Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Where Were You - An Overview of My Family and the Civil War

Five of my ancestors wore Yankee blue during the Civil War. Four served with Ohio regiments and one with a Pennsylvania unit. Two served at the war's end doing garrison duty and never saw battle. Another was discharged in 1863 for a wound to his left hip received at the battle of Fredericksburg. One died in Kentucky from pneumonia, and the last had his leg amputated above the knee after being wounded on the skirmish line in Georgia. They were all privates.

If you expand the list to include the siblings of my ancestors, an additional 11, maybe more, from my family tree served on the Northern side of the conflict. Elizabeth Armstrong Feasel, my great-great grandmother, had two brothers who joined the Union Army. One, John Wesley Armstrong, was captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and held in various Southern prisons, including the notorious Andersonville, until his release in 1865.

Elizabeth's sister, Susan Teresa Wilson, who had gone west in the 1850's, met and married a man from Arkansas in 1865. It is interesting to note, given the fact that her brothers served on the Northern side, that she named a son Stonewall Jackson Wilson and another Jefferson Davis Wilson. Such was the nature of this war of rebellion.

If you include cousins and nephews of my ancestors, things get even more interesting. Three strands of my family web came to Ohio from Virginia, and though they were all here by the mid 1830's, some had family still living in Virginia at the time the war broke out.

Joseph Good and his wife, Magdalena Click Good, were born and raised in Shenandoah County, Virginia. All of Joseph's siblings except one moved north and west. His sister, Elizabeth Good Toppin, stayed behind with her family. Though Elizabeth died long before the Civil War, her only son, William Toppin was living in nearby Rockingham County, when the first shots of war were fired.

William enlisted in the 7th Virginia Cavalry, known as Ashby's Cavalry in 1861. In 1864, when his three years were up, he reenlisted. Records show he was paroled in New Market, Va., on April 20, 1865.

The majority of Magdalena's family had remained behind in Virginia. Her father had been a Brethren minister. Dunkers, as the Brethren were called, did not believe in bearing arms, and many of them refused to join the Confederate army. For a time they were allowed to pay fines to avoid service, but as the war lingered on, a shortage of men meant that they were often conscripted into the army.

Magdalena's nephew, Daniel Click, served as an ambulance driver in Company I, of the 33rd Regiment Virginia Infantry. The Dunkers were often used in this type of capacity. Another nephew, Joseph Click, avoided conscription and tended to his farm. In his deposition before the Southern Claims Commission, Joseph stated that he had “piloted Union soldiers through the mountains and fed them.”

Many of the Dunkers, as well as their Mennonite neighbors were Unionists (those who believed that Virginia should not have seceded from the Union).

One of the Dunkard ministers, John Francis Neff, was another of Magdalena's nephews. His son, also John F. Neff, had graduated from the Virginia Military Institute prior to the war and joined the Confederacy as soon as war seemed inevitable. One can imagine that the pacifist father and the military-minded son may have had a few disagreements on the course that young Neff had chosen.

The son, a lawyer, who would first be commissioned as a lieutenant, then later be elected as a Colonel by his men, would die at the Second Bull Run or as the Confederates called it, the Battle of 2nd Manassas.

Though Magdalena had died in 1853, Joseph lived to see war come to his old childhood home. He also lived to see peace restored to his country.

The advantage of hindsight isn't just the ability to know what the correct thing to do is. It is the quiet simple knowledge that the world can survive such a terrible calamity.

Until Next Time - Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note: This post was written for the “Where Were You” Carnival hosted by The Gen Lady

Note this post first published online, April 4, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online http://www.thenews-messenger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS02

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