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Mt. Airy, North Carolina

Before Surry Elkin Rockford Siloam Dobson Mt. Airy After Surry

            On the afternoon of April 2, Stoneman’s troops arrived in the town of Mount Airy. As the troops entered town, they made a triumphant parade lap down Main Street before setting up camp for the night. Apparently news of the raiders had made it to Mount Airy ahead of the party itself because many of the town’s residents already hid their valuables and livestock. One story goes that the Moore family hid a silver candlestick in their stable yard, which was dented by the hooves of Union horses. Another claims that a young boy bragged to the Union troops that they would not be able to “find his daddy’s liquor ‘cause he had hid it.”[1] In another source, an area resident stated that “Most all the men in town left and run to the woods.”[2] This suggests that Mount Airy had a chance to prepare more than other areas.

           Of all the towns in Surry County, Mount Airy has the highest concentration of stories concerning Stoneman’s Raid. One of particular significance is that of the infamous “Siamese Twins.” These conjoined twins, Eng and Chang Bunker, were travelling performers who had settled in the area prior to the war. According to historian Joshua Blackwell, Eng’s name was drawn as a local to be impressed into transporting captured goods back to Union lines, but Chang’s name was not. When Chang refused to join the expedition on secessionist grounds, the issue made it all the way to Stoneman himself before it was “dismissed out of sheer ridiculousness.”[3]

           Many stories also exist of Union soldiers requesting food and clothing from different households. In one case, a group of soldiers requested a meal, and after they finished took some of the male clothing from the household, but they left payment.[4] Another area resident, in a letter to her sister following the raid, said that the soldiers “plundered Uncle Frank’s house and took all of Will’s and Frank’s clothes.”[5] In another case, the men demanded food from a Mrs. Cox, but when they learned that her husband was away at war and that she had recently lost a child, they didn’t take anything.[6] In another interesting case, a Miss Emma Greenwood was met coming back from the woods after a group of soldiers had eaten a meal at her father’s home. Even though she was “riding a fine horse,” it was not taken, and she was left alone.[7]

           Upon their arrival into Mount Airy the Union troops had learned that a wagon train containing Confederate goods had recently left Mount Airy bound for Hillsville, Virginia.[8] A detachment under Colonel Palmer was sent after it, which captured “seventeen wagons and one forge” along with provisions and livestock. The wagons were reportedly then piled and burnt, but the exact location of the remains is debated among historians.[9] According to Hartley, the troops were sent north from Mt. Airy, which agrees with the direction of Hillsville.[10] The issue is that the location given by many sources is Dalton, North Carolina, which lies southeast in Stokes County.[11] In either case, after the Union troops camped for the night on the Ararat River, outside of town, they left Mount Airy bound for more strategic targets in Virginia.[12]

[1] Hartley, Stoneman's Raid 1865, 111.

[2] Letter from Sister to Sister, April 1865, Research Library, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, Mount Airy, NC.

[3] Blackwell, The 1865 Stoneman's Raid Begins, 78-79.

[4] Minick, "Stories Abound.”

[5] Letter from Sister to Sister.

[6] Minick, "Stories Abound.”

[7] "When Surry Was Invaded."

[8] Minick, "Southern Hospitality.”

[9] Official Records, Series I, Volume XLIX, Part I, 331.

[10] Hartley, Stoneman's Raid 1865, 112.

[11] Blackwell, The 1865 Stoneman's Raid Begins, 78.

[12] Official Records, Series I, Volume XLIX, Part I, 328.