Civil War History Posted November 17, 2013



 RAIDED BY YANKEES!   According to family archives, the house was raided by Yankees three or four times.   One of the bodies of troops came through, and William was there with the women. All the younger men of the family were off in the Army. The troops came in the house and were “taking everything that was not nailed down.” The Rankins had one old slave called Aunt Betsy, The Yankees were forcing her to fry eggs for them and cook ham. Elizabeth Rankin said that she saw Aunt Betsy in the kitchen with tears rolling down her checks and spattering in the frying pan – so enraged because she had to cook for the Northern troops.

One story is of Elizabeth Rankin diverting soldiers from the chicken house where the family silver was buried in the earthen floor. Another tells of the Yankees raiding a closet under the stairs. Aunt Betsy was holding a candle for the soldiers doing a search. As they were about to discover a gold watch in the closet she dropped the candle leaving them in darkness and the watch was saved.


David-RankinSONS IN SERVICE: David Rankin, the oldest son, lived in New York City and ran his father’s business interests there. Shortly after the Civil War broke out, he went to Virginia and was on the staff of General Winder in Richmond.  Alonzo Rankin, the youngest son, joined the Confederate Army at the age of 17. There was a company of some sort of detachment of boys about that age who were known at “The 17 Boys”. He saw a good deal of action around Fort Fisher. The Bearden family had his musket as late as the early 1900’s(remembered by Walter Bearden), which was stolen while the family was out of town. When James Eugene Rankin graduated from the Academy of Col. Stephen Lee in Chunn’s Cove in 1862, he joined the War. James Eugene joined the Confederate Army at age 16, and, according to an Asheville Citizen article (February 1928), was one of the youngest Confederate soldiers; he achieved the rank of Captain. In an article, No Precedents for Soldier’s Welcome: Mayor Rankin recalls the days of 1865, Rankin tells “When I came back from Tennessee at the close of the war between the states, I crawled over Smith’s bridge at midnight, slipped to my home (the Rankin House) and like a thief climbed through the kitchen window. As a reception for me and other returning soldiers, we were arrested soon after our return by the notorious Colonel Kirk.”     He and his fellow soldiers were imprisoned in Franklin, North Carolina. Since several of his captors were former friends and neighbors, he was allowed to pick a mule and ride it back home

According to the Bearden  family archives, a cannon ball lodged in one of the chimneys during this battle. In the process of moving the chimney to an interior wall (1875), the cannon ball was retrieved and remained in Amelia Rankin Bearden’s possession. As the war ended, there was said to have been “an orgy of burning, looting and destruction of private property” as insurgents moved back through Asheville on their way home. The Union troops were fed near Asheville, and were to have marched peacefully through the town in return for three days rations for their journeys. But the Yankee troops returned on May 17, 1865 to wreak havoc on the residents.   Hence it has been noted that though Asheville never surrendered, it was occupied in violation of the terms of the truce agreement.