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2016-06-28 07:41 am

Sepia Saturday: Elmira Cornet Band

This is a photo of the Elmira Cornet Band, Thirty-third Regiment of the New York State Volunteers taken in July 1861, sourced to the amazing collection of photos at the Library of Congress.

 photo Elmira Cornet Band Thirty-third Regiment of the New York State Volunteers July 1861.jpg

Bands were important to the morale of soldiers serving in the Civil War. Militia bands were very highly valued by the local militias as they participated in musters, ceremonies and parades and were useful in recruiting soldiers. As state and local militias were mustered into service they naturally brought along their bands. Within a few months of the start of the war, Congress authorized the creation of Regimental bands for the Regular Army.

The Confederacy also had military bands of its own. My great great grandfather, James Henry Balding, served as a musician in the 15th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (Josey's). On 6 Aug 1862, by order of Brig General Cleburne, he was detailed to Polk's Brigade Band. I've not been able to find out what musical instrument(s) he played, and our family lore hasn't included any stories about his service in the war. Most of the time, musicians were noncombatants.

This is a Sepia Saturday post. Head over there for more interesting vintage images and postcards.
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2016-06-19 09:48 am

Finding causes of death...

Sometimes there is no death certificate for my ancestors or extended family members, because they died before uniform record keeping was required.

So I rely on news articles and other sources.

Like cemetery records, or in the case of my third great grandfather, Nathaniel C Callaway, a military record.
 photo Nathaniel C Callaway cause of death-page-001 edit.jpg

I still wonder if Julia Wingfield Callaway was notified of his death.

Because if she was, none of that information got passed down to his descendants.

But now, we know...
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2013-12-04 08:39 am
Entry tags:

"...and we see...the significant word Unknown..."

 photo death_film_landing.jpeg

This excellent PBS "American Experience" documentary, Death and the Civil War, discusses how the war that claimed more American lives than all other wars combined in which Americans fought, demonstrated the national crisis of what to do with all the bodies.

The Civil War was the war that struck the nation's conscience and showed the federal government that it had a duty to identify, bury, re-bury, and send home the remains of American soldiers. That pricking of national conscience was what led to the creation of Arlington National Cemetery and some seventy other national cemeteries.

The war claimed 750,000 lives. Only half of the bodies were identified and given a proper burial.

From the film:
...And everywhere among these countless graves—everywhere in the many soldier Cemeteries of the Nation, (there are now, I believe, over seventy of them)—as at the time in the vast trenches, the depositories of slain, Northern and Southern, after the great battles—not only where the scathing trail passed those years, but radiating since in all the peaceful quarters of the land—we see, and ages yet may see, on monuments and gravestones, singly or in masses, to thousands or tens of thousands, the significant word Unknown. Walt Whitman, 1865.

Little Rock National Cemetery photo aseaofunknowns.jpg
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2012-09-15 08:55 am

Historic fiction...

Got a book recommendation from Nancy at My Ancestors and Me in a comment to my blog post on Thomas Jefferson Wharton's Civil War pension a few days ago.

The book she recommended was My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira.

Historic fiction is harder to write than a lot of people realize. An author must do tons of research to keep things real, because it just won't do to have an historian coming behind you, pointing out things that just couldn't have happened during the time of your novel.

Ms. Oliveira nailed it. This one was a page turner for me.

And like Nancy, I'd suggest reading the intro first before diving into the novel, because it's there that you get the feel of the incredible amount of research necessary to make the difference between so-so and omigosh...
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2012-09-11 06:21 pm
Entry tags:

Looking behind the pension...

A while back, I posted about going to the Arkansas History Commission one day to look up the pension application for my g-g-grandmother, Rutha Eveline (Coleman) Wharton, for her widow's benefits from her husband's service during the Civil War.

One day came today.
I knew Rutha had applied for widow's benefits in 1908, after Thomas Jefferson Wharton II died on 16 Mar 1908.

I didn't know he was already getting a pension until I got to the History Commission and looked in their index.

His pension application was granted in 1901 - and filed as T J Whorton, so the two applications were on different reels of microfilm. (Hers was processed under Wharton.)

T J Wharton was approved for a $50 pension on 26 Aug 1901 - nine years after his first application.

The application stated that he was "incapacitated for manual labor by reason of wounds and old age." The notarized statement of his physician, J M Campbell, elaborated on his physical and mental condition.

He had his right thigh broken and bothe collar bones broken both of which disable him from manual labor...General health good. His disability is due to his wounds and general senile disability...He can make 1/3 of a farmhand. The statement was signed on 11 June 1901.

And I began to wonder what the war was like for him.
I know T J Wharton enlisted in the 25th Alabama Infantry, Company I from Talladega Co., AL on 17 Jan 1863.

It's hard to find much information about that company - its movements through the southern United States. I know they were in Tennessee for at least some of their service.

So I kept searching. I looked for documentation on his discharge.

And found him on a Roll of Prisoners of War. Private T J Wharton was paroled by Brevt. Brig. Gen. M H Chrysler at Talladega, Alabama on 26 Jun 1865. He was 33 years old.

I've never heard anything about his experience in our oral family history.

Surely he talked about it - it sounds as if he went through the rest of his life with some impairment of his mobility. That would be tough if you were a farmer.
Rutha Eveline Wharton's pension application only took one try, and was approved 10 Aug 1908 - only a couple of months after she applied.

And she got a raise, to $100 annually.

Rutha Eveline (Coleman) Wharton followed her husband in death on 19 May 1911.

Both she and Thomas Jefferson Wharton II are buried in St. Joe Cemetery in Pope Co., AR.
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2011-08-15 08:05 pm

Nancy Ann Elizabeth (Hogg) Hoshall, 1840-1922

While I was at the Arkansas History Commission, I looked up the Deceased Pensioner's Widow's Application for Robert Hudson Hoshall's widow, Ann.

(The Hoshalls are the maternal great great grandparents of my brother-in-law. Nancy Ann Elizabeth Hogg was the daughter of Eli McKnight Hogg and Nancy Ann Elizabeth Bates, and was born in Tennessee on 16 Feb 1840. She married Robert Hudson Hoshall in Dallas Co., AR on 20 Apr 1859, and died in Dallas County on 21 Apr 1922.)

I think this was the first time I have seen a complete widow's application for an Arkansas Civil War veteran - at least I think I've seen it.

It was very brief - four pages, because she still had some of his old friends alive to vouch for who he was and what he did, that he was dead, and she was his widow.

Four *very* badly microfilmed pages that I had to transcribe while I was still sitting at the viewer, mumbling under my breath about why Arkansas will not digitize its historic documents. The chick working for the History Commission was sitting a couple of viewers over from me, and since we were the only two there, she started the schtick about how Arkansans don't want to pay more in taxes to pay for things like digitizing old records.

She shut up after I started mumbling about...puhlease, do not come at me about tax increases in a state that still taxes food, forgawdssake...
So anyway, I was stunned to see the criteria for getting a lousy $50 widow's pension in 1908.

You had to be worse off than dirt poor.

I, Mrs. Ann E Hoshall, do solemnly swear that I am the widow of Robert Hudson Hoshall, who served as a soldier of the Confederate States, that I am now, and for the past twelve months have been a bona fide resident of this State; that I do not own property, real or personal, or both, or money or choses in action, in excess of the value of $400.00 (exclusive of household goods and wearing apparel), nor have I conveyed title to any property to enable me to draw a pension, and that I am not in receipt of any income, annuity, pension or wages for any services, the emoluments of an office, in excess of $150.00 per year; that my said husband died on the 4th day of July 1876, leaving me a widow with (8) eight girl children who I have raised and educated, am now unable to work, will be 69 soon, and I have not remarried, so help me God.

Signature Mrs. Ann E. Hoshall
Winessed by Thomas Green, Sr.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 6 day of July 1908...Clerk [illegible]

And I see from this that I am missing two of her girl children...
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2011-04-09 09:35 pm

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...
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2011-02-02 08:27 am

"150 Years Ago Today" from the Arkansas History Commission

I had forgotten about this, even though last year, the Arkansas History Commission announced it would provide scans of documents in its collection related to the Civil War.

You can access the daily scans by clicking here.
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2011-01-30 09:15 am

Military Monday: James Alexander Meek

Because of my southern roots, nearly all of my male ancestors in the 19th century fought for the Confederate States of America in the Civil War.

James Alexander Meek was one of them. He dutifully signed up in his daddy's unit, the 42 Mississippi Infantry, Co. I, on 28 Apr 1862 in his hometown of Sardis, Panola County, MS. His father, Jefferson J Meek, was the Captain of the 42 Miss. Infantry until his resignation on 5 Aug 1863.

According to the letter of resignation, Jefferson J Meek considered the Civil War "our holy cause."


Nonetheless, he resigned.

I think it may have been because he realized just how much that "holy cause" was costing him...

Capt. Meek thought James was dead.


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.

James may have wished he was dead.

James was sent to the POW camp at Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island. Most Confederate soldiers captured during the Battle of Gettysburg were imprisoned there. By August 1863, there were 11,000 prisoners there. By the end of the war, that number had swelled to 33,000. About 2,400 prisoners died at Fort Delaware.


Photo from Library of Congress

Family lore has always contained rumors that James was required to catch and eat rats to survive during his imprisonment. I wondered about that until I read excerpts of Capt. John S Swann's imprisonment at Fort Delaware. (See excerpts of the document, here.)

...On the raised plank walkway seperating (sic) the two prisons the sargeant (sic) or some other would often appear and call out, "Money or boxes." He would then, when the prisoners came around, give out the names listed and either give them a memorandum of what he had for them, or take them through the gateway etc. These calls were termed "Money calls or box calls" as the case might be. In the banks of the ditches and under the plank walkway were rat holes and numbers of rats. The sargeant (sic) or some one would come around often with a squad of men with force pumps and hose and rat tarriers, sticks etc. The hose would be put in the rat holes, the force pump applied and the rats would run out and be killed. Numbers were sometimes caught in this way. When money or boxes were to be delivered you could hear all over the prison yard "Money call or box call" (I will say comparatively few ever heard this call for themselves.) Not long after my arrival I heard a cry "Rat call! Rat call!" I went out to see what this meant. A number of prisoners were moving and some running up near the partition, over which a sargeant (sic) was standing and presently he began throwing rats down. The prisoners scrambled for the rats like school boys for apples, none but some of the most needy prisoners, and the needy were the large majority, would scramble for these rats. Of course but few were lucky enough to get a rat. The rats were cleaned, put in salt water a while and fried. Their flesh was tender and not unpleasant to the taste.

When you are hungry, you think about food all the time, as illustrated by Capt. Swann's memory:

...On the next morning I found myself very hungry. I was up early and walked around the prison grounds observing and hearing what I could. Presently a bell or something I forget what, gave the breakfast signal. We formed in line and marched to the mess hall, in which were several long rows of plank tables with pieces of bread and meat arranged along the sides at intervales (sic) of some two feet. When we were in place each prisoner took one ration. The bread was made of rye and wheat flour, well cooked, but the piece very small, about half enough for a well man. The meat a small chunk of beef. Occasionally all sinew or mostly bone. It was cut up very carelessly and very small, not half a ration. Some days the bread was substituted with crackers, and these were hard days on us. We were permitted to take these rations to our bunks. I ate mine but remained very hungry. When dinner came the same thing was repeated, except there was occasionally a tin cup of what was called corn soup very tasteless and insipid, with little or no grease.

By next day I was ravenously hungry and so continued as did all who had no money or tobacco, untill (sic) I got the means to buy from the sutler. No one can immagine (sic) the effect of continuous hunger who has not experienced it, judging of others by its effects on me, and when it continues with no hopes of relief its effects are very demoralizing and the man is ready for almost anything. He thinks about eating all day and all sorts of devices to get food come into his mind. All night his dreams are most singular and sometimes fascinating about food and feasting. Every thing he has ever eaten, dinner parties, suppers, girls bearing flowers and fruit, his boyhood scenes at hog killings such as frying liver etc. and whatever food he has ever seen or eaten comes vividly before his disturbed senses, and he sometimes awakens dazed and half conscious that it was but a dream.

At the war's end, many Confederate POWs at Fort Delaware refused to believe the CSA had lost the war and that all who were willing to sign an Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America would be restored to full citizenship. From Swann's text:

...Some did not believe we were conquered. They believed, or rather persuaded themselves to believe, that the bulk of the army had gone off in squads and was not captured, and would re-form somewhere. That Johnston would soon be in the field with an army. That our soldiers would come to it in thousands, and began to take courage. But most of us gave up the Cause as lost. I did not at any time talk to any one that came into the prison grounds. But some did. Each Division had a chief who occasionally went outside, as we termed it, for one or another purpose. They noted a very different bearing towards them. A different everything all around them: recognition of citizenship, as it were. This they reported to us. The sentinels were now familiar. Seemed as if they thought the war was over; talked to us a little, and kindly. Their very looks were kindly. We saw manifestations of kindness everywhere. Feelings of forgiveness were rapidly growing. The sutler was ready to take orders for anything we wanted and send for them, clothing, shoes etc. It was rumored that all willing to take the oath of allegiance would be released, provided with necessary things, and sent home, by the Government. That such was the purpose of Mr. Lincoln, and General Grant we did not doubt. We thought this was dictated by a generous kindness and designed to save us from humiliation and mortification, by making us citizens at once if we wished to become so; and that the Federal Government thought the war was over. We did not think such an offer would be made unless Grant and Lincoln thought the war over. It would have been an insult, and we knew these men were wholly incapable of insulting us in prison. These things had a powerful effect on us. We felt that the generosity of Grant and Lincoln had silenced Stanton, Johnson, Stevenson and such, and this was true, beyond doubt. There are some things better learned from general appearances than from words. Words may deceive, but there is something eloquent, and unmistakable in the language of the countenance. Perhaps the language of the angels; and this was all around us.

James Alexander Meek signed the Oath of Allegiance, and was released from Fort Delaware on 11 Jun 1865 as documented in his Civil War service record (accessed at Footnote on 17 Jan 2011).


He returned home to Mississippi, and to his wife and son. He and Mary divorced in 1871, following the birth of two daughters, and death of one.

James died on 28 Nov 19181917*, and was buried beside his second wife, Mary Ann Linder, in Oxford Memorial Cemetery in Oxford, Lafayette Co., MS.

ETA: On 31 Oct 2012, I received a copy of James' death certificate in the mail from the State of Mississippi. It lists his date of death as 28 Nov 1917, date of burial as 29 Nov 1917, and says that he died of "debility from old age," secondary to a cold.