Unionist naming of Mississippi children: 1861-1880
By Ed Payne
In December of 1867, former Knight Band member and staunch Unionist Jasper Collins named his first son born after the Civil War, Ulysses Sherman Collins. Federal forces had won the war but the victory failed to sway the hearts and minds of most white Southerners. So naming a child in honor of the Union’s two most successful—and reviled—generals was a bold act of defiance. The incident provides clear evidence of Jasper Collins’s steadfast adherence to his beliefs. Given this, I wanted to learn how many other Mississippi children were given Unionist names. For comparison purposes, I also searched for children who bore the names of Confederate leaders of comparable stature.
Naming children after political figures occurred with far greater frequency in the 19th century than in modern times. A search through the Mississippi census of 1870, for example, yields 172 males named “Benjamin F.,” 337 named “Andrew J.,” and fully 964 with the given name of “George W.” These patterns clearly suggest a tendency on the part of families to pay homage to early American luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and George Washington. Even flinty New Englander Daniel Webster apparently garnered enough respect for 53 Mississippians to have named their sons “Daniel W.”
For purposes of this inquiry, I researched male children residing in Mississippi at the time of the 1870 and 1880 federal household censuses. The 1870 census search was restricted to males born between 1861 and the enumeration date of June 1, 1870. Similarly, the 1880 census analysis dealt with those born from 1870 through June 1, 1880. In evaluating naming patterns, my working assumption was that those given names which resembled the names of eminent Civil War figures in most cases did reflect such a connection. The assumption that this was generally true should not be construed as a belief that connections exist in every case. For example, in compiling my data, I counted each “Robert E.” as connoting a child named after Robert E. Lee. Yet a review of the 1860 census, two years before General Lee rose to fame, shows that 20 Mississippi children born in the period from 1850 to 1860 happened to be named “Robert E.”
A second fact, which came as something of a surprise, is that only a relatively small percent of Mississippi children born during the study period were named after Civil War heroes, Confederate or Union. The two censuses include some 330,000 Mississippi male children born within the 1861 to 1880 timeframe (171,000 black, 138,000 white, and 21,000 mulattoes). Of these, only 1,695 (0 .5%) bear names that seem emblematic of the six Civil War figures analyzed.
Table 1 provides a count of given names coinciding with those of the selected Confederate and Union leaders. Several variations of each name were searched using Ancestry.com. For example, variations for Abraham Lincoln searched were: “Abe L.”, “Abraham L.”, and “Lincoln” (“Abraham” alone was not counted). The given name “Ulysses” (with various misspellings) was considered to be associated with U.S. Grant. The abbreviations “R.E.L.”, “U.S.G.” and “W.T.S.” (i.e. William Tecumseh Sherman) were also searched, although only instances of “R.E.L.” were found. However, due to their commonality, “Davis” and “Lee” without supporting initials were not counted. An exception to this general pattern was Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Since “Thomas J.” coincides with popular naming of children after Thomas Jefferson, only given names incorporating “Stonewall” were counted.
These tallies likely include some duplication of those children born January-May 1870 and still alive in 1880, who fell within the search parameters for both censuses. Please bear in mind that my goal was not rigorous accuracy, but rather to obtain some indication of the relative frequency with which these names were bestowed.
|1861 -||1870||1870 -||1880|
|Jefferson Davis variations||46||168||6||22|
|Robert E. Lee variations||13||115||22||206|
|Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson variations||21||24||5||13|
|Confederate name totals (1861-1880)||113||548|
|1861 -||1870||1870 -||1880|
|Abraham Lincoln variations||50||5||53||0|
|Ulysses Grant variations||219||22||404||9|
|Wm T Sherman variations||139||12||115||6|
|Union name totals (1861-1880)||980||54|
Table 1: Count of the naming of Mississippi children for Civil War eminences, 1861-1880. The counts for those identified as mulattoes have been combined with those listed as black.
Table 1 indicates that among whites, names reflective of the selected Confederates occurred 10 times more frequently than those associated with the Union leaders. Newly freed slaves, less restricted after 1865 in naming (or re-naming) their children—but still in large measure economically dependent on the white population—nevertheless chose names allied with the Union figures 8.5 times more than Confederate ones.
The census search yielded a list of 54 white male Mississippi children who appear to have been named after Lincoln, Grant, or Sherman. Their number is small but what seems remarkable, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, is that they exist at all. And their existence raises other questions: were their parents Southerners or Carpetbaggers; in what areas of the state did they reside; and during what interval within the 1861 to 1880 birth range was Unionist naming most frequent? The census information compiled in Table 2 provides some interesting answers.
|10||1870||1868||Ulysses S. Collins||Jones||GC||MS||MS||MS|
|11||1880||1880||Oaker Grant Conlee||Pontotac||N||MS||MS||GA|
|14||1870||1868||Sherman L. Davis||Rankin||SC||MS||SC||SC|
|15||1870||1869||Ulysses G. Dexter||Tishomingo||N||MS||Engl||TN|
|17||1880||1880||C. Sherman Eddy||Hinds||SC||MS||OH||AL|
|22||1870||1869||U.S. Grant Hillhouse||Calhoun||N||MS||SC||MS|
|23||1880||1872||James Grant Hutson||Tishomingo||N||MS||TN||TN|
|25||1870||1869||Ulysses S. King||Marion||GC||MS||MS||MS|
|27||1870||1863||Abraham L. Lee||Jones||GC||MS||n/a||MS|
|28||1870||1865||Sherman Lee Lominick||Tippah||N||MS||SC||SC|
|31||1870||1869||William Grant McDowel||Oktibbeha||PB||MS||n/a||AL|
|33||1870||1866||Grant W. Millan||Newton||PB||MS||SC||MS|
|37||1880||1873||William Grant Pritchard||Pontotac||N||TN||SC||AL|
|39||1870||1868||N. Grant Shumpert||Itawamba||N||MS||SC||MS|
|48||1870||1869||U.S. Grant Townsen||Lincoln||SC||MS||LA||LA|
|50||1880||1878||Grant L. Walker||Chickasaw||PB||MS||AL||MS|
|52||1870||1865||Ulepes Grant Willborn||Jasper||GC||MS||n/a||MS|
|53||1870||1870||Abraham L. William||Choctaw||PB||MS||NC||GA|
Table 2: List of Mississippi white males born 1861-1880 having possible Unionist names. Based on Ancestry.com searches of the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Censuses.
To begin, the large majority of children given Unionist names were born into families with Southern roots. Of the 54 listed, 48 (88.9%) were born in Mississippi. All but two (96.3%) were born in states that comprised the Confederacy. The only exceptions were Ulyssus Hamlin (born in Illinois) and Grant Luten (born in Indiana). Among the fathers, 14 (25.9%) were Mississippi natives with an additional 27 (totaling 75.9%) hailed from other secession states. Only four came from states outside the former Confederacy (one each from: Delaware, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio) while four were born in foreign countries. (The birthplace of five fathers was not recorded.) Data for mothers shows even stronger Southern heritage: 29 (53.7%) were born in Mississippi and another 22 (totaling 94.4%) in other Confederate states. Of the remaining three, two came from Indiana and one was born in Germany.
The census location of children shows the greatest concentration of Unionist names tended to occur, unsurprisingly, in those areas of Mississippi where the cotton economy was weakest and war time discontent against Confederate authority the strongest. For purposes of analysis, census counties listed on Table 2 were grouped into five state regions: North (N), Delta (D), Pine Belt (PB), South Central (SC), and Gulf Coast (GC). These are derived from the state’s current tourist regions—which correlate with accepted geographic and cultural areas of the state (see Map). Note that in this division Jones County and the surrounding “piney woods” area fall within the Gulf Coast region.
The Northern region of the state had the greatest number of Unionist names with 18 (33.3%) followed by the Pine Belt with 12 (22.2%) and the Gulf Coast with 10 (18.5%). Among the individual counties, Jones had the highest count with six. The counties of Itawamba (N), Tippah (N), and Monroe (PB) had three each.
The peak period for bestowing names with Unionist associations took place in the years 1869-70 (16 names) followed by 1865-6 (12 names). Of the 54 individuals listed, 40 (74%) were born between 1861 and 1870. Only 14 names (26%) date from the later period of 1871 to 1880, when Federal Reconstruction policies waned and Southern Democrats began to reassert political control.
It bears repeating that a given name of “Grant” or “Sherman” by itself is not proof of a Unionist connection. On the other hand, it seems equally relevant to suggest that families with strong Confederate loyalties might have shied away from names tainted by their association with despised Union leaders. Whatever the linkages or lack thereof, children who bore unpopular names doubtless came home with blackened eyes or busted lips as Civil War animosities carried over into playgrounds.
Taking the six children in Jones County with “Union names” as a sample, what can be discovered in researching their fathers? Let’s return to our starting point: Ulysses Sherman Collins. Civil War records, pension testimony, and newspaper articles all concur that his father Jasper came from a family of Unionists. In 1862, however, passage of Confederate conscription laws impelled him and several relatives to enlist in Co. F of the 7th Battalion MS Infantry. Jasper participated in the battles of Corinth and Iuka, but deserted in October 1862 after stating his opposition to a newly enacted Confederate law granting military exemptions to slave owners with 20 or more slaves. One year later, he joined with Newton Knight in the formation of the Knight Band.
After the war Jasper Collins repeatedly stated that his course of action was the correct one. Whether admiring or excusing his forthrightness, Jones County neighbors elected him to the county Board of Supervisors. Upon his death in 1913, the local paper published a laudatory, if somewhat evasive, obituary. His son Ulysses (‘Lyss) found neither his name nor his family’s Unionism a barrier to being elected, like his father, to the Board of Supervisors and later to the position of Chancery Clerk. He died an honored and respected member of his community in 1941.
The father of Sherman Cawley is identified through census records as Franklin P. Cawley (aka Corley). Frank P. Cawley joined Co. C of the 37th MS Infantry on March 8, 1862 but was listed as absent without leave from March 11, 1863 until May 11, 1864. This, of course, overlaps with the most active period for the Knight Band and the spring 1864 campaign by C.S.A. Col. Robert Lowry that rounded up a number of the deserters. The Knight Band rosters list “B.F. Cawley” as a member, but this is not definitive proof he was the same person. Franklin Cawley returned to his unit and was captured at Nashville on December 15, 1864. Imprisoned in Camp Douglas, Illinois, he proved more fortunate than some of his Piney Wood comrades in surviving the harsh conditions there until released in June 1865. Both Franklin P. Cawley and his son Sherman were last found on the 1880 census.
Abraham Lincoln Lee appears on the 1870 census as a seven year-old in the household Delphine Lee. Working backwards to the 1860 census, his father turned out to be James W. Lee. Although James W. Lee was of conscription age (born circa 1835), no records have been found of him serving in the Confederate military. On April 13, 1864, however, he joined the ranks of Piney Woods men who travelled south and enlisted in the Union 1st New Orleans Infantry. He was assigned to Co. D and served until his death from typhoid fever on 28 July 1864. His son Abraham grew up to be a Jones County farmer who, like Ulysses S. Collins, died in 1941.
Lincoln Bynum’s single census listing is in 1870 as a nine year-old. Thus it seems he was given the name “Lincoln” in 1861, at the very outset of the war. No military records have been found definitely referring to Lincoln’s father, Hiram James Bynum. Nor does his name appear on the Knight Band rosters. But an inquiry into his family connections reveals a man living amid Unionists.
Hiram Bynum’s familial Unionist connections can be summarized as follows: 1) sister Lydia married Simeon Collins, an older brother of Jasper, in 1839. Simeon and several of his sons appear on the Knight Band rosters. 2) Another of Hiram’s sisters, Sarah, married William Holifield (aka Holyfield). He, too, appears on the renegade rosters and, following the Lowry campaign, enlisted in the 1st New Orleans Infantry. 3) Hiram’s first cousin Prentice M. Bynum is found on the Knight Band rosters and also subsequently joined the 1st New Orleans Infantry. 4) First cousin, Tapley Bynum, rode with the Knight Band and was killed by Lowry’s forces. 5) First cousin Dicey E. Bynum married William H. Mauldin, another of those who enlisted in the 1st New Orleans Infantry in the spring of 1864. He died of typhoid pneumonia the following December. Lincoln Bynum apparently died in childhood. Hiram Bynum is said to have died circa 1883 in Jasper County.
Sherman Welborn was a son of Thomas Newton Welborn and grandson of Younger Welborn (1805-1880). In Free State of Jones, Victoria Bynum quoted a descendent as stating that, although of conscription age, the sons of Younger Welborn refused to join the Confederate army. No military records have been located for Thomas but, as in the case with Hiram Bynum, an examination of family connections uncovers Unionist activities. In the wake of the Lowry campaign, Thomas’s older brother William and younger brother Tolbert made their way to Louisiana and joined the Unionist 1st New Orleans Infantry. Tolbert Welborn died of disease during his enlistment while his brother William was discharged in June 1866 and later drew a pension for his service. Thomas Welborn died in 1917 and his son Sherman, a farmer, in 1929.
Only in the instance of Sherman Beech has a Unionist link not been found. His father was Thomas Beech (aka Beach). A Thomas Beech who appears to match the parentage of Sherman enlisted in Co. B of the 25th Alabama Infantry on May 15, 1862 and was given an unconditional discharge due to illness that same November. Sherman Beech is last found in Jackson County on the 1880 census, while his father is reported to have lived until 1922.
Thus of six children seeming to have Unionist names, four had fathers who took part in Unionist activities or else had close relatives so engaged. There is a possible link in one case (Sherman Cawley) and insufficient information for another (Sherman Beech).
One final observation: some families may have given a child a Unionist name and then thought better of it. While searching the 1930 Ancestry census transcriptions for Ulysses Collins by his given name, a record was found for Ulysses Pearson Walters. His name had not appeared among those compiled in the searches of the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Working backward, I found him to be a son of Richard Herrin Walters (1841-1911). Coincidentally or not, the mother of Richard H. Walters was a member of the Unionist Collins family. On the 1870 census (Smith County) Ulysses Pearson Walters was listed simply as “Pierson Walter” and in 1880 (Jones County) as “E.P. Walters.” It was not until the 1900 census, as a married adult of 28 living in Laurel, Mississippi, that he reported his full name as “Ulysses P. Walters.” When he died in 1947, his gravestone listed him as “U.P. Walters.”
Despite this modest sampling of names and the current lack of evidence that all those on it are, in fact, indicative of Unionist sympathies, it’s my hope that the names on Table 2 will provide some basis for further inquiries into Unionist sentiment found in the heart of the Deep South.
Resources utilized: Ancestry.com; Footnote.com; Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s longest Civil War by Victoria Bynum; Echoes from our Past by the Jones County Genealogical and Historical Society; and The Bynum and Herrington Connections by Ruby Bynum Sanders.