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!


–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
Robert Kerse
Rank at enlistment:
State Served:
Service Record:
Enlisted in Company B, Virginia 2nd Infantry Regiment.
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:


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.

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Walter Thomas Houchins, 1854-1937, the Mystery of His Father– 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, #22


Patrrick Co Va

Patrrick Co, Va

Walter Thomas Houchins, called Thomas, was my great-grandfather. In 1881, when he was 26 years old, he married my great-grandmother Evaline Langhorne who was 15 years old. Together they had nine children in 19 years. Evaline died having twins in 1900. Within one year Thomas, then 47 years old, married another 15-year-old girl and had two more children.

Here is the mystery: in tracing my family tree it did not take long until I was ready to add my great- great- grandparents, the parents of Walter Thomas Houchins. I knew all of my great aunts and uncles well, so it was surprising when I realized that we did not know their grandfather. By the time I was working on my family tree, I was in my 60s, and all of my great aunts and uncles were deceased. I realized I had never taken the opportunity to question them about their own family tree. Even my mother’s generation was gone. I could not believe that this information was missing in the family

I worked very hard in my research trying to find the correct identity of the father of Walter Thomas and his siblings. I checked all the censuses, birth and death records that I could find, other family trees, community records, land deeds, wills, all to no avail. Then someone told me about the Patrick County Virginia Genealogical Society. They had an officer named David Shelay who wrote a column in the local newspaper, The Enterprise. I wrote an inquiry about the parentage of Walter Thomas Houchins and David Shelay published it in the paper in Stuart, Virginia. In fact this was the beginning of my meeting 100 new cousins in Southwest Virginia! With all the joy that has brought, we were not able to answer the question of who is the father of Walter Thomas Houchins.

However, now we can take an educated guess, that is probably correct. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not they want to include this information as a fact or not. I have consulted a professional genealogist and experienced family researchers about this.
When Walter Thomas Houchins married my great-grandmother Evaline Langhorne in 1881, their marriage certificate listed his parents as Isaac and Nancy Houchins. We have identified that couple and have eliminated them as the parents of Walter Thomas and his siblings.

Starting with the 1860 census, you can see six-year-old Thomas living with his single mother, Nancy J. Houchins. If you trace her back to her 1850 census you find Nancy J. Houchins living with her parents William and Joyce Harbour Houchins. This lets us know that Nancy was a single mother. According to the 1860,1870, and 1880 censuses, she goes on to have seven children out-of-wedlock! In the 1800’s, in Patrick County, Virginia, between 1854 and 1872–my great, great-grandmother did this! It is hard to believe! According to the censuses she worked as a mail carrier as well.  

The plot thickens when we move to the 1870 census, when Thomas is 16 years old. He is not living at home that year, but lo and behold he is living on a farm right next door—a farm belonging to the Stoops family. You would think that he is probably just working there, until you realize several things. One, William W. Stoops, a son, single, age 35, who fought in the Civil War, is listed as a mail contractor. Nancy is a mail carrier, so perhaps they worked together as well as were neighbors. Finally, the piece de resistance—William W. Stoops and our own Nancy J. Houchins marry in 1880! Is he finally making an “honest woman of her”? Lots of questions! Is William Stoops my second great-grandfather? I would love to know! And actually, it appears that he might well be—for another big reason—I had my autosomal dna done by ancestry.com. It says I match  the Stoops surname, and sure enough, I match to trees with his family line in them! I can find no other reason I would match the Stoops unless indeed, he is Walter Thomas Houchins’ father, and therefore my second great-grandfather! Even so, I do not have him listed in my family tree as my second great-grandfather, I don’t know if I’m ready to think I have “proved” this or not. If anyone out there reads this and knows something else, please let me know.    


Virginia Marriages, 1851-1929

Name: William W. Stoops
Spouse’s Name: Nancy J. Houchins
Marriage Date: 14 Sep 1880
Marriage Place: Patrick County
Age: 55
Birthplace: Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Father: John Stoops
Spouse’s Age: 46
Spouse’s Birthplace: Patrick County, Virginia
Spouse’s Father: William Houchins
Spouse’s Mother: J. Houchins
Marriage Performed By: S. D. Williams, Min:
Comment: William W., Farmer
Original Source Page: 104

Think about it though—growing up in rural, Patrick County, Virginia in the 1800’s, a single mother of seven children! Seems like you’d be well-known, the mail carrier, and not particularly well-respected for your many children out of wedlock! However, look who her children married. Thomas married Evaline Langhorne, daughter of James Steptoe Langhorne and Elizabeth Rachel Omohundro, two wealthy and powerful families! Nancy’s second child, Pocahontas, b. 1856, married John Anglin, the son of a well-respected family. Their son became a congressman in Oklahoma. Nancy J’s son James B., born 1864, married Nancy Howell, born 1867. Nancy was the daughter of Isaac Columbus Howell and Mary Anne Howell of Patrick County. It is hard for me to believe that if Nancy J. Houchins was a single mother of seven children that these particular families would have let their children marry her children. She must have been well-known, well liked, and respected in spite of the fact that she was a single mother. Maybe there was some reason they couldn’t marry, and that was known and accepted somehow.

The mysteries and clues abound. The fact that he was a next-door neighbor, the fact that they worked together, the fact that my great-grandfather lived with William Stoops at one time, and the fact that my DNA matches the Stoops family certainly leads me to believe that William W Stoops is the father of my great-grandfather William Thomas Houchins. Thank heavens I feel confident in the identity of Nancy, his mother. Therefore we can trace our Houchins line all the way back to England

With all this turmoil, what kind of man did Thomas become and what happened to his children? Perhaps it was because he had no father of his own living with him during his early years, or perhaps because he knew his father lived next-door, but not with him and his family, that Thomas seemingly so easily deserted his own six living children when their mother died, married again quickly and started a new family. This was a sad time in my immediate family’s history. However, they rebounded from this and other tragedies and created intelligent, creative and kind people for our world.

Of Thomas and Evaline’s nine children, three died in early childhood. One grew up and committed several petty crimes.(another story sometime) However, five of their six children grew up to make their family proud. Two daughters, both born in the 1800s, became professional women, very unusual for women of this time period, the late 1880’s. Julia became a lawyer, in fact,the first female assistant district attorney in Virginia. Her sister Katherine (Kate) became a nurse. They both had children. The youngest son, Guy Maurice Houchins, fathered two children, one of whom became a famous actress, and one became a geophysicist with an oil company. Their son John married a woman named Josie and they dedicated their lives to serving deaf students in Staunton, Virginia. Harry born in 1887, was blind with the family disease of retinitis pigmentosa by the time he was a teenager. Even so, he was a talented musician with an active, intelligent mind. Harry nor John or Tom had children. When their mother died in 1900 the six children were scattered among friends, relatives, and military schools. With all this upheaval, they found a way to be close as adults. As a great-grandchild with close family members, I am very grateful for this and proud to be a member of this family with all of its complexities.

Houchins, Guy maurice, Jr

Guy M. Houchins Jr. , Geophysicist

Kate Steptoe Houchins Kearse, w out border        Houchins, Mary Stuart's book

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