southern unionism

Landrums in Gray & Blue: Conflicting Loyalties in Piney Woods Mississippi

By Ed Payne

Note: Nine years ago I began research on men from the Mississippi Piney Woods region who joined the Union 1st New Orleans Infantry Regiment in 1863-1864.  I eventually compiled a list of over 200 names (see Crossing the Rubicon of Loyalties).  Among them were four members of the Landrum family.  All four had pension files at the National Archives.  The files include affidavits by relatives and in-laws which led to more research.  In the end, I decided to examine both the Confederate and Union service of the Landrum men.  Part 1 examines their Confederate records, while Part 2 examines their Union service.   The third and final part summarizes the postwar lives of selected Landrum men and their wives.—ep.

 

Part 1 – The Gray

In 1873 former Confederate major Joel E. Welborn did not mince words when asked to characterize the loyalty of Thomas S. Landrum and his relations during the late war.  He wrote:

“The whole Landrum family & community was hostile to the Southern Confederacy from its inception to the close—In 1861 had some of them arrested by military authority for expressions of disloyalty to the South & would have executed them—but for the interference of influential friends . . . .”

Welborn penned his statement in behalf of Thomas Landrum’s claim to compensation for three mules turned over to the U.S. Army when he enlisted in 1864.  Such payments required proof of steadfast loyalty to the Union and thus might well have been denied if Welborn had chosen to mention Thomas’s prior service in the Confederacy.  But Welborn was either ignorant of this fact or, more likely, simply wanted to help a poor man get the payment due him.  (Note 1)

The Landrum family offers insights into the way in which the Civil War entangled those Southerners who did not share in the region’s passion for secession.  Once the war began, however, neutrality was not an option.  Landrum men would enlist as Confederate and Union soldiers, and two served in both armies—while one died trying.  They became, like the nation as a whole, a house divided by war.

Members of the Landrum family began to appear on south Mississippi censuses prior to statehood in 1817.  They were, like most of their neighbors, small scale farmers and herders who cleared scattered homesteads out of the region’s dense pine forests.  They showed no interest in becoming part of the slave-based cotton economy, staying put while others relocated to more fertile lands opened by Indian removal acts in the 1820s and 1830s.  (Note 2)

Federal Manuscript Census, Jones County, MS, 1850

A log cabin typical of those found in the 19th century piney woods

In this environment, John K. Bettersworth observed,

“Above all things else, the Piney Woodsman wished to be left to his own devices.”

But the country’s sectional divisions grew increasingly bitter during the 1850s and erupted into war in April of 1861.  During the first year of the conflict, Confederate military service was voluntary.  Everywhere, social pressure encouraged men to join the cause, but with less success in areas having minimal cotton production and few slaves.  On 16 April 1862 the situation changed when the Confederate Congress enacted its first Conscription Act.  The law decreed that healthy white males between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve, with only a handful of occupational exemptions.  (In September the upper age was extended to 45.)  Those who felt they had no stake in the fight now faced stark choices:  enlist in a local company, await the dishonor of having to be conscripted, or attempt the difficult task of evading Confederate authorities.

Through military records, I have traced the sons and grandsons of two Landrum brothers who settled in the Jones-Wayne county region:  Henry Marshall Landrum (ca 1795 – ca 1855) and Jesse Marion Landrum (ca 1801 – 4 Sep 1851).  It should be noted that the genealogy of the Landrum family is complicated by scant records, multiple persons sharing a common set of given names, and the occasional use of nicknames.  As I can best determine, the sons of two patriarchs (along with 2 grandsons who also saw service) were:

HENRY MARSHALL LANDRUM SR:

Thomas S. Landrum  (ca 1818 – 1898)

        Henry Landrum (1846 – 1923)

James Johnson Landrum  (1820 – 1886)

        William Henry Landrum  (1844 – 1918)

Linson B. Landrum  (ca 1823 – 1865)

Henry Marshall Landrum Jr  (1827 – 1900)

Samuel L. Landrum  (ca 1834 – 1910)

William Pinkney Landrum  (ca 1836 – 1890)

Elijah Landrum  (ca 1838 – bef 1866)

JESSE MARION LANDRUM SR:

Wiley H. Landrum  (ca 1828 – ca 1883)

Charles Landrum  (ca 1831 – 1857)

Lewis L. Landrum  (1836 – 1910)

William Manuel Landrum  (1839 – 1914)

John Landrum  (ca 1846 – 1865)

Jesse Marion Landrum Jr  (ca 1850 – 1930)

No military records can be tied with assurance to James Johnson Landrum.   Family stories tell of Elijah Landrum either dying during the war or being murdered, but again no records have been located.  Charles Landrum was murdered in 1857 (see The Lyons and the Landrums) and Jesse Marion Landrum Jr was young enough to be exempt from service.  Confederate military records have been located that seem to match the others listed.

On 24 February 1862, six weeks prior to the promulgation of the first Confederate Conscription Act, Thomas S. Landrum, William Henry Landrum, and William Pinkney Landrum trekked to Mobile, Alabama and enlisted in the 2nd Battalion AL Light Artillery.  All were assigned to Company C.  Thomas and William Pinkney were brothers and William Henry a nephew—the eldest son of James Johnson Landrum.  Thomas’s birth year is a matter of dispute, but it seems likely he had turned 40.  He left a wife and nine children back in Jones County.  William Pinkney would have been about age 25 and William Henry 18.  Both were single.  One month later Samuel, another son of Henry Marshall Landrum, also enrolled in the 2nd Battalion.

The 2nd Battalion AL might seem an odd choice since several units had formed in the Jones-Wayne county region.  There may have been kinship connection with three Alabama men named Landrum who joined the same battalion in October of 1861.  And if they lacked passion for the Southern cause, duty in what promised to be coastal defense would seem preferable to fighting in infantry units.  But if the Landrum family strongly opposed secession, why did these men enlist prior to the Conscription Act?  And especially why did Thomas, whose age put him outside the scope of conscription policies at that time?

The answer may lurk between the lines of the Joel E. Welborn affidavit quoted above.  Once the war began and tolerance of dissent by authorities eroded, Thomas and others in the family apparently came under threat for “expressions of disloyalty to the South.” Thomas may have found it prudent to volunteer for service and to do so in a unit some distance from where his views had aroused official ire.

A few weeks after the Conscription Act became law, four other Landrums signed up in Company C (“Jones County Rebels”) of the 7th Battalion MS Infantry: Henry (aka H.M.) “Laundrum” and J.S., L.L. and W.M. Landrum.  Henry seems to have been Henry Marshall Landrum Jr, while L.L. and W.M. were Lewis and William Manuel, both sons of Jesse Marion Landrum.  The identity of “J.S.” at this point remains an open question.  Henry had a short military career.  Records show him as being discharged on 20 July 1862 without explanation.  Rounding out the enlistments that year, in September Wiley H. Landrum—another son of Jesse—joined the 15th Battalion AL Partisan Rangers (later merged into the 56th Partisan Rangers).

The 7th Battalion MS Infantry participated in the Battle of Iuka, in northern Mississippi, on 19 September 1862.  So did Company C of the 2nd Battalion AL Light Artillery, its mission of coast defense giving way to the exigencies of war.  The Confederate forces suffered a major defeat and withdrew the next day.  The muster roll for J.S. Landrum states he “died on retreat from Iuka.”  For Thomas, William Pinkney, and William Henry Landrum, the battle and their subsequent transfer to Capt Tobin’s TN Light Artillery apparently marked a turning point.  All three deserted on 7 October.  On 1 November both Lewis and William Manuel Landrum were listed as absent without leave from the 7th Battalion MS.  Meanwhile, Samuel Landrum, who had been enrolled in a different company of the 2nd Battalion AL Light Infantry, was assigned to the defense of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He deserted from Missionary Ridge in early July and made his way back home.

The Landrum men who returned to Jones County were later joined by others, such as future Knight Band member Jasper Collins.  Collins also fought at Iuka but walked away in disgust when he learned of the Confederate Congress’s passage of the “Twenty Negro Law” in October 1862.  This legislation granted planters one military exemption for every 20 slaves owned.  The law increased the perception among yeoman soldiers that they were shouldering a disproportionate share of the fight (see Ye Oldest Native). Still, many stayed in the Confederate ranks and others, after periods of unauthorized leave, ended up back with their units.

William Henry Landrum returned to his light artillery battery on 13 March 1863.  He faced a charge of desertion but, with manpower needs paramount, served in the defense of Vicksburg. There, as he succinctly stated in a Texas Confederate pension application 50 years later, “I had my right arm shot off.”  The Mississippi River fortress city surrendered on 4 July after a 47 day siege.  Like thousands of half-starved Confederate troops, the maimed William H. Landrum was issued a parole and headed home.

The Battle of Vicksburg

The surrender of Vicksburg increased the number of war-weary and disillusioned soldiers returning to the Piney Woods.  The situation they confronted would only harden their feelings.  Confederate units had enforced “tax-in-kind” policies with vigor, stripping the already impoverished region of materials and food stores.  Whether they returned as deserters or parolees, men began to state openly that their service to the Confederacy had ended.

 

Newton Knight

Confederate authorities, after repeated warnings concerning the extent of the problem, sent Major Amos McLemore to deal with the situation.  But Major McLemore was shot on the evening of 5 October 1863, allegedly by renegade leader Newt Knight, and the simmering conflict became an internal war.

Within two weeks of the shooting of Major McLemore, authorities conscripted Linson B. Landrum, a younger brother of Thomas, into the 48th MS Infantry.  As noted, conscription was generally viewed as dishonorable but Linson apparently wanted his opposition to serving to be a matter of record.  A month later his brother Samuel returned to his unit under arrest.  Cousins Lewis and William Manuel Landrum reappeared on the rolls of the 7th Battalion in December 1863 after an absence of more than a year, but on the final muster roll available (January-February 1864) they were again absent.

Capt A. F. Ramsey of the Confederate 3rd MS wrote a letter on 8 March 1864 to the provost general of Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Louisiana lamenting the state of affairs he found while stationed in Perry County (south of Jones County).  He cited two bands of deserters, one led by a man named Edwards and another by a Landrum.  Could the “Captain Landrum” Ramsey mentioned have been Thomas S. Landrum?  That possibility will be discussed in Part 2 of this series.

The increasingly bold activities of the deserters caused Confederate officials to order two successive campaigns in March-April of 1864.  Those Landrums who had not returned to their Confederate units, voluntarily or under arrest, became hunted men.  At this point Thomas made the decision to move with others one hundred miles south to the swamps of the Pearl River basin known as “Honey Island.”  Once there, they would be within a few miles of Union troops stationed at Fort Pike, Louisiana.

Coming next: Ed Payne, “Part 2: The Blue”

NOTES

1.  Twenty years after writing his statement on the loyalty of Thomas Landrum, Joel E. Welborn testified at a hearing in 1895 concerning a claim by renegade leader Newt Knight.  Knight sought payment for himself and his men based on support they provided the Union cause during the Civil War.  Defense lawyers expected Welborn, as a former Confederate officer, to assist them by disputing Knight’s assertions of patriotism.  Instead, Welborn testified that he felt those whom he had known acted on “honest conviction” rather than merely to avoid arrest for desertion.  Nevertheless, the Knight claim was denied.  See Victoria Bynum, Long Shadow of the Civil War pgs 93-94.

2.  The Landrum family did not participate in slave-based agriculture, but the 1840 census shows that Henry M. Landrum Sr. had acquired one young female slave who probably served as a domestic.  The 1850 slave schedule for Wayne County showed the female to be age 20 with two children.  After Henry’s death, the 1860 slave schedule listed the female slave, now age 30, as belonging to his widow Jane (aka Rachel).  Henry’s son Linson (“L.B. Landrum”) was cited as owner of four children, ages 2 to 14.  Linson’s status as a slave owner did not seem to impact his opposition to the secessionist cause.

 

9 replies »

  1. Thank you Ed. I’m related to the Landrum family through my third great grandfather Linson B. I’m excitedly waiting for Part 2!

  2. So…Linson was a slave a slave owner…these revelations never cease to amaze and dismay me. The more I discover the more complex it all seems. Linson’s widow Elizabeth Pitts Landrum would go on to marry my second great grandfather Elijah Shoemake in Nacogoches, Texas in 1885. The widow of a Unionist slave owner marryied a man who fought for the Confederacy until the end of the war. Elijah’s grandfather Sampson Shoemake was identified as “all other free” in the 1810 Federal census, as well as the owner of one slave. Sampson’s father James was identified as “all other free” in the 1790 census and the owner of 4 slaves in the 1800 census. Sampson’s brother Solomon was identified as “colored” as late as the 1830 census. And another relative, Drury Sumrall, was a Baptist preacher, a Unionist, a compassionate man…and a slave owner. So much contradiction…..

  3. Chuck:

    I’ve learned to check the slave schedules because… you never know. Thus I remember having similar thoughts when I found out that my ancestor, Sarah Collins Walters Parker, was the only child of Stacy Collins who owned a slave. But that fact did not prevent her from offering assistance to the Knight Band (which included several brothers and nephews) during the Civil War, all while her son, George Willoughby Walters, fought for the Confederacy and died a prisoner in Camp Douglas. As you say, so much contradiction.

    Linson apparently inherited the children of the female slave who had been owned by his father. In 1860 they were 3 males ages 14, 12, and 2 and a female age 4. Given that their mother was owned by Henry’s widow, Rachel, it is likely that the youngest two resided with her.

    Drury Sumrall sounds like he’d make an interesting article.

      • I have seen William Carter as the first husband of Elizabeth Pitts on several Ancestry family trees but I’ve never been able to find any definitive proof that it was so.

  4. Excellent article Ed. Slavery as a legal institution is evil without dispute. But there were cases where it was not exploitive. A freed black person in the south was likely to be abused or abducted and sold into slavery. Your slaveholding ancestor may have been doing the best thing, given the alternative.

    • Alicia, I plan to begin formatting part 2 tomorrow and have it posted by Saturday. Part 3 will follow part 2 in about 3 more days.

      Vikki

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