The Vance House Museum and the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville in sponsored a series of free programs focusing on the history of Iredell County in the Civil War in 2013.
The first of these one-hour programs was “Iredell Confederate Soldiers at Gettysburg July 1st to July 3rd, 1863” presented by Harry Watt, past president of the Vance House Association.
The program discussed the Iredell County soldiers and their units that fought at Gettysburg, PA from July 1st to July 3rd. Mr. Watt said that, “Iredell County soldiers served proudly in the three days of the Gettysburg battle in July of 1863. They served in all facets of the battle and the soldiers told of their deeds for the rest of their lives. Many current Iredell County residents are their descendants and should be proud of their service to protect home, family, and country.”
Harry pointed out that, “Gettysburg was the largest battle fought in the North and one that had the Confederacy won may have turned the war for the Southern Cause. Thousands of soldiers were engaged in the battle and many thousands were killed, wounded and captured. The many thousands of annual visitors to Gettysburg is a testimony to how Americans feel today that this was an important battle and important in its place in American history.”
Iredell County regiments at Gettysburg with Iredell County soldiers include the N.C. 4th, 7th, 18th, 19th (or 2nd N.C. Cavalry), 33rd, 38th, and 54th. The Vance House here in Statesville served as the home for N.C. Gov. Zebulon Baird Vance during the closing months of the Civil War after Union troops under General Sherman occupied Raleigh. For further information on the program or the Vance House contact Harry Watt at 704-880-3067.
Information about what was going on in Iredell County during 1863 is scarce. The only newspaper publishing in the county was the Iredell Express and there are only five surviving copies of the paper on microfilm for the entire year. Recently I found an article from a lost Iredell Express paper reprinted in another newspaper detailing a forgotten incident in Iredell County history.
The Camden Confederate, Camden, S.C. Friday, Oct. 2, 1863. “We find the following in the Iredell Express of Thursday: Considerable excitement was produced in this place on last Wednesday morning by a report coming from the neighborhood of Jacob Fraley, Esq., that a number of deserters in that section had massed themselves for a battle with a portion of the State Guard, from Camp Vance commanded by Lieut. Robards.
It appears that the people of that region had appointed a day for a Union meeting in the vicinity of Esquire Fraley’s and had extended an invitation to the deserters and skulkers thereabouts to attend and take part in the proceedings. The guard marched from near this place Monday night and reached the place where the meeting was to be held about daybreak Tuesday, a distance of twenty miles.
After the meeting assembled (a large number of women being present) the guard and militia surrounded the building and took possession of the ring-leaders, letting the females and a number of citizens loose, retaining under guard five deserters who were present and the chairman, a Mr. John Diffee, who is from appearance seventy five years old and quite infirm.
About one hundred and sixty deserters were on their way to the rendezvous, but would not advance nearer than Warren’s Bridge, (three miles distant from the place of meeting.) on learning of the presence of the guard. The supposition was they were waiting for reinforcements from Trap Hill, in Wilkes County and intended attacking the next day; but the guards were disappointed on reaching the place of an anticipated battle the following morning, the deserters having skedaddled to the mountains in Wilkes.
An attempt was made on Tuesday night to release the prisoners who were being conveyed to Camp Vance, by a party of sixteen citizens, but did not succeed in their object, one of who was captured early Wednesday morning and confessed being one of the parties. Two militia officers were also arrested the same day for aiding and abetting deserters. On Thursday, these men were placed, under guard of militia, to be brought to this place, but on reaching a creek within four miles of here, they escaped through negligence of a portion of the men under whose care they had been placed for safe deliverance into the jail, prior to their shipment to Camp Vance.”
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark in September 2013