Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Civil War Meets Rock and Roll



Often when engaged in genealogical pursuits, we find little tidbits of information about an ancestor intriguing or humorous, shocking or sad.  We may not see them immediately, but discover them after files and documents are received and filed away. Only when we take the time to fully understand the documents before us, when we read them analytically and record their contents do we realize what we have. 

I’m not going to admit how long I’ve had this lengthy Civil War pension file on my ancestor, John D. Alexander, or whether I have completely analyzed all of its 165 pages. So don’t ask me. I’m not saying.

John’s file is interesting because it was filed not by John after returning from service in the war, but by his only child, Charles.  Add to that the fact that Charles was an adult at the time of filing for his father’s pension, and you get a sense of why the file is both interesting and lengthy.

But I digress. 

John, as a resident of Kansas, joined Company D of the 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry on 24 September 1861. His wife, Harriet, had died in March 1861, leaving him to care for their only child, Charles (born 21 October 1859). Charles went to live with John’s parents, William and Mary Moore McReynolds Alexander near Golden, Adams County, Illinois, and his father went off to war.

John’s brother, David, died of injuries received in the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee on 30 Jan 1863, having been a Corporal in the 84th Illinois from Adams County, Illinois.

John and Company D of the 8th Kansas had been in Nashville, fortifying the headquarters for General Rosencrans. The next movement for John and the Army of the Cumberland would be the Tullahoma Campaign.  John and a friend of his, Asa F. Phillips of Marysville, Kansas, got a three-day pass in the latter part of June 1863, a brief chance to get away from their daily duties before embarking upon Tullahoma. 

It turns out that John’s brother, William Alexander, had also volunteered for the Union Army. With the 84th Illinois.

In a brief letter contained in the pension file for John Alexander, Asa Phillips recalls the furlough.



They went to visit their brothers. And their brothers were on Cripple Creek in Tennessee. 

Cripple Creek. Hey, isn't that a song?

"Up on Cripple Creek" - The Band

Admittedly, although quite familiar with the song, I had never really known exactly where “Cripple Creek” was.  Upon doing a bit of research for this post, I discovered that the verdict is still out on which “Cripple Creek” the rock group, The Band, was singing about. Some say it’s Louisiana, and others claim Colorado.

According to the map of the Murfreesboro area, there is a Cripple Creek there, too.

I’ve listened to the song again a number of times recently, and have thought a lot about what John and Asa, and presumably Asa’s brother and William Alexander did during those couple of days. I wonder what they talked about, whether they went somewhere, what they ate. I wonder if John and William talked about their brother, David, and the fatal wounds he received at Stones River. I wonder if they shared any letters from home or whether John knew anything of how his only son, Charles, was getting along.

I wonder if William had any idea that he would be shot in the head at Kennesaw Mountain, and live to receive a pension.

And I wonder if John knew that by the end of the war, he would be nearly too ill to care for himself due to lung disease, and that he would die on 25 March 1868 at his father’s home in Adams County, Illinois, exactly 7 years to the day that his young wife, Harriet, had died. 


On a side note, the pension application made by Charles Alexander was denied, as there was insufficient evidence to prove that John’s lung disease was as a result of his participation for the duration in the Union cause. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Blog Caroling with Footnote Maven




Our dear fellow Geneablogger and all-around lovely lady, Footnote Maven (www.footnotemaven.com), reminded us today that it's time for her annual tradition of Blog Caroling. Blog caroling, as FM explains it, consists of choosing your favorite Christmas carol, and blogging about it, including lyrics and video.

Christmas is about tradition, so I thought I'd give this a try and join in the singing.

It just so happens that one of my very favorite Christmas carols - okay, it's more of a song than a carol, but I think FM will allow it - also carries quite a bit of tradition along with it, perhaps in a way you might not think.

For 27 years, Darlene Love has been a special guest on the Late Show with David Letterman for his last show before Christmas. Ms. Love comes with one purpose, and that is to sing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" to the delight of fans around the world. Darlene Love is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Tony award nominee, and has an exhaustive list of musical performances as a backup singer and collaborator and lead performer in her own right.

So last night, at the age of 72 years, Ms. Love took the stage over at David Letterman's show for her 27th year.

She brought the house down.

Here is last night's performance, sung as no one else on this planet could sing it.


And the lyrics are posted below, so you can listen again and sing along.

The snow's coming down 
I'm watching it fall
Lots of people around
Baby please come home

The church bells in town
All singing in song
Full of happy sounds
Baby please come home

They're singing "Deck The Halls"
But it's not like Christmas at all
'Cause I remember when you were here
And all the fun we had last year

Pretty lights on the tree
I'm watching them shine
You should be here with me
Baby please come home

They're singing "Deck The Halls"
But it's not like Christmas at all
'Cause I remember when you were here
And all the fun we had last year

If there was a way
I'd hold back this tear
But it's Christmas day
Please
Please
Please
Please
Baby please come home

David Letterman (through his representative) was quoted by the Huffington Post saying, "It isn't Christmas without Darlene Love."(1)
I tend to agree.
Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 


(1) "Darlene Love's David Letterman Appearance Kicks Off Christmas", http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/21/darlene-love-christmas-baby-letterman_n_4485773.html.  Includes additional links to Ms. Love's past performances as well.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Honor Roll

Veterans Day.

It’s the day we remember those who served, those who never came home, and those whose sacrifice saved lives, preserved a union, and freed nations.

I try to put together my own list every year of those known ancestors of mine who served, and I find that I discover more every year. It makes me proud, of course, but it also reminds me that as I research these ancestors throughout the year, so it was that they lived with their service every single day of their lives. Their memories were not put on hold and brought out just on one day a year, but every day. Perhaps because of physical injury, perhaps because of the sheer horror that remained in their psyche, they lived with those experiences. It makes me wonder who are we to relegate their bravery, their steadfastness, their patriotism, to just one day.

Every day should be Veterans Day, because as I see it, we owe them nothing less.

And now, my personal Roll of Honor as I know it to be (there are more, I am certain).
Thank you, all, for the sacrifices you and your families made.

*Thomas Wells, Massachusetts, Member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery of Massachusetts
*Jonathan Massey, Revolutionary War minuteman, Salem, New Hampshire
*Capt. Philemon Waters, Revolutionary War, Virginia
*Edward Askins, Revolutionary War, Virginia
*James Officer, Revolutionary War, Virginia
*Major George Bruton, Revolutionary War, Virginia/South Carolina
*Walter Wake, Civil War, Union, Company C, 20th Illinois, wounded at the Battle of Shiloh
Robert Carter, Civil War, Union, killed in Georgia during Sherman’s March
*Andrew Lawson, Civil War, Union
*John Robert Mawson, Civil War, Union
*James Zook, Civil War, Union
*John D. Alexander, Civil War, Union, 8th KS and 8th Wisc. Battery
Ralph John Carter, WWII, killed in action, buried in The Netherlands National Cemetery
Robert Reeve, WWII, Iwo Jima
Major Frank Reeve, WWII, Iwo Jima


*denotes a direct ancestor

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Book of Me - Week #2

I am participating in Julie Goucher's activity:


Week #2 - Your Birth


Do you have any baby photos?
Where were you born?
Who was present at your birth?
Dimensions?
What day was it? Time?
Did you have hair? Eye colour
Are you a twin?


All of my birth information is packed away either in my closet or at my mother's, so I can't be very exact right now. Here's what I can recall. 

I was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, at Our Savior's Hospital at around 7:30 in the evening, apparently during a thunderstorm (that part always makes me giggle a bit). I weighed 8 pounds and some-odd ounces and had a head full of hair and big brown eyes. I was quite roly-poly as I remember from looking at my baby photos. 

The thing that stands out about my birth was not so much the event itself, but what happened once I got here, according to what my paternal grandmother always told me. 

My father was still in college when I was born, and as an English major, he was taking his share of writing courses. I don't know the name of the class or the specific assignment, but the timing was such that he wrote an essay - about me. Me, the first time he held me, the amazement he felt at my arrival and my being, the feelings he had about how scared he was that I might break if he didn't hold me just the right way. All of his emotions apparently came flooding out in this paper he wrote for a class. 

Oh. He got an A+. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Book of Me - Prompt #1: Who Am I?

Often when we research our ancestors, we forget to preserve our own memories. Some Geneabloggers are trying a new writing prompt series from Julie Boucher at her Anglers Rest blog entitled "The Book of Me, Written by You", about how you view "you", or in this case, how I view me. 
  • I am Kellie, not spelled with a "y".
  • I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a cousin.
  • I am a wife, and I'm happy about that. 
  • I love my cat, Chloe.
  • I have the most awesome daughter on the face of the planet. 
  • I'm not biased. 
  • I love history, and particularly appreciate living in the midst of it.
  • I love genealogy to the point of obsession. 
  • I consider myself to be a professional, but I will never stop learning.
  • I enjoy helping others. 
  • I am strong-willed and determined (never stubborn *wink*)
  • I am a good friend to have around. 
  • I can be a perfectionist about some things, and a total mess about others. 
  • I take naps, and I have no guilt about that.
  • I love football and hockey. 
  • I go crazy over flowers, vintage jewelry, and old "girlie" things. I don't know why.
  • I refuse to let a day pass without at least one giggle, and preferably, a belly-laugh or two. 
  • I love music. It soothes my soul.
  • I live with MS. I don't let it define me, but it does change my routine at times (see naps, above). 
  • I am a softie and will cry at any movie or show that is the least bit heartwarming. 
  • I am thankful for every single day.
  • Really, about that bias thing...(see daughter, above)
  • This "exercise" was a bit more difficult for me to write than I anticipated. 
You don't have to be a blogger to do this little activity, and I must admit, it was interesting. Give it a try!! 



 





Saturday, August 17, 2013

Andy, York, and Tellie

I was excited tonight to confirm another ancestor who fought during the period of the Revolutionary War. I'm proud of my patriotic ancestors, and am continually amazed at men who "guarded the frontier" during such an uneasy time in our newly-formed collection of states. I say that because I firmly believe that we were not aware as colonial America that we "were": a country until after the Civil War, when the concept of the preservation of the Union was solidified. But that's another blog...

I was gathering some data online about this ancestor who hailed from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and I noticed he was a slave-owner. He is not the first of my ancestors to have owned slaves, so I continued on and didn't really think much about it.

I had found a couple of possible collateral relatives to this veteran, and if you have ever used collateral research in your genealogy, you know how important those other relatives can become. If you haven't used collateral research in your family tree, it's 20 lashes with a wet noodle to you, and we need to talk.

So I searched a cemetery just to see the burials with my veteran's surname contained therein. I found a couple of possible connections that I need to look at further, but that's not what really caught my eye.

I came upon York and Tellie (my ancestor's surname).

York and Tellie were an African-American couple. York was born in Spartanburg in 1842. No one apparently knew when Tellie was born, nor when she died. York's father has no burial in the cemetery, but his name was Andy, according to additional information listed.

They have my ancestor's surname. Andy too.

I realized that I had possibly come across the slaves of my ancestors, or at minimum, their direct descendants. That's never happened to me before.

In previous research, slaves owned by one of my family lines were mentioned usually in wills, first name only, and just listed like all of the rest of the property being distributed in those types of documents. I've yet to look for any more information on them, and I chalked it up to colonial Southern life. There was a certain neutrality in those first-name-only people I had seen listed.

Seeing York and Tellie and Andy tonight was different. They have our name, and carried our name through the present day long enough for their grandson (in the case of Andy, his great-grandson) to purchase proper cemetery markers for them in the same cemetery where they rest with other members of my family.

I'm still processing this as I write. But to Andy and York and Tellie...I'm glad to have met you.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Insomnia and the Genealogist, or What Kept Me Up Last Night

I can be an insomniac at times and I'm used to it. That's generally when I read, or play a mindless game on my phone until I can finally slip into the comfort of sleep.

I slept 2 whole hours last night. Twice I thought about getting out of bed and jumping on the computer, but since our cat, Chloe, was contentedly ensconced next to me, I thought better of that and just tried to drift off.

Instead, I managed only to think more, and more, about what my newest research had uncovered and how it was that I could unravel the myriad of mysteries within.

Here's some of what I thought about:

  • A 29-year-old man leaving his wife and 3 young children to go off to fight in the Civil War. 
  • Dying of smallpox in Cahaba Prison, Alabama after being captured during a fierce battle at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. 
  • Existing at all after being captured and living at Cahaba. Just being there. 
  • Having 2 children born during the war, a son in 1862 and a daughter in 1865. Never seeing the daughter at all, and perhaps not even knowing she existed. 
  • Wondering how this couple managed to have 2 children during the war to begin with, given that the father was with the Army of the Mississippi and a little far from home. . 
  • The conduct it takes to rank up from private to 2nd lieutenant during a war. Perhaps there was more to this man than literacy. 
  • Why a family moved from Missouri to Illinois at the start of the war. 
  • Why the wife ended up marrying 4 more times after the loss of her husband, and what happened to her children. How did the loss of their father affect them, or were they too young to understand. 

The answers to these questions will undoubtedly lead to more questions, too.

I don't know about you, but this is enough to keep me awake for days. My mind has adopted this family and this Union solder buried now in Marietta, Georgia, and I cannot rest until I figuratively breathe the life back into them.

Have you ever had the same feeling about an ancestor you've discovered? Have you been bitten by the insomnia bug and become so doggedly determined about an ancestor that you cannot sleep? How did your sleep-deprived experience turn out?

Some people would call it being a bit obsessive. Others would just call it genealogy.

Some of those questions may never be answered, but I owe this man something for what he did in sacrificing his little family and his life to join the Union cause, and bringing his story to light is my goal.

It's the most, and the least I can do.

After I grab a quick nap.