The Rogers: Three Cherokee County Men Fight for the Confederacy
Submitted by: Willis Whichard, Jerry Padgett, James Padgett, Obie Whichard, and Bud Pa
Robert, William, and John Rogers grew up in a part of Cherokee County known as Tomotla with their parents, John and Margaret Penland Rogers, and their seven siblings: Adeline, James, Mariam, Marcus, George, Agnes, and Milton. The Rogers had settled in Cherokee County before the 1840 Census, meaning that they were some of the original white settlers to establish themselves on former Cherokee lands.
Until the late 1830s, the western tip of North Carolina was still Cherokee Indian territory. Several treaties were made between the Cherokee Nation and the United States, but the Treaty of New Echota, ratified in 1836, relinquished control of all Indian lands in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee to the U.S. Government. In 1838, most of the Cherokee were rounded up and moved further west, opening up the territory for white settlers to claim land free or cheaply, and some brave-spirited individuals drifted toward the newly available mountain land in Cherokee County. The first Indian lands were sold to white settlers in 1838; those transaction records routinely contained only information on the land that the government surveyor thought would be suitable for agricultural purposes.
Moving and establishing new households on frontier land during the mid-1800s was unquestionably a high-risk venture. Information about the new land and the environment of the area was limited, as were communications between settlers and the outside world. Travel across the mountain trails was quite dangerous, especially for large families with small children. There were few or no bridges or accommodations along the way for food, shelter, or medical help, and little feed for animals. Migrants were on their own to build shelter, clear land, provide education for children, and somehow survive until some supporting infrastructure could be developed. It is an understatement to claim that these families were of strong stock.
By 1860, the Rogers family had become well established in Cherokee County. The Rogers brothers’ father, John Rogers, was in the business of raising and selling saddle horses. It is unlikely that he owned slaves on his farm: Records show that few landowners in Cherokee County owned slaves. Regardless, the mountain family had prospered, establishing a strong foothold in the wilderness. In 1861, the nation was in a period of protracted turmoil, culminating with the elder John Rogers’ death and North Carolina’s secession in May.
In September 1861, just a few months into the War, John C. Rogers, at the age of eighteen, volunteered and was mustered in as a Corporal in Company A, 39th Regiment, N. C. Troops, which was organized in Murphy, North Carolina. Robert C. Rogers, twenty-three-years-old, enlisted as a Private. Later, on January 2, 1862, a twenty-one-year-old William Rogers enlisted as a substitute in Company A, 29th Regiment, N.C. Troops.
At the beginning of the War, after very little basic training, Confederate soldiers were assigned to guard bridges, stores, communications, and railroads, from Bristol to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In October 1862, some were camped at Lenoir City, Tennessee, including John and Robert’s Company A of the 39th Regiment. A couple of months later, led by Confederate General Braxton Bragg, they fought at Stone’s Bridge in Murfreesboro where casualties for both sides totaled 24,800. There, John Rogers, then a Sergeant, was wounded in the arm and died in the hospital at Shelbyville, Tennessee on February 20, 1863. He was awarded the Badge of Distinction for gallantry at Murfreesboro. After that battle, Private Robert Rogers, John’s older brother, was reported absent from his company, then in the hospital on April 15, 1863. In May, he died of unreported causes.
The Confederate and Union forces met yet again, on the morning of September 19, 1863 around Chickamauga Creek in Georgia, and the battle lasted for two days. Union General Rosecrans came to battle with 58,000 Union troops and lost 16,000 of them in a matter of 48 hours. Led by General Bragg, some 66,326 Confederate soldiers fought, and 18,454 of them died. Luckily, William Rogers was not among the casualties, but he was wounded.
William Rogers was reported “present and accounted for” through October 1863. No further military records are available for him, but he survived the war and returned to live out his life in Cherokee County.