Skirmish at Wilson's Store, Union Co., NC - 1865  


(near Waxhaw, Union County, North Carolina)

By Ralph P. Ganis




Wilson home in Union Co., NC that was

used as Gen. Wheeler’s Headquarters

during the skirmish. This photo was taken

in the early 1980’s, just a few years before

most of the building was torn down by the

property owner.  ALL of the Civil War era

structure has been removed (see vertical

boards on the left). It's possible that a small

part of the 1920's addition is still standing.

The store itself was moved to Fort Mill, SC.








Click on photo for larger view.


By the end of February, 1865, Union forces under General William T. Sherman were advancing north from Columbia, S.C. in the direction of Charlotte, NC. The route of Sherman’s march was important to the Confederates in NC who were attempting to consolidate their forces in order to defeat Sherman and then, hopefully, unite with General Lee in Virginia to defeat Grant. It was the duty of the Confederate cavalry, to remain in contact with the enemy, to slow Sherman’s advance, and report on his movements.


During this time General Joseph Wheeler, commanding the Confederate Cavalry Corps of the Army of Tennessee arrived in Union County, NC. He established his field headquarters at Wilson’s Store about 28 miles southeast of Charlotte and 11 miles south of Monroe. The store was located at the site of present-day Walkersville Presbyterian Church. The actual location of Wilson’s Store was at the intersection of Brady and Bigham Roads and directly across the street from the hill which is now the church cemetery. At the time the small rise gave a commanding view of the road leading up from Lancaster, SC so Wheeler used the hill as a Confederate artillery position. From his headquarters at the house, Wheeler directed his troops to entrench along Cane Creek, on Sunday, February 26, 1865. For the next five days his men spread out across Union County establishing battle positions and requisitioning supplies from the farms in the area. This had a tragic effect on the people living in Union County, who were already suffering from war time sacrifices and hardships.


The events that occurred at Wilson’s Store were witnessed by little J. Harvey Starnes who was six years old at the time and lived in the house when Wheeler and his staff set up. Mr. Starnes lived into the 1960’s and recalled the story of the Confederate horseman many times. He is ironically buried in the Walkersville cemetery on the very ground that the Confederate cannons were placed.


On March 1, 1865, Sherman ordered his cavalry, under Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick to advance on several roads leading out of Lancaster, SC in an attempt to make the Confederates believe that the Union army was marching on Charlotte. This was a feint however, and Sherman had no intention of moving on to Charlotte. His real objective was in eastern NC and a link up with Union forces advancing from the coast.


At this time Charlotte was a large Confederate Naval yard and had been spared direct action during the war. As Union Cavalry galloped up the roads to make their demonstration, they eventually ran into Wheeler’s men entrenched along Cane Creek and at Wilson’s store.


General Wheeler recorded the brisk action that took place at Wilson’s store in his official reports. At the same time as the skirmish, 35 Union troops rushed into Monroe, captured two couriers, stole some property and fled when Wheeler’s men arrived, just in time to prevent the town from being torched. Also during this time, two Union soldiers were captured then executed down by the creek that runs near Wilson’s Store. The Union men were some of Sherman’s “bummers” who had been pillaging Southern homes.


Wheeler camped at Wilson’s Store from February 26 to March 2, 1865. When it became apparent that Sherman’s army was going east, Wheeler departed Union County and rode on to Anson County. General Wheeler would continue to fight Sherman across North Carolina. Battles would occur in Anson County, Moore County, Cumberland County and others, but it was in Union County that Confederates first faced off with the “Yankee Invaders” in the Tar Heel state during those eventful days of 1865.



Some sources:

-Various newspaper accounts.

-Personal interviews with residents.

-Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, United States War Dept.

-History of Pleasant Grove Campground.


View Larger Map






Samuel E. Belk article in Confederate Veteran Magazine, 1912,

about the "Scrimmage" near Lancaster, SC in 1865.


Dedication of Monument at Wilson's Store Skirmish Site - 1990




More Union County History!

More Union County Civil War History!




This page originally created May 17, 2003
Julie Hampton Ganis
Last modified Monday, August 11, 2011