The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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        The early education of Mr. Merrimon was as good as the circumstances of his father would allow. At the period when youths of his age were at college, he aided his father in working the farm to support the family, for in those days Methodist ministers were not oppressed with this world's goods. Yet the unconquerable thirst for knowledge so possessed young Merrimon that he embraced every opportunity for acquiring it. Often when at work on the farm, during the hour of rest for dinner, he would be found quietly ensconced in some shady place conning over his books. One of the appendages to his father's place was a saw-mill, which it was his duty to attend, and while the saw was at work in cutting the logs into plank, he would have his grammar or some other book, and improve every moment in study. His father appreciating this thirst for knowledge, sent him to a school in Asheville, then under the charge of Mr. Norwood. Such was his application and progress, that within the first session Mr. Norwood pronounced him "the best English grammarian that he ever knew."

        He was exceedingly anxious to be sent to college to complete his classical studies, but the res angusti domi forbid. He commenced the study of the law in the office of John W. Woodfin, in whose office at the same time was Zebulon B. Vance, both destined to occupy high positions of honor in their county and State, and often rivals in political contests. Such was his proficiency in his legal studies, with such inadequate preparation, that in January, 1852, he was admitted to practice in the Courts, and in 1853 in the Superior and Supreme Courts of the State.

        By his close attention to business, his careful preparation and management of his cases, he soon made his mark. He was appointed Solicitor to several counties in his circuit, and by the Judge, Solicitor for the District in 1861. In 1860 he was elected to the Legislature as a member from Buncombe, by a few votes over Col. David Coleman.

        On the breaking out of the war, he took a decided stand for the Union.

        In the excited state of public feeling at this time of frenzy, such a step demanded not only moral, but physical courage. Mr. Merrimon's position was rudely assailed. Angry cards passed between him and Nicholas W. Woodfin, and a personal collision was imminent. On these occasions, he bore himself with dignity and courage. Though not over fond of arms, he felt--

                         --Rightly to be great
                         Is not to stir without great argument.
                         But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
                         When honor 's at the stake.

        But in the issuing of Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, calling for 75,000 men settled his course, and he entered in Z. B. Vance's company as a private, and marched to Raleigh. He was attached to the Commissary Department as captain for a short time, on duty at Hatteras, Ocrocock, Raleigh and Weldon. On the call of Governor Ellis, the Legislature reassembled, and he had to attend.

        In the fall of 1861, he was appointed by Judge French, Solicitor of the Eighth Circuit, and the next year was elected to that position by the Legislature. Just at the close of the war he was a candidate as delegate to the State Convention called under the reconstruction acts of President Johnson, and was defeated by Rev. L. Z. Stewart, a Presbyterian clergyman, the Republican candidate. This contest was remarkable, as it was conducted in the presence of the United States troops and bayonets.

        By the next Legislature he was elected Solicitor of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The office of Solicitor was no soft place at this time, but one of imminent peril. The Democrats and "Mossy Backs" were in daily collision; affrays, riots, robberies, and murders were daily occurrences; deserters had to be arrested, and the
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