Monday, June 11, 2012

Cold Mountain (the rest of the story)

"There are always two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle."

A co worker shared this quote with me several years ago and I have observed this to be true.  In 1997 Charles Frazier's historic novel,  Cold Mountain became a best seller.  The book won the U. S. National Book Award for Fiction.  It is a love story of wounded Confederate soldier W. P. Inman who deserts and walks home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina to reunite with the love of his life, Ada Monroe.

Cold Mountain is located 35 miles from Asheville, North Carolina.  The elevation of Cold Mountain is 6, 030 feet and is part of Mount Pisgah National Forest.  To reach the summit, it is a strenuous ten mile hike.

If you don't want to hike, Cold Mountain can be seen from your car on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 "My Daddy, he'd walk forty miles for liquor, but not forty inches for kindness."

In 2003, Cold Mountain became a movie staring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.  I especially enjoyed the role Renee Zellweger played, Ruby Thewes.  Ruby was a plain talker and quickly got to the truth.  I liked the way Ruby described the Civil War:  "Every piece of this is man's bull@*%$.  They call this war a cloud over the land.  But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say "*%@$, it's raining."  Renee won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. 

There is Cold Mountain the novel by Charles Frazier and Cold Mountain the movie and the third version of  Cold Mountain is the story remembered by Great Grandmother Sarah Miranda.  Sarah Miranda's version begins with the Home Guard.  The Confederate Home Guard (1861-1865) was a loosely organized militia that was under the direction and authority of the Confederate States of America (CSA).  Their purpose was to defend the Confederate home and to track down and capture Confederate Army deserters.  Mostly Home Guard units worked as they pleased and they made their own priorities and decisions.  If you fought in the Civil War, you would likely be killed in battle, if you tried to remain at home or return home, you would likely be killed by the Home Guard.  The alternatives for the women was no better than for the men.  They had to keep their farms working without the men.  They were robbed of their livestock and produce and sometimes assaulted or killed by the Home Guard.  Periodically, the women would receive word that one of their men folk had been killed in the war.  This is the case with the story of Cold Mountain. 

Captain Teague and his home guard, who were a pretty bad lot, began stealing and killing under the guise of looking for outliers.  They did not care if their victims were pro Union or pro Confederate, soldier or citizen.

Teague had captured three men who were hiding out trying to avoid conscription into service.  They were George Grooms, Anderson Grooms and a man named Mitchell Caldwell.  The men were bound and marched over Mt. Sterling and down the Cataloochee side of the mountain for approximately 7-8 miles.

One of the Grooms men had a fiddle that he managed to carry over the mountain.  When the raiders and their prisoners stopped, he was asked to play a tune on his fiddle.  He chose "Bonapart's Retreat," a slow, sad tune.  Upon completion of the tune, the three prisoners were shot.  Teague and his men left the prisoners where they fell and rode away.

A while later, Eliza Grooms and other family members found their bodies and took them home.  In a peaceful small valley on a little knoll, near Mt. Sterling on the Tennessee side of the mountain, lies a family cemetery.  Mostly slate slab tomb rocks, this cemetery dates back to pre-civil war times and is named the Sutton Cemetery. 

Mitchell Caldwell was Great Grandmother Sarah Miranda's first cousin.  When the family learned Mitchell was dead, the women took the wagon across the mountain, found the bodies and buried them.  Grandmother Sarah Miranda was about six years old when this happened.  Part of her chores during the Civil War was to hide the milk cow and hams from the Home Guard.  She would hide the milk cow in a dry creek bed and she would hang the hams from tree limbs. 

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