Behind Union Lines
Knoxville, Jan 1 1865

And now for the rest of the story.

You’re thinking “what story?”  I’m referring to the last paragraph in my article in the August issue of the Laurel Magazine, which informed you that teenager Thompson Roberts (T. R.) Zachary, at the end of December 1864, had led a group of escaped Union Army officers from Cashiers Valley to safety behind Union lines in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The story didn’t end there but continued on until the early 1900s.

Two decades after the end of the Civil War, boy-guide T. R. “Tommy” Zachary was a grown family man, living in Cashiers.  In the private papers of T. R., left behind after his death in 1921, were several letters from one of those soldiers he had helped rescue.  The letters were dated 1884, 1890, and 1911.  Mark M. Bassett, former Captain in an Illinois army unit, later an Illinois State Senator and finally a Judge in Peoria, Illinois, had written these letters to Zachary.  There had been some earlier correspondence between Bassett and Zachary as Bassett states he’s writing in answer to a letter he had received from Zachary.  There’s discussion of the possibility of retracing the route taken from Cashiers Valley to Knoxville during that life-saving escape and then Bassett writes, “Oh, it will do me more good to see you all than anything I know of.”  He then gives his promise to send Zachary a copy of the picture taken upon their arrival in Knoxville and signs the letter, “Your friend, M. M. Bassett.”

That picture was finally received and I used it to illustrate this article. Teenager Tommy Zachary is the last person on the right of the top row.

The second letter from Bassett, dated 1890, has some insight into the politics of that day and time when Bassett writes, “I was a democrat too before the war but the war shot all the democracy out of me – now I am a strong republican and guess we had better not talk about politics as we are good friends and hope always will be.”  Then he goes on, “Hope to be with you next summer.  By the way, how far are you from a place named Highlands?  Do you ever go there?”  Bassett must have read some of the advertising about the glories of Highlands that was seen around the Midwest.  There was no Highlands when Bassett hid out in Cashiers Valley in 1864.

In 1911, after the death of M. M. Bassett, his wife sent T. R. Zachary a very long article written by her husband and printed in the Peoria Herald Transcript on May 31, 1910.  He detailed the several escapes he made from various Confederate prisons during the Civil War, ending with the freezing trek to Knoxville and the visit he made back to Western North Carolina in 1895.  She also enclosed the names of each person who appeared in that January 1, 1865 picture that was so highly valued by both Bassett and Zachary.