Keeping the Homes Fires Burning
Civil War in Southeast Kentucky
by Holly Timm
Southeast Kentucky is a region of long mountain ridges and multitudinous small valleys formed centuries ago as the water poured off the ridges begetting myriad creeks. The small creeks meet up forming larger streams which join other streams to become the three forks of the Cumberland River: Poor Fork, Clover Fork, and Martins Fork.
Settled first in the mid 1790's, the majority of its settlers were second generation Americans, mostly of Anglo-Saxon or Celtic origin, the descendants of poor immigrants to Virginia. Moving with the frontier, these fiercely independent and self-sufficient people found a lasting home in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky.
At the time of the Civil War, Harlan was considerably larger than it is today, having lost only a long narrow point on the northeastern end of the county to the formation of Letcher County in 1842. Harlan County was formed in 1819 from Knox County. Shortly after the war, in 1867, Harlan lost a large section on its western end to the formation of Bell County. In fact, if history books described locations by the county of the time, Harlan would be mentioned in the accounts of the wartime events at Cumberland Gap which was a part of Harlan until Bell was formed. Just over ten years later, in 1878, Harlan lost another section, this time from the northern border, when Leslie County was formed from portions of Harlan, Clay, and Perry Counties.
With the advent of war, Harlan's lengthy border with Virginia, stretching from Cumberland Gap towards Pound Gap, became a border with another country, subject to invasion. Histories of the era make no mention of Harlan County and only slight references to Southeast Kentucky, giving the impression that nothing much happened here during that time period. It is true that no major battles occurred in the area nor did anything of significance to the outcome of the war take place in our mountains but, the effect on the area and its people was extensive and long-lasting.
In the mid 1800's, Harlan was still a frontier area. The mountainsides were covered with virgin timber and there were a few rough wagon roads into the county. Most residents were farmers but crops were primarily for family consumption with any excess used for trade at the general stores of the region. Store account books of the era note purchases of such items as powder and lead, calico, fish hooks, sugar, and coffee with credits for honey, corn, ginseng, and other home products.
In the South as a whole, less than one-fourth of the whites belonged to slave-holding families.(1) Only seven Kentuckians owned over 100 slaves, only seventy had over 50.(2) Merely a handful of mountain families owned as many as twenty or so slaves, nothing compared to the numbers held by the plantation owners of the deep south. Most of these few slaves were used as household servants. This "... had the effect of dividing the mountaineers into two fairly distinct groups -- the comparatively few who owned slaves and their following of close relatives and friends, and ... the greater mass of the people living in lesser cabins on inferior lands."(3)
In the 19th century, Southeast Kentucky was composed of interlaced family groups. A study of the spread of a family usually shows an ever widening circle as the children grow up, marry and settle down near either his family or hers. There was a significant amount of intermarrying both between cousins and multiple marriages between two families. For example, of David and Lucy Noe Fee's ten children, three married children of William and Elizabeth Frost Farmer (Abner Fee married Icy Farmer, Preston Fee married Sarah Farmer, and Jane Fee married Stephen Farmer). Two other children, Mary and Charlotte, married Melton brothers, Preston and William, respectively. Another daughter, Delia, married her first cousin, Thomas H. Noe, son of her mother's brother John and his wife Susan Harris. (FolFoot#20)] Thus mountain residents were related by blood or connected by marriage to most of their neighbors. [FolFoot #87 material on neighborhood make-up] Often the various relatives and connections would fall in with the views and actions of the strongest personalities in the family.
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede. A few months later, on April 12, 1861, the War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter. It would continue until the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered, four years later to the day. "One wonders what the Confederate leaders were counting on in this unequal contest. Many of the secessionist leaders had supposed that there would be no war."(4)
Kentucky's ties in both directions identified her more strongly with the nation as a whole than with either section.(5) "Thus was the state bound to both sections so strongly that it would have to break important connections, regardless of the choice it should make."(6) Patriotic and nationalistic, Kentucky yet clung tenaciously to state's rights and individualism.(7) "The South drew with the force of sentiment, the North with economic argument."(8)
At the outset, Southern leaders were dubious that Kentucky would aid the North. Mary Chesnut echoed popular sentiment when she wrote in her diary on May 9, 1861, "Can they raise a regiment in Kentucky against us?"(9) In July of that year, Lincoln "admitted that in the border states many were advocating the policy of 'armed neutrality'. That is, they favored arming their own troops so that forces of neither side could pass over their soil."(10) By September it was clear to most that Kentucky would not secede. Mary Chesnut's entry for the 9th of that month reads, "Kentucky does not mean to come to us. Neither does she mean to free her slaves. And they will let her keep what she will if she keeps the peace."(11)
Union soldier Ira D. Hall of Letcher County wrote his parents:"I would to God that the contending politicians of both North and South would settle this issue and leave a distracted nation in peace and restore the union... If we are successful in taking the gap I do not believe that we will ever be in any other fight. There is reason to believe that the thing will be settled shortly."
[Hall served in the Harlan County Battalion, then in the 47th Kentucky, led by his old commander Benjamin Blankenship. In the spring of 1864, he was transferred to Company D of the 4th Kentucky. CONTINUE FROM FF#45]
Nine of the mountain counties returned state representatives favorable to the Confederate cause in the August 1861 election, including Harlan's neighbors to the northeast, Perry and Letcher.(12) "Most of the Southeastern Kentucky counties were wholly for the Union. One thing crystallizing opinion against the South... was the depredations of Confederate troops, who were forced to live off the land."(13) Locally, the majority of Harlan County were Unionists but there were strong pockets of the Confederate minority, especially up Clover Fork, and over the county line into Letcher County.
"The Confederates might have been wise to make a strong military effort at the very start to hold the border states, but as things turned out they lost all four of them -- except for a good many volunteers from Kentucky and Maryland."(14) But, "the military authorities on both sides were reluctant to send troops into the state for fear of arousing local resentment. By the early months of 1862, however, these scruples had been cast aside."(15) During the initial period of neutrality and in the early phases of the war effort, trouble was already erupting in southeast Kentucky.
Our long border with Virginia, now part of the Confederate States of America and the mountainous terrain, ideally suited to hit and run techniques, was even now endangering local citizens. Some local men had already taken up arms on one side or the other by joining units elsewhere.[(Cite here some who joined Ohio or early CSA)] "For the Confederates it was the road to Prestonsburg for enlistment.... For the Unionists there was no local rallying point for awhile and the first enlistees slipped away to join in Ohio."(16)
Recruits on both sides were politically motivated, but many joined up for other reasons. "Some had only vague ideas about their involvement in the conflict. Many signed up for service primarily because their friends and neighbors were enlisting. The prospects of release from family restraints and responsibilities...were tremendously appealing to the overwhelming majority of those eligible for military service."(17)
Wiley describes the results of what has been termed 'war fever', "There was also a large group of those who volunteered not from any great enthusiasm, but simply because enlistment was the prevailing vogue.... Thousands of persons indifferent to enlistment and many who were downright opposed to it were swept into the ranks in 1861 by the force of articulate popular pressure."(18) Wiley adds, "Nearly half of those who wore the blue and well over half of their opposites in gray, were farmers. Going to war was an exciting experience for men who rarely had traveled any considerable distance from the fields that they tilled."(19) Caudill opined, "Perhaps the most important factor causing the mountaineer to enter the army...was boredom with his monotonous and innately melancholy existence."(20)
Certainly Harlan County men were no different. Men, young and old, could not resist joining their friends and relatives for what seemed at the time like a great adventure laced liberally with lofty ideals obtained from the demagoguery that accompanied the talk of recruiters. It must also be remembered that at the outset both sides operated on the presumption that the war would be short, a matter of weeks or months would resolve everything. Leaders in federal government had believed that the majority in the South were "still Unionist at heart" and expected a "quick and stunning victory".(21) The Confederacy had only to defend itself from invasion and leaders there operated on the assumption that the North would soon give up and accept secession.
It was months before both sides realized that "the conflict had evolved into a total war, in which victory or defeat was measured not so much by... battles won or lost as by the ability of one of the combatants to destroy the social fabric of its opponent. The South could be defeated only by bringing the war home to its individual citizens.... Thus the Confederacy was able to sustain a war effort until it was literally overrun."(22) A quick peace was inconceivable as "there was abundant reason to believe that the Confederate authorities would make peace on no other terms except independence and to have conceded that would have been to make the whole struggle for the Union in vain."(23)
There are numerous examples in Civil War annals of men who served first on one side then on the other. This often occurred when a man whose politics did not persuade him strongly one way or the other was captured by the opposing side and then given an opportunity to sign up with the enemy rather than be sent to prison [(cite Harvey Flanary locally) enrolled in Harlan Bat 6 Nov 1862. Although he had relatives in Lee County VA and even serving in the 64th, Flanary and his wife Elizabeth Daugherty had settled on Martins Fork in Harlan County prior to the 1860 census, near her family.]. Many border areas supplied men, even whole regiments, to both sides.
As in earlier wars, enlistment and recruitment was accomplished by local leaders who would persuade, encourage or possibly even bully family, friends, and neighbors into signing up [Neighborhood (FolFoot#87) or do 1860 MFork re: 47th Co F?]. The immediate need was for local protection and, in September of 1862, the Kentucky State Legislature authorized the formation of home guard companies.
Formed primarily to protect the area from the depredations of Confederate bands, the Harlan County Battalion was a State Guard unit raised by Benjamin F. Blankenship. [In 1852, Blankenship, a native of Lee County, Virginia, had married Elizabeth, daughter of local civic leader, John J. Lewis and settled here.] The first three companies of this battalion were raised in mid October of 1862. The men in these companies appear to be from the upper Poor Fork vicinity including portions of Letcher County and from Linefork in Perry County. Four more companies were raised later on lower Poor Fork, over Pine Mountain, on lower Martins Fork and on parts of Clover Fork. [details of Harlan Bat rosters etc issue I/4 p 19-27]
Before it was disbanded in early 1863, the Battalion had several skirmishes with the 64th Virginia CSA and other of Marshall's Regiment based in Southwestern Virginia. Near the end of the war, in the spring of 1865, another State Guard unit was formed, the Three Forks Battalion. Blankenship led a company in this unit as well as seeing service in the 47th Kentucky. [Blankenships strange actions at the end of the war re: prisoners.] Many men in the Harlan Battalion saw service in regular Federal units as had many in the later Three Forks Battalion.
A few area men had enlisted in the Union army in the 14th Kentucky Infantry which mustered in at Louisa Kentucky on December 10th, 1861.(24) But, it was not until the late summer of 1863 that recruitment into the Union Army began in earnest in Harlan County. One of the first units was Company F of the 47th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, raised on Martins Fork by Henry Skidmore who was, as was the usual custom, elected Captain. Composed almost entirely of men from Martins Fork or connected or related to men from that area [47th roster, connections & relationships HF 1/4 p 19 ff; FF #7 & 20], Company F was mustered in at Camp Nelson in October of 1863 and served until December of 1864. Several men from this company were later transferred to the 4th Kentucky. Another Union regiment in which many local men served was the 49th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. [cite some people in the 49th FF17]
The 47th and 49th were assigned primarily to protective duties within the state, mostly in eastern and central sections. The only major combat for the 47th was their participation in the defeat of Morgan at Cynthiana and the ensuing pursuit across the Cumberland River. The 49th saw nothing more than skirmishing and guard duty.
The 4th Kentucky was the only unit with a significant number of soldiers from this area which got extensive battlefield use. When Ira Hall and others were transferred to the 4th, their previous service had consisted mostly of a lot of marching around in bad weather and infrequent skirmishes with the enemy. Disease and bad weather had been their chief difficulties. The 4th Kentucky, on the other hand, participated in the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge and went on to fight in the Georgia campaigns seeing action at Masons Church, Lovejoys, and Shakerag. In August they participated in the battle at Newman, Georgia, where many were captured. Throughout the fall of 1864, they were on the move, chasing Rebels across Tennessee until forced to retreat after the battle at Shoal's Creek.
Altogether, Harlan contributed over 50% of its eligible male population to Federal units. Neighboring counties of Clay, Perry and Knox contributed a like percentage. On the other hand, Letcher County, immediately to the Northeast, contributed less than 25% of its men of military age to the Union cause. Floyd and Pike Counties fell between, sending between 25 and 50 percent to Northern armies.(25) Enlistment from Harlan for the Rebel Cause was scattered as these units were for the most part raised elsewhere. Local men joined up individually and in small bands in Tennessee, Virginia and in Letcher County. "Colonel Benjamin Caudill enlisted his kinsmen and friends for the Confederacy.... Colonel Caudill led his mounted infantry out of Letcher County."(26)
Several men from Harlan enlisted in the 64th Virginia. Originally formed from men of Lee, Scott, and Russell Counties, Virginia, in the fall of 1861, as the 21st Battalion of Virginia Volunteers and called the Pound Gap Battalion, this regiment was absorbed into the 64th in November of 1862. Several companies of this regiment were raised in Lee County, Virginia, by Campbell Slemp who served for a while as Colonel of the regiment. Slemp was born and raised in Lee County, Virginia, and his family was as prominent there as that of Benjamin Blankenship, commander of the Harlan County Battalion. In addition to the Kentuckians who enlisted, many of the Virginia recruits had family ties and connections to men on this side of the border. [cite KY men & connections in 64th; Wiley Morris; James, John and Thomas Jr Clarkston (last three taken prisoner by Harlan Bat 1/20 and 2/7 of 1863; Garrison; Kelly; Jonathan Creech b 7/1/32 Harlan moved to KY 1867; Carr & James Eldridge; Carr Middleton b ca 1837 enrolled & deserted 1/5/63 at Jonesville.]
Early in the war, Confederate Brigadier General Zollicoffer "made some attempts to secure Harlan County, Kentucky, for the Confederacy, but only sent small scouting parties in the area. They did little more than arrest some Unionist residents."(27) This was just the beginning of four years of war-related violence for our mountains.
Entries from the Defeated Creek Diary:
"December the 16th Day 1861 the fight at Alexander Ingrams"
"January the 8 day 1862 the fight at the on the defated Creek"
"William Hallcom and Ira Hallcom was make prisoners on the 9th Day of January 1862"
"January the 14th Day 1862 the fight at the mouth of Ingrams Creek"
Marshall's command was attacked by Kentucky Unionist home guards and driven back a few miles in late February (1862).... Some of his green troops deserted and some went to the Union camps and enlisted on that side."(28) In October of 1862, Marshall's forces including companies of the 64th clashed with the units of the Harlan County Battalion. Blankenship's Daily Report states that forty men of the battalion were detailed to go to the saltworks at the mouth of Leatherwood in Perry County to join with some home guards who wished to join as a unit. They had not gone far when they were attacked by Rebels under the command of Captain D.J. Caudill. The Union men returned fire with the rebels then retreating, leaving five dead on the field and mortally wounding Captain Caudill.
From Clabe Jones colorful account of the Battle of Leatherwood:"The rebels went from Whitesburg to the salt wells in Perry County. Capt. Morgan and myself concluded to drive the rebels out of Perry and on our way we met and engaged them in battle on Leatherwood Creek and surprised them while they were stealing a deaf and dumb man's watermelons. There was one man killed on each side. The rebels were commanded by Jesse Caudill, a brave man. He was on one side of the creek and I was on the other. He was standing behind a small tree. I was watching closely and as he turned to give a command to his men I gave him a Yankee pill from Shampee (the name of his rifle) somewhere in his hindquarters. We had a hot time for a while, I was unusually mad, not because we had met the Rebels, for we had defeated them, but I had gathered an armful of pawpaws and had to drop them when the fight began. We captured the watermelons also from the deaf man and all their grub." Scalf pp 504-506] The Union loss in this engagement is stated as "one wounded who has since died."A voucher issued by the Battalion makes reference to the mortally wounded soldier. Dated 1862 for $81.10, it was issued to Elizabeth Lewis, Blankenship's widowed mother-in-law, for corn, rations, molasses, one side of leather, beef, hay and for feeding one wounded soldier for 22 days. The soldier's identity is established by an entry in the Defeated Creek Diary: "Henry Banks Deceased November the 2o Day 1862 from a wound received on the 17 Day of october in the battle on latherwood son of Cassey Banks"
Later that month, the Harlan Battalion was attacked by a rebel force. "They remained in the neighborhood until the 24th when they departed carry [sic] off two citizens who made their escape from them next day. The citizens and a small squad of the battalion who had took to the bush fired upon them during their stay and killed three of them before they got away. And, in mid-November, "We came up with the rebels on the 19th at Wallons [sic] Creek and a battle ensued in which the rebels were routed with the loss of four men killed and a good number of them wounded." The end of that month, Sgt. Farley and fifteen men of the battalion "went to Clover Fork near the Virginia line and undertook to arrest two noted rebels which they resisted and consequently one of them was killed & the other wounded."(29)
In the spring of 1862, "bands of partisans ranged the countryside, feuds flared..." "Confederate cavalry with a secure haven in Virginia would dash into eastern kentucky...and disturb the countryside..." and in mid-summer "military operations in Central Kentucky ...brought a complementary movement of Confederate forces..."(30)
The Harlan Battalion disbanded but skirmishing went on: "March the 15, 1863 the rebels took Camp Cumberland and burnt the tents and took all their bacon"(31) Humphrey Marshall, commander of the Confederate forces in southwestern Virginia, occupied Mt Pleasant, now the City of Harlan, in late spring and summer of 1863. "Marshall was of huge physique, weighing over 300 pounds; a large man indeed to be...commander in one of the most rugged fields in which Civil War operations were held."(32) Marshall and Slemp used this time in Kentucky to recruit mountaineers of a rebel heart. Several Harlan Countians joined the 64th...during the command's sojourn on the Kentucky side."(33) [One of these was seventeen year old Calvin Unthank who enlisted at Harlan Court House on April 25, 1863. He deserted the unit less than four months later. --- see pardon for horse stealing - Calvin Unthank]
Marshall's occupation of Harlan resulted in a civil suit after the war. In September of 1865, Hezekiah Jennings sued William Turner [William Turner relationships etc] for damages stemming from the theft of two horses and the destruction of a wagon by Confederate troops. Jennings stated that in the spring of 1863, a force of Confederate cavalry invaded Harlan and that Turner gave voluntary aid and assistance to the regiment and by so doing was responsible for the wrongs and injuries committed by them.
Turner denied the charges, stating that when Humphrey Marshall invaded Harlan County with his army, they held him prisoner while the army subsisted on the country and that said Marshall kept his headquarters at his house and subsisted his army upon the defendant's property to a considerable extent, against the defendant's will. Turner swore that he "could not help himself and he had to make a virtue of necessity and submit as many other of his neighbors had to do." He then stated that the rebel army tore down his buildings, burned his fences, killed his property and took 11 of his horses, five of which he never did get back. He continued, stating that he himself was injured more than any other citizen in the county and under the circumstances tried to wield an influence with Marshall for the benefit of his neighbors and himself.(34)
By the end of the summer, Marshall's forces departed and the 64th, with other units was stationed at Cumberland Gap. In September, the commander of these forces surrendered to the Federal forces. The majority of the men of the 64th were taken prisoner but, some of them along with other soldiers refused to surrender and, following Slemp's lead, escaped into the mountains. [It may have been during this time period that an interesting story regarding Slemp occurred. It seems that, according to family tradition, "while in Kentucky, the men of the 64th camped on a Union family farm. In the farm house, a sick furloughed Federal soldier lay near death. His furlough was up, and men from his command came to take him back to their unit. His sister, Nannie Cawood, pleaded for the other Federal soldiers to leave him for a while longer...he died while they were forcing him to leave. At that point, having no further business in the house they abandoned the unburied Union soldier and left...a shot rang out and the leader...fell dead. At that point the hiding men of the 64th finished off the other Federal soldiers in the party. The Confederates mounted up and rode toward Virginia with Nannie Cawood. Miss Cawood and the recently widowed Colonel Campbell Slemp were married less than a year later. ADD FACTS KNOWN - brother? father?
It is fact that the widowed Slemp married Nancy Brittain Cawood on the 9th of June, 1864. Nancy was the daughter of Moses Cawood but no record of service on either side has been found for her father. Moses did die sometime between the taking of the 1860 census (Owsley County) and the taking of the 1870 census, where his wife is listed with the children. The Cawoods were from lower Martins Fork, predominantely a Unionist area but Nancy's grandmother, nancy Turner Cawood, was close kin to the Rebel family of Turner's on Clover Fork. John and Nancy Turner Cawood owned two slaves in 1850, probably for household purposes. Nancy's uncle John did serve with other men of the neighborhood in the 47th Kentucky (Union)]
Suspicion of William Turner's sympathies is natural as his family on Clover Fork were, in some instances, openly for the Confederacy. But, when any military unit was at a distance from its supply lines it must, by necessity, live off the countryside. Officially, supply officers were to make payment or give vouchers for payment to local citizens, although collecting on the latter might be a problem particularly with the losing side. Unfortunately, even in the best of situations, military units frequently took what they needed and left the citizens to look after themselves. This was particularly true when a unit was temporarily camped in or passing through a neighborhood deemed as unfriendly. In a border area such as Harlan, either side could view the area as unfriendly, giving a perfect excuse for helping themselves to anything and everything they wanted.
"The getting of foods by any means other than purchase was known as 'foraging'...activities as various as the gathering of nuts, berries, and pawpaws, the plucking of fruit and vegetables from abandoned orchards and gardens, the solicitation of milk, eggs, and other edibles at farmhouse doors...and clandestine forays on stockpens and chicken roosts."(35)
"Soldiers of both armies were notoriously thorough foragers, and in most marches left the country picked clean behind them."(36) Wiley writes of foraging in several of his books, puuting it best in Common Soldier of the Civil War, "Individually and in groups they scoured the countryside preying on helpless civilians and giving little if any consideration to whether their victims were friends or foes."(37)
The mountains suffered greatly throughout the war from "the coming and going of the opposing forces...[and] the shortages of food resulting from the incursions of both Yanks and Rebs..."(38) For the soldier on either side it was found that "even more depressing than their own hardships was the knowledge that...[those] at home were deprived of sufficient food and clothing."(39) A soldier's wife described their children's hunger and then pled, "I would not have you do anything wrong for the world, but before God, Edward, unless you come home we must die."(40)
Second only to food, horses were 'foraged'. Although, in some instances there seemed to be little choice as in the case of Joseph Wells. Although a resident of the Rebel stronghold, Letcher County, Wells was a Union soldier. After the war he was indicted for robbery and he petitioned the Governor for a pardon, stating, "That himself and fifteen more men were detached and ordered to Letcher County to arrest some soldiers that had deserted the regiment... while upon the expedition... your petitioner's horse was taken by some rebellious outlaws that then ranged without the slightest restraint in that county. That he was left alone and afoot in one of the worst Rebel neighborhoods then known and Caudle's men reported to be in pursuit of them. That Joseph Gilley being a declared and an enthusiastic friend of the Rebels and it being the first and only means by which your petitioner could save himself from the clutches of the Enemy, he took a horse from said Gilley's possession."
Military historians are agreed that, proportionately, the Civil War was the most deadly wars of all time. This was not due solely to battlefield deaths. In fact, it is generally accepted that twice as many Union soldiers died of disease as of action. For Rebel soldiers the ratio was three deaths to disease for each in battle.(41)
Factors in prevalence of disease and high death rates:
- ) rural, unexposed to measles, etc., recruits "when they were crowded into camp these contagious maladies struck with epidemic force...did not take proper care of themselves, and many developed" fatal complications.
- ) ignorance of cause and treatment "of sanitation and spread"
- ) poor diet
- ) filth
24,866 Union soldiers died in prison
618,000-700,000 deaths in the CW
Union CSA battle 110,070 94,000 disease 250,152 164,000 TOTAL 360,222 258,000
The death rate ranged from 4.2 per 1000 in 1861 to 21.3 per 1000 by war's end in 1865. The climbing death rate is attributable to the worsening conditions and the debilitating effect of these diseases over a considerable length of time.
"Disease struck in two waves. The first was an epidemic of the childhood diseases, measles and mumps, which broke out as rural recruits were brought together in the central training and distribution camps." Immunity might be developed by Reb and Yank alike to the childhood diseases and to typhoid, but "the second wave of camp diseases - diarrhea, dysentery, and malaria - would continue to debilitate him throughout the war." Nearly every soldier who served suffered from dysentery or diarrhea. "On the Confederate side, and possibly among the Federals as well, as many soldiers died of what they called 'the sh-ts' as were killed in combat"(42) [(Cite local pensions claiming later disability) (Cite local measles/mumps examples) John Sergent CW pension (d 5 Jan 1890) 47th Co F "left sick at Camp Irvin 13 Oct 1863; Stephen Sergent disability from relapse of measles in fall of 1863 at Irvin; William Farley Co H 47th disabling conditions from having mumps at Camp Nelson in November 1863, filed in 1888 --- cite Harlan deaths and: 1864 Lee Co deaths HF 4/1 p12; see also Death register book from SW VA'N STATS: 86 deaths of probable wartime connection - 56 of disease (19 in prison camps, 12 of these in Camp Douglas IL) 27 killed 6 noted as "in battle"; 3 unknown causes. (see my extract for details) (Some of these deaths are of Lee County men serving in the 64th)]
The 47th and 49th Union units lost only 2 soldiers to battle but lost five officers and one hundred and forty-four men to disease. In the 64th, on the Rebel side, fifty two of its men died of disease during its service. Another one hundred and fifty-seven died in prison, most of them at Camp Douglas in Illinois, where 425 of them were sent after being captured at Cumberland Gap on 9 Sept 1863. 200 had escaped into familiar hills; five more escaped a few days later; the officers were sent to Johnsons Island; 150 of those sent to Camp Douglas died; 43 enlisted in Northern units to obtain their release.(43) Camp Douglas, Union prison, was as bad as the infamous Confederate prison Andersonville(44) and with less excuse as the CSA was itself impoverished and its own soldiers were little better off than the prisoners at Andersonville.
In 1863, while serving along the Mississippi River, Walter Burkhart fell ill of one of the many fevers that plagued the troops. As ill luck would have it, he was sent aboard the Sultana [NO, not the Sultana], a hospital steamer, which sank with great loss of life, including Burkhart. Death was a specter not only for the men serving in various units on both sides but for those at home as well. Isaiah Daniels death (Rhinehart & C. Daniels tradition) -- Adron Nolan's death; how many on furlough or unauthorized visit home brought the diseases of the camps home with them?
"When men were killed in this harsh land women were left to till the land and raise the children. they must plow and plant and harvest without any help except for the small hands of those whom they toiled to feed."(45)
Faced with units that were severely under strength, many commanders took to drafting on the spot any apparently able-bodied man whether he was willing or not. This forced conscription often took place at gunpoint and was a particular problem in border areas like Harlan County.
Increased demoralization after the summer of 1863 in Confederate troops: military disasters; lack of food, clothing & pay; boredom, stench and filth of camp life; "ebbing patriotism"(46)
It is not at all unreasonable to assume that many of these forced conscripts deserted at the first opportunity. But, desertion also became a major problem for military units on both sides as the war dragged on and conditions in the camps worsened. For men from this area, worry about conditions at home and with their families was also a tremendous concern. Others probably just lost heart and preferred to take the risks of desertion. (cite Hiram Fee's death, brothers desertion timing; others??) "others felt that they had to choose between continuing army service and returning home to rescue families from starvation"(47) Desertion 100,000 CSA and 200,000 Federals; hunger was a factor, especially in CSA(48)... local deserters; Hiram Fee died and his brothers deserted. add dates and comment. Desertion also added another problem to the already difficult conditions in Harlan County. The mountainous terrain and border location made the area a perfect hideout for guerrillas, outlaws, and deserters from both sides. Guerrillas were quasi-military bands of men who at least purported to be fighting for one side or the other. Several of these units are famous such as Quantrill's raiders and John Hunt Morgan's band. The latter actually operated briefly in this area. There were many small bands that acted in the same manner but some of these were no more than opportunist, switching causes whenever it suited them to do so. Their objectives were for personal monetary gain or revenge against personal enemies.
"On November 9, 1864, Second Lt. John Joseph Watkins of Company C (64th) went home for good. He was obviously aware that he was fighting a lost cause, and saw no reason for the continued shedding of blood. To drive home his point, Watkins had the audacity to write Secretary of War James Seddon and let him know his feelings about the situation and his belief that his family needed him more than the Confederacy did... [he] told Seddon that if he really needed his services, 'you know where to find me if you need me'."(49)
Colonel "Pridemore and 333 of the 64th's men were paroled at Cumberland Gap, Kentucky" at the end of April, 1865. "...Many men, detached, sick and deserters came out of the hills and were also paroled..."(50) In April of 1863, "the Army of Northern Virginia was at its peak." (CSA)(51) A year later they surrendered.
"One thing heated up (in the late summer of 1863) was the Harlan County Court House, which was burned this summer, perhaps on Marshall's order. Residents of Harlan placed the blame for setting the blaze on "Devil Jim" Turner."(52) Mentioned earlier, Marshall and his men had quartered themselves with William Turner,"Devil Jim"'s brother and there is some credibility to the idea that Marshall mentioned to William that the courthouse deserved burning and William had his brother oblige.
"Not all the theft and pillage was motivated by hunger of course; much of it had its origins in human depravity and the degenerating tendencies of army life."(53)
"...John Hunt Morgan's Confederate raiders. Launching a foray into Kentucky from Wytheville on May 31, 1864, he entered the state through Pound Gap. Forging toward the Bluegrass with great difficulty in the mountain terrain, this renowned warrior appeared before Mt. Sterling on June 8." Retreating in mid June, "traveling by night, they searched the countryside for food and fodder to sustain them and their sources." They reached Abingdon on June 20th. It was their last Kentucky raid.(54)
Many accounts of military actions refer to escaping/retreating into the woods and or mountains.... after the surrender of the Gap, men of the 64th and others escaped. "Slemp led these out of the garrison who had decided to make a break for it." In a later account of the affair, McDowell of the 62nd North Carolina unit stationed at the Gap with the 64th stated, "We made our way along the north side of the mountain, on the Kentucky side, until we reached a point opposite Jonesville, where we encountered a pursuing force."(55)
Military occupation would have been preferable, by far, to anarchy." (neither side occupied SE KY for any length of time "...the residents were usually at the mercies of the butchering thieving bands..."(56)
"The gangs traveled in sufficient numbers to resist capture...The best policy was to slip quietly out of sight when they were around and let them carry off what they wanted..."(57)
"These murderous, pillaging bands usually tried to identify themselves with one side or the other, but legitimate units of the Confederates and Unionists disclaimed them. The mountaineer called them 'bushwhackers' and the long memory of their victims perpetuated the name."(58)
"If perchance they believed in the...Union, they had, if their opinions were known, to elude the Confederates. If they were known to be Confederate in sympathy, they must avoid the searching Unionists. Many a non-belligerent Confederate was taken off to die in a Northern prison or what was little less a horror, to languish in one until the war ended."Gilbert Creech Deceased Aprile the 14 Day 1863 Shot by the rebels without any cause."(60) Home guards, provost marshals, etc., ,made indiscriminate arrests of "Southern sympathizers" without giving reasons often on the basis of dislike.(61) "Night raids were the dread of the hill families. the men were usually at home and the probabilities were slim that they would not be captured and butchered in cold blood..."(62)
"The outfits that were most notorious for theft and destruction were those... known as partisan rangers or independent scouts."(63) Partisan rangers "undoubtedly attracted more than their share of undesirable characters... complaints of villainies suffered at their hands poured into Richmond from western Virginia, eastern Tennessee... Kentucky... (64) While it is true that much of the pillaging attributed to cavalrymen was done by unauthorized groups of guerrillas posing as soldiers..."(65) With Quantrill's Raiders were the Younger Boys and Jesse James(66)
Traditional story re: death of James Middleton: On his return from the war he was captured by a band of men who tortured him, dismantled him, and hid his bones in a hollow log in the Devil's Den section of Stone Mountain (Martins Fork) may have been killed by his cousin "Devil Jim" Turner>
"Before the war ended conditions in the mountains defied description. Death, robbery, rapine and starvation were rampant and both civil and military authorities were helpless to restore order."(67)
Wartime incident: Caudill's paternal great grandfather, CSA, home on 'crop leave' killed by half a dozen pro Union guerrillas. "Seeing that escape was impossible and resistance futile, he attempted to surrender. But the guerrillas...riddled him with bullets."(68)
"...The battlefield in the mountains came to be almost as tragic...Men were killed from ambush when they left their cabins in the early dawn. They were ambushed on the trails and shot from sheltering forests. Sometimes a cabin was attacked under cover of darkness and set afire, and the family shot as they fled the flames."(69)
"Once arrived in their home country, these men from the mountains were wont to organize themselves into armed bands." "Many of the deserters were consistent Union sympathizers conscripted against their will."(70)
"The year of 1864 ushered in no relief from constant skirmishing, some of the clashes unrecorded except in the memory of the veterans. Isolated valleys in eastern Kentucky resounded with conflict between guerrillas and legitimate troops"(71)
Eager incident; Mabel Green Condon's version of the Indian tradition; FolFoot #25? the court case (FolFoot#60) deduce truth. cite others; family data FolFoot #8; burning of courthouse (Devil Jim) Leonard Farmer letter; (Cite Blevins petition) (FolFoot #69) David Blevins killed Jason Fields [Weaver erroneously lists the killing of Fields as being by John Ransom Blevins. - check if this is David's brother???] pardoned by Governor; petition; Clay parents death (FolFoot#89) other ?; refer back to Eager incident, Blevins incident, etc
It took several years after the war to catch up on the undone paperwork, estate proceedings, etc., for those who died during the war years, even of natural causes. Documents can be found in county records dated in the 1870's and even later addressing such matters; delays in normal life Nathan & Sirena Noe divorce et al (FolFoot #34) Sirena was sister of Leonard Farmer - see charges LF v Nathan et al postwar: Leonard charged Nathan Noe and two others, Francis Hall and William Irvin with assault and robbery of his horse and weapon. In defense the accused stated that under the orders of their commander they arrested Leonard Farmer and that Farmer desired and so caught his horse and that when they took his arms from him "said Farmer fled and made his escape from the defendants leaving the arms and mare and they carried the same to their headquarters.
Conclusions - lasting effects - brother v brother
In the May of 1865, Leonard Farmer wrote the Inspector General of Kentucky regarding the situation in Harlan County. "We have not had a Circuit Court here in this county for three years, the court house has been burnt by Gurillas the Jail destroyed and bad men has controlled the county or near so. The Gurillas has nearly laid waste to the county by pilaging Plundering & Robbing who are now in small squads say from ten to twenty together who when times are suitable raids through the County and takes what suits their wicked purposes. these Gurillas are all well armed and men of the worst character and the Civil Authorities cannot apprehend them. The Sheriff are unable to serve process or arrest the Gurillas and cannot in a greater portion of the county collect the State Revenue. Harlan County is mountainous bordering some ninety miles on to the Virginia line and can be raided by bands of men from Lee County, Va. at any time they choose. When these robbers make raids they take arms, clothing, bacon & and where they find a man that bitterly opposes them they burn their house furniture and leaves the women and children without clothing or beds to sleep upon. The hardship that we have endured has been great, old men thats gray headed takes their blankets and lays in the mountain to avoid assassinated by these bands of robbers." Attached to the letter was a list of 45 men willing to serve as a local militia. many of the listed men were related to Farmer.
1883 pensioners HF II/2 p 58 and 1890 census I/3 p 5
"The border states have always stood out with peculiar interest... It would likely be disputed by no one that Kentucky has pursued a more remarkable and enigmatic course than any of her sisters."(72) Nor would most dispute that her mountain counties were more enigmatic, individualistic, and unpredictable than the rest of the state.
"Here the mountains were like the walls of a great jail which shut in the combatants. After Appomattox it was as though mortal enemies had been locked in the same prison without taking away the deadly weapons they knew how to use so well."(73) By the end of 1863, practically every household was involved in the struggle, at home or on the ... battlefields."(74)
Ira Hall wrote "I seat myself this afternoon to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living... I would be glad to see you all, but I know not when that day will come... I understand that times is quiet in your section of country at present."
"The most puzzling military aspect of the Civil war is not why the North finally won but rather, how the South held out for so long..."(75)
"more than one out of every four men who donned the gray failed to survive the conflict and, of those who did, many were partially or totally incapacitated by wounds or sickness."(76)
[Disruption of education and the social fabric - (1883 pensioners 2/2 p58) (1890 vets HF 1/3 p5); scan adm & set for CW deaths; (FolFoot #16)]
But, political differences between two strong individuals in a family often resulted in deep splits. Walter Middleton, on Clover Fork, owned slaves as did his wife Sarah Turner's family connections. Middleton and the Turner's held the Rebel views. But, two of his sons apparently felt otherwise. David, who served as a doctor for the Union, moved away to some of his wife's family in Letcher County and James and his wife Abigail Blevins, moved over the mountain to Martins Fork. Two of Middleton's Turner nephews, William and James (known as 'Devil Jim'), appear to have played both sides to some extent. Whether these family divisions can be totally blamed on the divisiveness of opinions on the right side of the war or if the opinion on the war was the final straw in a long time family difference is not known. [Sister(?) in law Nancy Turner Cawood]
"The boys made better soldiers than the older men and they matured rapidly in response to the challenges of marching and fighting."(77) but became a lifetime attitude... Turner/Howard feud - age at CW Wils Howard; Will Jennings; age/graph comment re" 47th as example; others - Gilbert killing FolFoot #58 & 62; Bascom Bailey killing; Violence as a reactive way of life
For the entire four years of the war, life in Harlan County was fraught with fear and deprivation. One never knew from one day to the next which army would pass by foraging their way through your meager food supply, destroying crops at a whim, helping themselves to any valuables, sating physical desire on women of all ages, or taking your men and boys with them as either conscripts or prisoners.
- Barney, William L. Flawed Victory: A New Perspective on the Civil War. New York: Praeger. 1975.
- Caudill, Harry M. Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press. 1963.
- Condon, Mabel Green. A History of Harlan County. Nashville: Parthenon. 1962
- Coulter, E. Merton. The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky. 1926. Gloucester MA: Peter Smith. 1966.
- Davis, Burke. The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts. New York: Wings. 1960.
- Malone, Dumas and Basil Rauch. Crisis of the Union: 1841-1877. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. 1960.
- Scalf, Henry P. Kentucky's Last Frontier. Prestonsburg: Adams Press. 1966.
- Weaver, Jeffrey C. 64th Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg: H.E. Howard. 1992.
- Wiley, Bell I. The Common Soldier of the Civil War. 1973. Washington, D.C.: Eastern Acorn. 1987.
- Wiley, Bell Irvin. Confederate Women. Westport: Greenwood. 1975.
- Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy. New York: Bobbs-Merrill. 1943.
- Woodward, C. Vann, ed. Mary Chesnut's Civil War. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1981.
- Carpenter, E.M. and H. B. Peters transcribers. Lee County, Virginia: Death Register: 1853-1877. Clintwood VA: Mullins. 1986.
(pp 55-94: 1861-1862, 1864-1865 extracted for probable military related deaths - no entries for 1863)
- Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated Confederate Reader. New York: Harper Collins. 1991.
- Schlissel, Lillian. Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey. New York: Shocken. 1982.
- Wheeler, Richard. Lee's Terrible Swift Sword. New York: Harper Collins. 1992.
- Harlan County Battalion: Official Daily Reports, vouchers and miscellaneous papers. Copies of file at the Military Records & Research Library, Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort KY; transcript with notes published in Harlan Footprints Vol I #4
- Civil War pensions: various individuals. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Defeated Creek Diaries: two ledgers kept by Eli Hall and his daughter, Susanna Hall Frazier; transcript published in Harlan Footprints Vol III #3
- Ira Hall letter, undated. Portions transcribed in Following the Footsteps column of November 4, 1987, Penny Pincher, Harlan Daily Enterprise.
- Thomas M. Harris letter from Joanna Harris v. Thomas M. Harris, divorce case in Harlan Circuit Court records, Department of Libraries and Archives, Frankfort KY
- 47th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, roster of Company F kept by Captain Henry Skidmore. Photocopy of original, transcript published in Harlan Footprints, Vol II #4
- Pardon Petitions for David Blevins, et al., from the papers of Kentucky Governor Thomas E. Bramlett, Department of Libraries and Archives, Frankfort KY.
- Leonard Farmer's letter - part of the file of the Harlan Battalion
MISCELLANEOUS DATA SOURCES
- Author's compiled family files
- Federal dienniel census records
- County Court records
- State Vital Statistics
- Circuit Court records
- Traditional information
1. Wiley Confederate Women p 147
2. Coulter p 50
3. Caudill p 37
4. Malone and Rauch p 177
5. Coulter pp 10-11
6. Coulter p 10
7. Coulter p 3
8. Coulter p 17
9. Woodward p 58
10. Malone and Rauch pp 175-176
11. Woodward p 191
12. Scalf p 500
13. Scalf p 501
14. Malone and Rauch p 176
15. Malone and Rauch pp 194-195
16. Scalf pp 284-285
17. Wiley Common Soldier of the Civil War p 16
18. Life of Johnny Reb p 18
19. Wiley Common Soldier of the Civil War p 12
20. p 39
21. Barney p 4
22. Barney p 4
23. Malone and Rauch p 225
24. Scalf p 285
25. Coulter p 446
26. Scalf p 285
27. Weaver p 8
28. Weaver p 11
29. Harlan County Battalion Daily Reports
30. Scalf p 313
31. Defeated Creek Diary
32. Scalf p 295
33. Weaver p 65
34. Harlan Circuit Court records -- the record does not note the outcome
35. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 102
36. Davis p 233
37. p 48
38. Wiley Confederate Women introduction p xiii
39. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 135
40. Wiley Confederate Women p 177
41. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 244
42. Wiley Common Soldier of the Civil War p 55
43. Weaver pp 74 and 115
44. Weaver p 116
45. Caudill p 40
46. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 141
47. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 144
48. Wiley Common Soldier of the Civil War p 48
49. Weaver p 100
50. Weaver p 111
51. Malone and Rauch p 212
52. Weaver p 65
53. Wiley Common Soldier of the Civil War p 48
54. Scalf p 324
55. Weaver p 72
56. Scalf p 281
57. Scalf p 280
58. Scalf p 280
59. Scalf p 280
60. Defeated Creek Diary
61. Coulter pp 149-154
62. Scalf pp 280-281
63. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 45
64. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb pp 45-46
65. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 46
66. Davis p 72
67. Caudill p 42
68. p 41
69. Caudill p 40
70. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb p 144
71. Scalf p 323
72. Coulter. Preface
73. Caudill p 44
74. Caudill p 40
75. Barney p 4
76. Wiley Confederate Women p 155
77. Wiley Common Soldier of the Civil War p 13
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