Friday, May 15, 2015

My Family at war. A Work in Progress.

I have been reading. Reading is a gift my parents greatly supported. I do not read fiction, and I'm proud to say the only works of fiction I have read were: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dick and Jane, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, and a book by Steven King.  I can't remember the name of the King book.

I am much more interested in History and Technology.  I remember when I was 10 my parents bought me a collection of U.S. history books.  On rainy days I would read and reread this set. Recently I have been researching my family.  Part of that includes researching what life was like for my ancestors.

As a Southerner it galls me to find that some of them landed in Connecticut and New Jersey in the mid to late 1600s.  Thankfully they had the good sense to move southward by way of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

As I researched my family there is a natural curiosity about their participation in historical events. So far I have found no definitive connection to the American Revolution or the wars prior to the Civil War. However, the Civil War has uncovered three relatives that were members of the Confederate Army.

There is often the question of why people choose to go to war.  During my research I have found the answer in the memoir of Sam Watkins, Company H, Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment. It is worth noting his points in how the people of both North and South saw their nation.

The following is the full quote from Sam Watkins book "Co. Aytch."


About twenty years ago, I think it was—I won't be certain, though— a man whose name, if I remember correctly, was Wm. L. Yancy—I write only from memory, and this was a long time ago—took a strange and peculiar notion that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and that the compass pointed north and south. Now, everybody knew at the time that it was but the idiosyncrasy of an unbalanced mind, and that the United States of America had no north, no south, no east, no west. Well, he began to preach the strange doctrine of there being such a thing. He began to have followers. As you know, it matters not how absurd, ridiculous and preposterous doctrines may be preached, there will be some followers. Well, one man by the name of (I think it was) Rhett, said it out loud. He was told to "s-h-e-e." Then another fellow by the name (I remember this one because it sounded like a graveyard) Toombs said so, and he was told to "sh-sh-ee-ee." Then after a while whole heaps of people began to say that they thought that there was a north and a south; and after a while hundreds and thousands and millions said that there was a south. But they were the persons who lived in the direction that the water courses run. Now, the people who lived where the water courses started from came down to see about it, and they said, "Gents, you are very much mistaken. We came over in the Mayflower, and we used to burn witches for saying that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, because the sun neither rises nor sets, the earth simply turns on its axis, and we know, because we are Pure(i)tans." The spokesman of the party was named (I think I remember his name because it always gave me the blues when I heard it) Horrors Greeley; and another person by the name of Charles Sumner, said there ain't any north or south, east or west, and you shan't say so, either. Now, the other people who lived in the direction that the water courses run, just raised their bristles and continued saying that there is a north and there is a south. When those at the head of the water courses come out furiously mad, to coerce those in the direction that water courses run, and to make them take it back. 

Well, they went to gouging and biting, to pulling and scratching at a furious rate. One side elected a captain by the name of Jeff Davis, and known as one-eyed Jeff, and a first lieutenant by the name of Aleck Stephens, commonly styled Smart Aleck. The other side selected as captain a son of Nancy Hanks, of Bowling Green, and a son of old Bob Lincoln, the rail-splitter, and whose name was Abe. Well, after he was elected captain, they elected as first lieutenant an individual of doubtful blood by the name of Hannibal Hamlin, being a descendant of the generation of Ham, the bad son of old Noah, who meant to curse him blue, but overdid the thing, and cursed him black.

Well, as I said before, they went to fighting, but old Abe's side got the best of the argument. But in getting the best of the argument they called in all the people and wise men of other nations of the earth, and they, too, said that America had no cardinal points, and that the sun did not rise in the east and set in the west, and that the compass did not point either north or south.

Well, then, Captain Jeff Davis' side gave it up and quit, and they, too, went to saying that there is no north, no south, no east, no west. Well, "us boys" all took a small part in the fracas, and Shep, the prophet, remarked that the day would come when those who once believed that the American continent had cardinal points would be ashamed to own it. That day has arrived. America has no north, no south, no east, no west; the sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south.

Well, reader, let me whisper in your ear. I was in the row, and the following pages will tell what part I took in the little unpleasant misconception of there being such a thing as a north and south." -Sam Watkins