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Elliott, James Carson

by David Winfred Gaddy, 1986

12 July 1845–17 June 1936

"James Carson Elliott." Photograph. The southern soldier boy : a thousand shots for the Confederacy. Raleigh, N.C. : Edwards & Broughton Print. Co. 1907. Frontispiece.James Carson Elliott, Confederate soldier, teacher, writer, and civic leader, was born in Cleveland County, the eldest son of William Martin (1813–69) and Barbara Rudisill Carson (1820–1909) Elliott. Descended from pioneer stock in Virginia and North Carolina, with ancestors who had fought in the American Revolution, his father was a farmer, a small slaveholder, and an ardent Whig. At the outbreak of the Civil War, young Elliott organized and served in the local home guards until his eighteenth birthday, when, on 17 Aug. 1863, he joined Company F, Fifty-sixth Regiment, North Carolina troops, a Cleveland County company. Nine first cousins and his mother's brother also served in the Confederate Army, three of whom survived. His own Confederate service was in many respects the pivotal point in his life.

As recounted in his reminiscences, The Southern Soldier Boy: A Thousand Shots for the Confederacy (1907), Elliott's initial duties included guarding prisoners of war and hunting deserters in the state. The regiment received its baptism of fire in the Eastern Carolina campaign of 1864 against New Bern and in the recapture of Plymouth (April 1864). Ordered to Petersburg, Va., in May 1864, Elliott survived sickness, a wound, and the last hard winter of the Confederacy, only to be captured in the abortive Confederate assault on Fort Stedman (March 1865), which sealed the doom of the Confederacy. He was imprisoned at Point Lookout, Md., until 12 June 1865, when he took the oath and was released. Reaching Charlotte by train, he walked the sixty miles to his home, arriving there on 20 June.

Possessed of a modest formal education, augmented by his participation in a prewar "literary society," Elliott attempted to eke out a living as an itinerant teacher in North Carolina, Kentucky, and eventually as far away as Illinois before returning to his native state. On 5 Dec. 1872 he married Biddy Gettys (1853–97) at her home in Rutherford County. They settled in Cleveland County, raising a family of nine: Lizzie Lee (m. David Anderson Beam), Barbara Eugenia, Lottie Cline, Leona Nora (m. Rufus Alexander Bingham), George Alexander, William Martin (m. Elizabeth Noller), James Carson, Jr., Henry Bedford, and Plato Jefferson (m. Eugenia Lollar).

In December 1880 Elliott purchased from Henry Summitt the first town lot sold in Cherryville, where he built a combination store-house and moved his family the following March. In May 1881, the year Cherryville was incorporated, Elliott was elected its first mayor. There he taught school and served for eight years as justice of the peace until February 1890, when he returned permanently to Cleveland.

Throughout his adult life Elliott was a prolific and articulate writer for newspapers of the area, including the Shelby Aurora, Shelby Star, Charlotte Observer, Rutherford Sun, and Forest City Courier. His subjects were government, politics, history, local and family matters, philosophy, or whatever attracted his wide-ranging interests. Optimistic by nature and driven by a strong sense of integrity and personal worth, he preached the betterment of America's youth and the challenge of the future. His writings, which continued until shortly before his death at ninety-one, were "alive with ideas and were as vital and contemporary as if written by a much younger man, . . . always voicing a constructive and progressive policy. He gave suggestions backed by long years of experience and cool judgment and for the most part he was always right." Illustrating his vision is a statement in The Southern Soldier Boy in which he foresaw (in 1907) eventual war with Japan.

A lifelong Democrat and a Methodist, Elliott "hewed his success out of a wilderness of difficulties and then studied and reasoned his way to a position of respect and honor in the hearts of thousands." "One of [Cleveland County's] best citizens and friends" and her oldest Confederate veteran when he died, he was buried in the Elliott cemetery at Polkville.


Cleveland Times, 30 Nov. 1965.

James Carson Elliott, The Southern Soldier Boy: A Thousand Shots for the Confederacy (1907).

Family scrapbook, newspaper clippings, Elliott's wartime correspondence (in possession of Mrs. Plato Elliott, Lawndale).

Shelby Star, 26 Sept. 1974.

Image Credits:

"James Carson Elliott." Photograph. The southern soldier boy : a thousand shots for the Confederacy. Raleigh, N.C. : Edwards & Broughton Print. Co. 1907. Frontispiece. (accessed February 24, 2014).


James Carson Elliott was my grandfather. I think I have read that he made a statement concerning how erecting confederate soldier monuments all over the South at almost every court square would become a travesty, as the country moved on from that era and would strive to be united. Can anyone back me up or show me where this is written? If he didn't write it, did someone else? Thank you.

Please confirm you're a granddaughter of Carson Elliott, who were your parents? Would like to find out about and discover more of his descendants;

i have one room school on my prorerty jases carson taught there 1898 i have his picture with students

Doubtful that Mr. Elliott expressed such a sentiment. Words from his book regarding a Confederate monument in Shelby --

The Soldier's Monument at Shelby seems to be all that could be desired from anyone's standpoint. There's nothing boastful, nothing flattering or inconsistent. It simply expresses a patriotic duty performed in the greatest crisis in the history of our country. That generation passed through an ordeal second to none in the annals of modern history. Their descendants by whom it is erected have no apologies to make. The massive granite column, to last for ages, will tell the simple story of pride in the heroic fortitude of such ancestry— and will ever be an inspiration to the rising manhood of coming generations. It is most fitting that it is erected now after more than forty years of candid deliberation. If it had been erected thirty years ago it would only have represented our fallen heroes. Ten years ago, when it was first suggested to rear a monument for all Confederate soldiers, living and deceased, the living generally protested, thinking it egotistical or boastful to erect a monument to themselves. But the Daughters were too enthusiastic to wait for all the old soldiers to die, and now all old soldiers approve their course and are most grateful for the monument to their comrades, which by and by will stand for all.

My great grandfather brother John "Wesley" Richards was the one he wrote about in the book that deserted and after the war drank and lost his property. Maybe now days would say he had PTS problems from the war.

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