The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Tales Of The Civil War

By Kay C. Bradford © 1984

Issue: October, 1984

Some families are lucky enough to have had ancestors who kept detailed records. But I feel the majority had ancestors, such as mine, who seldom put anything to paper, but passed the stories by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Be that as it may, these old tales are precious, no matter how they are preserved. The following concerns my paternal great-grandfathers and their involvement in the Civil War. Great-grandfather, R. Wesley Braswell enlisted in Wake County, North Carolina, at the age of 32 for the Civil War on the 15th of October, 1862. It is recorded that he was present or accounted for until he deserted December 10, 1862. He was apprehended and "brought to camp" on January 28, 1863. He was present or accounted for until wounded in the breast at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863. He was hospitalized at Danville, Virginia, until he deserted from the hospital on or about August 21, 1863. Those facts are a matter of record. However, there are no accounts to tell his reasons. Perhaps, being a farmer, he worried about his family and how they were faring without him. Following is a related incident:

After his final desertion, he returned to his home county (Caldwell) in North Carolina. The Confederate Army did its best to round up all deserters, therefore it wasn't safe for Wesley to just "go home." He hid in a cave on what is commonly called, "The old Tom Moore place," on old highway 90. This was very near his home and family and the cave was well out of sight and up a hollow. One day his nine year old daughter, Elizabeth, was washing his blood-stained clothing when a Confederate man came riding into the yard. How terrified she must have been, she knew all too well that this man had been tracking her father. A second child was standing by the wash-place with Elizabeth. It is told that the Confederate soldier pointed his firearm at the small child and told Elizabeth that he would not hesitate to kill the little girl, if she (Elizabeth) refused to tell him where her father was hiding. From the house a man was watching the scene. He quickly went to the aide of the girls and informed the soldier that if he harmed the child, he would also die. The Confederate rode away without gaining knowledge of Wesley's nearby hiding place. While hiding in the cave, recuperating from his wound, he continued to care for his family as well as he was able. His daughter, Susan Braswell, (my grandmother) told of going to the cave for her father to measure and make her shoes. These were fashioned on wooden lasts. These lasts are still in existence and are owned by Wesley's great-granddaughter June Clark Branch.

My other great-grandfather, Dolphus Clark, also enlisted for the war as a Confederate soldier. I have no official record on him, but the following has been related by his grandson, Eber Clark, now in his 91st year. Uncle Eber remembers the story well and no doubt remembers its telling from people who heard it first hand.

Apparently Dolphus remained with his company until one day during a heated battle, he saw one of his brothers fall, mortally wounded. He reached out to catch his brother, but wasn't allowed to do so, and was pushed forward with the line to continue the battle. It is easily understood how this caused resentment to build against the Confederacy. Dolphus is said to have tied a white rag to the barrel of his musket and ran "like hell" to the other side (the Yankees). He was arrested and taken to Virginia where he was made to take the Oath of Allegiance. By taking the oath, he was promising not to fight against the United States, which meant that he would not fight for the South against the North. Uncle Eber relates this follow-up:

After the war was over, Dolphus came South to his home in Avery County, North Carolina. Here he was arrested and put in ball and chains. It was winter, but he was forced to walk from Newland in Avery County to Morganton in Burke County, where he was scheduled to be hanged for desertion. How he must have suffered on that long, long, walk with the iron bands freezing to the skin of his legs. Lawmen in Newland got wind of the intended hanging and sent word ahead to Morganton that, "if one hair on his head is harmed, it will cost those in charge of him twenty of their best men." When Dolphus and his captors reached Morganton, they received this report and they set him free. Uncle Eber says that when Dolphus died (1895-97), he still carried scars on his legs from the freezing chains.

It isn't really clear WHO arrested him or just WHO ordered that he not be hanged. I think it fair to assume that those who wished him dead were remnants of the Confederate cause, and most probably those who saved him were connected to the law-of-the-land, or in other words, the Government.

Wonderful stories, sad stories of another time. Our ancestor's bloodline continues to live through us, and so must the stories of their lives.