the Ohio, with a combined force of some 1500, as stated in O.R., 23, I, pp. 386-389, flanked their position and attacked. As the advancing Union army received murderous grape and canister shots, the Federals realized that Levi’s Battery was included in the 400. Ironically, many Confederates retreated to the northern end of the bridge and proceeded into the Old Stringfield Cemeteryadjacent to the Holston River, where William Stringfield's father, mother, two brothers, and a sister were buried. Although the mixed elements fought handsomely from behind the protection of the cemetery's four-foot stonewalls, the massive Federal command overran their position, forcing 140 to surrender. Whereas many signed parole papers stating that they would return to their homesteads, about half of the parolees immediately rejoined the legion while the rest went to their homes. (Many forming the latter would eventually return to the legion or serve as Home Guard). The Union army also captured Levi's 4 pieces of artillery and eleven of the battery's men. Colonel Sanders reported that his army had "destroyed the splendid bridge over the Holston River, over 1,600 feet long, built on eleven piers. The trestle-work included, this bridge was 2,100 feet in length." The Federals had accomplished their goal of destroying the Strawberry Plains Bridge, which was also considered the most important bridge in East Tennessee. Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside stated that “It will take months to rebuild it.” (O.R., 23, I, 385). See also East Tennessee and American Civil War Railroads.


Thomas & Cherokees Deploy to North Carolina Mountains - September 1863


In the fall of 1863, Colonel Thomas ordered Captains Parker, Cooper, Whitaker, Berry, Nelson and Loudermilk to enter Cherokee County and press into service absentees and furloughed men of his and other commands. When the Rebel forces in the Cumberland Gap capitulated on September 9, 1863, the two Cherokee Companies were guarding the passes of the Smokies (O.R. 1, 30, pt. III, p. 661 and O.R., 1, Vol. 18, p. 811). While in the passes and following Gen. Buckner’s Orders, Thomas and the two Cherokee Companies departed Strawberry Plains for Western North Carolina on September 2, 1863. With the exception of the Skirmish at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in December 1863, Thomas and the Cherokees would spend the remainder of the conflict in the North Carolina mountains. While in Old Carolina, Thomas and the Indians were responsible for recruitment duties, rounding up deserters, fighting bushwhackers, and engaging the Union army. (O.R., 53, pp. 313-314).


During the first week of September 1863, part of the Sixty-ninth and most of Walker's Battalion, which many believed was now a regiment, with detachments of the Twenty-ninth, Thirty-ninth, Sixtieth and Sixty-second North Carolina Regiments, retreated to the gap of the Smoky Mountains to guard against an invasion of that region. (O.R., 1, 30, IV, p. 537.) The greater part of the Sixty-ninth, with part of Singleton's, Berry's, Whitaker's and Aikin's companies of the Eightieth, fell back towards Bristol, VA. Immediately upon his occupancy of Knoxville, Burnside "sent forces up the railroad, which had been surrendered without a struggle, for the destruction of a bridge." He also ordered cavalry to Blount, Sevier, Cocke and Washington counties, Tennessee, to "guard against surprises from that direction," and this threatened North Carolina by way of Murphy, Webster, Waynesville and Asheville. Burnside also attempted to capture "Colonel Thomas' forces and good turnpike roads penetrating the mountains." But the "fighting end of Thomas' Legion was not idle; it marched and counter-marched in every county in East Tennessee, and up to Saltville, VA." Counter-marching covered a lot of ground, but it also gave the impression of a much larger force. (O.R., I, 30, IV p. 26 and O.R., I, 30, IV, p. 537).


 Battle of Telford and Limestone Station Tennessee - September 8, 1863

The same day that Burnside occupied Knoxville, Thomas, with the two Indian Companies and many whites, which totaled several hundred men, withdrew from Strawberry Plains and passed through Sevierville to the North Carolina line. Thomas was pursued by the Federals and had "quite a skirmish near Sevierville on September 7 or 8, 1863." Thomas, however, crossed the Smoky Mountains and at once securely blockaded all the roads leading in that direction from Paint Rock to Ducktown. Lt. Col. Love and Maj. Stringfield, with 600 to 700 men, were ordered to fortify and hold Carter's Depot at the railroad bridge across the Watauga, about twenty miles west of Bristol. Brig. Gen. Alfred Jackson advanced with reserves, the balance of the Sixty-ninth North Carolina (Walker's Battalion: O.R., I, 30, II, pp. 643-644), the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry, and Burrough's Battery; and learning that the enemy (100th Ohio Infantry Regiment) was fortifying in and around the old limestone blockhouse and a stone mansion near by, the Sixty-ninth was ordered to advance at 3:00 a.m. On the 8th, the Sixty-ninth forced the enemy from Telford's depot to Limestone, where they made a determined stand and were "evidently being handled by some veteran officers." Closing in upon them on all sides, the Sixty-ninth forced their surrender, with an "enemy loss of 20 killed, 30 wounded, and 290 prisoners, and they captured 400 splendid small arms (Enfield Rifles)." The Sixty-ninth's loss was 6 killed and 15 wounded, but it was immediately armed with the desperately needed Enfields. During the surrender, Major Stringfield also received the sword from Lt. Col. Edwin L. Hayes. In 1901, Stringfield recorded that they had "captured 314, wounded 30, and killed 20. Our loss 6 Killed and 15 wounded." Regarding the enemy's losses, the preliminary or initial account appears to be more accurate. The Federals reported that they suffered 1 killed, 2 wounded, and 200 captured (O.R., I, 30, II, 578), and Dyer's Compendium recorded that the Confederates captured 240 men from the 100th Ohio Infantry.

The Fate of the Cumberland Gap

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant noted while traveling through the Cumberland Gap in 1864: "With two brigades of the Army of the Cumberland I could hold that pass against the army which Napoleon led to Moscow."

In early July of 1863, while the Federals concluded its Anaconda Plan with the capitulation of Vicksburg, it crushed the Confederate invasion of Northern territory at Gettysburg. With the fall of Vicksburg, the South was totally cut-off from the west and denied the Mississippi River. By defeating Lee at Gettysburg, the South abandoned its Campaign of the North, and the Confederacy would henceforth fight a defensive war. The capture of Confederate forces in the Cumberland Gap would be another disheartening headline for the Southern war effort.

Map of Tennessee Civil War Battlefields
Map of Tennessee Civil War Battlefields.jpg
Map of Tennessee and Cumberland Gap CIvil War Battlefields

To: Brig. Gen. John S. Williams, Abington, September 9, 1863
Saltville via Glade Spring:
Colonel Love, of Thomas’ Legion, reports the enemy re-enforcing at Fuller’s Depot, this side of Greeneville. [They are] supposed to have eight *pieces of artillery. Hurry forward to Jonesborough, leaving directions for your troops to follow as soon as possible.
Sam Jones

Without any resistance, Brig. Gen. John Wesley Frazer surrendered the Cumberland Gap to Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside on September 9, 1863. Jefferson Davis stated that Frazer's surrender possibly "presents a shameful abandonment of duty." Although Frazer surrendered several regiments and the Cumberland Gap, Thomas' Legion remained faithful to the region (O.R., I, 30, IV, p. 26, O.R.,I, 30, IV, p. 537, and O.R. I, 30, III, p. 661), and Stringfield stated that "when Tennessee was fully surrendered, great gloom gripped the soldiers from the border states, and many Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina troops returned to their homes." Stringfield believed that Gen. Braxton Bragg's army had a "muster roll of 83,767, but that they only had about 40,000 guns." After the surrender of the Cumberland Gap, Brig. Gen. John S. Williams assumed command of the Department of East Tennessee. Williams was a native of Kentucky, Mexican-American War hero, and after the Civil War he would serve as a United States Senator.

Battle of Blue Springs Tennessee - October 10, 1863

Stringfield stated that on "October 5, 1863, the cavalry fought at Greenville, killing seven, wounding twelve and capturing ten of the enemy, and with a loss of three killed and seven wounded. General Jno. S. Williams, of "Cerro Gordo" fame, was commanding our troops...and after several days of skirmishing with the enemy, General Williams gave battle at Blue Springs with his 1,800 dismounted men, holding in check Burnside's 7,000 veterans." On Oct. 10, Burnside "advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance." Federal cavalry was supported by an infantry division, which, with sheer numbers, pushed the Rebels from Blue Springs. (O.R., Ser. I, Vol. 30, pt. II, p. 547.) The Confederate army not only engaged Burnside at Blue Springs, but they continued fighting as they retreated toward Abingdon, Virginia. Edward O. Guerrant, a staff officer to Gen. Williams, recorded on Oct. 10, 1863, that "when several miles beyond Greenville on the road to Jonesboro, Genl Jackson's advance (Genl. Jackson Brigade of 500) constituted our advance Guard, was fired upon just at daylight. It was within two miles of Hendersons mill—where we were going to Camp, and I was going to the front by order of Genl. Williams to halt the column there. The beautiful morning star, harbinger of coming day, was shining like a diadem on the brow of night—& we were peacefully, tho' regretfully pursuing our way—when all at once a volley of musketry into the head of the column woke up to the feast of death." While Brig. Gen. A. E. Jackson and Love's Regiment had arrived at Greeneville and were approximately 7 miles from Blue Springs, Walker's Battalion was stationed at Carter's Depot. Love's unit was the only infantry support for Williams and was en route to Blue Springs when the battle commenced. During the night, however, Williams retreated to Greeneville and joined Jackson and Love. The Confederates then retreated to Henderson's Mill where they made a determined stand. But the fight with Burnside's army would continue for several days. 

Battle of Henderson's Mill - October 11, 1863

The Sixty-ninth was ordered to support Brig. Gen. Williams, but hearing of a flank movement of the enemy was ordered to retreat towards Jonesboro, and finally to Abingdon, VA. In the retreat, three miles above Greenville (Henderson's Mill), their cattle, wagons, artillery and infantry, in order named, were surrounded. Maj. Gen. Burnside had thrown Maj. Gen. Foster with 3,000 cavalry in their front, attempting to capture them. The first intimation the Sixty-ninth had of their presence was in the capture of its Adjutant, L. C. May; and Captain Tip (H. H.) Taylor, Acting Adjutant-General of the brigade. Captain May escaped and gave the Confederates warning, and Colonel Love hastily withdrew the wagons and ordered forward the Sixty-ninth at double quick. He deployed the Sixty-ninth in a line-of-battle across the road, advanced their artillery, and began at the earliest dawn of day a furious artillery fire upon the enemy that was in the corn fields. Stringfield stated that "fortunately for us, the shells were bursting in their very midst. Before they could realize the sudden change of the situation, the Sixty-ninth, with the bear hunter's rebel yell, was upon them. Our men realized at once that quick and deadly work must be done, or we would all be captured. At sunrise, all 600 men dashed forward at the enemy in a heavy skirmish line; Love upon the right and Stringfield upon the left, with company officers all in place, all cheering and directing their men. Lieutenant Welch, of Company F, afterwards killed at Winchester, was shot through the thigh by the side of the writer; and very few others were wounded. This was a running fight for ten miles. Two Federals were killed in the yard of Senator Patterson, the son-in-law of President Johnson. Twelve or fifteen others were [also] killed. General Williams, while slowly retreating before Burnside, heard our artillery open upon the enemy. Dashing forward at a gallop, he materially aided us in the achievement of one of the most brilliant retreats of the war." Burnside dismissed the intensity of the Battle of Henderson's Mill by reporting that the Union forces "allowed the Confederates to pass with only a slight check." On the other hand, he conceded that the "enemy made a stand at every important position." (O.R., Ser. I, Vol. 30, pt. II, p. 547.) The Confederates retreated sixty-two miles in thirty hours and, during their retreat on October 11, skirmished near Rheatown with the loss of only a few men. The retreat concluded at Virginia, where they fortified their position at Abingdon with the brigades of Corse and Wharton, Virginia troops, under Maj. Gen. Robert Ransom. Subsequently, while  spending a few days near Blountsville, Tennessee, their cavalry, under Brig. Gen. William E. Jones, advanced and made a nice capture of twelve or fifteen hundred of the enemy's cavalry at Rogersville, and nearly 100 wagons of the Second Tennessee (United States) and Seventh Ohio. Stringfield recorded that "the citizens, here-abouts were mostly our friends, something unusual in East Tennessee, and had noble kindred in our army, mostly with General Bragg. While around Blountsville, company and regimental drill was daily enforced. Lieutenant Thomas Ferguson, a good soldier, afterwards made Captain and later captured at Piedmont, joined us here with 75 recruits. A painful example for discipline was made here. One poor fellow of Company K, a Tennessean, with two others of Tennessee troops, who were captured at Rogersville, Tenn., by General W. E. Jones, in the uniform of the enemy, were court-martialed and shot at the stake." On October 14, 1863, General John Williams wrote to James Love and was "profuse in his compliments, personally and in special orders, noting the regiment's valor at Henderson's Mill."


Captain Goldman Bryson's Federal Mounted Company, or so-called “Mountain Robbers,” was an estimated force of 120-150 troops and during the Civil War it raided numerous Western North Carolina communities. The unit warranted tremendous hatred for several reasons. On August 31, 1856, Goldman Bryson was implicated in the murder of John Timson, a Cherokee constitutional convention delegate that resided in Cherokee County. Goldman's brother and sister testified and provided Goldman's alibi and, because his accuser was a mixed-blood Cherokee, the murder charge was dismissed. (Cherokee intermarriage with whites was most characteristic along the Valley River, near Murphy, Cherokee County.) Although Goldman was acquitted of murder, many Cherokee County residents viewed him as a murderer. Bryson was a local man, he was born in Haywood County, in Western North Carolina, and during the conflict, he terrorized the very people, kindred, and communities that once loved him, thus epitomizing the Brothers' War. The Home Yankee, one of many a moniker bestowed upon him, was related to Colonel Thaddeus Bryson, one of the founders of Bryson CityNorth Carolina. (Bryson City, through the years, had been referred to as Tuckoritchie, Tuckaleechy Town, Big Bear’s Reserve, and Charleston.) The ominous maelstrom awaiting the Bryson Troops would conclude with its last raid on Murphy.


Goldman and his tories, now emboldened, entered the city, marched down the streets, and then sacked the town. But on this occasion, the Cherokees and Carolinians, General Bragg and Governor Vance, and many of the Thomas Legion had other plans for the Bryson Gang. Without stopping for eating, the Cherokees of Thomas’ Legion tracked the men for two days. When the Indians located Bryson himself, Lt. Campbell H. Taylor, a mixed-blood Cherokee, demanded he halt. But after his refusal to comply, Taylor shot him several times, thus forever removing the regional scourge. Next, the Cherokees wore Goldman's bloody clothes and proceeded through the streets of Murphy. Bragg and Vance publicly applauded and congratulated the Thomas Legion for exterminating “Goldman and his Robbers.” It was rare to be commended by name to one of the eight generals in the Confederate States Army, and Lt. Taylor received that honor when he was mentioned to General Bragg. There were four general ranks in the Confederate States Army: Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General, and General being the highest attainable rank. During informal communication, however, each may be addressed simply as general.


Report of Lieut. C. H. Taylor: Thomas’ Legion C. S. Army.

Murphy, N.C.

November 1, 1863.

Sir: on October 27, General Vaughn, with a detachment of his mounted men, overtook Goldman Bryson, with his company of mounted robbers, in Cherokee County, N.C., attacked him, killing 2 and capturing 17 men and 30 horses.

On the 28th, I left Murphy with 19 men, taking Bryson’s trail through the mountains; followed him 25 miles, when I came upon him and fired on him, killing him and capturing 1 man with him. I found in his possession his orders from General Burnside and his roll and other papers.

My men all acted nobly; marched two days, and without anything to eat.

Yours, Respectfully,                                                                  

C. H. Taylor

Lieutenant, Comdg, Co. B, Infantry Regt., Thomas’ Legion

Lieutenant-Colonel Walker

Commanding Battalion, Thomas’ Legion


[Enclosure of General Burnside’s papers found on Goldman Bryson]

Special Field Orders, No. 56: HDQRS. Army of the Ohio: Knoxville, East Tenn., October, 22, 1863.

VI. Capt. G. Bryson, First Tennessee National Guard, is hereby ordered to proceed with his command to North Carolina and vicinity, for the purpose of recruiting, and will return here within a fortnight, when he will report in person at these headquarters.

By order of Major-General Burnside:

Edward M. Neill,

Major, and Assistant Adjutant-General


General Bragg:

Permit me, general, to recommend to your notice C. H. Taylor, lieutenant, who commanded the Indians at the killing of Captain Bryson. You will pardon me, general, in not sending this through the proper channel, as we have no mails.

W. C. Walker,

Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. Battalion, Thomas’ Legion

O.R. I, Volume 31, pt I, p. 235

Cherokees Skirmish at Gatlinburg Tennessee - December 10, 1863

On December 8, some Thomas Legion's scouts were captured by Unionist Home Guard at Sevierville and imprisoned in the local jail. Thomas was furious. Rapidly advancing to Sevierville with about 200 men, the Cherokee companies, Thomas surprised and captured the guard and then released his imprisoned men. He also captured about 60 Home Guards, 6 Federals, and their guns and ammunition. In hot pursuit of Thomas and the Indians was Colonel William J. Palmer's 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. At Gatlinburg, Palmer engaged Cherokee pickets and for about an hour they exchanged volleys. Thomas and the Indians had wisely camped at the foot of a "steep wooded ridge," which allowed them an easy retreat into the mountains, "where they continued fighting from behind the thick cover for several hours." (See Cherokee Indians: Weapons and Warfare.) Once they exhausted their ammunition, Thomas and his men casually retreated into the familiar Southern Appalachian Mountains. Although he recovered the legion's scouts, Thomas recorded that 2 Indians were wounded during the skirmish. On the other hand, Colonel Palmer stated that they had wounded 3 Indians. He further reported 3 Federals wounded: a sergeant with a minor flesh wound and 2 captains with serious wounds; 1 in the arm and the other in the knee. Palmer also noted that they had recovered Thomas' hat. (O.R., 31, I, pp. 438-440.)

Battle of Bean's Station Tennessee - December 14, 1863

While Thomas retreated, Palmer's cavalry encountered fierce resistance near Morristown (O.R., 31, I, pp. 441-442 and O.R., 31, I, p. 448) as they engaged Longstreet's pickets that extended ten miles from what is historically referred to as the Battle of Bean's Station. Although the Thomas Legion's regiment and battalion were assigned to Jackson's Brigade, Ransom's Division, Longstreet's Corps, it comprised Brig. Gen. Alfred Jackson's entire brigade. (O.R., 31, I, p. 454.) Was the unit a legion or a brigade? This conflicting command structure had not only caused friction between Thomas and Jackson (which led to Thomas' first court-martial), but ultimately took its toll on the legion's morale.

Stringfield, meanwhile, commanded a rear guard of two companies when he recorded the action at Morristown: Dec. 15. [1863]. Camp[ed] near Beans Station. A pretty hard march brought us here. I was in command of rear guard of 200 men. I did not reach camp on the immediate South of Beans Station. [The battle] started AM West of Moristown road. [The] Cold [weather] has moderated a little. Cannonading [was] distinctly heard in the direction of Rutledge. The fight here yesterday was quite severe. Enemy [was] driven from Morrisburg to 1 mile west of here. Our loss 14 Killed; 50 wounded. [Total] Enemy [casualties] not known. 2 dead and 2 mortally wounded found. They took shelter in the large Hotel and the sharpshooters hurts us much till our cannon riddled the Hotel with shot & shell. The marks of deadly conflict can never be effaced from that and other Buildings near. We are likely to stay here for a day or so. I say go on. 

Stringfield hastily recorded on Dec. 29, 1863: Broke camp & moved toward Austin Mills & Russellville, Ten[n]. Sgt. Geo W Bryson, Co. “F” died here a day or so ago. [He was a] splendid man. The ford being too deep our wagons went by upper ferry. After a march of 10 miles we came to camp 1 miles North of Whitesburg. This day ends the campaign of 1863 an eventful one. I came in at S[trawberry] Plains Jan. l—[18]63 and closed here about 34 miles from the beginning.

North Carolina in the Civil War
North Carolina in the Civil War.jpg
North Carolina Civil War Battles

A skirmish is considered a brisk or minor encounter between small bodies of troops, especially advanced or outlying detachments of opposing armies. Example: There were several skirmishes prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.
A battle or engagement is a prolonged and general conflict pursued to a definite decision between large, organized armed forces. Example: Battle of Gettysburg. 
An action can be a battle or a skirmish. Example: There were several actions during the Gettysburg Campaign.
The term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war.

...continue to 1864-1865 (Skirmishes and Battles)
...continue to Thomas' Legion (Formation)
Recommended Reading: Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers (Thomas' Legion: The Sixty-ninth North Carolina Regiment). Description: Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains, dedicated an unprecedented 10 years of his life to this first yet detailed history of the Thomas Legion. But it must be said that this priceless addition has placed into our hands the rich story of an otherwise forgotten era of the Eastern Cherokee Indians and the mountain men of both East Tennessee and western North Carolina who would fill the ranks of the Thomas Legion during the four year Civil War. Crow sought out every available primary and secondary source by traveling to several states and visiting from ancestors of the Thomas Legion to special collections, libraries, universities, museums, including the Museum of the Cherokee, to various state archives and a host of other locales for any material on the unit in order to preserve and present the most accurate and thorough record of the legion. Crow, during his exhaustive fact-finding, was granted access to rare manuscripts, special collections, privately held diaries, and never before seen nor published photos and facts of this only legion from North Carolina. Crow remains absent from the text as he gives a readable account of each unit within the legion's organization, and he includes a full-length roster detailing each of the men who served in its ranks, including dates of service to some interesting lesser known facts. Continued below.

Storm in the Mountains, Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers is presented in a readable manner that is attractive to any student and reader of American history, Civil War, North Carolina studies, Cherokee Indians, ideologies and sectionalism, and I would be remiss without including the lay and professional genealogist since the work contains facts from ancestors, including grandchildren, some of which Crow spent days and overnights with, that further complement the legion's roster with the many names, dates, commendations, transfers, battle reports, with those wounded, captured, and killed, to lesser yet interesting facts for some of the men. Crow was motivated with the desire to preserve history that had long since been overlooked and forgotten and by each passing decade it only sank deeper into the annals of obscurity. Crow had spent and dedicated a 10 year span of his life to full-time research of the Thomas Legion, and this fine work discusses much more than the unit's formation, its Cherokee Indians, fighting history, and staff member narratives, including the legion's commander, Cherokee chief and Confederate colonel, William Holland Thomas. Numerous maps and photos also allow the reader to better understand and relate to the subjects. Storm in the Mountains, Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers is highly commended, absolutely recommended, and to think that over the span of a decade Crow, for us, would meticulously research the unit and present the most factual and precise story of the men, the soldiers who formed, served, and died in the famed Thomas Legion.

Recommended Reading: North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster (Volume XVI: Thomas's Legion) (Hardcover, 537 pages), North Carolina Office of Archives and History (June 26, 2008). Description: The volume begins with an authoritative 246-page history of Thomas's Legion. The history, including Civil War battles and campaigns, is followed by a complete roster and service records of the field officers, staff, and troops that served in the legion. A thorough index completes the volume. Continued...

Volume XVI of North Carolina Troops: A Roster contains the history and roster of the most unusual North Carolina Confederate Civil War unit, significant because of the large number of Cherokee Indians who served in its ranks. Thomas's Legion was the creation of William Holland Thomas, an influential businessman, state legislator, and Cherokee chief. He initially raised a small battalion of Cherokees in April 1862, and gradually expanded his command with companies of white soldiers raised in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and Virginia. By the end of 1862, Thomas's Legion comprised an infantry regiment and a battalion of infantry and cavalry. An artillery battery was added in April 1863. Furthermore, in General Early's Army of the Valley, the Thomas Legion was well-known for its fighting prowess. It is also known for its pivotal role in the last Civil War battle east of the Mississippi River. The Thomas Legion mustered more than 2,500 soldiers and it closely resembled a brigade. With troop roster, muster records, and Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) this volume is also a must have for anyone interested in genealogy and researching Civil War ancestors. Simply stated, it is an outstanding source for genealogists.

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