Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

How the American Civil War Affected This Southern Woman and Many of Us–150 Years Later!

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–This blog post was originally written for and published on the blog “Worldwide Genealogy~A Genealogical Collaboration,” which you can access at: http://worldwidegenealogy.blogspot.com/2015/03/how-american-civil-war-affected-this.html

 

–from ancestry.com depicting Rebel vs. Yankee in Civil War

At my current age of sixty-six years, it was mostly my 2nd Great Grandfathers, eight in number, who fought in the Civil War. That whole generation was affected–those born in the 1830’s and 1840’s and dying in the war or after 1880. I remember how surprised I was to look at my family tree and realize that. I had put a little picture beside all the folks who fought in the war, and when I looked at my pedigree, there they were, all lined up–my 2nd Great Grandfathers!  One young 1st Great Grandfather lied about his age and entered the war early, and a couple of elderly 3rd Great Grandparents served as well, but mostly this was a tragedy for my 2nd Great Grandparents, who, thank heavens, had children before the war, or after, so that here I am, a product of all eight of them.

“The Civil War” as we call it in America, was fought between April, 1861 and April 1865. Many issues entered into the conflict, but the overriding matter of the day was slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into the western areas of the growing United States. Altogether, eleven  Southern States of the United States seceded, decided they no longer wanted to be a part of the United States of America, but wanted to join together as the Confederate States of America, often called the Confederacy, the South, or the Rebels. The United States forces were called the Union, the Yankees, or the North! After four years of battles, burning, and destruction, Wikipedia reports http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War that there were an “estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. One estimate of the death toll is that ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 died.” We genealogical researchers in America have all probably noticed the many, many widows and fatherless families on the 1870 and 1880 censuses due to this terrible war. 

The Confederacy lost, the slaves were freed, and the South had to slowly rebuild and learn a new way of life.  After the war, almost everyone in the South was poor, their confederate money was no good.  Even the plantation owners were “land poor,” unable to afford to hire their former slaves or other workers to work their large fields!

This is the world in which I find my 2nd Great Grandparents living. For some reason, this was a shock to me. Until I started my genealogical research in 2012, I cared little for history, I am sorry to admit.  A person with a Master’s Degree, I did poorly in history classes, as they only meant dates and event names to memorize to me. Why didn’t someone ever explain to me that my family was there? It wasn’t just the movie “Gone With The Wind” that I should have modeled my scant knowledge of the Civil War upon–of all historical events. Did my parents really not know that their 1st Great Grandparents fought in the war, or was it that they were so busy surviving the depression and World War II, that history paled in comparison. Now that I am more aware, I am trying to correct that situation by writing stories of our ancestors and how they participated in and were affected by historical events. Now I know, that their participation in those events, affected me and my family’s choices in life, experiences in life…let me give you some examples:

Robert_E._Lee, public domain Wikicommons (1)

Robert E. Lee, public domain, Wikicommons

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, the former Capital of the Confederacy, with statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and JEB Stuart adorning our major thoroughfare, Monument Avenue, one could not help but feel a sense of pride in being “Southern.” Stories were everywhere, and the pride of being Southern lay not in the reality of the war, but in little girls’ visions of verandas and sweet tea, white gloves and hoop skirts! It had nothing to do with slavery, especially since even in 1960, when I was eleven years old, blacks were pretty much completely segregated from whites.  As a white child, I didn’t know it should be different, I am sorry to say. By the time I was six, I knew the “Rebel Yell,” which we used to summon our playmates when we went outdoors to play. The South was highly glorified of course. As I grew up, I learned that there was so much more to the story, of course.  My genealogical research helped me truly understand.

One of my four maternal 2nd Great Grandfathers  was Robert Kerse, an Irish emigrant arriving in America in  1850 at age 18.  He married and had three of his ten children by 1861, then fought in the Civil War as a Confederate, protecting his own city of Richmond, Virginia.  His one and only horse was shot out from under him! Right on Fold 3, a genealogical site for military research, I can find his muster roll sheets, and letters from his superiors attesting to the fact that his horse was shot out from under him in battle, and that his claim against the US government after the war, to get a new horse, should be honored.  Oh my gracious!

Robert Kerse– in the U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865
Name:
Robert Kerse
Rank at enlistment:
Private
State Served:
Virginia
Service Record:
Enlisted in Company B, Virginia 2nd Infantry Regiment.
Sources:
Index to Compiled Confederate Military Service Records

Another maternal 2nd great grandfather, James Steptoe Langhorne, called Steptoe, was blind, but owned a huge, 13,000 acre plantation in Patrick County, Virginia. His family stretches back to Jamestown. He did not fight in the war obviously, but he did have the experience of having the Yankee forces steal his horse! The story, involving Steptoe and his daughter Fannie  was originally told to me by my cousins. (cousins found through genealogical research) brothers, and Fannie’s grandsons: Harvey Langhorne Spangler and Dr. Daniel Patrick Spangler, PhD)     

“At the time Miss Fannie Langhorne was ten, and the Civil War was being fought, Stoneman brought his Yankee army from Tennessee down what is now the J.E.B. Stuart highway. In passing they annexed one of Mr. Langhorne’s horses which happened to be his favorite. He, though blind, accompanied by his small daughter Fanny, insisted on following the army to Stuart in search of his horse. There the captain agreed to allow him to retrieve his horse if he could recognize him. Mr. Langhorne set Fanny to hunt the animal. After walking down the long line of horses hitched to the racks along the road and back again, she was unable to find him. On her return, however at one side, away from the rest, she saw her father’s mount and immediately squealed in delight. Mr. Langhorne was led over to a tall roan mare, not his, but near the one Fanny had discovered, and told to see if that were his. Fanny squealed to the contrary, but Mr. Langhorne turned to her and said, “You don’t understand the joke”. Then his hand was placed on another, his own; this time he said, “This is my horse, but not my bridle”.   (If you’d like, you can find this story here: http://www.mtnlaurel.com/mountain-memories/406-fannie-langhorne-spangler-an-interview-from-1935.html) That took courage and audacity, on his and young Fannie’s part!   

My third maternal 2nd great grandfather, William W. Stoops also served in the Civil War. He served in Company G, 21st Regiment, Virginia Cavalry.  It was made up of older men who could not do the long marches so it was a cavalry that stayed close to home to protect railroads, bridges, and mines.

My fourth maternal 2nd Great Grandfather was an Italian Immigrant, Louis Botto. It looks like he arrived in America perhaps about 1844, and he and his wife, my grandmother, Catherine Revaro Botto, had their first child in Richmond, Virginia, in 1857. I believe he had a brother named Frank Botto, and we can clearly see Frank registered to fight in the Civil War. Unfortunately, although I can find Louis Botto in the 1860 census, I’ve yet to find him anywhere else, except that his wife is listed in the phone book as the widow of Louis Botto and by 1866, she has remarried.  I wonder if Louis was killed in the war? Did he get sick and die? Did he leave the family, as I find Louis Bottos in several other areas of the country? I still have a ways to go in my research to prove this.

While part of my mother’s family traces back to Jamestown, the founding colony of America, as you can see, my family is a melting pot of nationalities. So as I grew up “basking in the glory” of being a “Southern Belle” (not really, not from age 12 on), what about my paternal side?  I did realize, as I grew older,  that my father’s side of the family were Yankees.  Not only that, when I started doing my genealogical research, I discovered that my father’s  Grandfather, my first great grandfather, Lewis Jacob Youngblood, 1846-1919, fought in the Battle of Petersburg,Virginia, as part of a New Jersey Cavalry Regiment!  After the war, he came back and lived in Petersburg where he had fought, because supposedly he “thought it was such a beautiful area.”  This past year, one of my cousins’ found Lewis’s discharge papers from the Civil War!  I got to see them as well as his sword, and his gun, all owned now by different cousins!  Kay Youngblood Fuller, my cousin, owns not only his discharge papers, but found his own journal which explains that he was an IRS tax collector for the Federal Government, and that he readily foreclosed on farms, and often bought them himself–farms in the Petersburg area– when recovering Confederates were unable to pay! What a way to get revenge on your enemies! He was a carpetbagger! My own Great Grandfather was a carpetbagger! “In United States history, a carpetbagger was a Northerner (Yankee) who moved to the South after the American Civil War, especially during the Reconstruction era (1865–1877), in order to profit from the instability and power vacuum that existed at this time.”   –http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/carpetbaggers-and-scalawags–also the source for this illustration below:

carpetbagger-AB

One cousin told me that when Lewis moved to Petersburg, he joined the local Methodist Church, Gary’s Methodist Church.  They say he was so hated, that when he came into the church and sat down, the whole congregation stood up and moved to the other side of the church! My poor grandfather and his siblings had to grow up this way! How would Lewis Jacob  feel to think that 100 years later, he had a great granddaughter who prided herself in her Southern heritage!

Youngblood, Lewis Jacob, discharge papers from Civil War

-for pictures of Lewis Jacob Youngblood’s rifle and sword from the Civil War, see my blog post at https://heart2heartstories.com/2014/11/05/lewis-jacob-youngblood-1846-1919-52-ancestors-in-52-weeks-44/

 

Hugh Jackson Hogue, 1825-1870, Pennsylvania is my 2nd great grandfather on my father’s side, and is of Scottish descent. He, along with his son, my great grandfather, Robert Fulton Hogue, 1850-1924, also fought at the Battle of Petersburg, and Robert came back to settle there as well! Robert was underage, only 15,  when he joined his Dad in Petersburg, and served as a bugle boy, a water boy, and took care of the horses. In later  years,  Robert’s daughter, Helen Blanche Hogue married Edwin Spear Youngblood, son of Lewis Jacob Youngblood, both children of Yankees who relocated to Petersburg, Virginia, both families members of Gary’s Methodist Church.  Had the fathers met in the war, or did they meet in church when being shunned by others?  What would it have been like to grow up in a small southern town, a yankee revenue agent for a father, just after the Civil War? How is it that Edwin  and Helen’s son married a Southern girl from Richmond, Virginia? Of course, she was only partially a  “Southern girl”–she, my mother, was Irish and Italian also, and proud of those heritages.

My other two paternal great grandfathers did not participate in the Civil War, one, Edwin Speer whose ancestors hailed from the Netherlands and Germany,  was too old, with the next generation too young. The other was a German emigrant, Gustavus Voelkler who only arrived in America about the time the Civil War was ending. Lucky them.

Again, the melting pot is evident. Dad’s family includes Scots, Germans, and Netherlanders mostly. Mom’s English, Irish, and Italian mostly. It always amazes me! The Kerse’s of Ireland, were originally the DesCearsais family of France!

One hundred fifty years from now, 2015, will be the year 2165. It’s possible I will have a 2nd or 3rd great grandchild who is my age by then. What will I have done that they might discover that will affect the way they think of me, or the way they think period, the way they regard history? Wow, that’s a humbling thought, yet now I know that my ancestors affected history, they fought, they struggled, they were there. They have affected me by sharing their beliefs, their courage and strong wills, their desire to make a difference–traits I feel in myself today!  

Would I have been a Confederate or Yankee if I were alive during the Civil War?  If I were a child, of course, I’d have done whatever my family did, and possibly been a southern Confederate. However, after all these years of being proud of my Southern heritage, I could never support slavery…so I suspect I would have been a Union sympathizer if not an outright flag waving Yankee! I see this same type of civil strife continuing everyday of my life. Our country in 2015 is about as polarized between the Democrats and Republicans as it was in 1861! Some even think we’re moving again towards a Civil War! While I feel very strongly about my political views, would I pick up a gun and shoot someone over it? I can’t imagine!  I might get angry at a neighbor or family member who believes so very differently from me– that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their right to have those views, just not to force them on me. Having strong beliefs can lead to conflicts, broken families, even wars, I see it in my own family, and in our world.

What might your descendents think of you, of your lifetime? –our lifetime? It’s a lot to consider, but our genealogical research leads us to these questions.

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

4 thoughts on “How the American Civil War Affected This Southern Woman and Many of Us–150 Years Later!

  1. Wonderful article! Thank you so much for sharing your stories!

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  2. Thak you Torhylbom. I appreciate your reading and sharing with me. This post was informative and helpful to me as well, helpful to understand better. Thanks again, Helen

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  3. “What might your descendents think of you, of your lifetime? –our lifetime? It’s a lot to consider, but our genealogical research leads us to these questions.”

    The fact is that compared to many of my ancestors my life is small when looked at next to theirs. While we all want to be someone important I am in the ranks of the many who lead a small life of raising a family and trying to do right. But when you think about it that is important also. Someone must be part of the foundation on which our more illustrious ancestors and descendants will stand on.

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  4. Bravo Charles! That is so true for most of us! I think you have hit the nail on the head, as to why I stand amazed to find all I have about my ancestors, they were living history! As you said however, there are thousands of us living ordinary lives as the “foundation” for the great who do the history! thanks for sharing, its always a pleasure to read what you think! helen

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