The War Between the States touched the lives of the men and women living along the North Toe, Elk, Linville, and Watauga rivers just as it did those in other communities. The first man to enlist in the Confederate army was Ensor C. Wiseman. He volunteered on May 28, 1861, in what became Company E, 6th North Carolina State Troops. There were several from the area who eventually saw service in the 6th Regiment.
In November 1861, a group of Unionists burned several railroad bridges in East Tennessee. In response, the governor authorized the mountain counties to raise local defense companies. Recent arrival John B. Palmer, who lived along the Linville River, was commissioned a captain and raised the Mitchell Rangers. In April 1862, the Confederate government passed the Conscription Act. The act required all white men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve in the army. Later, the law was changed to include men between the ages of 16 and 50. Palmer's Mitchell Rangers became the nucleus for a new regiment, the Fifty-eighth North Carolina Troops, and Palmer was promoted to colonel. Palmer had a camp on his property, and, in mid-1862, the 58th Regiment marched away to east Tennessee. Men from Linville Falls and along Three Mile Creek joined the 58th Regiment.
There were a handful of men who served in other regiments as well, including the 16th North Carolina State Troops, the 29th North Carolina Troops, and the 5th Battalion North Carolina Cavalry, which became the 6th North Carolina Cavalry.
The 6th Regiment and 16th Regiment served in the Army of Northern Virginia, participating in battles like Second Mannassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign, and the Petersburg Campaign. They surrendered at Appomattox Court House.
The 29th Regiment served in the Army of Tennessee as well as the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. They were involved in the battles of Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, the Meridian Campaign, Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church, Allatoona, Franklin, Nashville, Mobile, Spanish Fort, and Fort Blakely. They surrendered at Meridian, Mississippi, on May 4, 1865.
Most men from the area served in the 58th Regiment. They fought at Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Dalton, Resaca, New Hope Church, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Jonesboro, and Bentonville. The 58th Regiment was surrendered on April 26, 1865, at the Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina.
A few men were able to work for the Confederate government and avoid regular military service. Somewhere between 30 to 40 men worked at the Cranberry Mines during the war. George W. Dugger and Samuel English were just two of these. According to local legend, once a wagonload of iron ore was processed, it was taken by a local slave, Peter Harden, down the mountain to the railhead outside Morganton, and shipped out to be turned into munitions of war for the Confederacy.
Volunteers and conscripts pulled thousands of men from their families and farms all across western North Carolina. This allowed raiders from east Tennessee ample opportunity to cross the state lines and attack local farms. The first documented raid took place at the farm belonging to the Averys in October 1863. The most daring raid took place in June 1864. Capt. George W. Kirk led a group through the area and attacked Camp Vance near Morganton. On his return, he fought several skirmishes, including one in Jonas Ridge. Once he crossed the Blue Ridge, he allowed the home of Colonel Palmer to be burned, destroyed some type of works at Linville Falls, and probably the Cranberry iron works as well. In another episode in the fall of 1864, a group robbed some families in the Bethel Community of Watauga County. Homeguard commander Harvey Bingham chased them toward the Tennessee line, moving through Balm and Heaton. On their return, they were ambushed in what is referred to as the Battle of Beech Mountain. Bingham's youngest brother Elliott was mortally wounded in the brief skirmish.
The Banner Elk community saw its fair share of activity during the war. Even though the Banners were slave owners, they sided with the Union, and several of the Banners crossed over the mountain and joined the Union army in August 1862. The Banner Elk community became a safe haven for dissidents and escaped Union prisoners of war, hiding out in the "Land of Goshen," while waiting for James Hartley, or Keith and Malinda Blalock, to help guide them over into Federal lines.
There were a few locals who did cross over the lines and join the Union army. Most of the Banners served in the 4th Tennessee Cavalry. Jeremiah and Nehemiah Oaks both served in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry. There were eight men who served in the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, led by George W. Kirk. There were even two men, slaves, who crossed over the mountain and joined the 40th United States Color Troops: Isaac Avery and Turner Chambers.
Some say the war ended in April 1865. A story in the Banner family states that two brothers came home from the war. One had served in the Confederate army, and the other in the Union army. They had not been home a day before a first fight broke out between them over what, or who, had caused the war.