A Country Waltz at Wilson's Store
by Gordon Thorsby
It was late February,1865 and Sherman had just completed traumatizing South Carolina as his two wings tore their way north. Uncle Billy wanted to fake toward Charlotte and move toward Fayetteville NC. To sell the feint, he ordered Gen. Judson Kilpatrick to break camp on February 29 at Lancaster, SC and proceed north in the direction of Charlotte.
Meanwhile, Confederate General Joe Wheeler was shadowing Union Maj. Gen Henry Slocum’s left rear to monitor Sherman’s movement into North Carolina. Wheeler had to determine where the Yankees were going so Johnston could concentrate a defense of the state. On February 26, Wheeler camped north of Kilpatrick at a crossroads called Wilson’s Store, NC (two miles from Waxhaw, NC) making his headquarters at Wilson's small, cabin home near Cane Creek. The area was a place of small dirt farmers working to barely keep their families fed.
On March 1st, bugles blew boots and saddles and the Third Union Cavalry Division rode thirteen miles northeast on the Lancaster Road, took a sharp left up Brady Rd and advanced directly on Wheeler’s Cavalry. A section of artillery was unlimbered near Wheeler’s HQ on top of a rise with a 360-degree view for approaching blue columns. Other Confederate regiments had spread out from just south of Rock Hill on the west and toward Monroe to the east. Low on supplies, the butternut troopers requisitioned everything they could from food to horses. Wheeler's cavalry had few provisions but North Carolina civilians had just had as little.
The cracks of Carbines from pickets alerted of an enemy approach and troopers stopped whatever they were doing and took positions. Wheeler's Confederates occupied entrenchments behind Cane Creek with backup entrenchments supporting the guns near the headquarters.
As the bluecoat Cavalry galloped up the road seeking a point of contact, the Union troopers were hit with a withering volley. When the smoke cleared, the Federal column quickly retreated leaving empty saddles and several horses down. Confederate artillerists on the hill lobbed shells into the Federal column in support of the skirmish line. Another Union regiment was added to the movement, a second advance was made but with no positive result. The thirty-minute skirmish was over as quickly as it started and Kilpatrick called it a day.
While Kilpatrick's primary push was made there at Waxhaw, a squadron of about forty Federal cavalrymen split off and continued twelve miles northeast toward Monroe with the intent to torch the town and create mischief. They captured two of Wheeler’s couriers and some supplies but were denied of the desire to light the town up.
Wheeler's defense suffered one wounded trooper. The Federals had three killed, unknown wounded, and five captured. Two of Uncle Billy's bummers were also captured at Monroe, brought back to near Wilson's Store where they were executed. Thus ended possibly the first shots fired at Sherman's army in North Carolina during the Carolinas Campaign. Two days later, Hardee ran into Howard's Wing east at Cheraw.
Sherman’s desired feint proved to be futile effort. A copy of a New York newspaper was obtained by Johnston reporting Sherman was headed toward Fayetteville and that was that.
Note: Today, the Walkerville Presbyterian Church Cemetery occupies the top of the hill where the section of Confederate artillery stood on March 1st. Wilson’s home, that was Wheeler's Headquarters remained until the dilapidated and abandoned structure was torn down in the 1980’s. Six-year old J. Harvey Starnes who was a witness to what happened that day rests in the cemetery on the hill passing in the 1960's.
Location. 34° 52.097′ N, 80° 41.457′ W. Marker is near Waxhaw, North Carolina, in Union County. The store was located where the Walkerville Presbyterian Church stands today.
No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar, Smith, Mark A. And Sokolosky, Wade, Savas Beatie, 2017.
Official Records of the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865.
Ranger Philip Brown-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx6fbD8KWN0&list=WL&index=108&t=320s.