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North Carolina Patriots of ’61 – General Thomas F. Toon of Columbus County
Born on June 10, 1840 in Columbus County, Thomas Fentress Toon was a farmer prior to attending Wake Forest College, rising to the senior class at that school when he joined the Columbus Guards No. 2 on May 20, 1861. He returned to Wake Forest to graduate in June 1861 and then rejoined his company.
The Columbus Guards had been raised in Columbus County and assigned to Company K of the 20th North Carolina. Toon mustered in as a private, elected lieutenant on June 18th, then captain to rank from July 22nd. A fellow captain in the regiment was his kinsman William H. Toon of Bladen County, who eventually rose to lieutenant-colonel of the regiment.
Shot by the enemy twice in 1862, he would end the war wounded a total of seven times and fought with conspicuous gallantry at Seven Pines, the Seven Days Campaign, South Mountain and Fredericksburg. Toon was elected colonel of the regiment on February 26, 1863 when his seniors in rank waived their own rights to promotion.
He led the 20th North Carolina Regiment during Stonewall Jackson's famous flank attack at Chancellorsville and was shot three times while leading his regiment through what he later described as "a perfect storm of shells and a mist of minie balls." He later returned to duty and sustained wounds twice more before the end of the war.
His regiment was heavily involved at Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863, and his 20th North Carolina suffered horribly during the first day’s action with 65% casualties; and later the Mine Run Campaign and the bloody battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. When General Robert D. Johnston (of Lincoln County) was wounded at Spotsylvania, Colonel Toon was promoted to the rank of brigadier general to date from May 31, 1864. He commanded the brigade during Gen. Jubal Early's Shenandoah Valley campaign and threatening advance on Washington City.
Toon received his last and most serious wound on March 25, 1865 during the assault on *Fort Stedman, near Petersburg. He was sent to a hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina on April 7th and recovered sufficiently to be present when General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army at the end of the month.
General Toon returned to Columbus County after the war and served as principal at Fair Bluff School. As a vocal advocate of public education in North Carolina, he was elected to the position of North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1901. General Toon died in Raleigh on February 19, 1902, and is buried in that city in Oakwood Cemetery. Thomas F. Toon was honored with a State Historical Marker at Fair Bluff on August 26, 2000 by the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans of Columbus County.