As shocking as it might seem to some who peruse this blog, and especially my Southern Unionist Chronicles blog (which desperately needs some new posts…), I grew up on Confederate heritage.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I was raised on that heritage, by my family. Sure, in passing conversation, I learned I had ancestors who were Confederates, and I heard less than a handful of stories about a few of them. No, the Confederate heritage thing wasn’t pushed on me… rather, I pursued it. By pulling everything together, in one package, I literally built my Confederate heritage. It proved to be my personal history hook, so to speak. But, it’s what little (so very little) I heard in stories, that set me off, down what has proved to be a very long path… but one that I have enjoyed immensely.
But, to the stories…
What you see below, in italics, is what I remember of the stories. Additional commentary will appear as normal, within the same paragraphs…
The first story that comes to mind (and perhaps the one that held my greatest fascination) comes from my great-grandmother (who lived to be 103). She used to mention her Uncle Philip (Henry Philip Good), who, while underage (16), was enticed by the band playing down near the river (South Fork of the Shenandoah). She would talk of how the family tried to talk him out of it, but he joined (Co. K, 10th Virginia Infantry), nonetheless, and, according to her memory, was killed at Manassas. No disrespect… no, not in the least… to my great-grandmother, but, in the course of my research, I later realized Uncle Philip (who enlisted in December 1861) was actually killed at Chancellorsville, on May 3, 1863. In that my great-grandmother was born over 16 years after Philip fell at Chancellorsville, I’m not surprised that the story changed over the course of years, before finally being told to her. Her father, incidentally, was a Confederate soldier as well. Yet, she never talked about him (Siram W. Offenbacker) and his days as a Confederate, nor even mentioned the man in the least bit (long story there, but now’s not the time). Siram’s service was courtesy of the last Confederate conscript act (military records say nothing of him being conscripted, by the way), as he didn’t find himself in the Confederate ranks until the Spring of 1864. Whether he went willingly or not (based on his age at the time, I’m thinking he was fueled by youthful “vinegar”, more than anything… so, I’m betting “willingly” is more the case), he was still among Confederate veterans in 1913, and apparently thrilled at the chance he had to attend the Gettysburg reunion (even though not a participant in the battle). He died in 1918. His daughter, my great-grandmother, died in 1982. She represented a mere on generation… a single bridge… between me and two of my Confederate relatives… her uncle and father.
Another story I remember was much less detailed; about a great-great grandfather (Charles Robert Hilliard, aka “Tanner”), who, I was told, drove a wagon for the Confederate army. I also recall hearing about his mother, who was paid in gold by Union soldiers to do their laundry, and how, at one point, Union men came and tried to take her quilts off the line, and how she fought them back with a broom. His military record was one of the first that I went after, but first, well… I found his obituary which was headlined with “Page County’s Oldest Civil War Veteran Dies.” It also revealed, that as a “young man, he fought through the Civil War and had a record of remarkable bravery… He helped to keep Page County’s fair name spotless throughout the Civil War…” I didn’t find a military record (he enlisted too late in the war), but I did find his pension record. He enlisted in the Fall of 1864, joining up with his brother’s (Jacob) company (Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry), near Timberville, Virginia. So, as for him fighting through the Civil War… ehhh, not so much… just in the last 5-7 months. As for remarkable bravery, well, that’s laying it on a little thick. I do say that his decision to enlist, while he was only 19, does have to say something for him, not to mention enduring what he must have endured in the course of his service. But really, I don’t think he got much of a chance to see much action, if any, really. According to his testimony for his pension, he was transferred and acted as courier for Major Sexton, with the old Stonewall Brigade’s Commissary Department. Thereafter, he did indeed, serve as a wagoneer, until he fell sick and was hospitalized in Waynesboro, Virginia, in either February or March, 1865. Fortunately, he wasn’t around for the battle there that came in early March. Being sick, he might have been rounded-up as a POW and spent the last month or so after that in a POW camp in the North. If I remember correctly, he did note that he didn’t return to the army before the surrender at Appomattox. He died in January, 1936. My grandfather, with whom I was very close (and who was 33 when “Tanner” died) knew his grandfather, but really didn’t have any stories about the “bravery” and “gallantry” of Charles Robert. He just knew that he drove a wagon. As in the case of my great-grandmother, my grandfather put me within only one generation away from a Confederate ancestor.
The third story in my block of memories was about another great-great grandfather, James Harvey Mayes, who enlisted with Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry, April 25, 1862. The timing of that enlistment coincides with the enforcement of the first Confederate conscription act, but while perhaps “nudged” by the act itself, I think he enlisted on his own accord, and took advantage of what it meant to enlist, rather than be taken in by conscript authorities. By joining on his own, he was able to enlist in a unit from his own locality. But as for the story, yes… he was in a cavalry battle in the Shenandoah Valley, and, after Col. Marshall had fallen, was among those who attempted to recover his body from the field, in the midst of the fight. At some point, James was faced with a “Yankee” trooper who fired at him with seven-shot pepper pistol. James was hit in the lung. Regretfully, that’s about all I remember, although, I’m pretty sure that the great uncle (a son of a daughter of James Harvey Mayes) who told me the story, had a few other stories, and I wish he had told me. Anyway, after looking up James’ military record and pension, I did see that he was wounded, but not before, first, having lost a horse in action at the battle of Upperville, on June 21, 1863 (for which he was paid $437). As for the date and place of his wounding, yes, he was wounded on November 12, 1864, at a place called Ninevah (I pass by there at least once a week and think of it without fail), just north of Front Royal, Virginia. The wound was to his left side and breast, 2″ below the collar bone, by a ball from a “seven shooter.” Ah, but was he wounded in the act of helping Col. Marshall? Well, I think so. Colonel Thomas A. Marshall, Jr. was commanding the 7th Virginia in the fight, and was mortally wounded. The colonel had just commented, while retreating from the enemy that “I always had a horror of being shot in the back.” An instant later he said, “There it is now.” He was killed instantly by a ball that entered his back on the left side, and exited through his heart. The story of the recovery of the body, at least as documented by others, does mention some troopers from Page County, trying to recover Marshall’s body, but makes no mention of my great-great grandfather. Nonetheless, I tend to think he was there… just can’t prove it with documentation. James survived the wound, but died from an abscess that formed on it, in 1892. James also had two brothers in the same company, Lorenzo and Thad. Ironically, Thad had been wounded just over a year earlier, at Rapidan Station (9/14/63), and also in the lungs. Thad not only survived the war, but was one of the last three Confederate veterans alive in Page County, when he died in 1936. (Incidentally, I mentioned a messmate of James’ in a Confederate analysis posts, sometime back. Take a look, here, beginning at paragraph 14, regarding James Robert Modesitt).
I do recall one more story, about my Davison ancestors in Kentucky, who hid their food and dinnerware, from Union soldiers, but that’s about the extent of it. The odd part of that story, however, is that, within the past ten years, I realized that two of my Davison uncles served in the 27th Kentucky Infantry… Union. So, as for that visit by soldiers… was it actually Confederate soldiers who stopped by, or Union, who, not caring whether the family had relatives in the Union army or not, needed provisions? We’ll likely never know. My connection to this Civil War snippet is through my father, who knew my great-great grandmother (Mary Rosanna Davison Moore, 1865-1951), who told him this story, but only as she learned it growing up.
Oh, yes, one more… though I cannot recall the source. One of my distant uncles, a Roudabush, was born on August 22, 1861… so, obviously, not a Confederate soldier. Apparently, Turner Ashby was, at some point, riding by the family mill (my Roudabush people were millers from the 20th century, back to the days they first came into this country, and, even back in Germany… where one of their mills, believe it or not, still stands), saw the babe, and asked the parents his name. Finding that he did not have one yet, Ashby replied, “name him Major Ashby” – and reminded them that the boy had to be major, so as not to outrank Ashby himself. My great-great-great uncle, Major Ashby Roudabush, died in 1916. (Incidentally, I think we can make no mistake in saying that my Roudabush family was sympathetic to the Confederacy… in January, 1863, another child came to the family, and she was named… Virginia Jackson Roudabush. Major Ashby Roudabush’s wife, by the way, was Virginia Belle McAllister; born in 1862… did you really expect anything less?). I carried the tradition of his name, in my own way, with a slight deviation, in the name of my youngest. Ashby is the second part of a two-part name. I think Laurel, will enjoy reading this…
Once again, these stories are part of the Confederate heritage that I built for myself. I collected the many different pieces that I found along the way, and I built on them. I continued looking into the family tree, and every time I found someone who appeared to be about the right age, I’d cross reference with military records to see if they served. In the end, I realized that, in addition to the three Confederate veterans named above, I am also a direct descendant of Joseph Richards (Dixie Artillery and 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry), Henry K. Emerson (Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry), Absalom Nauman (2nd Co. M, 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry), and Garnett Nicholson (82nd Virginia Militia). And, no, I didn’t stop looking with them. I went on to count about 20 or so uncles who served (some who died)… and as for cousins… you don’t even want to get me started. Going remote in the extreme, as far as cousins go, I’m also related to A.P. Hill, George E. Pickett, and… Robert E. Lee… yes, really; I’m not pullin’ your leg.
So, how is it that I can have such a “large amount of Confederate” in my heritage, and yet, I so often talk about non-Confederate side of what it meant to be a Southerner in the Civil War? Am I essentially bashing those who opted, willingly or not, to side with the Confederacy?
No, not at all.
I think one can see enough, in the way I openly reflect on my Confederate-affiliated ancestors named above, that I am quite happy to relate tales about those folks. They are my people. The way I see it (and, I think, a lot of those who comment negatively about my postings are unable to see and/or realize where I stand) is that the decisions my Confederate-affiliated ancestors made, were their decisions to make. They saw the world in real time, at the actual time, and made decisions that were necessary for self-preservation. The perception that they had was dead-on, for them, in that time and place. Whether one, today, likes those decisions or not is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether the decisions they made mesh well with our modern beliefs or not.
So, what’s my objective? I’m trying to find a clearer picture of what it means to be a descendant of Civil War era Southerners (and yes, all of my Civil War era ancestors were Southerners), especially a descendant with Civil War era Southern ancestors who had varied sentiments and opinions, and not all of them aligning with the objectives of the Confederacy… and that even includes some who wore gray, but may not necessarily have been “thinking gray”. There’s a bigger world, and a bigger truth to Civil War era Southern history, than what the monolithic-obsessed Confederate heritage pushers would like us to believe.
What I do here, is to weave the forgotten (whether conveniently forgotten or not) elements of Southern Civil War era history into the overall memory of the Civil War era South. I spent no less than three three decades building my Confederate heritage, but, looking back, beginning around 2006, I began to see that it was unbalanced, grossly slanted, if you will. Not only was that disturbing, but I found that being affiliated with a Confederate “heritage organization” that, more and more, continued to build that heritage to reflect something it wasn’t, was working counter to my awakening of a broader, more complete history. I realized it was time to go back to work and start adding balance to what it means to be a descendant of Civil War era Southerners.
What I do here, well, let me put it in terms of food. This fare is just not tasty to many Southerners brought up on the standard fare of Confederate heritage alone, and it’s so distasteful that many reject it outright, unable to see anything but what they want to see. That doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s the antithesis of the common fare “comfort food for the soul” that makes Confederate celebrationists thrive, and yet, rather than making the waistline swell, the Confederate heritage push (which, most certainly, includes the continual “South = Confederacy” push) seems to swell the mind so much that one loses the ability to see anything else other than that which fits into one storyline alone.
In the end, we need to see the South for all that it was, and no, I’m not calling it good and bad, but that there were many facets… whether some folks like that or not.