By Jim Buchanan
The last person receiving a pension from the Civil War passed away at the age of 90 last week in Wilkesboro.
Irene Triplett was the daughter of Mose Triplett, a Civil War veteran who had married a woman almost 50 years younger.
His war record brings up units and names familiar to this area. Originally enlisted with the 53rd North Carolina regiment, he was transferred to the 26th North Carolina in 1863. He became ill while the unit was headed to Gettysburg, where 734 of the 800 men in the unit were killed, wounded or captured.
Mose fled his hospital in Virginia and worked his way down into the Southern Appalachians, where he flipped sides and signed up with the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, better known in this area as Kirk’s Raiders. Local recruitment to Kirk’s Raiders seems to have occurred in two waves, one of Unionist sentiments and one of people likely just tired of privation and hoping to get a meal. In one incident near Morganton, a training depot for new Confederate conscripts was raided, with 40 men switching to Kirk’s command on the spot.
Kirk’s Raiders were regarded as little better than renegades by many here, particularly after incidents such as the one where his forces entered Whiteside Cove and took Col. John H. Alley captive and carrying away everything they could from his home. Alley organized a force that pursued the raiders, hanging three of them in Macon County.
Another incident where Kirk’s forces brushed up against Jackson County is recounted in the inscription from a North Carolina Civil Wars Trail Marker in Maggie Valley: “On February 1, 1865, Col. George Kirk, 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry (U.S.), left Newport, Tennessee, with 400 cavalry and 200 infantry for a raid into Haywood County. He passed through the mountains at Mount Sterling, following the Cataloochee Turnpike up Jonathan Creek Valley to Waynesville. While in the valley, his men killed former Confederates Absolom B. Carver and James E. Rice. Kirk and his raiders also burned the home of Young Bennett in Cataloochee and then burned a school that served as a makeshift hospital for ailing Confederate soldiers. Kirk reached Waynesville on February 4 and sacked the town, ordering his men to burn the home of Revolutionary War hero Colonel Robert Love. The raiders also opened the Waynesville jail, liberated its prisoners (mostly local Unionists confined by Confederate authorities), and destroyed the building. After wreaking havoc on the village of Waynesville, Kirk marched his troops toward Tennessee and camped at Balsam Gap, where a small contingent of Home Guards and farmers attacked the raiders. Kirk retreated first to Waynesville and then to Soco Gap. As Kirk approached Soco Gap, Lt. Robert T. Conley’s sharpshooters of Thomas’ Legion attacked. Kirk ordered a swift retreat to Balsam Gap, where the Federals escaped into Tennessee less than a week after the raid began.”
Mose Triplett wed Elida Hall in 1924. Elida was 34 when she gave birth to Irene Triplett in 1930, when Mose was age 83. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, Mose had a reputation as a cantankerous cuss, known for keeping pet rattlesnakes and for sitting on his porch with a pistol in his lap. Mose died in 1938 at 92.
Irene was drawing a monthly pension of $73.13 from the Department of Veteran Affairs at the time of her death.