“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Franklin in Macon County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

Thomas's Legion

A Unique Command

Thomas's Legion Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 26, 2014
1. Thomas's Legion Marker
Inscription. Confederate Col. William H. Thomas organized Thomasís Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers is western North Carolina in September 1862. The people of this area were sometime referred to as highlanders, and local residents called Thomasís unit the “Highland Rangers.” Thomas eventually recruited more than 2,000 officers and men, including two companies composed of 400 Cherokee. The unit fought in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia and largely prevented the Federal occupation of western North Carolina. Part of the Legion served in the final engagement of the war in North Carolina at Waynesville on May 6-7. Thomas surrendered the Legion to Union Col. William C. Bartlett on May 9.

Several Macon County men, both white and Cherokee, joined Thomasís Legion. Among the Cherokee were several from Sandtown, a village just west of Franklin in the Cartoogechaye area. The chief of Sandtown, who also served, was Chuttahsotte or Jim Woodpecker, to whom Thomas himself gave a long rifle made by the renowned Gillespie family of mountain gunsmiths.

(sidebar 1)
William Holland Thomas (February 5, 1805-May 10, 1893) was the first and only white man to serve as a Cherokee chief. An influential figure in antebellum Western North Carolina, he was instrumental in establishing the Qualla Boundry (the reservation
Thomas's Legion Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, April 26, 2014
2. Thomas's Legion Marker
for the Eastern Band of Cherokee), located north of Franklin. As state senator in 1848, he helped charter the Great Western Turnpike from Asheville through Franklin to Murphy that was essential to the regionís development. President Andrew Johnson pardoned Thomas in 1866, but illness prevented him from resuming his political career. Thomas is the subject of a 2006 novel, Thirteen Moons, by former Franklin resident Charles Frazier, the author of Cold Mountain.

(sidebar 2)
Col. Thomas gave this Gillespie rifle to Chuttahsotee (also known as Cha-Cha Sottee, Chutahsotih, Jim Peckerwood, and James Woodpecker), a Cherokee who served in Thomasís Legion. Chuttahsottee (ca.1799-August 15, 1879) was one of a small number of Cherokee who remained in Macon County after the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which resulted in the forced removal of most Cherokee to Oklahoma in 1838-1839 on the Trail of Tears. Chuttahsotte and Cunstagih, his wife, who died a few days after him, are buried in the Saint Johnís Episcopal Church cemetery in Franklin, and a marker stands over their grave. The rifle is now on exhibit next door at the Macon County Historical Museum.

(left) Macon County Confederate veterans on parade at a reunion in 1900, looking northeast from this spot, with the old Macon County Courthouse on the left. - Courtesy of Macon County Historical Society
(upper right) William H. Thomas - Courtesy North Carolina Office of Archives and History
(lower right) Chuttahsoteeís Rifle - Courtesy Macon County Historical Museum
Erected by North Carolina Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the North Carolina Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 35° 10.902′ N, 83° 22.902′ W. Marker is in Franklin, North Carolina, in Macon County. Marker is on West Main Street (Business U.S. 441) east of Macon Avenue. Touch for map. The marker is next to the Macon County Historical Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 36 W Main St, Franklin NC 28734, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dixie Hall (a few steps from this marker); Macon County Confederate Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle of Echoe (within shouting distance of this marker); Gem Mining (within shouting distance of this marker); William Bartram Naturalist (within shouting distance of this marker); The North Carolina Bartram Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Nikwasi Mound (approx. half a mile away); Nikwasi (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Franklin.
Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 18, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 429 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 18, 2014, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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