The McDowell Men meet on the third Thursday of every month at the Hook and Anchor Restaurant in Marion at 6:00 p.m.
The Buncombe Riflemen
William Wallace McDowell, a wealthy Buncombe County businessman and framer, was a slave owner who strongly supported the Confederacy. In December 1859, prior to North Carolina’s secession, he organized a group of volunteer soldiers – a militia. This militia was called the Buncombe Riflemen. This was the first confederate troop raised in Western North Carolina. The Riflemen wrote their own constitution and bylaws, laying down rules for the militia. The Riflemen had their own uniforms, complete with green velvet trim. The elegance of the uniforms is depicted in a pre-war photograph of McDowell. In the photo, McDowell holds a cavalry saber and has the four chevrons indicating the rank of Captain. The front of McDowell’s hat bears a metal wreath with the letters “BR” for Buncombe Riflemen.
A few days after the Battle of Fort Sumter in April 1861, the Riflemen marched to Raleigh where they joined with other militias to form a larger group called the First North Carolina Volunteers. The Riflemen were known as Company E in the First North Carolina. The First North Carolina Volunteers marched to Virginia. A group of Union spies spotted them near a church named Big Bethel. The Buncombe Riflemen fought the spies. A few days later, the Battle of Big Bethel ensued. Although Union troops outnumbered Confederate troops 4 to 1, the Confederates won the small battle. William McDowell and the Buncombe Riflemen were awarded the Bethel Flag.
This flag now resides at the North Carolina museum of history and Camp 379's current preservation project. See our fundraising page for more information.