Stephen Lee and His Asheville School

On June 7, 1801, educator and Civil War soldier Stephen Lee was born. Lee operated a Buncombe County school, highly regarded in the region for its academic rigor, from 1846 until 1879.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee was elected colonel of both the 15th and 16th North Carolina Troops but chose to command the latter regiment. Taking command in June 1861, Lee led his regiment against Union forces led by George McClellan in the western Virginia campaigns of the summer and fall of 1861. In the winter of 1861 and 1862, the 16th was assigned to a brigade of Georgians and South Carolinians stationed at Dumfries, Virginia.

The 61-year-old Lee resigned  from the Confederate army in February 1862, citing “old age, and swelling of the legs,” but his time away from the military would prove short. He returned to Buncombe County and began teaching, but in 1864 organized many of his students and local elderly men into a reserve unit called the Silver Greys. The Silver Greys and about 250 other locals fought Union troops in an engagement known as the Battle of Asheville in April 1865.

After the war, Lee resumed teaching.

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