Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review--Watauga County North Carolina in the Civil War

Hardy, Michael C. Watauga County, North Carolina in the Civil War.  Charleston, The History Press. 2013. 123 pages, 114 pages of text, index, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781609498887, $19.99.

When it comes to Civil War North Carolina it is hard to find someone more knowledgeable than Michael C. Hardy. He has currently published 18 books and has another scheduled for early this year. Not all are Civil War related but the majority are. He knows his subject.

His most recent book deals with Watauga County and the Civil War. Located in the upper northwest portion of North Carolina, Watauga County shares a border with eastern Tennessee, an area known for Union sympathies. In fact Hardy outlines that some "Union" men went over the mountain to either join Union forces or avoid service in the Confederate army.

The book has nine chapters along with two appendices. Chapters include: 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, The Life of Watauga County's Johnny Rebs, Reconstruction, Remembering Watauga County's Civil War and Watauga County's Unionists. Appendices include Looking for Watauga County's Civil War Soldiers Today and The Song of the Home Guard.

By tracing the history of the county chronologically Hardy allows us to see how the Civil War affected an average Confederate county. We see men joining the Confederate army either by volunteering or being conscripted. For those who were not able to serve on the front lines many were put into the Home Guard. One of the main goals for these troops was to coral and return deserters. As the war continued a lack of goods began to take its toll on families left behind. 1864 brought the re-election of Governor Zebulon Vance showing there was still strong war support in the county. Vance polled 272 votes to only 95 for his challenger William Holden in Watauga County. In 1865 cavalry under the command of George Stoneman stormed through Watauga County. The brief encounter ended with all men of the area being arrested by Stoneman's men. Several Union field hospitals were established.

In the chapter on Watauga County's Johnny Rebs author Michael Hardy provides an excellent overview of the war including explaining different types of guns and how they were loaded. Artillery is covered as well. The changing nature of war from long lines to troops to trench warfare is explained. In some ways this chapter is reminiscent of the classic The Life of Johnny Reb by Bell Irvin Wiley.

I am a big fan of works on reunions and monuments along with current commemorations of Civil War events and soldiers. This book does not disappoint. The chapter Remembering Watauga County's Civil War is loaded with information on various reunions and efforts to place monuments on battlefields where men from Watauga County fought. The appendix discussing soldiers today is in many ways a brief bibliographic essay mentioning several of the most vital resources.

This is a standard work from The History Press. There are many photos, both vintage and modern. If you are interested in the Civil War, North Carolina, or want to see an excellent local history this is a book you should purchase. Highly recommended!

Thanks to The History Press for sending  a complimentary review copy.

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