A Virginia family, Thomas and Elizabeth Meadows lived along Naked Creek on the Page and Rockingham county line. In the family, there were four sons [Mitchell (born ca. 1823), James (born ca. July 1826), William T. (born December 7, 1839), and Henry “Hiram” (born September 1842)] who would be considered age-eligible for military service by the time of the Civil War, and, naturally, being from Virginia, the assumption might be fairly automatic that there service would be with the Confederacy. Incidentally, a fifth son, Emanuel (born February 21, 1833) left Virginia for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the late 1850s.
Out of the four brothers who remained in Virginia, Confederate service records can be found for James, William and Henry. Actually, James’ service was not recorded in the military records but in pension records stating that he served in Company #4, of the Nineteenth Virginia Heavy Artillery. Since he has no service record, it can be safely assumed that he entered the unit late in the war (finding late war Confederate enlistment records can be an impossible task). William T. is shown in the records of the Tenth Virginia Infantry as having been conscripted on July 1, 1863 at Harrisonburg into the ranks of Company I. His service was short-lived, and by July 23, 1863, he was listed as absent without leave. The third brother to serve in the Confederate army was Henry (also known as “Hiram”), who was shown as having enlisted in Company L, Ninety-seventh Virginia Militia on August 8, 1861. So, on the surface, excepting the service of William T. Meadows, it appears that the family was pretty much behind the actions of Virginia in support of the Confederacy. Care should be made however, as information found by “scratching the surface” with the military records can be deceiving.
The first obvious problem in making an assumption about the family’s overall support for the Confederacy is easily identified in William T. Meadows – a conscript who took the first opportunity to break away from the conscript hunters and become a deserter. But, the actions of one brother do not necessarily define the sentiments of the others. As in all cases of finding a deserter in the family, you must look beyond the one brother (or family member) and see what may have motivated (or not motivated) the other brothers in their service as Confederate soldiers. In fact, James Meadows’ service as a Confederate soldier offers complications in defining the sentiments of this family. As a late war entry, was he actually a conscript and, unlike his brother William, was he not afforded the same chance to desert? Or, was James actually a true late war enlistee who remained faithfully in the ranks as a Confederate soldier? As I mentioned, the only record of service for James exists in a pension record, and basing “loyal service” on a pension record can be taking a great deal for granted.
Confederate pension boards in Virginia were, for the most part, made up of local Confederate veterans, at least early-on in the process. However, by the 1920s, early 1930s and onward, Confederate veterans were not manning the boards as many had died or were “up in age.” In the early part of the pension application process, the veterans appear to have effectively screened pension applications, at least most of the time. For the most part, it might be understood that veterans were able to look at an application, recall the applicant’s sentiments and actions at the time of the war, and make an accurate determination as to whether the applicant was a “loyal” Confederate and if he merited a pension. Once again however, the veterans on the pension board could not accurately speak for everyone as some of the late war enlistees were enrolled or conscripted into less familiar companies. For example, the most commonly recognized companies formed in Page County (namely, Company K of the Tenth Virginia Infantry, Company H of the Thirty-Third Virginia Infantry, Company D of the Seventh Virginia Cavalry, Company E of the Thirty-fifth Battalion Virginia Cavalry, and the Dixie Artillery) had some sort of representation on the pension board. If a veteran or veterans serving on the pension board was/were not familiar with an applicant and his service, they could turn to the local camp of Confederate Veterans (of which, the veterans serving as board members were usually members), and hopefully, somebody in the camp could vouch for the applicant or argue against the applicant’s claim of loyal service.
In the case of James Meadows applying as a former member of the Nineteenth Virginia Heavy Artillery (or his wife applying for a widow’s pension), there was nobody on the pension board or in the Rosser-Gibbons Camp who could accurately attest to his loyalty (nobody else in the county on the board served in the same unit or knew much about the service of James’ unit). The only option, therefore, was to rely on the word of a comrade or someone who could give certain testimony in support of loyal service. It is uncertain, but it is believed that such testimony was pivotal in the approval of Meadows’ application.**
What seems even more remarkable about this is that having difficulty finding “loyal” Confederates in this, the twenty-first century, is really nothing new. Even in the early twentieth century when Confederate Veterans were still around, Frederick T. Amiss (an actual son of a Confederate veteran) struggled with the effort to compile a list of loyal Confederates for proposed plaques that would be mounted in the Confederate Veterans Monument in Luray. He compiled excellent lists of men who served in units from the county, and, with the help of the surviving veterans, was able to establish, in those more well-known companies from the counties, which men were loyal and which ones were not so devoted. Even with the help of the veterans, Amiss was still confronted with a major issue – that of dealing with angry family members when he made the claim that a soldier was anything but a “loyal Confederate.”
But, before digressing too much from the central focus of this article on the Meadows brothers – if brothers William T. and James leave us wondering still where the family stood on support or opposition to the Confederacy, the next best thing in the assessment would be to figure out where the other two brothers stood (not to say however, that, in all cases, all siblings shared the same sentiments).
Mitchell Meadows offers one of the most important pieces of information in the assessment of the sentiments of the Meadows brothers. One set of family stories reveal that Mitchell was “shot and killed during the Civil War.” On the surface one might assume that being shot and killed, Mitchell must have been a soldier. A search of military records does not reveal military service, however, and, considering the efforts of William to remain out of the service, it seems more plausible that Mitchell may have been killed in the act of evading Confederate conscript hunters.
A second story, related to me after my first effort of looking into Mitchell’s story, revealed what I had suspected. Mitchell was taken, at gunpoint, from his home by Confederate conscript hunters. With his hands tied and forced to walk behind a horse on a lanyard, Mitchell was, somehow, able to break away and made a run for it. As the story goes, either when in the act of escaping or after he had made his way back to his house, the conscript men caught up with Mitchell and killed him.
Mitchell’s story, when combined with the story of Henry Meadows gives us an even better glimpse into what may have been the overall sentiments in the Meadows family.
Having “enlisted” on August 8, 1861 in Company L, Ninety-seventh Virginia Militia, Henry “Hiram” Meadows may have been reluctant to serve from the onset. First of all, as a regiment that had existed prior to the war, when the Ninety-seventh Virginia Militia was called into the service of the Confederacy in the summer of 1861, it was not, as some may believe, enrolled with ranks teaming with patriotically motivated volunteers. Rather, the men of the Ninety-seventh who were enrolled were draftees. Of course, that is not to say that all men in the Ninety-seventh were not in favor of the Confederate cause.
In the case of Henry Meadows, he enlisted, but following the First Battle of Manassas, took the opportunity, along with brother William T. Meadows (who had been enlisted on July 22, 1861), to go AWOL on November 4, 1861. They were still absent when the last complete muster roll was filled out for the Ninety-seventh on December 31, 1861. While William held out unsuccessfully against Confederate conscript hunters in Page and Rockingham Counties, Henry opted to leave the militia and head for Pennsylvania, where his fifth brother had moved prior to the war. Though it is unclear exactly when he became a temporary resident of Pennsylvania, by 19 September 1863, he was drafted into the Union army and made a member of Company E, 143rd Pennsylvania Infantry.
Even entering into service, as a draftee in late 1863, “Hiram” Meadows saw extensive service. After leaving Pennsylvania, he was likely one of the 360 recruits who arrived with the new group of regimental recruits in September and October, 1863. Though a notation in his file (“A deserter from Rebel service, not to be assigned to field duty”) made reference to his not being placed in a combat role, it appears that he was eventually placed on the firing line along with the rest of the regiment. Within a month of his reporting to the 143rd, he would have been involved in a sharp skirmish with Confederate forces at Haymarket. From November 22 to December 5, the regiment performed railroad guard duty at Manassas, marched to Paoli Mills and finally, after eight months constant campaigning, went into winter quarters at Culpeper on December 27. One can only imagine how odd it must have felt for Meadows being so close to home, but in the occupying army.
Before moving in the spring campaign of 1864, the 143d was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps. Once the campaign season opened, the regiment suffered severely at the Wilderness and at Laurel Hill. However, it was in action on the North Anna River where Henry Meadows was wounded in the calf of the right leg on May 23, 1864. Sent first to a Fifth Corps field hospital and then to Emory General Hospital in Washington, D.C., Meadows was later transferred to Newton University General Hospital in Baltimore and eventually McClellan General Hospital in Philadelphia by October. He remained at McClellan Hospital until mustered-out on May 16, 1865 (though the war was already over, the regiment did not actually muster out until August 1865).
After receiving an honorable discharge, Henry Meadows returned to Page County, and on September 7, 1867, married Ardista Breeden (who was born January 1851, a daughter of Wesley Whitfield Breeden and Elizabeth M. Eppard). The couple had more than 10 children – interestingly, the first and last child were seemingly named out of influence from Henry’s service in the Union army – the first was named Columbia Esteline (born about 1869) and the last child was named Ulysses Edgar “Bud” Meadows (born December 24, 1896) – apparently in honor of Ulysses S. Grant. Other children included Crimora, Armetis (born September 19, 1870), Eliza H. (born about 1871), Dolly Francis (born March 19, 1874), William D. (born about 1875), Henry Dorsey (born March 15, 1875), Newman Thomas (born September 12, 1876), Ardista D. (born October 7, 1878), Wesley Monroe Cameron (born June 20, 1881), Emma “Annie” C. (born February 24, 1885), Josephine F. (born June 1890), and Virginia C. (born October 21, 1892).
In October 1889, Henry Meadows applied for (application #732108; certificate #525060) and was awarded (on June 27, 1890) a pension of $6.00 per month for disabilities caused by his wound and an injury to his eye (while in action on May 23, 1864, a ball splintered a limb of a tree and the splinters entered his eye). He was dropped from the pension rolls on March 14, 1895, on the grounds that he was not ratably disabled under the act of 1890. He filed again on July 17, 1890, but was rejected on May 27, 1902 because the government noted that he had “rendered voluntary service in the Confederate army.” Apparently it took some time to clear his record of “voluntary Confederate service” and by 1912 he was once again receiving a pension. By 1918, Henry Meadows was receiving $38 per month for his pension. Henry Meadows died on December 10, 1919 and was buried somewhere near his home in Jollett Hollow.
Story courtesy of Robert Moore. Used here with permission. Photo of Henry and Ardista courtesy of Mr. Larry Lamb.
**Correction: I believe that, the way in which this is written, does suggest that James Meadows may have applied for a pension in the 1920s or 30s. James Meadows applied for a Confederate pension in 1904 (age 77, living in Jollett Hollow). Certainly, at the time of his application, there were fellow veterans alive who could attest to his faithfulness to duty as a soldier in the Confederate army. Regretfully, I do not recall who signed as a comrade (it’s been nearly 20 years since I last went through every single Confederate pension application from Page County), but the signature of a comrade from the same unit attesting to his service would be an indication that he did serve faithfully. Specifically, I’m saying this means that he served faithfully, but that does not clarify that nature of his becoming part of the Confederate army or his sentiments in regard to the Confederacy. By nature of being part of a unit that was formed neither in Page or Rockingham County, it does indicate that he was conscripted, perhaps forcibly, from his home (which, in 1860, was in Waverlie). This seems supported by the stories about James’ siblings. Most men evaded forcible conscription by beating the conscription hunters to the punch, so to speak. Specifically, if a man joined prior to conscript hunters coming to the residence and taking a man away, he could at least pick the unit in which he served. This usually meant enlisting in a unit in which he knew other family, neighbors, and friends to be serving.