Thomas’s Legion Sees Action at Deep Creek
On February 2, 1864, Union Maj. Francis M. Davidson and the 14th Illinois Cavalry engaged in a skirmish with Thomas’s Legion, led by Col. William Holland Thomas, on Deep Creek near Quallatown in modern Haywood County. Accounts differ as to what occurred that morning, but Union forces apparently surprised the Confederates and overran them. On the Union side, two men were killed and another six were wounded, while Thomas most likely lost ten killed and thirty-two captured. Eighteen of the men taken prisoner were Cherokees. The captives were imprisoned in Knoxville, where all of the Cherokees took the oath of allegiance in early March. The event was a turning point in Cherokee allegiance to the Confederacy.
The affair at Deep Creek undermined Thomas’s recruiting efforts among the Cherokees. The event coincided with internal conflicts, skyrocketing food prices due to inflation, a harsh winter and an increase in starvation among Indian families. Thomas attempted to assuage the food shortages by purchasing grain from South Carolina. However the raids into western North Carolina, such as that at Deep Creek, led to the desertion of the Eastern Band from the Confederate cause.
Other related resources:
- The North Civil War Experience from N.C. Historic Sites
- North Carolina and the Civil War from the N.C. Museum of History
- The North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee
- North Carolina as a Civil War Battleground and North Carolina Troops Volume XVI: Thomas’s Legion from N.C. Historical Publications
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