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The Last Battle of the Civil War
East of the Mississippi

by Ralph Clark

By May of 1865, nearly all of the Confederate armies had surrendered. Among the last holdouts was Thomas's Legion, an independent force of about five hundred combined white and Indian troops, under Colonel William H. Thomas. When Colonel William C. Bartlett's 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantryoccupied the town of Waynesville, Colonel Thomas, with four companies of Indian troops and a company of sharpshooters, took position in the hills around the town. Hoping to surround and capture the federal regiment, he sent a detachment to tell Lieutenant Colonel James R. Love to bring the other half of Thomas's force to join him.

Those messengers, a company of no more than fifty sharpshooters led by Lieutenant Robert T. Conley, marched by the shortest route, by way of White Sulphur Springs. In the middle of a forest, they encountered part of Colonel Bartlett's regiment. Undismayed at being outnumbered four to one, Lieutenant Conley formed his men into a line and fired a volley, and then charged with bayonets. The Union force fled in disarray, leaving one dead soldier behind.(1)

That soldier was named Arwood, and was probably the last soldier killed east of the Mississippi. He is said to be buried in the cemetery at Asheville.(2) He hasn't been specifically identified, but of the six Arrowoods/Arwoods known to have served in the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry, four survived to claim pensions as Union veterans. A descendant of one of them has written about this battle.(3) Pvts David B. Arrowood and William Arrowood are unaccounted for after the war.

The part of Colonel Bartlett's regiment engaged in this battle hasn't been identified, but Arrowoods and Arwoods are found only on the rosters of Companies B and C.(4)(5)

The victory was for nought, and Colonel Thomas's forces surrendered a few days later on May 14, 1865.(6)

Notes and References

1. William R. Trotter, Bushwhackers, The Civil War in North Carolina, Vol. 2: The Mountains (Winston Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1991), ISBN 0-89587-087-8 (pbk.), p. 298.

2. Ibid.

3. Virgil Arrowood, Grandpa Fought On Three Sides (pub. by the author, P.O. Box 36, Gassville AR 72635, 1990).

4. Index of Compiled Service Records of Union Volunteers Who Served from North Carolina, Microfilm Series M-391, Roll 1, National Archives, Washington, DC.

5. General Index to Pension Files 1861-1934, Microfilm Series T-288, National Archives, Washington, DC.

6. Bill Millsaps, The Last Surrender of the Civil War (in NC and East of the Mississippi River), in A Lot of Bunkum' (Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society), Vol. X, No. 4 (April 1989) pp. 39-40, No. 5 (May 1989) pp. 44-46.