Six months out of the year I live in the historical town of Waynesville, North Carolina. I never knew how historical until last year when I attended events to mark the 150th Year of the American Civil War. Come to find out, Waynesville lays claim to holding the notable distinction of where the last shot of the Civil War was fired east of the Mississippi.
With the news of General Lee's surrender traveling slowly, the Civil War continued in Western North Carolina. A Confederate unit known as Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders led by Lieutenant Robert T. Conley were passing through the woods in Sulphur Springs (present day, Waynesville) when they stumbled into the camp of the 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment led by Lieutenant Colonel William C. Bartlett. Conley rapidly formed a skirmish line and began firing causing the Union soldiers to run in confusion. One of Bartlett's men, James Arwood was killed during the skirmish.
The Union soldiers retreated into Waynesville and Thomas' Legion surrounded the town. The following day, May 7, Confederate commanders General James Green Martin and Colonel William Holland Thomas (for whom the Legion was named) met with Bartlett at the Battle House in Waynesville in order to negotiate the surrender of the Union forces. Martin and Thomas were made aware that General Joseph E. Johnston had capitulated in Durham, North Carolina on April 26th, so Martin and Thomas surrendered their Confederate troops instead.
Last Shot Confederate Memorial
erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
I attended the reenactment of the battle.
An interesting side note about Colonel William Holland Thomas is that he served concurrently as Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee and as a member of the North Carolina State Senate (1848-1861), the only white man to have ever served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Indians. Adopted by Chief Yonaguska, Thomas learned to read, write and speak Cherokee at a young age.
Colonel Thomas' grave at Waynesville Cemetery.
The yellow flag is the official flag of the
Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation
who continue to honor their great white chief.
As another side note, it is a matter of odd historical fact that the last shot of the Civil War west of the Mississippi was fired from the Confederate Navy ship, the CSS Shenandoah across the bow of a New Bedford whaling ship in the Bering Sea off Siberia on June 22, 1865, more than a month after the war had actually ended.
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Wishing everyone Happy Trails!