Weekend events mark 150th anniversary of Stoneman’s Raid

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 10, 2015

SALISBURY — For people interested in Civil War history, the weekend has two offerings commemorating the 150th anniversary of Stoneman’s Raid.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, in partnership with Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association and other local history organizations, will be leading guided hikes on the historic Fort York property along the banks of the Yadkin in Davidson County.

Tours will take place every hour between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, leaving from the vicinity of the York Hill Restaurant ruins on the Trading Ford Way above the York Hill boat access area.

In another event marking the anniversary Sunday, members of the Rowan Museum and Historic Salisbury Foundation, along with local historical interpreters, will reenact a portion of Stoneman’s Raid on downtown Salisbury.

The reenactment will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday at the historic 1854 courthouse at 202 N. Main St., currently home to the Rowan Museum. April 12, 1865, is the date Maj. Gen. George Stoneman and his Union cavalry roared into Salisbury.

The Rowan Museum gives this account:

“Our citizens had heard of all that General Sherman had destroyed in other communities and were so fearful of what Stoneman might do here. It is said that citizens buried their silver and hid as many valuables as they could and were quite wary of these northern troops.

“Mrs. Maggie Ramsey shared the feelings of many when asked by a Northern officer to play a song on her piano: ‘I cannot play. There is no music in my soul today.'”

Stoneman and his soldiers emptied the local warehouses of their stores of supplies for the Confederate Army. These wares were estimated to have the potential of supplying between 75,000 to 100,000 soldiers.

“The Yankee troops lined North Main Street with huge piles of potatoes, blankets, flour, sugar and more,” a Rowan Museum press release said. “The indigent of town had been invited to get supplies from the piles before they were torched, and other townsfolk carried away as much as they could.

“The story is that Stoneman did come to the steps of the courthouse with the intent of burning it also, but was met with pleas from local citizens to spare it. It was only 11 years old and the community was very proud of it.”

Stoneman’s men burned the Confederate Prison, however, though virtually all of the prisoners had been moved out weeks earlier. The Rowan Museum said a local resident remarked at the time, “No one was sorry when the Yankees made a bonfire of the evil smelling, empty, dolorous prison.”

The Fort York property is privately owned and typically not available for public access. However, the owners have agreed to allow guided tours on these two days in recognition of the significance of the 150th anniversary of the battle that occurred there, land trust officials said.

The LandTrust for Central North Carolina is currently engaged in a campaign to raise the funds to purchase 13.6 key acres of the fortifications Confederates built a century and a half ago. 

On April 12, 1865, Stoneman’s Union raiders reached the Yadkin River intent on destroying the new railroad bridge so that it might cripple troop movements and commerce in the South.

Stoneman had destroyed the telegraph lines as he moved across the Piedmont, and news of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox three days prior had not reached the area. In fact, the war in North Carolina would continue for several more weeks.

On April 12, Confederate forces successfully defended the bridge and turned Stoneman’s troops back towards Salisbury after suffering casualties. This is considered the last Confederate victory of the War Between the States in North Carolina.

The site tour will provide an overview of the events of that historic day, as well as highlight the earthwork structures still in place today at the fort.

The hike will be moderate in difficulty, as the site sits on high ground above the Yadkin River, and there is some elevation gain.

Directions to the tour meeting area are as follows: From Salisbury/Spencer, take U.S.  29N/70E toward the Yadkin River. After crossing the river, continue straight on Wilcox Way 0.7 miles (past the Hilltop Living Center). Turn left on Sowers Road. Go 400 feet to the first intersection. Turn left on Trading Ford Way (formerly Old Salisbury Road). Go 0.8 mile to area across from road to York Hill boat access.

For more information, contact the land trust at 704-647-0302 or jason@landtrustcnc.org.