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2015 Bus Tour - The Last Days of the Civil War
Saturday, May 16, 2015, was a beautiful day as a group of excited folks gathered at the Old Salem Visitors Center to learn about the last days of the Civil War in North Carolina. The tour was co-sponsored by the Wachovia Historical Society and Old Salem Museum and Gardens. Chris Hartley, a Society Board member, Civil War scholar, and awarded author kept us spellbound with his scholarship as we learned of the events that happened on our tour's route.

After some pastries, donuts, and coffee at the Visitors Center, we boarded our bus and headed to our first stop, the Shallowford crossing.  This ford had been used for years by Native Americans, hunters, Revolutionary War soldiers, and others. This was the ford that Union General Stoneman's troops crossed in April of 1865 as they headed to Salisbury, their ultimate military objective.  Along the way, the Union Calvary fought several skirmishes as it moved near the Mocksville and Cooleemee areas toward Salisbury.

Grant's Creek was the site of a major battle just outside of Salisbury. At this location, Mr. Hartley explained the battle tactics that ultimately led to a hard fought Union victory. The goals of this Campaign were to destroy the rail facilities and supplies at Salisbury and to also liberate and destroy the Confederate Prison .The Union troops destroyed supplies, capturing and burning enough of them to support a huge army. Supplies included items such as small arms, artillery ammunition, uniforms, blankets, cotton, corn, rice, hams, beef, whiskey, etc. The troops also burned many Confederate facilities, hospitals, cotton factories, a foundry, etc. It was said that the fires could be seen many miles away. A determined objective of General Stoneman was to liberate the Prison. Earlier, the General had been a prisoner of war and was freed in a prisoner exchange. To his dismay, the Salisbury prisoners had been moved to other prisons, except for a few who were feeble and sick. The Union troops burned the prison.

After Salisbury was in Union hands, troops moved on Ft York. It was a Confederate Fort on the Davidson County side of the Yadkin. Ft York was probably designed and engineered by Confederate General P G T Beauregard. The earthen Fort sits high on a cliff above the Yadkin. It is on private property and, as a result, is amazingly unchanged after 150 years. The Fort consists of several artillery batteries connected by infantry trenches. The transverses in the trenches were also well defined.  The purpose of Fort York was to protect the railroad bridge over the Yadkin. The Union troops fired rifles and artillery on the Fort for several hours and were met with superior fire from the Confederate artillery. As a result, the Union soldiers withdrew, the bridge was spared, and this marked one of the last Confederate victories of the Civil War. At this site, we also learned about preservation efforts and plans from the Civil War Preservation Trust.

In Salisbury, we had a delicious lunch at the Rowan Museum, an 1854 Courthouse that survived Stoneman's Raid. We also took a brief tour of Civil War artifacts at the Museum.  Additionally, our tour included a visit to the National Military Cemetery in Salisbury. Here are rows of unmarked graves from this conflict. Also, we saw where the Confederate Prison was located next to the Cemetery and the Guard House, which was not burned by the Union soldiers.

Next, we headed back to Old Salem to St. Phillips Moravian Church where we heard a re-enactor Chaplain of the Army of Ohio give a brief sermon and then read the May 21, 1865, proclamation that all slaves were free. This was followed by his encouragement to the freed people to be industrious and pious. The Service concluded with the Lord's Prayer".

This was a fantastic tour in every way! All participants had a fun and stimulating educational experience. Credit and thanks go to Old Salem Museum and Gardens and the Wachovia Historical Society members and friends.  What are we going to do next? There are some big plans already under discussion!!!!

          Stay tuned.             
                                                                                 —H. Lester Morris
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