W.P. Inman, Cold Mountain, North Carolina and the Civil War
The real story of W.P. Inman and Cold Mountain North Carolina
I hate to use the word, buff, but having no other appropriate term I guess it will have to do. I'm certainly not a historian nor an expert, so if, as the saying goes, the shoe fits. I find the Civil War extremely interesting. Being fought on the same ground that I walk every day and having ancestors involved in the conflict fascinates me and compels me to learn more about the life and times of those who engaged in the most costly, in terms of human life, war in American history.
In 2000 an author by the name of Charles Frazier wrote a novel about a mountain just up the road from my home in North Carolina. The book was titled Cold Mountain which was later, in 2003, made into the movie by the same name starring Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe, Jude Law as Inman and my favorite in the movie Renee Zellweger as Ruby Thewes. The book tells the story of a wounded North Carolina Confederate soldier by the name of Inman that, after convalescing in a field hospital in Raleigh, NC, deserts, and starts a long and perilous journey back to his home and lover, Ada Monroe, in Cold Mountain, North Carolina.
The movie, or as Hollywood likes to call it, the film, was shot in Romania because of the similarity to the scenery of Cold Mountain and, I assume, budget concerns. The town of Cold Mountain that Inman was so determined to reach is not, nor has it ever been, an actual North Carolina town. But, Cold Mountain is real and a part of the Shinning Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, NC. Although the book is a work of fiction, the author Frazier, based his book and the main character on stories that his father told him about a great, great uncle, Inman, that actually fought in the Civil War.
After reading the book and watching the movie, and it being based on local history, I wanted to find out more about Inman and his ties to the North Carolina mountains. This is what I learned about the man called Inman, the town of Cold Mountain and his service in the Civil War.
The novels main character was actually Private W.P. Inman of Company F, Twenty-fifth North Carolina Infantry Regiment. His physical description is listed as five feet, seven inches tall with dark hair and a fair complexion. He was from Haywood County, North Carolina and was twenty-two years old at the time of his enlistment. Inman took part in several major battles including the Siege of Petersburg where he was wounded in the neck.
Inman had five brothers and they all served in the war and they all, like Inman, were prone to desertion. Inman deserted from his unit, was captured and returned, several times before he was finally killed by Teague's Home Guard just three miles from his home on Cold Mountain. The other brothers survived the war but little else is mentioned.
The brothers of W.P. Inman are told about by an ancestor in pdf files that can be found at the links below.
A quote from Randy Inman , a relative of W.P. Inman. "First of all Inman was not involved with a lady named Ada. He was married to Margaret Henson Inman and had one daughter Willie Ida Inman. So he didn't desert the Civil War to go find Ada. Also WP wasn't alone in the war all of his brothers were in the conflict as well. Two of his brothers (including my direct Ancestor) lived through the war and three of them in addition to WP died during the Civil War. Two of the brothers died at and are buried at Camp Douglas (the Union version of Andersonville) near Chicago."
During the Civil war most rural communities had what was known as The Home Guard. The guard was a group of local men that protected the community from raiders and searched for deserters from their town and community. The Home Guard that searched for, and eventually killed, Inman was a gang of corrupt thugs led by a man named Teague. Teague and his men more or less terrorized the community and demanded payoffs and bribes from families of deserters. If the family paid them they would call of the search and send in reports that the deserter in question was not in the area or could not be found. Gangs like this were probably more prevalent than we know.
The fictional town of Cold Mountain was actually the settlement of Bethel. Today the community of Bethel boasts to being the oldest settlement in Haywood County, NC and the real home of W.P. “Inman”. The actual events that happened in Inman’s life occurred in Bethel. Inman was born, lived, murdered, and buried in Bethel. Inman’s grave site, the location of which has been quietly maintained since 1864 when he was killed, can be visited by way of a tour. In addition to Inman, many other young men from Bethel enlisted in the Confederacy and several of them returned and built beautiful houses in the community that are well preserved almost 150 years later.
Why the six thousand foot mountain is named Cold Mountain I can't find. I imagine that it “is” cold on the mountain during the winter but no colder than the other surrounding mountains. So, why call it Cold Mountain? The mountain was most probably, and this is nothing more than my opinion, originally named after a family named Cole that lived on or near the mountain. Over the period of a couple of hundred years the name changed, for whatever reason, to Cold mountain.