How far for “Cause” and “Country?”… Part 2

Posted on April 10, 2009 by


O.k., I think I presented a thought-provoking post yesterday (actually today, as I am writing this second part within minutes of the first), but I’d like to stretch this out a little more. Consider the flip-side of this coin…

One of my Union (Maryland) ancestors (actually, he was my third great grand uncle) enlisted in September 1861. He served his three years, and in September 1864, took his discharge and went home.

Another Union (Kentucky) ancestor (another third great grand uncle) also enlisted in the first year of the war (October 1861). In fact, he and his brother may have had to cut their way through Confederate lines just to enlist. On top of that, the unit in which they enlisted had yet to receive uniforms or bounty money. The officers gathered together what they could to cover the bounty. As more recruits came in, those who had received bounties pooled their money together to give to the new recruits. All was straightened out in time, but the length of service for this distant uncle of mine was limited. His brother died at Corinth, Ms. in the summer of 1862 (sickness) and by the fall, he deserted. He actually tried to apply for a pension in years after the war, but, obviously, his desertion didn’t help and his application was denied.

How far for “Cause” and “Country” were these men willing to go?

My Maryland relative served out his term, but for some reason, he didn’t extend his enlistment. He served his time, was a relatively good soldier (though he did spend a little time in the Harpers Ferry brig for losing his carbine and some other things… I think I know what happened… something involving an unpleasant tangle with Mosby’s men at Rixeyville, which resulted in a quick skeedaddle to avoid life in a prison camp somewhere in the South), but something within him must have made him feel that he had done his time. It appears that he had fulfilled his sense of obligation, perhaps to self, perhaps to country, perhaps to the expectations of family and friends. He received a pension in later years for his service as a Union soldier. He was, by the way, a “company man” in years after the war, serving with the B&O Railroad.

My Kentucky ancestor just picked-up and left… end of story. I don’t have the slightest clue as to why. I also don’t know what he did for the balance of the war, but I do know that he does not reappear on any Union or even Confederate rolls.

How far for “Cause” and “Country?” How far were these men willing to go for Union? It seems rather clear that one was more dedicated than the other, but it appears that even he had his limits.