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History of Fort Hamby

    These pages are dedicated to the memory of all the men from North Carolina that fought in the Civil War.

    NOVEMBER 15, 1895
    By Robert L. Flowers
    In March, 1865, General Stoneman left eastern Tennessee, moving by the 
    turnpike leading from Taylorsville, Tennessee into Watauga County to Deep 
    Gap in the Blue Ridge.  On the 26th March, he entered Boone, N.C. and on 
    the 27th the column was divided; one division under General Stoneman 
    marched towards Wilkesboro while the other, under General Gillam, crossed 
    the Blue Ridge at Blowing Rock and went to Patterson in Caldwell County 
    and then joined Stoneman in Wilkesboro, not leaving Wilkesboro until the 
    31st March, when General Stoneman loved over into Surry County going 
    towards Mount Airy.
    Stoneman’s men committed many depredations, destroying a great deal 
    of property.  A certain element of his command found this a good country 
    to plunder and on leaving Wilkesboro a number of them deserted.  Shortly 
    after this, a number of lawless men, most of them deserters from Stoneman’s 
    army, together with other worthless characters, Wade and Simmons, 
    terrorized a large portion of Wilkes County by their frequent raids.  
    In order to fully understand the situation, the condition of the country must 
    be taken into consideration.  Almost every man who was fit for military 
    service was in the army and the country was almost completely at the mercy 
    of this band of robbers.  It was thought that when Lee surrendered and the 
    soldiers were returning home, that these depredations would cease but they 
    did not.
    These marauders were divided into two bands:  one led by Simmons had 
    its headquarters in the Bushy Mountains and the other, led by Wade, had 
    its headquarters near the Yadkin River in Wilkes County.  The bands at 
    times operated together but it is principally with Wade’s band that this article 
    is to deal.
    The house which wade had chosen and fortified was situated near the road 
    which led from Wilkesboro to Lenoir and about a mile from Holman’s Ford 
    where the valley road crosses the Yadkin River.  The house was situated on 
    a high hill, commanding a fine view of the Yadkin Valley and of the valley 
    road for a distance of a mile above and a mile below the ford.  The house 
    fronted the river on the south while the rear was protected by the “Flat Woods” 
    belt in which there were sympathizers if not aiders and abetters of the band.  
    From this position, the Yadkin Valley as far as Holman’s Ford and the 
    surrounding country for at least half a mile in every direction could be swept 
    and controlled by Wade’s guns.
    There is a legend that this hill was selected by Daniel Boone as a splendid 
    military post to protect himself against the Indians.  At any rate, it would 
    have been almost impossible to have chosen a stronger location both 
    offensive and defensive, than this one.
    The house was built of oak logs and was two stories high.  In the upper story, 
    Wade had cut port holes for his guns which were army guns of the most 
    improved type and could command the approaches to the house from all 
    directions, making it indeed hazardous to attempt to reach it. This house 
    belonged to a widow named Hamby and after Wade had taken possession 
    and fortified it, it was known as “Fort Hamby”.
    The exact number of men engaged in these depredations is unknown though 
    “it has been stated on good authority to have at one time exceeded thirty”. 
    (Hon. R.Z. Linney)  Making this their headquarters, they began to plunder the 
    surrounding country and from their cruelty it appears that their objective was 
    to gratify the spirit of revenge as well as to enrich themselves.  Their cruelty 
    is shown by this act:  a woman was working in a field near Holman’s Ford 
    having a little child with her.  The child climbed on the fence and the men in 
    the fort began to fire at it and finally killed it.
    They marched as a well drilled military force, armed with the best rifles.  It 
    was only a short time before they brought the citizens for many miles around 
    in every direction completely under their dominion.  They plundered the best 
    farms, subjected men and women to gross insults.  Emboldened by their 
    success in Wilkes County, they made a raid into Caldwell County.
    On the 7th May, 1865, Major Harvey Bingham (late of Statesville), with about 
    a half dozen men from Caldwell and Watauga Counties, attempted to route 
    the marauders from their stronghold in Fort Hamby. 
    On Sunday night, after their raid into Caldwell, Major Bingham made a well 
    planned move on the fort at a late hour of the night.  For some reason, Wade 
    and his men were not aware of their approach until they had entered the house 
    which they found unfastened.  The men announced to Bingham their defenseless 
    condition and begged for their lives.  No guns were seen and they were, as 
    Bingham thought, his prisoners.  They gave Wade and his men time to dress 
    after which, at a moment when their captors were off their guard, Wade and 
    his men rushed to their guns which were concealed about their beds and fired 
    upon them.  The result was that young Clark, a son of General Clark of Caldwell 
    County and Henly of the same county, were killed.  The others escaped leaving 
    the bodies of Clark and Henly.
    Being encouraged by the failure of Bingham to dislodge them, they began to 
    enlarge their territory that they wanted to plunder.  About a week previous to 
    this attempt to capture them, Simmons with his band had crossed into 
    Alexander County and made a raid on General McCurdy, a well-to-do planter.  
    About this time, Mr. W.C. Green, who had returned from the army after the 
    surrender, received word from a friend in Wilkes County that Wade had planned 
    to move into Alexander County and make a raid on his father, Rev. J.B. Green 
    and kill him (W.C. Green) if found.  
    The house was fortified, the doors and windows being barred.  They also took 
    five Negroes into their confidence and received from them the promise to assist 
    in defending the house against attack from Wade.  They found they had firearms 
    enough to shoot eighteen times without reloading and they also provided weapons 
    for the Negroes.  They were determined to resist an attack to the best of their ability.
    Wade started across the Bushy Mountains on Saturday, May 13 and reached 
    Mr. Green’s that evening about dark.  W.C. Green saw a number of mounted men 
    halt on the road above the house and he immediately concluded that they were 
    Wade’s men.  He notified his father and mustered the Negroes in the dining hall.  
    All the lights were extinguished though the moon was shining brightly.
    J.B. Green then stationed himself at the front door with a revolver in one hand and 
    a dirk in the other.  W.C. Green took his position at a window commanding a view 
    of the front gate and porch.  The Negroes were stationed to protect the house from 
    attacks in the rear.
    Three men with guns approached the house in front, one of them being Wade, 
    who had on a bright Confederate uniform, which he always wore on his raids, 
    posing as a Confederate soldier when necessary to gain admission into houses 
    he wished to plunder.  The other members of the band had taken another route 
    and surrounded the house in the rear, though this was unknown to the occupants 
    at first.
    Wade pretended that they were Confederate soldiers, that they belonged to the 
    cavalry and now were on their way home having been detained on account of 
    sickness.  J.B. Green told him that he lied, that he knew who he was and that 
    he could not enter his house except over his dead body.  Some of the men had 
    by this time come up in the rear and were trying to force entrance.  When this 
    fact was reported to W.C. Green, he rushed to the rear, knocked out a pane of 
    glass and opened fire upon them, wounding one.
    This seemingly unexpected turn of affairs appeared to frighten them and they 
    began to retreat.  J.B. Green and W.C. Green rushed out and opened fire on the 
    band as they retreated, Wade and his men all the time returning the fire. Their 
    retreat was so rapid that they left two of their horses where they had tied them.
    It was found out afterwards that five of the men had remained in W.C. Linney’s 
    store, just below Mr. Green’s house, and had not taken part in the attack.  It 
    was Sunday morning before news of the raid was circulated.  W.C. Green 
    reported the fact at York Collegiate Institute and several soldiers from there 
    volunteered.  By 10:00 22 men, most of them Confederate soldiers, were ready 
    for the pursuit.  There were in the company several Confederate officers and they 
    were still wearing their uniforms.  Colonel Wash. Sharpo was placed in command 
    of the company and they started in pursuit.
    The first news of Wade was when they left “Law’s Gap”.  Here it was found out 
    that Wade had camped in the Bushy Mountains part of the night after leaving 
    Mr. Green’s and that about sunrise he had made a raid on Mr. Laws and had 
    compelled him to give up his money.  He informed the men that two of Wade’s 
    men were wounded.
    They followed the trail and found that five miles from Wilkesboro, Wade’s men 
    had left the public road and had taken a shorter route by way of Hix’s Mill and 
    Holme’s Ford to Fort Hamby.  The ford was reached on the evening and after 
    crossing the river and traveling along the public road about half a mile the 
    pursuing party left the public road and followed a private road which led to a 
    creek at the base of the hill on which the Hamby house stood.  “In the plan 
    of attack part of the company under Captain G.W. Flowers was to approach 
    from the north while the other, under the command of Captain Ellis, were to 
    approach from the south and then the two parties were to surround the fort.
    In the enthusiasm of the moment all seemed to forget the danger to which they 
    were exposed in marching up to the house.  “Colonel Flowers’ men had gotten 
    within 75 yards and part of Captain Ellis’ men within twenty yards of the fort 
    when Wade’s men poured a volley of Minnie balls through the port holes.” 
    (Hon. R.Z. Linney)  James K. Linney and James Brown were killed.  Linney 
    had charged bravely and was shot in the head when on the east side of the 
    house.  Brown had charged up the hill on the west side when he was wounded 
    in the thigh, dying soon afterwards.
    A few of the men were compelled to jump from their horses and throw themselves 
    on the ground in order to keep from being shot.  Their horses became frightened 
    and breaking loose from their riders, rand to where the robbers had tied their 
    horses.  Those of the horses that escaped were the ones Wade’s men had left 
    behind at Mr. Green’s.  The soldiers were compelled to leave their horses.
    Under the deadly fire from the fort, the soldiers were compelled to retire.  The 
    force was now divided, part having fallen back across the creek and part having 
    reached the pines east of the building.  There was little chance to reunite and 
    after waiting until dark, the men withdrew, some reaching Moravian Falls that 
    night.  These met the others at “Squire” Hubbard’s the next morning. In retreating, 
    the soldiers were compelled to leave behind the bodies of Linney and Brown.  
    Wade’s men buried them near the fort. 
    The soldiers returned to Alexander County and raised a large company, a strong 
    force having been brought from Iredell County under the command of Wallace 
    Sharpe.  On Wednesday the force set out towards Fort Hamby.  After crossing 
    Cove’s Gap, a courier was sent back to Iredell County to request Captain Cowan 
    to raise a company and come to assist them; also another courier was sent to 
    Statesville to an encampment of Federal soldiers to inform them of the condition 
    of things and to ask their assistance.  Before reaching Moravian Falls, they 
    received a message from Wade, saying “Come on.  I am looking for you.  I 
    can whip a thousand of you.”
    It was dark when Holman’s Ford was reached and some one in the woods in 
    front gave an order to halt.  The soldiers thought it was Wade’s band and they 
    were about to fire on them when it was found out that it was a company from 
    Caldwell under the command of Captain Isaac Oxford on the same mission.
    They were encamped and had out their sentinels.  The two companies then 
    camped together that night and before day formed a line of march.  Moving up 
    the river, they crossed at a small ford and reached the main road where Mr. 
    Talbert lived.  There they found a woman who was dying.  She had been shot
    the day before by the men from the fort when she and her husband were coming 
    to the ford in a wagon on the opposite side of the river nearly a mile distant.
    Mr. Talbert begged the men to go back.  He told them Wade was expecting them 
    and had sent for re-enforcements.  He told them it was impossible to dislodge 
    the band and to attempt it and fail would only make the conditions worse.
    Captain R.M. Sharpe of Alexander County assumed command of both companies.  
    W.R. Gwaltney was sent with a small body of men to reach a high hill overlooking 
    a creek (Lenoir’s Ford) and to remain there while the main body marched around 
    to the north and east of the fort.  The fire of a gun was to notify Mr. Gwaltney that 
    the company had reached its position.
    Before the house could be surrounded, one or two men were seen to escape from
    the house.  They were fired upon but got away.  The supposition is that they had 
    gone to notify members of the other band and that they would come to assist Wade.
    By daylight, the fort was surrounded.  The men were placed about twenty steps apart.  
    The soldiers kept up a fire on the fort and at intervals during the day and night while 
    Wade’s men returned it, shooting with great accuracy.  The soldiers were compelled 
    to lie between logs and trees or out of fire of the guns.  It almost seemed an 
    impossibility to take the fort.  “Some of the bravest men were in favor of giving up while 
    others said death was preferable to being run over by such devils.”  (Rev. W.R. 
    This state of affairs continued until the night of the 19th when the lines were moved 
    up nearer.  About 4:00 in the morning Wallace and Sharpe and W.A. Daniel crept 
    up behind the kitchen and set it on fire.  The flames from this soon reached the fort 
    and the sight of the fire seemed to completely unnerve Wade and his men.  “What 
    terms will you give us?” cried out Wade.  “We will shoot you”, answered Sharpe 
    from behind the burning kitchen.
    It was now almost daybreak and several men began to rush up.  Wade made a rush 
    towards the river through a body of Caldwell County men who were advancing.  He 
    was fired on but on account of the darkness got away.  This was a great 
    disappointment.  Four men were captured—Beck, Church, Lockwood and another 
    whose name could not be ascertained.
    The flames which had caught the fort were extinguished.  In the house was found 
    property of almost all kinds.  Fine ladies dresses and bonnets had been taken for 
    the dissolute women who had taken up their abode with them.  About twenty horses 
    were found staked near the building.  Some of the property was returned to the 
    The men who were captured plead for a trial according to the course and practice 
    of the courts.  They were informed that they would be disposed of summarily as 
    they had disposed of Clark, Henly, Brown and Linney.  Stakes were put up and 
    on their way to their execution they were given time to pray, and they knelt down 
    but the prayer was “Oh, men, spare us.”  Wallace Sharpe replied “Men, pray to 
    God, do not pray to us.  He alone can save you.”
    Captain Sharpe requested W.R. Gwaltney to pray, but he replied that he never felt 
    so little like praying in his life.  Captain Isaac Oxford said “If you will hold my gun, 
    I will pray”, but instead of praying for the men, the thanked God that they were 
    about to be brought to justice and that none of their party had been killed.  At that 
    time, Rev. W.R. Gwaltney offered an earnest prayer and they were tied to the 
    stakes and shot “as nearly in strict conformity to military usage as these old 
    Confederate soldiers under the excitement of the occasion could conform to.”
    After the prisoners were shot, the fort was again set on fire.  When the flames 
    reached the cellar, the firing of guns was like a hot skirmish.  Wade’s men had 
    stored away a great many loaded guns and a large amount of ammunition.
    Wade was seen in the vicinity of the fort a few days later.  He claimed to have 
    been a major in Stoneman’s command and a native of Michigan.  He said that 
    he had escaped to the Yadkin River and had remained under the banks the entire 
    night.  He also said that in searching for him, several times men had come within 
    six feet of him.
    On the return to Alexander, Capt. Cowan, from Iredell, was met with a small body 
    of men on their way to Fort Hamby and also a company of Federal troops stationed 
    at Statesville were encountered on their way to the fort.  They were told of what had 
    been done.  “the captain ordered three cheers which was given with great good will.” 
    (Dr. W.C. Green)
    The bodies of Linney and Brown were brought back home for final burial.
    Although all the men were not brought to justice, the depredations ceased to be 
    Robert L. Flowers

    Transcribed by Christine Spencer June 2008

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