Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial: April 20, 2011

I have been sustained
by three saving graces - 
my family, my friends, and a faith
in the power of resilience and hope.
~Elizabeth Edwards

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from San Diego. This month of April marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. Ironically, this anniversary falls during the week that many Christians call Holy Week, with Easter this coming Sunday.

Numerous persons in our family tree were veterans of the Civil War, which continues to be of great interest to family researchers. One writer has said that more books have been written about the American Civil War than anything else in history, except the Bible. The 1860s was a time in history when many American families were forever changed, in ways that are still felt today. The following are just two instances of people in our family that were dramatically affected, stories that show "the power of resilience and hope".
1915 picture of my Grandfather,
William Shepard (1888-1976)

A Family Disconnected. I have written several times in this blog about my GGgrandfather, Civil War soldier William Shepard (1835-1862) of Wabash, Indiana. (See first picture from 1915, of the soldier William Shepard's grandson, MY grandfather, also named William Shepard.)

What you may not know is that William from Wabash enlisted in the Union Army September 12, 1861 and served in the 41st Regiment (Indiana Second Cavalry), and began his active service in December, 1861 in Indianapolis. His regiment spent the early winter near Louisville, Kentucky, and in February joined with General Buell's army and moved further south to Nashville, Tenn. Meanwhile, back home in Wabash, on February 2, 1862, his wife gave birth to a son, William Elmer Shepard.

Battle of Shiloh, April, 1862
During April and May of 1862 William Shepard's unit was part of fierce battles that took place at Shiloh, Corinth, Pea Ridge, and Tuscumbia in the area around Southern Tennessee. During one of these engagements, he was injured. An old family legend has it that his arm was shot off in a cannon blast. Whatever the actual injury, and wherever it actually occurred, William was hospitalized in Evansville, Indiana. Then on July 21, 1862, just 10 months after enlisting, he died of Typhoid Fever during his hospital stay, and was laid to rest in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville.

As expected, in time the widow Shepard remarried. When her war baby William Elmer became a teen he found himself engaged in his own conflict, this one with his step-father. As a result, sometime in the 1870s William Elmer ran away from home, first to Illinois where he eventually married into the Owens family of Madison County, and then, later in life, to Beaver County, Oklahoma, where he died Feb, 1915. After leaving Indiana as a teen, he was disconnected from his birth family for the rest of his life. That war-related family conflict must have left painful scars not only for William Elmer, but for the Indiana family he left behind. It has also has made it very difficult today to discover our Shepard roots.

Another family related Civil War story. Just one month before the start of the Civil War, my GGGgrandmother Roena Norton gave birth to a baby girl in a small town in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. Roena was an unmarried teenage girl who disappeared under mysterious circumstances not long after her daughter Finetta was born.

A family legend has it that Roena's step-father David Dearien was responsible for Finetta's birth, and for the subsequent disappearance of his step daughter Roena. These sad events occurred in the early months of the Civil War, which was a dangerous time of rogue lawlessness. I can't help but wonder if the war time atmosphere in Northern Arkansas made Roena's disappearance a lot easier to accomplish, and to remain an unsolved mystery.

The third picture, from the 1940s, shows Finetta Clementine (Dearien) Shannon, Roena's baby girl, much later in life. Behind her is Finetta's youngest daughter, my grandmother, Nola Shannon Gower.

Family Reunion. The above stories are about 2 War-time babies who suffered tragic disconnection from their parents, which makes our connections and reunions today all the more poignant. Our 2011 Shepard Family reunion in Anacortes, Washington is just four months away. Select this link for details. We are hoping that many Shepards and Gowers and Davises and Boyds and other related family members will attend.

Are there other family reunions being planned for members of related families? The Kilpatricks used to have a big family reunion every couple of years, but I have not heard of any events in recent years. If any of you have information about upcoming family gatherings, please pass the word.

No comments: