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Letter From William H. Thomas to Zebulon B. Vance, November 22, 1862


Letter From William H. Thomas to Zebulon B. Vance, November 22, 1862


This is a letter from William H. Thomas, a military leader on the side of the Confederacy, to the recently appointed Governor of North Carolina, Zebulon B. Vance. At this time William Thomas was in command of a number of Indian fighters as well as mountaineer and he was working to defend the eastern borders of Tennessee and Kentucky. In his letter, William Thomas, made his command and objectives known to Zebulon Vance, Thomas then proceeded to suggest cooperative courses of action to the Governor that he believed would help them defend the western border of North Carolina from the Union forces to the north.


William Thomas


Johnston, Frontis, edit. 1963. The Papers of Zebulon Baird Vance Volume 1. Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History






Knoxville Tennessee

Original Format



In the progress of the war men and circumstances change. At the commencement you were in Military I in Civil positions. Now my position is what your position was then. I find myself at the head of a Regment or Legion of Indians and Mountaineers, entrusted with duties in East Tennessee and Kentucky. And as your duties relate principally to the defence of North Carolina permit me to submit for your consideration a few facts believed to be connected with the public services and the defence of the State. Would it not be advisable to make an arrangement to have able bodied negro men belonging to the counties in reach of the enemy employed by the State and transferred from their present positions to work on the extension of the Railroad. They could, I presume, be employed for the cost on ensurance and food and raiment. By this two objects would be gained. 1st every negro would be a saving of $1000, to the owner, 2d Every able bodied negro kept out of the hands of the enemy would lessen the number troops we have to raise in defence, equal to a saving of at least $1000 per years. Thus if North Carolina employed ten thousand negroes on the road where a small force could keep them in subjection, $10,000,00 would be saved to the owners, and 10,000 men less would defend our cause.

One consideration now animates us all. What will ensure success not what would be most agreeable to us. The Legislature appropriated two millions of dollars to defend Eastern North Carolina and the Western frontiers. Both are now in danger. The western Counties are in danger of being over run by deserters and renegades who by the hundred are taking shelter in the smoky mountains. The men between 35 and 40 west of the Blue Ridge should be furnished with arms and ammunition, and required to aid in guarding their homes And the Confederate should be required to place Military compys at every trap in the Smoky mountains from Ashe to Cherokee. As long as we can hold the Country encircled by the Blue Ridge and Cumberland mountains and their outside slopes we have the heart of the south, which commands the surrounding Plains. The loss of this country larger than England or France is the loss of the Southern Confederacy and we sink under a despotism


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William Thomas, Letter From William H. Thomas to Zebulon B. Vance, November 22, 1862, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 26, 2024,