George Stoneman remained stymied by the Yadkin River. Indeed, of all the geographic obstacles the Cavalry Division of the District of East Tennessee would face on this raid, the Yadkin River posed the greatest challenge. This was not the first army that the river had frustrated; eighty-four years before, during the Revolution, Cornwallis’s British army had struggled across it while en route to Guilford Court House. Today, March 31, Stoneman’s planned move into Virginia remained frustratingly impossible, but the return of good weather promised to make the Yadkin passable again. “The rain had ceased and the afternoon was bright, having the appearance of Spring,” recalled a 13th Tennessee man. This fine day, Buzby added, meant that “everybody was in better humor. The ‘wounded,’ after a good night’s sleep, awoke quite refreshed,” he recalled. The Pennsylvania trooper could not resist sharing the experiences of the previous day. Hopping on to Camelback, Buzby somehow made it across the river and described the review to Colonel Palmer. “Palmer rarely indulged in a good laugh, but did this time,” Buzby recalled.
After a leisurely breakfast, Mallaby’s signallers established communications between the separated columns. Frank Frankenberry and two comrades paddled across the river in a dugout and set up a signal station on the porch of a house overlooking the river. By mid-afternoon, Palmer was ready to report to his superiors. “No enemy to be seen this [side] of the river,” he signaled. With his way clear, Palmer suggested that he move the First Brigade past Roaring River to Hickerson’s Plantation, about six miles from Elkin. From south of the river, Stoneman and Gillem signaled back and affirmed Palmer’s plan, and pointed the Second and Third Brigades eastward as well. Sliding the division in that direction would position it for a quick northward march. Stoneman also signaled that the two brigades on the south bank would march on Jonesville. They expected to capture the town on April 1, while Palmer was to take Elkin, opposite Jonesville. There he was to camp and secure forage.
With that the march resumed, at an easy pace. Since the rainy, muddy days had spread out the Second and Third Brigades, the leisurely march allowed the column to close up. They also scooped up the area’s abundant forage; thus, despite the obstinate river, Stoneman’s Yadkin Valley detour had been a success. The troopers even took time for other duties – specifically, an inspection. The division’s inspector general inspected the arms of the 11th Michigan to ensure readiness for anything that might come their way. The early halt also gave the men time to ponder their leaders’ strategy. Like Beauregard, Johnston, and Stephen D. Lee, Stoneman’s men assumed they would strike Salisbury, which was now within reach. Instead, Stoneman only sent a few detachments toward different points on the North Carolina Railroad to create confusion.
One such group, which included three companies of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry, rode into southern Yadkin and northern Iredell Counties to burn the factories located along Hunting Creek. This was the industrial center of the region: several cotton factories, including the Eagle Mills, Buck Shoals and Troy facilities, went up in smoke, along with eight hundred bales of cotton and one thousand bushels of wheat at Eagle Mills alone. It was a lightning attack, because the machines at Buck Shoals were still running when the match was applied. The troopers did pause long enough to share cloth with the workers before lighting the fire.
Only Wilfred Turner’s Turnersburg cotton mill escaped, even though the Kentuckians may have ridden within a half mile of the mill. The reason for its escape is uncertain. According to one account, Turner asked Col. S.A. Sharpe, commander of Iredell’s Home Guard, for help. Sharpe posted his men on a hill along Rocky Creek. The home guardsmen built breastworks and stacked up cotton bales for protection, and this position may have dissuaded the Federals from making an attack. Another explanation had it that a local took a group of slave children to the raiders. “See these children?” he reportedly said. “If you burn that mill, you will the take bread out of their mouth.” Yet another source claims that Masonic ties of the defenders and the attackers saved the Turnersburg mill.
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