The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

Grandpa's Ride Into History

By Jennifer Perkins © 1991

Issue: March, 1991

Grandpa Henry Henley lived on a small farm outside of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. My Pa, his three sisters and younger brother were just young'ins during The War Between the States. Grandpa was a member of the Home Guard created to protect the county while the able bodied men were away fighting.

After Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the fighting didn't end for those in the mountains of western North Carolina. Drifters, deserters and other unsavory characters formed bands and raided anything in their path. The War had ended but there was no peace in the mountains and hollows of Caldwell, Watauga and neighboring counties.

On May 6, 1865 Grandpa Henley saddled his horse, secured his gun, waved to his family, and rode into town to collect any letters at the post office. The clip-clop of horse's hooves was lost in the buzz of activity in Blowing Rock following another attack. He tethered his horse to the hitching rail and joined the handful of men and guns forming a posse led by Major Harvey Bingham. Grandpa felt it was his duty to go. He asked a neighbor to let Loanny know where he was headed and rode out of town.

The raiders galloped out of Caldwell County to their headquarters overlooking the Yadkin River in Wilkes County. They resided in a house formerly owned by the Hamby family. It occupied a strategic viewpoint facing the Yadkin to the south and front and the Lewis Fork to the west. They cut portholes in the upper story, fortified the house and it became "Fort Hamby."

The posse rode hard and arrived at the fortress at nightfall, surprising the men inside. They begged for their lives and Major Bingham allowed them time to dress seeing no arms. The prisoners rushed to their guns and began firing on the men outside. Grandpa Henley and Robert Clark were killed in the hail of gunfire. The remainder of the posse rode away leaving the bodies where they had fallen.

Later a larger, stronger posse formed and attacked Fort Hamby with success. They torched the fort and those inside were captured, given no quarter, tied to stakes and shot, except for one of the ringleaders who escaped. This ended the raids and peace returned.

Grandpa Henley's body was tied over the saddle of his horse, returned home and buried on a small knoll overlooking his home. His fateful May ride to collect letters at the post office became a ride into the pages of history.