Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Anniversary of the End of the Civil War

Last Thursday marked the 150th anniversary of the day Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses Grant and finally brought an end to the Civil War.  Virtually every branch of my and my husband's families were touched by the war, with many having family members who served in both the Confederate and Union armies.  We have several families who were slave owners, with two or three owning large plantations and well over 50 slaves.  The war certainly changed the fortunes of these families, going from wealthy planters to average farmers.  The southerners who had been family farmers before the war returned home to face the hardships of poverty during Reconstruction.

We also have family who were living in the south, but loyal to the Union cause.  Many of these men were pioneers in East Tennessee and Arkansas.  In some cases, they were at odds with their own families and their communities.  Alexander Bowden Dorsey of Madison, Arkansas, fought for the Union while all his brothers were Confederate soldiers.  Lewis Millard Baird of Campbell, Tennessee was an elderly man with four sons in the Union Army when bushwackers arrested him and took him to the prison at Salisbury, North Caroline, where he died before the end of the war.  Sampson L. Stanfield was a young widower who had lost not only his wife, but eldest daughter before he joined the Union army, leaving his surviving daughter Hannah, with relatives.  He wrote letters home begging his daughter's guardians to care for her.  He despaired of ever seeing her again and asked that they "take care of her for my baby is all of my study."  He died of illness at Pulaski, Tennessee without ever making it home to his daughter. 

The four Chavers brothers - Andrew, Henderson, Samuel and Nathan - who enlisted in the 17th Tennessee Infantry, CSA soon after the war began.  Nineteen year old Samuel died just months later at Knoxville of disease.  Hugh Heaslet was the son of a slave-owning planter in Alabama; he died at the Battle of Antietam in 1862 at age 23.  Jesse Duncan, a member of the 55th Georgia Infantry, captured at Cumberland Gap and sent to Camp Douglas in Illinois for the remainder of the war. 

The men who survived and returned home were almost all left with physical, and no doubt emotional, injuries that stayed with them for the rest of their lives.  Reading their pension records, you see the scars that left them struggling in old age to earn a living and keep their families in a home.  Several of them left the southeast and moved to Texas or Indian Territory to start new lives. 

Our ancestors surely saw their lives changed in unexpected ways as a result of the war and I suppose those changes continue to affect us in some ways today.  I am amazed at how resilient many of them were in forging ahead after the war took everything they had, in losing fathers and sons, and having to live with the scars the war undoubtedly left. 

Alexander Bowden Dorsey

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