The Home Guard
By the summer of 1863, the mountains along the North Carolina – Tennessee border were home to many southern men who deserted the Confederate cause. Prisoners who escaped from nearby Salisbury Prison also made their way up into these mountains. The dense forests and endless thickets made for a great place to hide. This significant influx of men presented a major problem for the isolated cabins in the mountains – these men needed food! And some of the men were rogues of the worst sort.
The Home Guard in Watauga County, North Carolina formed during the summer of 1863 to protect the women folk from this danger. And to round up deserters.
Major Harvey Bingham led the Home Guard that “protected” the citizens of Watauga County. He had previously served in the 37th Regiment of North Carolina Troops until being injured. After mending, he assumed command of the local Home Guard and served with high efficiency. Bingham’s men were aggressive. When encountering a local rogue or a man delinquent from his Confederate unit, they called out for the man to surrender. They gave one warning. If they didn’t comply, the Home Guard opened fire.
This process was rather straight forward. Since conscription eventually took all men ages 17-50 (there was an exception for men who owned 20 slaves or more), no men should be in the mountains… except for a few old-timers. The Home Guard shot or hung many a man. Some of their victims were murderers and horse thieves – others were southerners who didn’t believe in the Confederate cause.
The guard also rendered their form of justice on some of the local families up Dutch Creek and Clark’s Creek. They seized food and burned buildings… but, that’s another story.
[NOTE: WITHOUT A COUNTRY tells the story Suzanne Lusk Clark and the trials she and her neighbors faced during the war. Needless to say, the Home Guard was no friend to her during the war.]