Monday, April 11, 2011

Military Monday: Honoring My Civil War Ancestors

Battle of Missionary Ridge, where my 3rd Great Grandfather,
James Monroe Purser, was captured by the Union Army
Tomorrow, April 12, marks the 150th anniversary of the start of America's Civil War. Hostilities officially began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumpter, South Carolina. The war lasted for four years, and claimed the lives of an estimated 620,000 soldiers and an unknown number of civilian casualties.

Studying the Civil War in school, I'd always identified as a Northerner, and cheered that President Lincoln's Union Army defeated the secessionist, slavery-supporting Confederate Army. I still feel that way, of course, but as I've learned more about my own family involvement in the Civil War, I've learned about good men on both sides who fought for their beliefs. 

Here are three of my known Civil War ancestors, both Union and Confederate:
James M. Purser
  • James Monroe Purser (1843-1914), Confederate, 3rd Great Grandfather. On February 4, 1862, at at Murphee's Crossroads in Blount County, Alabama, Jim enlisted in the Confederate army. His brothers, Richard and Moses, also enlisted and fought in the war. Jim was promoted from Private to 2nd Corporal in the 28th Alabama Infantry, Company B, but his service in the Confederate army wasn't without its trials and tribulations. Jim became ill within just a couple of months of enlisting, and ended up in the hospital at Shelby Springs, Alabama, for a time. Shortly after that, he somehow managed to lose his "gun and accoutrements" somewhere near Tupelo, Mississippi. However, the worst was yet to come.

    On November 25, Union soldiers assaulted and captured the Confederate position on Missionary Ridge. Jim and his brother, Richard, were both captured during the Battle of Chattanooga at Missionary Ridge in November 1863. They were confined at Rock Island Prison, Illinois, on December 5, 1863. During the Civil War, more than 12,000 men were imprisoned at Rock Island, and nearly 2,000 prisoners died there. Both Jim and Richard Purser lived through their imprisonment, and were released in March 1865 as part of a P.O.W. exchange program with the Union army.
Benjamin F. Jaggers
  • Benjamin Franklin Jaggers (1832-1862), Confederate, 4th Great Grandfather. Benjamin joined the Confederate Army, enlisting on July 21, 1862, and mustering in at Huntsville, Alabama, on August 18, 1962. He was 30 years old and a Private in the 1st Alabama Cavalry. Benjamin would not get to see much, if any, action during the Civil War. Less than two months after he joined up, he died on October 16, 1862, of measles in Hospital #14 at Nashville, Tennessee. He is buried at the Nashville National Cemetery in Section A, plot 4518.
  • Solomon Ishmael (1817-1894), Union, 4th Great Grandfather. Solomon was a Private in the Missouri 23rd Regiment Infantry Volunteers, Company B, under Captain Nash. He enlisted on July 25, 1862, in Trenton, Missouri, and mustered in at Hudson, Missouri, on August 31, 1862. He was 44 1/2 years old (no spring chicken). Solomon contracted small pox in around February 1864, and was in the hospital in McMinnville, Tennessee, until at least after the muster roll dated January 14, 1865. He was mustered out on May 18, 1865, near Washington, D.C.
Solomon Ishmael's examination report
I'm still researching a couple more great grandfathers who I believe fought in the Civil War. I also have several uncles and distant cousins who fought for both sides. 

While I'm proud of my Union soldiers for helping to protect and preserve our country, I've also grown surprisingly fond of my Confederate soldier ancestors. I might not believe in the same causes that they fought for, but I'm proud of their bravery. They also fought for their own beliefs and to preserve what they felt was important to their way of living. I'm glad the Union army prevailed, and my heart goes out to all of the soldiers on both sides -- as well as their parents, wives and children -- who endured, in many cases, four years of hell. Some gave their lives, and all gave their hearts and souls, for what they believed. These soldiers, both Union and Confederate, helped to shape our United States of America.

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