Written by Leisa Greathouse; Edited by Cheri Todd Molter
Part of the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee is in Swain County, North Carolina. The reservation was formally established in 1876. In the 1840s and 1850s, after the Trail of Tears, a white man named William Holland Thomas bought land for those Cherokee who refused to be removed. The State of North Carolina did not allow Cherokee to sign contracts, so the land was in Thomas’ name. In July 1848, the United States recognized the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
During the Civil War, Thomas became a colonel of the 69th North Carolina, which became known as the Thomas Legion and included the Cherokee men who had enlisted to serve in the Confederate Army. In 1866, the United States recognized the right of the Cherokee to own and control property. Ten years later, the Cherokee living on the Reservation were under their own jurisdiction and no longer under state or federal authority.
Editor’s Notes: After learning of the existence of the Thomas Legion, I decided to investigate further. I found the military records of some of the Cherokee who served with Col. Thomas and wanted to share their names in this story. (Mistakes were often made in the spelling of men’s names in those records; however, I’ll write them as they were recorded and hope for the best.)
The following men served in Company A: Oo so wih; Arquetage; Oo no hlee; Chonah; Chellee; Chuwhal ookeeh; Chunoilegah; Chulo ta ta geh; Squenseh; Wahta Sutteh; Wah la neeteh; Chucholeteh; Wahyelossih; Wahwahseeteh; Wah ga Cov; Sihkih; Iyantooga Quenna; Ninnetooyeh; Oo sten acoo; Goolagees Kih Essickeh; and Dawaseh.
The following men served in Company B: Archee; Cassee; Chuwannaskee; Chutah sock teh; Wah ya calooneh; Wah hos seh; Ulla tees kih; Oochunteh; Obediah; Aquah Howee; and Larchee, who was transferred from Company B to Company D at some point during his service.
Sequeeeskih served in Company C of the Thomas Legion, and Selkonie, Selola, and Smoke served in the regiment, but their assigned company wasn’t noted in their compiled military records.