Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Civil War and My Ancestors

Bill West of the West in New England blog issued a challenge to all genealogy bloggers with Civil War-era ancestors:

“Did you have ancestors in America on 12Apr 1861? If so, where were they
and what were their circumstances? How did the Civil War affect them and
their family? Did the men enlist and did they perish in battle or die of illness?
On which side did they fight, or did you have relatives fighting on BOTH sides?
How did the women left at home cope, or did any of them find ways to help
the war effort? Were your ancestors living as slaves on Southern plantations
and if so when were they freed?  Or were they freemen of color who enlisted
to fight?”

All of my ancestral lines were in this country by 1800, so all of them were involved in or affected by the Civil War. The only family for which I know nothing about their experiences in the Civil War would be the family of my brick-wall great-grandmother, Lizzie Smith Brinlee.

That still leaves quite a few families to cover, so I am going to follow Susan Clark’s lead at Nolichucky Roots; she gave an overview of her ancestors‘ involvement in the Civil War and plans to cover each person’s or each family’s involvement in a series of posts under the theme “Civil War Saturday.” In this post I will provide an outline of all of my ancestors who fought in the Civil War and of the nature of involvement of the families, including some mysteries surrounding the deaths of some of the ancestors and what is known about some of these families’ views on slavery, the Union, and so forth. I have found quite a bit of material in the form of service records, pension applications, unit histories, and other items; some of it has been transcribed and analyzed and some has not.

To the extent possible, I will include both direct ancestors and “collateral” ancestors (uncles) in the participants in the war, except for the brothers, half-brothers, and brothers-in-law of my two great-great-grandfathers who fought in the war (I have not yet researched in depth beyond these two great-great grandfathers, although I know who their families were). So in addition to these two great-great grandfathers, there will be three great-grandfathers and those of their brothers and their wives’ brothers who were old enough to fight.

As far as I know, all of my ancestors who fought in the Civil War fought on the Confederate side. However, it appears that not all of them were wholeheartedly anti-Union. There is at least one family who owned slaves. Another family, according to family lore, also owned slaves, but I have so far not been able to find any proof of it. This seemingly small number of slaveholding families may be due more to financial circumstances than conviction, however.

So this post is essentially a research outline summarizing what I already know and setting out what I need to find more information on. I will organize it by family name.


The Brinlees are the known slaveholding family. In her article on Hiram Brinlee (Sr.), Bessie Sims Sheppard writes that the family is “recorded on the Slave census, Collin County, 1860, as having eleven slaves” (“Brinlee, Hiram” by Bessie Sims Sheppard in Collin County, Texas Families, Volume One, edited by Allison Ellis Pitts and Minnie Pitts, Champ, published 1994 by Curtis Media, Hurst, Texas; p. 42), but I can find only five listed. There is no record for this family on the 1850 Slave Schedule, although it is possible that one of the many misspellings of this family name make them hard to find. (See my post “Restore My Name - Slave Records and Genealogy Research”).

According to the family story, all five sons of Hiram Brinlee, Sr. and Betsy Ann McKinney fought in the Civil War, but I am not so sure about the youngest son, William Hiram Brinlee, who was born in 1848 or 1850, depending on the source you read (all agree that sources vary on his age). So far I have found no records of his service, though I do find reference to it in an article by Aurelia Borgan Brinlee in Collin County, Texas, Families (“Brinlee, William Hiram,” p. 48), wherein she writes that he “enlisted in the home guard unit under Capt. Tom Scottby” and that he later “officially enlisted at Mill Creek, Oklahoma in Company K of the 5th Cavalry, Martins Regiment under General Gano.” This appears to be the same group in which his older brothers Richard, David Francis, and Hiram Jr. (second tour) served in. Tracking these records down will be one of my Civil War research tasks.

Richard Mason Brinlee (1836-1911) (great-great uncle): Enlisted on 5 July 1862 at age 25 as a Corporal in Company K, Martins Regiment Texas Cavalry (5th Partisan Rangers) at McKinney, Texas and appears on a muster roll for 1 January to 1 July 1863. According to the Statement of Service Slip in his Oklahoma Pension Board file, there are no further records on him, including prisoner of war records. Another area to be investigated. My first stop will probably be to check pension records in Oklahoma, since his third wife/widow, Nancy Ann Herrell Brinlee, apparently received a pension for his service.

George Robert Brinlee (1838-1927) (great-great uncle): Company D, Sixth Texas Cavalry (Stone’s Regiment, 2nd Cavalry). The cards in his compiled service record indicate that he enlisted 13 March 1862 at Camp Mulberry, Arkansas.

Hiram Carroll Brinlee (1844-1920) (great-grandfather): I have his Confederate Pension Application, his widow’s Confederate Widow’s Pension Application, and his compiled service record for his first tour of service. The story goes that he enlisted near the beginning of the war, was discharged because he was found to be too young for service under the Conscript Act, and re-enlisted later when he was older. I used this hint to figure out a period of time within which his birthday should fall (see my post “Tombstone of Hiram C. Brinlee”). Hiram is also listed in Company D, Sixth Texas Cavalry (Stone’s Regiment, 2nd Cavalry). He joined on 10 September 1861 in Dallas, Texas at the age of 17. He is shown as having been discharged on 13 June 1862 on a Register of Payments to Discharged Soldiers. His pension application indicates that he had also served “under [General] Gano for about 1-1/2 years.” I do not have records of that service; they may have met the same fate as those of his brothers Richard, William Hiram, and David Francis in that group (Fifth Partisan Rangers).

David Francis Brinlee (1846-1893) (great-great uncle): I do not have service records for him, but according to the Confederate Widow’s Pension Application of his widow, Sarah Ann Hendricks Brinlee, he served in “Co. K; Martin’s Regiment, and Gano’s Brigade.” So, ditto the above on finding other records. Witnesses T. J. Cloyd and Dallas Sparin confirmed that he had served with them in D.C. Haynes’ Company in this unit for about a year and a half. I do find a Thomas J. Cloyd and George M. D. Sparlin listed as having served in the Fifth Partisan Rangers.


This family, which I initially regarded as “just a plain old farming family,” but loved anyway and wanted to research in depth, has turned out to be very interesting. One item of interest is that there appears to have been a big streak of pro-Unionism in this family. I had no inkling, but a genealogist who does a lot of research in Anderson County, South Carolina and nearby areas pointed this out to me; through several clues in names and associations and several articles in the local newspapers she found on my great-great grandfather William Spencer Moore, she indicated that the signs were that the family was pro-Union even before the war, and the fact that Spencer Moore ran for local office as a Republican after the war was not an aberration but a continuation of his beliefs from before the war. Spencer’s wife Emily Tarrant Moore was in all likelihood a member of the Greenville County Tarrants, one of whom was a well-known Emancipating Baptist named Carter Tarrant. When I finally found Preston Moore in Izard County Arkansas on the 1870 census, he had a year-old son named Ulysses. This will definitely be a major research focus for me.

Preston Moore (ca 1843-bef 1878) (great-great uncle): Covered in my posts “Searching for Preston Moore” and “The Two Preston Moores.” I have his compiled service record, a couple of prisoner of war records, and a unit history that includes his name.

Harlston Perrin Moore (1845-1921) (great-grandfather): I have his Confederate Pension Application and his widow’s Confederate Widow’s Pension application. His service is outlined in my post “Featured Family Friday: Harlston Perrin Moore and Martha E. ‘Mattie’ Lewis.”

William Brewster “Bruce” Moore (1851-1924): His obituary in The Greenville News, dated 29 July 1924, describes him as a “Confederate veteran, 73 years of age.” However, unless he was something like a drummer boy near the very end, he probably did not serve, as he was not quite fourteen years old at the end of the war.


The Normans do not appear to have owned slaves. I don’t know whether they were pro-slavery/pro-Union or anti-slavery/anti-Union.

Joseph Madison Carroll Norman (1833-1901) (great-great grandfather): He is listed with two different units (Company H, 25th Alabama Infantry and Company B, 3rd Alabama) and Company C at the Camp of Instruction, but I do not think he saw much service. I have his compiled service record, his Confederate Pension Application, and his widow’s Confederate Widow’s Pension Application. His service timeline, as far as I can reconstruct it, is as follows:

Company H, 25th Alabama Infantry: March-April 1862. He was admitted to the 1st Mississippi C.S.A. Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi on 19 March 1862 and discharged from service on 16 April 1862. He writes in his Confederate Pension Application: “At Corinth Miss I was taken down with Rheumatism and been a sufferer every since.” A physician, Joel Chitwood, testified that he suffered from “spinal affliction and rheumatism of the left arm and hand” and that he was “able to perform only one-fourth manual labor,” and neighbors Thaddeus Wheatly and Mitchell Blackburn confirmed that he was in “poor circumstances.” His Soldier’s Discharge gives the date 28 March 1862.

Company C, Camp of Instruction, Talladega, Alabama: 1 Sep 1862-6 May 1864

Company B, 3rd Alabama: 18 May 1865 (contained on a list of paroled prisoners of war). Either his unit had been rolled up into the 3rd Alabama or all of the prisoners were lumped together under this unit.


Three sons of Elisha Berry Lewis and Martha Poole served in the Civil War; two of them died. Martha died some time right before or during the war, and after the war Elisha Berry married Frances Eleanor Campbell Bailey, the widow of John Marion Bailey.  John Marion Bailey fought in the same unit as Elisha Berry's two oldest sons and died in the war.  I do not yet know what this family’s beliefs were regarding slavery and the Union. There is some evidence that two youngest sons (too young to serve) may not have been of the same opinion. William Henry Lewis, who served as Sheriff of Dallas County, was known to have prevented a couple of lynchings in Dallas, one of a black man and one of a man suspected of having a black mistress. He corresponded with relatives in Iowa who were known back home in South Carolina to have been abolitionists. On the other hand, the youngest son, John Sloan Lewis, is described in an article from the Dallas Morning News as a “Wade Hampton Man.”

James West Lewis (1835-1904) (great-great uncle): Served as a private in Company B, 4th South Carolina Infantry. I have his compiled service record.

Samuel D. Lewis (1840-1864) (great-great uncle): The details of his service can be found in my post “Transcription Tuesday: The Death of Samuel D. Lewis.” I have his compiled service record and some information from unit histories.

Manning P. Lewis (1843-25 March 1865) (great-great uncle): You can see that Manning Lewis’ death from wounds occurred only a few weeks before the end of the war. He served as a private in Company D of the 1st South Carolina (Orr’s) Rifles. He enlisted on 20 July 1861 at Camp Pickens. I have his compiled service record and some unit history information.


I cannot find any evidence that this branch of the Sisson family owned slaves and do not know what their views on slavery and the Union were.

William T. Sisson (ca 1826-1894) (great-great grandfather): He served as a private in Company H, 25th Alabama Infantry. He enlisted on 24 November 1862 in Talladega, Alabama. He was paroled as a POW on 20 May 1865 in Talladega, Alabama. I have his compiled service record, his Application for Relief by Soldiers Maimed or Disabled during the Late War under Act approved February 28, 1889, and his widow’s Confederate Widow’s Pension Application. According to his service record, he did extra duty as a teamster. In his Application for relief he states that he was shot in the leg at Chickamauga in October 1864 [? the Battle of Chickamauga took place in September 1864]. In her Confederate Widow’s Pension Application, William Sisson’s widow, Susan Caroline Tant Sisson, indicates that a previous application (apparently the Application for Relief) was turned down because he owned too much property to qualify.


According to family lore, the Floyds owned slaves, but I have not been able to find any records to back this up, yet. Some information on this is provided in my post “Memory Monday: A Family Story.” Another Civil War-era mystery concerns the cause of death of several relatives who died during this time (it was probably from illness, but we do not know for sure): Nancy Finley Floyd, wife of George Floyd, who died in 1862, and Absalom C. Matlock and Nancy Malvina Harris Matlock, parents of Angeline Elizabeth Matlock, who died in 1865 and 1864.

Charles Augustus Floyd (1840-1894) (great-grandfather): He served as a private in Company F, 6th Texas Cavalry. I have his compiled service record. He enlisted on 9 September 1861 in Dallas, Texas. Then there is the “Floyd Family Legend,” according to which one Floyd brother served as a Confederate and another served for the Union; after the war, they farmed side by side but never spoke to one another again. I think this legend is pretty much busted; you can judge for yourself by clicking on the link to the post.

As indicated in the “Floyd Family Legend,” I do not know whether either of the other two Floyd brothers who would have been old enough to serve did serve or not (for either side):

David Harriet Floyd (1836-ca 1867): No record.

Henry Oscar Floyd (1843-1862): See my post on “Henry Oscar Floyd.” He is The Big Question. If one of the Floyd brothers did serve for the Union, he would probably be the one (he reputedly died in Illinois in 1862), but I haven’t found any records for him.


I suspect the father of Susan Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith Bonner Brinlee, my great-grandmother, may have served in the Civil War. But I don’t know, because I have not yet found her family.

I would love to have appended a beautifully written list of sources at the end of this post, but it is getting closer and closer to midnight and this is a big honking article with a whole bunch of sources. If you are interested in the sources for any of this information, just contact me and I will provide them.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Greta. There's so much to cover - just found another uncle's Confederate service record yesterday. I suspect more Confederates will show up now that I'm actively looking.

  2. I think these kinds of posts have to be lengthy. If one had family in the states during that period of time, then one had many male relatives who served - on one side or the other.

    Now I am going over to read about your "Floyd Family Legend." I must have missed that one previously, and am quite curious...

  3. Susan - yeah, funny how those records seem to multiply out there. Some are getting easier to obtain, too. I remember ordering five Texas pension applications some years ago; how I can get them on Ancestry!

  4. Dee - The Legend apparently resembles a common family story; I think it's "busted" but I suspect it has its roots in the many family squabbles. And you're right about having a lot of male relatives who served, especially since the families tended to be larger then.

  5. You have a very nice blog!!

    I am passing on to you the "One Lovely BLog Award"

    You can stop by my blog and grab your award and passit on to blogs you find lovely.

  6. You have a lot of research ahead of you Greta but I bet it be a lot of fun finding all the answers.

    Thanks for sharing all this in the Challenge!

  7. Keeper - Thank you so much - you have made my day!

    Bill - Thanks for issuing this challenge. I think it has gotten all of us genea-bloggers with Civil War ancestors into the spirit - I am hoping that as I read what they have found and are going to be finding, I will get some ideas on where to get more information on my own guys - maybe some of their ancestors will have been in the same units as mine were!