Monday, September 22, 2008
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Sunday, September 21, 2008
My mother's family line was from the Western NC Appalachian Mountains, the earliest of the settlers. Being an amateur genealogist who has worked for about 15 years on following family lines, both my families and Stan's families, I was particularly interested in what happened during the Civil War in the Western NC mountains of Madison County. There is a family story of a large family of ours, with 9 sons, who had dramatic encounters during the Civil War. The family were, by principle, against slavery and so they supported the Union side. Rev. William Rees married married Mary Jane Freeman in Buncombe County, NC (later became Madison County, NC) in 1823. She was the daughter of Rev. Moses Freeman, William's mentor and spiritual leader. Moses had slaves and gave one to Mary Jane upon the event of their marriage but William declined the "gift" because he did not believe in slavery. This did not hurt his relationship with his new in-laws as they lived beside each other and William followed his father-in-law's footsteps and became a minister. He was ordained by his father-in-law in 1829. William "Preacher Billy" and Mary Jane Reese had 13 children with 9 of them boys. Then came the War.
Some of the sons served in the Confederate Army until 1863.
Rev. Thomas Reese would have been in his early 40's when the War started and then his father died (5/1863). When their father died (5/25/1863), the sons had to make a decision about who to fight for. As I said, some had already joined and fought on the Confederate side but they had deserted and were home now. Martin Van Buren Reese enlisted in the Union Army on 9/25/1863. He was back home on recruiting duty for the Union Army when they gathered together at a church in Madison County (maybe Bone Camp Meeting House or Bull Run Baptist Church?) for a meeting to decide what to do. Confederate bushwhackers surrounded the church and began shooting it up. They abducted Levi but Martin Van Buren, Edmund Jackson, William Joseph and Patterson managed to escape through a window. Moses and Thomas, were either abducted, killed by the renegades, escaped to die later or joined one side or the other and died in service. I don't know what happened to them. Evidently they were never heard from again.
Green Hill Reese would have been in his mid to late 30's during the War. He'd been married to Tabitha Jane Freeman (or Telitha Jane Freeman) for 16 years when the War started and had 8 children by then (although some may not have survived childhood so I don't know for sure how many children were alive and at home during the War). He later had 2 more children, one in 1862 and one in 1866. But I don't know what happened to him during the War. Did he serve somewhere? One side or the other? Was he handicapped in some way that saved him from serving? Was he one of the outliers? He was enumerated in all of the censuses of Madison County until 1900 so he died between 1900-1910 (he would have been between 70-80 years old) and he and Tabitha/Telitha are buried in unmarked graves at Meadowfork Baptist Church in Joe, Madison County, NC.
Edmund Jackson Reese was 31 years old when the War started and had been married to Rebecca Buckner for about 7 years. He was 33 yrs old when his father died. He was a Private in Confederate Co. D, 64th NC Confederate Infantry, 11th Battalion (Allen's Regiment) until he deserted with his brothers in 1863 to go home because his father was dying. He was 66 years old when he died in Madison County, NC.
Levi Reese was 21 yrs old when the War. When their father died in 1863, he was 23 years old and single. Levi was captured by the bushwhackers and taken to Kentucky. He was held a prisoner there thoughout the remainder of the War because he refused to fight. Being a religious man, he could not be forced to steal or pillage so he was tied to wagons and made to go along. He was mistreated. He told his children of being starved and made to do without water. On one occasion they were crossing a swollen stream and the water came up in the wagon bed and he was able to cup some water up in his hands and get it to his mouth before they could stop him. He was in Kentucky when the War ended and he was released. Levi was ragged and barefoot as he started home. He found work along the way at the farm of Benjamin Harrison. He married the farmer's daughter, Lydia Harrison. He and his closest brother, Martin Van Buren Reese, moved out West after the War with their families. He died fairly young at 54 yrs old because of the heavy tole his captivity took on his body. He, Lydia and their first child, a son, moved with Martin Van Buren Reese and his family, and the Harrisons to McDonald County, MO. In a few months they moved to the vicinity of Bentonville, Benton County, Arkansas. They are there in the 1870 Census. Levi and his family are listed in a special census of McDonald County taken in 1876. He was living on a place next to his brother, Dr. Martin V.B. Reese. They lived there in the Erie Township until the birth of their 4th child, Florence. Within weeks Lydia died from "child bed fever". He married Elizabeth on 11/30/1879 probably right after the death of Lydia. It was a desperate situation. He was left with 3 small boys and a new baby daughter. Elizabeth was widowed and had 2 small girls and an infant son. It was a mutual need. His inlaws (Lydia's parents who had moved out west with them) took care of the new baby until he remarried. Elizabeth was a neighbor who had been widowed so they got married and brought little baby Florence back home with them. This was hard on the Harrison's but it must have been resolved because Levi continued to help them through the years to come. In the 1880 Census, he had moved his family to Benton Township, Newton County, MO but by the Fall, they were back to McDonald County in the Indian Springs area. In the 1900 U.S. Census he is found in Indian Springs. When he died there were 7 children under 15 years old. His imprisonment during the War and the hardships he had suffered greatly affected his health. He was slender built and medium height and, in his later days, he was quite frail.
William Joseph Reese was 29 years old when the War started, had been married to Mary Christina Wilde for about 6 years. He was 31 years old when his father died. There were 2 "William J. Reese's" documented in Confederate records: One served in the Confederate Co. F, TN 15th Cavalry and the other served in Confederate Co. H, TN 44th (Cons.) Infantry. It's possible this was him before deserting in 1863. I haven't checked into it. William Joseph died at 66 years of age in Madison County. He is buried in North Fork Church cemetery, Big Pine, Madison County, NC.
Elisha Reese was 27 years old and married a little over a year when the War started. He would have been 29 years old when his father died. Like Green Hill Reese, I don't know what Elisha's War record was. I found a record of an Elisha Reese in the Confederate listing who served in the NC 64th Infantry, Co. G. It may have been him. He is buried in Gabriels Creek Baptist Church cemetery, Madison County, NC.
Moses Reese was 24 years old when the War started and would have been 26 years old when his father died. In the 1860 Census, he was still living at home and single. When their father died (5/25/1863), the sons had to make a decision about who to fight for. As I said, some had already joined and fought on the Confederate side but they had deserted and were home now. Martin Van Buren Reese enlisted in the Union Army on 9/25/1863. He was back home on recruiting duty for the Union Army when they gathered together at a church in Madison County (maybe Bone Camp Meeting House or Bull Run Baptist Church?) for a meeting to decide what to do. Confederate bushwhackers surrounded the church and began shooting it up. They abducted Levi but Martin Van Buren, Edmund Jackson, William Joseph and Patterson managed to escape through a window. Moses and Thomas, were either abducted, killed by the renegades, escaped to die later or joined one side or the other and died in service. I don't know what happened to them. Evidently they were never heard from again.
Martin Van Buren (M.V.B.) Reese was listed as a farmer when he joined the Union Army at age 19. He was a Private in Confederate Captain Arthur A. Dewees' Company, Allen's Regiment, NC Volunteer Infantry. M.V.B. was with the Confederate Army for less than a year before he and his brothers deserted to go home when their father became terminally ill. After their father died (5/25/1863), they made the decision to go across to join the Union forces. M.V.B. enlisted in the Union Army on 9/25/1863. He was back home on recruiting duty for the Union Army when they gathered together at a church in Madison County (maybe Bone Camp meeting house or Bull Run Baptist Church?) for a meeting to decide what to do. Confederate bushwhackers surrounded the church and abducted Levi. Martin Van Buren managed to escape through a window. His brothers, Moses and Thomas, were either abducted, killed by the bushwhackers or escaped to die later in fighting on one side or the other. I don't know what happened to them. Edmond Jackson, William Joseph, Martin Van Buren and Patterson saddled horses and rode to Greeneville, TN to enlist in the Union Army. The trip to Greeneville, TN took several days, winding through the back trails of Madison County from Bull Creek to Allen Gap on the Tennessee state line to avoid Confederate and Union patrols, outliers, and bandits. They crossed the Nolichucky River into Greeneville County, TN. Edmund Jackson was assigned to Co A of the Union's NC 2nd Regiment Mounted Infantry. William Joseph, Martin Van Buren and Patterson were assigned to Co. B of the Union's NC 2nd Regiment Mounted Infantry. They participated in Warm Springs (now Hot Springs), NC on 10/23/1863; Walkers Ford, TN on 12/2/1863; Cumberland Gap, TN on 2/22/1864; Ivy Bend, NC on 3/26/1864; Bench Grove, NC on 2/2/1864 and Plymouth, NC on 4/25/1864.
M.V.B. Reese was honorably discharged from the US Army on 8/16/1865 in Knoxville, TN. He had been promoted to a Sergeant. When he got home from the War, he began studying medicine under Dr. Marion Roberts and, later, under Dr. J.R. Reagan, both of Buncombe County, NC. He married after the War. He bought a farm on Cody Branch of Big Ivy. Three of their children were born here. He studied medicine for 7 years. He moved to McDonald County, MO in 1871 with his brother Levi. They took the train as far as St. Louis, MO and then bought mule teams and covered wagons and continued the journey. He purchased 80 acres on the banks of Indian Creek and resided there for 10 years. He tried to maintain the 80 acre farm and practice medicine until 1881. This was hard on his frail health so he sold it to his brother-in-law, Robert Patterson, and moved to Erie, MO. He bought a drug store and was Postmaster. Sophronia helped him with these. He attended to both the physical and spiritual needs of his patients. He carried his Bible with him in the buggy on his trips to rural patients. He had ill health due to the War. Sometimes people would see him laying under a shade tree with his buggy tied nearby. He would say, "I ate too much parched corn during the War. You see, we were starving. It ruined my stomach." When a typhoid epidemic hit the county, his household was among those to suffer. He lost 2 daughters, a day apart. Lottie Lee survived the sickness but required subsequent surgery, which was performed on the kitchen table in his home. As his health continued to decline, he began preparing his family. He taught his family what to do for him, such as medicine for pain, etc. He instructed his children on how to care for their mother, who had Diabetes, and prepared them for her death also. He told them she would live about 6 months. He died at 53 yrs of age.
At 17 years old, Patterson Reese made his way through the Confederate lines and, raising his age to 18, volunteered in the Union Army. He enlisted in the Union Army on 9/25/1863, with his brothers, for 3 years. They had no more than a few days training before the 2nd N.C. Mounted Infantry, under the command of Lt. Col. James Albert Smith, engaged the Confederates in the battle at Warm Springs (now Hot Springs), NC on 10/23/1863. They stayed on the move constantly in East Tennessee engaging Confederates and foraging. They were in Walker Ford, TN on 2/2/1863 and Knoxville from 11-12/4/1863. They fought at Bench Grove, NC on 2/2/1864 and Cumberland Gap, TN. In 1864, the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry was placed under the command of General T.T. Garrard. They fought at Plymouth, NC on 4/25/1864. On 5/24/1864 he was secretly assigned to the 3rd NC Mounted Infantry Regiment for the purpose of making a raid behind enemy lines, and he was carried on the official rolls of the 2nd Regiment as a deserter. While he was on this assignment, the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry remained at Cumberland Gap. On 12/23/1864, Special Order #120 issued by General Ammen, officially restored Patterson Rees to duty from previous charges of desertion, but forfeited all his pay and allowances from his time of enlistment to 10/1864. The charges of desertion on Patterson's record were removed by an Act of Congress, approved on 3/26/1869, "to assist in making a raid into the enemy's line." From January to April, 1865, Patterson and his brothers remained on duty with the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry as the War neared it's end. On 5/5/1865, Patterson participated in one of the last skirmishes of the Civil War firing the last shots east of the Mississippi near Waynesville, NC. All four of them were mustered out at Knoxville, TN on 8/16/1865. He married Rachel at her father's home at Red Oak, near the Madison County line. They bought several tracts of land on Panhandle Branch, a tributary of the French Broad River, situated 4 miles above Marshall, in Madison County. His first cabin, at the mouth of the branch, was built on pillars on each side of the branch with the water flowing under it. He also owned tracts of land further up the branch, and moved to a cabin that was later known as the "Sexton Place". They lived there until 1899. He donated land for the new Grandview Church (the old French Broad Baptist Church) and 2 of his children died of Typhoid and are buried in the cemetery on the donated land. Eventually the church was built in a different location, leaving the graves alone on the side of the hill. They are unmarked. In 5/1888, he applied for and received a pension based on disabilities occurred while in the Civil War, namely "disease of the throat, rheumatism, and general disabilities." A neighbor, John Wilson Carter, signed an affidavit saying that "Patterson was a stout young, healthy young man prior to Army service and that Patterson now had kidney disease, weak back, and other troubles brought on by jaundice while he was in the Army." He was 42 when he made his pension application. In 1897, he applied for an increase. Rachel received a widow's pension based on his service. In 1899, he gave up farming and moved to Mars Hill, NC. He was Mayor of Mars Hill in 1913. He lived to a ripe old age and was loved by all who knew him. He died at 79 years. Rachel lived to 85 years old and they are buried side by side in the Mars Hill Baptist cemetery, Mars Hill, Madison County, NC.
Another family story, in another family line, is about a family living on Shut In Creek in Madison County, NC. Anderson Miller (aka Ance Miller) had a mill on Shut In Creek and it was told that he hid some valuables in the mountain on the other side of the creek and that he became a licensed Confederate liquor maker. Evidently he didn't have much in valuables or it was found and stolen because they were poor after the War just like everyone else. But it is a story passed down in our family. He definitely paid taxes on making "spirts". I had to think on that and then I realized they meant "spirits" or alcohol. So he was paying taxes on the alcohol he made so it was legal.
There are others but those will wait for another time.
Needless to say, when I found this book in my parent's book collection, I couldn't wait to get home and read it. The timeline or chronology of events was a little scattered in the writing . One chapter would take you to 1864 and then the next would backtrack and you would be back in 1863. But, other than that, it was a fascinating read. It's a specialty book, for a niche. There might not be many people outside the area who would be interested in the War of Northern Aggression in the Western NC mountain counties. But I'm one who is and was really glad Trotter wrote about it. I recognized so many of the names and places that he mentions. I've been up there doing genealogy research at the Madison County Courthouse in Marshall, taken the hike on Max Patch, eaten in Hot Springs, been cemetery hunting and my parents had a camper in the Meadowfork Campground in Joe, NC for some years and we would visit each summer. It's truly a beautiful place, but Trotter shows the dark side too. Because of the family story and my genealogy research, I knew a little bit about it, but wasn't prepared for the totality of it. No one remained untouched during the War, and that was especially true in those mountains. You might have thought they could sort of hide out and evade the War in those mountains but you would be wrong! I also did not know about the Cherokee Indians who served in Thomas's Highland Legion. I did know about the Salt Raid and the Shelton Laurel Massacre.
If you have read this far, I hope I've whetted your appetite and you will purchase this book and read it. It's a real slice of life!
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