SUBMITTED BY: Phyllis Gordon Womble
The story of Haywood County’s Inman family has reached far beyond the Carolinas, thanks to the star-studded cast of 2003’s Cold Mountain. While the film was inspired by the true story of William Pinkney Inman and two of his brothers who all served in Company F of the 25th Regiment of the Confederate Army, three other brothers experienced another side of the Civil War: Union Prison Camps. Inman brothers Joseph Asberry, Daniel Logan, and James Anderson were attached to Company I, 62nd Regiment, which surrendered as many as 443 men on September 9, 1863. In her book My People: History of a Mountain Family, Cheryl Inman Haney, a descendent of the Inman family, includes details gleaned from their service records and showcases letters sent by Joseph Asberry to his wife and children. Haney’s insight into the lives of those family members who remained home while their husbands and sons went to fight in the Civil War offers a unique perspective of this era.
Company I of the 62nd Regiment was organized in July 1862 near the Haywood County Courthouse in Waynesville, North Carolina, according to Haney. Surrounding counties were also incorporated: Clay, Macon, Rutherford, Henderson, and Transylvania. The three Inman brothers marched and saw action at six different stations in Tennessee over nearly a year before the regiment succumbed to Union forces at Cumberland Gap. Joseph Asberry, Daniel Logan, and James Anderson were all sent by boxcar to Union Camp Douglas in Illinois. The prison held upwards of 200 prisoners, though it was intended to house only 75 people. Prisoners were conceivably given meager provisions and struggled to survive frigid temperatures and limited food rations during their internment. A standing offer existed: If imprisoned Confederate soldiers took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States Government, they would be released. Joseph Asberry and Daniel Logan both died at Camp Douglas in 1864 of disease, and their names are listed on the bronze tables of a monument to Confederate prisoners of war who died in Chicago, Illinois. However, James Anderson Inman survived and returned home after a year-long journey, according to family oral history. Records verify that he was present during the capture of the 62nd regiment, though no further records exist on exactly what the circumstances were of him leaving Camp Douglas. Haney again references a family folklore story that suggests James Anderson was a galvanized Yankee or had taken the Oath of Allegiance in order to be released. Unlike his brothers William Pinkney Inman and Lewis Hezekiah Inman, there is no record of James Anderson having joined the Union Army.
Mary Kirby Inman, a mother of nine children and wife of James Anderson, was an encouraging correspondent to her husband’s letters. Mary Kirby was tasked with the vast responsibilities of maintaining a farm and a family in the 1860s: plowing, planting, harvesting, preserving food. In addition, the many duties related to livestock had to be managed while also attending to the needs of raising and educating their children. This was a difficult reality for many of the women of this era. James Anderson wrote home on July 29th of 1863 to say to his wife, “I depend on you to raise the children in the way they aught to go…God forbid that I shall ever come home and find any of you in a degraded condition.” Mary Kirby’s husband often wrote about his reliance on his faith in God, while also detailing the toils of sustaining camp. He feared returning home was not guaranteed, and he would speak to that concern July 31st 1863; “…If I don’t [come home] you must have patiance (sic) and bare all things the best you can…If I never get home you must try to get threw (sic) the world the best you can without me.” Five weeks later, James Anderson’s regiment was captured and taken prisoner. Fifty-three years later, a ninety-two-year-old Mary Kirby Inman applied for a Confederate widow’s pension.
At the end of the Civil War, southern states were not able to adequately fulfill pensions for service in the Confederate Army. It wouldn’t be until 1889 that North Carolina would ratify An Act for the Relief of Certain Soldiers of the Late War Between the States, granting pensions to “all disabled, indigent Confederate veterans and their widows.” The Act was amended several times through 1907 by the North Carolina General Assembly, and pension amounts would vary between $10 and $30 annually per the soldier’s rank. The toll taken on these families impacted by the Civil War and the loss of their men ought to be remembered in a context separate from the focus on glory in battle.