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Archive for February, 2009

A few days ago, one of my new Myspace friends, Sheri Welch Hilbun, expressed an interest in knowing more about her Welch ancestors. Specifically, she asked me if I knew where Welch Landing is located. Since I don’t, I decided to put the question out to readers of Renegade South.

While we’re on the subject of the Welches, let’s remember that they, like the Collinses to whom they are closely related, were major participants in the Free State of Jones—just look at the Knight Company roster, and you will see four Welch men listed there: T.L. (Timothy); R. J.; H. R. (Harrison); and W.M. (William). I’m thinking that R. J. Welch, who is described on Newt’s 1870 roster as having fled to New Orleans and joined the Union Army in the wake of Lowry’s raid on Jones County, is actually Richard T. Welch, whose military records describe the same actions. Can someone out there help me with that identification?

Meanwhile, Timothy, Harrison and William Welch were all captured by Col. Lowry (as was Simeon Collins and his three sons), and forced back into the Confederate Army. Like Simeon and sons, they too fought at Kennesaw Mountain and ended up in Yankee prison camps.

According to the records and family histories I used to write Free State of Jones, Timothy L. and Harrison R. Welch were brothers, sons of John Ira and Catherine (Bynum) Welch. William M. was their cousin one generation removed, and the son of Henry and Sarah Welch. and the son of James Richard and Mary Valentine Welch (thanks, Russell!). If my suspicions are correct that R. J. Welch is actually Richard Thomas Welch, that would make him the brother of William M. Welch son of Henry and Sarah Welch.

In 1895, William M. Welch gave a deposition in support of Newt Knight’s petition for compensation from the federal government.

But I digress. Back to the original question: just where is Welch Landing located?

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Independent historian Ed Payne, of Jackson, will present “Sarah Collins: Pioneer Woman in the Free State of Jones” before the Jones County Genealogical and Historical Society at the Laurel-Jones County Library on Saturday, March 28, at 10:00 a.m.

Ed’s article on Sarah Collins is scheduled to appear in the April issue of the Journal of Mississippi History.

Those who have been following my recent posts about the Collins family may already know that Sarah (Sallie) Collins (1810-1889) was the daughter of Stacy and Sarah (Anderson) Collins, among the first settlers in the area that would become Jones County. Ed offers the following profile of Sarah Collins:

Sarah’s family connections and personal decisions placed her at the center of events in Civil War Jones County. Although she was a slave owner, Sarah is documented as having assisted the Newton Knight band—which included three of her brothers and four nephews. At the same time, her son and a son-in-law were fighting in Confederate units. Thus the life of Sarah Collins offers a unique prism through which to view the legacy of the Free State of Jones.

Sarah also exemplifies the strength and grit of the pioneer women of the Piney Woods: single-handedly killing a bear in her teens, enduring the death of her husband (George Willoughby Walters) and three children in her early forties, strongly contesting a divorce suit filed by her second husband, and then struggling to operate her own farm over the next three decades.

NOTE: Kinship ties between the Collinses and other area families who ended up on opposing sides during (and after) the Civil War will also be discussed. These allied families include ANDERSON, POWELL, WALTERS, and WELBORN.

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The following is a guest-post by B. T. Collins, great-grandson of Jasper Collins, and great-great grandson of John H. Powell. John Hathorne Powell was Jasper’s father-in-law, and also Jones County’s delegate to the Mississippi Convention of 1861, where delegates voted to take the state out of the Union.

One of the people that has probably been overlooked is John H. Powell. The Powells came from Georgia and arrived in Jones County about 1843. The Powells owned a few slaves. John served as postmaster in Ellisville and was Justice of the Peace and later Probate Judge. When Jones County held the election for representatives to the Mississippi Secession Convention John Powell Received 166 votes and Baylis received 89 votes. This is a different figure from that reported in Ethel Knight’s “The Echo Of the Black Horn”. Nevertheless it was sufficient to show that the majority of those who voted were Unionist.
John went to Jackson and on the first vote he voted against secession but subsequently went along with the crowd and voted for secession. When he came home he had been appointed Provost Marshal by General Vandorn and Beal. He wrote to the Governor asking for instructions as to his duties and if he were entitled to any compensation.

The Powells were a religious family and were instrumental in establishing the Indian Springs Baptist Church just west of Laurel. Around the end of the war in October of 1865 they sold out in Jones County and moved to Smith County. Later John and some of his family set out for Alvarado, Texas. They were active in the Alvarado Baptist where he acted as moderator. John and his wife Eliza Spears Powell are both buried in the Alvarado Cemetery.

I have often wondered about the relationship between Jasper and his father-in-law John. It couldn’t have been very cordial but who knows. He was my gr. gr. Grandfather on Gatzy’s side of the family. [note: Gatzy Powell was Jasper Collins’s wife]

Transcribed document of delegate election from Jones County:
The following is a true action of an election began and held on Thursday the 20th day of December A. D. 1860 in Jones County for one delegate to the State Convention to be held at the city of Jackson on the 7th day of January next (1861).
Delegate
John McCormick Baylis rec’d eighty nine votes (to secede) 89 (35%)
John H. Powell, Jr. one hundred & sixty six votes (not to secede) 166 (65%)

The State of Mississippi
Jones County
I, E. M. Devall Sheriff and General Returning Officer of Jones County do certify the above to be a true return of an election held in Jones County on the 20th day of December AD 1860 for one delegate to the State Convention on the 7th day of January next as returned to me by the managers and clerks of said election.

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For those of you following the Collins family posts, please don’t miss my post on the Union pension file of Riley J. Collins over at RSS Southern Unionists Chronicles.  Riley was brother to Simeon and Jasper Collins and died serving the Union Army during the Civil War.

Vikki

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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, and after exchanging emails with Greg Rowe, (see blogroll, American Civil War Essays & Research), I decided to write a bit about Greg’s direct ancestor, Simeon “Sim” Collins. Sim, a crucial figure in the Free State of Jones’s Knight Company, is often overlooked because of his untimely death shortly after the Civil War. Older brother to the better-known Jasper (who lived to the ripe old age of 86), Sim was Newt Knight’s 2nd Lieutenant. Three of his sons also joined the Knight guerrilla band: James Madison (Matt), Benjamin Franklin (Frank), and Morgan Columbus (Morg).

The fate of Sim Collins and his sons reminds us that taking a Unionist stance during the Civil War was rarely a matter of merely lying in the woods and waiting out the war. The Knight band fought numerous battles against Confederate forces (all dutifully recorded by Newt Knight), but none more ferocious then that against Col. Robert Lowry and his men, sent to the area to break up the band. This battle would eventually lead to Sim’s death.

In the space of a few weeks in April, 1864, Col. Lowry’s men killed ten men from the Knight Company. None of the Collins men were among them. Jasper was up in Tennessee, on a mission to hook the band up with Union forces. Riley Collins fled to New Orleans, as did many members of the band, where he joined the Union Army and soon died of disease.

Sim and his sons were among those deserters captured by Col. Lowry and threatened with execution if they did not rejoin the Confederate Army. Story has it that Sim’s wife, Lydia, begged Lowry not to execute her husband and three sons, and that he responded by offering this alternative. So back into the Confederate Army these Collinses went, and off to Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, where the Confederate Army suffered a major defeat. The men were captured by Yankees and imprisoned at Camp Morton—a cruel irony for the fiercely Unionist Collins family!

Sim, Matt, Frank, and Morg Collins were released from Camp Morton at war’s end, but it was too late for 46-year-old Sim, who died within months of his release. A wounded man at the time of his forced reentry into the Confederate Army, that, and the battle at Kennesaw Mountain, followed by a year in prison, no doubt sealed his fate.

Like so many of the South’s plain people, Sim’s widow and children sank into poverty after the war. In 1872, Lydia and several of their grown children and families moved on to Texas in hopes of making fresh start. Sim’s brother, Warren Jacob Collins, was there to welcome them. As a result, the Texas branch of the Collins family became as extensive as the one left behind in Jones County, Mississippi.

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We’ve all the heard the cliché “truth is stranger than fiction,” but it’s always amazing to find an historical event that one can only imagine happening in a novel. That’s the way I felt when I discovered that six Collins brothers, from Mississippi to Texas, were divided into two different deserter bands that fought against the Confederacy. It doesn’t seem so strange to me now, knowing the strong Unionism of the Collins family, but it struck me at the time as kind of like mining for ore and striking gold.

You see, I was simply seeking additional genealogical information about the Collinses when I shifted my research on The Free State of Jones to Texas. I had stumbled on a small, self-published history of the Texas Collins family written by Vinson Allen Collins, whose name I immediately recognized since he was named for his Unionist uncle of Jones County, Mississippi. I wanted to know more about this branch of the family, especially since the family patriarch, Stacy Collins, had moved to Texas with this branch before dying shortly thereafter.

So then I found yet another family history of the Collinses, this one written by Carr P. Collins Jr., a grandson of the above Vinson Collins. From both works, I learned that the parents and four brothers of the Collinses who later joined the Knight band in Jones County had moved to East Texas around 1852. One of those sons, the great-grandpa of Carr P. Collins Jr., was Warren Jacob Collins, dubbed the “Daniel Boone” of East Texas.

What you won’t learn from either of these Texas family histories is that Warren Jacob Collins, joined by brothers Newton and Stacy, Jr., was the leader of the Big Thicket “jayhawkers” of Hardin County, Texas. Nor is there any mention of “The Free State of Jones” in either book, although Warren’s brothers, Simeon, Riley, and Jasper, were instrumental in forming the Knight band back in Jones County. Only by turning to Texas folklore and local histories did I learn this vital aspect of Texas Collins family history.

And that, my friends, is a perfect example of how thoroughly the Unionism of many of our southern forebears has been buried. The subsequent glorification of the Confederate “Lost Cause” by most Southern (and a good many Northern) writers and politicians in the wake of North/South “reconciliation” during the late-nineteenth century turned all “good” Southerners into diehard supporters of the Confederacy. Many southern families, although thankfully not all, were ashamed to find Unionism in their family backgrounds and felt compelled to hide it.

Much of my motivation for writing The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies is my determination to “reconcile” the histories of two branches of the Collins family whose Unionist convictions crossed state lines and survived the Civil War. I’m betting there are many more such families of the South. For now, the example of the Collinses demonstrates the ideological strength of Unionism as one important motivation for deserting the Confederate Army.

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Please note on the sidebar of Renegade South’s homepage that Robert Moore’s blog, Southern Unionists Chronicles
is now one click away thanks to the addition of an RSS Feed. I encourage readers  not only to visit, but to consider contributing Unionist documents to Robert’s site.

Vikki

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Continuing my focus on North Carolina Unionists, the following is an excerpt from the essay “Guerrilla Wars,” chapter one of The Long Shadow of the Civil War. The ruthlessness of the Bill Owens band reminds us that many Unionists and deserters of the Confederate Army were armed, organized, and ready to do battle in their own communities.

Early in 1863, in Civil War North Carolina, a band of guerrillas led by Bill Owens took over the workshop of Pleasant Simmons, a Montgomery County slaveholder and silversmith. The band of Confederate Army deserters proceeded to use Simmons’s shop to repair guns they had obtained by theft and trade.

The intrusion of Bill Owens and his men turned Simmons’s world upside down. Where he had once employed the labor of men such as Riley Cagle, a member of the Owens band, the same men now assumed control over his property. It was enough to make a man fear for his life, and, just two months after the men’s “visit,” sixty-three-year-old Pleasant Simmons wrote out a new will and filed it in court.

Before the war ended, that will was executed. In February, 1864, less than one year after the Owens band took over Simmons’ workshop, a deadly shoot-out ended his life. According to newspaper accounts, a gun battle erupted when Simmons and Jacob Sanders, a neighbor, rushed from the house to protest the Owens band’s latest forced entry, this time into Simmons’s smokehouse. Sanders fired on the intruders, wounding two of them, including Bill Owens, but the gang members fired back, killing both Simmons and Sanders. “Damned secessionists,” they cried out as they fled the scene. Reported one witness, “the yard was strewn with human gore. . . . it stood in some places in puddles where the men lay.” The Civil War had converted neighbors into coldblooded killers of one another.

Pleasant Simmons belonged to a social network of slaveholding artisans, planters, and lawyers who actively supported the Confederacy. Militia officer, Peter Shamburger, was his son-in-law. His nephew Alexander P. Leach, was captain of the Montgomery County Home Guard. Too often, it appeared to plain folk, wealthier folks escaped the worst effects of war. Unwilling to risk their lives any longer, they not only deserted the army, but regularly harassed their pro-Confederate neighbors. Resentment of a “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight” gathered steam, pitting family against family, slaveholder against nonslaveholder.

As the Owens band’s takeover of Pleasant Simmons’s property revealed, divisions of class and kinship quickly eroded reciprocal economic relations between planter and yeoman, employer and employee. Still, wartime divisions were not always drawn cleanly along lines of slaveholding status. The murdered Jacob Sanders, a carpenter who owned no slaves, may also have worked for Simmons. Yet Sanders remained a fierce supporter of the Confederacy, said to favor the “extermination” of all deserters.

The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies, is scheduled for release in Feb., 2010, by the University of North Carolina Press.

Vikki Bynum

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Unionist communities existed throughout the Confederate South during the Civil War. “The Free State of Jones” is an exciting story with its own unique characteristics, but it was only one of many inner civil wars between Unionists and Confederates across the South. 

The following excerpt from “Occupied At Home: Women Confront Confederate Forces in North Carolina’s Quaker Belt,” chapter two of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies, features the Hulin family of Montgomery County, NC. The Hulins were among the best known Wesleyan Methodist Unionists of the North Carolina Piedmont, which, significantly, was the birthplace of many ancestors of the Free State of Jones uprising.  

Because Unionist women in North Carolina’s Quaker Belt abetted men’s avoidance of Confederate service, many Confederate supporters viewed torture and deprivation of deserters’ wives as the product of simple necessity. Torturing the wife of guerrilla leader Bill Owens, after all, had resulted in his capture and imprisonment. In some counties, pro-secessionist millers also denied deserters’ wives government grain even though there was no official Confederate policy to that effect.

Women who sheltered male kin in the nearby woods eagerly told their side of the story. In separate letters to Governor Vance, Phebe Crook and Clarinda Crook Hulin, daughters of a Montgomery County Methodist schoolteacher and kin to numerous deserters, blasted their Confederate occupiers. Clarinda, who had three “outlier” brothers-in-law (she did not mention this in her letter), implored Governor Vance to consider the plight of farm women. “I hav three little children to werk for and I have werk[ed] for ever thing that I have to eat and ware,” she wrote. But military men sent to the region to restore order were “destroying every thing they can lay hans up on.” Troops had taken her “last hog,” and poured her molasses all over her floor. “It ant only Me they air takeing from . . . ,” she added, “they take the women’[s] horses out of the plows,” she explained, for their own use.

Ten more months of armed warfare between militia and deserters brought a more detailed letter from Clarinda’s sister, Phebe. As a single woman, Phebe Crook could not anchor her protest in the time-honored trope of the soldier’s wife or mother. She seemed eager, however, to describe herself as “a young lady that has Neather Husband, son, father, no[r] Brother in the woods” (although she did have male kin hiding in the woods). Invoking the moral authority of republicanism rather than motherhood, Crook informed Governor Vance of the “true” conditions of her community. Calling on him to “protect the civil laws and writs of our country,” she denounced the militia and magistrates of her county for arresting “poore old grey-headed fathers who has fought in the old War and has done thir duty . . . .”

Enraged by home guard who, Crook insisted, had no intention themselves of fighting in the war, she condemned their physical abuse of women and children and their burning of barns, houses, and crops, all done in the name of fulfilling the governor’s directive to force deserters in from the woods. Following such orders was merely an excuse, she wrote, for pro-Confederate men to “take their guns and go out in the woods and shoot them down Without Halting them as if they war Bruts or Murder[er]s.” Once again, Crook emphasized rights of citizenship rather than victimhood by assuring the governor that her motive for writing was that “I always like to [see] people hav jestis.”

Despite the sisters’ separate appeals to Governor Vance, they could not prevent the killing of their three brothers-in-law on January 28, 1865. Jesse, John, and William Hulin were executed along with James Atkins, who had been identified as a draft evader by Sheriff Aaron Sanders during the previous fall court term. Both the Crooks and Hulin families belonged to the county’s network of Wesleyan Methodist families who opposed slavery and refused to fight for the Confederacy.

NOTE: In addition to Long Shadow of the Civil War, this essay will appear in the anthology, Occupied Women, edited by LeeAnn Whites and Alecia Long, forthcoming from LSU Press. Readers who would like to know more about the Unionist Hulin family of Montgomery County, NC, should consult my 1992 book Unruly Women.

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You may already have noticed that several new links are posted under the Renegade South blogroll. It all started night before last when I ventured out into the blogosphere (since I am, now, a blogger!),  and visited a few Civil War sites. I was so pleased with what I found that I posted a few comments out there.

Well, the response was more than I could ever have hoped for! Kevin Levin, Civil War Memory, Robert H. Moore, Cenantua’s Blog and Southern Unionists Chronicles, and Brett Shulte, TOCWOC A Civil War Blog,  all welcomed me to the world of Civil War blogs and added this site to their blogrolls.

And, suddenly, Renegade South is getting a lot more traffic, so I decided to contribute to the cross-traffic by posting their sites here, which also makes it easier for you to navigate between the different sites. I hope that you enjoy their blogs, and, as always, I welcome your comments.

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