John Wesley McElroy Bio-Sketch


Name: John Wesley McElroy
Rank: Brigadier General of Home Guard
Education: Local education with no college
Birth Date: April 7, 1808
Birth Place: Yancey County, NC
Death Date: February 8, 1886
Death Place: Robbinsville, Graham County, NC

John Wesley McElroy was on born April 7, 1808 in Yancey County, NC. He achieved his education locally and eventually became a prominent farmer and slaveholder in the county seat, Burnsville, NC. He made a profit selling ginseng before becoming the Yancey County Clerk of Court.  He served in that office from 1834 until 1846. He also served as a school board trustee for the local academy. Sometime around 1834 he was elected colonel of the local militia regiment.

With the outbreak of war and the secession of North Carolina, McElroy led his local militia regiment in operations in the mountain region. Governor Vance replaced the local militia with the North Carolina Home Guard in July 1863. This local home guard was made up of men that were not eligible to be drafted into the Confederate Army. With the organization of the Home Guard, McElroy received a promotion to Brigadier General of the Home Guard by the Governor. There was speculation that his promotion was helped along by his daughter Harriett having married Governor Vance’s brother, Robert, also a Confederate General.

The 1st Brigade of Home Guard under the command of General McElroy was assigned the duty of protecting bridges, hunting down deserters, guarding prisoners, and protecting the North Carolina/Tennessee border from Union raiders and bushwhackers. As time went on, McElroy received little help from the State of North Carolina or the Confederate Government. This relatively thankless job ended up proving futile as the western part of the state was a hot mix of Union and Southern Sympathizers. This, coupled with the already hot tempered political situations, led to many civilian arguments ending in blood shed. General McElroy, for the most part, failed in his efforts as Home Guard General.  However, it was a job that was almost impossible to do.

Upon the end of the conflicts, McElroy returned home becoming a merchant in the Yancey County town of Burnsville. He continued life as a merchant until his death in Robbinsville in Graham County, NC in 1886. He is buried in the Old Mother Baptist Cemetery in Robbinsville. His wife, Catherine Poteat, died in 1855 and his daughter Harriett preceded him in death in 1885.