Kirk's War: The Civil War along the North Carolina-Tennessee Border

In this presentation Hardy will focus on the Civil War’s regional impact along the North Carolina-Tennessee board. In June 1864, East Tennessee Unionist George W. Kirk led a raid through the Toe River Valley and into Burke County, NC where he captured a group of Confederate conscripts at Camp Vance, near Morganton, NC. Kirk then burned the camp and a local railroad depot before retreating back toward Tennessee, fighting several skirmishes along the way.

Kirk's actions are small in the grand pantheon of Civil War battles, however, the raid was one of the most important events of the Civil War in North Carolina as it revealed that the backdoor to the heart of Confederate Appalachia was open to attack. Federal raiding parties could move freely through western North Carolina and into upstate South Carolina and the mountains of North Georgia. Western North Carolina was no longer on the home front, the mountains of the Blue Ridge and Great Smokys had become the front lines of a brutal conflict between soldiers, civilians, home guardsmen, bushwhackers, and escaped Federal prisoners. The ongoing conflict in this region would even motivate active-duty Confederate soldiers to desert, heading home to protect their families. By understanding George W. Kirk's actions and their immediate and long-term repercussions audiences will gain a deeper understanding of the reach of the Civil War at the local, regional, and national levels.