Wednesday, July 31, 2013

George Morgan, Another Kentucky Black Barber

While I have not been surprised to find a number of African American barbers in antebellum and Civil War era Kentucky, I have been amazed by the advertising efforts made by some of these men to promote their businesses. At this time period it was a nominal freedom they experienced, but being a free man of color rather than a slave offered some blacks the opportunity to get on the socioeconomic ladder - albeit relegated to the bottom rungs. Still, placing advertisements in effort to boost one's business, and thus income, is quite an achievement for an African American man in a slave state.

I found the above notice in the Paris, Kentucky, Western Citizen newspaper in 1864. Curious to learn more, and with the help of my mother's research skills, Morgan's census records were found for both 1860 (shown below), and even 1850.

In 1860, Morgan was listed (on line 19) as a 35 year old single household black man, born in Kentucky, with personal property worth $300.00, and the noted occupation of barber. Many of the Kentucky barbers I have located have been labeled as mulatto, but Morgan is listed as "black."

The decade before, Morgan appeared to have been even more financially well off. In the 1850 census he is listed as a single, 29 year old single household black man, with real estate worth $600.00. One has to wonder how Morgan lost his valuable real estate between 1850 and 1860, and what his $300.00 personal property in 1860 included.

I would like to continue researching Kentucky's African American barbers of the antebellum and Civil War periods. Surely there are many more interesting things to find out about these men and their worlds.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quincy Gilmore's General Order Number 9

GEORGETOWN, KY., October 22d, 1862

GENERAL ORDERS, NO.9.  The practice indulged in by some of the officers and men of this Division, of enticing colored people within the lines, is becoming an evil of such magnitude as to demand the immediate and rigorous application of a remedy.

It is demoralizing to an army to be encumbered with non-combatant hangers-on of any kind or class, and they will not be allowed in this Division, except under such restrictions as will place them within direct and entire control from these Head Quarters.

It is especially made the duty of guards and pickets, and of brigade and regimental commanders to refuse admission within the lines to that class of people known as "contrabands."

All those now within the lines or that may hereafter in any way gain access thereto, will at once be taken in charge by the division Quartermaster and reported to these Head Quarters, for such action thereon as may be deemed expedient. By order of BRIGADIER GENERAL Q. A. GILMORE

Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Running at Large in the City

The sheer volume of captured fugitive slaves incarcerated and thus advertised as being in the Louisville jail has amazed me. In my database of 576 captured runaways advertised in Kentucky's newspapers from 1861-1865, 175 of them were lodged in the Louisville jail. These large numbers are corroborated by a report made by the Louisville chief of police on January 7, 1863, to the mayor of Louisville, Major Harney. This was at the time when the greatest number of slaves were apparently housed there.

The chief's report is interesting in a couple of aspects. He mentions first that owners of captured fugitives are "written to, immediately." I found this intriguing in that many of the slaves that were caught and jailed were from states that had seceded; largely Tennessee and Alabama. I wonder how successful those citizens of a different country were in ultimately reclaiming their property. The other thing I found curious is his mention that "the Civil law" made no provisions for runaways. The Kentucky state laws certainly spelled out how to handle such cases, so I am not sure what he meant by that statement, other than possibly he was speaking of the lack of a city specific ordinance on runaways. Anyway, that report is as follows:

D[ear]r Sir
I ought sooner, perhaps to have explained to you the method and manner treating runaway negroes which are found running at large in the City. The Jail has been full for several months and the County Court has made no further provision for them. My orders tot he Police have been, to commit them according to law as far as possable by taking them before a Magistrate, and take the Mittimus and negro to the Jailor, and if refused admittance by him, to do the best they can by placing them in a place of security until their owners can be heard from. In every instance the owner is written to, immediately. This course has very generally been persued and many have been returned to their owners by this plan. The evil of permitting them to prowl about the City can hardly be tolerated, the Civil law making no provisions for such cases, and there being quite a number turned loose recently that had been secured in the manner above stated I thought it advisable to get your opinion as to the disposition to be made of them hereafter, if any  Hoping to hear from you on the subject I am Very Respectfully You Obt. Svt.
Chas L. Stancliff

Image of the interior of an Alexandria, Virginia, slave jail courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Margaret Moore and the Troubles She Saw

Of the hundreds of Kentucky advertisements for jailed runaway slaves that I have read a few stand out. One of these was found in the March 16, 1863, edition of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth. It listed a mother and her four daughters. It read as follows:

THE FOLLOWING NEGROES HAVE BEEN committed to the Bullitt county jail, one negro woman calling herself Margaret Moore, is about 33 or 34 years old, black color, weighs about 125 pounds, and says she belongs to Sam Moore, of Huntsville, Alabama.
Also, one female runaway slave (the daughter of said Margaret,) mulatto color, twelve years old, and calls herself ANNA.
Also, a runaway slave child who calls her name NORAH, brown color, about 8 years old (child of said Margaret.)
Also, a runaway slave girl who calls her name RIDLEY, brown color, about six years old (child of said Margaret.)
Also, a runaway slave girl who calls her name CAROLINE, black color, about two years old (child of said Margaret,) all belonging to the same person.
B. F. TROUTMAN, J. B. C. [Jailer Bullitt County]

Usually, the only additional information one can find out about these jailed runaways is the later advertisement of their sale. Well, I was a little more than surprised when I came across some supplemental information on Margaret and the girls when reading Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867; Series I, Vol. I - The Destruction of Slavery. I had remembered their names due to being surprised how a woman and her four little girls could travel from Huntsville, Alabama, across Tennessee and most of Kentucky, to land in jail in Bullitt County in north central Kentucky. Likely they followed Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell's army as it made its way north in the attempt to stop Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky in the fall of 1862.

Of course, it would have been difficult for Sam Moore of Alabama, (now in a different country - the Confederate States of America) to come of Kentucky and claim his human property. According to the then recently changed Kentucky law the county only had to hold slaves for a month before they were offered for sale. In the book mention above is a transcribed document from the sheriff of Bullitt County, W. Phleps, describing the sale of Margaret and the girls.

"After advertising as directed in the within orders I sold the within named slaves at the Courthouse door in Shepherdsville, County Court day, as follows, James Funk being the highest and best bidder bought Margaret and child [I assume Caroline, 2 years old] for $535 - paid cash; - James Shepherd bought Norah for $380 - gave bond with Orleans Lee security, R. W. Deats bought Ridley for $326 - gave bond with John Mooney security, S. A. McKay bought Anna for $405 - & gave bond with James Y. Pope security."

It is difficult to image the troubles that Margaret Moore experienced negotiating her family's route to freedom. The stress and strain of fleeing slavery must have had telling effects on her physical and mental health. Then, only to be captured and incarcerated, she still had her children, but the institution of slavery coldly separated this family of five individuals to four different owners. One wonders if they were able to see each other once in a while as they remained in slavery with new owners and if they were able to reunite as a unit when slavery was finally abolished in Kentucky almost three years later.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gen. Gordon Granger on Kentucky Masters and Fugitive Slaves

On November 18, 1862, Union Gen. Gordon Granger (shown right) wrote from Lexington, Kentucky, to commander of the Department of Ohio, Gen. Horatio Wright, on the issue of Union troops accepting runaway slaves into their Kentucky camps. His sense of urgency is of special interest:

General; I am daily annoyed and harassed by the many complaints made to me by Union men of this part of Kentucky, of the abduction of their negroes, by officers and men in this army. There is no doubt but that it has been carried on to a very great extent. We have officers in some of the regiments now stationed near this city, who have so far forgotten their duties as soldiers, as to confine their exertions almost entirely to seducing negroes from their homes into their camps; nor are they particular as to whom these negroes belong; the friends of the Government suffer such losses as much, if not more, than others. It was but this morning that complaints were made by men of the 10th Ky. Cavalry, to the effect that while they were fighting to protect their property, under the constitution and laws of the country, some of the men in other regiments of their own Army, were taking and secreting such property from them. Many of the camps are being crowded with worthless negroes, interfering with the proper exercise of military duty, and, in fact, greatly demoralizing the men. Already a Colonel of one of our Regiments has been indicted under the laws of Kentucky, for abduction of negroes. In some cases where loyal citizens, who have proper permission to do so, have endeavored to look for their negroes, they have been disgracefully treated by officers and men, who had secreted their negroes, and directly refused to put them out of the camps. Such action of officers our army, not only tends to greatly demoralize it, but gives the greatest discouragement to our friends and supporters, many of whom had most of their negroes stolen by the armies of [Confederates] Kirby Smith and [Braxton] Bragg - I am very desirous that you will lay down some policy by which I may be guided in this matter. Something ought to be done immediately. Very respctly yours,
G Granger 

From - Freedom: A Documentarty History of Emancipation, 1861-1867; Series I, Volume I, The Destruction of Slavery; ed. by Ira Berlin, Barbara J. Fields, Thavolia Glymph, Joseph P. Reidy and Leslie S. Rowland.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Zooming in on a Freedmen's Camp in Richmond, Virginia

The above photograph is located in the collections of the National Archives. It is titled "Contraband Camp, Richmond, Va, 1865." That particular title is a little misleading to me. Contrabands were enslaved people that fled to Union lines during the war, whereas this image appears to have been taken after the fall of Richmond and the end of the war. Thus, the individuals shown here, were at this point, freedmen.

In the left background is what appears to be the state capitol of Virginia. Just to the left (south) and out of the photograph's range is the destroyed section of the city that caught fire when the Confederates fled the city on April 2nd and 3rd and burned ammunition and supplies in attempt to keep it from aiding the Union army. 

At the left center of the photograph is a large wall tent and a number of freedmen gathered around looking at the photographer. It is difficult to tell if they are wearing pieces of Union army uniforms, as most appear to be in their shirtsleeves or undershirts. Also, most of the men seem to be bear-headed or are wearing slouch hats. Interestingly no women appear to be in the scene. Freedwomen often did cooking and laundry in these immediate post-war camps, so it seems strange that none are shown here.

In the near foreground are three white men sitting on a pile of lumber. Are they Union soldiers? Part of the Freedmen's Bureau? It is difficult to tell for sure. The one on the left is wearing a Union military cap, while the other two are in slouch hats. All of the men look to be wearing military coats or jackets. Occupation troops were in Richmond long after the city fell, and the Freedmen's Bureau offered schools, health services, and legal advice in negotiating work contracts, too.

Just to the right of the three white men in the foreground are three freedmen staring at the photographer. A young man is shown closest while two older men stand by a row of Sibley tents, likely provided by the Union army for temporary shelter. The man on the right appears to be wearing a vest.

Very few photographs of freedmen camps exist, so images like this one are important to better understanding the transition from slavery to freedom for millions.

You can zoom in on your own by examining this photograph here.

Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Contrabands in Military Uniforms

In researching runaway and captured runaway advertisements in Kentucky I have found a significant number of notices that mention the enslaved being seen wearing or were captured wearing military clothing. For example one ad read:

"Committed to the Jail of Franklin county, Ky., on the 26th day of January, 1863, as a runaway, a negro boy calling himself JOE. He is about 21 years old, yellow complexion, weight 150 pounds, about 5 feet 9 inches high, dressed in soldier clothes."

Photographic evidence, such as that to the left from the Eastern Theater, also corroborates the fact that contrabands either collected discarded uniform pieces or were provided clothing by the Union army - probably some of both. Many of these images show camp servants for Union officers with not only military blouses and trousers, but also caps and shoes, and often the clothing appears to be in excellent condition.

The revealing before and after photographs of Hubbard Pryor show that many slaves entered Union lines in ragged and pieced clothing and surely sought to discard their slave trappings for that of more distinguished military raiment. The Union army being so well supplied likely had no problem supplying contrabands that aided the army by doing chores or military labor with uniforms, and resourceful former slaves stayed on the lookout for new clothing to protect them from the elements that they braved as they made their claim for freedom.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Camp Nelson Soldier Tells of Sacrifice

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks, but I have been occupied with work duties. One of those duties involved working with 40 teachers who came from across the United States as part of a workshop funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and focused on Kentucky and the border states in the Civil War.  One of our site visits was to Camp Nelson, and it reminded me of the importance of that story and how little it is known, even by those in Kentucky. We need to continue to remember the high price African Americans paid to achieve their freedom and citizenship.

One story I was reminded of during this visit was by a soldier named John Burnside, who was in Company K of the 124th USCI.  This soldier's family was expelled from the camp's grounds in November 1864 with scores more and suffered without shelter and provisions. The following is an affidavit that Private Burnside provided:

Camp Nelson, Ky. Dec. [15,] 1864.
Personally appeared before me. E. B. W. Restieaux Capt and A[ssistant]. Q[uarter]. M[aster]. John Burside - a man of color who being sworn upon oath says - I am a soldier in Company K. 124 Regt. U.S.C.T. I am a married man. My wife and children belonged to William Royster of Garrard County, Ky. Royster had a son John who was with [Confederate General John Hunt] Morgan during his raid into Kentucky in June 1863. He got separated from Morgan's command and went home. The Provost Marshal instituted a search for him at two different times  He was not found. My family were charged with giving information which led to the measures of the Provost Marshal. William Royster told me that my wife had been trying to ruin him for the last two years and if he found that this - meaning the information went out through the black family - meaning my family - he would scatter them to the four winds of heaven. This was said about the last of September 1864. In consequence of this threat my family were in constant dread, and desired to find protection and employment from the Government. At that time I had been employed at Camp Nelson and was not enlisted. A few days afterward I was sick at my mothers. I sent my sister to see Col. Sedgwick and inquire if my family might come to Camp, and if they might, would they be protected: She returned the same night and informed me that Col. Sedgwick, will protect them. Before, I was unwilling that they should come but on receiving the promised protection of Col. Sedgwick. I told them to come. While my wife and family were in Camp they never received any money of provision from the government by earned their living with hard work

On Friday afternoon Nov. 28 [25] 1864, the Provost guard ordered my wife and family out of Camp. The guard had a wagon into which my wife and family were forced to go and were then driven out the lines

They were driven to a wood belonging to Mr. Simpson about seven miles from Camp and there thrown out without any protection of any home. While they were in the wood it rained hard and my family were exposed to the storm. My eldest daughter had been sick for some time and was then slowly recovering. and further this deponent saith not.
John Burnside

I do not know why Burnside's affidavit was not completed. Was he too distraught to continue his tale of misery? I suppose we will never know, but he explained enough in his short statement to let us know of the terrible sacrifices that African Americans - soldiers and their families - made to claim part of America's promise.

Burnside excerpt from: Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War, edited by Ira Berlin, Barbara J. Fields, Steven F. Miller, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Last Slave Sold in Kentucky?

The last slave sale advertisement in Kentucky that I have thus far been able to locate was published in the December 1, 1865, edition of the Paris Western Citizen.  It is brief and reads:

WILL be sold on next County Court day, (December 4th) to the lowest bidder, an Idiot boy, John, on the public square in Paris.

Levi Sudduth
Executor of Rachel Grimes

Was the seller simply attempting to get just something for this enslaved man or boy? It seems that way since he states that the individual would be sold to the "lowest bidder." Surely, with all the news about the 13th Amendment nearing ratification - and the stir it caused in Kentucky - Sudduth knew there was not a future for the institution. Or, was Sudduth making a subtle gesture of protest? I suppose we will never know, but regardless the motivation for its publication, it shows the hard death slavery died in the Bluegrass state.

Was this the last slave sale in Kentucky? Did the sale actually happen? Did anyone buy John? If someone did buy this individual their ownership proved to be legally brief. On December 6, 1865, two days after this sale was scheduled to be held, Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment, and officially ended slavery in the recently reunited United States of America.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dandy Jim, From Caroline

"Dandy Jim, From Caroline" is a minstrel song that became popular across America in the 1840s. It tells the tale of a supposedly vain African American man. Being the popular culture of the day, which often combined music, drama, and comedy, minstrels, and the racial stereotypes they reinforced, such as Dandy Jim, did much toward maintaining race prejudice toward African Americans. Misconceptions and miseducation about people of color were furthered by these negative depictions that were not only presented on stage, but also - as shown above - appeared on sheet music, and were sung aloud in saloons, at community get-togethers, and in family parlors.

According to the standards of the day, it was ludicrous and hilarious to see a person of perceived lower social standing donning fashionable attire and "putting on airs." For most of racist 19th century America a well dressed African American was an odd thing, and naturally someone of that ilk would be seen as acting out of place. Not being provided with opportunities to disprove these persistent stereotypes only made the journey to freedom and equality all that more difficult. Stereotyped personality characteristics that often were applied via minstrel songs branded African Americans during the antebellum years and on into the 20th century. It took determination, persistence, and tons of sacrifice to hurdle the many obstacles that songs like the following unfairly branded to people of color.  

I've often heard it said of late
Dat Souf Carolina was de state,
Whar handsome Niggars bound to shine,
Like "Dandy Jim from Caroline."

Chorus: For my ole massa tole me so,
I was de best lookin Nigger in de County O,
I look in de glass an I found it so,
Jus what massa told me O.

I drest myself from top to toe,
And down to Dinah I did go,
Wid pantaloons strapp'd down behine,
Like "Dandy Jim from Caroline."


De bull dog clar'd me out ob de yard,
I tought I'd better leabe my card,
I tied it fast to a piece ob twine,
Signed "Dandy Jim from Caroline."
For my ole massa &c.

She got my card an wrote me a letta,
An ebery word she spelt de betta,
For ebery word an ebery line,
Was "Dandy Jim from Caroline."


Oh, beauty it is but skin deep,
But wid Miss Dinah none compete;
She chang'd her name from lubly Dine,
To Mrs. Dandy Jim from Caroline."


An ebery little one we had,
Was de berry image ob he dad,
Dar heels stick out tree feet behine,
Like "Dandy Jim from Caroline."


I took dem all to church one day,
An hab dem christened widout delay,
De Preacher christened eight or nine,
Young Dandy Jim from Caroline.


An when de Preacher took he tea,
He seem'd to be berry much perplex,
For noting cum across he mine,
But "Dandy Jim from Caroline."


Monday, July 8, 2013

Carried Off . . . by the Rebels

Information wanted ads posted by those recently freed from slavery and attempting to reunite their families were not unusual to find after the Civil War. The institution of slavery dispersed individual parts of family units so effectively that casting as wide of net as possible was often the best means thought possible to locate a lost loved one. Usually those seeking displaced family members with notices mentioned that their relatives had been sold or had run away. But, as this advertisement shows, family members were sometimes also literally kidnapped by soldiers of the contending armies.

Soldiers of Confederate raiders such as John Hunt Morgan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and scores of individual guerrillas snatched up both free and enslaved African Americans to work for the soldiers as cooks, teamsters, and body servants, or to labor in Southern hospitals, fields, and factories. Union troops, too, sometimes impressed slaves and freedmen into labor duties, or when allowed to enlisted, forced them into the army. Without much exerciseable power these people were often at the mercy of their captors - blue or gray. However, just like the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters of Union and Confederate soldiers who worried about the safety and whereabouts of their men at arms, slave family members,too, - as this advertisement proves - longed to learn the fate and location of their kin.

From the Louisville Weekly Journal, August 15, 1865.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Yeaman's Good Fight but Losing Battle

Back last November I posted about Kentucky Congressman George Yeaman, who was featured in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln movie. In that post I mentioned that Yeaman was a lame-duck representative, however, at that time, I did not realize that he ran again in the summer 1865. The article to the left from the August 22, 1865, issue of the Louisville Weekly Journal mentioned that he was defeated in that election largely due to his support of the 13th Amendment and his district's citizens' opposition to it and any other thing the federal government supported.

The Journal was a Unionist paper, edited by George Prentice, who was wise enough to see slavery's death on the horizon and supported the 13th Amendment. Therefore the article is slanted in that direction. It is interesting that the article mentions that it was believed that there was more animosity and rebellious feeling in Yeaman's district toward the Government and the amendment than in secession-leading South Carolina or Virginia, the state that held the former capital of the Confederacy. The story claims that "Many of them are fools enough to think that slavery can be restored, and all of them would like to see the Government in more trouble."

It is difficult to truly tell, due to the partisanship of the newspaper reporting, but the story claims that Yeaman was proud of his "advocacy of the amendment." Although it cost him his political future, he sowed the seeds of the official end of slavery, and "he would most cheerfully do the same thing again, even if the labor and sacrifice were much greater."

The last sentence is somewhat unclear to me. The "party that in the near future will sweep everything before it," surely was not the Republican Party. I can not see the old Whig, turned Know-Nothing, turned conservative Unionist Prentice unreservedly supporting its policies. Likely, he was referring to a conservative yet progressive opposition party.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Report on Kentucky USCTs in Virginia

From Louisville Weekly Journal, January 31, 1865.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dying for Freedom

The online information available on the above document only states that it was created by the Department of Tennessee, Post of Chattanooga. The brief and straightforward memo reads:

Freedman's Hospital
Dec 30th 1864

I have the honor to request interment of the bodies of Scipio Brown, Loyd Sands, Harriett Williams, Arthur Jackson and Angelina Hall, Contrabands, who died at this Hospital.
Length six (6) feet
Very Respectfully
Your obt servt
A. R. Abbott
A. A. Surg U.S.A.
in Charge

Capt. Jas. W. Moore
A. Q. M. U. S. A.

Courtesy of the National Archives

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Kentuckian's World in Upheaval

In the late winter and early spring of 1864, as white enlistment quotas failed in Kentucky and thus the agreement between President Lincoln and the state's governor Thomas E. Bramlette broke down, African American enlistments geared up. That particular development was a shock to many white Kentuckians.

One distraught citizen was George Richard Browder of Logan County. Browder was a slaveholding farmer, circuit-riding Methodist minister, and Southern sympathizer. He kept a journal off and on from 1852 to 1886, and as one might suspect the Civil War years came in for especially close coverage.

On February 18, 1864, Browder wrote that: "Our troubles are increasing in Ky. Congress is determined to enlist negroes among us, not satisfied with inducing them to run away & enlist. Mr. Lincoln calls for a draft of 500,000 more men by 15th of March & we fear the result. Negro soldiers are riding through the country just below us [in Tennessee] seizing other negroes & causing alarm."

On March 9, he continued and hinted at a shift in sentiment among the state's Unionists due to this particular issue: "There is much excitement now in the country about the military interference with negroes. They are being enrolled in our state and the people are not satisfied. Union men are secretly hoping for Southern success."

On March 14, Browder mentioned the upheaval that he likely correlated with black enlistments: "Sensation! Last night Caleb Bells only negro woman & her husband stole her masters mules & uncle Bells wagon & ran away to the Yankees. One of Bro. Petrees & two of Reeves & others. Union men lose more in proportion than rebels of Southern rights men."

It is interesting that Browder makes a distinction between "rebels" and "Southern rights men." He probably considered rebels as either those actually in Confederate military service or their families, and Southern rights men as those that were simply Southern sympathizers such as himself.

On March 15, he wrote that "The negro enrolling has begun here & there is much indignation & excitement." And, on April 20, he mentioned that an enslaved woman belonging to his father named Delilah ran off but was captured in Tennessee and brought back to him. He wrote that "The papers are full of reports of Forrests capturing & killing negro troops," surely referring to the Fort Pillow massacre that occurred about a week before. Browder that day also indicated "There is a decided lull in negro enlistments. They seem more contented. Large numbers are dying at Clarksville [Tennessee].

If the shock of race relations turned upside down was not enough, Browder, on April 23, also reported that guerrilla activity was on the rise. "This robbing is alarmingly on the increase. Bands of soldiers, organized for the protection of the country, steal away from their commands disguised as rebel guerrillas and rob whatever they can. Last night a band of them stole several hundred dollars at Keysburg. When one of them was killed & another caught by citizens, they proved to be federal soldiers from Springfield. The papers are full of accounts of pillage & plunder in many parts of Ky."

Browder was just one of many Kentuckians who recorded personal travails the Civil War caused. All that they had held dear, important, and that made sense proved fleeting in the crucible of the conflict.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My July 1, 1863, Gettysburg Connection

150 years ago today one of my ancestors died on the battlefield of Gettysburg. That, of course, is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of Americans can probably make the same claim. After all, that terrible battle's three days inflicted over 50,000 casualties on Union and Confederate soldiers, so there were numerous descendants affected. Some soldiers suffered the rest of their lives from wounds received on those Pennsylvania fields, some languished in disease-ridden prisoner of war camps, and others, like my ancestor, were killed outright.

Hardy Estep was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1834. I know very little about his life. He was married to Louisa, but even his service records only provide four cards - none with much more than bare-bones information. I wonder, what did he look like? What kind of personality did he have? Was he serious or funny?  Was he an introvert or extrovert? Did he like to whittle, sing, or play an instrument? What did he think about the war that led to the end of his life? He was only 29 years old.

Hardy and his brother Doctor joined the ranks of Company B, 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment on September 21, 1862, as conscripts. They did not volunteer, yet they served. Why didn't they head into the mountains of their native western North Carolina and hideout rather than don the gray and shoulder a rifle and march in the Army of Northern Virginia?

Hardy and Doctor's sister, Rhoda, was married to my great-great-great-grandfather William Tedder (my mother's side), who served in the 55th North Carolina and was himself killed in 1864. William's brother, Joel was also in the 26th North Carolina, but in Company B. Joel, however, was a volunteer of 1861. But he was apparently wearied by the war or felt obligations at home because he deserted. He later rejoined the unit, served time for his departure at hard labor, and then returned in time to be captured at Bristow Station, Virginia, in October 1863. Joel served out the rest of the war with stints at Old Capitol prison in Washington D.C. and Fort Delaware, before returning to Brushy Mountain.

On that Brushy Mountain, in Wilkes County, North Carolina, around the graves of other Esteps, Tedders, Duncans, and Robersons is a marker for Hardy. He is not in the ground beneath his stone. He is either in Pennsylvania, or more likely, in an unmarked or unknown grave in Richmond, Virginia's Hollywood Cemetery, where thousands of Confederate Gettysburg dead were moved by the Ladies Memorial Association after the Civil War.

Did Hardy come to accept and relish his role as a Confederate soldier before he was killed? Or, did he regret not heading for those mountain hideouts that some other North Carolinians so readily fled to?

Does the fate of Hardy's brother Doctor provide some hints? Maybe, maybe not. Doctor was captured at Falling Waters, Maryland, on July 14, 1863, on Lee's retreat back to Virginia. He was held at Point Lookout prison in Maryland, until he took the oath of allegiance and joined the U.S. army as a "galvanized Yankee," on February 11, 1864. Interestingly, Doctor is buried in the same cemetery where Hardy's marker stands, and has a Confederate stone, too, although ironically, he seems to have served as a United States soldier last.  Doctor died in 1872. He was only 32 years old.