Shortly before the surrender at Appamatox in April, 1865, a group of Union soldiers led by Major General George Stoneman embarked on a campaign to destroy the railroad and liberate their comrades held in a prison near Salisbury. On his return journey, Stoneman dispatched Capt. Alvin Gillam with a detachment of men enroute to Asheville to wreak destruction there. This regiment would pass directly through McDowell County.
As Mary Carson, her two little girls, and a live-in school teacher named Emma Rankin watched in horror, some 300 "blue coats" descended on Carson House. Ms. Rankin would later pen a personal eyewitness account of the events that followed. Her account tells of the day the master of the house, Jonathan Logan Carson, was forced to surrender the very shirt off his back; the family's struggles to hide valuables and livestock; meals served secretly in a slave's cabin; hundreds of campfires burning on the Carson House grounds, and many other stories of this time of horror in American History.
Historic Carson House has been designated as a Civil War Trails site, and is recognized as such by the Blue Ridge Heritage Council.