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MONTFORD SIDNEY STOKES

 

The subject of this sketch was born at "Morne Rouge," in Wilkes county on October the 6th, 1810. He was the son of Montford Stokes who was a U.S. Senator and later Governor of North Carolina. Stokes was appointed a cadet to the United States Navel Academy at Annapolis, where he graduated. Upon his graduation at Annapolis he entered the Navy and served for ten years or more when he resigned and returned to his plantation to engage in farming.

Stokes was appointed Major of the N. C. Volunteers in the war with Mexico. As an officer in the Mexican war he displayed his ability to command troops and proved himself a man of superior courage. He was the soldiers' favorite officer, and as mark of their love and admiration for him they presented him a beautiful sword. The sword is now in the possession of his daughter, Mrs. C. N. Hunt. It is mounted in gold and silver and furnishes a handsome appearance. On it are the following inscriptions:

"Presented to Maj. H. S. Stokes, of the N.C. Col. by the non-commissioned officers and privates under his command in Mexico"

"Major H. S. Stokes, the Soldier's Friend."

After terms of peace were made with Mexico Stokes returned to his farm in Wilkes and was one of the most successful farmers in this section. He raised many fine cattle and often drove them on foot to Philadelphia to market them. On one occasion as he was returning from Philadelphia, where he had been with a drove of cattle, he stopped for a few days with friends in Washington. It was during Andrew Jackson's administration as President and Jackson and Stokes had been schoolmates at Annapolis. While in Washington Stokes was invited to attend a banquet where the President was to be the guest of honor. Stokes was tall athletic with long limbs and large hands. He rented a conventional suit for the occasion but it was impossible to find a suit that would fit the athletic figure. But he went to the banquet and when the reception was being given Stokes went up to shake the hand of the President. "Is that you, Sid Stokes?" exclaimed the President, and old schoolmates embraced and gave a singular coincidence to Washington society.

Sidney Stokes was a perfect gentleman and tried to regard everybody else as such. The writer asked one of his old slaves - Sam -what kind of a man Stokes was. The old darky replied that he was one of the best men that ever lived. He said that the worst fault he had was that he put too much confidence in everybody.

When the Civil War came on Major Stokes formed the first company that left this county to join the Confederate army. He was elected captain of the company, and when the First North Carolina Regiment was organized on May 11th, 1861, at Warrenton, Stokes was put in that Regiment and was known as Company B, and he was elected Lieutenant-Colonel of the Regiment.

Stokes was highly regarded by his superior officers as well as by the privates under his command and he had been recommended for promotion in recognition of his able services and daring courage. But unhappily on the 26th day of June, 1862, he was mortally wounded at Chicahominy during the Seven Days fight around Richmond. On July 3rd 1862, this gallant hero died from the wound he had received a few days before. His remains were brought home and buried in front of the old Stokes residence.

 

GENERAL JOHN SEVIER

 

General John Sevier was not a native of Wilkes county but in that section of the country west of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains that was in the time of Sevier a portion of Wilkes county he was the most conspicuous man. In 1790, he was member of Congress from North Carolina, living at that time in Wilkes county, the portion now Tennessee. This year Tennessee was organized and admitted into the Union as a State and General Sevier was made the first Governor.

John Sevier was born in Virginia about 1740. He came to the Holston river with an exploring party about 1769. He directed and aided in the construction of the first fort on the Watauga river. While in defense of Watauga Fort he discovered a young lady of tall and erect stature coming with fleetness of the doe towards the Fort closely pursued by Indians;  but her approach to the gate was cut off by the the Indians but turning suddenly she eluded her pursuers and leaped the palisades at another point and fell into the arms of Captain John Sevier. This resolute woman was Miss Catherine Sherrill who in a few years became the devoted wife of the Colonel and the bosom companion of the General, the Governor, the Congressman, the Senator, the man and the patriot, John Sevier.

Sevier a contemporary of Daniel Boone, and devoted much of his time to hunting. He was constantly engaged in defending the fort from the attacks of the Indians and from the beginning the people of the settlement regarded him as their leader. During the Revolutionary war he and his associates went into the Indian territory, scattered the hostile bands, burnt the Indian towns and returned to their homes in better security and some more confidence of peace.

At the Battle of King's Mountain Sevier commanded a section of the American army and shared in the victory at that battle. The North Carolina Legislature passed a resolution thanking Sevier for his brilliant  work at King's Mountain.

In 1784 came the scenes of the State of Franklin. The people beyond the Smokies organized a government of their own under the name of the State of Franklin. Sevier was made Governor of Franklin, and received his salary in coon skins which was the currency of the State. The measures adopted by North Carolina to cede the territory to the general government caused Sevier and the supporters of the State of Franklin to come into the measures of adjustment. Franklin ceded her claims to the territory to the United States and the territory south of the Ohio river was organized. The State of Franklin quietly died; the stage of territorial government was passed; the State of Tennessee was established and admitted to the Union, and General Sevier was chosen Governor.

The authorities in North Carolina had Sevier arrested and he was taken to Morganton and put in prison on the charge of rebelling against the State but was released because of his services at King's Mountain.

In 1811 he was elected to Congress; he was re-elected in 1813. He was a member of the Military Committee during the war of 1812.

In 1815 President Madison appointed him on a commission to adjust some difficulties with the Creek Indians. He engaged in the duties of a commissioner, was taken sick and died at an encampment on the east side of the Tallapoosa river, near Fort Decatur, Ga., on the 24th of September, 1815, and was buried with honors of war.

 

CHARLEY GORDON

 
Charley Gordon was a native of Wilkes county and was a Captain under Col. Cleveland during the Revolutionary war. He was at the battle of King's Mountain and distinguished himself by seizing a British soldier by the "Q" of hair on the back of his head and dragging him down the side of the mountain. Finally the soldier was enabled to draw his sword and immediately Gordon drew his revolver and killed him. The subject of this sketch was the great-grandfather of General John G. Gordon, late Governor of the State of Georgia, and a cousin of our illustrious Gen. James B. Gordon.
 

GENERAL JAMES B. GORDON

 

Among the great men of Wilkes county the name General James B. Gordon stands in the front. He was born in Wilkesboro on the 2nd of November 1822, and was a descendant of a respectable Scotch ancestry. He was educated in the common schools and academies of this section and at Emory and Henry college. He engaged in the mercantile business and was probably the most successful business man in the county in his day. Gordon always took a lively interest in politics and he became the leader of his party in the county. In 1850 he was elected to represent the county in the lower house of the General Assembly.

At the outbreak of the Civil war he was one of the first to answer the call for volunteers. He enlisted in Company B, formed by Sidney Stokes, and was elected Lieutenant of the company. This company was attached to the First North Carolina Regiment upon its organization at Warrenton.

When the Ninth Regiment (afterwards known as the First Cavalry) was organized,  Governor Ellis appointed him Major of the regiment. The regiment was composed of picked men and only men of courage and bravery were chosen for this regiment. In a few days Gordon was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. On the 25th day of July, 1862, the cavalry was reorganized and the Ninth Regiment was placed in the Hampton Brigade. Gordon's regiment was soon called to the retreat at the second Manassas where he showed his skill as a cavalry commander, checking the enemy and giving. time for the Confederates to successfully retreat with their men and artillery.

At Gettysburg the fighting was mostly by infantry and artillery and the cavalry was not so extensively engaged. However, Hampton's Brigade bore the brunt of a severe fight. Gordon commanded the First N.C. Cavalry and bravely held his ground. After the fall of Colonel Evans he was put in command of the 63rd Regiment and he commanded that regiment during the remainder of the Gettysburg campaign.

At the battle of Culpepper, Jack's Shop and Brandy Station, Gordon did such brilliant work as to receive the commendation of General Stuart and which led to his promotion to Brigadier General.

In March 1864, the Fifth N.C. Cavalry returned to their several homes for new horses and recuperation. On May 2nd, they returned to the army and were ordered to report to General R. E. Lee for assignment in Gordon's Cavalry Brigade. At that time Gordon's brigade consisted of the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth N. C. Cavalry Regiments.

On April 30th, 1864, a special order was issued taking, Gordon's Brigade out of Hampton's divisions and placing it in the division of General W. H. F. Lee. Hampton regretted to have this done, and his order in executing this transfer is here given in full, as it shows the high esteem in which Gordon and his men were held:

Headquarters Hampton's Division Cavalry,
Cavalry Camp, Army of Northern, Va., Milford, May 5, 1864
Brigadier General J. B. Gordon, Commanding Cavalry Brigade:

General: In pursuance of Special Orders No. 118, Department of Northern Virginia, of April 30th, and of instructions from Major General J. E. B. Stuart, commanding cavalry, you are directed to proceed without delay with your command to the vicinity of Shady Grove, where you will concentrate your brigade and report for further orders to Major General Stuart. I am directed by Major General Hampton, in communicating the above orders, to express to you, and through you to your whole brigade, the surprise with which he has received the orders and the pain it causes him to execute them. He indulges the hope that his wishes may be consulted, and that a new assignment may be made as soon as the present emergency shall have passed, which will return your brigade to his division and give him back the troops to whom he has become so attached and whom he has learned to trust in times of danger and trial.

Indulging this hope, he refrains from saying farewell, but will watch the performance of affairs and men in the approaching contest, with the same anxious interest as if they were under his own command, confident that if your regiment should be eventually returned to him they will bring back unsullied banners and a record of glory increased and illustrated by new achievements in the coming campaign.. I am, General, very respectfully

Your obedient servant,
Theo. G. Barker,
Major and Assistant Adjt. Gen."

At the battle of the Wilderness Gordon's Brigade did valiant service. He was continually riding and walking along the lines of his dismounted regiments.

On the return of the Confederate forces from Mine Run to Spotsylvania C. H. Gordon's Brigade made the whole distance of 66 miles in 23 hours, without rest or sleep, reaching Spotsylvania about sunset. Immediately he was ordered to attack the enemy's right. He responded and succeeded in driving the enemy back before he or his men slept.

In the famous retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox when the Confederates came to Sailor's creek they found the bridge burned. The enemy was close behind and the Confederates were in a perilous situation. The enemy was held in check by Gordon's regiments until the bridge was rebuilt and the retreat continued.

At Hagerstown Gordon repulsed an attack that General Stuart had said saved the trains of the Confederates.

On May 9, 1864, Sheridan began his raid on Richmond. He had with him his whole corps, three divisions of cavalry, at least 12,000 mounted men and one brigade, and six batteries of artillery. To contend with this great invading force Stuart could command but three brigades - Lomax and Wickham's, Fitz Lee's division, and Gordon's brigade, and of artillery Johnson's battery and a section of Hart's. All told not over 4,000. By forced marches the two brigades of Fitz Lee succeeded in getting in Sheridan's front at Yellow Tavern on the Brook turnpike early in the morning of the 11th, and began the battle of Yellow Tavern. About the same time ferociously, the Federals burned the bridge. Gordon's forces attacked his rear, the Ground Squirrel bridge over the South Anna river but Gordon found an old ford, almost impossible to pass on where he and his men crossed, rushed up the hill and drove the enemy back in confusion. While Sheridan claimed the victory at Yellow Tavern it was about such a victory as Cornwallis won at Guilford Court House. It was Sheridan's aim to march into Richmond on the 11th  and had it not been for Gordon and his gallant men the capital of the Confederacy would have fallen into the hands of the Yankees that day.

On the 12th came the fight at Brook Church. Gordon was in Sheridan's rear. He had ordered some artillery from Richmond which came in due time and fired upon the enemy. Immediately one or more Sheridan's guns wore turned upon it. Gordon was furious. He raved and begged, and called it "band box artillery" but his men stayed in the trenches. He became disgusted and went in a gallop right into the fire down that military road, and there he received his death wound. He was taken to the hospital but six days later he died.

General Stuart also received his death wound at Brook Church when at last he was sorely pressed and his squadron broken, just before his death, his last words were: "Would to God, Gordon was here." But Gordon, too, had received his death wound.

Gordon's remains wore brought home and buried in the Episcopal cemetery in Wilkesboro. His last resting place is marked by a beautiful monument, and the evergreens and flowers that grow about his grave show the lasting admiration of his comrades, friends and relations. Wilkes is glad that the whole country glories in the achievements of her noble son, but his fame, his glory, and his tomb are all her own.

In his history of the 5th NC Cavalry, Col. Paul B. Means has this to say: "Our great loss at Brook church was the gallant and glorious James B. Gordon. The Fifth loved him as its commander during the Gettysburg campaign and as his entire brigade did for his splendid courage and merit in all respects. He was the the Murat of the army of Northern Virginia, and had he lived he would have added increased lustre to our North Carolina Cavalry."

Of him Gen. Julian S. Carr said:

"On the 28th of Sept., 1863, James B. Gordon, Col. of the 9th, was commissioned Brigadier General and took command of the Brigade. Under Gen. Gordon it made its famous name "The North Carolina Cavalry Brigade," and was thus to the end of the war widely known throughout the army of Northern Virginia and by a very great many in the army of the Potomac. Of course, it was often spoken and written of as Gordon's and afterwards Barringer's Brigade.

"Gordon was a genius of war, 'veritable god of battle."  He did more than any other one man to make; his brigade what it was, and had he lived his brigade would have placed his name as high on North Carolina's  roll of honor as that of any Confederate, if not higher. At Brook Church on the 12th of May, 1864, he received wound which proved mortal within a week."

 

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