Thomas’ Legion, also known as Thomas’ Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders, Thomas’ Legion of Indians and Highlanders, and the 69th North Carolina Regiment, was a unit of the Confederate Army. Organized in 1862 by William Holland Thomas, the Legion fought in the last skirmish of the Civil War before surrendering on May 10, 1865 near Waynesville, North Carolina.
The formation of the regiment was unusual. Thomas, the only white chief of the Cherokee Indians, recruited Cherokees to fight on behalf of the Confederacy. It was a true legion, a combination of infantry, cavalry, and artillery.
The unit was mainly assigned to defend the western North Carolina area. A portion of the Legion was ambushed at Baptist Gap. True life fact from Beyond the Cherokee Trail, when Cherokee Lieutenant Astooga Stoga was killed leading a counterattack, infuriated Indian soldiers scalped several dead or wounded Union soldiers. Colonel Thomas returned the scalps to the Union with apologies.
Another real life factoid—the last Union widow died in 2003. She was the widow of a soldier who had fought against Thomas’ Legion.
The actual 1901 reunion photo which inspired the last portion of Pierce’s story
For more behind-the-scenes photos of Beyond the Cherokee Trail, visit https://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/beyond-the-cherokee-trail/.