5-1 Unknown Civil War Photo.jpg

This Library of Congress archive photo is not of Tom Dula, despite what you've seen. The Iredell County Public Library is attempting to identify the soldier in the photo.

May 1, 1868 marks the 150th anniversary of the execution of convicted murderer Tom Dula (Dooley) in downtown Statesville.

For the second year, "The Tom Dooley Project" will be performed at the old Statesville court house, 200 S. Center St. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

The show depicts scenes of Tom Dula’s trial in Statesville, many of which are from Karen Reynolds’ play, “Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend.” Shows will also feature music by Third Creek Bluegrass and Wicker & Jones. For ticket information, call WAME Radio at 336-692-3850 or visit tomdooleyproject.com.

Authors and researchers often visit Statesville and the Iredell County Public Library to conduct research on Tom Dula since he was tried and convicted twice in Iredell County court and executed here. It’s a story so mixed with legend and misinformation that it took years for author Charlotte Corbin Barnes to research and write her award-winning book, “The Tom Dooley Files.” Unfortunately, I and the Iredell County Public Library had something to do with creating this misinformation.

In September 2011, author Sharyn McCrumb appeared at the library to promote her book, “The Ballad of Tom Dooley.” To promote her visit, I wrote an article titled “Tom Dula’s Iredell County Connections,” which appeared in the library’s newsletter, Bookmarks. To help illustrate my article, Library Assistant Director Peggy Carter added two images, one of which was an unknown Confederate soldier in uniform.

Records show the photo to be a copy made by the Library of Congress in 1961 from antique dealer G.K. Holmes of Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut. The photo appeared with the caption, “Photo of a Civil War soldier from Smithsonian collection.”

The article and two images were uploaded to the library’s website by another staff member, but the Library of Congress stock photograph did not include the caption.

Soon after, I was contacted by Wilkes Heritage Museum Curator Terry Lutar inquiring about the picture we had of "Tom Dula." The photograph of the Civil War soldier beside an article on Tom Dula had spread like wildfire. Today, if you visit the Tom Dula Wikipedia entry, you will see that photo with “Thomas C. Dula” over it. It’s also on the N.C. Visitors site, the cover of John Edward Fletcher’s 2013 book, “The True Story of Tom Dooley: From Western North Carolina Mystery to Folk Legend,” and even the Tom Dooley Project flyer the library was given to display.

An attempt was made to correct the Wikipedia entry to no avail. We are attempting to identify the soldier or at least his regiment to prove that the soldier is not Tom Dula. It has been shown to several Civil War historians who are working to identify the regiment by the uniform.

We hope to obtain a better copy of the image from the Library of Congress that might show more detail, and have contacted other historical groups for help. If you have observations or information, send an email to jreese@iredell.lib.nc.us.

Joel Reese is the local history librarian at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville.

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Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.