Note: Excerpted from Chapter XXVII, this is an account of the raid by Colonel George Washington Kirk on Camp Vance in western North Carolina in which Josh Wesley Hanks was taken prisoner and sent to Johnson's Island Prisoner of War Depot in Sandusky Bay.

COL. KIRK'S CAMP VANCE RAID. On the 13th of June, 1864, Colonel Kirk, with about 130 men, left Morristown, Tenn., and marched via Bull's Gap, Greenville and Crab Orchard, Tenn., to Camp Vance in North Carolina, six miles below Morganton "where he routed the enemy with loss to them of one commissioned officer, and ten men killed-number of wounded unknown. His own losses were one man killed, one mortally wounded, and five slightly wounded, including himself. He destroyed one locomotive in good condition, three cars, the depot and commissary buildings, 1200 small arms, with amunition, and 3,000 bushels of grain. He captured 279 prisoners, who surrendered with the camp. Of these he brought 132 to Knoxville, with 32 negroes and 48 horses and mules. He obtained forty recruits for his regiment; but did not, however, accomplish his principal object: the destruction of the railroad bridge over the Yadkin river. He made arrangements to have it done secretly after he had gone, but they miscarried. On July 21, 1864, Gen. Stoneman front-Atlanta thanked and complimented Col. Kirk upon this raid; but instructed Gen. Scofield at Knoxville to encourage Col. Kirk to organize the enemies of Jeff Davis in Western North Carolina rather than undertake such hazardous expeditions." [9]

DETAILS OF THE EXPEDITION FROM THE GUIDE. Thev were afoot, carrying their rations, blankets, arms and ammunition on their shoulders.[10] They had no wagons or pack animals while going there. They reached what is now Carter county, Tenn., on the 25th, where they- were joined by Joseph V. Franklin, who now lives at Drexel, Burke county, N. C., who acted as guide. They went from Crab Orchard on Doe river-the same place that Sevier and his men had passed on their way to Kings Mountain--crossing the Big Hump mountain and fording the Toe river about six miles south of Cranberry forge, where they camped near David Ellis's. He was a Union man and cooked rations for them. On the 26th they scouted through the mountains till they came to Linville river, which they crossed about one mile below- what is now Pinola, and camped. They- met John Franklin and made him go back a few miles with them, when they released him. The next day they passed through a long "stretch of mountains" [11] and it was evening when they got down on the eastern side; but, instead of camping then, they pushed on, and crossing Upper creek came to the public road leading to Morganton just at dark. This was twelve miles from Morganton, but they marched all night, and at daybreak got to "the conscript camp at Berry's Mill Pond, just above what was then the terminus of the Western North Carolina railroad. Here they formed a line of battle and sent in a flag of truce, demanding surrender of the camp in ten minutes, at the end of which time it capitulated without resistance." Accounts differ as to the number of conscripts in the camp, Kirk's men claiming 300 and [12] Judge Avery giving their number as "over one hundred of the Junior Reserves who had been gathered there to be organized into a battalion."

Kirk "then took a few men and went down to the head of the railroad and captured a train and the depot. We had aimed to go to Salisbury, but the news got ahead of us, and we gave it out . . . a had an engineer along for the purpose of running the locomotive and a car or two to carry us to Salisbury, where we intended to release the Federal prisoners confined there, arm them, and bring them back with us; but the news of our coming had gone on ahead of us, and we gave it out." [13] "While the militia and citizens who did not belong to the Home Guards were gathering on the day of the capture, 28th June, one of Kirk's scouts [14] was shot at Hunting creek about half a mile from Morganton by R. C. Pearson, a leading citizen of the town."[15] Kirk then turned back, crossed the Catawba river and camped for the night. The next morning they resumed the march, crossing Johns river, and came into the road leading from Morganton to Piedmont Springs. Following this road they crossed Brown's mountain, where they were fired into by the pursuing Confederates. This was fourteen miles from 'Morganton and one mile from the home of Col. George Anderson Loven, who was one of the party of sixty-five men and boys who attacked Kirk at Brown's mountain. This was about 3:00 or 3:30 p. m.

"Kirk formed a line of battle, putting fifteen or twenty prisoners taken from Camp Vance in front. About fifty of our men fired on Kirk's men, killing one prisoner, B. A. Bowles, a drummer boy- of Camp Vance, who was about thirty years of age, and wounding also a boy of seventeen years of age from Alleghany county, another one of Kirk's prisoners. Dr. Robert C. Pearson was seriously wounded in the knee by Kirk's men. We then retreated, but Kirk retained his position for ten minutes after we had gone. When we fired on them I heard Kirk shout: `Look at the damned fools, shooting their own men,' referring to the Camp V ance prisoners whom he had so placed as to receive our fire. Kirk's men had about sixty horses and mules loaded down with all the best wearing apparel they could gather up through the country, and all the bedding they could find, all of which they had packed into bed ticks from which the feathers and strawhad been emptied. After our militia had withdrawn, Kirk's men remounted, the horsemen going around the fence, and the infantry, three hundred or more, going up through Israel Beck's field for a near cut to the road above." [16] According to J. V. Franklin, he, Col. Kirk and several others were wounded at Beck's farm near Brown mountain.

"We then crossed Upper creek," continues Franklin's account, "and came to the foot of Ripshin mountain and went up the Winding Stairs road, where we took up camp for the night." This position is near what is nowcalled the Bark House and only two miles from Loven s Cold Spring tavern. They camped behind a low ridge, which commands the only road by which the Confederates could approach, but down which they could be enfiladed. This was twenty-one mile from -Morganton. At daybreak Kirk's pickets reported that the Confederates were approaching, "when Col. Kirk took twenty-five men and went back and had a fight with the pursuing Confederates. It was here that Col. Waightstill Avery was wounded and several others.... "[17] According to Joseph V. Franklin's letter, "there were twelve Cherokees and thirteen white men who fought Col. Avery's pursuing party.

"The fog was dense as the militia came up the road. Col. Thomas George Walton was in command of the militia. Kirk's men formed on a ridge and behind tree, from which position they could enfilade the column, which had to approach by a narrow road. Kirk men fired on the advance files before the main body had come up. Col. W. W. Avery, Alexander Perry, seventeen years of age, and N. B. Beck were in front. Thev fired on Kirk. Avery was mortally wounded and n old gentleman named Philip Chandler, from -Morganton, also was mortally wounded. Col. Calvin Houck was shot through the wrist, and Powell Benfield through the thigh, neither wound being serious. Col. Avery died the third day after having received the wound. There were said to have been twelve hundred men in the militia under Col. Walton; but only a few were in the advance when they came upon Kirk's camp, as theywere scattered for a mile or more along the road down the mountain; and having no room in which to form except the narrow cart-way that `vas enfiladed by the enemy, they retired. Kirk went across Jonas's Ridge unmolested, burning the residence of the late Col. John B. Palmer as they passed about ten o'clock that morning. Two conscripts named Jones and Andrew McAlpin had been detailed by the Confederate government, under the late Thomas D. Carter, to dam Linville river just above the Falls for the purpose of making a forge for the manufacture of iron which was to have been hauled from Cranberry mines; and when they heard that Kirk had passed down, they went down Linville mountain by a trail, and sent two teams and wagons loaded with property from the dam above Linville Falls to follow, only they were to go by the Winding Stairs road, the only one practicable at that time.' These wagoners had gone into camp at the top of the Winding Stairs road when Kirk and his men arrived after their fight at Beck's faun. Of course, they were promptly captured and turned back."[18] The buildings at Camp Vance were burned.[19]

"There were bacon and crackers there which Kirk's men packed on mules which they captured, and took away with them.[20] George Barringer was another man they met on Jonas's Ridge and forced to go a part of the way with them, but he escaped. The yarn thread found at Camp Vance was given to the neighborhood women before the camp was burned.[20]. They got back to Knoxville, having lost but one man (Hack Norton) and sent their prisoners to Camp Chace in Ohio. No recruits joined them going or returning. The distance traveled was about two hundred miles."


9. Condensed from Rebellion Records, Series 1, Vol. XXXIX, p. 232. The guide, J. V. Franklin, says Kirk had only 130 men; but J. C. Chappell, who was with Kirk also, says he had 300 whites and 26 Indians. Win. Blalock, who saw them at Strawberry Plains, says Kirk had 200 men. The official report says the number was 130. It was supposed by the people of Burke that Kirk intended to take an engine and car and go to Morganton and release and arm the Federal prisoners there.

10. According to Win. Blalock, Kirk's men passed through Crab Orchard, and went up Chucks river, passing through Limestone cove, and crossing the mountain at Miller's gap, two miles from Montezuma, then called Bull Scrape. They then got to the Clark settlement, two and one-half miles from Montezuma, and camped there in a pine thicket. Next day they passed through the Barrier Settlement on Jonas's Ridge.

11. Letter of J. V. Franklin to J. P. A., March 2, 1912.

12. From .Judge A. C. Avery's account in Vol. IV, N. C. Regiments.

13. J. V. Franklin's letter before quoted.

14. Hack Norton of Madison county, N. C., was his name, according to same letter.

15. Judge Avery's account, before quoted.

16. Statement of Col. George Anderson Loven to J. P. A. at Cold Spring tavern, near Jonas's Ridge postoffice, N. C., June, 1910.

17. J. V. Franklin's letter before quoted.

18. Col. G. A. Leven's statement before quoted.

19. Col. George W. Kirk was born in Greene county, Tenn., June 25, 1837 and died at Gilroy, Calif., February 15, 1905.

20. J. V. Franklin's letter before quoted.


Arthur, John Preston. Western North Carolina: a history (1730-1913). Ch. XXVII. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards & Broughton printing company, 1914.