'Stoneman's Raid' author comes to town
That's when the Civil War hit the High Country. Just ask Wilkes native and author Chris Hartley. It's the subject of his new book, "Stoneman's Raid, 1865."
"It's all about one of the longest cavalry raids in military history," he said. "It's a raid that came right through the mountains of North Carolina."
It started in Knoxville, Tenn.
"It really was the first and only time when the Civil War really came home to the High Country," Hartley said.
By late winter, the raid was here in North Carolina.
"It made it a lot harder for the citizens of the High Country and other areas it touched to recover from the war," he said.
You may recall the song, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
It's not about the burning buildings in Atlanta or the bodies at Gettysburg. It's about what happened right here in the mountains. While the raid may not be on your mind when you walk through downtown Boone, for Hartley it's an obsession.
"The raiders entered Watauga County in late march of 1865 and ended up having a skirmish in downtown Boone itself," he said, with massive casualties on the Confederate side.
"The Confederate couldn't really stand against the large raiding force," he said. "Once they captured Boone, the raiders moved on down the mountain toward Wilkesboro and Patterson."
A hundred years later, it's that part of the story that fueled the obsession.
"Growing up in Wilkes County, I just could not miss those historical markers that seemed to be everywhere talking about this raid," he said. "I decided I really wanted to learn about it."
What started as an amateur research project turned into a book and, after years of writing and research, Hartley, whose day job is at Blue Rhino Propane Company, was ready to be published.
Saturday, he returns to the main scene, Boone, for a book signing.
"It certainly is amazing to think that this beautiful mountain town with hustle and bustle of college and commerce and all was the site of this difficult event so long ago," he said. "It certainly gives a different lens to look at the town through."
The most fascinating thing to Hartley?
"The length of the raid," he said. "Riding more than 1,000 miles on horseback is not an easy thing in peacetime, let alone during the middle of a war, through late winter. We all know what late March is like in the High Country."
The signing happens Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Black Bear Books (2146 Blowing Rock Road). For more information, check out blairpub.wordpress.com.