Archive for the Southern Union soldiers Category

New markers in Waterford, Va. highlight Southern Unionism there

Posted in Southern Union soldiers, Virginia Unionists with tags , , on May 22, 2011 by Robert Moore

Over at the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable site, blogosphere pal Craig Swain makes mention of the events of May 21, in Waterford, Virginia. The folks up that way are giving a good deal of attention to the Loudoun Rangers, and it’s great to see. Meanwhile, I hear that another blogosphere friend, Ron Baumgarten has a post coming up about his experience yesterday at Lydecker’s Store in Vienna, where he witnessed a reenactment of the referendum on secession.

So, yes Virginia, Unionism was alive 150 years ago, and it’s being recognized in Virginia Sesquicentennial events! Very good to see.

Remember… Marylanders were Southerners too!

Posted in Cenantua's Blog, Maryland Southern Unionists, Political sentiment of Southern Unionists, Southern Union soldiers, Southern Unionists who became Union soldiers, Thoughts on classifications of Southern Unionists with tags , , , on October 15, 2009 by Robert Moore

But, before you break out in song with “Maryland, My Maryland,” just remember, the song does not reflect the feelings of all Marylanders in 1861. Many a Marylander can be classified as a Southern Unionist. With that in mind, I am going to redirect reader attention to a series of posts (begining with this one) on my main blog for a little while, where I am focusing on the unique story of Southern Unionism that existed in Maryland. I’m focusing, in particular, on a district in Washington County, Maryland.

“Turncoat Virginians”

Posted in Southern Union soldiers, Virginia Unionists with tags , on August 27, 2009 by Robert Moore

When reviewing a Confederate unit history recently, I ran across a remark made by the contemporary author (not a person who actually lived during the Civil War) about the men of Samuel MeansLoudoun Rangers (see this link for an interesting history of the unit… strange to say, the author of this article also uses the word “turncoat” in reference to the Loudoun Rangers). The Loudoun Rangers were, for the most part, Virginans (at least Co. A… Co. B consisted of more Marylanders) from Loudoun County (and the surrounding area) who not only refused to buy into the idea of secession, but were members of a unit in the service of the Union army. Means’ unit was an example of what I consider Southern Unionism taken to the “nth” degree.

When we really take time to consider these Unionist Virginians, were they really “turncoats?”

Well… I have to say that the word “turncoat” is a poor choice. According to the Second College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary, “turncoat” is defined as “One who traitorously switches allegiance.” At what time did these men switch allegiance? Virginia was a state of the United States… and when had these men, ever, sworn allegiance to Virginia? For that matter, when did they swear an allegiance to the United States? But, before I digress…

Since the men of the Loudoun Rangers did not wear Confederate uniforms before they donned the blue uniforms, the word “turncoat” doesn’t fit.

Maybe some Virginians who bought – lock, stock, and barrel – into the idea of secession and Confederacy, considered these Unionist Virginians as“turncoats,” because the Confederate-leaning Virginians saw things as state first, country second.

On the other hand, the Unionist Virginians of Means’ command probably saw the secessionist Virginians as turncoats, having turned against the United States… the Unionist seeing things as country first, state second.

Bottom line is that the word “turncoat” equates to “traitors.”

Before I go any further, let me be clear here… I’m not going to entertain any comments about the legality of secession, so please don’t submit any. Moving on…

If these dueling Virginians saw each other as traitors, then it was their perspective at the time of the war and I can’t possibly dispute how the two parties judged each other, but I can be suspicious of a contemporary author using the phrase “turncoat Virginians.”

First, I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt. It may be that the wording is used to immerse the reader more in the mindset of the Confederates who are at the focal point of this work. (I’m personally a big fan of virtual reality in narrative design, but I’m not sure I’m buying it here). The book is a Confederate unit history and the Confederates (or some of them) may have seen the men of the Loudoun Rangers as turncoats against Virginia. Yet, there is no evidence (quotes from the Confederates as to their opinions of Means’ men) anywhere in the text of the book to show that the Confederate Virginians described the Unionist Virginians in blue as “turncoats.”

So, did the author go a little too far? Is this an indication of the author’s personal “sympathies” for the Confederates as well as an indication of a little animosity toward the Loudoun Rangers? Is this an indication that the work is about a “bushel” short of objectivity? Does the author inappropriately weave this sympathy into the history to invoke a sympathetic feeling in the readers for the Confederates and animosity for the Loudoun Rangers?

Unless I can ask the author specifically what his/her intent was in saying this, and because there is an absence of any quotes from the Confederates identifying the Rangers as “turncoats,” my first inclination is to suspect the author of failing in the delivery of objective history. At least it doesn’t appear to be history delivered in a manner for the reader to read, consider, evaluate, and form opinions on his/her own.

Some say that objectivity truly isn’t possible, but would you prefer lack of objectivity being transparent or opaque?

This post is dual posted in Cenantua’s Blog.

Black Southern Unionist… Union soldier… is recognized in Alabama

Posted in Alabama Unionists, Southern Union soldiers, Southern Unionists of Alabama, Southern Unionists who became Union soldiers with tags , on July 10, 2009 by Robert Moore

Kevin Levin got the jump on me :-) but it’s o.k…. hat-tip to him (see Kevin’s post it here) about the story of Amos McKinney (1st Alabama Cavalry, USA) receiving a headstone recognizing his service.

Harmon Levi Sumrall Testifies on Behalf of Newt Knight for the U.S. Court of Claims

Posted in Confederate soldiers who became Union soldiers, disaffected Confederates, Disallowed Claims, Mississippi Unionists, Southern Union soldiers, Works that focus on Southern Unionists with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by renegadesouth

By Victoria E. Bynum

The following post expands upon the story of the Unionist Sumrall brothers of Mississippi’s “Free State of Jones,” recently posted on Renegade South,

For thirty years, Newt Knight, Captain of Mississippi’s most notorious band of deserters, the Knight Company of Jones County, pursued compensation from the federal government for himself and his company. Newt initiated his first claim in 1870, before the Southern Claims Commission had been established (RG 233, Box 15, HR 1810). He did not base his claim on civilian loss of property, but rather on military services rendered to the Union Army. He asked that he and each of his “officers” and “privates” be granted the pay due them as soldiers by the U.S. government which they had fought for during the Civil War.

The only problem was that no matter how many battles the “Knight Company” had fought against Confederate forces during the Civil War—and there were plenty—it was never granted official military status by the Union Army. In 1870, 1890, and 1895, defenders of the Knight Company submitted affidavits and depositions attesting to the activities of the company on behalf of the Union Army. In the end, however, Newt failed to convince the U.S. Government to issue his men what in essence amounted to military back pay.

The following are excerpts from depositions provided in 1890 and 1895 by Harmon Levi Sumrall, one of Newt Knight’s strongest supporters. Harmon was beyond the age of conscription in 1862, but his younger brother, William Wesley, joined the Knight Company in 1863 rather than serve the Confederate Army. Harmon supported his brother’s decision, and, prior to providing depositions for Newt’s second and third claims (#8013 and #8464), had signed an affidavit for the first claim that attested to the sincerity of Newt’s Unionist beliefs.

In 1890, seventy-two year old Sumrall appeared before the Jones County Chancery Court to lend support to Newt Knight’s second round of claims. The 1870 claim had long ago died in committee, but in 1883 Congress passed the Bowman Act, followed by the Tucker Act of 1887, which allowed individuals to resubmit rejected or tabled claims. With lawyers now representing his case, Newt renewed his efforts to win pay for his “soldiers.”

Sumrall’s answers to questions posed by the government’s lawyers were brief and to the point. When asked what “Mr. Knight’s general standing” was in regard to loyalty to the U.S. government, he replied that “he was a union man all the time.” When asked whether Newt “commanded a company of men in your community during the war,” he answered that “he did.” When asked if he had any further “material” to offer the state, he responded that he had seen “Capt Knight’s company in time of battle twice but saw them in no other engagements.”

In 1895, for reasons not entirely clear, a new round of depositions were gathered and a new claim number assigned to Newt’s case (the claims would later be merged). Once again, Harmon Levi Sumrall was called on to testify on behalf of the Knight Company.
On January 29, 1895, at the Ellisville Court House in Jones County, Sumrall again recalled events that were now thirty years in the past.

Sumrall’s latest testimony began with his statement that he was not related to Newt Knight, but that his brother, W.W. Sumrall, had been a member of the Knight Company. When asked on “which side” Newt’s sympathies had been during the war, Sumrall stated, as he had in 1870 and 1890, that Newt “was on the Union side.” But this time, when asked whether he knew of any battles fought by the Knight Company, Sumrall was more specific. “Yes sir,” he answered, “He was in a battle with the Confederates. I know it. I was there with him. He fought Hensley, who was on the Confederate side.”

During the course of his testimony, Sumrall estimated that the Knight Company had consisted of about 60-65 men when it battled the forces of this “Hensley.” Hensley, he explained, was a Major who headed a “cavalry regiment, also some infantry.” (This may have been Major James O. Hensley of the 10th VA Battalion, Heavy Artillery.)

Sumrall replied “yes” to the government’s question of whether Major Hensley was “hunting up men who had deserted from the Confederate Army.” Most interesting of all, however, were his remarks about HIS own role in the skirmish that followed. He stated that “Hensley pressed me in to go with him to Knight. We hunted him all day; we found him in the evening when the fight occurred.” By his own testimony, then, Harmon Levi Sumrall was forced to join a search for a band of deserters that included his own brother! Major Hensley would not likely have known this; he was simply impressing the local population of men to assist him in a dangerous task.

Sumrall’s maddeningly brief remarks raise several questions about the complicated nature of home front battles between deserters and Confederate soldiers sent from outside the region. Did Confederate militia purposely enlist local men to search out deserters in hopes that those deserters would be less likely to fire on their own neighbors and possible kinfolk, or were they simply taking advantage of local manpower to lessen the dangers of their mission? And how did Sumrall respond to the task assigned to him? Did he just fake it, and hope that in the process he could somehow protect his friends and relatives from discovery? Does Sumrall’s testimony that it took them “all day” to find Knight suggest that he withheld knowledge of the band’s whereabouts? What, then, were his actions at the point of contact between Confederate forces and the Knight Company? And in the ensuing battle? I would love to hear from readers who may have encountered such scenarios in their own research on the Civil War home front.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I provide a detailed account of Newt Knight’s long struggle with the U.S. Court of Claims in “Fighting a Losing Battle: Newt Knight versus the U.S. Court of Claims, 1870-1900,” chapter four of my book-in-progress, Southern Communities at War: Essays on Civil War Era Dissent and it’s Legacies.

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.]

Some thoughts on “Galvanized Yankees” and Unionist sentiment

Posted in Alabama Unionists, Confederate soldiers who became Union soldiers, disillusioned Confederates, Southern Union soldiers, Thoughts on classifications of Southern Unionists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2009 by Robert Moore

Originally posted on 3/25/09 in Cenantua’s Blog:

How many folks actually realize how many “galvanized Yankees” there really were? They’re a fascinating bunch of people, really. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t really think a great deal about them. I might see one here or there while combing through Confederate service records, but I never got up the energy to really investigate until about four years ago. It’s a tough bunch of guys to figure out in terms of loyalties. How many, for example, signed-on to the United States Volunteers simply because they felt their odds far better than stuck in a prisoner-of-war camp and how many signed-on because their loyalties were really with the U.S. to begin with? Then, on top of this, when we realize that a “galvanized Yankee” received a pension, does it mean that he REALLY was a Unionist? Think about it. On one hand, you have someone who has to go through a lot of hoops to get a pension for his service in the Union army. To satisfy a very discriminating pension board, the former Confederate soldier had to prove to the board that his service was really involuntary. If one could not show that they did not “bear arms against the United States voluntarily,” the pension application was going to be rejected. On the other hand, if someone was hard-up for some money, “swallowing the dog” one more time to get some cash to help make ends meet wasn’t all that bad. Like I said, they are a hard group to get your thoughts around when trying to get a grip on wartime sentiments/loyalties, but a fascinating group nonetheless. (Incidentally, this is a good online piece by Michèle T. Butts about how “Galvanized Yankees” came to be).

On that note… looking for a quick distraction from thesis work late Monday night, I slipped over into my Footnote.com account and started doing a few searches. Looking back through my wife’s family tree, I remembered that she had an ancestor who “joined the U.S. service” after just over two years of service in gray… and quite honestly… surprise, surprise… he was from an area in Alabama that just happened to have some differences in sentiment.

Hiram Fikes was born February 15, 1827 in Lexington, South Carolina, a son of John Fikes. A farmer by occupation, he didn’t enlist for the first time until April 10, 1862 (this was, by the way, around the time the first Confederate conscription act was being enforced; although there is nothing to show one way or the other how/if this impacted Fikes’ enlistment/enrollment), and when he did enlist it was only in a 90-day unit; the 4th Alabama Volunteer Militia (Byrd’s Regiment), Captain John Moore’s Company. He was sick-in-quarters 6/25/62 and had no further record with the unit. Nonetheless, he pops up again on the rolls of Co. H, 40th Alabama having enlisted (or having been “enrolled”) in Perry Co., Alabama (that is where he resided at the opening of the war) in March 1863. There is some confusion as to how the regiment was employed around the time of his service; one part detailed for service in Georgia, while the other part was in Vicksburg. It looks like Hiram was in the Vicksburg detachment for it is there that he was captured by the 15th Corps and was paroled on 7/9/63. Returning to service, once again, he was with the 40th Alabama again when he was captured at Big Shanty, Ga. on 6/15/64. This time the Federals didn’t mess around, and he was sent to Rock Island, Illinois by way of Louisville, Ky. In four months, he was released on oath, having signed-on with Co. I, 3rd United States Volunteers.

A card from Fikes' service record with the 3rd USVLooking at his service cards for this unit, it appears that Hiram was an average looking fellow, with blue eyes, dark hair, light complexion, and 5’6″. He was mustered-in on October 31, 1864, and… this part always interests me (former Confederates being credited to areas to satisfy enrollment numbers)… he was credited as a recruit to Elk, Clarion County, Pennsylvania. The 3rd USV more or less hung out at Rock Island for sometime before being sent out to the Dakota Territory in 1865. While there, it appears, at least from his service records, that his service went without incident. In May 1865, he was listed as on daily duty as the company cook (hard-pressed, I’m sure, as a Southerner on duty in the Dakota Territory finding foodstuff that would be satisfying to a Southerner!). He was detached at the Sweet Water detachment on June 4. Soon after this (July 1865), fourteen men from Co. I got into a scrape with the Sioux and Cheyenne heading east to Fort Laramie, but I have no idea if Fikes was among the fourteen men (my guess is that he wasn’t). Other than the detached service at the Sweet Water detachment, there really isn’t a great deal to note from his service records until he was mustered-out at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas on November 29, 1865 (although he did have a stoppage of pay for damaging the property of another member of the unit… don’t ask, I have no idea what that was all about). He headed back to Mississippi and there, rejoined his wife Polly and their children. He applied for a pension (oh now, hold on a second… a pension for his service in the Union, not the Confederate army) on August 18, 1892 (application #1126.495) under “Law J” and received one (certificate #1069.626). He died on October 20, 1903 in Fulton, Itawamba County, Mississippi and was buried in the Harden Chapel Cemetery. His wife applied for a widow’s pension (app. #797.144) on December 31, 1903, and received one (cert. #744.318). She died on February 20, 1925.

I don’t see him as a disaffected Confederate, but perhaps a disillusioned Confederate. Likewise, he probably wasn’t a Southern Unionist in the extreme sense, but maybe he was a conditional Unionist who opted for the Confederacy initially. Yet, as he saw the writing on the wall, especially as a POW, maybe, at heart, he was just a realistic self-preservationist, looking at things in terms of his own best interests and that of his wife and children who were back in Alabama when all of these decisions were made. It’s clear that I need to look into the pension record and see what the testimonials have to say about his “loyalties” and how he got around the “not having borne arms voluntarily against the United States” thing.

Considering a broader range of “war crimes” against Southern Civilians

Posted in Alabama Unionists, Southern Union soldiers, Southern Unionists of Alabama, Southern Unionists who became Union soldiers with tags , , , , on March 25, 2009 by Robert Moore

While some folks have done some work compiling stories about war crimes against Southerners, too often they seem to convey only the stories of those who were subjected to the hard hand of war as delivered by the Union army. As I mentioned in a post in Cenantua’s Blog about a year ago, I saw an announcement about the release of the book, War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, and, knowing what I do about Southern Unionists, found it interesting that the scope of the book was so limited. As I mentioned in that post, I can’t but help wonder when the second volume is coming – War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, the Other Side of the Story (or War Crimes Committed by Southerners Against Southern Civilians). If recommendations for stories are accepted, for starters, I’d like to suggest this story about Henry Tucker (*NOTE – This story is NOT RECOMMENDED for children as it is very graphic in detail). The story is originally sourced to Tories of the Hills, a book published in 1953 by Wesley Sylvester Thompson.

Of course, there are other stories that can also be found within the pages of this blog… and there are more to come.

In the meantime, continue to browse through other interesting stories in the rosters of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, USV.

The Pension File of Riley J. Collins, Union Soldier from Jones County, Mississippi

Posted in Mississippi Unionists, Southern Union soldiers, Southern Unionists who became Union soldiers with tags , , , , on February 22, 2009 by renegadesouth

In keeping with my recent Renegade South posts about the Unionist Collins family of Mississippi and Texas, I am posting here information from the pension file (#120091) of Riley J. Collins. Riley was the ninth of Stacy and Sarah Collins’s 14 children. Born around 1825, he was their fourth son.

Riley, who publically opposed secession, was a founding member of the famous Knight Band of the “Free State of Jones” County, Mississippi. In the immediate aftermath of Confederate Col. Robert Lowry’s attack on the guerrilla band, he and several other members fled to New Orleans where they joined Co. E of the 1st New Orleans Regiment. Mustered into service on May 4, 1864, Riley died on August 31, 1864, less than three months later. Like so many soldiers, he died of disease rather than battle wounds.

Riley’s pension file is relatively short and uncomplicated since he had evaded rather than deserted Confederate service before joining the Union Army. What his file papers reveal most clearly are the personal tragedies that accompanied the Civil War for the Welch and Collins families of Jones County.

Several affidavits attest to the death of Riley’s wife, Desdemonia Welch, on September 25, 1862. Her fatal illness, which left him with four motherless children, ages 3 to 10, would surely have reinforced Riley’s decision to evade conscription. If not for Lowry’s raid on his neighborhood, he no doubt would have remained an outlier for the duration of the war. Instead, he died serving the Union Army, leaving his children orphans in the process. Older brother Vinson A. Collins was appointed their guardian, and applied for and received Riley’s pension.

Pension records are replete with stories of soldiers who, like Riley Collins, died in appalling numbers from disease. Reading Riley’s papers, one is struck by the senseless death of a 37-year-old widower with four children who felt his only choice was to fight for the Union against men of his own divided community rather than fight for the “Lost Cause” of secession that he so adamantly opposed.

As I noted in my last post, Riley’s brother, Simeon, equally Unionist in principle, made a different choice. Facing execution for desertion, he surrendered to Col Lowry, rejoined the Confederate Army, and ended up in a Yankee POW camp. The end result was the same. As that post noted, Simeon died from illness shortly after his release from prison in 1865.

Victoria Bynum

http://www.renegadesouth.wordpress.com

Jacob P. Kyger, Shenandoah Valley Unionist… and Brethren

Posted in Southern Union soldiers, Southern Unionists pacifists, Southern Unionists who became Union soldiers, Virginia Unionists on February 19, 2009 by Robert Moore

While it was clearly against the accepted practice among the Brethren (German Baptist Brethren), Jacob P. Kyger of Rockingham County, Virginia joined the 35th Iowa Infantry in 1862, fought at Vicksburg and the Red River Campaign… and returned to his farm in the Shenandoah Valley (on the Cross Keys battlefield) after the war. Take a look at the following marker for a photo of Kyger (in the upper right on the marker).

For more information about the otherwise passive resistance of the Brethren in the Shenandoah Valley, see this marker (not too far away from the above mentioned marker) as well…

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