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:
Posted in Announcements, The Long Shadow of the Civil War, tagged american civil war, Big Thicket of East Texas, free state of jones, jasper collins, Michael Perman, newt knight, rachel knight, Southern Unionists on September 10, 2010 | 5 Comments »
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:
Posted in North Carolina, The Long Shadow of the Civil War, tagged american civil war, free state of jones, guerrillas, Jesse Hulin, John Hulin, long shadow of the civil war, Martha Sheets, north carolina piedmont, north carolina quaker belt, north carolina unionists, phebe crook, rachel and william crook, randolph county north carolina, Southern Unionists, Unruly Women, wesleyan methodists, William Hulin on August 28, 2010 | 4 Comments »
Note from Moderator: Phebe Crook belonged to the same North Carolina community of Unionist women that I’ve been researching and writing about for 25 years as did Martha Sheets and Caroline, Sarah, and Clarinda Hulin. Thanks to exhaustive research by historians in local, state, and federal records, we now know that women were active participants in the American Civil War. Particularly in southern regions that displayed strong Unionist sentiment, ordinary farm women like Phebe engaged in inner civil wars that centered around protesting Confederate policies that claimed the lives of their fathers, sons, and husbands, and which threatened them with impoverishment and even starvation.
Phebe Crook and the Inner Civil War in North Carolina
By Vikki Bynum
On September 15, 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, a young unmarried woman of the Randolph/Montgomery County area of North Carolina, wrote an unusually detailed and articulate letter of protest to Governor Zebulon Vance. Phebe Crook began her letter with a polite salutation:
Mr. Vance, Dear Sir, I imbrace this opertunity of writing you a few lines in order to inform you of the conduct of our oficers and leading men of this county as you are appointed govenor of the state and [because] I Beleave that you are willing to Do all that you can in trying to protect the civil laws and writs of our county.
Then Phebe got down to business, providing the governor with her eye-witness account of Confederate militia sent to her community to enforce conscript laws and arrest deserters:
Whearas I believe you are a Man of high feelings and one that is willing to Do your duty in every respect, I will now inform you of some of the conduct of our Militia officers and Magistrats of this county. Thir imployment is hunting Deserters, they say, and the way they Manage to find them is taking up poore old grey headed fathers who has fought in the old War.
Seizing fathers and grandfathers was one means by which Confederate soldiers sought to learn the whereabouts of men who evaded or deserted Confederate service. But according to Phebe,
Some of them [men who evaded service] has done thir Duty in trying to support both the army and thir family, [but] these men [home guard and militia] that has remained at home ever since the War commenced are taking them up and keeping them under gard without a mouthful to eat for severl days.
Militia and home guard also tortured deserters’ wives, claimed Phebe, by
taking up the women and keeping them under gard and Boxing thir jaws and nocking them about as if they were bruts and keeping them from thir little children that they hav almost wore our thir lifes in trying to make surport for them. And some of thes women is in no fix to leav homes and others have little suckling infants not more than 2 months old.
Nor were children exempt from torture. According to Phebe, Confederate militia were
taking up little children and Hanging them until they turn black in the face trying to make them tell whear thir fathers is When the little children knows nothing atall about thir fathers. Thir plea is they hav orders from the Govenner to do this and they also say that they hav orders from the govner to Burn up thir Barns and houses.
It seemed to Phebe that the mission of the Confederacy was to
Destroy all that [families] hav got to live on Because they hav a poor wore out son or husband that has served in the army, some of them for 2 or 3 years and is almost wore out and starved to Death and has come home to try to take a little rest. [Deserters are] Doing no body any harm and are eating thir own Rations, [whereas the home guard] has Remained at home ever since the Ware commenced, [and] take thir guns and go in the woods and shoot them down without Halting them as if they war Bruts or murderers. [They] also pilfer and plunder and steal on thir creadits.
Phebe Crook ended her letter by asserting her own credentials:
As for my self, I am a young Lady that has Neither Husband nor father no Brother in the woods, But I always like to [see] peple hav jestis and I think if thes Most powerfull fighting men that has always remained at home would go out and fight the enemy and let thes poore wor out soldiers Remain at [home] a little while and take a little rest that we would have Better times. But they [Confederate militia and home guard] say that if they are called they will Lie in the Woods until they Rot Before they will go to the war. And now why should thes men have the power to punish men for a crime [when] they would Be guilty of the same?
Although she began and ended her letter with a tone of politeness, Phebe now demanded that Governor Vance respond to her description of the desperate situation faced by the ordinary war-weary people of the North Carolina Piedmont:
So I will close By requesting you to answer this note if you pleas, and answer it imediately.
Direct to Phebe Crook, Salem Church, Randolph County, N.C.
NOTE: If there are descendants or kinfolk of Phebe Crook among readers of Renegade South, I would love to hear from you. I have not been able to trace Phebe’s whereabouts after the war. I do know that she was the daughter of William and Rachel Crook and the sister of Clarinda Crook Hulin. After the war, Clarinda and her husband, Nelson Hulin, moved to Kentucky.
Posted in Mississippi, The Free State of Jones, The Long Shadow of the Civil War, tagged a.b. jordan, american civil war, e.m. devall, free state of jones, guerrillas, harmon levi sumrall, jasper collins, jones county MS, knight company, long shadow of the civil war, mississippi unionists, morgan valentine, musgrove, newt knight, o.c. martin, richard montgomery blackwell, Southern Unionists, welch on August 10, 2010 | 8 Comments »
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.
* 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.
Posted in Mississippi, Texas, The Free State of Jones, tagged american civil war, Big Thicket of East Texas, chalmette national cemetery, civil war dissent, free state of jones, jasper collins, jayhawkers, jones county MS, knight company, long shadow of the civil war, mississippi unionists, Riley J. Collins, Simeon Collins, Southern Unionists on May 31, 2010 | 7 Comments »
I received these photos from Deena Collins Aucoin this Memorial Day morning. The first is of Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The second is the grave of Riley J. Collins from Jones County, MS. An avowed Unionist, Riley resisted service in the Confederate Army, and joined Co. E, 1st New Orleans infantry (although his gravestone says LA Infantry) on April 30, 1864. He died of disease the following August.
Deena is a descendant of Simeon Collins, brother of Riley. Both men, along with brother Jasper Collins and many nephews and cousins, were members of the Knight Band in the Free State of Jones. Three other Collins brothers–Warren, Stacy and Newton–deserted the Confederate Army and fought against it in the Big Thicket of East Texas.
Vikki Bynum, moderator
Posted in Mississippi, tagged 1st new orleans infantry, 4th MS cavalry, 7th battalion MS infantry, addison bounds, american civil war, civil war dissent, harrison co ms, hollis smith, john l smith, john lampkin, joseph a bounds, lampkin, mississippi bounds family, mississippi harriel family, mississippi unionists, nancy sumrall, peter smith, rentilus harriel, rufus smith, sherrod smith, Southern Unionists, thomas r smith, william bounds on April 28, 2010 | 30 Comments »
Note from moderator: Some time ago, before my move to Missouri temporarily engulfed my life, I had an interesting set of exchanges with Shelby Harriel, who had posted a comment beneath Ed Payne’s post, “Jasper Collins and the Ellisville Patriot.” After conducting extensive research on her family, Shelby was astonished to discover that several of her Mississippi ancestors had fought for the Union during the Civil War. “Being a Southerner to my very soul, it’s been difficult to understand and accept,” she wrote. Determined, however, to understand rather than dismiss (or hide) her kinfolk, she quickly realized that the Civil War South was anything but unified over secession from the Union. In email messages to Ed and me, she further digressed on her fascinating journey into the past. With her permission, I am publishing her letter describing what she learned about the Civil War service of her Smith, Harriel, and Bounds ancestors.
First of all, this all started when my paw paw’s first cousin, Mr. Hollis Smith, began sharing with me the history of our families. He was born in 1915 and actually remembered talking to his Civil War relatives. When asked why they fought for the Union, he looked at me as if I were crazy and replied, “They didn’t believe the Union should be dissolved!” He provided me with a copy of the picture I have attached. Sadly, Mr. Hollis passed away in September at the age of 95.
From left to right: Telfair (Mr. Hollis’ grandfather), Thomas R., Nimrod “Peter” (standing), John Lampkin, and Sherrod Smith.
I have the service and pension records for all of these men. I have service records for a Sherrod Smith of the 17th Battalion Cavalry but am not sure if the soldier was the man in the picture or their first cousin, also named Sherrod.
Thomas rose to the rank of sergeant in Co. G, 1st New Orleans Infantry (Union). He was 5’8″ with light colored hair and green eyes and was 21 when he enlisted. I have found a T.R. Smith of Co. B, 7th Battalion MS Infantry from Jackson County which is next to Harrison County where the Smiths were from at the time, so I have assumed this is “my” Thomas R. Smith. His enlistment is given as April, 1862 but his record states “absent without leave having never reported. Nor correctly reported….should be marked deserted.”
John Lampkin was 22 when he enlisted in the same regiment, Co. H. He was 5’11” with black hair and blue eyes. He died in a hospital in Carrollton of small pox in January, 1865. There is a rumor that he wasn’t actually the soldier that died of small pox in the hospital but switched identities with another soldier and went on to be a professional gambler in New Orleans when he was shot in the back and killed over a game of cards. For some reason, I don’t feel that is true. There appears a John L. Smith of Co. B, 7th Battalion MS Infantry with the same information as Thomas’.
Pete is a mystery. When I sent off for his papers, I received records for an “N.J. Smith” of Co. B, 3rd Mississippi Infantry. Those were his initials, and that was a unit raised in this area, but this particular soldier was listed as having been “severely wounded” on July 20, 1864 at Peach Tree Creek and died on July 24, 1864, in a Macon hospital. But Pete survived into his 80’s. Mr. Hollis swore up and down that Pete never served, but yet he applied for a pension in 1924 where he claimed to have enlisted in the 3rd MS Infantry in 1863 (he would have been 16 even though he definitely doesn’t look that young in the picture!). The officers listed on the application are correct, and the pension was granted. Two Confederate headstones were applied for, one for the 4th MS Cavalry. According to the application, he enlisted in 1861 with no discharge date. And then there’s another application for a headstone where the regiment is the 3rd MS. According to this document, he enlisted in October, 1863, and was discharged April 26, 1865. I sent away and received papers for a “Peter Smith” of the 4th MS Cav. But I don’t think this is the same person because this unit was formed in another part of the state. However, it was at Camp Moore, Louisiana, which is about an hour and a half away from here. I suppose he could have served in both. So that leaves the question of the soldier “N.J. Smith” who was killed outside Atlanta. Even though Mr. Hollis said he didn’t fight, he was granted a pension in 1924. At any rate, I’ve concluded that Pete did fight due to the fact that the pension was granted, and his two older brothers fought against him for the Union, one of whom, Thomas of course, signed as a witness on his pension application!
The Smiths had two first cousins, Reuben and Rufus, who served in the 3rd MS Infantry. Both appear as AWOL at certain times, but they also show up as having been sick. So it doesn’t appear that they deserted and joined the 1st NO like their cousins. It seems that Unionist loyalties are connected through family ties. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with this branch of my family.
While doing this research, I took a look at the rosters of the Union unit Thomas and John Lampkin joined out of New Orleans. Lo and behold, there appeared the name of one Reutilus Hariel, Jr. in Co. G (The army misspelled my paw paw’s name by putting an extra “r” in it when he went to fight in WWII. He liked it and kept it.). His name was spelled every way imaginable, but that was him, the man of whom I am directly descended. He went with the Smith brothers to New Orleans and joined with them. Unlike the Smiths, I could not find him in a Confederate unit prior to his enlistment in the 1st NO. At any rate, after being told my entire life that we had no direct ancestors who fought, I found out three years ago that wasn’t true. After telling Mr. Hollis of my discovery, he just laughed because I think he knew all along but didn’t want to tell me that my direct ancestor fought for the Union. As for my direct family, I think it was known at some point but was covered up over the years until it became forgotten. Reutilus, after all, died in his 40’s. His father, Reutilus Sr. is another family mystery. We don’t know where he came from or what happened to him. He rode off to work on the telegraph lines one day and never came home. Neither he nor his horse were ever discovered. We believe he was robbed and murdered because he is rumored to have always ridden the finest horses and wore the finest clothes.
There was another man named William Bounds whose sister married Reutilus Jr. While looking for his Confederate records, I kept coming up empty. Later, I found his name with those of the Smith brothers and Reutilus. Now it made sense why his headstone wasn’t pointed. He wasn’t a Confederate. He was in Co. I of the 1st NO and was listed as a deserter as of Jan. 13, 1866. He was cleared of the charge in 1886.
Thomas, Reutilus, and William are all buried together in a cemetery about five miles from where I live. It’s kind of funny because they’re buried in the middle of the little cemetery while everybody else is buried along the fence row and away from them. I wonder if that’s on purpose. At any rate, according to Mr. Hollis, the Smith’s mother made it known she did not want to be buried near her Yankee son, and she’s not. She’s buried in another cemetery a couple of miles away, along with Pete, her Confederate son. I don’t know where, exactly, in New Orleans John Lampkin is buried.
After doing more research on William Bounds, I have found out that he is the son of John E. Bounds and Nancy Sumrall. Rumor has it that John was harboring Confederate deserters and run out of the county because of it.
I have discovered that William had two brothers who joined the 1st NO with him: James and Addison, both of whom were 6’3″! James had red hair and black eyes. I hope I can find a picture of him one day. Addison had light colored hair and blue eyes. William was just under six feet with red hair and green eyes.
Addison made corporal. As a part of the provost, he was detailed to escort prisoners to Fort Jefferson in the Tortugas, beginning in February, 1866. I read where most prisoners there were Union deserters. Talk about irony…..my Southern-born ancestor fighting with a Union unit based in New Orleans and guarding Yankee deserters. Addison himself appears to be a Confederate deserter as I found an “A. Bounds” of Co. B, 17th Battalion Cavalry from Harrison County. He was enrolled in April, 1862 and listed as present. However, that’s where the records for that particular unit end for him.
In addition to housing Yankee deserters, Fort Jefferson was also the prison where Dr. Samuel Mudd was sent. He was there the same time as Addison.
I could not find a Confederate unit for James unless I overlooked something.
These Bounds had first cousins, Richard and John Clark Bounds of Jasper County, who were in Co. K, 37th MS Infantry. They were the sons of Addison Bounds, brother of John E. Richard was wounded in 1862 and sent to a hospital in Holly Springs. He was paroled after Vicksburg and then was listed as AWOL February 9th, 1864. I don’t have his 1st NO records yet, but they’re on the way. John was on detached service and missed out on the whole Vicksburg experience. His records show he was paroled at Meridian in May, 1865. So why did he choose to remain loyal to the Confederacy instead of deserting and joining the 1st NO like his brother? I wonder if he knew that Richard had deserted and joined the Union.
I have in my notes a Joseph A. Bounds listed as a brother of Richard and John Clark. There is a Joseph A. in Co. F, 19th MS who served in Virginia throughout the war, but I don’t think these are the same men.
There were other relatives to the Bounds listed above:
There is a Stephen, Solomon and George Washington Bounds who all served in Co. H, 3rd MS Infantry. George Washington was discharged due to disability. Nathaniel Bounds of the 38th MS Cavalry died at a hospital in Okolona in June, 1862. I could not find any of them in the NO unit. I have also found a W. S. Bounds whose name is given as Woodward on one of the cards. He was also in Co. H, 3rd MS and detailed as a teamster in 1863. His records don’t indicate what happened to him after that year. There is a D.W. Bounds in the same company. He is listed as AWOL since November, 1863. I don’t know who the D.S. is but I have found a Daniel Woodward in my genealogy notes. There is a D.W. Bounds of the 2nd NO, a unit that failed to organize resulting in soldiers being transferred to the 1st. And there is a Daniel W. Bound listed in Co. H of the 1st. Furthermore, there is an Ellis Bounds in Co. G. I could not find a Confederate unit for him although his father filed for a pension where he listed the 3rd MS as his son’s unit. In my notes, I have Ellis’ death date as 1864. There are also John and Henry of Co. G of the 1st NO. In my notes, I have a John Riley and James Henry listed as brothers of Ellis and that they were twins. No Confederate unit could be found for them either even though their father, Gillium, (2nd cousin of John E.) was in Co. H, 3rd Battalion MS State Troops. He is listed as present in August, 1862 but deserted a few months later in January, 1863. All of these Bounds were from the Coastal area.
I have the Confederate service records for this set of Bounds. Their Union service records, where applicable, are on the way.
In addition to these Smiths and Bounds, I have a Uriah Lee of Co. G, 1st NO. I could not find a Confederate unit for him. His service records are on the way as well.
If it’s one thing you can say it’s that the Bounds family was torn in two. Speaking of being divided, I have always felt for my great-great-great aunt, Nancy. She married Elijah Lee whose headstone says he was in the 4th MS Cavalry. However, I think this was a mistake and that he did not fight at all or maybe in a unit I haven’t discovered yet. But his brother, Uriah, fought in the 1st NO. Their first cousin, Eli Lee, however, fought in the 7th Battalion MS Infantry and was paroled after Vicksburg. So Nancy’s brother and brothers-in-law fought for the Union while her cousin and possibly her husband fought for the Confederacy. No Confederate unit could be found for Uriah and Eli did not join the 1st NO after paroled. As a sidenote: these Lees are third cousins to Robert E. Lee.
This is what I have discovered in my research so far. I haven’t been able to find much on the 1st NO other than the brief history available on the Internet and have assumed it was more or less a type of home guard unit for the protection of New Orleans from all the guerrilla warfare going on in southwestern Louisiana.
I appreciate you taking the time to read through this. I’d be interested in learning anything you have to share. Thank you for your time.
Posted in Announcements, Mississippi, Multiracial Families/Communities, North Carolina, Texas, The Free State of Jones, The Long Shadow of the Civil War, tagged american civil war, Big Thicket of East Texas, civil war dissent, free state of jones, jones county MS, knight company, long shadow of the civil war, mississippi unionists, mixed race, multiracial, newt knight, north carolina unionists, rachel knight, Southern Unionists, victoria bynum on February 18, 2010 | 12 Comments »
I’m excited to announce that my new book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies, has been released! Click here to see its table of contents.
To learn more about The Long Shadow of the Civil War, watch for my next post on Renegade South, which will feature my recent Question & Answer interview with the University of North Carolina Press.
Posted in Mississippi, The Free State of Jones, tagged 1st new Orleans regiment, 2nd new orleans regiment, american civil war, civil war dissent, daniel walters, free state of jones, hanson walters, jones county mississippi, martha rushing, merada walters, mississippi unionists, nancy pitts walters, nancy reeves walters, new orleans union army, newt knight, piney woods mississippi, Southern Unionists, southern yeomanry, willoughby walters on February 11, 2010 | 37 Comments »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)