Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Strength In What Remains Behind, July 19, 2011

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.
~William Wordsworth

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from Indiana, where Cindy have been on a genealogical journey that is nearing its end. Among the places we visited were Wabash, Indiana, the home of GGgrandfather William Shepard and birthplace of his son William Elmer Shepard; and Spencer, Indiana, the birthplace of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard and home to many of our Davis kinfolk.

The first picture shows me and a Davis second cousin Ruth Fortner, who still lives in Spencer. She and Cindy and I spent an afternoon visiting some ancestral graves in the civil New Union Cemetery outside Spencer last Sunday.

William Shepard in the Civil War. I mentioned in my last post that GGgrandfather William Shepard's Civil War service began when he enlisted in Wabash, Indiana, September, 1861. As part of the 2nd Indiana Cavalry he traveled to Indianapolis, then Louisville, then Bowling Green, Kentucky where they saw their first fight with the rebels. The 2nd Cavalry then went on to serve bravely in other places until 1865 when the war ended. William's service was cut short, however, with an injury sometime in the winter or spring of 1862. The historical record does not say exactly where or when he was injured. But since he was hospitalized in Evansville, he probably was injured at Bowling Green, Kentucky in February, 1862 when Union forces (including him) stormed that city and drove out the confederates. Evansville was the closest military hospital to Bowling Green. Had William been injured any later in the war he would have been taken to some other hospital.

In an Evansville Hospital. So he was hospitalized in Evansville, probably in February, 1862 and began his recovery from a serious arm injury. Back home in Wabash, also in February, 1862, his wife Mary Shepard gave birth to William's son and named him William Elmer Shepard. (More about his wife Mary Shepard in my next post.) I wonder: sometime that spring, when little William and she were able to travel, did she make the 265 mile journey from Wabash to Evansville to see her soldier-husband in the hospital and show him his new child? It would not have been an easy journey, and may not have even been attempted.

In any case it must have been a difficult and painful time of recovery for William. Infection and disease were rampant. Many more Civil War soldiers died in hospitals than died on the battlefield. William hung on as long as he could, but after 5 months in the hospital he succumbed to Typhoid Fever on July 22, 1862 and was buried in the historic Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville.

At Oak Hill Cemetery. We visited his grave earlier today. (See the second picture of William's grave, and the third picture of a cemetery angel presiding over the graves.) It is in a beautiful section of the cemetery with hundreds of other Civil War graves, a solemn, well-kept place that holds memories of love and family, of pain and heartbreak that we will never know, but can only imagine. It was sobering to realize that William's remains still lay beneath that weathered, 149 year old headstone. But it was inspiring to ponder how something of his spirit resides in those of us descended from him. What part of his courage and bravery, his love of family and country, his longing for home, do we carry within us?

Happy Birthday Desiree. Earlier this month on July 6, Desiree Ortiz celebrated a birthday. She is the wife of Jeremy Ortiz and lives with her family in Blue Springs, Missouri. Birthday wishes to Desiree!
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