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Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day: Thinking of My Civil War Generation

Today, for Veteran’s Day, I am remembering my ancestors who were veterans of America’s conflicts.  I have recently dived deep into my family’s genealogy and discovered many surprising things.  I would say that I never grew up with much military tradition, or even thought about military service in my family history.  As it turns out, however, my ancestors rendered service from colonial times forward.   There are still many questions I have to answer about my family history, and I doubt that I will fully understand all the events and issues with which my family has wrestled.

While I could try to profile ancestors from the Revolution, the War of 1812, or even more recent conflicts such as the First or Second World War, I have decided that with the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War, I will focus on the Civil War generation.  Even here, my research is far from done, but I have six (of the sixteen) third great grandfathers for whom I have established pretty well their Civil War service that I would like to remember and honor.

My research divides, not surprisingly, into the inheritance I have from my father’s line and that I have from my mother’s.  Also no surprise, we end up on both sides of the conflict.  My mother’s people, the Franklins, and many of the families that my mother descends from, had a long Southern history.  I have confirmed many Confederates in my genealogical attic, and once I finish sifting through all the family lines, I expect to have more direct Confederate ancestors than Union. 

Part of this is because, on my father’s side, three of my third great grandfathers were in Europe at the time of the war and they or their children did not reach American shores until the conflict was over.  The Frankes themselves remain mysterious.  Though they apparently arrived in 1855 and moved to Wisconsin, I have found scant history for them during the Civil War.  It seems likely that they were farming, but not fighting.  That disposes of my father’s paternal line.  However, the maternal line has some amazing stories and stretches back to Seventeenth Century Colonial America.  From my paternal grandmother then, I have a number of Union soldiers to talk about.

Returning to the question of my divided family, I have questioned myself a bit in reconciling the Blue and the Grey of my past.  I cannot disown my ancestors who fought for the Confederacy any more than they can dishonor me in the present.  We are part of a great confluence of history and biology. 

Need I remember them on Veteran’s Day though? 

From my political perspective, their cause was a traitor’s cause.  Whatever acts of bravery and honor they performed, they did so against the interests of MY country, MY Union.  Yet, though I find the cause detestable, I find comfort in the words of General Grant, who stated after the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, "I felt sad and depressed at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though their cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."  I harbor anger then, not for my ancestors, but for their leaders, politicians and generals, who led my people astray in support of this worst cause of history.  They put them on the wrong side of history, and failed in the vision of a better, more just and freer America.  For my Confederate ancestors, I am sad and I regret their sufferings and hardships, and I remember that they played a role in making America the country it is on this Veteran’s Day.

The Grey

I write of three Confederate ancestors today.  They came from diverse states and saw varied service.  Yet each eventually ended up in Union custody as prisoners of war.  Each also suffered greatly from the failure of leadership from both Union and Confederate governments.  After the entry of substantial numbers of African American troops on the side of the Union, General Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis refused to exchange black troops back to the Union in return for Confederate parolees.  Instead, laws had been passed that threatened black troops with hanging, and the Confederate government also expressed the intent to “return” black troops to their “owners” as property (despite the fact that many were not escaped slaves, but instead free blacks from the North who volunteered).  In response, the North determined that prisoner exchanges would then cease.  This caused the POW population for both North and South to swell beyond the capacity for which either side had planned.  What followed was shameful treatment of military prisoners on both sides, with harsh conditions, lack of food, shelter, medical care and other necessary supplies.  The South’s greatest infamy was Andersonville, Georgia and the North’s was Elmira, New York.  Both sides failed in planning and logistics to care for prisoners in their custody, but ultimately it was the racist policies of the Confederacy that sparked the crisis, and I place the greater blame there.  And for this lack of leadership, you will see that my ancestors paid dearly.

William Alcie Patterson Franklin
W.A.P. as he is often seen in records was born in Alabama on September 30, 1839.  He was raised in Arkansas with a brother and a sister and three half-brothers and a half-sister.  In the 1860 census he was living in his family’s home and working as a laborer.  His father, who had been born in Mississippi, was a farmer.  In 1862, W.A.P., at the age of 22, enlisted in the 19th (Dockery’s) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Company B.  Despite his youth, he was made a Sergeant.  He kept a journal during the war, which a distant cousin has the keeping of, and I hope someday to have a copy to review.  Based on the Regimental history W.A.P. saw considerable combat.  His unit fought in the Second Battle of Corinth in Mississippi (October 1862) and later that same month fought at the Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge.  In May, 1863, the 19th Arkansas saw repeated action against the Union forces as U.S. Grant launched his Vicksburg campaign in Mississippi.  The 19th fought at the Battle of Port Gibson, the Battle of Champion Hill, and the Battle of Big Black River Bridge.  Each of these was Union victories in U.S. Grant’s relentless march on Vicksburg to seize control of the Upper Mississippi.  At the Big Black River Bridge, W.A.P. was taken prisoner.  He was initially remanded to Federal custody Camp Morton, Indiana.  He was later transferred east, to Fort Delaware, Delaware.  He spent less than a month in Delaware, and was transferred to spend the last days of the war at the infamous prisoner of war camp at Point Lookout, Maryland.  Despite probably being subject to varied and harsh conditions in prisoner of war camp (the song “Oh, I’m A Good Old Rebel” says “I followed old Marsh Robert for four years thereabouts, got wounded in three places and starved at Point Lookout”), W.A.P. returned to Arkansas upon his parole and picked his life back up.

John H G Mathis
John was born in Georgia on January 17, 1845.  In the 1860 census, he lived with his parents in Winn Parish, Louisiana.  He was only 15.  His father was a farmer, born in Georgia.  John was the youngest son and he had two older brothers and a younger and an older sister.  In about May 1861, shortly after the Civil War began in April 1861, John enlisted for service with the Third Louisiana Infantry Regiment as a private in Company C, the Winn Rifles.  He was only 16.  His regiment soon saw action.  In October of 1861 they participated in the Battle of Oak Hill, also called Bloody Hill, in Missouri.  In March of 1862 the 3rd saw action in the Battle of Pea Ridge (also known as Elk Horn), in Arkansas.  Next they saw action in the Battle of Iuka in Mississippi.  Like W.A.P. Franklin, John’s unit was at the Second Battle of Corinth in Mississippi in October 1862.  While the 19th Arkansas engaged with U.S. Grant’s forces outside of Vicksburg, the 3rd Louisiana was called to man the defensive works around Vicksburg in January 1863.  The Third saw action in the Battle of Snyder’s Bluff in April 1863.  The 3rd held out in Vicksburg with the other Confederate forces during the Union siege, until the city fell to U.S. Grant’s forces on July 4, 1863.  John was wounded and taken prisoner.  The records are unclear as to whether John was held in Demopolis, Alabama or Alexandria, Louisiana, but those two locations were the places that members of the 3rd Louisiana were held.  He was in Federal custody until the end of the war, when he was paroled at Natchitoches, Louisiana on June 12, 1865.  He was 20 years old, and he returned to Winn Parish to pick up his life.

Burrell Hudson
Burrell was born in Alabama about 1828.  He married in 1857 to Minerva Ann Christian.  They had one daughter and one son born at the start of the war, and a second son was born during the course of the war.  In the census of 1860, Burrell was listed as an overseer.  His family appears to have owned slaves when he was growing up.  At the age of 33, in October 1861, he joined the 21st Alabama Infantry Regiment, Company C, as a private.  The 21st saw action at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6 and 7 of 1862.  The Battle of Shiloh is especially notable, as it was, at that point, the bloodiest battle of the war.  By war's end, there were many battles that were worse, but the news from Shiloh was shocking to both sides.  April 6th went very well for the Confederate forces, which largely routed the Union troops under the command of William T. Sherman and U.S. Grant.  The 21st Alabama was especially valiant that day.  Press reports indicated that the 21st had “covered themselves with glory . . . [and] captured two batteries.”  The regiment suffered heavily, including losing six color bearers and some 200 killed and wounded.  Neither individuals nor units were issued with citations or medals in the Confederacy.  However, if one was mentioned in official dispatches, it was considered a great honor.  The 21st’ gallantry on the first day of Shiloh was so noted.  The first day’s victory was costly over all, with the Confederates losing their commanding general, General Albert Sidney Johnson.  The second day of the battle did not go well for the Confederates.  U.S. Grant was often at his best when he was on the ropes.  He also received fresh reinforcements during the night.  The Confederates we likely exhausted from their marching and offensive the day before, and may have been insufficiently provisioned.  In any case, outnumbered and exhausted, the 21st retreated with the Confederate order of battle.  The unit subsequently fought at Farmington, Mississippi in May, 1862.  The 21st was then retrained for garrison duty, with a focus on heavy artillery.  They were redeployed to Mobile, Alabama and stationed at Forts Gaines and Morgan in the summer of 1862.  The 21st thereafter had a quiet war in garrison duty until that attack on Mobile Bay by Admiral Farragut (Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!) in August 1864.  After the bay fell, the forts were bombarded and each surrendered.  Burrell’s Company C was apparently at Fort Hudson.  They were originally held in New Orleans, but later transferred to Elmira, New York by rail in October 1864.  The Elmira prison camp came to be known as Hell-mira by the Confederate prisoners.  Not only was their neglect in the supply of the camp, but actual intentional abuse under the auspices of the vindictive camp commandant.  Burrell did not do well under the harsh conditions in the camp and contracted dysentery.  On December 21, 1864, he succumbed to his illness.  Though record keeping on the burial of Confederate prisoners at the Woodlawn National Cemetery was generally good, no record entry exists for Burrell and he lies anonymously among the dead of the camp.

The Blue

Eli Tannehill
Eli was born in Somerset County in Pennsylvania in 1821.  He was one of eleven children.  He and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Graham, married in 1843 and were parents of nine children who lived to adulthood.  In the census of 1860, he was listed as a farmer in Lower Turkeyfoot Township.  Turkeyfoot was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Eli and his family were Methodists, which was a denomination that was officially anti-slavery.  I have no evidence to suggest that Eli or his family was directly involved in assisting fugitive slaves, but clearly he lived in a community where the sympathies were with abolition.  Some of his neighbors left Pennsylvania and moved as far as Kansas to show their support for freedom (Moses Younkin, of whom we shall hear more below, was one).  Eli did not leave Pennsylvania, but once the war began, he heard his call of duty.  He was 40 years old and left a wife with nine children aged 1 to 16 in order to, I believe, follow his conscience and fight for “the Union and the Right” as was the refrain in the “Battle Cry of Freedom.”  Here, I can only imagine that the end of slavery must have been part of his motivation.  He enlisted in Philadelphia, into the 112th Pennsylvania, 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment as a private in Battery K on November 11, 1862 (149 years ago today).  The 2nd Pennsylvania became the North’s largest regiment.  It was quickly stationed for garrison duty in the forts around Washington, DC, providing security for the capital.  The unit both trained as artillery and infantry, and worked on improving and expanding fortifications.  The majority of their service was as a rear echelon unit, until U.S. Grant called on the many heavy artillery units around DC to assist in his drive into the South in 1864.  The 2nd did not participate in the Battles of the Wilderness or Cold Harbor which occupied Grant’s thrust in May and June 1864, but they engaged in skirmishes around Cold Harbor subsequent to the main battle.  They then fought in the battle before Petersburg and then, with the rest of Grant’s army, settled into defensive siege works and trenches around the city of Petersburg, Virginia in June 1864.  There are at least three markers on the Petersburg National Battlefield that mark the positions held by the Second during the siege operations.  According to one of Eli’s fellow soldiers, on August 5, 1864 Battery/Company K had been serving in the trenches throughout the day and the men were suffering from thirst.  Eli offered to go for water for his comrades.  As he was returning, he was shot and killed (likely by a Confederate sharpshooter).  He was buried on the battlefield.  While the place was marked at the time, most of the graves of the Union dead from the siege were very makeshift, and in 1866 there was a concerted effort to consolidate the Union dead into a national cemetery.  According to the National Park Service, Ely Tannyhill [sic] has long been listed as one of the “possibles” at Poplar Grove National Cemetery, among four thousand unknown Union dead laid to rest there.

And now our hero's sleeping with thousands of the brave.
No marble slab does mark the place that shows where he was laid.
He died to save our Union; he's free of care and toil.
Thank God! The Stars and Stripes still wave above Virginia's soil!
--Virginia’s Bloody Soil

Moses Younkin
Moses was born in Turkeyfoot Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania on May 1, 1830.  He married Lavila Mitchell on June 5, 1851 and their daughter Emma Virginia Younkin was born in 1852.  About 1855, Moses moved his family from Pennsylvania to Kansas Territory.  In 1856, he, his family, and two brothers, Jerome and William settled on Timber Creek as the first white settlers in what would become Clay County, Kansas.  Moses was a Free State settler, voting and perhaps fighting for Kansas to enter the Union as a free as opposed to a slave state.  He had grown up in the same community as Eli Tannehill, and was a Methodist and likely abolitionist.  Besides living as a pioneer, farmer and political activist in Kansas Territory, he also helped found the town of Milford in Geary County, he helped lay out a road from Manhattan to Solomon’s Fork as a territorial commissioner, and he won a reputation as a scout and plainsman.  He is said to have been a friend of members of the Kaw or Kanza tribe (though this friendly tribe was nonetheless forced to relocate to Oklahoma Indian territory in 1873).  In the census of 1860, he was listed as a farmer in Clay County and, along with his growing family; he listed his younger brother Alfred as a farm hand.  Alfred was 10 years younger than Moses.  In October, 1861 with the Civil War in full swing, he was commissioned as a militia captain for the 15th Kansas State Militia, Company C.  In January 1864, Moses became one of three Clay County Commissioners.  However, in March 1864, Moses, age 33, and his younger brother Alfred, age 23, both reported to Fort Riley, Kansas to enlist as privates in the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.  The 11th had begun as an infantry unit, but was converted to Cavalry in late 1863 and early 1864.  Both of the brothers joined Company L, which was assigned to “the Indian service.”  Moses was quickly promoted to sergeant by May 1864.  The Kansas/Nebraska/Colorado frontier was dangerous and active during the Civil War.  Tribes such as the Sioux and the Cheyenne, hostile to the expansion of the United States and bent on driving settlers and soldiers out of their territory kept up significant raiding and attacks.  The “Indian service” included protecting lines of communication such as telegraph lines and stage coach stations, as well as protecting settlers and pioneers who continued to stream west on the Oregon Trail and the Overland Trail.  In 1865, the 11th moved from Kansas to Nebraska and from there into the parts of the Dakota Territories that would eventually become Wyoming to suppress Indian raids and to protect settlements.  The frontier life was hard, as supplies were hit and miss, and the weather severe.  Nonetheless, both Younkin brothers survived the many conflicts with Indians without harm.  In the summer of 1865, they were ordered to Fort Leavenworth, back in Kansas, to be mustered out.  However, Alfred caught a “bilious fever” (possibly typhoid fever) and never made it to Leavenworth.  He died in Marshall, Kansas at the age of 25 on September 15, 1865, where he had apparently been left to recover during the trip to Leavenworth.  Moses left military service on at Leavenworth in July 1865 and then returned to Clay County, Kansas to rejoin his family.  He had many more adventures and was a very active veteran, especially with the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), who ultimately provided for his services upon his death, far away from Kansas in Washington State, where he is buried in Bellingham with a headstone noting his service with the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.


Edit: June 13, 2012

This is late, late breaking news, but something that happens all too frequently in genealogy.  You think you find an amazing story, one almost too interesting to be true.

Then you find out that it is too interesting to be true.

While dates and some documents seemed to support that I was descended from the person I discussed below, it turns out my McHenrys did not move from Pennsylvania to Louisiana after the war.  I have a different set of McHenrys entirely in my background, though both seemed to admire Benjamin Franklin and named sons after him.  My Benjamin Franklin McHenry did not descend from Matthew (below), but rather from a Benjamin Franklin McHenry, Sr, about whom I am still researching. 

Matthew's story is still interesting and I wish I could claim it on my tree, but it belongs to someone else and the last thing I want to do is appropriate someone elses history.  However, for any of you who do descend from Matthew Lowery McHenry (even though I got a bit of the story wrong) thank you for letting me borrow him, however erroneously, and thank you for your ancestor's service in the defense of our country and Union.
Matthew Lowery McHenry
One of the interesting delights of genealogy is finding out facts that no one seems to have passed on in the family.  Matthew Lowery is my mother’s ancestor, her second great grandfather, and yet he is, as she put jokingly, a “damn Yankee.”  Though his son moved to Louisiana towards the end of the Nineteenth Century, Matthew Lowery lived and died a Northerner from Columbia County, Pennsylvania.  He was born there on October 2, 1832 to a Scotch-Irish family.  In the census of 1860, Matthew Lowery’s information is sadly illegible, but in 1850, he was listed as a laborer working for a farmer who was also a potter.  In 1870, he was a farm laborer, so it seems safe to say that he was a farmer of some sort at the start of the war.  He married his wife Kate (I have not identified her family name yet) in 1860 as well, and they had two children by 1864.  Late in the war, on September 21, 1864, Matthew Lowery, at the age of 31, enlisted as a private in Company B of the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  His unit was quickly sent to reinforce the armies already besieging Petersburg in Virginia.  He served around Petersburg, and the 210th was engaged in several small skirmishes until the city succumbed to U.S. Grant’s armies in April 1865.  The 210th then served with Grant’s forces until Robert E. Lee was forced to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.  After the victory of Union forces, the 210th was eventually moved to Washington, DC, where, on May 30, 1865, Matthew Lowery was mustered out and returned to his family in Pennsylvania.