Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘jones county mississippi’

by Vikki Bynum


Over the past few years, the following passage from the 1938 book, Mississippi: A Guide to the Magnolia State, has prompted several folks to write me at Renegade South:

On February 2, 1864, [B.J.] Rushton was shot through the door of his cabin by Babe White, a member of the Newt Knight band. (p. 448)

So, who was Babe White? His name does not appear on any rosters of Newt Knight’s band of Confederate army deserters that I’ve ever seen. Did he nonetheless run with the Knight Company? To try and answer that question, I’ve been researching this alleged outlaw and the crowd of thieves and rustlers he hung out with.

In 1936, the White family of the Myrick region of Jones County was remembered by at least two residents of that area —B. A. Boutwell and Jim Bingham Walters— as having comprised the core of a post-Civil War band of outlaws well known for its wide-ranging horse thieving and cattle rustling.

In separate interviews conducted by employees of the Federal Writers’ Project.* Boutwell and Walters told essentially the same story. On September 21, 1936, in an essay entitled “Early Horse Thieves and Cattle Rustlers,” an unnamed  WPA interviewer wrote the following, based on what she or he had learned from Boutwell:

Jones County, like all other early settled counties of pioneer days, had its horse thieves and cattle rustlers. The most notorious and conspicuous of these and by far the most active in plying the nefarious traffic, were men by the name of Obe Lyons and Dorsen [Dawson] Holly, and also the White brothers, Bud and Babe, and a lady by the name of Sussie [Susie].

Boutwell’s memories open the door to historical verification. Both Obe Lyons (Lynes, Lines) and Dawson Holly appear in the federal manuscript censuses, and so also does the White family, though I have thus far been unable  to find members named either “Bud,” or  “Babe,” which were likely nicknames. Susie, however, appears in the 1860 census as the wife of Samuel W. White, identified in a WPA essay on the community of Myrick as a member of the same outlaw band.

In December, 1936, Jim Bingham Walters told interviewer Addie West that “the Dawson Holly ring was the most notorious in this section.” Holly’s “big swamp pasture in the Tallahalla Creek swamp” was used to “recondition” stolen stock before selling them off. Walters identified the “White brothers, Sam, Fate, and Van,  . . .  together with the wives of Sam and Van (Susie and Mandy, who were sisters)” as members of the Dawson Holly ring.

I was excited to discover both Susie and Mandy in the federal manuscript census of 1860, each one living with the brother they were reported as married to. Furthermore, the two White families lived in the same vicinity as B. J. Rushton, the man that “Babe” White allegedly murdered.  In 1860, Rushton was a 45-year farmer who claimed $1000 in real estate and $14,275 in personal estate (mostly slaves). Five households away was O.E. Rushton, a 25-year-old “jug maker” who was likely the son of the elder Rushton. Only seven households from that of the younger Rushton was that of W. H. White, age 60, and his wife Mary. Their son, Martin Van, and his apparent wife, Amanda (Mandy) lived with them.  Brother Sam, age 28, headed his own household, seventeen households away from B. J. Rushton’s. He lived with his 27-year-old wife, Susan (Susie), and their son, John C., age 8.

Given the proximity of the Rushton and White families, and the Whites’s reputation as outlaws, it’s not hard to imagine the circumstances in which the murder of B. J. Rushton probably occurred.  According to Boutwell, the outlaws lived east of where the city of Laurel is today, on Boguehoma Creek. Around 1870, he said,

these people would visit over the county and surrounding counties and gather up horses, and cattle and drive them to an isolated pasture on upper Boguehoma where they would keep them and fatten them up and hold them until such time as they could drive them off to some distant market where they would dispose of them for cash.

Then, as now, organized crime activity created dangerous social conditions for all who lived nearby. “This band of rustlers,” Boutwell told his interviewer, “had a president who directed other members of the gang and sent them out on searches for stock.” Jim Walters provided Addie West with a similar description of the same band’s mode of operation. Identifying the gang’s leader as Dawson Holly, Walters described him as “glib of tongue, fleet of foot and pretty sharp.” Holly, he said “served as sort of a counselor” among the thieves. “His big swamp pasture in the Tallahala Creek swamp was used to recondition poor stock” before selling it.

According to Boutwell, citizens organized to protect themselves against this type of robbery. He described how “more active members” of the gangs were watched by “vigilant citizens” determined to  protect themselves against the thieves. Perhaps the Rushtons were among those citizens who armed themselves for protection and struggled to bring down the rustlers by whatever means necessary.

It may have been during one such struggle that Babe White killed Bennet Rushton. Neither Boutwell not Walters mentions such a murder, but both claim that one of the outlaw sisters was killed, presumably by vigilantes. Boutwell’s words were vague; he commented only that “in a manner of which I am unable to ascertain, Sussie was killed.”  Walters was much more specific and identified the murdered sister as Mandy rather than Susie. And Mandy, he made clear, was herself a full-fledged outlaw:

The men would bunch the horses and Mandy would run them through the swamps to some market.

Walters further emphasized to West that there was no honor among the thieves:

One time Mandy carried Dave Blackledge’s mare to Newton and sold her and at the same time she took a fine horse that belonged to Daws Holly’s daughter, Elizabeth, and it was a great joke to everybody.

We get a clear image of post-Civil War outlaw gangs from these WPA narratives. Although the facts are not always accurate, the scenes of theft and mayhem probably are, at least in a general sense. Still, narratives such as these—which were often memories passed from one generation to another—easily result in a mangling of the truth. Boutwell, for example, thought Susie had been killed; Walters said it was her sister Mandy. And what about that sentence in the quotation above, that “Mandy carried Dave Blackledge’s mare to Newton”? I believe that Jim Walters and Addie West were referring to the TOWN of Newton, Mississippi, but might someone else reading that sentence have concluded that they were referring to Newton Knight? With Newt Knight’s reputation as a Civil War outlaw, it would be all too easy to then conflate his band of men with the Dawson Holly Ring. And might that be how Babe White came to be described as a member of Newt Knight’s band of men?

Memories—and narratives about others’ memories—provide a rich source of information about the past. But memories should not be confused with facts, of which historians often have far fewer than even they would like to admit. And so it is that much of what actually happened in the past remains in dispute and ever will. Ironically, if we remember that we only rarely know exactly what happened in a long passed event, and that one person’s eye-witness memory may differ radically from another’s, we can move much closer to understanding the truths of the past—as distinct from the “facts.”


* During the 1930s, old folks’ memories about slavery, the Civil War, and the era of Reconstruction were collected in interviews carried out by the Federal Writers’ Project, a component of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), created during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. Many of those interviews have been published in various collections (most notably the ex-slave narratives), but most ended up as loose papers filed away in state archives. In Mississippi, these unpublished WPA records are organized by county and subdivided by topic.


Read Full Post »

Nancy McCary Sumrall Holyfield Sumrall
& Elizabeth Hinton Coats Sumrall


by Ed Payne

At the end of the Civil War, widow Nancy McCary Sumrall entertained a marriage offer tendered by widower Moses Holyfield.  Nancy was 28 and the mother of four young sons.  Moses, although inconsistent in reporting his age, had probably entered his seventies.  His children from his first marriage were all grown and on their own.  Like most of his Piney Woods neighbors, Moses was not a wealthy man.  Still, he owned 450 acres of land, of which 80 were cleared for cultivation.  He had not been a slave owner, so he suffered no finance losses due to emancipation.  Nancy’s husband had died while serving in the Confederate Army in 1862.  We do not know how long Nancy deliberated over the matter, nor do we know whether her practical considerations and emotional sentiments were in harmony or in conflict.  What is known is that in due course Nancy accepted Moses Holyfield’s proposal and became his bride.

Marriages between men of advanced years and women several decades their junior did not begin in the wake of the Civil War.  Throughout the nineteenth century women bore the burden of frequent pregnancies that often began in their teens and—if their health, endurance, and luck proved sufficient—might continue for another three decades.  If any of these attributes failed them, their death usually necessitated the search for a new wife; preferably one still comfortably within the range of childbearing years.  Second and third marriages resulted from a pragmatic understanding of the workload required to maintain a household in a subsistence level economy.  The death of a wife left children without a mother in an era when children attended privately operated schools only sporadically, if at all.  In addition to child care, women performed an array of essential functions:  cooking and cleaning, making of clothing and numerous household items such as soap and candles, and cultivating vegetable gardens.  If there were no daughters old enough to assume these duties, the absence of a wife would be keenly felt.  This was true even in the higher realms of Piney Woods society.  Slave owner Isaac Anderson was among the wealthiest men in Jones County when his wife Teresia Powell Anderson died in 1850.  After a decent interval, the widower Anderson set about courting Sarah Rebecca Deason, the daughter of a local merchant with whom he was well acquainted.  Two years later, the sixty-six year old Isaac had successfully won the hand of twenty-three year old Sarah Rebecca.

The toll the Civil War exacted upon the male population of the South had a discernable, if not necessarily radical, impact on the institution of marriage.  In 1870 Jones County contained 449 white females between the ages of 20 and 40, compared to only 332 males.  And within this reduced pool of men, it can be assumed that some portion had lost limbs or otherwise been seriously impaired by the war.  Despite these obstacles, Piney Wood women, whether single or widowed, could and did marry local men during the Reconstruction era.  But in order to do so, many had to revise their concepts about what constituted a suitable domestic partner.

Nancy McCary was born in Alabama in 1837.  Her parents, Tandy and Cloah McCary, were both natives of South Carolina.  The birth states for their children indicate that around 1843 the McCary family moved across the state line to Wayne County, Mississippi.  Nancy became the bride of Elisha Sumrall in1852 when she was 15 and he was 21.  The location of the couple over the next decade is unknown.  But later records reveal that Nancy gave birth to at least four sons:  Benjamin (1854), Theodore (1856), James (1858), and Jefferson (1861).  The question remains as to whether the Jacob Sumrall (1852) who later married Martha Rushing Walters was the eldest son of Elisha and Nancy (see part two of Jones County Widows).

Like many other men having a family to support, Elisha did not join in the first wave of Confederate volunteers in the spring of 1861.  On March 26, 1862, however, he enlisted in Company I of the 36th Alabama Volunteers and was dispatched to Mt. Vernon Arsenal, outside of Mobile.  There his military service came to an abrupt end on June 4 when he died, probably of a camp disease, a scant two months and 10 days after his enlistment.  On October 17, 1862 Nancy filed papers to obtain his back pay.  A Confederate paymaster computed the amount due as $50.66.  The request made its ponderous way through the war time bureaucracy until, on November 28, 1863, approval was granted by the Comptroller’s Office.  Nancy signed a receipt for the payment on January 15, 1864.  During the interval while she and her children waited, Confederate currency had suffered an inflation rate exceeding 700%, rendering her settlement essentially worthless.

Sometime after receiving her token payment, Nancy moved to Jones County.  She may well have sought to remove herself and her young sons from harm’s way.  The Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which passed through Wayne County, held strategic value for both armies.  Jones County was devoid of railroads and had a sizable community of Sumrall in-laws, making it an attractive haven.  In her new surroundings Nancy made the acquaintance of Moses Holyfield.  He had been born in South Carolina, probably circa 1796, and moved his family to Jones County in the 1830s.  Based on the 1840 and 1850 censuses, Moses and his wife Milly had seven sons and one daughter.  By 1860, the only child remaining in the household was a grown son named Mark, age 33.

Although Moses did not own slaves, evidence indicates he felt strongly about the secessionist cause.  On May 4, 1861 he enlisted in the 8th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers at Ellisville and traveled 57 miles to the rendezvous point at Enterprise.  Upon ascertaining that Moses was 65 years old, the officers doubtlessly saluted his determination and vigor, but sent him home.

Millie Holyfield, who was approximately the same age as her husband, died towards the end of the war.  This left Moses facing his final years with a sizable farm and an empty house.  If the growing number of young widows around him did not fill Moses with delight—since each widow suggested the role attrition was playing in determining the final outcome of the war—at least it made him aware that his prospects for another marriage had been greatly enhanced.  What may well have encouraged him to initiate a courtship of Nancy was not just her youth, but the prospect of welcoming her four boys into his household.

As mentioned previously, Moses Holyfield had carved out a modest yeoman’s existence.  In 1870 he possessed 80 acres of crop land, with another 100 acres in pasture and 270 acres of woodlands.  His livestock holdings were small for the region:  six cows, seven sheep, and 10 pigs.  The previous year the farm had produced 100 bushels of corn, 75 bushels of sweet potatoes, and a cash crop of two bales of cotton.  His farm clearly stood to benefit from the additional labor of four young stepsons.  The census of 1870 captures the transformation taking place within the Holyfield household.  Moses gave his age as 75 while Nancy stated she was 32.  Her sons ranged in age from nine to 16.  With them was 14 year old Richard Holyfield, a young relative of Moses, working as a farm laborer.  In addition, Moses and Nancy had started a new family, consisting of son William, three, and a six month old daughter named Mary.  For Moses it could truly be said that life had begun, again, at 70.

Nancy must have understood when she agreed to the marriage that it would not be a long term relationship.  Moses died in the mid-1870s and Nancy again found herself a widow, having added three small children to the household (another son, Charles, had been born in 1874).  But, owning to her second marriage, her circumstances were more secure.  The interlude with Moses had provided time for her sons to reach manhood.   Although sons James and Jefferson remained in Nancy’s household in 1880, they were leaving their teens.  Their older brother Benjamin, married and a father, lived next door.  Having regained some security in her life, for perhaps half a decade Nancy remained single.  When she did marry again, it was in the fall of 1883 to Carney Slay Sumrall, a man who had lost his wife four months earlier.

Marriage license of Carney S. Sumrall and Nancy Holyfield

The Sumrall’s were among the early settlers in south Mississippi.  Patriarch Thomas Sumrall was born in South Carolina in 1740 and died in Marion County in 1821.  He was the great-grandfather of Elisha Sumrall, Nancy’s first husband.  (This line descended from son Levi Sumrall and his son Jacob Sumrall, who was Elisha’s father.)  He was also the great-grandfather of Carney Slay Sumrall.  (This line descended from son Moses Sumrall and his son Howell Sumrall, who was Carney’s father.)  Thus Carney was a second cousin of Nancy’s first husband.  There may have been a closer connection linking the couple: some genealogies give the maiden name of Carney Sumrall wife as Catherine (‘Kitty’) McCary.  This matches the name of Nancy’s older sister on the 1850 census.

Carney Slay Sumrall, named after a Wayne County Baptist minister, was born in 1830.  He was a Confederate veteran who had enlisted in Company E (the Shubuta Guards) of the 37th Regiment Mississippi Volunteers on March 8, 1862 at age 32.  Unlike his cousin Elisha, Carney seemed able to cope with camp life, suffering only one recorded bout of illness.  Although records are sketchy, they suggest he took part in the siege of Vicksburg and was paroled.  He is documented as having surrendered with his unit at Citronelle, Alabama on May 11, 1865.  He returned to farming in Jasper County where, in 1870, he was enumerated with his wife and a daughter named Mary.  By 1880 he had moved to the small Jones County community of Pinelville, where he and Catherine scratched out a merger existence in a childless household.  Catherine died in May of 1883 and soon thereafter the new widower must have begun calling on Nancy Holyfield.

Carney Sumrall appears to have ranked below the widow Holyfield in terms of economic status.  He reported the value of his 1879 farm production as $95, paltry even by contemporary Jones County standards.  But Nancy may have reached a point where she could afford to let sentiment play a larger role in her decisions. On September 17, 1883 Carney Sumrall and Nancy McCary Sumrall Holyfield applied for a marriage license and solemnized their vows six days later.  At the time Nancy was 46 and Carney 53.  She was leaving her childbearing years behind and may well have looked forward to a long marriage.  If so, it was an unfulfilled wish.  Just six years later, on December 12, 1889, Carney Sumrall applying for another marriage license—this time to Elizabeth Hinton Coats.  The absence of any divorce proceedings in the surviving court records indicates Nancy had died.   Although some genealogies list her as dying in November of 1902 and being interred in Wayne County, they have apparently confused her with another Nancy Sumrall, born in 1847, who was the wife of Enoch S. Sumrall.

Marriage license of Carney S. Sumrall and Elizabeth Coats

In wedding Elizabeth Coats, Carney had once again chosen a Civil War widow.  Born in 1838, Elizabeth Hinton had been the wife of Thomas N. Coats.  He, like other married men facing conscription, enlisted on May 12, 1862 and was mustered into Company F of the 7th Battalion Mississippi Infantry.  He also participated in the siege at Vicksburg and, following its surrender, was paroled.  A muster roll in the Mississippi Archives indicates Thomas N. Coats went absent without leave from January 3 until April 10, 1864, during which time Elizabeth became pregnant with their third child.  Five days before Col. Lowry led troops into Jones County to deal with the deserters, he rejoined his unit.  Thomas was subsequently captured on July 4, 1864 at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, near Atlanta.  From there he was shipped north to Camp Douglas, Illinois where he died of pleurisy on February 9, 1865—three days after his fellow Jones Countian George Warren Walters had died in the same camp.   (see part two of Jones County Widows). Perhaps unwilling to loosen her standards regarding potential suitors, Elizabeth remained a widow and reared her three children.  Twenty-four years elapsed between the death of her husband and her acceptance of Carney Sumrall’s proposal.

Carney and Elizabeth were last enumerated on the 1900 census.  Elizabeth died in July of 1902 and was buried in the Union Line cemetery near Soso.  In May of 1907 Carney was admitted to Beauvoir, the former gulf coast residence of Jefferson Davis that had been converted into a Confederate retirement home.  But he later discharged himself and returned to Jones County, where he died in 1909.  His grave is beside that of wife Catherine in the old section of Hickory Grove cemetery in Laurel.  The author has been unable to locate the grave sites of Moses Holyfield and Nancy McCary Sumrall Holyfield Sumrall.  It is known that Nancy’s sons by Elisha Sumrall continued to reside in Jones County until their deaths in the 1920s and 30s.

Hayes Cottage, Beauvoir Soldiers Homes, Biloxi, MS, where C. S. Sumrall once resided.

Nancy McCary Sumrall and Elizabeth Hinton Coats demonstrate how two Piney Woods women, eventually fated to marry a common husband, reacted to their status as Civil War widows.  When given an early opportunity to re-marry, albeit to an elderly man, Nancy accepted the offer as a practical partnership necessary to sustain her family through difficult times.   We can surmise that Elizabeth was less inclined to make such compromises, with the result that she retained her widow’s status for two dozen years after the war.  Whether accepting or rejecting prospective mates found among the reduced pool of post-war men, however, both women coped with the circumstances life had presented them.

Read Full Post »

Nancy Pitts Walters 

By Ed Payne

  

When Nancy Pitts Walters died in 1915 at the age of 82, she had the distinction of being the widow of not one but two Piney Woods men who journeyed to New Orleans in the spring of 1864 to join the Union Army.  Both of her husbands, Marada M. Walters and Hanson A. Walters, belonged to one of the oldest and largest family lines in Jones County, Mississippi.  The fact that Nancy’s mother was a Walters and that five more of her Walters kinsmen also enlisted in the New Orleans regiments indicates the extent to which some branches of this prolific Piney Woods clan adopted the Union cause.

Nancy was born on January 26, 1833, the fourth child of Daniel Pitts and Margaret Walters Pitts.  Daniel, a native of Savannah, Georgia, moved to Jones County sometime after 1820.  He homesteaded in the southeast quadrant of the county where the couple raised 13 children, all born between 1827 and 1849.  His wife Margaret was by most accounts a child of Jones County patriarch Willoughby Walters, previously identified in the profile of Civil War widow Martha Rushing as the grandfather of her first husband, George Warren Walters.  

In an era when many women married in their teens, 1860 found Nancy Pitts on the cusp of spinsterhood.  She was single and 27, with a decade of potential child bearing years already behind her.  That summer, however, she was betrothed to Marada Walters, son of Daniel Walters and his wife Nancy.  The two families were neighbors and it seems likely they attended the same church, Mt. Moriah Baptist, founded in 1854.  Marada (alternately spelled Meredy, Marady, and Meredick) was seven years Nancy’s junior, having just turned 20.  His father was one of the younger sons of Willoughby Walters whereas Nancy Pitts’s mother, Margaret, was one of his older daughters—possibly by a different wife.  Nevertheless, it was a marriage of first cousins.

The nuptials of Marada Walters and Nancy Pitts were one or two rungs down the area’s social ladder from those of their mutual first cousin George Warren Walters and his bride Martha Rushing, who exchanged vows just a few months later.  The focus on livestock production and a paucity of fertile crop land resulted in a more homogeneous socio-economic order in the Piney Woods than was the case where the cotton economy predominated.  But the mother of George Walters and the grandfather of Martha Rushing owned a few slaves—enough to afford them a place at the outer edge of the small circle of “slave people.”  Marada and Nancy, on the other hand, were the offspring of subsistence yeomen herders.  They belonged to the majority of Jones County inhabitants who grew no cotton and owned no slaves, and were largely isolated from the newspapers and firebrand politicians who, as the secession crisis escalated, eagerly sought to convince one and all that such factors were beside the point.  

The Walters clan to which Nancy Pitts was related both by blood and by marriage was numerous enough to mirror these modest, but later crucial, Piney Woods class distinctions.  Among the 21 Walters households that included 125 individuals, there were four slave owners who possessed a total of 15 slaves—eight of whom were under the age of 14.  During the Civil War at least 16 of the Jones County Walters males fought in Confederate units. Three were listed on rosters of the Knight renegades, and seven would go to New Orleans and enlist in the Union Army.  It being Jones County, there was some overlap across these three categories. 

One month after Fort Sumter, as the first units of Confederate volunteers formed, Nancy gave birth to a daughter, Sarah.  Her husband Marada apparently shrugged off the early call to arms.  Within 18 months Nancy gave birth to second child, Marion, born in October, 1862.  By this time military circumstances had changed.  That April the Confederacy passed its first conscription act, requiring men of Marada’s age to enlist or be subject to a draft.  Did he comply?  Records show that “M. M. Walters” enlisted in Company D of Steede’s cavalry battalion in April of 1862, but later deserted.  There is no conclusive evidence this was Marada, but his later enlistment as a Corporal in the Union Army suggests that he claimed prior military experience.  

Whether Nancy’s husband deserted or simply evaded the draft, his tenuous position certainly compromised his ability to provide for their family.  He would have had to be constantly alert and prepared to flee at the sound of hoof beats.  With two infants to care for, Nancy probably lived in the household of her father or father-in-law.  Daniel Pitts was in his mid-60s (a vigorous man, he would live to age 94) while Daniel Walters was approaching his mid-40s.  But they, like others throughout the South, were subject to confiscation of their farm produce by any Confederate units who passed through the area.  Daniel Walters later testified that these periodic “requisitions” of goods made efforts at subsistence farming ever more tenuous.  But since Daniel himself had become subject to conscription in 1863, when the Confederacy raised the age limit to 45, he could scarcely afford to protest too publicly.

Conscription policies effectively stripped the area of most of its male workforce.  And, unlike in the cotton producing regions of the state, the Piney Woods lacked a substantial pool of slave labor to partially offset this drain on manpower.  In such hard scrabble areas, women, children, and the elderly were left to scratch out a living as best they could—or else starve.  

The reversals suffered by Confederate forces in central Mississippi, capped by the surrender of Vicksburg in July of 1863, prompted many Piney Woods men to desert and return home.  This, in turn, attracted the notice of Confederate officials who, alarmed that renegade bands such as the Knight Company had assumed effective control of the region, sent in troops to suppress this defiance and force deserters back into service as sorely needed soldiers.  The campaign conducted by Col. Robert Lowry in the spring of 1864 had a galvanizing effect on a group of men who had grown increasingly resentful of Confederate authority.  Those who managed to evade the roundup had no way of knowing that the campaign would be of relatively brief duration as a result of the pressing need to redeploy troops against Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. 

By late April, 1864 over 40 Piney Woods men, many of them not listed on the Knight Band rosters, made the decision to trek to New Orleans and enlist in the Union Army.  Among them were Marada Walters, his brothers Drury and Archibald, and four of his Walters cousins: Albert, Joel, Richard, and Hanson.

The motivations of the Piney Woods men who set out for the Crescent City remain unknown.  Some have argued the incentive was pecuniary: that these were poor men enticed by enlistment bounties and monthly wages paid in greenbacks.  If so, however, such an argument must acknowledge that their allegiance to the Confederacy was nil.  The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863 made the elimination of slavery a stated objective of the Union Army.  Furthermore, these men would serve in close proximity with units of the United States Colored Troops.  This was quite a different matter from deserting the Confederacy after a strategic defeat and banding together to ward off attempts at re-conscription.  It seems more likely that these men, whose original commitment to the Confederate cause was tentative at best, had become embittered by the in-kind taxation and confiscations endured by their families. 

Another point to consider is the mortality risk accepted by the enlistees.  Whether  they expected to see combat or not, those who had served in the Confederacy knew the lethal hazards of camp life.  It is often stated, though perhaps not adequately comprehended, that more men died during the Civil War of disease than from battle wounds.  Many soldiers who entered encampments from rural areas had never been exposed to childhood diseases such as measles and mumps, which often proved fatal when contracted by adults.  Poor camp sanitation added to death rolls by spreading dysentery and cholera.

One month before Marada left for New Orleans, Nancy gave birth to a son, Drayton.  She was now the mother of three children, the oldest of whom had not yet turned three.  It is unlikely that the rather abstract prospect of a Union soldier’s pay held much interest for her.  After all, the money would be difficult to pass across enemy lines and, in any event, it was no substitute for a missing husband.  If Nancy had forebodings, they were realized soon enough.  Marada Walters enlisted at Fort Pike, just outside New Orleans, as a Corporal in Company E of the 1st New Orleans Infantry Regiment on May 15, 1864.  Within four months he was admitted to the University General Hospital where he died of chronic diarrhea on November 27.

Nancy probably received word of her husband’s death in the same way Daniel Walters learned of his son Archibald’s death: from a local man who had ventured to New Orleans and came back with news.  The news was seldom good.  At least one quarter of the Piney Woods enlistees succumbed to disease during their term of service—most within the first nine months.  Drury, the third son of Daniel Walters to have enlisted in New Orleans, died of smallpox three days before his brother Marada succumbed.  Both Nancy and her father-in-law would have had to accept the news and struggle on because life at the margins did not permit devoting much time and energy to grief.   

The war ended in April of 1865 and surviving Confederate veterans, maimed or just emaciated, came home.  The surviving New Orleans enlistees followed a year later, given early release from their three-year terms.  But those who returned were far fewer in number than those who had marched away.  Therefore Nancy, like Confederate widow Martha Rushing Walters, must have counted it a true blessing when she had the opportunity to remarry.  In February of 1867 she wed Hanson A. Walters at the home of her parents.  Genealogies indicate he was the son of Arthur Walters, probably an offspring of the original group of Walters settlers.  Born in 1836, Hanson had married Elizabeth (Quilly) Hightower in 1855.  But she died in 1862 while Hanson was responding to the conscription act by enlisting in the Company C of the 7th Battalion, Mississippi Infantry.  He participated in the Vicksburg campaign and, following his parole after the city’s surrender, deserted and returned home.  He does not appear on any of the Knight Band rosters, but on May 24, 1864 enlisted in Company G of the 1st New Orleans.  He served until his discharge on June 1, 1866.

Despite her remarriage, Nancy was eligible for a Union widow’s pension to help support her children.  She began the application process in June of 1867 and within a year was approved for payment of eight dollars per month, commencing upon the date of Marada’s death and continuing through March of 1880.  She received an additional two dollars per month per child, to continue until each child reached sixteen years of age.  This payment totaling $168 per year would have been a major boost to the fortunes of any family living in the post-war Piney Woods, where annual the value of farm production often amounted to less than $500.  

Pension application for minors of Marada Walters

Nancy and Hanson settled into a life of farming and child rearing.  Years later, when Hanson applied for a disability pension, he listed six children:  Quilla (1868), Eugene Amon (1870), Theodocia (1871), Laura (1873), Renvy (1874), and Isabella (1877).  (Another child, a daughter born circa 1875, apparently died in the interim.)  He operated a modest farm east of Ellisville where, among other activities, he kept bees that he reported in 1870 produced 84 pounds of honey.   

Over time, animosity about the area’s renegade reputation, which provoked returning Confederate veterans to have Jones County briefly renamed Davis County (in honor of Jefferson Davis), mellowed.  Indicative of the emerging tolerance of the choices soldiers made after the surrender of Vicksburg is the fact that Hanson was allowed to join the Ellisville Chapter of Confederate Veterans.  In the 1890s he was elected as his district’s representative on the County Board of Supervisors–a post also held by doggedly unrepentant former Knight Band member Jasper Collins. Even in the midst of Lost Cause glorification of the Confederacy, many of the aging Unionists retained the esteem of their neighbors 

But it was Union service that made one eligible for federal benefits.  So in 1898, at age 61, Hanson applied for a Union disability pension.  He underwent a medical examination that reported him to be 5’ 10” tall, a lean 135 pounds, and still having dark hair.  His application was rejected based on his acknowledged service in the Confederate Army.   A later decision overturned this exclusion and Hanson began receiving ten dollar per month in 1904. 

Pension application, Hanson Walters

The pension bureaucracy was not as well disposed towards Daniel Walters.  Three of his sons had died after enlisting in New Orleans, but Drury and Marada left wives who had rightful claims as widows.  Beginning in 1890, a 72 year old Daniel sought a pension as a dependent of Archibald, who he claimed was a source of partial support prior to his Unions service.  But the Bureau of Pensions was skeptical and demanded further evidence.  Months turned into years and the claim was finally denied in 1898.  The 1900 census showed him living with two boys, ages 14 and 11, who were apparently grandchildren.  Daniel survived for another decade on whatever charity he received from his relatives and died in 1908.    

 

Daniel Walters's letter to Commissioner of Pensions

   By 1910, the wear and tear of Piney Woods life had taken its toll on Nancy and Hanson.  That year’s census showed them living in a household that included their unmarried daughter Renvy, age 33, and a 17 year old grandson.  On December 24, 1910 Hanson died in his home, age 74.  He was buried the next day, a Christmas Sunday, in the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church cemetery.   

Nancy Pitts Walters survived her first husband by 50 years and her second by four.  She died of “senile paralysis” on January 18, 1915.  She was buried next to Hanson Walters in the Mt. Moriah cemetery.  To the right of her tombstone is a funeral home marker for daughter Renvy A. Walters, who died in 1966.  It is assumed that Marada Walters was buried in the Chalmette, Louisiana, national cemetery along with other Piney Woods men who died in the 1st and 2nd New Orleans Regiments—but no record of his gravesite has yet been found.  

(Acknowledgement to the article “Willoughby Walters Family” by Jimmye Walters Watson in Echoes From Our Past, Vol 1 published by the Jones County Genealogical & Historical Organization.  Other information comes from the Union pension files of Archibald Walters, Drury E. Walters, Hanson A. Walters, and Marada M. Walters.)

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 169 other followers