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BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES B. GORDON

FORT HAMBY

MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE STONEMAN

 

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES B. GORDON
The birthplace of General James B. Gordon, known as Oakland, stretched hundreds of yards south to the Yadkin, east to the Reddies River, and west toward rising hills (the area now Wilkes Regional Medical Center). Gordon was educated in the common schools and academies of this section and at Emory and Henry College. He engaged in mercantile business and was one of the most successful men in the country in his day. Gordon always took a lively interest in politics and he became the leader of his party in Wilkes County. In 1850, he was elected to represent the county in the lower house of the General Assembly.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Gordon was one of the first to answer the call, serving in the battles at Manasses, Gettsburg, Culpepper, Jack's Shop, Brandy Station, the battle at Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Petersburg, Appomattox, Hagerstown, and Brook Church. In the famous retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox when the Confederates came to Sailor's Creek, they found the bridge burned. The enemy was close behind and the Confederates were in a perious situation. The enemy was held in check by Gordon's Regiments until the bridge was rebuilt and the retreat continued. At Hagerstown, Gordon repulsed an attack that General Stuart said saved the trains of the Confederates.

General Gordon received his mortal wound during the fight at Brook Church on May 12, 1864 and died six days later. His remains were brought home and buried in the St. Paul's Episcopal Cemetery at Wilkesboro. His last resting place is marked by a beautiful monument, and the evergreens and flowers that grow about his grave show the lasting admiration of his comrades, friends and relatives. Wilkes is glad the whole country glories in the achievement of her noble son.

A historical marker is located on US 421 Business in North Wilkesboro.

FORT HAMBY is located on the north side of the Yadkin River near the mouth of Lewis Fork, about eight miles west of Wilkesboro, and 4 miles past NC 16 on US 421.   Fort Hamby is now a campground operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers for W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir and home to Forest Edge Amphitheater.  A historical marker is near Goshen Church on NC 268 West.

In the closing days of the Civil War, a log house in Wilkes County near Lewis Fork on the Yadkin River served as a fort for several Union army deserters. It was the staging point from which the former soldiers wreaked havoc on citizens of Wilkes, Watauga, Caldwell, and Alexander counties. Eighteen to thirty men are believed to have lived in the house that was named after its previous occupants, a group of “disreputable” women. Most of the men had been under the command of Union General George Stoneman, during his raid throughout western North Carolina. Under the leadership of a man with the surname of Wade, a deserter of the Yankee army, made headquarters at Ft. Hamby.  With no system of law and order in the region after Lee’s surrender, the raids continued.


These desperados roamed the country on horseback in large numbers, living off the loot they pilfered and robbed from the people in Alexander, Caldwell, Wilkes, and Watauga counties; many suffering at their hands. The people were enraged at the conduct of these robbers and determined to drive them out of the country or capture and destroy them. Defeated in their first attempt, the citizens were more determined than ever to burst up the robbers at Ft. Hamby. Men from Caldwell, Alexander, Iredell, and Wilkes joined forces and shortly before day surrounded the fort and began the attack, slipping up to the kitchen and set it on fire. When Wade and his men discovered the kitchen on fire they thought the fort would be certain to catch on fire and that they would either have to surrender or be cremated in the fort.

Instead of surrendering, Wade escaped from the fort and made a break for the river. After the fort had burned to the ground a court martial was organized and the four captured robbers were tried and condemned to be shot at the stake. Wade hid in the river until late evening. He returned to the area, walked up and looked at his comrades hanging to the stakes dead. He immediately left this country and was never heard of again.

MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE STONEMAN - Stoneman's Raid
In late March 1865, Union cavalry under Major General George Stoneman, commander of the Union army “District of East Tennessee,” marched throughout western North Carolina during one of the longest cavalry raids in history. About 5,000 men under Stoneman’s command entered North Carolina with a mission “to destroy and not to fight battles” in order to expedite the close of the Civil War.

Stoneman divided his men and sent detachments throughout the region, securing the destruction of the region’s factories, bridges and railroad lines. The army relied heavily on local citizens for food and supplies, often emptying storehouses. Stoneman’s raids in North Carolina lasted from late March until May when they assisted in the search for Confederate President Jefferson Davis as he fled the collapsed Confederacy. The men had marched more than 1,000 miles during the raid and historians credit their march with assuring the death of the Confederacy as they captured artillery pieces and took thousands of prisoners while destroying Confederate army supplies and blocking a line of possible retreat for both Lee and Johnston ’s armies.

Stoneman's troops left Boone after a successful skirmish and entered Wilkesboro on March 29, 1865 . Divided into two groups, Gillem's troops angled northeastward, parallel to the Yadkin River , toward Wilkesboro (roughly on the line of today's NC Hwy 268). Traveling without incident, they reached Holman's Ford on the Yadkin River late in the afternoon of March 29. They experienced their only real problem when they arrived at Holman's Ford. Recent rains had caused the Yadkin to overflow its banks. Thus, even as the Federals crossed the ford, the rising waters swept away an artillery piece and some valuable ammunition.

When the wing of the army under Stoneman's command reached Cub Creek it was too high to ford so he pitched his tent on the hill on the side of the creek. For several days about twenty-five thousand men camped on this site, during which time his soldiers were plundering and burning.

During the extended stay, Union troops on raids in the countryside discovered several moonshine stills and the drunken soldiers rode roughshod over the town of Wilkesboro . Angered by his men’s actions, Stoneman tried unsuccessfully to stop their recklessness. Stoneman and his men left the area and headed north toward the Virginia line.

A historical marker is located close to the Wilkes Heritage Museum on Main Street in Wilkesboro.

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