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Dee Burris Blakley ([personal profile] dee_burris) wrote2011-04-09 21:35

Civil War Sesquicentennial Challenge

In observance of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War on 12 Apr 1861, this blogging challenge was issued by Bill West, of West in New England.


As regular readers of this blog know, I am a southerner. I still live in the South.

It has been a common occurrence for me to find slave-owners in my family history. I refuse to glorify that word with whatever politically correct substitute phrasing is in vogue these days.

Some of my Southern ancestors - most notably my Callaway and Meek ancestors - bought and sold other human beings and treated them as their property. They willed some of those same human beings to their heirs, and fought for the right to keep on doing it.

Some others of my Southern ancestors didn't.

And the two sets of ancestors intermarried before, during and after the Civil War.

Must have made for some interesting dinner table discussions.

I have a many-times-removed Bowden cousin who is getting on in years, but who regularly sends me information about the Bowden line, even though there were relatively few Bowdens who married into my direct ancestral line. Where he feels it relevant, he tells me which ones fought in the War of Northern Aggression. I've told him I thought I recalled from my history books that the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, not the other way around.

I definitely would have been one of those damned Yankees. The sight of the Confederate flag flying today sickens me, and makes me want to personally tear it down.

Because the good ole boys flying it have to know - don't they? - that the South ain't gonna rise again.

Not the way they want it to.
No matter which side they were on, there is ample evidence that the Civil War changed the lives of my ancestors.

In many cases, it ended it.

In two cases I know of, the war had to have divided families - with brother fighting against brother.

It could have been Samuel Ashmore's suggestion, but for some reason I think not...he and his youngest brother, Robert D. Ashmore, enlisted at the same time at Dover, AR on 20 Jun 1862, in the 35th Arkansas Infantry, Co I, fighting for the Confederate States of America. Robert was 19 years old. Samuel was 30.

By 8 Jan 1863, Robert apparently had enough. He went AWOL. Twenty days later, his big brother Samuel died in the service of the CSA. Robert "deserted to the enemy" on 10 Sep 1863, enlisting in the 4th Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry, Co. H, United States of America.

Robert came home, Samuel did not. I don't know where Samuel is buried.

Cynthia Ann Ashmore, the widow of John Burris, was probably lucky that she did not know the grief the war would vist on her household.

All three of her sons went off to war. Franklin Buchanan and John Crockett enlisted at Dover in the CSA, 35th Arkansas Infantry on 20 Jun 1862, with Franklin serving in Company H and John in Company I.

Her oldest son, William James Burris, fought for the USA in the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry, Co. A.

Franklin died first, on the White River on 28 Oct 1862. His brother, John, deserted on 24 Aug 1863.

William died of typhoid on 1 Aug 1864. He was buried in the National Cemetery in Little Rock.

I can't imagine that the family was able during wartime to visit his grave. I don't know where Franklin is buried.

And I wonder if Cynthia did.

The Brannon brothers, Benjamin and James, were Tennesseans by birth, but Yankees in their hearts, as was their father, John.

All three enlisted together on 15 Aug 1862 in the Arkansas 1st Cavalry Regiment, Company L at Springtown, AR in Washington County.

All three lived to tell about it, although James was discharged on 23 Nov 1863, with the surgeon saying his deafness had worsened during the war, and he had a lung disease. Benjamin was discharged on disability in August 1864.

All three lived out their lives in Benton County, AR, where James was a respected physician and merchant.


There was no question about the Rev. Jefferson John Meek's loyalty to the Confederacy. He had much to lose if the South did not win the war. In the decade between the 1850 and 1860 census, he had doubled the number of slaves he owned.

He created his own infantry unit at Panola Co., MS on 27 Mar 1862. It was the 42nd Regiment, Mississippi Infantry, and Rev. Meek became Captain of it. He was 52 years old.

Capt. J J Meek had two sons old enough to serve, James Alexander, and Robert. James served in his father's regiment. Robert and Capt. Meek's son-in-law, William Waldron, served in the 2nd Mississippi Rangers, Company K.

Capt. Meek considered the war our holy cause. However, according to his letter of resignation dated 5 Aug 1863, he had found out just how much that cause was costing him.

Excerpted from the letter:
My son in law and my two sons have perished in our holy cause and my now aged and infirm wife has been left with no male members of the family to provide and care for her...

He was right about his son-in-law, William Waldron, who died on 3 Jul 1863. Capt. Meek's son, Robert, died of smallpox a month earlier in a POW camp in Alton, IL.

And when he heard of James' wounding and capture during the Battle of Gettysburg on 8 Jul 1863, he probably had every reason to believe that he was dead, too.

But James survived and spent the remainder of the war in the POW camp for Confederate soldiers at Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island, until he signed his oath of allegiance to the United States and was released on 11 Jun 1865.

Then he came back home to Mississippi to his wife and son, buried an infant daughter in 1867, had another daughter, and his marriage fell apart.

The Civil War nearly bankrupted his father.

Virtually all of the Callaway men old enough to tote a gun served the Confederacy. Only recently, I discovered that my Callaway and Clark County Williams lines probably had their first interactions during the war, when Allen Mason Lowery Callaway and David Andrew Williams served together in the 10th Arkansas Cavalry Regiment, at least two years before either of them married the Dunn sisters, Martha and Mary.

There is very little available information about this regiment on the internet. From a cached website, you can find the following:
Newton turned command of the 5th Cavalry over to Colonel Thomas Morgan on December 24, 1863 (whereupon the regiment was renamed as Morgan's 2nd Arkansas Cavalry), and assumed command of a small cavalry brigade [Note: This "small calvary brigade" was the 10th Arkansas Cavalry] which he led for the remainder of the war. On January 14, 1865, Newton's brigade in company with the brigades of Colonels William H. Brooks and Ras Stirman conducted an attack on Union forces on the Arkansas River near Dardanelle, which was repulsed. They next chased a fleet of steamboats down the Arkansas River, ambushing and sinking several of them near Ivey's Ford. Following this campaign, the Confederate force returned to the stronghold of southwestern Arkansas where they stood mostly in defense or garrison duty until the surrender of the Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi on May 26, 1865. (Source: Archive Wayback)

And having now learned that, I wonder if Mace and David's Civil War service had anything to do with their very early deaths - Mace in 1877, and David in 1888.

Mace's father, Nathaniel C. Callaway, died in the service of the Confederacy of typhoid on 7 May 1862 in Shelby County, TN, when Mace was 15. Mace's mother, Julia Wingfield, was left with three children under the age of 10 to raise. Until I discovered last summer that Nathaniel was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, I don't think anyone in the family knew. Nathaniel just went off to war, and never came home.

Mace's first cousin, Jonathan Wilson Callaway, survived the war, and as reported by Goodspeed,...His final surrender was made with the Confederate forces, at Shreveport, at the close of the war, in May, 1865, following which he walked the whole distance back to Arkadelphia. (Source: Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Central Arkansas, (publ. 1889) at page 427)

Jonathan Wilson Callaway went on to be a fairly prominent political figure in Pulaski County, AR after the war, and died there in 1894. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

There is no question that the Civil War changed the lives of everyone who lived and died during that era in history, not the least of whom were the black Americans - slaves and free -who even after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, still did not receive the full measure of their American citizenship until nearly a century later.

As I study and make continuous discoveries about my ancestors who lived during that time, I always wonder what made them choose the side they did, and how those choices affected the lives of their families and others around them.

I guess I'll ask them on the other side...

Northern aggression my ass.

[identity profile] dadadadio.livejournal.com 2011-04-13 02:44 (UTC)(link)
Nicely done. I've always suspect many people chose a side based on values and personal character rather than allegiance to family or state. That view is certainly backed up by your divided ancestors. I have great respect for those who crossed sides for humanitarian reasons.

The fact Rev. Meek called his defense of slavery a 'holy cause' kind of pisses this yankee off. If you ask me, he got what he deserved.

There are times I wish I believed in the other side so I could at least think I'll have a chance to ask a few questions.

Re: Northern aggression my ass.

[identity profile] dee-burris.livejournal.com 2011-04-13 03:27 (UTC)(link)
I blew that handwritten letter up to about 200% to make sure I was reading it correctly. I could not believe - our holy cause. (The link under James Alexander's name goes to a previous entry where the letter is embedded.) So I checked the 1850 and 1860 slave censuses for the dear old Rev and saw why he felt that way.