What impact did the Civil War have on people living in the mountains?
Between 1861 and 1865, the residents of Buncombe, Madison, and Yancey Counties, as well as East Tennessee's Greene, Cocke, and Washington Counties, experienced the harsh realities and brutal conditions fueled by the Civil War. Members of both the Union and Confederate armies were occasionally known to whip and rape residents in efforts to gain information about the enemy. They employed an agonizing form of torture, also to obtain intelligence, where they would hang people – not until they were dead, but in a way such that victims would be allowed to breathe intermittently. Between local regiments of the Confederacy (64th North Carolina Infantry Regiment), the Home Guard (Militia), and Kirk's Union Regiments (2nd and 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry), every citizen was directly affected by the war, and many were tortured for their cooperation with either the Union or the Confederates.
Allen and Levi Buckner
Today Buckner Gap is a scenic location along Interstate 26, with a stunning peak that rises to 3,300 feet and overlooks Mars Hill. It was named for its 19th century owner, Allen Buckner. The war divided families in a most painful way, and this familial division is vividly illustrated by the story of the Buckner brothers.
Allen and brother Levi both answered the call to war for the Confederacy after North Carolina passed the Conscription Act in 1862. The legislation passed by the Confederate Congress on April 16, 1862 required all eligible white males between the ages of 18 and 35 to be drafted into military service. Allen served in Company A of the 64th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, while Levi enlisted in Company E. The pair fought on some of the most rugged terrain in the eastern United States for a seemingly endless three years. Roughly five weeks before General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, a large group of soldiers in the mountains changed their allegiances.
On March 1, 1865, a battalion of Confederate soldiers deserted and joined the Union Army near Burnsville in Yancey County. Levi Buckner was one of the 29 men from the 64th North Carolina (Confederate) Infantry to join the 3rd North Carolina Mounted (Union) Infantry (Kirk's Raiders). For the remainder of the war, Levi served in a blue uniform, while Allen finished out in a gray one, embodying the brother versus brother reality. No one could know how their divided loyalties affected their relationship, but a photograph exists that shows the two together at Allen's 100th birthday gathering at Buckner Gap in 1927. Both lived to be 102.