The Civil War

Annie Allan Paton, in her Memoirs (Paton, 1930), wrote personal reflections on the Civil War and the fate of her brothers, David, John, and William. This experience of a Scotch Settlement pioneering family during the war years is a valuable contribution worth quoting in detail (edited for relevance to the Civil War topic):

“And now we are nearing the 1860’s. The portentous storm that is about to burst over our country is arousing fear. The people are being separated into two great parties and slavery causes the cleavage. “Squatter sovereignty,” “secession,” “the Dred Scott decision,” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” are factors in hastening its coming.
“Father’s radical democracy placed him strongly on the side of the slave. “Every man is a ‘man for a’ that,” he would say and not a Fourth of July would he celebrate as long as there was one unfreed man left in the United States.
“. . . It was natural that during the presidential campaign of Buchanan and Freemont, Lincoln and Douglas, the political tension in our family was great. Freemont’s defeat was a calamity, Lincoln’s election was a glorious triumph. Excitement ran high. There were the long processions to neighboring towns to hear speeches, “the wide awake” nightly demonstrations, Horace Greeley’s Tri-Weekly Tribune, and the evenings spent reading it at gatherings of the neighbors.
“Then came the enlisting of my two oldest brothers, David and John. They consulted Father in regard to it and William, a younger brother, always impulsive, spoke up and said that he would run away and enlist himself if they did not, otherwise he would remain at home to help on the farm. The morning of parting came and at family worship I remember we tried to sing “Blest be the Tie that Binds.”
“Another year and William, though under age, also enlisted, and the way of it lived in my mind throughout the war.
“Mother and I were in the summer kitchen getting breakfast and William was sitting on the red kist drawing on his heavy boots before going out to do the chores, when Mother said something that angered him, some little thing, I don’t remember what. They had never gotten along very well together--they were too much alike--even though I believe he really cared more for Mother than any of the others did. This morning, instead of answering back he got up and walked into the north bedroom, returned with his best shoes and put them on without a word. Then taking his hat and coat from the hook he left the house.
“That afternoon Sandy ran in shouting, “William’s enlisted!” I went out to the corncrib and sat staring until someone came and took me to supper, I suppose I must have been there hours.
“It was nearly a week before William left to join the Third Regiment of Calvary. I went with him in the afternoon to Libby Hegel’s to say good-bye and I think we stayed to supper. Then there were a few moments at home again before it was time to go. Father walked a piece with him through the swamp, I watching from the window, and when they were out of sight I turned and heard myself say to Mother, “If William is killed you will be his murderer!”
“Shocked by my own words I went about clearing the dishes. Mother said nothing. But she must have told Father when he returned for he came to me later. He was very kind.
“Annie lass,” he said as if he were tired’ “Ye should no’ be telling all that ye think and feel,” and left me with my own remorse.
“There followed a difficult time of letters that came from the front and those that did not come. (William seldom wrote at all but we learned he was with the army of the West, mostly in Arkansas and Texas. My older brothers were in the East). The dread of battles to be and the ignorance of the fate of our boys in battles already fought, the fleeing of neighbors to Canada to escape the draft--”Skeedaddlers” as they were called--the division of the community into Republicans, Democrats, and Copperheads, the services in the churches for those killed in battle, all these things, with the news from the seat of war sadly discouraging at times, continued for three years. But every morning a prayer went up from Father that God would be with his soldier boys.
“Going one time to town for our mail two weeks after the battle of Chickamauga in which David and John (as we supposed) fought, I overheard two of our Copperhead neighbors gloating over the fact that many of our boys had there “bit the dust.” (editors note: Copperheads wanted a peaceful resolution to the conflict- they ere opposed to the war). As we did not know yet the fate of “our boys” my feelings toward these men were better left unsaid. (We learned later my brothers had not been engaged in that battle after all).
“. . . Sherman’s march to the sea broke the backbone of the rebellion and our boys were soon safe and sound in Washington, shortly to be discharged . . . Both John and David were mustered out. Time passed but no word came from William. Then the Marshall boys who had been his comrades in the West came home and told us that he was sentenced to the dry Tortugas for insubordination.
“An officer had reprimanded him for wearing unpolished boots and William retorted,, “If you want them cleaned you’ll have to do it yourself.”
“He had enlisted, he maintained, for three years or the duration of the war. The war was over, and he could do as he pleased. Naturally the officer did not agree. As it proved, however, there was so much discontent among the men that the government was forced to let down the bars and William with many others escaped his sentence, though we did not learn this until he came home in March, months later.
I was wakened in the middle of the night by the sound of a step outside. I listened and felt it was William’s. Dressing hurriedly I went downstairs just in time to see him bending over the bed in the recess to kiss Mother and father, and I realized in a wave of relief that he must have forgiven her for that day so long ago. Truly the war was over.” (Annie Allan Paton, 1930)

The Civil War resulted in more military deaths than in any other war in American history. This is party because you have to count the dead on both sides of the conflict; everyone who died was an American. 625,000 died over four years in the Civil War, 599 people a day. More soldiers died in World War Two in combat, while two thirds of the deaths in the Civil War occurred because of disease, malnutrition, in barbaric surgical facilities, and in awful prison conditions (similar to Nazi concentration camps).

Here is a comparison of deaths in American wars:

Civil War: 625,000 deaths over four years; 599 day.
World War Two: 405,399 deaths over four years, 416 a day.
World War One: 116,516 deaths over two years; 279 a day.
Vietnamese War: 58,209 deaths over a 20 year period; 26 a day.
Korean War: 36,516 deaths over 3 years; 45 a day.
Revolutionary War: 25,000 deaths over 8 years; 11 a day.
War of 1812: 20,000 deaths over 2 years; 31 a day.

"To the call for men during the war for the Union, Almont responded with energy and enthusiasm, two companies being organized here and many men being furnished to other organizations, and not a few of her sons sealed their patriotism with their blood." (Hamilton, 1876)

It is easy to stare at a list of names of Civil War dead without much emotion- many years have passed, world wars have come and gone. Few of us can trace our family line to relatives who fought in the war. So I was surprised at my emotions as I stared at the death of a Civil War infantry man, James Wallace... and then, with a start, realized that this man was a relative of mine.

There he was in the 1860 Federal Census for Lapeer County, Michigan, age 48, a native of Scotland, living in the Scottish Settlement with his brother's family. I couldn't find him in the 1870 census. I wondered if he had gone back to Scotland, because he didn't show up in any of the states. I went back to the family Bible for the Wallace Family and had another look. The Bible record said that James was born on August 27, 1811, in Riccarton, Scotland, and he died June 27, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia! I had looked at that record dozens of times and never made the connection: James died in the Civil War at age 50 (the record below says that he enlisted when he was 40; this conflicts with census records).

"Wallace, James, Lapeer County, Enlisted in Company C, First (Michigan) Infantry, October 20, 1861 at Fort Wayne (Indiana?), for three years, age 40. Mustered November 2, 1861. Killed in action at Gaines's Mill, Virginia, June 27, 1862." (Bliss)

I did a quick scan of the war dead, just before retiring on the evening that I found James Wallace. Within moments, I found the name William A. Hamilton from Bruce Township, among the dead. I was surprised again at my emotional reaction to hear of William Hamilton's death. I didn't realize how attached I had gotten to the families in the Scottish Settlement. I had been watching their children die of cholera and the flu, watching the grandparent's names suddenly disappear from the census records, feeling the God-awful pain when a mother died during child birth. I felt connected to these Scottish pioneers.

I shouldn't have been surprised at the emotions when my imagination watched as William Wallace opened the government letter to read that his brother was dead. He must have wondered, through his grief and sadness, how a man could survive the Atlantic voyage, the harsh journey across the eastern states to Michigan, the trip across mosquito-infested swamp land to Almont, to struggle fifty years, and then die hundreds of miles away from any relative . . . fighting . . . for what? Not Scotland.

Then I recalled reading that the Hopkins family left the Scottish Settlement and moved to Canada because they were opposed to war. The Civil War drove them from the United States. They hadn't come all this way just to experience another war- they already had experienced a land embroiled in constant warfare. Part of the reason they left Great Britain, was to get away from this insanity.

Ever since I was a young man, I knew that the Earth was populated with the people who had moved away from wars. The individuals who were left to procreate, farm, and carry on life, were the ones who found a way not to get killed in this war or that war. I am not making a political statement, just a historical, genealogical observation. I can sympathize with the Hopkin's as they packed up and got out.

William B. Hamilton, the author of a Short History of Almont, and a prominent physician in the Scottish Community, also fought in the Civil War. He was a native of Scotland, having been born in Paisley on September 23, 1832. On August 9, 1862, William, at the age of 30 years, enlisted in the United States Army. He signed up in the city of Romeo, Macomb County. He entered the service in Captain Keeler's Company B, 22nd Regiment, Michigan Infantry, with the rank of sergeant. On September 20, 1863, while fighting at the battle of Chickamauga, with a rank of second lieutenant, Company F, he was taken prisoner along with a large contingent of his regiment. He underwent harsh conditions in various Rebel prisons, until he was paroled on March 1, 1864. He returned to his regiment and was given the rank of first lieutenant. William was mustered out of the service on June 28, 1865, and returned to Lapeer County to resume his civilian life.

14, 790 men from Michigan died in the Civil War; another 279 were missing in action (presumed dead). Familiar surnames pop up in the Civil War pension records. Robert A. Hamilton, from Lapeer lost the sight in his right eye and had poor vision in the left from war wounds. James A Ferguson from Romeo, g.s.w to his forearm. (g.s.w. stands for "general service wound"). David Paton from Almont, abdominal injury. Lucy A. Marshall from Metamora, widow's pension. Christopher Marshall, loss of sight in the right eye, Lapeer County. Charles McArthur, Columbiaville, injury to his right leg. George W. Gray, lost left arm, Lapeer County. Margaret Marr, widow's pension, from Romeo. McCalister Crawford, left knee injury, Romeo. Homer L. Ives, killed, 8th cavalry, Company G, died July 31, 1864, resident of Berlin Township.

As I researched individual families, I found more records of Civil War action. In the Taylor's memoir (the book is in the Lapeer City library), William Wallace Taylor served with Custer's Cavalry in the Civil war before returning to Almont where he became a successful banker. Alexander Taylor also served with Custer. He survived to farm land between Almont and Imlay City.

I began with a quote from Annie Allan Paton, so will end with another personal account written by her brother John who served in the Civil War:

"We (John Paton and his brother David) did not escape the excitment caused by the Civil War--both being interested in the preservation of the Union, and (I may say) especially in the destruction of African Slavery, which we believed to be the chief cause of the war. We enlisted together at Romeo, Michigan, on August 9, 1862, (according to the war record, though it was really two days later), and became members of Company B, 22nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry. When I went to the army, I bade my people goodbye, never expecting to see them again in this lfe; but hope developed as time went on.
"Our Captain, being democratic in principle, allowed the company to elect their own non-commissioned officers. By this plan I was made Corporal early in 1863, while we were at Nashville, Tenn. We continued in the regiment until October 22, 1863, a month after the battle of Chicamauga, when we were transferred into the United States Signal Corps, a position for which we had previously applied, and passed examination, and there served until after the close of the War.
We were still in the regiment at the time of the Battle of Chicamauga. Our company was detailed for guards at the Head Quarters of both General Thomas and General Granger, after we started for the field of battle, September 19, 1863; so that we did not go into battle. Before we left camp near Rossville, Georgia we heard the booming of artillery, and the rattle of musketry like hailstones on the roof. My brother had a boil on his foot, and could not walk, and so was left in camp. I was glad he could not go. I had a sad feeling as I left him that morning, thinking that I was going into the battle, and that I might never see him no more. But I hoped at least one of us might be spared. We saw many of our comrades for the last time that morning.
"In the Signal Corps, we were at the Head Quarters of the 14th Army Corps, (in the Army of the Cumberland), for a time, until the taking of Atlanta. Then we were with General Slocum, commanding the Left Wing of the Army of Georgia, in Sherman's march to the Sea, and from Savannah, Georgia to Washington, D.C. being there in time to see the Grand Review in May. We enjoyed the Signal Corps work better than the work in the regiment. We had a better chance to take care of ourselves, and we knew more of what was being done."On December 13, 1864, when we were before Savannah, I was announced as an "Acting Sergeant," and was made Sergeant on March 1, 1865. In order to get the needed work done, I seldom, if ever, had to use authority with either my comrades or the colored servants. I habitually asked them to do what was needed, and was successful.
"At Washington, May 15, my officer, Captain H.W. Howgate, offered to get me a furlough for thirty days, which I accepted, and spent most of the month of June at home. During that month General Sherman's Headquarters were moved to St. Louis, Mo. and our party of the Signal Corps went with him; so when my furlough expired, I went to St. Louis, and we were there discharged on July 10 and came home by the way of Chicage. David and I enlisted together, served together, helped each other, slept together nearly all the time, and were discharged together.
"I am glad to say that, though often exposed to danger from flying bullets and bursting shells, I was never wounded, and never fired a gun at any human being, never being placed where I was expected to do so. I have always been glad that the purpose for which I enlisted was carried out.
"My greatest danger seemed to be from occasional hard marching, exposure to bad weather, and scarcity of food. My greatest trouble was dysentery, on account of which I spent about two weeks in the "Field Hospital," near Chattanooga, just after the Battle of Chicamauga. Then, though not yet able for duty, our doctor (McConnell) gave me permission to return to my brother in the camp, with an "Excuse from duty" good until I chose to report.
"For about two weeks we almost starved, until the day of our transfer to the Signal Corps--October 22. Our trouble then was that the Confederates held control of both the river and the railroad, so that the supplies for the army had to be brought from Bridgeport, Alabama, sixty miles away, over muddy and mountainous roads. A change soon came, because of the enemy being dislodged by the Battle of Lookout Mountain--part of which was fought above the clouds of which we were witness by telescope from Cameron's Hill, in Chattanooga, Tenn., where we had a Signal Station."