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Home North Carolina Buncombe County City of Asheville Historical Markers Stoneman's Raid

Stoneman's Raid

Hendersonville Road and I-40, Asheville, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"On a raid through western North Carolina Gen. Stoneman's U.S. Cavalry occupied Asheville on April 26, 1865."
     In late March 1865, Union cavalry under Major General George Stoneman, commander of the Union army “District of East Tennessee,” marched throughout western North Carolina during one of the longest cavalry raids in history. About 5,000 men under Stoneman’s command entered North Carolina with a mission “to destroy and not to fight battles” in order to expedite the close of the Civil War. Stoneman’s raid coincided with the raids of General William T. Sherman in the eastern sections of the state, stretching local home guard and militia units thinly across the state and forcing Confederate commanders to make hard choices on where their men were needed most.

     Stoneman divided his men and sent detachments throughout the region, securing the destruction of the region’s factories, bridges and railroad lines. The army relied heavily on local citizens for food and supplies, often emptying storehouses. Stoneman’s raids in North Carolina lasted from late March until May when they assisted in the search for Confederate President Jefferson Davis as he fled the collapsed Confederacy. The men had marched more than 1,000 miles during the raid and historians credit their march with assuring the death of the Confederacy as they captured artillery pieces and took thousands of prisoners while destroying Confederate army supplies and blocking a line of possible retreat for both Lee and Johnston’s armies.

     After hearing rumors of the end of the war, Stoneman separated his forces as he left for Tennessee while others remained in North Carolina under the command of General A. C. Gillem with orders to proceed toward Asheville. Gillem’s continued raid visited several towns before reaching the edge of Asheville on April 23 where they were met by a handful of Confederates with a flag of truce. Gillem arranged to meet with the Confederate leadership on the following day to discuss surrender. The surrender was orderly and followed the terms used by Sherman and Johnston days earlier. After receiving supplies and rations to prevent further raiding, the Union forces marched out of Asheville. However, the Federal forces returned to the city on April 26 to thoroughly plunder and sack the town. Their return actions were prompted by Lincoln’s refusal to accept the terms of surrender between Sherman and Johnston and Stoneman’s cavalry was ordered to do more damage in order to force better terms from Johnston.

Mark A. Snell, ed., North Carolina: The Final Battles (1998)
John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963)
Cornelia Phillips Spencer, The Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina (1866)
Ina Van Noppen, Stoneman’s Last Raid (1961)
Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains (1982)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
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