Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History, Research

Family Pictures Lead to Search for Information

When my sister-in-law visited us this month she brought with her a stack of old pictures, many of which we had never seen before. Most of the pictures were of members of my husband’s family. Both sides were represented, his father’s family and his mother’s family. I scanned them all. Then we decided to identify as many people as we could. Some had names written on the back. Some had things like “mother” or “grandfather” written on them. We had to know who wrote on it to determine who was in the picture or, in some cases, we recognized them from other pictures we had. What started out as simply scanning the pictures turned into a major project of genealogical research.

Seated - L J and Joannah Howell.
Seated – L J and Joannah Howell.

Technically, I had to figure out how to put the names of the people on the scanned photos. I tried using the software we got with the camera we bought a couple of years ago, but many of the group photos didn’t have room to type all the names in a text box. Then I discovered that when viewing the scanned photo in Windows 7 Pictures I could add a comment to the file. So I typed the names of all the people we could identify into this comment field. You can’t see the field when viewing the pictures in slide-show mode, but you can have the information as part of the picture’s file.

To help get the names right, I signed into Ancestry.com where my son created an extensive family tree. My sister-in-law had never been on Ancestry.com. She was so impressed she decided to sign up for membership when she got home.

Together we searched the families and filled in the names. Of course, we got sucked into the genealogy. I showed her how we could search for details on a person by searching census records and military records. I also shared with her some records that I had printed out. We spent hours searching, reading and updating.

It’s funny how you see different pieces of information and then suddenly make the connection. An example is the research I did for my husband to find the ancestor who served in the Confederate Cavalry and rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest. He’d heard stories from his grandmother and great-grandmother who at one time had some old pistols and a uniform. But he was so small that when he grew older he questioned the truth of the stories. The artifacts had been long ago sold or given away. So I searched and found that Lee J. Howell served in the 18th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment which was organized in West Tennessee where they lived. The 18th came under the command of General Nathan B. Forrest in 1864.

Lee J. Howell - older man sitting on right
Lee J. Howell – older man sitting on right

We were looking up members of the Howell family to help understand the names and relationships of the people in the pictures. That’s when I put two and two together and realized Lee J. Howell was my husband’s Great-Great-Grandfather. His full name was Levi J. Howell, but according to census records he went by Lee. And the Great-Grandmother who told my husband the stories about the Civil War was Lee J. Howell’s daughter, Bell.

I also found Lee J. Howell in the 1920 census at age 87 living in the household of his son-in-law, which means he was living with his youngest daughter who had married a man named William Hockaday. That solved the mystery of the pictures which had written on them names of members of the Hockaday family.  Before making this discovery we didn’t know who the Hockaday’s were.

Jack Hockaday
Jack Hockaday

Research into families can be fascinating, especially when various pieces of information are shared. Each piece adds something to the puzzle.

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, Historical Sites, History

Battle of Stones River Remembered

The picturesque Stones River winds its way through Rutherford County, Tennessee, on its way to Percy Priest Lake and eventually to the Cumberland River. Along its shores the Stones River National Battlefield spans a small parcel of the land where Confederate and Union forces fought December 31, 1862, through January 2, 1863. Caught amid the urban sprawl of modern-day Murfreesboro, the site marks one of many battles, in what was then considered the “west,” that allowed the Union forces to split the Confederacy.

Visitor Center
Visitor Center

On a recent trip to Tennessee, our son took us to the Stones River National Battlefield.  I’ve visited many Civil War battlefields over the years but this was my first time at Stones River.  At the visitors center we learned about the battle and then we took a driving tour. My husband and I are both history buffs and we have a particular affinity for the Civil War. Both of us have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and we both grew up with the many Civil War sites nearby.  Seeing the terrain and hearing the story of the Battle of Stones River gave us an understanding of what the men who fought here went through one hundred and fifty years ago.

Stones River
Stones River

At the beginning of the war, Tennessee seceded while Kentucky did not. This drew the initial lines in the “west.”  By mid-1862 most of the Mississippi was lost and Union ships blockaded the southern and eastern ports. Union strategists planned to cut a wedge through Tennessee and Georgia to divide the Confederacy. Although widespread, the road network of the day would not sustain transport of supplies, munitions and men. Railroads and riverboats provided the fastest and easiest means of transport. So the Union generals were ordered to capture the railroads and take control of the rivers.

Fences on Battlefield
Fences on Battlefield

The spring of 1862 saw the fall of Fort Donelson and Nashville, both on the Cumberland River. On the night of December 30th General William Rosecrans left Nashville and marched his men southeast along the Nashville Pike, which paralleled the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. They camped just outside Murfreesboro where the enemy waited. Anticipating the coming fight, Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg attacked on the freezing-cold morning of December 31st. From the south they pushed  the Union troops back toward Nashville Pike, the railroad and the Stones River.  The battle raged across cotton fields, through stoney outcroppings and cedar thickets for three long days. Thousands on both sides were killed, wounded or captured.  (13,249 Union, 10,266 Confederate)

Terrain near river, scene of last day of battle
Terrain near river, scene of last day of battle

Approximate area of river crossing

On January 2, 1862, after having pushed the northern troops off a hill and across the Stones River, Union artillery on the far side of the small river fired on pursuing Confederates, killing or wounding nearly 1,800 in mere minutes. The southerners retreated as the Yankees recrossed the river and retook the high ground.  The following day General Bragg withdrew his men from the battlefield and from Murfreesboro.

Cannons fired across the fields.
Cannons fired across the fields.

In the months following the battle, General Rosecrans built a large fort at Murfreesboro called “Fortress Rosecrans.” This 200 acre, earthen-works fort became the supply depot for the later campaigns against the rail center  in Chattanooga and eventually Atlanta.

In 1863, not long after the battle, Colonel William Hazen’s men built a monument to commemorate the Union soldiers lost in the battle. It is the oldest intact Civil War memorial.

Hazen Brigade Monument
Hazen Brigade Monument

In 1866, over 6,100 Union soldiers were reburied in the Stones River National Cemetery.  In 1867 remains of Confederate soldiers were moved to a cemetery south of Murfreesboro. Later, in the 1890’s, about 2,000 southerners were moved again to Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro. As at many other battlefields, the U.S. government established cemeteries for the Union soldiers who died, but private citizens provided for the interment of the Confederate dead.

Across the fields to the Stones River Cemetery
Across the fields to the Stones River Cemetery

The Stones River battlefield became a tourist attraction bringing people and needed money to the area. Situated along the railroad, the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway provided excursions for those who wanted to see the cemetery, memorials and the battlefield  itself. The railway published a book called “Southern Battlefields” in 1890 to serve as a guidebook for those touring the many battlefields. Later, in 1906, the railroad built the artillery monument, a 34-ft-tall obelisk marking the hill where the last attack took place so that the passengers could see it from their train.

Hazen Brigade Monument - inside the wall
Hazen Brigade Monument – inside the wall

Modern day tourists can explore the preserved portion of the battlefield and the surrounding area. With the help of maps and information provided at the visitor center, tourists can maneuver through homes and business areas to find the Hazen Brigade Memorial, the remnants of “Fortress Rosecrans” and to explore the Stones River.

Marker along driving tour
Marker along driving tour

When we returned home, I did a little research to determine if any of our ancestors fought at Stones River. It turns out that the Tennessee Sharpshooters (also called Maney’s Sharpshooters, 24th Tennessee Sharpshooter Battalion, Maney’s Battalion) under Captain Frank Maney are listed in the order of battle for the Army of the Tennessee at Stones River.  George Wade Knight, my great, great-grandfather, served in the 24 Battalion Tennessee Sharpshooters as did his brother-in-law, Perry L. Brown and his wife’s brother-in-law Philander Rushing.  All were from Humphreys County and probably joined up together.

Leaving Hazen Brigade Monument
Leaving Hazen Brigade Monument
Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, Historical Sites, History

Malvern Hill or Gettysburg?

Was my ancestor wounded at Malvern Hill or Gettysburg? Accounts differ, but they provide fascinating information about the battles and his unit’s participation in those battles.

E. D. Boone
E. D. Boone

Etheldred D. Boone enlisted in Company B 14th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA. The regiment was organized near Clarksville, Tennessee, in June, 1861.  Along with the 1st Tennessee and the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, the 14th completed the three regiments that made up the Tennesse Brigade assigned to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Company B, organized in Palmyra, consisted of members primarily from Montgomery County. E. D. Boone lived in what was then Stewart County near the town of Erin, which later became the county seat of Houston County. In 1861 Palmyra was a thriving community a few miles and a short train ride from Erin. The train ran through Erin to Cumberland City then along the Cumberland River to Palmyra and on to Clarksville.

As part of Lee’s campaign to save the Confederate capital, Malvern Hill was the last of the Seven Days Battle for Richmond which began at the Battle of Oak Grove on June 25, 1862, and ended at Malvern Hill on July 1st.

In a letter written in 1909 by a surviving member of Company B to E. D. Boone’s son, Samuel B. Powers stated that E. D. Boone was wounded at Malvern Hill. See the full text of the letter from Samuel B. Powers at the end of this post.

In 1862 the Tennessee Brigade, commanded by James J. Archer, was attached to A. P. Hill’s division of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On June 26th Hill’s division engaged the Union forces at Beaver Dam Creek and again at Gaines Mill on June 27th. The division fought at Glendale on June 30. But, on July 1st,  A. P. Hill’s division, exhausted from the previous days fighting, was held in reserve during the Battle of Malvern Hill.

So could my ancestor have been wounded at Malvern Hill? With all the fighting over a seven-day period, it is possible that he was wounded during this campaign. The battle at Glendale took place on the approach to Malvern Hill where the Union forces had retreated to the high ground. A large number of Union troops had dug in on the hill, with artillery in place, prepared to make their stand when the Confederates attacked on July 1st. At the time the names of the various battles were not as distinct as they are today. Historians have given names to the various actions based on specific locations and dates, yet the soldiers on the field may have referred to them differently. If he was wounded at Malvern Hill, as the letter states, he was probably wounded on June 30 in what is now called the Battle of Glendale.

But then there is the other account – that E. D. Boone was wounded at Gettysburg. In my grandmother’s library a book titled “A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans” (1913) contained biographies and histories of prominent Tennesseans. My grandfather’s write-up told of his father’s service in the Confederate Army. “…serving therewith until the battle of Gettysburg, when he was seriously wounded during Pickett’s charge. He was carried back with the army into Virginia, and remained in the hospital at Richmond until the close of the war, and for some time thereafter was compelled to use crutches.” The source of this information is unknown.

The Tennessee Brigade, including the 14th Tennessee Regiment, did participate in the battle of Gettysburg as part of Henry Heth’s Division in A. P. Hill’s Third Corp. Their commander, James J. Archer, was captured on the first day, July 1, 1863. Command passed to Birkett D. Fry who led the Tennessee Brigade at the forefront of Pickett’s famous charge on July 3, 1863. Elements of the 14th reached the Union lines but lost their battle flag to the Yankees within their battle works.

One hundred men, of the original one thousand, reformed the 14th Tennessee Regiment on the day after Gettysburg. By the surrender at Appomattox Court House the following year only 40 men remained.  Regardless of when he was wounded, E. D. Boone served with honor, was wounded and his widow received a widow’s pension.

Due to his untimely death in 1873 of cholera, E. D. Boone never had the opportunity to tell his son about his military experiences. Perhaps by requesting copies of E. D. Boone’s military record and his widow’s pension application from the Tennessee State Archives, I will be able to obtain more information about his service.

Letter written to W. R. Boone by Samuel B. Powers regarding E.D. Boone’s service in the Confederate Army.

RFD # 1
Palmyra, Tenn.
Feb 12th, 1909
 
Mr. W. R. Boone
Erin, Tenn.

I received a note from Capt. W. G. Russell a few days ago with a letter from you enclosed making inquiry about E. D. Boone who was a member of Co. B 14th Tenn. Regt. in Confederate Army. Being a member of the same company I was very intimate with him. I waited on him through a spell of fever while in the Army. From your letter I think you want to know in what Battle he was wounded. It seems that the old boys of other companies do not agree about the battle he was wounded in. I have talked with your father since the war. He told me he was wounded at Malvern Hill, the last of the seven days fight before Richmond VA. If you will see a history of that fight you will see it commenced the 26th of June & ended the 1st day  July 1862.

Respectfully Yours,

Saml. B. Powers

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History

Health Issues And Our Family History

Illnesses and accidents affected our ancestors in many different ways. Often health issues changed the course of their lives and the lives of their families. Without the benefits of modern medicine, what today would be a simple illness became a life or death struggle, often ending in an untimely death.

After being under the weather during May (nothing serious), I thought about the health conditions in my own family history and how those medical problems impacted their lives. There were epidemics, accidents, women who died young after having too many children and those assorted family illnesses your doctor asks about when taking your family medical history.

We rarely hear about epidemics these days due to better sanitation, monitoring and medical treatments. In the past epidemics caused panic and many deaths. In 1873 Asiatic Cholera swept through the small community where my family lived. A father and son who were working on railroad bridges across one of the many creeks, contracted the disease. Both men succumbed, one day apart. First the father, then the son. This son had survived wounds suffered at Malvern Hill where he fought for the Confederacy. He returned from the war, married and fathered two children. His untimely death left his twenty-three-year-old widow to raise their son and daughter alone. That son was my grandfather, the one I never knew. Cholera took his father and his grandfather when he was only four years old and had a lasting effect on his family.

The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 killed more people worldwide than died in World War I. Some call it a pandemic. Unlike today when the elderly and the very young are considered most at risk from the flu, in 1918 the flu struck healthy, young adults. My grandmother survived a bout of this virulent strain of influenza.  Her mother, my great-grandmother, took primary responsibility for my mother, a baby at the time, so her daughter could recover. My mother always said her grandmother raised her. In her later years my grandmother was susceptible to pneumonia due to the scaring of her lungs caused by the flu.

Accidents also impacted our family. My husband’s grandfather died in an automobile accident coming home to Tennessee from Detroit to visit his family for Thanksgiving. He went to Detroit to earn enough to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. He had paid the debt, purchased a new car and planned to return to farm with his grandsons. The oldest grandchild, my husband was twelve and his brother was eleven. They lost the opportunity to work on the farm with their grandfather. Due to the determination of my husband, his father and siblings much of the place his grandfather worked so hard to keep is still owned by family.

When my grandfather was eighteen and working for the railroad, he caught his arm between the couplings of two cars. His mother recorded both the date his arm was mashed and the day after when it was amputated in the family bible, reflecting the importance of the event. Unable to do physical labor with only one arm, he had to find an occupation suitable for a one-armed man in the 1880’s and 90’s. Medical knowledge at that time ensured that the injury did not threaten his life. Years later his eleven-year-old daughter fell from the porch and sustained internal injuries. These injuries might have been repaired with modern surgery, but in 1914 medicine had not progressed enough to save her. She died of her injuries leaving a grieving family.

Doctors of the past couldn’t always diagnose an illness. One of my great-grand fathers became unable to work on the farm due to an unknown ailment. So he sold the farm sometime after 1900 and moved to another town along the railroad where his wife and daughters ran a boarding house. Had it not been for the illness the family would have remained on the farm and one of the daughters would not have run off and married to a man who lived in the boarding house.

For at least two women in our family, having too many children appears to have contributed to their early demise. My great-aunt married in 1900, had seven children and died in 1911, a month after the birth of her last child. She was only thirty-one years old. In my husband’s family his great-grandmother married at age sixteen, had nine children and died in 1919 at age thirty-nine. Her death certificate gives tuberculosis as cause of death with influenza as a contributing factor, another victim of the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. In the case of my great-aunt, her husband moved his in-laws in with him to help him raise his children. He later married his first wife’s sister, my grandmother. In my husband’s family, his great-grandfather only lived four years after his wife’s death. The older children then took the younger ones, eight and eleven, to raise. We will never know if these women would have lived longer if birth control had been available back then.

Discussions of illness and death can get pretty depressing, yet it can be important to our own health to know about the ailments of our family members. My paternal grandmothers had colon cancer so I have colonoscopies more often than most people. We’ve identified several members of my mother’s family who had Alzheimer’s, including my mother, so the horror of that dreadful disease looms over us. A stroke caused my grandfather’s death in 1955 and 41 years later my father died from a stroke. My aunt said my father’s death was almost identical to the way their father had died years before. So I watch the blood pressure and cholesterol. My husband developed diabetes which affected the lives of several members of his family. So even if it feels uncomfortable, we should all have those family discussions about illness and causes of death. It could save our lives.

No doubt modern medicine would have changed outcomes and changed lives. Some of us might not be here if outcomes had been different. Yet such intimate knowledge gives a humanity to the old family tree and allows us to see them as people, struggling and suffering just as we do. They continue to live through the family stories passed down from one generation to the next. And perhaps we will learn something about ourselves.

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore

Sometimes when we research our ancestors we find some interesting characters on our family tree – such as my Great-Aunt Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore. Aunt Sallie married my Great-great-grandfather’s brother, Rufus Hicks Sizemore, in 1856, when he was 24 and she was 22. Years ago my mother showed me the faded newspaper which carried Aunt Sallie’s obituary and asked me to make photo-copies. More recently I typed it up before it faded into oblivion. The obituary reads like a tribute to a woman who was both prominent in the community and loved by all who knew her. She’s one of my ancestors I wish I knew more about. I hope everyone enjoys reading her obituary from almost one hundred years ago.

Obituary of Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore published in the Dickson County Herald

April 19, 1912

In Memoriam

Mrs. Sallie Nesbitt Sizemore was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, and died at the home of her son Claude H. Sizemore, in Dickson, Tenn. April 1, 1912, aged 78 years.

Mrs. Sizemore was a great-niece of the sainted Samuel McAdoo, one of the pioneers in establishing the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in this country. She became a member of the Cumberland Church when just a child and was a faithful and loyal Christian all her life. She was married to Dr. R. H. Sizemore and was a faithful and devoted wife for him to his death.  He died at Erin, Tenn., July 14, 1879.

Three sons blessed the united life of Mrs. Sizemore, vis.: Eugene A., who died in infancy; Clarence R., now living in St. Louis, Mo., and Claude H., a resident of Dickson, Tenn. The deceased has also left one brother and one sister to mourn their loss.  Mrs. Sizemore had every attention in her last sickness that loving hands and tender hearts could render. It was not until the inevitable came upon her that she would allow special attention.

She was a woman of great willpower and never wanted anyone to attend to her so long as she could wait on herself.  She was cheerful and hopeful in all her sickness up to only a short time before the end came. Her faith in God was fixed to the end. Almost with her latest breath she whispered, “It is well.” She knew no fear of any thing, or any body. She fully believed her life was safe anywhere. Day or night, if she felt duty called, she did not hesitate, but, at once, would go out in the darkness of the night that she might be a help somewhere. Her husband was a surgeon in the army during the war between the States, and this good woman soon felt that loyalty to her husband demanded her presence with him in his delicate work, and she went to him and for two years, or longer, she was right by his side assisting him in his work.  Many of the old soldiers yet living say she was God’s angel among the wounded and dying.  At her funeral veterans of the gray were her pall-bearers. Many of them as they looked upon her cold form for the last time could not refrain from weeping. It was by their hands her body was consigned to its last resting place.

Her patriotism is no less spoken of than that of many of the illustrious dead who fell in line of battle. Many of her courageous and daring deeds are recalled by those who were with her and knew her army record. I only mention a few here. At one time she passed between the Union and Confederate lines while under fire with a looking-glass under her arm, playing the citizen of the neighborhood. At another time, on hearing of the hunger of an almost starving rebel, she determined to get some potatoes nearby, and though the army on both sides were in battle array she passed somehow the pickets, got the potatoes and returned and was reprimanded by her husband for taking such risks. Her simple reply was, “I got the potatoes.” Another time, at the point of a pistol she forced a horse thief to put back her horse in the stable, warning him that to carry out his orders would result in his death. She was taken to Atlanta while the city was being shelled, but made her escape in a meat car. In a difficulty between a Federal officer and her husband she threw herself between them to save her husband from the drawn sword in the officer’s hand. She defied the officer and called him a coward. She often went among the sick and dying administering medicine and giving such other help as she knew how to give in their troubles. She assisted her husband in dissecting, often standing in heaps of limbs all around her, she holding the tallow candle, the only light available, while her husband was amputating and otherwise attending the soldiers.

Mrs. Sizemore was indeed a remarkable woman and her long life of heroism and Christian labor is an inheritance for her grown sons that they will ever enjoy. The older people feel the loss of a comrade. The younger ones feel the loss of a loving and congenial mother, who was ever ready with a rich story to rehearse that would thrill and make them love her memory. She sleeps the sleep of the good and brave. Some sweet day we shall meet her again.

Her funeral was conducted from the M. E. Church, South, in Dickson,Tenn., before a large audience of sorrowing friends, April 3, 1912.

Posted in Civil War, Genealogy, History

Gold Coin – 160 Years Old

With gold at record high prices, like many others, I started looking at my jewelry to see if there were any odds & ends I could sell. Broken chains, single earrings, and other such pieces. This got me to thinking about what I have, where they came from and what the items mean to me. Some pieces hold such sentimental value that I would never sell them.

One of my treasures is the gold coin necklace my mother gave me years ago. Along with the gift came the story, the family history tied to the coins. This piece of family lore makes the coin necklace a treasure beyond price.

My great-grandmother, Theodosia, was born in Mississippi in 1858. According to family stories she received my coin, a 2 1/2 dollar gold piece dated 1851, as a birthday gift. Dosia lived most of her life in Tennessee where she died at the age of 82. She gave two coins, mine and another dated 1850, to my grandmother who in turn passed them on to my mother. After having the coins set in bezels so they could be worn as necklaces, my mother gave them to my sister and me.

That explains how I came to own the coin, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I can only speculate on the origin of the coins. Did they come from Dosia’s father or, perhaps, her grand-father? Was it a family custom to give the children gold coins on their birthdays? Did her mother put the coins away so that Dosia and her siblings would have them when they grew older?  Whatever the plans for the coins, the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 changed everything.

Dosia’s father, R. B. Sizemore, enlisted in the 26th Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A. Her mother, Elvira, remained behind to tend the farm and their four children. Late in 1864 R. B. Sizemore died a result of some unknown disease, rather from battle wounds. From the history of the 26th, the date he enlisted and his death, we can surmise that he participated in the Battle of Ft. Donelson  (Feb. 1862) where he was taken prisoner and exchanged six months later at Vicksburg. During the following year the regiment defended Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama against Grant and Sherman. Then in May, 1864, they journeyed east to Virginia where they fought in the Wilderness Campaign, the Seven-Days battles around Richmond and finally to Petersburg. There is no way for us to know when R.B. became ill. We only know he died in Mississippi in December, 1864.

Sometime during the war, either before or after R.B.’s death, Elvira hid the gold coins in a stump for safekeeping. She probably stashed more than the two coins, but we will never know what treasures she hid away so that they would not be stolen in those uncertain times.

My great-great-grandmother remained on the farm in Mississippi until 1867 when she took her children north to her mother-in-law’s home in Tennessee. Theodosia was nine years old.

After her mother remarried in 1870, to her father’s brother, Dosia went to live with another of her father’s brothers, R. H. Sizemore. This uncle was a doctor who had served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army with his wife, Sallie, by his side as his nurse.

During the time Dosia lived with her aunt and uncle, she must have met her future husband, John Uffleman. He was the oldest son of German immigrants who came to America in 1850 and settled in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. John’s family did not participate in the Civil War. In 1867 his entire family left Pennsylvania, came down the Ohio River, then up the Cumberland River. They bought enough cheap land in western middle Tennessee along Wells Creek to divide into separate farms for each son.

Dosia and John married in 1879. My grandmother, Elvira, born in 1893, was the fourth of five children to survive to adulthood. The family lived on the farm on Wells Creek until John became unable to work. Sometime around 1905 they sold the farm and moved to McKenzie, Tennessee, where they ran a boarding house near Bethel College. My grandmother told me that they left the farm when she was 12 so I’ve calculated the date based on that.  During their time in McKenzie, my grandmother attended Bethel College. After their oldest daughter, Lois, died in 1911, John, Dosia and their two younger daughters returned to Houston County, near their former home, to help raise the grandchildren.

Theodosia Sizemore Uffleman led a fascinating life spanning the years from before the Civil War until the beginning of World War II. That’s a big chunk of American history. The coin pendant gives me a tangible connection to the places she lived, to the events of her personal life and to the historical events of the time.  When I pass it on to one of my grandchildren, I also hope to pass along the story of Dosia’s coins.

Posted in Civil War, Historical Sites, History

A Civil War Sniper – Jack Hinson

Jack Hinson's One-Man War by Tom McKenney: Book Cover

Not everyone who fought against the Union did so because they believed in the Confederate cause. For some the motivation was revenge. This was the case for Jack Hinson. Living near Dover, Tennessee, Hinson tried to stay neutral. During the battle at Fort Donelson he made it known he would not take sides. His only concern was for his family. During the battle he traversed the lines as a neutral and after the battle General Ulysses S. Grant visited the Hinson farm near Dover as a guest.

So why did Jack Hinson become a sniper who killed numerous Union officers? In his book, “Jack Hinson’s One Man War – A Civil War Sniper”  Tom C. McKenney tells the compelling story.

Although one of Jack’s grown sons joined the Confederate army, Jack opposed secession and intended to remain neutral. At the beginning of the war Jack Hinson owned a large farm, called Bubbling Springs, where his wife, eight of his ten children and his slaves lived and worked. Yes, Jack Hinson owned slaves who worked in his home and on the farm. McKenney says they were treated as extended family and some of their descendents still live in the area. Nevertheless, Jack Hinson did not support the Confederate cause until Union troops attacked his family.

One day when his two teenaged sons were out hunting, a Union patrol stopped them and accused them of being bushwhackers. Without benefit of trial, they took the boys to Dover and executed them. As if this injustice were not enough, the officer in charge ordered the boys beheaded and their heads delivered to the Hinson farm where they were placed on the gate posts.

If you think these types of horrific events did not happen during the Civil War, then you’ve only heard the cleansed version of history. I grew up in this area of Tennessee, just 30 miles from Dover. Many families passed down stories of atrocities that the official versions want to forget. Why did these atrocities happen? Once Tennessee became occupied territory, the better Union officers and troops moved on to the more active battle fronts. That left the less capable officers and less disciplined soldiers as occupational forces. Combine that with disgruntled Confederate sympathizers who carried on a guerilla-type warfare and you can better understand what happened to the Hinson boys.

Jack Hinson was a God-fearing man who believed in vengeance. He quietly commissioned a special sniper rifle and began using it on the Union patrols. He targeted only the officers because he believed that they were responsible rather than the soldiers who merely carried out orders. When a friend warned him that the Union troops were going to arrest him, he bundled up his wife and younger children and sent them to safety with relatives in West Tennessee. In a winter snowstorm Jack Hinson entrusted his family’s safety to his slaves who got them through the snow and across the Tennessee River. Hinson stayed behind to continue his sniping. When the Union troops arrived at the farm to arrest Hinson, they were met by defiant slaves. The Union soldiers burned the farm.

Hinson lived in a cave on a bluff high above the Tennessee River. At that time the rivers were the superhighways that transported troops and supplies to the Union army. From his vantage point overlooking the river, he shot Union officers and river pilots on the riverboats that passed below him. Hinson managed to disrupt traffic on the river and terrorize the crews and passengers on the riverboats.

Jack moved from time to time and carefully protected the local citizens who helped him. When he ventured across the river to visit his family, he learned that two of his younger children, who were sick with measles at the time of their escape, had died. To Hinson, the Union had caused their deaths. He continued his one-man campaign against the Union. Later his son in the Confederate Army died in battle and his other grown son died in a guerrilla raid.

Jack Hinson never officially joined the Confederate Army, but he did aid them. Before the Battle of Johnsonville, Jack acted as scout and guide for General Nathan B. Forrest, and he was with the Confederate troops during the battle.

Although hunted as an outlaw, Jack Hinson was never captured. After the war he settled what was left of his family (only five of his ten children survived) on White Oak Creek. The scarcely populated area provided a safe haven where Jack lived his remaining years.

For a thorough and well researched account of the life of Jack Hinson, read “Jack Hinson’s One Man War – A Civil War Sniper” by Tom C. McKenney. He skillfully weaves Jack Hinson’s life into the events of the day. The former Marine uses his military background to help the reader understand the weapons, tactics and terrain. His extensive research included scouring military records and personal accounts, visiting the sites and conducting extensive interviews. McKenney’s fascinating, descriptive accounts make the reader feel he is actually there. I especially appreciated his description of the land “Between the Rivers” since I grew up in this area bounded by the Tennessee River on the west and the Cumberland River to the East and North. McKenney’s explanation of the lead up to the war and his detailed accounts of the battles at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson are excellent and confirm the stories I heard growing up. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Civil War history.