Saturday, February 11, 2012

John Tipton, Union Recruit

My great-great grandfather was John Tipton (1830-1863).  John died while recruiting for the Union forces during the civil war in the mountains that border  western North Carolina (where he lived with his family) and eastern Tennessee where he was stationed.

The following is an accounting of his death when he was ambushed by a Confederate Calvary led by Confederate Colonel Wichter.

Colonel Vincent Addison Witcher
Commander 34th Virginia Cavalry
The man responsible for the death of my great-grandfather John Tipton in 1863

I have taken this information out of the book "Toe River Valley Heritage - North Carolina, Vol. X" which was compiled by Professor Lloyd Richard Bailey of Duke University.  Professor Bailey is a relative of John Tipton's wife, my great-great grandmother Martha "Patty" Bailey Tipton.  Professor Bailey has given me permission to put this information on my blog.

If anyone seeks more information about this subject or wishes to contact Professor Bailey his address follows:

Lloyd Bailey
4122 Deep Wood Circle
Durham, NC 27707

John Tipton, Union Recruit
Death of a Union Soldier in the Appalachian Mountains

John Tipton, (ca. 1828/1830-11/18/1863) was the son of Joseph Tipton (whose wife may have been named Sarah) who lived in the vicinity of Bee Branch, near Relief in Yancey County, North Carolina.

Martha E. "Patty" Bailey Tipton Cooper - my great-great grandmother and widow of John Tipton, my great-great grandfather who died in the Civil War fighting for the Union Cause

He married Martha E. ("Patty") Bailey (9/22/1830-12/22/1915), daughter of John ("Yellow Jacket") Bailey.  They were married on October 19, 1848, at the home of her brother, Ansel Bailey (who soon thereafter moved to Fannin County, Georgia).  John and "Patty" lived in the vicinity of the village of Relief, North Carolina in the mountains bordering Tennessee.

Green Mountain Road, the area near Bee Branch Road where my great-grandparents lived in 1863
Photo taken last spring when Bill and I visited the area 2011

John joined the Union Army about September 15, 1863, by going across the mountains into Tennessee to the 8th Tennessee Regiment (Company M) that was then located near Greenville, Tennessee.  Soon thereafter he was furloughed and sent back to his home area to see if he could recruit other volunteers to the Union Cause.  Those who were willing to do so "hid out" (from the Confederate Home Guard?) until it was time to leave for the Regiment, some of them staying at John Tipton's house during the night before departure.  His wife cooked "thin rations: for them and they set out on the morning of the 18th.

The North Carolina - Tennessee state line - where my great grandfather probably crossed in 1863 while recruiting for the Union forces - photo take last year 2011 during our annual visit south

They apparently traveled through the Hollow Poplar Settlement, then through Indian Grave Gap, and descended into Tennessee into the "Greasy Cove" by means of Rock Creek.  There, they were spotted by a Confederate Cavalry command but Colonel Vincent Addison Witcher (34th Virginia Cavalry-CSA) who apparently was on the lookout for Union recruits that might take this well known route.  Colonel Witcher's command brought a bout the so-called "Bell Massacre" in the nearby Limestone Cove about three days later.

One of the many trails still intact up in the mountains where my great-grandfather rode to recruit of the Union forces in 1863

In the following skirmish, John Tipton was shot twice in the left side and immediately died.  Four others of the Union recruits were killed.  Archibald Bennett was wounded in the head, recuperated at the home of John Tipton's widow (Martha "Patty" Bailey - my great-great grandmother), and later jinxed the Union Army (3rd NC Mounted Infantry).  Curtis, Calvin and Dobson Bailey, along with their father Hiram, Sr., were also present at the skirmish.  (Note: John Tipton's young son Hiram was my great grandfather.)  Curtis (who had formerly served in the 39th KY Regiment, Union Army and deserted) was killed.  Calvin, Dobson and Hiram escaped, and the sons later joined the Union Army ) Dobson in the 13th Tenn.; Calvin, formerly in the 39th KY and deserted, joined the 13th Tenn. Regiment, Co. B.

Confederate Cavalry in the mountains 1863

I was told (by elderly Charles Hughes, now deceased) that Jason and Jim Hughes (brothers of Confederate soldier Jeremain Hughes) were shot and left for dead by Witcher's Cavalry.  Relatives came and carried them home.  Jim, shot in the throat, survived.  The cavalry commander had ordered that he be shot again but he response from one of this soldiers was "Ain't no use wasting shot on a dead man."  The wound never healed, and Jim would remove the bandage eat morning to let the wound "drain."  He is buried at the Hughes Cemetery "at the mouth of Big Creek."  As for the fatally wounded Jason, he was buried at Huntdale Memorial Cemetery.

ONe other person, taken alive by Witcher's Cavalry, was made to ride with them to the gap between Rock Creek and Poplar (Indian Grave Gap).  At that point, they decided to shoot him and ordered him to march ten paces ahead of them.  At the count of nine, he dived into a laurel thicket, amidst a hail of bullets and escaped.

John Tipton's body was taken to the home of Dr. Perry, some 13-14 miles from Tipton's home.  HIs wife was notified and the next day, she (along with Mrs. Eliza Presley and her son) went with a wagon to retrieve his body.  He and his brother-in-law Curtis Bailey were buried in a double-grave. "about a half mile from his house." [The cemetery, nmow known as the "Yellow Jacket" John Bailey cemetery, is located just above the bridge over Toe River at Relief, North Carolina, on the Yancey County (now Mitchell County) side.  

When widow Martha Bailey Tipton applied for a pension (see previous blog posting on this subject), she was initially denied on the grounds that John's name was not on the Company Muster Role.  On appeal, it was pointed out that no muster-forms were available at the time and John  was sent back to his home in the mountains of North Carolina to recruit before the forms arrived.  AS the result of several sworn statements, including by his commanding officer,  pension was finally approved in 1891 in the amount of $8.00 a month.

At the end of the War, the family apparently moved to Jonesboro Tennessee at which place Martha lists her address. Pension appellations were filed there in 1865 and1867.  She is listed in Yancey County, North Carolina, in the 1870 census.

John left his widow with ten children, nine of whom were under sixteen years of age.  

  1. Baxter Stephen Tipton - born 7/26/1849
  2. Sarah Ann Tipton - born 11/15/12850
  3. Hiram Tipton - born 3/5/1852 - my great-great grandfather
  4. Loucinda Tipton - born 3/24/1853
  5. Elizabeth Tipton - born 11/5/1854
  6. Temperance Ann "Tempe" Tipton - born 12/25/1855)
  7. Willian Nelson Tipton - born 7/27/1857
  8. Martha Tipton - born - 12/26/1858
  9. Curtis Tipton - born 7/29/1860
  10. Tricia Tipton - born 5/6/1862
Hiram Tipton, my great grandfather and son of John Tipton

Baxter Stephen Tipton, son of John Tipton - my great grand uncle
Curtis Tipton, son of John Tipton and my great grand uncle

There is much more to write about this interesting and fascinating period in the history of our county in which I am proud to say my great-great grandfather courageously played a part.


Larry Eugene Meredith said...

Fascinating account. Isn't it great to learn such things about family. A little confused on the Hirams but think I have it figured out. Ever think how close you came to never being because of some of these wars?

Sorry to here that Archibald Bennett "later jinxed the Union Army".

It is amazing how much the photo at the top of John Tipton looks like you! :)


Ron said...


The resemblance is amazing isn't it Lar between me and my great-great grandfather John Tipton. Must be those strong family genes.

Tommy Tipton said...

Hi Ron. My name is Tommy Tipton. I live in Lexington, SC and found your blog after talking with a cousin up near Asheville, NC. I am a retired Episcopal Priest and have lived in the Carolina's my whole life. My great grandfather was Curtis Tipton. Phin Tipton was my grandfather and my father's name was Alvin. Maybe we can connect at some point and share some stories -- since we are cousins afterall:)

Ron said...


So glad to hear from you cousin! I've been wanting to connect with your side of the family for a long time. Please send me your e-mail address so I can contact you.

Cousin Ron

Tommy said...

Ron my email address is I would love to hear from you.
Cousin Tommy

Cynthia Putman said...

I am a descendant of child no. 6, Temperance Tipton. What document did you find with her name on it that proves she is their child? I would live to get a copy.

Ron said...

I have the written copy of my great, great grandmother Martha "Patty" Bailey's application for Civil Sar widow's pension benefits which list Temperance Tipton as one of her children. How are you related? You can contact me by e-mail at



Robin Clegg said...

Hello, I ran across your blog as I am researching Poplar NC and my ancestors there. I am related to some (most) families in that area such as Bennett's, Erwin's, Cooper's and Peterson's. It looks like you are familiar to that area and I enjoyed the pictures you posted. It appears most of these families are all related. Just curious if you have any info on a Finnette Cooper Bennett? I also appear to have Tipton DNA as well according to ancestry. I tried calling some distant cousins by phone
years ago but they kept hanging up! Thanks, Robin from GA

Patricia Krueger said...

Hi Ron, I love your Blog. Martha is my 1st cousin 4x removed. My 3rd great grandmother is Susannah Bailey (1812-1867) Yellow Jacket's sister. Have you posted the handwritten copy of Martha's pension application? I searched Fold3 but could only find the index.

Pat Krueger
Woodstock, GA