The War Between the States

Part Two of our earlier post, which was about Southern slavery.  This one covers my ancestors who fought in the Civil War. As it turns out, as in most families (I assume) there is little that is cut and dried about this purportedly regional conflict. Tennessee (especially Eastern Tennessee) was very much divided on the issue of secession. It was the last state to join the Confederacy and voted to do so only by a very narrow margin (51%). Consequently like many other similarly divided states, there were citizens of Tennessee in BOTH armies, with neighbors and relatives literally fighting each other to the death.

My great-great-great-grandfather Achilles Hale (1814-1896) was a Private in the 1st Tennessee Cavalry, which was a unit in the UNION army. Achilles (or Killis as he was known) was married to a woman from a Quaker family, had no slaves, and he obviously chose to defend America rather than secede from it.   My first cousin (four times removed) Jesse Hale was a much beloved Chaplain in the Union Army, serving mostly in Ohio. His brother Joel served in the same unit as Achilles.

You can learn more about the Tennessee Union Cavalry units in this book.


 My (3rd) great uncle Franklin Knight served as a Corporal in a Tennessee volunteer unit of the Union Cavalry which took part in numerous important engagements including the siege of Atlanta. Read the full tally here. Conversely, his brother John Knight (also my [3rd] great uncle), served in the Confederate cavalry, making it literally an example of “Brother Against Brother”.


In Meigs County, Tennessee there is a monument to my (4th) great uncle Levi H. Knight, erected by his family. It bears the words “He was an Unconditional Union Man in the Ware” [sic]. During the Civil War he helped sneak Union troops across the Tennessee River, and otherwise spied for the Union. The Confederates put him in a prison in Knoxville. His daughter walked 67 miles to visit him, her shoes disintegrating on the way. When she arrived she snuck him a rope out of her hoop skirt and he escaped. He was subsequently shot twice and then killed by a relative.

Despite the fact that he was a Whig, my great-great grandfather William McClelland Parker served as a Lieutenant in the 12th Tennessee Cavalry, Company D (Confederate). His oldest sons John Redding Parker and William Thomas Parker served the Confederacy as well. John, a Sergeant, was badly wounded  I know Parker was a Whig because he named two of his younger sons after prominent Whig politicians, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. And the Whig party was the anti-slavery party prior to the formation of the GOP.  He obviously chose loyalty to his state over his political affiliation.

My great great grandfather James Calvin Stewart was 24 when the war started. On my visit to Alabama and Tennessee to see family about a dozen years ago, we heard rumors of James shirking his duty. or deserting the army. But the timeline is instructive. He got married in October 1860. The attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for volunteers to form the Union army were in April, 1861. Tennessee seceded in June, 1861. It was admitted to the Confederacy in July, 1861. And one month later, in August, 1861? James Calvin Stewart became a father.  It was obviously a very bad time to leave his wife in the lurch. It seems pretty clear (logically as well as chronologically) that the new baby was his reason (or his excuse) for staying home. And maybe…he was divided about which side to join. Or he was pro Union, but didn’t fight because that literally would have meant fighting his brother. 

His older brother William Carrol Stewart did serve — in the Confederate army. William was a Private in Company H, 1st Regiment (Turney’s) in the Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. He was wounded at Gettysburg and spent the next 20 months at Point Lookout prison camp (Maryland). He was said to be permanently disabled from his injuries.

A first cousin (4x removed) James M. Pope, was killed in the Penninsula Campaign near Richmond in 1862. Elijah Stewart, a 2nd cousin (5x removed) served in a Virginia unit and was killed in the area around New Orleans in September, 1864.  A 2nd cousin (3x removed) Robert Cummings Stewart, rode with the 4th Alabama cavalry, and was killed in action in June, 1863. His brother, Jabus Taylor Stuart who rode with the same unit was also killed in action 18 months later.


In our last post we wrote about wrote about our Colquitt relatives. One of them, Alfred Holt Colquitt (1824-1894), had been a Congressman from Georgia prior to the Civil War, then as a delegate to the 1861 secession convention, then as a (very successful) Brigadier General during the war, then after the war as a anti-Reconstructionist Governor of the state of Georgia, and then finally as a Senator.

Alfred’s brother Peyton Colquitt served as a colonel in the Confederate army and was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.


Some members of my mom’s family served on the Yankee side of the conflict.The first man killed in the Civil War is said by some to have been 17 year old private Luther Crawford Ladd, my 5th cousin (4x removed), who was killed in the Baltimore Riot of 1861 (no one had died in the earlier Battle of Fort Sumter). According the Ladd Family History:

…Ladd signed up with the Lowell City Guards and, just a week after hostilities commenced at Fort Sumter, boarded a train for Washington to help protect the capital from anti-Union plots. Stopping off in Baltimore, the troops had to ride horse-drawn wagons across the city between railroad lines. “An angry crowd of secessionists tried to keep the regiment from reaching Washington, blocking several of the transports, breaking windows and, finally, forcing the soldiers to get out and march through the streets,” the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion states. “What had now become a mob surrounded and jeered the regiment, then started throwing bricks and stones.” As chaos took over, Ladd continued marching, until “he fell bleeding on the pavement, and the last words his comrades heard him utter were ‘all hail the stars and stripes,’…

The account goes on to say:

…a bullet hit Ladd’s thigh, severing an artery. A drunk by the name of Wrench has historically been blamed for the shooting,

My (3rd) great uncle Hartwell Cady, was in the Connecticut infantry, beginning the war as a sergeant, and rising through the ranks to a captaincy by the end of the war. Another (3rd) great uncle on my mom’s side Daniel P. Sherman, a private in the Connecticut infantry, was killed in action in Virginia in 1862.


I am more distantly related to Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, hero of Little Round Top (our common ancestor is my 7th great grandfather Edmund Chamberlain; one of my great-great grandmothers was was a Chamberlain).

I am also more distantly related, through early colonial ancestors, to Abraham Lincoln, and generals Ulysses S. Grant, William B. McClellan, William T. Sherman, Thomas W. Sherman, Henry Slocum and, on the other side Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and (more closely) A.P. Stewart. And as we blogged here, I believe my great-great grandfather was the adopted son of William Holland Thomas , the Confederate Colonel who led Thomas’s Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders.


And I was especially delighted to find a connection to Elisha Hunt Rhodes, of Rhode Island, one of the “stars” of Ken Burns’ PBS Civil War documentary.

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