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Amnesty Petition of William A. Lash, July 22, 1865


Amnesty Petition of William A. Lash, July 22, 1865


After the immense destruction and bloodshed suffered in the American Civil War the country turned its attention towards reconstructing the Union. Reconstruction became a time of great uncertainty with a level of fear for the future rivaling the war itself. However, one of the greatest sources of fear was the question of dealing with Confederates and their re-admittance to the Union. In President Johnson's general amnesty proclamation of May of 1865 he decreed that high-ranking Confederate officials, civil servants like postmasters, those whose property was valued above twenty thousand dollars, would not be permitted to re-enter the Union as citizens. So, many of them petitioned for citizenship individually and wrote to President Johnson asking for his pardon. In these petitions, individuals like William A. Lash swore their allegiance in amnesty petitions throughout the fallen Confederacy.

William A. Lash, July 25, 1798 -December 27, 1877, was a resident of Stokes County and petitioned for amnesty on July 22, 1865 because he had amassed an estate worth more than twenty thousand dollars. Mr. Lash settled in Stokes County around 1830 with his wife after leaving the Moravian settlement in Bethania, NC. (Stokes Co. Historical Society 1989, 2) They settled an area near the Town Fork creek and soon opened a store and began to cultivate a large plantation. Their son, Dr. William A. Lash was born in 1845, attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, but came back to the area, which soon began to be referred to as "Lash's Store," and helped his father maintain the plantation while practicing medicine. (Stokes Co. Historical Society 1989, 2) During the war, William A. Lash was a member of the Confederate home guard, a group charged with guarding the home front, being the last defense against Union soldiers, and tracking Confederate deserters. While his son, Dr. Lash, served in the Confederate Fifth cavalry , 63rd State Troops regiment. (National Archives Publication M270) Both survived the war and soon after Mr. Lash found himself in need of a pardon due to the prosperity of his plantation, known as "Walnut Cove" and the town called "Lash's Store" which would soon include: a grist mill, livery stable, blacksmith, and windmill. This excludes the land that he deeded the town for the founding of New London Primitive Baptist Church. (Stokes Co. Historical Society 1989, 2-4)

Two men, one of which being William L. Scott, wrote to President Johnson on behalf of William A. Lash. In their petition they write to his Excellency that Lash is "a staunch and devoted friend of the Union Railway". (Item 865) This is accurate because Mr. Lash's son, in addition to his medical practice, had brought a railroad line into area making shipping and trade a valuable asset for the area. He, being Dr. William A. Lash, would go on the become a director of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad until 1899. (Coleman 2008, 47) The petition then goes on to explain that Mr. Lash was still devoted to the Union after the war began, but felt loyalty to his state being that it was in between Virginia and South Carolina and essentially forced into the war. Many of the petitioners portray an anti-secessionist position to curry favor with the government, but we have evidence from business transactions that Mr. Lash contributed a great deal of supplies and support of the Confederacy during the war. (National Archives Publication M364)

The petitioners then go on to describe how he was the appointed postmaster for Walnut Cove and had been for twenty-one years and was given official appointments from the "so called" government to continue. (Item 865) This attests to Mr. Lash's attempt to suggest anti-Confederacy sentiments and even includes a slight to the defeated government. Mr. Lash promises his allegiance and be a "law abiding citizen" under the Hon. W.W. Holden, if the President will restore him to the " rights and privileges of American citizenship". (Item 865) William Woods Holden was the governor of North Carolina, originally appointed by President Johnson in 1865. By mentioning him, Mr. Lash's petitioners seem to be trying to entice the President with the promise of loyalty to the North Carolina Republican party. Interestingly enough, W. W. Holden shared a similar fate as President Johnson and was the first North Carolina Governor impeached. (Trinity College Historical Society 1911, 147-164)

"The undersigned citizens" attest to the truth of Mr. Lash's loyalty and hope that the President Johnson would pardon him eventually granted amnesty and William A. Lash was returned to citizenship; however, he only was able enjoy his rights until his death in 1877. (Item 865) After his death, his son Dr. William A. Lash continued to grow and expand the area known as "Lash's Store;" expanding the Lash home and built four houses on Summit Street as the area's population grew and the settlement expanded. His support and direction of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad brought prosperity to the town's citizens and himself. His father's humble beginnings had developed into a major settlement and railroad station for Stokes County.

Walnut Cove received its official charter in 1889, but in that same year the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad was in unsolvable debt and was sold to the Southern Railway in 1900. (Coleman 2008, 47) Along with the railroad, Dr. Lash lost his and his family's massive fortune and never truly recovered financially before his death in 1908. The town itself still exists today, and one of the original houses on Summit Street that Dr. Lash built still stands to this day. William A. Lash is credited with the settling of Walnut Cove with the aid of his son, Dr. William A. Lash, developed the area known as "Lash's Store" into a prosperous, rural railroad community. William A. Lash's petition promotes the idea of Lash being a good, hard working citizen who had no interest in secession, but whose only crime was being a loyal North Carolinian.


William A. Lash
William L. Scott


William A. Lash, Amnesty Petition, July 22, 1865, Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty Papers”), 1865-67, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94, Publication M1003, National Archives, Washington, D.C.




Tuttle, Olivia K.




Stokes County, North Carolina
Walnut Cove, North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document


State of North Carolina,
To his Excellency, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States:

William A. Lash, of Stokes County by this petition respectfully showeth, unto your Excellency, that he is now sixty seven years of age and has a large family; that he is a staunch and devoted friend of the American Union Railway opposed a dissolution of the same believing it to be a remedy for nothing; Even after the fall of Sumter he was for standing by the Union and opposed to revolution; that he only gave the Union up after the state was [found out] by the action of adjoining states of South Carolina and Virginia. that he was at most of the time a Postmaster at Walnut Cove in his said county and had been for about twenty one years; that he was reappointed under the so called Confederate government and accepted sufficient accommodation to his [affairs?] ; that his [office] is a official appointment and does provide meaningful service to another that is desirable; that he as well also owns in upwards of twenty thousand dollars; that he is delighted that we again have a [peace]; that he is prepared and willing to swear to the United States his sincere and faithful allegiance and to be a true and law-abiding citizen; that he is prepared to give a hearty and cordial support to the transitional government of this State under the Hon. William W. Holden:

For these reasons, he most respectfully and earnestly prays your Excellency to grant him a pardon; that he hath already taken the oath of Amnesty a copy of which is herewith transmitted; [that?] he prays to be a admitted again to the rights and privileges of American citizenship and for such other relief as his case may require and to your Excellency shall deem prudent. And as a duty bound he will ever pray.

William A. Lash

The undersigned citizens respectfully state that they are [well] acquainted with Mr. Lash; that the facts in this application are true; that he is a true; good and worthy man and will bring to the United States Government a true and hearty allegiance, and they join earnestly in his prayer and hope your Excellency will pardon him.

[Roger/Robert?] Dick
William L. Scott


Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway Company. The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway: (from Mt. Airy, at the Base of the Blue Ridge, to Wilmington, N.C.): Its Origin, Construction, Connections, and Extensions : Embracing Descriptive and Statistical Notices of Cities, Towns, Villages, and Stations, Industries, Agricultural, Manufacturing and Mineral Resources, Scenery of the Route, Transmontane Extension, &c. Philadelphia : Allen, Lane & Scott, 1889.

Coleman, A. Railroads of North Carolina. Arcadia Pub., 2008.

Memoirs of W.W. Holden, 1818-1892. The John Lawson Monographs of the Trinity College Historical Society. vol. 11, The Seeman Printery: Durham NC, 1911.

"Town of Walnut Cove: One Hundred Years, 1889-1989." Stokes County Historical Society. n.p., 1989.

William A. Lash Service Card: 1864. "Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861 - 1865," Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of North Carolina, Record Group 109, Publication M270, National Archives, Washington D.C.

William A. Lash: Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65. Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, compiled 1874-1899, documenting the period 1861 - 1865. Record Group 109, Publication M346, National Archives, Washington D.C.


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William A. Lash , Amnesty Petition of William A. Lash, July 22, 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed June 16, 2024,