A complicated picture of Unionists and their children

A few months back, I ran across this marker about the Heater family (at the Cedar Creek Battlefield/Middletown in the Shenandoah Valley) in the Historical Markers Database…

The marker mentions the fact that Caroline Heater was a Unionist… and a little more…

Although two of her sons died in Confederate service, Mrs. Heater, a native of Pennsylvania, was a Unionist and frequently provided shelter and supplies to the federals. Her loyalty was ultimately repaid by a 1901 federal grant for some wartime damages.

When I first read this, I thought it sounded rather like her sons may have been reluctant Confederates, but certain details in the service records suggest something else. It’s really not so surprising as I’ve seen it on more than one occasion where Unionist parents were at odds with the decisions of their sons who happened to cast their lots with the Confederacy… something worthy of deeper examination, no doubt, in a future post.

Nevertheless, by the time that the war rolled around, Caroline Heater was a widow. As the sign mentions, she had two sons. John was a resident of Middletown (though I’m not sure that he resided at the house with his mother) at the opening of the war, and he enlisted in Co. E, 7th Virginia Cavalry at Front Royal. He was listed as 5th sergeant by November 1861. Wounded at Patterson’s Creek, Virginia (West Virginia), he died of his wounds on 1/5/64 and was buried in the Stonewall Cemetery, Winchester.

The other son, Henry W. Heater, was a resident of Front Royal at the opening of the war and also enlisted in Co. E, 7th Virginia Cavalry, though he enlisted at Romney. He is listed as a 3rd corporal in November 1862, and a 2nd corporal by February 1864. Wounded at Funkstown, Md. on 7/7/63, he was detached on hospital duty in Staunton for several months in 1864. However, he was captured at Point of Rocks, Va. (Loudoun County) on 8/13/64, was paroled at Staunton, and was later “caught with arms and prowling about the country as a guerilla;” quite a difference between his sentiments and those of his mother. He was confined in Old Capitol Prison, 8/13/64. Following transfer to Ft. Delaware later that month, he died on March 18, 1865 of small pox and was buried at Finn’s Point Cemetery, New Jersey (though there is a headstone for him at the Stonewall Cemetery in Winchester.

I just wonder how many people look at the sign and assume that the sons, like their mother were Unionists, when they were far from it.

Click here to read more information about the marker.


One Response to “A complicated picture of Unionists and their children”

  1. Lincoln meant it when he talked about the house divided. Also in war, the political becomes personal.

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