Friday, January 31, 2014

Paul's Civil War Ancestors

Each of us has eight great-great-grandfathers.  Of my eight, I know the names of six.  Three of those resided in the United States at the time of the Civil War.  One, John Dotts, was born in 1802, and was thus was too old to have served.  The remaining two, John George Molz Sr. of New York City and Isaac Reed from the South Jersey Pine Barrens enlisted.  Both were hospitalized during their service (for every three soldiers who died in battle, five more passed from disease), and both are likely interred in the Fredericksburg (Virginia) National Cemetery.

John Molz arrived from Baden-Württemberg as early as 1850 but certainly by 1854.  In July of that year, at the age of approximately 22, he married Sophia Catharina Gampper at the Evangelical Lutheran Church at 108 West 24th Street in New York City (now the site of a Hampton Inn). 

John worked as a tailor, and three children were born in short order – Ernstine Christine “Deana” in 1856, John George Jr. (my mother’s grandfather) in 1858, and Carolina in 1860.  The family lived variously in New York and Philadelphia.

Change came on the 11th of September, 1861, when John enlisted in Company E, 45th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry at the age of 29.  This regiment was also known as the 5th German Rifles and was composed almost entirely of German immigrants.  Military records say John was a small man – 5 feet 5 inches in height with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  We don’t know whether he was motivated by the Union’s cause, or perhaps his young family needed a soldier’s salary plus any enlistment bonus being offered.

While the records are sketchy, the Muster Rolls from 28 October 1861 and 1 January 1862 show him as neither present nor absent.  On 8 May 1862 (from the Muster Roll for March and April), he was present.  However, the Muster Roll for May and June lists him as absent – sick in the hospital in Winchester, Virginia.  On 24 June 1862, the records list John as having deserted at Mount Jackson, Virginia. 

Desertion was not uncommon during the Civil War.  There was no process for taking leave, and John had been ill.  Because his fourth child, Susanna, was born in June 1863, John must have returned to his family.

Nearly a year and one half after deserting, perhaps upon his full recovery, John enrolled in Company K, 98th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers as a veteran on 23 Dec. 1863.  He enlisted in the field at Brandy Station, Virginia.  There may have been a sign-up bonus for re-enlistment.

About four months later on the 5th of May, 1864, John George Molz was killed in the Overland Campaign in the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia – just 16 miles south from his point of re-enlistment.  After the war, the military attempted to remove bodies from the battlefield to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, though John’s earthly remains may lie in the dense underbrush at Wilderness.

John’s widow, Sophia (Gampper) Molz, married twice more and had three more children.  She received a pension for herself until she remarried and for her children with John George Molz until they had grown.  Sophia passed in 1920 and is interred in the Presbyterian Grounds in Bridesburg, Philadelphia.

Isaac Reed was 17 years old at the time of the 1850 Census, meaning he was born between September 1832 and September 1833.  At that time, he was living in the home of his parents, Eden Reed and Rachael Ford in Burlington County, New Jersey.  Some of Isaac’s ancestors were on this continent before the Revolutionary War and were among the first to populate the wilds of New Jersey.

Isaac married Mary Jane Coleman in Washington Township, Burlington County on the first of March 1855.  Mary Jane was born 15 Oct 1839, being 15 years old at the time of her marriage.    Their first child, Richard Reed, was born in August 1855, just five months later.  A second son, Reuben, was born in April 1858.  Their daughter Sarah Jane (my father’s grandmother) was the last.  the records are unclear on her birth date – October 1860 or November 1861.

Isaac Reed joined the 23rd Regiment of the New Jersey Infantry on 13 Sep 1862.  Many of his Reed cousins – Alfred, Benjamin, Daniel, Eden, John, and Joseph – also enlisted on that day in Beverly, New Jersey, for a term of nine months.  Nicknamed the “Yahoos,” the 23rd’s first engagement was the Battle of Fredericksburg from 11 to 15 Dec 1862.  However, it is not known whether Isaac fought in that battle.  He may have already been suffering with the Typhoid Fever from which he passed on 2 Jan 1863. 

Isaac was buried at the White Oak Church in Falmouth, Virginia.  The church served as a Union hospital (see map above).  The sign above its door in the photo below reads "United States Christian Commission."  According to military records, all remains at White Oak Church were moved to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery after the war. 

In March 1863, Isaac’s widow, Mary Jane (Coleman) Reed applied for pensions for his children at the young age 23.  She remarried in September of the same year to a man named Henry Parker and had four more children with him.  Mary Jane passed in 1902 and is interred with her second husband at the Reevestown Cemetery in Barnegat, New Jersey.

While the remains of John George Molz and Isaac Reed are both believed to be in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, their graves and most others are unmarked.  The United States first issued identification tags or “dog tags” in 1906.  During the Civil War, some soldiers pinned paper notes with their name and home address inside the backs of their coats or scratched their name into the back of their belt buckles.  This proved inadequate for many reasons including that clothing of the deceased was often reused by the undersupplied army. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Danville and the Civil War

Note:  Danville has been our adopted home town since late 2003.

Danville, Virginia, is situated on the banks of the Dan River just three miles from the North Carolina border.  With a population of about 3,500 in 1860, Danville was the center of the leaf tobacco business for southern Virginia and much of North Carolina.  Though it was comparatively remote, the tobacco industry made Danville a wealthy city. 

While slavery was common in Danville and the surrounding area, many residents opposed secession because it would threaten the prosperous tobacco industry.  However, public sentiment changed when the north began raising and army to quell the rebellion.  Danville’s mayor, William T. Sutherlin, was elected to the Virginia Secession Convention, and Virginia joined the other southern states in 1861.

Mayor Sutherlin was the city’s wealthiest citizen.  He owned the largest tobacco factory in Danville, the second largest in Virginia.  In 1859, he completed an Italianate mansion on four acres of ground near the city’s western boundary.  The mansion is shown below in 1900, much unchanged from the war years.

During the war, Sutherlin’s tobacco factory was converted to a prison for Union troops.  He served the Confederacy as Quartermaster for Danville, supplying food, clothing, and equipment to the army, and rising to the rank of Major.

Danville raised two companies, the Danville Blues and the Danville Grays for Virginia’s 18th Infantry.  Less than half the men in these units returned home.

In support of the war effort, tobacco factories were converted to other uses such as hospitals, factories, and prisons.  Sutherlin’s 1855 factory (shown today at right) became Confederate Prison No. 6.  Over 7,000 Union prisoners of war were housed in Danville.  Over half died from cold, dysentery, and smallpox.

Because of their relative prosperity, Danville's residents extended charitable assistance to the families of soldiers and other needy individuals.  While Union prisoners complained of the food and conditions, they fared little worse than Confederate troops in the field. 

Danville played its major role from April 3 to 10, 1865, as the last capital of the Confederacy.  After the fall of Petersburg, and with Richmond in grave danger, the Confederate government evacuated on the last operating railroad, the Richmond and Danville.  President Jefferson Davis took up residence in Major Sutherlin’s mansion, and the final meetings of the Confederate government intact occurred in the house.  Davis’ last proclamation was signed there.  After Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, Palm Sunday, Danville was deemed unsafe, and Davis with what remained of his government traveled further south.

Danville’s remoteness spared it some the hardships experienced by other southern cities.   It was not occupied by Union forces until after the war.  However, the economic and psychological damage was severe.  Families struggled when their soldiers did not return, and their Confederate scrip was valueless.  Operating even a small tobacco farm without slave labor was difficult, and property values fell by 80 percent.

The city’s recovery began in earnest in the early 1880s with the addition of cotton mills to its tobacco factories.  Danville’s wealthiest period extended until 1920 and saw the construction of many large and impressive homes.  The mile-long stretch from Ridge Street west to the Sutherlin mansion became known as “Millionaires’ Row.”  Sadly, perhaps half of these homes have been lost in the years since to redevelopment.  A walking tour, The Secrets Inside, is available through the Danville Historical Society.

Today, Marjory and I are fortunate to own one of the surviving large homes known as the Patton House, pictured at right.  The Patton family served as bankers to the wealthy tobacco and textile barons, and lived quite well as a result.  Completed in 1890, the 7,500 square foot home is unique in Danville because of its townhouse style and Richardsonian Revival architecture.

While sitting on the porch of the Patton House, we can clearly see the Sutherlin Mansion including the small balcony where Jefferson Davis review his troops and delivered his last public address.  The third and final flag of the Confederacy flies before the mansion today, but this was not always the case.  Major Sutherlin’s home also served as a public school and the city’s library before its present incarnation as the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.  Tours of the mansion are available and are highly recommended.

We also “see” the presence of Confederate soldiers, some serving as sentries.  They are most often in evidence when the Danville Grays re-enactors are encamped.  The aroma of the re-enactors campfires and the firing of rifles and cannon make for some uncanny flashbacks to Danville’s time as the Last Capital.

Additional Reading:
  Danville, Virginia, by Clara Garrett Fountain
  “Last Capitol of the Confederacy” at
  “Confederate Prison No. 6” at
  “Danville During the Civil War” at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Marjory's Civil War Ancestors

Note:  Marjory Jo Spivey is my still-blushing bride of nearly 45 years.

Looking back five generations, most of Marjory’s ancestors were born in Kentucky with only a few from nearby Tennessee.  They lived in the area that the Kentucky Tourism Commission now calls “Daniel Boone Country” – the hills and hollers in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth near the Cumberland Gap.  For the most part, people in this area were in support of the Union.  Those nearer to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers had larger farms that could benefit from slave labor, and were more closely aligned with their trading partners to the south.

The divided allegiance between North and South may best be illustrated by Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.  Both presidents were born in Kentucky.

Kentucky was an important “border state” during the Civil War.  The Ohio River that forms its northern border could have made a defensible line for the Confederates.  Lincoln once said, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

At the outset of the war, the Kentucky legislature declared the Commonwealth to be neutral, but neutrality was not to be.  During the war, Kentucky had two governments – one aligned with the Union and the other with the Confederacy.

Volunteers who felt the need to fight left to join military units in other states.  Nearly 60 regiments served in the Union Army but just nine in the Confederate.  Several significant battles were fought in the Commonwealth early in the war – Mill Springs, Richmond, Munfordville, and Perryville.  The Battle of Perryville, as depicted in the November 1, 1862, issue of Harpers Weekly, is shown below.  After that battle, the Confederacy made little effort to hold Kentucky.

All of Marjory’s ancestors who served in the Civil War fought for the Union as enlisted men, mostly Privates.  Fortunately, all six returned to their families at the end of the conflict.

Isaac S. Fowler (1827-1870) was Marjory’s paternal great-great-great-grandfather.  Isaac served in the 26th Kentucky Infantry.  The 26th participated in the major Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee.  Two officers and 27 enlisted men were killed.  Between March 1862 and July 1865, two more officers and 142 enlisted men passed from disease.

Henry Stubblefield Isaacs (1835-1912), a paternal great-great grandfather, served in the 14th Kentucky Calvary.  His Company F mustered in during February 1863 and mustered out on March 1864.  This regiment was assigned to the mountains of eastern Kentucky – Henry’s home territory – to reduce and prevent the many guerilla raids by the Confederates.  Fourteen enlisted men were killed in skirmishes while another 66 passed from disease.

John M. Isaacs (1845-1899), another paternal great-great grandfather, joined the 3rd Kentucky Infantry for three years of service beginning in October 1861.  This unit participated in Kentucky’s Battle of Perryville as well as the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee and the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. Chickamauga had the second highest casualties of the war, exceeded only by Gettysburg.  Six officers and 103 enlisted men from the 3rd Kentucky were killed.  Another 192 enlisted men passed from disease.

John Clemmons (1815-1878) served in the 8th Regiment of the Kentucky Calvary.  He was also Marjory’s maternal great-great-great-grandfather.  Perhaps because of his age, 47 at the time of his enlistment, John served as a teamster or wagon driver.  The 8th Calvary’s engagements were limited, losing only one officer and eight enlisted men in battle.  However, 108 more passed from disease during their year of service from August 1862 until September 1863.

Henry Harrison Fields (1827-1900), another maternal great-great-great-grandfather, served in the 19th Kentucky Infantry beginning in January 1862.  This regiment saw considerable fighting as part of the Vicksburg Campaign, a major turning point in the war, where the Union gained control of the Mississippi River.  The Vicksburg Campaign also brought General Ulysses S. Grant to prominence.  The 19th Kentucky Infantry lost one officer and 42 enlisted men in combat and another 155 from disease.  Henry mustered out of Company D as a Corporal in March 1866.

Samuel H. Standafer (1842-1936) was Marjory’s maternal great-great-grandfather.  Like Henry Stubblefield Isaacs (above), Samuel enlisted in the 14th Kentucky Calvary, though Samuel’s Company M mustered in later in May 1863.  Private Standafer was fortunate to serve in the mountains near his home.

As I noted in my earlier post about the Civil War, the death from disease was even more staggering than the death toll from combat – 663 men from these five regiments alone. 

Because so many Kentuckians fought for the Union, the Commonwealth was not subject to military occupation after the war.  However, tensions continued with northern and southern loyalties contributing to feuds in the mountains nearly into the 20th century.  A possible future topic is Marjory’s post-war feuding ancestors.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Civil War Background and Statistics

Over the coming days and weeks, I plan to make several posts relating to the Civil War. These will range from a story about Danville, Virginia, to the impacts on Marjory’s family and mine. This post offers some background, setting the stage for the stories that follow.

The causes of the War Between the States (1861-1865) will continue to be debated by historians. My interest is in the effects, not the causes.

The conflict was not a war of equals. In addition to the Union having much of the ability to manufacture arms and other war supplies, it had two and one half times the white population. The size of the army for the north was twice as large. While precise numbers are not available, the table below shows this imbalance.

      Union    Confederacy
Adult white male population 5,060,000 2,070,000
Men who served 2,128,948 1,082,119
Soldiers as % of adult white males   42 % 52 %
Deaths 389,753 289,000
Deaths as % of men who served 18 % 27 %
Deaths as % of adult white males 7.7 % 14.0 %
Deaths from disease 224,580 164,000
% of deaths from disease 58 % 57 %

The total number deaths from the Civil War exceeds the deaths from all conflicts since including World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam. The Confederacy lost a staggering 14% of its adult male population – one of every seven men.

More than half of the soldiers who died passed from disease rather than from combat. The use of antiseptics was not yet understood by most doctors. There were no vaccines even for the most common illnesses and hygiene was poor. Bacteria that spread from camp latrines were among the greatest dangers. About 80% of the population had lived their entire lives on farms or in small communities. Thus, soldiers had little immunity to many types of illnesses.

Most of the fighting (Gettysburg being the notable exception) was on Confederate soil. Two of those southern battles are of particular importance to me – the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864. More about that in future posts.

Much of the food for the northern army was confiscated from southern farmers. As a result, as many as 50,000 citizens of the Confederacy perished from lack of food, stray bullets, poor sanitation, and the destruction of entire towns.

In his “March to the Sea” in late 1864, General Sherman destroyed at least 20% of Georgia’s farms. By early 1865, the South’s railroads and its major cities – Atlanta (at right), Charleston, and Columbia – lay in ruin. With the fall and destruction of its capital city imminent, the Confederate government evacuated Richmond on April 2 using the last open railroad line, the Richmond and Danville. (Please see a future post for more information about Danville and the Civil War.)

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Grant at Appomattox. This was, in effect, the end of the war even though some troops did not surrender until June.