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Ready, Willis and Able – She took mountain grit and gave her heart

By Janice Willis-Barnett

She was determined to track down the story. So Christine (Chris) Tipton harnessed her inherited mountain grit and along with husband Sam Pinkerton explored more hills and hollows and talked with more folks than can be mentioned in this brief column. The result was Chris’ book, CIVIL WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS, published in 2000. The book tells the story of the Civil War Battle of Red Banks that occurred here in Unicoi County, near the Nolichucky River on December 29, 1864.

At the time that Chris was working on her book, she and her husband Sam Pinkerton were organizing a reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Red Banks. Remember the reenactment in 2000 and 2001? Chris, Sam, and a host of other folks put in much hard work to carry it off. They also worked to get the historical marker that is located near Red Banks, which notes this part of our Civil War history.

At this year’s Unicoi County Historical Society Christmas dinner, we awarded Chris with the much deserved WALTER B. GARLAND ANNUAL PRESERVATION AWARD in appreciation for her work in preserving Unicoi County history and heritage. She had expected to express her appreciation and then be able to spend the rest of the evening enjoying the entertainment for the evening. But it didn’t happen that way.

Our expected entertainment didn’t show up, so Historical Society President Angela Miller asked Chris if she would speak. Chris kept us laughing and sometimes on the edge of our seats as she shared stories from the Battle of Red Banks reenactment days. It is amazing the many “crises” that can come up when dealing with ordinary citizens turned Civil War soldiers for a weekend.

There are too many noteworthy things about Chris’ book, Civil War in the Mountains to mention in this column. But I have to include what historian, Jim Maddox said in the book’s foreword. He tells about Chris and Sam being out in the mountains looking for folks who might recall Civil War lore.  They stopped at one home and Sam went to see if Chris could talk to the folks.  Sam came back to the car laughing and said, “Come on Chris and meet another one of your cousins.”

Chris and I aren’t blood related, but we are definitely kindred spirits.   We don’t hesitate to tell anyone that we are proud to be from the south end of Unicoi County.  What is there to be more proud of than having the grit to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?

This is my farewell column. I truly appreciate the opportunity that Publishers Keith Whitson and Mark Stevens have given me to write for the Erwin Record. I appreciate the Erwin Record and the part it plays in our community.  Thanks to all of you who have let me know that you read and enjoy my work. Merry Christmas and God bless you for your kindness.