Lenoir History: ‘The damnedest little rebel town…’

After Lee Surrendered to Grant, Lenoir was scene of raid by Union General George Stoneman

By Michael M. Barrick

THIS MONTH IN LENOIR HISTORY

History 1b Civil War Volunteer

First Civil War Volunteer from Caldwell County. Private Michael Criger, 22nd Regiment. Photo courtesy of Caldwell County, Now & Then.

On April 15, 1865 – six days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Va. and the same day that President Abraham Lincoln died from his wounds caused by assassin John Wilkes Booth – Lenoir residents were startled as two Union cavalry brigades operating under the command of General George Stoneman entered town on their raid through the mountains.

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The surrender of Genl. Joe Johnston near Greensboro N.C., April 26th 1865. Courtesy, the Library of Congress.

He imprisoned approximately 900 citizens at the old St. James Episcopal Church and used the building for a hospital. According to accounts from citizens, those inside were “old men, boys and soldiers recuperating.”

Afterwards, resident Joseph C. Norwood wrote, “We are just through with a scene of clear and very great danger.” Noting that the soldiers were “well-equipped,” he conceded that the soldiers were, “… under the severest discipline and were not allowed to plunder to any great extent or commit any act of violence.”

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The Bennett House. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Laura Norwood wrote to her uncle, Walter Lenoir, that Union cavalrymen called Lenoir, “the damnedest little rebel town they ever saw.”

Though the Civil War had essentially ended when Lee surrendered to Grant, the troops stayed until April 17, eventually ending up in Asheville on April 26 when Stoneman ceased hostilities – the same day that Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered nearly 100,000 troops to Union General William T. Sherman near Durham, N.C. That surrender ended most hostilities across all fronts of the Civil War.

© The Lenoir Voice, 2016 

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