Archive for the Confederate conscription Category

Hensley-Lamb (Rockingham & Page County) refugees, documented in Gettysburg newspaper

Posted in Confederate conscription, Southern Unionist refugees, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2013 by Robert Moore

Not long ago, I received the following from Civil War blogging friend, John Rudy, and am just now getting around to posting it. It’s an article documenting the fleeing of the Hensley and Lamb families from the Shenandoah Valley.




It’s unclear which “Mr. Mickley” “hospitably entertained” the wives and children, as there were a dozen households headed by Mickley families in Franklin Township in Adams County (according to the 1860 census).

Matthew and Annie Lamb, courtesy of friend Craig Lam.

Matthew and Annie Lamb, courtesy of friend Craig Lam.

I visited Fold3 and found the Oath of Allegiance papers for both Matthew Lamb and Wesley Hensley, who appear to have fled Virginia in March, 1864.

Matthew Lamb's Oath of Allegiance, taken in March, 1864

Matthew Lamb’s Oath of Allegiance, taken in March, 1864

Wesley Hensley's Oath of Allegiance

Wesley Hensley’s Oath of Allegiance, taken the same day as Matthew Lamb’s

The oaths were administered near Fredericksburg, Virginia, by Union Capt. W.W. Beckwith. Formerly of the 80th New York Infantry (and before that, Co. H, 35th New York Infantry), Beckwith was serving, at the time, as aide-de-camp to Gen. Marsena R. Patrick, commanding the Provost Marshal of the Army of the Potomac…

Beckwith is third from the right.

Beckwith is third from the right. Gen. Patrick is next to Beckwith, in the center of the photograph.

“Leave-aloners” and Southern Unionism

Posted in Confederate conscription, disaffected Confederates, disillusioned Confederates, dissafected Confederate and Southern Unionist, Thoughts on classifications of Southern Unionists with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2010 by Robert Moore

It’s not some new revelation of mine, and I’ve often thought that some folks have misunderstood me when I talk about Southern Unionism, but reluctance amongst Southerners was not always an indicator of Unionism. Granted, there were indeed Southern Unionists, and there were different levels of Southern Unionists, some even being unconditional Unionists. Then, there were also those who embraced the Confederacy. Somewhere in-between these Unionists and Confederates were a people who have been overlooked, perhaps even more so than Southern Unionists. I call these people, the “leave-aloners.”

Who were the “leave-aloners”? They were people who, in some cases like Jimmy Stewart in the movie Shenandoah, wanted no part in the war, whether that be in blue or gray. They were concerned with that which was theirs. The problem with this was that the war, or more accurately, some of the people who went one way or the other (blue or gray), wouldn’t allow these “leave-aloners” to remain… left alone.

Between peer pressure and the Confederate conscript hunters, it was hard for a reluctant Southern man to remain out of the Confederate army (… to say nothing of the pressure applied by some women… but, that’s another story). On the other hand, I’ve encountered situations in which Southerners got so fed-up with the pressures of the Confederate conscript hunters and/or depredations at the hands of the Confederate army (yes, the Confederate army wasn’t always nice to its own people) that they became refugees, went to the Union army, and sometimes opted to don the blue uniform. Sometimes it was a measure to avoid the hunters and/or to simply survive… and sometimes it was a means to get back at those who had made life so difficult on the homefront.

Likewise, the depredations at the hands of Union army were enough to push a “leave-aloner” over the edge and join the Confederate army. Some of these same people, however (as well as some who had enlisted earlier on), eventually couldn’t quite grasp the concept that by serving 100 (as in the case of Virginians fighting in Virginia… although I have seen desertions of Virginians when under 50 miles of home) or over 1,200 miles away (as in the case of Texans fighting in Virginia) how they were helping to defend hearth and home. In this case, the occasional AWOL and, in some cases, eventual desertion, must have seemed a better alternative to serving so far away from the family and farm. The problem with these desertions is that we don’t always understand if those who deserted did so because of this exact reason which I cite here, or whether they deserted because they became disaffected/disillusioned with the Confederacy…. or, wait for it… if they were Southern Unionists at the beginning of it all.

Yes, I’ve digressed from the focus of this post… “leave-aloners”, but this brief discussion of “leave-aloners” serves as a vessel to bring us to the reality that confronted the reluctant Southern age-eligible-for-service male. It also reminds us that we most certainly should avoid thinking that being Southern automatically meant “being for the Confederacy.”

A Virginia fugitive

Posted in brutality in conscription, Confederate conscription, Examples of acts against Southern Unionists, threats made against Southern Unionists, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , , , on January 6, 2010 by Robert Moore

From the Hagerstown Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, October 23, 1861:

The Wail of a Virginia Fugitive from the Tyranny of Secession
Clearspring, Md., October 5, 1861

Messrs. Editors Baltimore American

Dare I be so presumptuous as to address you in regard to a few things with which I have been conversant? Know, then, I am one of those whom Secession denominates “traitors,” merely because I, being a Virginian, refused to think as Virginia’s tyrant master (Jeff. Davis) thinks, and act as he dictates. For this cause, I have been pursued by his minions and well-nigh was captured. Not satisfied with neutral sentiments – I being a Virginian, I could not take up arms against her – they sought to compel me to shoulder a musket and march to Winchester, to be drilled by militia officers as ignorant in the tactics as myself. having refused to go I was threatened with death, in consequence of which a band of four determined to escape to a free land. Accordingly, on Wednesday last we started for the mountains, the Valley being filled with Rebels, and by noon reached the summit of North Mountain, where we rested to drink some of the best water this earth can produce. – Resting here, with the beautiful valley spread out beneath us, and sheltered by the luxuriant canopy of the mountain oak, we dreamed as the ancient Greek:

“Our land was free once more.”

Yet, alas! the illusion, though bright and glorious, was transient as the dew, and we awoke to the knowledge that we were aliens from our own dear homes. Away in the distance we could see those homes seemingly reposing in peace, but between us roamed bands of drunken soldiers, whose acts of atrocity excelled the damning deeds of the midnight robber. Such men are invariably chosen to impress men there, as they are callous to all appeals of mercy, and gloat with fiendish exultation over the miseries of the Union army. They prowl around our dwellings in the midnight hour and bind and drag off our citizens as criminals. They enter our houses and demand food with an insulting authority, and if refused, plunder you of all they want. – They seek to take liberties with females and shoot down the father who dares to protect his household. They have taken nearly all the horses from our county (Berkeley) for the purpose of hauling stolen goods from our county-seat [Martinsburg], and threaten all who do not uphold them in their acts. In short, they have ruined our farmers, robbed our merchants, impressed our mechanics, insulted our females, and now, with an unparalleled impudence, they demand our strength to be wasted upon Secession altars. But to my story.

After having refreshed ourselves, we started through those mountain fastnesses on a direct line to the river, where we arrived after twelve hours of fatigue and constant walking. We came to the river at Cherry Run, but could not get over as those living there are tainted with secession. Two miles farther on we were refused again by a Secessionist constable, John S. Miller by name, who is there in the capacity of a spy and reporter for the Secessionists. Two miles beyond that we prevailed upon a Union man to take us over, and were soon landed upon the soil of Maryland. Oh! what thrilling sensations we felt when standing once more upon free soil! Proud and glorious Maryland, if ever happiness was envied it is now by the groaning thousands in Virginia who, like Moses upon the mount, dare look upon the promised land, yet dare not possess it. How strong the pulse beats when the lungs are fed on free air, and how sparkling does the eye become when gazing upon free things! We, the brothers of the sons and daughters of Maryland, suffer now in sight of kindred, and yet seemingly, beyond their reach. – All the luxuries of life are taken from us, and we are ever deprived of the comforts of a common life. salt is a rarity and very high, as one sack was sold for twenty-five dollars and another offered for forty dollars. Sugar can sometimes be had at thirty cents per lb., and coffee at sixty cents. Our farmers refuse to thresh their grain, for fear of its being taken, they swearing they will sooner burn it. Those in the habit of cultivating over one hundred acres in wheat annually, will not now cultivate thirty acres. They will not fatten their hogs, as they can get no salt to cure the meat. – And yet how long is this to continue? Berkeley county has proven her loyalty to the Government by a voice of eight hundred of her citizens, and yet she must suffer thus. Daily and hourly are prayers offered from her soil for the success of the Federal army, yet no Havelock is found to free another Lucknow.

Soldiers of Maryland, our citizens are willing to join you, so soon as you give them proofs of protection! In God’s name, come quickly and well. Not as the timid Patterson, who showed us the tempting fruits of freedom but would not give them; but as the victorious McClellan in Western Virginia – and we will wreathe your brows with laurel. And never, no never, as you value peace, happiness and prosperity, follow poor Virginia to the hell of Secession to find comforts and rights, lest you weep and groan beneath miseries worse than ours.

Clearspring, Md. M. [signed with only this initial]

Shhhhhhhhhhhhh! Let’s not talk about this . . .

Posted in Alabama Unionists, Confederate conscription, descendants of Southern Unionists, Mississippi Unionists, Southern Union soldiers, Southern Unionists who became Union soldiers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by Robert Moore

The following post is actually a re-post (having originally appeared on August 27, 2007) from Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi: A Weblog by Terry Thornton. I’m thrilled to be able to post it here again, with Terry’s permission. It’s an absolutely wonderful piece of Civil War “memory” and it fits extremely well within the environment of this blog. Note that this piece is copyright protected and used only with permission. Thanks again Terry!

Monday, August 27, 2007
Shhhhhhhhhhhhh! Let’s not talk about this . . .
by Terry Thornton

I am a Mississippian by birth and I am a Mississippian by choice. Of the forty-seven years that have passed since I turned twenty-one years of age, I have spent the majority living in other states electing to return to inside the Magnolia Curtain to live out my retirement.

I am a Southerner.

Growing up in the Hill Country of eastern Monroe County during those peaceful decades prior to the turbulent 1960s, I learned some about our region’s history and heritage but little about my Thornton family history. My father was somewhat distant to his larger family both in temperament and in geography — that, combined with the Thornton tendency to withhold information mitigated against my learning much about my ancestors.

I got most of my information from overhearing snatches and snippets of conversations while listening from the chimney corner. And as I grew older I learned that perhaps not all of the solid Southern unity was as it was rumored and taught to be — that perhaps there were cracks in the solidarity in the Hill Country Confederate unity during that difficult time some seventy-eight years before I was born.

Some things didn’t add up.

But when I would ask, I was told, “Shhhhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about that.”

One of my favorite places to play during those safe years when children were permitted to play unsupervised away from home was at the New Hope Cemetery which was about one-half mile west of my home. Down the gravel road we would walk (no soccer moms with vans back then — nor any other vehicle; kids walked or rode bicycles) sometimes eight or ten or more to play all afternoon among the cool stone markers in the graveyard. Although the graveyard then was kept free of grass (as was the custom for most Hill Country houses: the yards were bare of grass), the cemetery had overgrown with trees creating large dense shaded places. And our favorite game to play in one of the large ornately decorated plots at the cemetery was “Civil War draft dodger.”

The older kids taught us how to play the game; they had been taught the game from the generation just older than them; and they in turn probably heard the stories from those who lived the experience upon which we had made a game. To play the game, one had to hide from the CSA draft enforcers. The place to hide was a special room underground at the cemetery in a specific family plot which had a false grave built for the purpose of hiding out. When the enforcers were in the area, you had to hide in the grave; when the enforcers were not close by, you had to hide in the dense woods and creek bottom just to the south of the cemetery.

When I was a child playing there, the family plot had been modified; the false grave had been used for an actual burial. So when we hid in the special “room” we just lay between the graves crowded into that family burial plot with its interesting stones and low fencing all around.

If the enforcers came and stayed a few days, the ones hidden in the grave were nourished by “grieving” mothers, sisters, or girlfriends who would come to the graveyard with baskets of flowers which contained food and water. And as the grieving females knelt there “praying” they were really whispering the latest news to those hidden just below.

I could never decide which role I enjoyed playing best: enforcer on horseback charging up and dragging folks off to fight or dodger lying there in the cemetery while all the pretty girls brought me food, water, and flowers and whispered directions to me as I rested in the perfect pacifist position.

To play “draft dodger” when I was a child involved a large cast of characters. There were roles for everyone no matter who all came to play that day — and we played the game often. But as I grew older, I listened to my teachers who were of the opinion that all true Southerners were loyal and 100% committed to fighting the Yankees!

If that were the case, I thought, then why were there hidden rooms in the graveyard at Parham? Maybe I had it mixed up; maybe those hidden men were really good brave loyal Southerners hiding from the Yankees.

Again came the, “Shhhhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this” from the adults in my life.

But the older kids checked the story out with the older ones who would tell us the straight of it — the ones hiding were hiding from the Southern draft enforcers.

Then I overheard a conversation between my father and one of his relatives.

What? Some of the Thorntons were in the Union Army? Whoa! I thought. How did that happen? And no one would talk to me about the event or even acknowledge what I had overheard.

“Shhhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this.”

As I got older I also questioned why the given name Sherman was widely used in my family: my grandfather had Sherman as one of his given names; my father had Sherman as one of his given names; my brothers has Sherman as one of his given names; and I have at least two cousins with Sherman as one of their given names. Somehow this choice of given name didn’t square with my conception of the turmoil that ripped through the Hills of Alabama and Mississippi some seventy-five years before I was born.

General Sherman was not one of my favorite people — he was not presented in any favorable light in any of the lessons in history I had at Hatley School. So what was I doing in a family with so many males named for Sherman? Oh well, I was told, they are named for someone else but that someone was never identified.

And if I persisted, out came the, “Shhhhhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this.”

About 1970, my father asked my wife and me to go with him to Lann Cemetery, Splunge, Monroe County, Mississippi, to visit the grave of James Monroe Thornton. James Monroe Thornton was my father’s grandfather — James Monroe Thornton was the one who first named a son with the moniker “Sherman” — in 1865 he named a son John Sherman Thornton.

And while at the cemetery, my father told my wife what he had never told me: James Monroe Thornton served in the Union Army. Basically all he would or could tell me was that his grandfather, he had been told, was on the staff with General Sherman, had attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and so admired the General that he vowed to name the first of his sons born after the war for the general.

James Monroe Thornton survived the war and when the first child born after the war was a son, he named him John Sherman Thornton.

Be damned if I would listen to another “Shhhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this” again!

During the next year or two, I started my reading and researching of the Thornton family. I learned that during the awful war years, both before and after, that they lived in the general area of Walker and Fayette Counties, Alabama. The Thornton family did not arrive in Mississippi until between 1905 to 1910. I discovered the gem of a book, Tories of the Hills, by Wesley S. Thompson (Winfield, Alabama: The Pareil Press. 1960). [My edition is the Civil War Centennial Edition, a limited-re-printing from Northwest Alabama Publishing Company, Jasper, Alabama.]

Thompson states in his Introduction “those opposed to the Secession . . . were called . . . Tories from the hills. . . met in a Convention July 4, 1861, and drew up resolutions to secede from the State [of Alabama]. When this . . . failed [the Tories] took to the coves and mountains for hiding rather than go to the Confederate Armies . . . there followed one of the bloodiest struggles of guerrilla-warfare ever fought on American soil.”

Suddenly the region known as “Freedom Hills,” a rugged area that spreads across the hill country of Alabama and west into Mississippi took on a new meaning.

Freedom! . . . no “Shhhhhhhhhh, let’s not talk about this” was going to stop me now.

So obviously the opposition to serving in the Confederate cause was as far west as the Hill Country in Monroe County, Mississippi, if hide-outs and resisting the draft were so commonplace that children’s games were organized and played almost 100 years after those sad events unfolded.

But learning more information from my father or from his larger family of their time in Alabama and of the Union Army connection to General Sherman was not to be. My father died a few years after telling me about his grandfather; the other older family members either didn’t know the family history or were not willing to talk about it. Some were of the opinion that we should not talk about the possibility of such an involvement!

And there I was, blocked in with “Shhhhhhh, let’s not talk about this” from cousins far and wide. But upon probing deeper, it was obvious that my cousins knew less than I about this part of our family’s history. The “Shhhhh, let’s not talk about this” mentality had prevented some of the most basic of family information from filtering down.

Several years went by and I began an email correspondence with a cousin, Lori Thornton, who was an experienced genealogist and computer expert. Lori and I compared notes and within a few months, I had the first documented evidence that my great-grandfather [and Lori’s great-great-grandfather] James Monroe Thornton had indeed served in the First Alabama Cavalry USA.

And upon learning about this documented fact, I had relatives to send me word, “Shhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this.”

The first evidence I had of James Monroe Thornton’s military service in the First Alabama Cavalry U.S.A. was from Glenda McWhirter Todd’s in-depth study, First Alabama Cavalry USA: Homage to Patriotism (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc. 1999). There on page 368 is this entry, the first evidence I had of my great-grandfather’s involvement:

Thornton, James M., Pvt., Co. A, age 38, EN 3/23/63 & MI 3/24/63, Glendale, MS, on daily duty as teamster, MO 12/22/63, Memphis, TN.

James Monroe Thornton enlisted in the First Alabama Cavalry USA at Glendale, Mississippi on March 23, 1863. The next day he was mustered into service. He was assigned to Company A; he was given the rank of Private. He was 38 years old. He served daily duty as a teamster and was mustered out of service just before Christmas, December 22, 1863, in Memphis, Tennessee.

My father had been misinformed about James Monroe Thornton’s rank — there had been some huge and grand promotions for Private Thornton to have attained the lofty status of Lieutenant Colonel — whether that embellishment in rank was done by James Monroe Thornton himself (he lived to the ripe old age of 88 years) or by others is unknown.

Lori and I ordered the service record and the pension file for our common ancestor — and there learned for the first time the extent of his military service. James Monroe Thornton indeed was in the First Alabama Cavalry USA; he was a Private. He was at home in Alabama hiding out from the Confederate enforcers most of the time he spent in the service of the Union. He accompanied a small group in June who was returned to Walker and Fayette County and while there became ill. His family hid him in the woods from July through early December when he returned to camp.

James Monroe Thornton was absent with leave from June 29, 1863 through about December 13, 1863 when he returned to duty just in time to be mustered out on December 22, 1863.

He was not, however, a Lieutenant Colonel nor was he an aide-de-camp to General Sherman! He drove a team of mules or horses and hauled materials with a wagon as a Private doing teamster duty.

In all of this research, however, the harsh reality of what happened to my Thornton family in the Hills of Alabama has been slowly uncovered. Lori and I are continuing to examine records that are telling us the painful story of our family — a story that heretofore had been so suppressed within the family that our generation had no clue to its reality. Here is a brief summary of some of the major discoveries.

Two of James Monroe Thornton’s brothers also served in the First Alabama Calvary USA. Those two brothers died in service. No one in my family of my generation had any knowledge of these men. As far as I know, their names were not known as family. The grave of one has been located at the Nashville National Cemetery where I conducted a memorial on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of his death. It is believed that the first time that any of this young man’s family visited his grave site was 140 years after his death.

The “Shhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this” time was over.

A third brother may have been killed by Confederate enforcers as he was making his way to the Union lines to volunteer. Lori and I are still working on this possibility. We know that a third brother disappears from all records during the Civil War years and we are intrigued by a statement recently discovered in his mother’s federal pension file about this possibility. More work is needed.

And perhaps the saddest chapter in all of this that was never talked about in my family is evidence that three of James Monroe Thornton’s brothers also served in the Confederate Army. One was captured in battle in Kentucky and eventually exchanged/released in Mississippi. We think he returned straight to North Alabama, visited briefly with his wife and child and other family nearby, and then with his older brother, James Monroe Thornton, walked over to Glendale, Mississippi and enrolled together. James Monroe survived; the brother he enlisted with died.

The youngest brother in that large family also died in the service of the Union Army. He and another brother had enrolled in the Confederate Army and both are listed as deserting at Tuscaloosa. The younger brother shows up on the First Alabama Cavalry USA enlistment rosters a month later; the other brother disappears from the records. It is presumed that he is the one his mother later states was killed by enforcers while making his way to the Union line.

So I can’t tell you about a great-grandfather who was a Lieutenant Colonel in General Sherman’s army — but I can talk a bit about his service as a Private, as a teamster, during a few short months during the Civil War. I can tell you a bit about the history of the South and can confirm that the solidarity and Confederate unity wasn’t what we’ve been taught in the public schools of Mississippi.

But, listen, someone is saying, “Shhhhhhhhh. Let’s not talk about this!”

[Editor’s (Terry’s) Note: This recollection was submitted to the current Carnival of Genealogy. The 31st Carnival has as its topic Confirm or Debunk: Family Myths, Legends, and Lore, and is being hosted by Craig Manson at GeneaBlogie.]

More on Southern Unionist James Lee Gillespie

Posted in brutality in conscription, Confederate conscription, Examples of acts against Southern Unionists, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2009 by Robert Moore

For those who might recall, it was sometime ago when I last wrote about Southern Unionist James Lee Gillespie. However, I’d like to share some additional information about Gillespie’s activities… or at least activities in which Confederates believed Gillespie was  involved and even spearheaded.

In his book, Four Years in the Saddle (pages 32-33), Confederate cavalryman Harry Gilmor mentioned that Gen. John Robert Jones (see this HMDB entry for Woodbine Cemetery, under which Gen. Jones is mentioned), acting provost guard at Harrisonburg, directed Gilmor (between March and April 1862) to deal with Gillespie and efforts in which he was believed to be engaging. Since the name Gillespie is quite unique to the area, it seems certain that this reference was to James Lee Gillespie. Gilmor stated,

Jones sent me to break up a band, estimated at from two to five hundred, that had collected in the large gorges of the Blue Ridge, in the neighborhood of Swift Run Gap. They were headed by a man named Gillespie, and they had determined to resist the draft, and were armed principally with shot-guns and squirrel rifles. We had with us a company of militia infantry, but they were afraid to go into the mountains at all.

We had skirmishing for two or three days without doing any damage; for, when we attempted to charge, they took to the sides of the mountains, and the ground was too rugged to pursue them, and they could fire on us without being able to return to it.

I reported all of this to General [Thomas J. “Stonewall”] Jackson, who sent Colonel Jones in command of all, and advised him to bring up four companies of sharpshooters, and one or two pieces of artillery. This he did; and after driving them into Green [Greene] County across the mountains, I took prisoners, forty-eight in number, to Harrisonburg…

Nothing more was mentioned about Gillespie or the effort to root out the “resisters.” Yet, as we clearly know, Gillespie was not among the captives and found a home as an assistant surgeon in West Virginia regiments of the Union army.

Burrell Howell, Southern Unionist from Alabama

Posted in Alabama Unionists, Confederate conscription, descendants of Southern Unionists, Southern Unionists of Alabama with tags , , , , on February 15, 2009 by Robert Moore

From the March 10, 2008 post on Cenantua’s Blog:

After exchanging a couple of e-mails with a friend last night, I mentioned a genealogical website that I thought looked like it had potential. I gave the trial version of Footnote a try about a month or so ago, but it seemed to have slow response time (it may have had something to do with my being on dial-up!). However, after sending the e-mail to my friend, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the site and do a little navigation. I knew that Footnote was putting images of Southern Loyalist Claims on the site, but I really had not taken the time to look at them. This wasn’t the first time I have seen the claims as I spent a couple of days, about two years ago, transcribing information from the claims from Page County. However, with the word “free” attached to the claims records last night, I couldn’t resist the chance to look again.

Instead of looking into Virginia records, I probed the records for Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia, in search of family members. Finding nothing listed under them (looks like some of them didn’t apply), I gave a shot with a branch of my wife’s family, which was from Marion County, Alabama. As I started scrolling through the list of names, one struck me as being familiar… Burrell Howell. Looking back in my family tree program, I found that Howell was indeed connected, in fact, he was my wife’s fourth great grandfather. Howell also had a plantation and was a slaveholder (though, according to the 1850 Marion County census, he only had one slave).

I had information that showed that two of Howell’s sons served in Co. K, 5th Alabama Cavalry (serving under, among others, Forrest and Wheeler). Military records showed that these men enlisted – there was no evidence in the records of having been conscripted or deserting. So, to the unsuspecting eye (as my eyes used to be) they might be considered pretty stout supporters of the Confederacy. The claim of Burrell Howell said otherwise.

According to Howell, his sons HAD been conscripted, and at some point, when they were both sick in Tennessee, he made the trip across the state line and brought his boys home, apparently having convinced the authorities that they were going home to recover. But according to Howell and others who added testimony to the claim, the boys did not return. Ultimately, Howell was proven as a Unionist and his application was approved.



Now I realize that this was just one man and his two sons, but what strikes me is that most of my wife’s ancestors from Marion County served in the 5th Alabama Cavalry. Burrell Howell was the family member with an application to the Southern Claims Commission, but, considering that his sons were conscripted and yet were shown on the records as having “enlisted,” it makes me wonder how many others were taken into the 5th Alabama Cavalry (and the entire Confederate army, for that matter) as unwilling participants (also, I can’t help it, but it frustrates me knowing that some people, in this day and age, look at the military records “as is” and automatically think that their ancestor eagerly volunteered for service in the Confederate army. There is a need to dig deeper, otherwise the person “honoring” his or her Confederate ancestor does so with ignorance and under an illusion, thereby making the Lost Cause Myth even more of a myth).

On another note, Marion County, Alabama holds some interesting stories when it comes to the Civil War, after all, there were several men from the county who volunteered not in the service of the Confederacy, but for the Union, and served in the 1st Alabama (Union) Cavalry.

Confederate Conscript Hunters!

Posted in brutality in conscription, Confederate conscription, Virginia Unionists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2009 by SouthernUnionists

I’ve mentioned them before, but conscript hunters presented a horror of war to Southern Unionists that I believe we cannot come close to understanding.

Conscript hunters had a difficult duty to perform. Not only were they to gather up those who had not yet volunteered for Confederate service and yet were age-eligible (under anyone of the three different conscript acts passed by the Confederate government), they were also tasked with finding and bringing back Confederate deserters; but that doesn’t excuse the zeal of some of these men in doing their work.

Even among non-Southern Unionists, the conscript hunter was no welcome character. In a letter written by John J. Moyer (1855-1940) of Page County, Virginia in 1924, a time was recalled when some might think a conscript officer had a perfect opportunity to recruit men for the Confederate service. In speaking of the “unhappy days of the sixties,” Moyer wrote that

…some of the experiences of the people in and around Luray when it was reported that Shields’ army was coming in this direction from New Market. He says that a number of persons went toward the top of the Massanutten mountains and catching a glimpse of the invading army the Luray and Page people, seeing that they were doubtless outnumbered many times, beat a retreat, those who lived in Luray not even stopping at their homes but pressing hard in the direction of ‘The Pinnacle,’ at that time a friendly knob at the top of the Blue Ridge several miles east of the home of Mrs. Bettie Sours, in the Printz Mill neighborhood. There was a conscript officer sent out by the Confederate army looking for conscripts and this officer was in Luray at that time. He went with the Luray and Page people to the ‘Pinnacle,’ and there tried his hand at he conscription business. The local folk, Mr. Moyer said, didn’t take very kindly to the idea and were getting ready to make quick dispatch of the officer, even having a rope around his neck and being ready to string him up. About this time, Jonathan Rowe [1810-1884], of this county, intervened in behalf of the officer and persuaded the men who were bent upon his destruction to desist.

Page County historian Jacob H. Coffman (1852-1939) also had a story about conscript hunters writing,

Now I know there’s but few living today that remember the days of the Conscript Hunter, as they were called at this time. They were men detailed from army to hunt up and take back to army deserters – that is soldiers who after many applications failed to get a furlough to visit their homes would take what they called ‘French leave’ that meant to run off.

I know a man who had recently been raised to the rank of Lieut. and was in charge of a squad of Conscript Hunters and he was disliked by many for the power he exercised in this office. One night a notice was put up at what was called the Butterwood Gate [near the Jacob C. Kite house and stage stop known as Mt. Hope], called so from the fact that it was hung on a butterwood tree. The notice was nailed up with wooden pegs and as I passed the place the next day I found near the tree, a fine 6-bladed pen knife which must have been used to make the wooden pegs the notice was tacked up with. The notice was to the effect that if the Lieutenant and his men did not leave the county they would be killed. Whether the warning had the desired effect I never learned.

Got any stories of conscript hunters to share?

Take a look also at this story about Chrisley Nicholson and his encounters with Confederate conscription hunters. Nicholson, by the way, was my third great grand uncle.

North Carolina Unionist John W. Hilton

Posted in Confederate conscription, Examples of acts against Southern Unionists, North Carolina Unionists with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by SouthernUnionists

Once again, Michael Hardy has posted some very good information about another unwilling member of the 58th North Carolina who ended up in the U.S.Navy.

Michael wrote…

According to the NC Troops (Vol. 15, pg. 411), Hilton’s date and place of enlistment are not recorded (probably in the autumn of 1863). [Possibly mustered in as a private in Company L, 58th North Carolina Troops.] Hilton was captured at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863. Sent to Nashville, Tennessee. Transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 11, 1863. Transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on or about December 14, 1863. Released at Rock Island on or about February 5, 1864, after taking the Oath of Allegiance and joining the U. S. Navy.

I’ll let Hilton tell you his story (spelling is his):

“In March 1861 and from that time until August 28, 1862, I lived two miles from Thomasville, Davidson County, North Carolina, and during that period my occupation was Wagon and Buggy Manufacturer.

On said August 28, 1862, I was arrested and imprisoned in jail at Lexington, North Carolina, under accusation of entertaining principles and sentiments in favor of the United States government, was refused bail and kept in prison until the 4th day of November, 1862 when I was allowed to give bail and was released upon giving $5000.00 bond, conditional for good and peaceful behavior towards the Confederate Government.

Thereupon, I returned to my home and said business and resumed the same for about twenty days, when on November 25, 1862, after having planned with other union sympathizers to release Federal soldiers imprisoned at Saulsbury, North Carolina, and learning that the plot was discovered and that I was about to be arrested for complicity in it, I fled to avoid capture… to Forsythe County, North Carolina, and there lay in concealment under care of my friend Joseph Nott Singer, until June 1863.

About the last of June, 1863, while attempting to pass through the confederate lines on my way North, I was captured by confederate soldiers near Taylorsville, Tennessee [present day Mountain City, Tennessee].

Six days after, I eluded my guard and laid concealed in various places, principally in Davidson and Forsythe counties, North Carolina, until September 15, 1863, when I started north again, and was recapatured on the 15th day of October, 1863, near Wytheville, Virginia, by confederate soldiers while enroute North, who deprived me of my money, knife, and valuables on my person.

I espaced from them the night that day and by circuitous route and managing to keep concealed during the time, I succeeded in reaching a point near Chattanooga, Tennessee; lair there concealed until after the battle of Lookout Mountain, where soon after, I voluntarily came to the Federal army at Chicamauga Station then in pursuit of Bragg’s army. whereupon I was placed in the custody of the Federal Provost Marshal, and in his custody returned with the Federal forces to Chattanooga, whence as a prisoner was sent to Rock Island… and there kept as such until my enlistment as landsman in the United States Navy on January 20, 1864…”

Hilton wrote the above in August 1891. The Pension Board wanted Hilton to clarify his Confederate service. Hilton appears to be a little more forthcoming in his reply in December 1891. Hilton writes:

“That on or about the last of October 1863, I was endeavoring to pass through the Confederate lines and while doing so was captured in west North Carolina near the Tennessee line by a body of North Carolina State Militia in the Confederate service and carried a prisoner to Raleigh, North Carolina, and while so a prisoner in said Raleigh was compelled by the Confederates authorities to join as a private, captain Eller’s Company L of the 48th North Carolina Regiment of Infantry, which was about the 14th or 15th of November 1863. That I continued as such private in said company L 13 or 14 days (and did not exceed 14) days and was sent back as an invalid to the supply train of General Bragg’s army at Chickamauga Station about the 29th or 30th day of November 1863. I made my escape from the Confederate authorities, sought and found the Federal forces and delived myself to them.”

The Captain that Hilton refers to is Capt. Calvin Eller, Company L, 58th NCT. While Hilton refers to the 48th NCT, the 48th was a Army of Northern Virginia regiment. It is interesting how Hilton changed his story. In the earlier version, he voluntarily went to the Missionary Ridge area, after escaping from Federal soldiers near Wytheville, Virginia. In the later version, he was actually captured, imprisoned, and forced into Confederate service.

After joining the US Navy, he was assigned to the USS Princeton. Hilton was later injured. It appears that he fell from a ladder and broke an ankle and banged his head. He was discharged in May 1865. Hilton later went to California, where he died on January 21, 1898. He is probably buried in Los Angeles.

As in the case of Sluder, I figured that I would do a follow-up work, so…

If Hilton became a landsman in January 1864, I wonder when he was officially assigned to ship’s company for the U.S.S. Princeton. If he signed-on to the Princeton at the same time he became a landsman, he would have seen… nothing much in the way of service. It seems that beginning in 1857, the Princeton was assigned to service in Philadelphia as a receiving ship, and there she remained through the Civil War. She was sold in October 1866.

Nonetheless, a good story about another Unionist. Michael’s finding some good stuff in those widows’ pension files.

Felix Sluder… a North Carolina Unionist

Posted in Confederate conscription, North Carolina Unionists with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by SouthernUnionists

A few days ago, Michael Hardy (North Carolina and the Civil War) posted this brief story about Felix Sluder. The story is particularly rich because of Sluder’s pension application.

Hardy wrote…

Sluder lived in the North Fork District of Ashe County in 1860. He was a thirty-six year old farmer. Also in the house hold were his wife and two children. According to Sluder, on April 3, 1862, he was conscripted to serve in the Confederate army. It could be that he was in error about the date, since the first Conscription law enacted in early 1862 set the age limit at 35, and Felix Sluder would have been thirty-eightish. A revision to the law in September 1862 capped the age at 45. Regardless, Sluder was able to evade conscription officers for several months.

According to Sluder “on or about the last days of August 1863 I was captured on Roans Creek Johnston Co. Tenn by the Rebel home guard, while on my way through the lines to join the 4th Tenn. Infantry United States Army. as I had previously enlisted under one Joel Eastridge who were a recruiting officer of said Regt.” Sluder was taken to Camp Vance, and then on to Raleigh, before being sent to the 58th North Carolina. The 58th NCT was stationed near Missionary Ridge at the time. Sluder continued to refuse to join the Confederate army; “they then tried to force me to Enlist in the Confederate army.” Sluder wrote after the war; “and I willfully refused to do so. They then threatened to starve me until I did enlist in their service and I yet willfully refused. They then kept me under arrest until about the 26th day of Nov, 1863 and then about the same day they placed me in the breastworks at Mission Ridge and in the front of battle, where I were captured by the Yankees refusing all the while to enlist under any service for the Confederate authorities. and after bearing all the afore said punishment I still refused to enlist or render any service that ever for the confederates, and that I did not enlist in the Confederate army in no shape nor form.”

Sluder believed that he was placed on the front lines, in the breastworks, to be executed by the advancing Federals as the Confederates retreated. He wrote as much: “I [was] that day forced into the Breastworks so as to have me killed for refusing to enlist in the Confederate service” While this might be true, it smacks a little of the David/Bathsheba/Uriah story in the Old Testament. I find it hard to believe that the Confederates would have just left Sluder, knowing that he would desert. If the members of the 58th NCT understood anything, it was desertion.

As with almost all Confederate prisoners, Sluder was sent to Nashville, Tennessee. He was then transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 7, 1863. He transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on December 9, 1863. About six weeks later, Sluder was given the chance to join the Federals, which he did. He enlisted in the United States Navy on or about January 25, 1864, serving on board the USS Ticonderoga. In April 1865, Sluder was given a 10-day furlough. He felt that his health was so bad that he could no longer serve at sea. Towards the middle of April, he joined Company G, 57th Pennsylvania Infantry, and was mustered in as a private. He enlisted under the alias “John Malron, because he was sure that if he was captured by the Confederates, he would be executed for being a deserter. At the end of June 1865, he was honorably discharged from the United States army. Sluder returned to Ashe County where he died October 31, 1907. I assume he is buried in Ashe County, but I am not sure where.

I found most of this remarkable story in Sluder’s pension application. Sluder was not discharged from the US Navy at the end of the war, and was listed as a deserter. This “slight” on his record was later corrected in the 1890s and Sluder received his pension until he passed over.

I find his service in the U.S. Navy (after unwillingly serving with the 58th N.C. Inf., CSA) quite interesting. The USS Ticonderoga experienced active service in 1864, and into 1865 when the ship was involved in the capture of Ft. Fisher, near Wilmington, N.C.