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Littlefield Lecture poster

The Littlefield Lectures, UT Austin

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be delivering this year’s Littlefield Lectures for the History Department of the University of Texas, Austin.  The lectures are based on research from my last two books, The Free State of Jones, and The Long Shadow of the Civil War:
“The Free State of Jones: Community, Race, and Kinship in Civil War Mississippi,” March 6, 4-6 p.m., Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302

“Communities at War”: Men, Women, and the Legacies of Anti-Confederate Dissent,” March 7, 4-6 p.m., Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302

If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Vikki Bynum

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James Richard Welch died on 6 September 1879 at the age of 62.  Like most of his Jones County contemporaries of modest means, he left no will.  Fortunately, his son-in-law Prentice M. Bynum was literate and, having once served as clerk in the Ellisville courthouse, knew a fair amount about the law.  Prentice petitioned the court to be appointed administrator of the estate.  As part of his duties, he compiled a list of all heirs. That list, which I’ll return to later, provides a useful vantage point from which to examine the political stances taken by ordinary families in Jones County, Mississippi, a county that gained notoriety during the Civil War for its rebellion against Confederate authority. 

 Early in the nineteenth century, Bryant Welch, the father of James Richard Welch, followed the same migration path to Mississippi Territory as did many other early Piney Woods settlers.  He left South Carolina and lived for several years in Georgia where, around 1817, James R. Welch was born.  The family’s first stop in Mississippi was in Wayne County.  Tax rolls reveal that Bryant next moved his family to the section of Covington County from which Jones County was formed in 1826.  For the rest of their lives, Bryant and his wife, Sabra “Sally” Martin, lived in Jones County, where they raised a family of nine children (see Note 1).

 Their son, James R. Welch, fit solidly within the mold of the yeoman herders who predominated in the central Piney Woods.  After marrying Mary Marzilla Valentine around 1836, he engaged in raising livestock and planting subsistence crops.  Fairly typical of their place and time, James and Mary produced children at a rate of one every two years—for a total of thirteen born between 1837 and 1862. 

 In 1860, James estimated the worth of his real estate at $1,000 and his personal estate at $1,165.  Typical of yeoman in that region, he did not own slaves.  But like most Southerners, the Civil War left him in greatly reduced circumstances.  In 1870, at age 53, he judged his land to be worth $466 and his personal affects at $875.  This might seem like a meager amount, but among the seventy-three households in Township 10 where James resided, only seven surpassed this total while eighteen reported no assets at all. 

 Following James’s death, Mary Welch received her allotted widow’s share of the estate, valued at $168, and a year’s worth of provisions.  The court then granted authority for a sale of the remaining property.  The sale failed to cover outstanding claims against the estate and administrative costs.  Nevertheless, Prentice Bynum submitted a second and more detailed list of heirs:

 W.M. Welch; Tabitha J. Walters; Elizabeth Jackson and James Jackson [her] husband; Geo. B. Welch; Joel Welch; Matilda Clark and John H. Clark, her husband; Virginia and B.T. Hinton, her husband [all of whom] reside in Jones County.  Martha Lard [Laird] and E.W. Lard her husband who reside in Smith County; Arsella Bynum and Mary M., James B. Bynum, minors who reside in Covington County; and James Collins and two other children… who are heirs to Ebaline Colins… and H.T. Collins (their) father… (who) reside in the State of Texas.

 A comparison of the Welch household census records from 1850 through 1870 with the court documents indicates that three children—Cynthia, J.E., and James—died childless prior to 1879.  The estate papers identified Frances Bynum as the deceased wife of Prentice Bynum and listed three children as her heirs.  Frances apparently died around 1876. 

 The identity of daughter “Ebaline Collins” is a bit more difficult to establish.  Like her sister Frances, she seems to have died prior to 1879, leaving several children as her heirs.  Best evidence suggests her full name was Samantha Eboline Welch.  The 1870 Jasper County census listed 19 year-old “Emaline Collins” in the household of H.T. Collins, age 21.  The couple had a one-year-old son named James.  By 1880, Harrison T. Collins had moved to Texas and remarried, all of which conforms to the information provided by Prentice Bynum. 

 Thus the estate papers of James R. Welch offer us the identities of six children who entered adulthood during and just after the Civil War—one son and five daughters.  The court documents also provide the names of the men whom these daughters married.  From this starting point, what does an examination of war records of the males within this group reveal?

 1)  Born on 1 November 1837, WILLIAM M. WELCH married Amanda Coats sometime before 1860.  Two years later, on 13 May 1862, following passage of the first Confederate conscription act, he enlisted with many of his fellow Jones Countians in Co F of the 7th Battalion MS Infantry.  But on the July-October 1862 muster roll he is listed as AWOL, suggesting he deserted before or just after the battles of Iuka and Corinth.  William’s name appears on Thomas Knight’s version of the Knight Band roster (as “W.M. Welch”).  He was also identified as one of the men captured by troops under command of Confederate Col. Robert Lowry on 25 April 1864 (see Note 2).  Col. Lowry’s men had been deployed to the Piney Woods region to suppress renegade activity.  Due to chronic manpower shortages in the Southern army, the men they arrested were simply forced to return to their unit which shortly thereafter was pressed into the defense of Atlanta. 

 The last major battle prior to the siege of Atlanta took place at Kennesaw Mountain, about 25 miles north of the city.  Situated behind a strong defensive line, the Confederate forces of Gen. Joseph Johnson scored a tactical victory over Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops.  However, on 3 July 1864, at least twenty-three men from the 7th Battalion became Union captives.  Of these, eleven can also be found on the Knight Band roster—including William Welch.  He was processed and assigned to Camp Douglas, Illinois, on 17 July 1864.  His muster records, as well as those of four other men belonging to Co F and sent to Camp Douglas, include the following comment:

 Claims to have been loyal, was forced to enlist in Rebel Army to avoid conscript, and deserted to avail himself of amnesty proclimation [sic] etc.

William M. Welch, prisoner of war

William Welch managed to survive the harsh conditions at Camp Douglas, although four of his fellow captives did not (see Note 3).  He was discharged on 16 May 1865 and returned to Jones County where he spent the rest of his life.  William’s wife Amanda died on 13 October 1895.  He died on 24 September 1908.  Both are buried in Union Line cemetery.

2)  TABITHA J. WELCH was born on 19 April 1840.  Union pension files document that she married JOEL W. WALTERS on 26 Sep 1860, shortly after he was granted a divorce from his first wife.  On 13 May 1862 a “J.W. Walters” enrolled in the 7th Battalion, Co F.  It is unclear if this was Joel W. Walters, but the soldier was AWOL as of the January-February 1863 muster roll and never returned. 

What is clear is that Joel W. Walters enlisted in the Union 1st New Orleans Infantry on 25 March 1864.  He earned promotions to corporal and then to sergeant.  A month after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Joel deserted and returned home.  He died of tuberculosis on 28 July 1868.  Tabitha raised their three surviving children and never re-married.  In 1885 changes in the pension laws permitted the desertion charge against Joel to be removed and the next year Tabitha was approved for a pension, effective from the date of her husband’s death.  Tabitha died on 23 November 1924.

Tabitha/Tobitha J. Welch Walters, Antioch Methodist Church, Jones County, MS. Author's photograph

 3)  MARY ELIZABETH WELCH was born around 1842.  She married JAMES EULIN (aka Yulin / Youlin) shortly before the 1860 census.  Little is known about Eulin’s family background.  A James Youlin, possibly his father, can be found on the 1840 census of Scott County.  The 1850 census listed 10 year-old James Eulin in the family of Abraham Laird, residing in Smith County.  By 1860 the Laird family had moved to Jones County where James Eulin apparently met and wed nearby neighbor Mary Elizabeth Welch.

On 13 May 1862, James also enrolled in Co F of the 7th Battalion.  Like his brother-in-law William Welch, James Eulin appeared as AWOL on the July-October 1863 muster roll.  And his name also appears on the Knight Band roster (as “James Ewlin”).   Another name on the Knight Band roster was “Elijah Welborn.”  In actuality, he was Elijah Welborn Laird—a son of Abraham Laird.  Adding yet another strand to this web of yeoman connections, Elijah would later marry Martha Welch. 

Captured by Col. Lowry’s troops on 25 April 1864, James and the others were shipped back to the 7th Battalion.  He, too, was captured by federal forces on 3 July 1864 and sent to Camp Morton, Indiana.  By this date, prisoner exchanges had largely ceased except for those in very poor health.  James Eulin seems to have fallen into this category, because he was selected for exchange on 19 February 1865.  However, he died at Piedmont, West Virginia, on 23 February 1865 while en route to the exchange point.  James and Mary Elizabeth had one daughter, Mahala Jane.  Mary Elizabeth’s efforts to cope with her post-war status as a Piney Woods widow will be the subject of a future article.

4)  MARTHA M. WELCH was born on 27 March 1846.  She married ELIJAH WELBORN LAIRD after the Civil War.  As noted, Elijah was the son of Abraham Laird whose family had adopted James Eulin.  Elijah enlisted in the 20th MS Infantry on 13 January 1863 and was listed as AWOL on 8 February of same year.  He is found under the name “Elija Welborn” on the roster printed in Thomas Knight’s book.  When Confederate forces moved into the area, he fled south and joined the 1st New Orleans Infantry as “Elijah Wilborn” on 30 April 1864.  He served until the regiment was disbanded on 1 June 1866 and then returned to Jones County where he married Martha M. Welch on 14 March 1867. 

Elijah moved his family to Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, around 1890.  He obtained a Union pension for an injury to his right hip.  His pension file documents that he died at the home of “S. Barnes” in Covington County, Mississippi on 31 March 1897 and was buried in the Barnes Cemetery (see Note 4).  Martha died on 21 September 1898 and was interred in the Provencal Cemetery, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.  At the time of her death, Martha was attempting to obtain a widow’s pension.  Although the couple left three minor children, they apparently never received any pension benefits.

5)  Born around 1847, FRANCES S. WELCH married PRENTICE M. BYNUM in 1866.  Prentice was the son of Benjamin F. Bynum and Margaret (“Peggy”) Collins.  When the first Confederate conscription law went into effect in 1862, Prentice was sixteen and so temporarily exempt.  Eighteen months later he joined the Knight Band.  In the aftermath of the Lowry campaign he enlisted in the 1st New Orleans Infantry.  Within six months he became seriously ill and entered University Hospital.  He was transferred to New York General Hospital on 1 April 1865 and discharged from McDougall Hospital on 20 May 1865. Prentice returned to Jones County and served as Clerk for the Jones County courts under the Reconstruction administration.  As noted, Frances died circa 1876.  Prentice re-married to Nancy C. Rawles in Perry County on 4 December 1878.  He moved to Marion and Lamar counties where he farmed and participated in Populist politics.  He died in Lamar County in 1906.

6)  The estate documents suggest that the deceased wife of HARRISON T. COLLINS was SAMANTHA EBOLINE WELCH, born circa 1849.  Harrison Collins, also born around 1849, apparently avoided conscription on account of his age.  As the son of Simeon Collins and grandson of Stacy Collins, however, Harrison belonged to Jones County’s most avowedly Unionist family.  Simeon Collins, like his brother Jasper, deserted the 7th Battalion following the Battle of Corinth and became a member of the Knight Band.  He was among those who surrendered to Lowry’s troops and were transferred back to the 7th Battalion—and then were captured at Kennesaw Mountain on 3 July 1864.  Along with two other sons, Simeon spent the remainder of the war in Camp Morton.  He was released under oath on 18 May 1865 but died soon thereafter. 

Harrison T. Collins would have been around sixteen years old when his father died.  The estate papers and census records suggest Samantha Eboline Collins’s death occurred circa 1876.  During this same time period Simeon’s widow Lydia (nee Bynum) and several of the sons moved to Texas, with Harrison among them.  He married twice more before dying in Polk County, Texas in 1936.

This inquiry into a single branch of the Welch family demonstrates the links between Civil War dissent and marriages within the Jones County yeoman class.  Rudy H. Leverett’s pioneering Legend of the Free State of Jones made a brief reference to kinship ties between the Knight Band and the surrounding population.  But Victoria Bynum’s Free State of Jones offered the first comprehensive exploration of these intricate kinships and the yeoman culture that set Jones County apart from much of the rest of Mississippi.  Among the early settlers she investigated were the Bynum, Collins, Knight, Sumrall, Valentine and Welch families.  Tracing nineteenth century female lines is, as any genealogist can tell you, far more difficult than tracing male lines.  County records of marriages, even when they were recorded, often fell victim to courthouse fires.  Without family Bible records or other documents, female lines often became lost.  Yet, the marriages of females tell an important half of the story—or, as in the case of these five daughters of James R. Welch—over 80% of it.

By simply recording the names of the men that the Welch daughters married, Prentice Bynum permitted us to unravel the extent of Unionist ties found among the older children of James R. Welch.  This is not to imply that exploring other Jones County female lines would invariably expose a similar preponderance of Unionist connections.  What can be said is that the records of the older children of James R. Welch demonstrate a web of anti-secessionist activities that rivals that of the Collins family.

But it is reasonable to question the relationship between war time dissent and the selection of marriage partners.  It seems highly unlikely that during their pre-war courtships Tabitha and Mary Elizabeth Welch—or Amanda Coats, who married William Welch—engaged in probing conversations to discern the attitudes of their suitors about slavery, states’ rights, and secession.  Unlike much of the antebellum South, these issues meant little to the yeoman herders of Jones County.  Slave-ownership was rare, the population widely dispersed, literacy rates low, and newspapers few.  Nor is it likely that Martha, Frances, or Samantha Welch accepted post-war marriage proposals based on their husbands’ Civil War records.  What seems more probable is that these young people belonged to a common yeoman culture; and that the Civil War brought a number of young men steeped in that culture into conflict with slave-owners, secessionists, and Confederate authorities of the larger South.

The records of the son and sons-in-law of James R. Welch demonstrate the shortcomings of attempts to depict the revolt in Jones County as emerging from the leadership of a single individual: Newt Knight.  This scenario has been put forth with Newt Knight assigned the role of  nefarious villain (Ethel Knight, Echo of the Black Horn) and, alternatively, socially enlightened hero (Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer, State of Jones).  The limited records available to us suggest that Newt Knight was decisive, shrewd, and—if the circumstances required it—deadly.  There are situations in which such characteristics are highly esteemed, from bar fights to wars.  But unless we are prepared to grant Newt Knight the role of preeminent molder of antebellum Piney Woods society, the fallacy of applying a Great Man theory to events in Jones County becomes apparent.  Rather, research into the children of James R. Welch provides further evidence of the underlying cultural roots of Piney Woods dissent during the Civil War.

Notes:

 I would like to express my appreciation to Randall Kervin, whose inquiry about Mary Elizabeth Welch on “Renegade South” led me to explore the web of Unionist connections among the children of James Richard Welch.

 1)   Tax records indicate that James R. Welch’s grandfather, Richard Welch, arrived in Wayne County in 1813 with 2 slaves.  However, the Welch families of Jones County are recorded as owning no slaves from the time of the 1830 census forward.

 2)  Thomas J. Knight’s The Life and Activities of Captain Newton Knight, was first published in 1934.  The revised 1946 edition has recently been reprinted by Carolyn and Keith Horne of Laurel, MS.  Thomas Knight’s version of the Knight Band roster appears on pages 16-17.  The men captured by Col. Lowry’s troops on 25 April 1864 appear on pages 18-19.

 3)  Those members of the 7th Battalion MS Infantry, Co F, captured on 3 July 1864, who died while prisoners of war at Camp Douglas, Illinois, included Thomas N. Coats, William A. Lyons, Henry O. Parker, and William P. Valentine.

 4)  Census records suggest that “S. Barnes” was Sebastian Barnes, Elijah’s son-in-law.  He had married Elijah’s daughter Jena C. Laird in 1886.

Ed Payne

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The following is the latest online review of my recent book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies. I especially appreciate the careful and thorough analysis provided by Laura Hepp Bradshaw, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

http://www.civilwarmonitor.com/book-shelf/bynum-the-long-shadow-of-the-civil-war-2010

Vikki Bynum

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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
Confederate name Blk Wh   Blk Wh
Jefferson Davis variations 46 168   6 22
Robert E. Lee variations 13 115   22 206
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson variations 21 24   5 13
  80 307   33 241
           
        Blk Wh
Confederate name totals (1861-1880)       113 548
           
  1861 - 1870   1870 - 1880
Unionist name Blk Wh   Blk Wh
Abraham Lincoln variations 50 5   53 0
Ulysses Grant variations 219 22   404 9
Wm T Sherman variations 139 12   115 6
  408 39   572 15
           
        Blk Wh
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.

Cnt Census YoB Name County Region Self Fthr Mthr
1 1870 1869 Ulysses Atkinson Leake PB MS AL AL
2 1870 1868 Sherman Beech Jones GC MS AL MS
3 1870 1868 Grant Bibb Monroe PB MS MS MS
4 1870 1869 Lincoln Bosman Tippah N MS SC TN
5 1870 1864 Lincoln Brannon Clarke PB MS n/a MS
6 1870 1868 Sherman Bunnsaw Jasper GC MS MS MS
7 1880 1872 Ulysses Butler Itawamba N AL AL MS
8 1870 1861 Lincoln Bynum Jones GC MS MS MS
9 1880 1870 Sherman Cawley Jones GC MS MS MS
10 1870 1868 Ulysses S. Collins Jones GC MS MS MS
11 1880 1880 Oaker Grant Conlee Pontotac N MS MS GA
12 1870 1869 Ulyssis Coon Monroe PB MS AL MS
13 1870 1870 Ulyssus Cotton Carroll D MS MS MS
14 1870 1868 Sherman L. Davis Rankin SC MS SC SC
15 1870 1869 Ulysses G. Dexter Tishomingo N MS Engl TN
16 1880 1876 Sherman Dunaway Lincoln SC MS MS MS
17 1880 1880 C. Sherman Eddy Hinds SC MS OH AL
18 1880 1874 U.S. Ford Lee N MS NC MS
19 1880 1879 Sherman George Grenada N MS Grmy MS
20 1870 1865 Ulyssus Hall Carroll D MS AL AL
21 1870 1866 Ulyssus Hamlin Tippah N IL TN SC
22 1870 1869 U.S. Grant Hillhouse Calhoun N MS SC MS
23 1880 1872 James Grant Hutson Tishomingo N MS TN TN
24 1870 1870 Sherman Jammison Itawamba N MS DE AL
25 1870 1869 Ulysses S. King Marion GC MS MS MS
26 1880 1879 Sherman Kinkaed Yazoo D MS Irelnd MS
27 1870 1863 Abraham L. Lee Jones GC MS n/a MS
28 1870 1865 Sherman Lee Lominick Tippah N MS SC SC
29 1880 1872 Grant Luten Grenada N IN IN IN
30 1880 1880 Grant McDade Kemper PB MS AL MS
31 1870 1869 William Grant McDowel Oktibbeha PB MS n/a AL
32 1870 1868 Grant McEwin Pike SC MS MS MS
33 1870 1866 Grant W. Millan Newton PB MS SC MS
34 1870 1863 Grant Nelson Holmes D MS VA VA
35 1870 1870 Sherman Parasot Holmes D MS n/a IN
36 1870 1870 Grant Perry Chickasaw PB TN TN TN
37 1880 1873 William Grant Pritchard Pontotac N TN SC AL
38 1870 1865 Grant Robinson Hinds SC MS KY MS
39 1870 1868 N. Grant Shumpert Itawamba N MS SC MS
40 1870 1866 Sherman Sivilly Harrison SC MS GA MS
41 1870 1865 Sherman Smith Jackson GC MS MS MS
42 1870 1869 Sherman Spence Pike SC MS Grmy Grmy
43 1870 1869 Ulyssus Sulivan Monroe PB MS MS MS
44 1870 1865 Sherman Swords Pontotac N MS TN NC
45 1870 1866 Grant Tacket Calhoun N AL AL TN
46 1880 1878 Grant Taylor Alcorn N MS MS TN
47 1870 1866 Grant Thompson Lowndes PB MS VA MS
48 1870 1869 U.S. Grant Townsen Lincoln SC MS LA LA
49 1870 1864 Sherman Walden Prentiss N MS NC NC
50 1880 1878 Grant L. Walker Chickasaw PB MS AL MS
51 1870 1866 Sherman Welborn Jones GC MS MS MS
52 1870 1865 Ulepes Grant Willborn Jasper GC MS n/a MS
53 1870 1870 Abraham L. William Choctaw PB MS NC GA
54 1880 1878 Sherman Wilson Warren SC MS TN LA

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.

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My thanks to historian Michael Perman of the University of Illinois at Chicago for his thoughtful review of Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies in the Summer 2010 issue of Civil War Book Review:

 

http://www.lib.lsu.edu/civilwarbookreview/index.php?q=3655&field=ID&browse=yes&record=full&searching=yes&Submit=Search

Vikki Bynum

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For thirty years, guerrilla leader Newt Knight of Jasper County, Mississippi, sought compensation as a Unionist from the U.S. government on behalf of himself and 54 men who had belonged to his Civil War “Knight Company.”* These men included deserters and a few draft evaders who banded together in the swamps of the Leaf River in neighboring Jones County to fight against the Confederacy.

In my recent book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War, I analyze in depth Newt’s unsuccessful efforts to gain compensation from the federal government. Aiding my analysis were numerous depositions, including those provided by Newt Knight, H.L. Sumrall, Jefferson Musgrove, J.M. Valentine, E.M. Devall, William M. Welch, J.E. Welborn, J.J. Collins, B.F. Moss, A.B. Jordan, O.C. Martin, E.M. Edmonson, T.J. Huff, T.G. Crawford, and R.M. Blackwell.** Among these men were members, friends, and enemies of the Knight band. Some former members of the band testified on behalf of Newt, the claimant; others testified for the U.S. government, the defendant. In several instances, the defense called on witnesses friendly to Newt Knight in hopes that the testimonies of wartime allies would contradict one another.

R.M. (Montgomery) Blackwell, a 48-year-old farmer, was one such Knight band member called to testify on behalf of the U.S. government. On March 7, 1895, at 5:30 p.m., Montgomery was deposed at the Ellisville, Mississippi, courthouse by Jesse M. Bush, clerk of the circuit court. After establishing Blackwell’s identity, defense attorney John C. Dougherty asked him whether he had “belonged to any body of men during the war,” and to “state what it was, at what time and what place you joined and what purpose you had in connecting yourself with the same.”

With no apparent hesitation, Montgomery Blackwell replied that he had “belonged to Captain Knight’s company; joined in Jones county near Reddoch’s Ferry; I believe it was in Sept. 1863. Knight had a squad of Union men, and I had enough of kin in the Confederate ranks, and I concluded to go with the Knights.”

Two things stand out in Blackwell’s answer. First, he contradicted Newt Knight’s testimony that the Knight Company was formed on October 13, 1863. Second, he did not identify his family as solidly Unionist, but rather indicated a fair amount of support for the Confederacy within its ranks. This is not surprising since many families in the Jones County area, including the Knights, were split over the war. The most solidly Unionist family, as I have pointed out on this blog as well as in Long Shadow and Free State of Jones, were the Collinses.  They and their kinfolk comprised the majority of band members. Joining ranks with the Knight Company, however, forged a new kinship link between the Knight and Blackwell families when, in 1869, Montgomery Blackwell married Newt’s cousin, Zorada Keziah Knight.

Blackwell’s tentative answer in regard to when the Knight Company was formed was a minor discrepancy given that thirty years had passed since the war’s end. Perhaps for this reason, defense attorney Dougherty immediately shifted to a more important area of contradiction by asking Blackwell to explain whether or not he “took any oath” at the time the band was formed, and if so, to “state what oath, before whom, and when and at what place” it was taken.

This talk of an “oath” harkened back to an affidavit certified in 1870 by justice of the peace T. J. Collins which stated that the Knight Company had not only organized itself on October 13, 1863, but had elected officers and taken a “sollomn [sic] vow to be true to each other and to the United States and to fight on behalf of the United States during the war.” This document, signed by four Jones County men, made no claim that any Union official had administered an oath of allegiance, only that the men had spoken one among themselves.

With the passage of time, however, the facts surrounding this elusive oath became hopelessly confused. In their 1895 depositions, several members of the band testified that T.J. Collins had delivered the oath in 1863, when in fact he had certified a statement from several witnesses in 1870 that the Knight Company had taken such an oath–likely without the benefit of any public official.

Others, Montgomery Blackwell among them, testified in 1895 that “old man V.A. Collins” had likely administered the oath.  But if anyone presided over this moment, it probably was Benagah Mathews, as suggested by Jasper Collins in his testimony. The elderly Mathews, who had close ties with the band, was a probate judge by 1869. It was he who took responsibility for filing Newt Knight’s initial claim file in 1870, acting in lieu of a lawyer for the Knight Company.

The problem in 1895 was that Newt Knight’s new lawyers were not familiar with the internal workings of the Knight Company, as Benagah Mathews had been, and, in their efforts to embellish its Unionist credentials, they created a trap for themselves. The notion that a Unionist official had administered an oath of allegiance to the Knight Company during the midst of the Civil War was easily shot down by the government’s defense team.  By distorting the evidence in this and other instances, Newt’s lawyers put witnesses such as Montgomery Blackwell in predicaments where they were asked to remember “facts” that had been altered by Newt’s lawyers in an effort to strengthen the evidence.

At the same time, the government misplaced Newt Knight’s truly factual evidence, offered in his first petition of 1870, that the reconstructed government of 1865 had recognized him as a staunch Unionist. None of that evidence was presented in his second and third petitions (see Long Shadow of the Civil War, pp. 77-96). Not surprisingly, the Knight Company lost its bid for compensation as an ad hoc military unit that had fought on behalf of the Union Army during the Civil War.

Vikki Bynum

* NOTE: Although lawyers for Newt Knight identified the Knight Company as the “Jones County Scouts” between 1887 and 1895, I have found no evidence that the band ever referred to itself by this name. It’s my opinion that Newt’s lawyers manufactured the new name to give it more of an official military ring.

**Newt Knight’s 1887-1900 claim file is located in Records of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1835-1966, Record Group 123, Committee on War Claims, Claims of Newton Knight and Others, #8013 and 8464, National Archives, Wash. D.C.

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Last night, Harry Smeltzer, moderator of the Civil War blog, “Bull Runnings: A Journal of the Digitization of a Civil War Battle,” posted an interview with me about Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies. I was especially pleased that Harry gave me the opportunity to discuss my new book in the context of my previous works, The Free State of Jones (2001) and Unruly Women (1992). To read the interview, click here:

http://bullrunnings.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/interview-dr-victoria-bynum-the-long-shadow-of-the-civil-war/

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