Confederate 1st Lieutenant William Thomas Jones, Company C, 35th NC Infantry. One of a hand-full of "Free Men Of Color", that served in the "The Moore County Scotch Rifleman".
He was born in the mid-1830’s, the son of a slave, and her white owner, Ambrose Jones. By time time of his death in 1910, William Thomas Jones was one of the prominent business owners in Carthage, Moore County, NC. His obituary appearing in one North Carolina newspaper described him as a “mulatto gentleman", a citizen regarded in all respects as probably the peer of any, living or dead, in usefulness in accomplished purpose ... and withal in the example and model which he has left the present and future generations.” He fraternized with the elite, white, upper class of Carthage and Moore County during the 1880s, dined with them, threw elaborate holiday parties where most of the guests were white, and even attended the Methodist Church with them, where he taught a large Sunday School Class. Both of his wives, Sophia Isabella McLean, and Florence Dockery, were white. Dockery was the daughter of a prominent North Carolina family. Jones was born a slave in Elizabethtown, Bladen County, North Carolina. His White Father owned a large plantation in Carteret County, North Carolina, along the eastern coast. Freed by his father when he was a boy, he moved to Fayetteville, NC where his work as a carriage painter attracted the attention of two Carthage men: Thomas Bethune Tyson, and Alexander Kelly, the County Sheriff. In 1857 they talked Jones into coming to Carthage to take charge of the painting department of their little buggy factory. Two years later, Tyson, Kelly & Co. gave Jones entire charge of the vehicle part of their business. He enlarged the company and its trade grew, until 1861, when the storm-clouds of Civil War began to gather.
Moore County, NC provided several volunteer companies to the Confederate Army. One became Company C, 35th NC Infantry. “The Moore County Scotch Riflemen”. Despite being born into slavery, and his birth-mother being a slave, William volunteered for this company on 9/12/1861, On 11/6/1861, he was duly commissioned a 3rd Lieutenant. After fighting at New Bern, the 35th was ordered to Virginia and assigned to General R. Ransom's and M.W. Ransom's Brigade. It participated in the difficult campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia, from the Seven Days' Battles, to Fredericksburg. Ordered back to North Carolina, it fought at Boon's Mill and Plymouth, then returned to Virginia in May, 1864. The 35th saw action at Drewry's Bluff, endured the hardships of the Petersburg siege south of the James River, and ended the war at Appomattox. This unit sustained 127 casualties at Malvern Hill, 25 in the Maryland Campaign, 29 at Fredericksburg, and 103 at Plymouth, NC. Many were disabled at Saylor's Creek, VA and on April 9, 1865, it surrendered 5 officers and 111 men.
W.T. was one of over 60 members of the 35th NC. captured at Petersburg, VA. on 6/17/1864. Confined 6/17/1864 at Fort Delaware, he was transferred 8/20/1864 to Hilton Head, SC; becoming one of the "Immortal 600". Ever the entrepreneur, during confinements at Fort Delaware, Hilton Head, SC; Fort Pulaski, GA; back to Hilton Head, and eventually back to Fort Delaware, Jones began picking up potato peelings and saving crusts from bread, to make homemade moonshine. He sold his fiery concoction to the Union prison guards and local townspeople. He was paid in Union currency for his product. He came back to North Carolina with an estimated $3,000 in Yankee greenbacks.
Colonel Abraham Fulkerson 63rd Tennessee Infantry, captured the same day as 1st Lieutenant William Thomas Jones, Company C 35th NC Infantry.
After returning to Fort Delaware, another of the "600", Colonel Abraham Fulkerson of the 63rd Tennessee wrote the following : "The prisoners occupied their time in a variety of ways, many of them at cards. Debating societies were organized, moot courts instituted, for there were many lawyers among us, etc. The inventive genius of the prisoners was developed to a high degree. One man constructed a still, and actually made whiskey without being detected. The product of his still was not of superior quality, but was always in demand at high figures".
William took the Oath of Allegiance 6/16/1865 at Fort Delaware. He and the defeated Confederates from Moore County came home to find utter destruction.
Sherman had marched through, people were starving. They couldn’t reopen the buggy company because all they had was Confederate money, and it was worthless, The economy of, and many lives in, Carthage, North Carolina, was doubtless saved with W.T.'s "moonshine" money. That in turn, created an intense loyalty directed toward William the remainder of his days. He outlived his first wife, Sophia Mclean. His second wife, Florence Dockery, was several years younger than he. Both were white, in a day and time when such marriages were illegal, when Blacks were persecuted as well as whites that supported them. After the Civil War, there was a very active vigilante force in this area. Jones ran an unsuccessful campaign for the North Carolina Statehouse in 1902, as a Republican. Until a decade ago, very few in Carthage NC. would acknowledge out loud that Jones was not a white man. Today his home built in 1880, is a very successful Bed & Breakfast appropriately named "The Old Buggy Inn".
Confederate Reunion Photo from 1906, with veterans of the 35th NC. and Moore County. William is seated 6th from the left in the 2nd row. (center of the photo). The two men to his right, are believed to have been Union Veterans.