Born in 1805, William H. Thomas was a key figure in preserving lands for the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina. The main locus of the tribe was called the Qualla. Thomas worked for the state senate from 1848 until 1861, when he resigned to work for the Confederacy. In 1862, Colonel Thomas recruited over 2,800 men, 400 of them Cherokee, to be a part of his Thomas Legion, which he commanded throughout the war. Due to their skill in the woods, the Cherokees were especially good at tracking down Yankees, who were trying to hide. After the war ended, several Cherokee soldiers were captured by the Union and contracted smallpox. In the spring of 1866, after some of the captives returned home, the disease spread through the Cherokee community. Despite the efforts of a doctor Colonel Thomas brought in to treat the Indians, more than one hundred Indians died.