By Michael Hardy
April 23, 2012. Glimpses of sun peeked from behind rain heavy clouds as members of the community gathered at the old Cove Creek School on April 21. They had assembled in western Watauga County to dedicate a new North Carolina Civil War Trail marker, commemorating Camp Mast.
The Civil War, fought 150 years ago, touched Watauga County just as it touched every community in a not-so United States, Over 900 local men (and one woman) marched away to fight wearing the gray. A few dozen others wore the Blue.
While the mountains of western North Carolina saw no large-scale pitched battles, the area, with its caves and hollows, contained many small camps of deserters and draft dodgers. To contend with these problems, the governor of North Carolina created the Home Guard in 1863.
By 1864, there were two home guard companies in Watauga County, under the command of Major Harvey Bingham. The companies rotated on and off duty at their base along Cove Creek, named Camp Mast in honor of a local family. The companies spent their time chasing deserters, bushwhackers, and draft dodgers. In February 1865, the camp was captured by Unionists from Banners Elk.
This past Saturday, members of the community gathered at the old Cove Creek School to dedicate a marker giving detailed descriptions about the Camp and its capture. The marker was funded through the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority. There are more than 1,000 of these markers in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Speakers included Michelle Ligon of the Watuaga County Tourism Development Authority, and Michael C. Hardy, the 2010 North Carolina Historian of the Year. Members of the American Legion Post 130 were present, representing members of the branches of the armed forces, while the Watauga County Chapter 90 of the Disabled American Veterans provided an honor guard and fired a salute after local resident Jackie Mast laid a wreath at the marker.
This is Watauga County’s first Civil War Trail marker. Hopefully, locations such as Boone and Blowing Rick will also receive markers, which will be listed on the official web page and appear on the official North Carolina Civil War Trail map, available at visitor centers.