Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chapter 33 - The Ancestors of Christie MacDonald Gillespie


My mother died in February of 1973 after several years of battling cancer. She was only 56 years old when she finally succumbed to the inevitable. My father surprised us somewhat when not long after my mother’s death he began dating although now that I am 15 years older than my father was when my mother died, I now realize that my father at 56 years old was still a young man and very much an eligible widower. His decision to start dating again was really quite normal although some of his early choices of dates scared us a bit like his dating the chatty ex-wife of one of his long time friends and a date(s?) with one of our office secretaries. But soon enough he regained his sea legs and finally in the fall of 1974 he married a lovely woman by the name of Christie Gillespie Fanton. I had the unexpected and fortunate role of serving as his best man.

My father and my new step-mother enjoyed 26 years together until my father’s death in the year 2000. Chris outlived him by only two years. My wife and I had been married only five years when Chris joined our family and for our two sons who were very young when their grandmother died, Chris was the only grandmother that they knew while they were growing up from my side of the family. Since Chris was such an important person in our family I thought that it would be fun and after all it is my hobby, if I spend time exploring her ancestors. What I learned about her family tree was fascinating and a worthy subject for this next chapter in my family history blog. I also need to point out that one of Chris’s sons married my sister. This means that my nieces and my grand nieces and nephews are all direct descendants of all of the individuals whose stories are covered in the following pages.

James J Gillespie (1825-1889) Chris’s great grandfather

James J. Gillespie and Diana Hawthorne Mitchell (1829-1905) were the great grandparents of Christie MacDonald Gillespie. Her great grandmother Diana immigrated to America with her parents, Joseph and Agnes Mitchell, and her six siblings from County Down, Ireland in 1847. Their arrival from Liverpool, England on the SS Bargue Louisa Bliss at the Port of Philadelphia on June 5th of that year was probably followed almost immediately by a long and exhausting train ride from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh a distance of almost 400 miles. Trains through Pennsylvania in the 1840s were just beginning to replace canals as the preferred mode of public transportation although at this early point in their development, trains were slow, conditions on board the trains were filthy and probably hot during the summer, and passengers were required to change trains on numerous occasions. It is even possible that some portion of the family’s long trip across the state to Pittsburgh was interrupted by their having to transfer to a canal barge where rail service had not yet been made available to make their way via the canal to the next town where train service resumed. The Mitchell family had left Ireland at the height of the Irish Potato Famine. While it is estimated that a million of the 8 million Irish population starved to death in Ireland during the period of the famine from 1845 to 1850, the worst of the famine problems occurred in the southern and western parts of the island. The Mitchell family lived in County Down in Northern Ireland which while affected by the country’s problems was far less affected that other sections of the country. There is enough prima facie evidence to suggest that Thomas Mitchell and his family were not starving indigent farmers forced to leave Ireland for their survival. In fact quite the opposite is true for several reasons. First, it seems apparent that Thomas Mitchell had a plan when he left Ireland and that plan was to sail to America and settle in Pittsburgh. We know in hindsight that many Irish immigrants who settled in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County during the time period surrounding the potato famine, did not come as a direct result of the famine since most of the new immigrants came from the more prosperous counties in Ireland such as County Down and Ulster. Most of the Irish arriving in the Pittsburgh area were already skilled tradesmen and they came seeking the many new jobs in the area such as in the coal, steel and boat building industries. We can also surmise that Thomas Mitchell was comfortable enough financially to afford the cost of passage for his entire family to America plus the added cost of transportation to Pittsburgh. Finally, in the 1850 U.S. Census we find Thomas Mitchell living in what appears to be a single family home in Pittsburgh with his entire family as well as a young 28-year old Irish girl with a different surname who is most likely a household servant. This suggests that he was not forced out of Ireland for any reason other than to take advantage for himself and his family of the better conditions in America. Thomas was 50 when he arrived in America; his young daughter Diana who would soon marry James J. Gillespie, was listed on the handwritten ship’s manifest as a 20-year old female.

The early background of Diana Mitchell’s future husband, James J. Gillespie is a little more difficult to determine. Based on the US Census records from 1860 through 1880 we know that he was born in Ireland between the years 1624 and 1626. We also suspect that he emigrated from Ireland shortly after 1850 since we could not find him in the 1850 US census records. Furthermore, due to the commonality of his name, identifying him in the immigration records proved to be almost impossible. There were more than two dozen James Gillespie’s who immigrated to the United States from the British Isles around the 1850 period. Even the two most likely candidates, a James Gillespie who arrived in Philadelphia on June 5, 1847 and a James Gillespie who arrived in Philadelphia on January 16, 1850, may not be our James Gillespie since their listed birth years, 1827 and 1822 respectively, fall outside the range of birth years for James J. Gillespie listed in the census records. It is intriguing however, that the arrival date of June 5, 1847 for the one James Gillespie coincides exactly with the arrival date of his future wife Diana into the port of Philadelphia although we know that they arrived on different ships from different departure ports. Nevertheless, it would make a wonderful love story to discover that they met each other on the long train ride from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Alas, the actual truth shall remain a mystery.

There is strong circumstantial evidence to conclude that James J Gillespie like the Mitchell family was born in Northern Ireland. While there is some ongoing debate as to whether the surname “Gillespie” originated in Gaelic northern Ireland in the 5th century or in Scotland, in both cases there seems to be agreement that in Ireland the surname Gillespie is chiefly recorded in County Down, Providence of Ulster, in Northern Ireland. Even if the Gillespie ancestors originated in Scotland, they were probably among the 100,000 Scottish lowlanders who came to Ireland in the 17th century and settled in northeastern Ireland. It is even possible that our James Gillespie is related to the famous Irishman Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie (1766-1814) who was born in County Down and had an adventurous and distinguished career as a soldier in India where he was killed in action. Further evidence that James Gillespie was from Northern Island is that his family were Presbyterians and not Roman Catholics as were the vast majority of the Irish immigrants from other areas of Ireland during the period of the potato famine. One final and romantic speculation must be offered. Since it appears entirely possible that James J. Gillespie might have been born in County Down and we know that Diana Mitchell was born in County Down then we cannot entirely rule out the possibility that they may have known one another in Ireland and James followed her to America.

Despite the fact that we do not know the exact date of James Gillespie’s arrival in America, nor do we know how he met and when he married Diana, we know based on the census records that their first son Thomas Andrew Gillespie was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1852. That being the case, Thomas and Diana were probably married in the middle of 1851. When James Gillespie arrived in America he had already established his career as that of a carpenter. In the 1860 US Census he was listed as a “Master Carpenter” living in Pittsburgh’s 9th Ward. While there is no evidence that he ever served in the Civil War as a soldier, when he registered for the draft in the middle of 1863 he was listed as a white
“carpenter”, age 40, born in Ireland and living in Pittsburgh’s 9th Ward. In both the 1870 and 1880 US Census records he is listed as a “Lumber Dealer”. We learn from a book titled “Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Centennial Year” published in 1876, that James Gillespie established in 1859 the firm of Gillespie and Mitchell that dealt in the manufacturing and sale of planed (finished) lumber. It is not clear as to who the Mitchell partner was as none of his Mitchell brother-in-laws appear to have been engaged in the lumber business at any time during their lives (per census records). Apparently, the partner must have been James’ father-in-law, Joseph Lindsey Mitchell, who probably loaned James the seed money to get his new business underway. The Gillespie and Mitchell factory was located on 21st and Railroads Streets in what is now downtown Pittsburgh and its location was ideally situated as it was directly on the Allegheny River and was surrounded by railroad tracks. This meant that the raw lumber (freshly cut trees) could be shipped in by barge down the river from the forested areas of western Pennsylvania and then unloaded directly onto the Gillespie and Mitchell factory docks.
Then after the trees were milled into “planed lumber”, they could be immediately loaded onto the train cars sitting on the adjacent railroad tracks for shipment to their customers. In the second half of the 19th century Pittsburgh was the epitome of a “factory town” and by today’s standards, an environmental disaster. The shorelines of the “three rivers” of Pittsburgh were lined with factories whose smokestacks polluted the air with carbon dust, and whose sewer drain pipes sent the untreated factory waste directly into the rivers. Many of the industries were huge contributors to the pollution especially the coal and steel industries that were to make Pittsburgh so famous. The residents of Pittsburgh, including the Gillespie and Mitchell families, lived nearby the factories and they must have experienced a daily “rain” of carbon dust on and into their homes, their yards, onto their freshly washed clothes that were hung out to dry, and no doubt into their lungs.

James J. Gillespie was probably not an educated man and it is possible that he was never taught to read and write or even sign his name. While we are not sure that it is our James Gillespie, there was a Naturalization paper signed on December 19, 1851 in the “Western District of Pennsylvania” by a “James Gillespie” from Ireland. He signed the form by placing his “Mark” on the bottom of the paper. We also know that at least two of James’ and Diana’s children, Thomas Andrew and David Lindsey Gillespie, had trouble in or never completed high school. On the other hand, both of these boys went on in their adult lives to become hugely successful businessmen, so I think that it is safe to assume that what James did was to embolden his children and these two boys in particular, with a keen business sense and the motivation and aggressiveness necessary to work hard and to let nothing stop them from achieving their goals.

Their son David Lindsey Gillespie, my stepmother Christie’s great uncle, went on to form his own lumber business in 1886 at the age of only 28. He ultimately became even more successful than his father and according to his biography included in the 1905 publication of the “American Lumbermen . . eminent lumbermen of the United States” he was “one of Pittsburgh’s leading and very successful businessmen. During its first year in the lumber business the Gillespie concern handled less than 3,000,000 feet, but in 1902 its output was 70,000,000 feet.” David Gillespie’s biography also tells us something about the end of his father’s business. It reads “The father was one of the largest retail dealers in western Pennsylvania, and until his mill burned down and serious financial difficulties followed, did the phenomenal business of those days, 3,000,000 feet a year.” According to the biography, the mill must have burned in 1775 because that is the year that David Gillespie stopped working for his father. While there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the biography with respect to the burning of the lumber mill, it is interesting to note that James Gillespie in the 1880 US Census, five years after the fire, still reported his occupation as that of a “lumber dealer” and in the 1876 publication referenced above about the centennial of Pittsburgh, it still lists the Gillespie and Mitchell Company as an existing lumber business. The factory probably did burn and James Gillespie probably did have financial difficulties trying to keep it going and maybe he was partially successful. He was however, 50 years old when the plant burned and perhaps his struggles thereafter to rebuilt his business may have accounted for his relatively early death at the age of only 64 on September 4, 1889. His wife Diana Mitchell Gillespie outlived her husband by 16 years finally passing away April 25, 1905. They are both buried in the Allegheny Cemetery located near their home and their business and a just few miles from the high rise buildings of present day downtown Pittsburgh.

My stepmother Christie’s grandparents, Thomas Andrew Gillespie (1852-1926) and Julia Burford Wall (1855- Aft 1940), were married in Pittsburgh on January 7, 1875. Their marriage is a fascinating combination of two individuals with two entirely different family backgrounds. Thomas’ family as we have seen, grew up in the heavy industry of Pittsburgh. They were hard driven businessmen with type A personalities and analytical thinkers who used the right sides of their brains. On the other side, Julia Wall’s brother, father, uncle, and grandfather were all artists who were all obviously creative thinkers. The modern belief is that predominately creative people use the left sides of their brains. So on January 5, 1875, the right brains headed up by Thomas’ father James Gillespie, socialized with the left brains headed up by Julia’s father William Coventry Wall (1810-1886). We could make up a great story about the wedding conversation, but we will not. Anyway, before we return to the Gillespie side of Christie’s family, we will have at look at the very interesting Wall side of her family.

William Wall (1767-1857) – Christie’s great, great grandfather

William Wall was born in Oxford, England in the year 1767. There is little known about his upbringing although some family historians believe that he was born to wealthy and educated parents and based on his later artisan calling, they might very well be right. The oldest son takes over the family business and the younger sons join the military, enter the ministry, or in William’s case, learn a trade. William was probably apprenticed at a young age and taught to paint and learn other art skills that were marketable such as working with stone carvings which were in high demand in England and used in the construction of cathedrals and other stone buildings possibly even at the university. He may also have been taught to sculpture the elaborate gravestones that were in common use in churchyard cemeteries throughout Oxfordshire.

William Wall was in his early 40s when he married 20-year old Lucy Hardiman around the year 1809. It seems likely that this was not his first wife although there are no known existing records to support an earlier marriage. Family historian Dr. Betty Jane McWilliams speculates that William meet his future wife while she was attending a school for young ladies that was being run by William’s mother. Whatever the circumstance of their meeting, William and Lucy had three children before they left England for America including Christie’s great grandfather William Coventry Wall who was born in April of 1810.

It is really a mystery as to what motivated William Wall to move with his family to America around the year 1820. Immigration to America from England and Europe in 1820 was practically at a standstill with only 8,385 new immigrants signing naturalization papers during that year. In 1820 the population of the United States is estimated to have been approximately 10,000,000 people with almost 99% of these American citizens born in this country. Unlike the early years of our country’s growth, there were no major driving forces in Europe such as persecutions or famines that motivated people to leave their homelands. During the decade of 1820 to 1830, only 143,000 new immigrants entered America. In the following decade of 1830 to 1840, immigration rose to 599,000 new arrivals, however in the 1840-50 decade immigration increased dramatically to 1,713,000 with almost 781,000 of the immigrants arriving from Ireland. We do not know what motivated William to leave England in 1820 but we know it was not likely due to poor conditions in Oxford or in England. On the other hand, beginning in the 1820s, the United States was gaining a reputation as an emerging industrial nation and this knowledge would probably have attracted artisans and skilled workers like William Wall to leave their homeland to try their luck in America.

It is still baffling as to why then 53-year old William Wall with his 30-year old wife and children, who ranged in age from 2 to 11, left their home in England. Once they arrived in New York City after their long voyage by sailing ship, they purchased a horse and wagon and proceeded to travel almost 400 miles over a system of dusty and rutted dirt roads to a new home in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania located about 45 miles southeast of the town of Pittsburgh. We have to wonder whether they had a master plan when they left England to eventually settle in Western Pennsylvania. If this were the case, the next mystery has to be why did the Wall family not sail directly to the Port of Philadelphia from England which would have been a far more logical thing to do if their plan was to settle in Mount Pleasant or Pittsburgh. By 1820 the final leg of the original “Pennsylvania Turnpike” was completed which allowed travelers a continuous trail from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, a distance of 330 miles (at least on Interstate 70 today) which was a significantly easier and shorter than the trip from New York. The evolution of transportation through Pennsylvania is an interesting study. From the time period following the American Revolution to around 1800, travelers crossing Pennsylvania had to make their way along old Indian trails or down rivers such as the Susquehanna. The first turnpike in Pennsylvania began in 1792 and it connected Philadelphia to Lancaster. “Turnpikes” were “private” roads constructed by private individuals or corporations who hoped to show a profit from the fees that they charged travelers who wished to use their turnpikes. It is estimated that between 1800 and 1830 there were almost 200 turnpike corporations in existence in Pennsylvania. These turnpikes were in many cases poorly constructed and the weather and their intensive usage took a heavy toll on the road surfaces. By the 1840s, in an effort to reduce their long term maintenance costs, the road owners began covering the road surfaces with wood timbers hence the term “Plank Roads” was coined. Notwithstanding the major expansion and improvements to the road system in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s, hauling supplies via the roads was very slow and very expensive. While canal construction had begun in Pennsylvania as early as the late 1700s, it was not until the completion of the Erie Canal in New York State in 1825 did Pennsylvanians begin to construct canals in earnest. Following a huge infusion of cash by the Pennsylvania Legislature, by 1840 the “Main Line” canal officially opened that allowed canal service between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. While hauling goods and travelers via canals was vastly less expensive, unfortunately, as is often the case in our capitalist system, canal traffic in Pennsylvania peaked about the time of the opening of the Main Line in 1840 with the expansion of railroads. Hauling by rail was even less expensive than by canal, it was faster, and unlike the canals, rail service could continue through the cold winter months. Obviously, William Wall was unable to take advantage of the benefits of travel by rail or canal in 1820 and his journey to Mount Pleasant must have taken many weeks. James Gillespie on the other hand who traveled to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia in 1850 and his in-laws who made the same trip in 1847 were transported in relative comfort and arrived by rail in a matter of days. Today a drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh takes around 5 hours and the flight time on US Airways can be accomplished in just over one hour.

Town lots were original laid out for the village of Mount Pleasant in the year 1797 although the farm land surrounding the new village had been occupied many years earlier. By 1810 most of the town lots were sold and the village contained 34 log homes as well as a number of businesses including an inn and tavern, a blacksmith shop and livery stable, and a mercantile and feed store, and of course, on Church Street the “Meeting House” (the church) and the graveyard. William Wall was not the only tombstone carver in the area when he arrived in 1820, although as the quality of his work attests, his services were undoubtedly in high demand. One of his earliest commissions and perhaps his finest carving (see photograph) was for the tombstone for a man named Clement Burleigh who had died in 1822. Burleigh was one of the leading citizens of Mount Pleasant and it was he who had donated the land for the Meeting House and the graveyard back in 1802. William Wall went on to carve many more tombstones in at least seven cemeteries in both Westmoreland and Fayette Counties. His stones are recognized because of his engraved “signature” on the tombstones as can be seen in the photograph of the Burleigh gravestone.

Just as we wondered why William Wall left “the majestic spires of Oxford” and migrated to America and to Mount Pleasant, we have to wonder why in the early to mid-1830s William decided to leave “the bucolic charm of Mount Pleasant” and relocate to the urban factory town of Pittsburgh noted for “Its dark, satanic mills” and as Charles Dickens noted when he wrote about the city in 1842 that it had a “great quantity of smoke hanging over it”. William Wall was in his mid-60s years at the time and it seems incredible that he would want to retire to such an environment. The population of Pittsburgh in the mid 1830s was approaching 20,000 and the filth from the factories and the additional traffic created by the growing population must have seemed like pollution was increasing on a daily basis. That hardly seems like an environment that would endear an artist. We do not know the exact year that William Wall and his family moved to Pittsburgh. What we do know is that his oldest son, 25 year-old William Coventry Wall, married a Pittsburgh girl, Catherine Anne Perry Westervelt, on August 26, 1835 which suggests that the family moved the city sometime prior to that date. William Wall may very well have moved to the larger city to improve employment opportunities for himself and more importantly, for his children’s future who in 1835 numbered six and ranged in ages from 5 to 25 years old. The only evidence suggesting that William continued his tombstone carving business in Pittsburgh is that he was listed as a “carver gilder” on the 1850 US census. He was 83-years old in that year and to my knowledge no one has located any of his carvings in any cemeteries in the Pittsburgh area. When William died at the age of 90 in 1857 he was buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh. Ironically and unfortunately no tombstone or great work of art was placed over his final resting place. His wife Lucy who survived her husband by eight years and at least three of their children, are buried in the same cemetery. Some historians have suggested that William Wall may have operated a school for artists both in Mount Pleasant and later in Pittsburgh. While we know of no documentation to support this belief, the knowledge that two of William’s sons, William Coventry Wall and Alfred S. Wall, went on to become nationally recognized artists, strongly suggests that their father both influenced his sons and most likely trained them in the art of painting. It is no real stretch of the imagination to assume that his teaching of art may have been extended to others.

William Coventry Wall (1810-1886) – Christie’s great grandfather

After William’s marriage to Catherine “Katie” Westervelt in August 1835, the couple apparently moved to Louisville, Kentucky where their first three daughters were born between the years 1836 and 1839 and where William operated a small arts and frame supply shop that specialized in “looking glass” or framed mirrors. The profits from the shop apparently helped William support his new and rapidly growing family while he continued to develop his skills as an artist. In 1841, William and his wife and three daughters returned to Pittsburgh where William again opened up a picture frame and arts supply store in the downtown area of Pittsburgh on 4th Avenue between Wood and Market Streets. According to Betty Jane McWilliams who wrote the book on the Wall family titled “The Four Walls”, newspapers at the time advertised William as a plain and fancy portrait and picture frame manufacturer and a seller of artist supplies, paintings, and engravings for sale. We have to wonder if possibly some of the engravings that were sold in the store were actually crafted by his father. William’s home fortunately was located across the Allegheny River in Allegheny City for in the morning hours of April 10, 1845 sparks from a outdoor fire started by a careless washerwoman started a fire at a nearby wooden structure at the southeast corner of Ferry and 2nd Street in downtown Pittsburgh and in a matter of minutes an out of control inferno was ignited that burned most of the day and destroyed almost one third of the “best half of the city”, almost 60 acres in total.
Hundreds of buildings including homes, factories, warehouses, stores, docks, and even a bridge were left in ruins including William C. Wall’s small shop that was located only a few blocks from where the fire began. While William probably lost the building and the entire contents of his store, the Great Fire of Pittsburgh of 1845 was for William at least sort of a blessing in disguise. Shortly following the fire William Wall painted several scenes of the city during the fire and of the destruction following the fire and he decided to have lithographs made of his paintings. The lithographs sold very well in cities as far away as Philadelphia and suddenly William found buyers starting to pay attention to his art work.

Over the next four decades William C. Wall crafted dozens of paintings and sketches. While he advertised that he would paint portraits and special paintings such as homes for a commission, his real love was that of landscape painting. In the late 1860s he was part of a group of local artists that included his brother Alfred S. Wall, who spent time together each summer painting scenes in a mostly unsettled area southeast of Pittsburgh near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This group of painters later became known as the Scalp Level Painters named after the borough of Scalp Level where they spent their time painting. During his lifetime, William traveled extensively painting landscape scenes in the Monongahela, Allegheny, Conemaugh, and Susquehanna River valleys in Pennsylvania and as far north as New York where he painted a scene along the Erie Canal and a view of the Niagara Falls. The exact number of paintings that William C. Wall painted and sold during his lifetime is not known although the number probably totals upwards of 50 to 60 or more. A search on the internet identified at least 40 of his major art pieces and that list likely excludes many of the paintings that he did on commission for private buyers as well as paintings that have been lost or not identified as his. It also excludes the many decorative banners that he painted for the local fire companies in the late 1840s and theater scenery paintings that he did for the Pittsburgh Company. It is also reported that William Coventry Wall along with an artist friend of his painted dozens of paintings for a luxury river steamboat, the Grand Republic, that ran down the Mississippi beginning shortly after the end of the Civil War.
The majority of Wall’s known paintings are held by individual art collectors although a number of them are in art galleries such as the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh where his famous paintings showing the Pittsburgh fire are on display. The current value of a William Coventry Wall painting is difficult to determine since his art work is seldom sold in public auctions and of course each painting in any case, would have a different value. It is estimated that a typical W.C. Wall painting will sell today for somewhere between $20K to $40K. On the other hand, his “View on the Allegheny River” (see painting to the left) sold for $59,375 in 2010 and his paintings showing the scenes of the 1845 Pittsburgh fire are worth considerably more.

One of his biographies that I encountered while researching William Coventry Wall described him as a “quiet family man.” I found this observation to be somewhat humorous and perhaps even contradictory considering that Wall had ten children and his life was constantly full of varied activities that must have taken up an enormous amount of his time. Not only was he consumed with his paintings, he also ran an artist supplies shop for much of his life and in 1850 he purchased a book store that he renamed Wall Book Depot. Furthermore, between 1856 and 1859 he worked in photography, he is listed as a member in the Masonic directory of the St John’s Lodge in 1860, and also in the 1850s he was elected President of the Buchanan and Breckenridge Club in Pittsburgh. James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge were President and Vice-President of the United States between 1857 and 1861, just prior to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, and they were Democrats who were known to have Southern sympathies, a rather unpopular position to hold in a Northern state like Pennsylvania just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. In fact, John C. Breckinridge was later appointed as Secretary of War for the Confederate States during the period of the Civil War. We will withhold any harsh criticism of William Wall’s political leanings particularly considering that James Buchanan was and still is the only President of the United States from Pennsylvania and it was natural that he would be supported by Wall particularly prior to his election. Unfortunately history considers the James Buchanan administration to be one of the worst administrations in the history of our country. Bottom line I guess is that William Coventry Wall was an extremely busy “quiet family man.”

William C. Wall’s last known painting, “The Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company of Homestead,” was completed in 1884. He was 74 years old at the time of the commission. The painting shows the steel plant with its rows of chimneys with black smoke rising in the air. At the time this was an accurate portrait of the steel plant and the painting probably greatly pleased the owners of the plant who had commissioned the painting. Today of course, environmentalist would be appalled at this scene and they would be demanding that our government shut down the plant (despite the fact that thousands of workers would immediately lose their job.)

William Coventry Wall died in a hospital on 19 November 1886. Two months earlier he had suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on one side. The ultimate cause of his death however, was listed as kidney failure. His legacy of course, are his numerous works of art but we also must be impressed by the nature of this man who worked hard all of his life to support his family and who freely and willingly passed down his talents to many younger artists who were to follow him.

Thomas Andrew Gillespie (1852-1926) – Christie’s great grandfather

Thomas Andrew Gillespie, the oldest son of James J. Gillespie and Diana Hawthorne Mitchell, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 1 July 1852. Based on a book by George T. Fleming that briefly describes a history of the Pittsburgh Central High School from 1855 to 1871, we learn or at least there is a suggestion in this book, that Thomas Andrew Gillespie did not graduate with his high school class of 1866. Whether Thomas later went back to earn his diploma is not known although he is not listed as an 1867 graduate and by the age of 16 (almost 17) in June of 1868 he went to work as a clerk for the Pittsburgh Gas Company. We strongly suspect that in the Gillespie family the importance of getting a good education was secondary to the importance of obtaining employment, maintaining a strong work ethic, and aggressively pursuing ones goals. If Thomas failed to complete his high school education it does not appear to have slowed down his meteoric rise in the business work and it would appear that well before his 50th birthday and before the turn of the century, Thomas Andrew Gillespie had amassed a net worth of well over a million dollars. He was undoubtedly aided in his efforts to gain wealth by our country’s lack of any federal income tax before 1894, at which time a 2% income tax was applied on personal income over $4,000, and by the almost total absence of Federal regulations, corporate oversight and corporate income taxes. Furthermore, the period of 1865 to around 1900 has been called the “Gilded Age” in American history as a result of the huge leap during these years in our manufacturing output and the strong economic growth in our country. In the article in Wikipedia that discusses this gilded age in our country’s history, the author notes that this period was an “epoch of tycoons.” He was referring to the fact that conditions in our country were ideal for entrepreneurs, men such as Thomas Andrew Gillespie, who were willing to take a risk, who if successful in their efforts were able to accumulate vast sums of money.

Thomas Andrew Gillespie remained with the Pittsburgh Gas Company for only two months before he changed jobs shortly after his 17th birthday and accepted a position with Lloyd & Black Iron Manufacturing in August of 1868. In 1871, again sensing a new opportunity he went to work for the relatively young firm of Lewis, Oliver & Philips, a manufacturer of iron, wagon, and heavy hardware. According to “The Story of Pittsburgh & Vicinity” published in 1908, Thomas Andrew Gillespie worked as a “traveling agent” for this firm which I interpret to mean that he was a salesman. For whatever reason, Thomas left the firm in 1879 after eight years and at the age of only 27 he opened up his own business which according to his biography in the book mentioned previously, his new company “manufactured iron bolts and kindred articles.” A very similar business to the one he just left. Perhaps Thomas may have disagreed with this description of his company for in the 1880 U.S. Census he told the census taker that he was a “Tank Manufacturer.” Whatever the exact nature of his business, it is not surprising to learn that in the first ten years of Thomas’ working career, he was engaged in one way or another in the iron and steel industry, the industry so closely associated with Pittsburgh.

On 7 Jan 1875, James Andrew Gillespie married Julia Burford Wall, the daughter of the well known Pittsburgh artist William Coventry Wall and his wife Catherine. It is fun to speculate but there is no way of knowing for sure when and where James met his future wife Julia. She was two years older than James and came from an entirely different background. Both Julia and James were probably still living with their parents just prior to their marriage, at least they were at the time of the 1870 U.S Census, and their parents were not living in the same neighborhoods. At the time of their marriage James was a 22-year old, struggling self-employed businessman and it seems unlikely that he met Julia at a social function. On a purely speculative basis, we believe that Julia meet James because she either worked for his company or for a related firm and their encounters eventually lead to romance and marriage. However they met, their first son, Thomas Howard Gillespie, was born nine months and 21 days after his parent’s marriage. They went on to have a daughter, Jean Gillespie, born in 1886, and two more sons, Henry Lloyd Gillespie, father of our Christie MacDonald Gillespie, born in 1878, and James Parke Gillespie, born in 1889.

Perhaps as a result of his growing family and the need to have a steady source of income, James Andrew Gillespie closed his business in 1884 and went to work for a man named George Westinghouse who had purchased a charter from a company named Philadelphia Company which included the rights to install natural gas to many of the wealthy homes in Pittsburgh. George Westinghouse, who several years later founded Westinghouse Electric, must have seen something in James A. Gillespie who was only 32 years old at the time. During the period that James Gillespie worked for the company as a primary supervisor, the company went on to install underground gas lines to thousands of homes in Pittsburgh. Clearly, this position gave Thomas Andrew Gillespie, the confidence and experience that he needed to forge forward on his own in the future. We suspect that an inheritance from his father who died in 1889 provided some additional capital which allowed him in 1890 to form his own contracting company, the T. A. Gillespie Company.

Sometime prior to June of 1890, probably in mid to late 1889, the Gillespie family relocated to the Town of West Orange in Essex County, New Jersey. Their new home was located on South Valley Road in West Orange in a neighbor of new and expensive Victorian style homes. According to the 1930 US Census, their home had an assessed value of $200,000 which would have an equivalent value today well in excess of $1 million. We know that their home was large simply by the fact that in 1890 it housed the Gillespie family of six plus six servants ranging in age of between 28 and 40 years old. In the 1930 US Census, the census taker wrote opposite the names of the occupants of their home which then consisted only of Julia Gillespie as Thomas had died in 1926, and her servants, the words “Silver Spring Estate.” We assume that this was what the family had named their house and grounds. Their original home which we believe has been long demolished was probably located in the area where Silver Springs Road intersects with South Valley Road. Homes in this area are currently valued in the $250K to $400K range and we believe that they are much smaller than the original Gillespie estate. Thomas Gillespie’s home in West Orange was located about 1-1/2 miles from Thomas Edison’s mansion. Julia Wall Gillespie sold her Silver Spring Estate home around 1935 and she moved in with her daughter Jean and her husband and her grand children who were living in New York City. Julia was still living at their home at the time of the 1940 US Census.

Between 1890 and the time of his death in 1926, Thomas Andrew Gillespie accumulated great wealth largely we believe as a result of the success of his construction company, the T.A. Gillespie Co. The company specialized in what might be called “heavy construction” projects as opposed to “building construction.” This work consisted largely of water, sewer, and gas pipelines which they constructed throughout the eastern United States, as well as the construction of canals, locks, reservoirs, and dams, pumping stations, tunnels including tunnels for water aqueducts as well as for subways systems in and around New York City. The adjacent photograph that was taken in 1906 shows T.A. Gillespie Company workers installing a water pipe in Pittsburgh. Some of their more famous construction projects included several multi-million dollar contacts that were part of the construction of the Catskill Aqueduct built to transport water from the Catskills to New York City that was constructed between 1907 and 1916. T.A. Gillespie Company not only constructed a 4-1/2 mile underground aqueduct but in another contract provided a 1,200 foot tunnel for a portion of the water aqueduct installed under the Hudson River. In other large contracts the T.A. Gillespie Company built a huge water infiltration plant for the City of Pittsburgh, a canal at Messena on the St Lawrence River, and major subway tunnels both in New York and Brooklyn. The company was so highly respected that they were asked to joint venture with the MacArthur Company to submit a bid on the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906. MacArthur Company was one of the lead contractors on the construction of the Catskill Aqueduct and obviously had been so impressed with Gillespie’s work on the Aqueduct project that they invited Gillespie to work with them on constructing the Panama Canal. Unfortunately for both companies, their offer was not the low bid.

In 1913, the T.A Gillespie Company along with a few other firms was investigated by a committee of the New York Legislature for possible corruption, namely a charge that these firms had offered bribes to public officials to obtain public construction contracts principally for the construction of the New York subway system. No evidence of corruption was uncovered. What was really interesting in the course of the hearings were the comments offered by Theodore P. Shonts, President of the Interborough Rapid Transit, with respect to Thomas Andrew Gillespie and his company. These comments included the following statements: “Gillespie is the greatest sub-surface expert living in the work,“ and “ The greatest water pipe man in the engineering work,” and finally “. . a great organizer, great driver, and very skillful in the part of the work we had to do with opening all of the street.” It would seem that Thomas Andrew Gillespie’s success was clearly a result of his ability and the effectiveness of his company.

It also seems that Gillespie’s success was also due to his willingness to take high risks under circumstances where success might lead to high financial rewards. The type of construction contacts that he accepted were inherently risky and undoubtedly yielded profits in the 15% to 25% range. We also see that Thomas Gillespie invested in numerous other types of businesses. We encountered a few that we will mention although there were probably many others. In the early 1890s, Gillespie invested in the Central Tractor Company which operated a cable car in the City of Pittsburgh. In 1894, we find Thomas A. Gillespie listed as Treasurer of a company named American Steel Forge Company that manufactured wagon hardware. In 1914, Gillespie entered into a garbage collection contract with the City of New York. Thomas Gillespie concluded before he accepted the contract that he could recycle the garbage and actually sell the recycled end products which he thought would be grease and fertilizer, at a profit. One of the garbage collection contract terms was that he would pay the city for the right to collect the garbage. Unfortunately this little business failed and he ended up losing a lawsuit with the City and paying them $110,000. The largest and most visible of Thomas Andrew Gillespie’s extracurricular business operations was his $12.7 million dollar contact with the United States Government in 1917 to manufacturer munitions for the War, World War I. Unfortunately this business which operated at a plant in Middlesex County, New Jersey, ended rather dramatically on 4 October 1918 when an explosion caused a fire which set off a series of subsequent explosions over the next three days. Not only was the large manufacturing plant completely destroyed but hundreds of homes and other buildings surrounding the plant were also destroyed. Over 100 people died and hundreds more were injured. Thomas Andrew Gillespie obviously lost his huge investment in the T.A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant. There is no record of any civil or personal lawsuits against Thomas Gillespie although it is known that the US Government paid out millions of dollars to area residents to cover the damages. After the war we do not hear much about the T.A. Gillespie Company and Thomas A. Gillespie. Thomas listed his occupation in the 1920 US Census as a “Manufacturer” and from other sources we know that he appears to have partnered with his old boss in some way, George Westinghouse, to manufacture washing machines. In 1920 Thomas Gillespie was 68 years old and he was undoubtedly considering retirement or at least refraining from taking an active role in managing his businesses.

What exactly happened to the T.A. Gillespie Company after 1920 and after Thomas Andrew Gillespie’s death in 1926 was not determined. We know that all three of Thomas’ and Julia’s sons were involved in the business at one time or another as was their daughter’s husband, their son-in-law, Harry Seaver Jones. Their oldest son Thomas Howard Gillespie and their son-in law, H. Seaver Jones, appear to have continued in the contracting business after Thomas’ death and most likely they worked together. In the 1920 Census they were both involved probably with Thomas in setting up the washing machine manufacturing business but then in both the 1930 and the 1940 census records they listed themselves as contractors, in one case as “Building Industrial” and in other case as “Contacting Municipal Line.” It is unclear what their second oldest son, Henry Lloyd Gillespie, did for a living although in 1917 he was listed as the Assistant General Manager of the T.A. Gillespie Shell Loading Plant a position that abruptly ended in 1918, and in the 1920 Census he listed himself a “Building Contactor Houses.” Henry died in 1929. There will be more about his life below. We know the least about the occupations of their third son and youngest child, James Parke Gillespie. In the 1930 Census, he was listed as a manufacturer of “Connector Machine [bolts?]” which was probably one of his father’s companies. No occupations are mentioned for him in the 1920 and 1940 census records. It does appear that none of his sons had the skills and drive of their father. It would also seem likely that the sons and the daughter inherited large sums of money when their father passed away in 1926 which by itself eliminated some or most of the need for them to carry on the business as a source of income and wealth at least in the manner that Thomas Andrew Gillespie pursued that goal.

We know from our research that Thomas Andrew Gillespie’s life was not all work and no play. He was a chairman or director of a number of unrelated companies to his own business which reflects the respect that others had of his abilities. He was a member of a number of associations and societies and he was an active member of the Presbyterian Church. For recreation he was an avid golfer and he loved the “sport” of motor boating and racing. From 1911 to 1913 he was Commodore of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club near his summer home on Basswood Island in the Thousand Islands that he had purchased in 1897. His summer home was described by one source as a “palatial summer home.” In a newspaper article dated 18 August 1907 it is reported that “Society will be out in force Monday afternoon, when the annual lawn fete for the benefit of the Boys Club of Clayton will be held at the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Gillespie at Basswood Isle, nearly opposite this resort. The affair is always one in which the society set of the Thousand Island has shown the greatest interest.” Another article in the New York Tribune dated 25 July 1920 reports that “. . .a pleasant incident of the week was the picnic which Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Gillespie gave to about fifty guests.” We find again another article, this time in the Watertown Daily Times in June of 1920 that informs us that Thomas Andrew and Julia Wall Gillespie’s son, Thomas Howard Gillespie was the vice President of the Thousand Island Yacht Club and that visiting the club at that time was their son Henry Lloyd Gillespie and his wife, the former Christie MacDonald “of musical comedy fame.” What it does not say but I am sure was true, that also with Henry and Christie Gillespie was their six year old daughter Christie MacDonald Gillespie, my stepmother.

Thomas Andrew Gillespie was 73-years old when he died at his home on 28 January 1926.

Christie MacDonald (ca 1877-1962) – Christie’s Mother

All biographies that we researched on the life of Christie MacDonald listed her as born in Pictou, Nova Scotia on 28 February 1875 and the daughter of John MacLean MacDonald, a shipbuilder, mariner, and innkeeper, and Jessie MacKenzie. Unfortunately despite hours of research I could not find anything to collaborate her birth year of 1875 other than the statement in her various biographies that she began her stage career at age 17 in the year 1892 which conveniently places her birth year at 1875. Almost all other public records with respect to her birth year suggest that she was born later and if we accept as accurate the 1900 U.S. Census records that report her birth as February 1878, then in reality when she started her stage career in 1892 she would have been only 14 years old. This might suggest that her mother may have lied about her age so that her much too young daughter would be allowed to perform but we do not think that this was the case. There is however, sufficient evidence to strongly suggest that the birth year of 1875 is not accurate. The US and NYS census records in 1900, 1915, 1920, 1930 and 1940 show the year of Christie’s birth as 1878, 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1884 respectively and not surprisingly as Christie MacDonald got older she reported the year of her birth to the census takers as being later which made her much younger than her actual age. When Christie MacDonald Gillespie traveled overseas with her daughter in 1929 she reported on the ships log that she was born on February 28, 1880 and then a year later in the 1930 census she reported her birth as 1882. Even this birth year would have made her only 10 to 12 years old when she first appeared on stage in 1892 and it is obviously a fabricated birth year on the part of Christie. On the other hand, her marriage record to William Jefferson in 1901 shows her as being 23 years old or born in 1878. Apparently William and Christie traveled to Europe on several occasions and on the ship’s manifest on one of the voyages in 1905, Christie MacDonald Jefferson again reported herself as being 23 years old. It appears that she did not age a bit between her marriage date of 1901 and 1905. Her death certificate reports that she was 85 years old when she died in 1962 which would suggest a birth year of 1877. This date shows that at least her family members believed that she was not born as early as 1875 and we suggest that Christie MacDonald’s actual birth probably occurred on 28 February 1877. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary as to her birth year, the New York Times reported in her obituary that when she died in 1962 she was 87 years old. Perhaps we will never know the truth but assuming that 1877 is the correct year of her birth, this would have made her a very young performer on the stage at only 15 and as one observer noted she was “dainty as a moss rose.” Besides, who says a woman does not have the right to fib about her age although it does appear that Christie may have taken this “right” to the extreme.

The Cambridge Chronicle writing a brief story on 12 March 1898 about Christie MacDonald’s career reported that she came to Boston [with her mother and sister] when she was only nine years old and the family settled on Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill in the late 1800s was a far cry from the high-cost living area that it is today and it was in fact a location in Boston where many new immigrants in the late 1800s chose to live. Sometime in late 1895 or early 1896, the family relocated to Cambridge where the city directories in the years 1896 thru 1898 show them residing at 30 Massachusetts Avenue. Accepting that Christie MacDonald was born in 1877, then she moved to Boston around the year 1886. Since it does not appear that she was accompanied to Boston by her father John MacLean MacDonald, (at least her mother is listed as a widow in the 1896 city directory), it is possible that he may have died sometime before their departure and accepting that he had been a shipbuilder and innkeeper and had gained some wealth during his life, it seems reasonable to assume that Christie’s mother had some modest means to afford the move to Boston. Whether her decision to relocate to America and Boston was motivated by a desire to advance her talented daughter’s career is unknown and probably not likely, however the family’s move was undoubtedly based on her general conclusion that life in Boston was far better than a life for herself and her two young daughters in the rather backward and rural countryside of Pictou, Nova Scotia in the late 1800s. We must point out that we did find a few articles that implied that both of Christie’s parents moved to Boston and while this is entirely possible, we were unable to determine where and when her father John MacLean MacDonald died be it Nova Scotia or Boston.

Christie MacDonald displayed a singing ability at a young age and as she once reported to the New York Times, she sang in the choir at her church in Pictou even before the family moved to Boston. Her mother saw to it once in Boston that she would be able to continue her musical studies and while there are no records of her performances in those early years prior to 1892, Christie undoubtedly performed at her school, maybe at her church, and possibly even in some small local summer theater groups prior to enrolling at the age of around 15 in Pauline Hall’s company in 1892. Apparently Pauline Hall who was an established actress and singer was in Boston along with her fellow male actor Francis Wilson, and they were preparing for the revival of the musical Erminie that they planned to open later once the show was ready, on Broadway in New York. It seems that Christie MacDonald’s music instructor may have known Francis Wilson for he was able to arrange for Christie to audition with Wilson for a part in the musical. Francis Wilson liked what he heard in the audition and Christie was chosen to sing in the chorus. Christie was undoubtedly thrilled as her aspirations to go into the theater were well know to both her mother as well as to her friends. The performance of Erminie was on stage in Boston for only one month before the cast and set were loaded out for the move to Broadway. As the story goes, Jessie MacDonald refused to allow her young daughter to leave school and Boston and move with the show to New York.

Much of what we know about Christie MacDonald’s early theatrical career prior to her move to New York City in late 1898 we learn from an interesting book by Lewis C. Strand titled Famous Prima Donnas published in 1900. He begins by describing Christie’s eight years performing in the Boston theaters from 1892 until 1998 and in New York theaters in 1899 as a “soubrette experience” or as defined in other sources as one of having minor female roles in comedy. Over the eight year period Christie completed her high school education and performed in numerous theatrical productions in various theaters around Boston including the Tremont Theater and the new Columbia Theater and in a few short run shows in New York City in 1899. She was described by Mr Strand in his book as “ . . well known as a very amiable little lady with a fancy for short skirts and for frisky and vivacious characters, that sang prettily and danced nimbly.” She was not he went on to imply, destined to become a “prima donna” which was the term originally used in operas to designate the leading female singer and the one to whom prime roles were offered. This changed however, when Christie MacDonald was offered the lead role in the new musical comedy operetta The Princess Chic that opened at the New York Theater on 12 February 1900. Her new role was demanding both as an actress and as a singer and according to Lewis C. Strand in his book “she was from the first exquisite.” Unfortunately the show lasted for only 22 performances finally closing on 3 March 1900. Despite the lack of support for the show it did have the effect of elevating 22-year old Christie MacDonald into a new role as a Prima Donna. Christie MacDonald performed on Broadway in lead roles in sixteen major musicals between the years 1900 and 1920. Her final role in Florodora performed in the Century Theater in Central Park West in New York City lasted for 150 performances from 5 April 1920 until 14 August 1920 and it represented both her first stage performance since the birth of her daughter Christie MacDonald Gillespie back in 1914 as well as her final performance and the beginning of her retirement. She was around 43 years old when she retired. Incidentally, the Century Theater also retired a few years later in 1926 when it was demolished and replaced with an apartment building.

We believe that Christie MacDonald’s energy in her private life was not that much different than in her public life as presented in the numerous press releases during her stage career. In a 1911 theater magazine when they described her “mid-summer repose” with her husband at Basswood Island, summer home of her father-in-law Thomas Andrew Gillespie, they reported that she loved to play golf and drive fast motor boats. In one of her many obituaries Christie was described as a “. . . favorite guest at all parties.” Christie MacDonald was probably friendly and out-going from the time that she was a young adult especially after her move to New York City and the rise of her career. We believe that she enjoyed parties and the company of others yet at the same time she retained a certain amount of innocence and perhaps naivety in her life borne from her rather humbly upbringing, the loss of her father at an early life, and the strict controls placed upon her by her mother.

Christie MacDonald’s stage career was very busy in 1900, her first full year in New York, as she appeared in three different shows than ran consecutively with very little free time between the shows to do much other than practice for the next performance. Nevertheless, Christie found the time to meet and fall in love with a fellow actor, William Winter Jefferson who the son of another very famous actor at that time, Joseph Jefferson. Following the completion of Christie’s performance in Hodge Podge & Co, that ended in April of 1901, Christie MacDonald and William Winter Jefferson were married in a “quiet home wedding” ceremony in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts on 12 May 1901 at the home of William’s parents Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Jefferson. Shortly following the wedding they sailed for Europe, visiting Germany, Switzerland, France, and England. In a very cute piece that ran in the Cambridge Chronicle on 5 October 1901 that was titled “A Dutiful Little Wife” the author of the article described a “chat” that he had with Christie wherein she talked about her honeymoon, her own love of horseback riding and her husband’s total “apathy to horseback riding.” She then goes on to describe with a certain amount of irony how much Mr. Jefferson became “infatuated” with playing croquet during their visit to England. It is impossible to conclude anything definitive from this little article about the “dutiful little wife” but it could be read that Christie MacDonald Jefferson was implying that her husband was a sissy (in the modern sense.)

Whether or not William Jefferson was a sissy we do not know, however what we do know is that eventually there was trouble in his marriage with Christie MacDonald. Christie remained busy with her career in the first half of 1902 performing in the musical The Toreador that ran from January through early May. We do not know how much time the Jeffersons spent together in late 1902 but what we do know is that sometime in early 1903 Christie had a brief and sad affair with a married man named Timothy Sullivan who was 15 years her senior and known for his extramarital affairs particular with young starlets like Christie. Sullivan was primarily a prominent and corrupt New York City politician within the Tammany Hall political machine that controlled New York City who had managed to get himself elected to the United States Congress in large part by rigging the voting to get himself elected. He also portrayed himself as a “prominent theater promoter” which probably explains how Christie and Timothy Sullivan came in contact. The affair resulted in Mrs. Christie MacDonald Jefferson having a baby by Sullivan who was born on 1 November 1903. This undoubtedly explains why Christie MacDonald had no listed performances in New York City during all of 1903. The unnamed male child was placed in the New York Foundling Hospital and put up for adoption. We found one family tree that lists the child as Anthony Marino, his adopted name, and lists the date of his death in Brooklyn as March of 1969. We were unable to verify the accuracy of this claim. [When we wrote this account of Christie's MacDonald's illegitimate child we had no reason to question the accuracy of the claim.  There seemed to be plenty of details such as dates, names, and even the name of the hospital where the child was born such as to suggest that the facts were well known and a matter of record.  As it turns out, this is not the case.  According to a family member, Christie MacDonald not only never acknowledged the 1903 birth, but after Christie's death, a claim was made by an individual claiming to be the illegitimate son who undoubtedly was hoping for a financial settlement from her Estate. The claim was thrown out of court.  In hindsight we probably should have done more to question the accuracy of the facts or at the very least done more research since all of the writings that we found about the illegitimate birth were written in the recent past. One of our primary sources was Wikipedia which is hardly noted for its accuracy. Over the past few days we have spent at least three or four hours searching the numerous newspaper and magazine articles available online and on Ancestry.com that were written about Christie MacDonald during the 1903 period and we could not find any mention of Christie MacDonald giving birth to a child during that period.  It is possible of course that she was able to keep the fact that she was pregnant a secret or that the journalists were more discrete in 1903 and 1904 than they are today, but the fact remains that we could find nothing suggesting that she gave birth to a child much less having an affair with a married man. We will have to leave it at this point as an unresolved matter and one that really is not that important.]
     
While it would seem that Christie MacDonald’s affair and her baby would have destroyed her marriage to William Jefferson, at least short term it appears that they tried to make it work. She appeared on stage in An English Daisy in January and February of 1904 and in the spring she and William sailed for Europe for a long vacation that was obviously meant to mend their marriage. They returned to America on 1 August 1904. She then traveled to their summer home on Buzzard’s Bay on Cape Cod before returning to New York to prepare for another performance this time in the musical comedy The Sho-Gun which was to run from 10 October 1904 until 21 Jan 1905. In the meantime, William landed his first major role in a play that ran from August to November of 1905. We have to believe that they were both so busy as to make it virtually impossible to make their marriage work, if that were even possible. Immigration records show that they made one short final trip overseas together before returning on 18 April 1906. Our research did not yield the actual date their divorce was granted but we believe that it was sometime in early 1910 as Christie filed for a divorce in Buffalo, New York in late 1909. It is assumed that they had been separated for several years before the divorce settlement. William Winter Jefferson never remarried and he died at the age of 69 in 1946.

Christie MacDonald began dating Henry (“Buddie”) Lloyd Gillespie sometime in mid-1910. He was 32-years old, a year or so younger than Christie; he had never been married and by any standards he would have been considered an excellent catch. Henry was a graduate of Yale University and the son of the very wealthy contractor James Andrew Gillespie who undoubtedly employed his son as well as helped him financially in Henry’s many investment opportunities. In the 1900 U.S. Census 22-year old Henry was listed as a “Contractor” and undoubtedly he was working in some capacity for his father’s company. By the 1910 U.S. Census, Henry L. Gillespie listed his occupation as “Real Estate” which we interpret to mean that he invested in real estate opportunities. Five years later and following his marriage to Christie MacDonald, he then listed his occupation in the 1915 New York Census as that of a “Theatrical Manager,” again because he invested in theatrical products like his new wife’s shows on Broadway. During World War 1 Henry again changed occupations, at least on paper, when he listed his occupation on his draft registration card in 1917 as that of the “Assistant General Manager” of the T.A. Gillespie Loading Co. There is no evidence that suggests that he had any training or experience to handle this elevated position or his subsequent positions in the construction industry. Henry Lloyd Gillespie had the good fortune to have been borne the son of a multimillionaire whose father was generous with his money, and as such Henry had both the money to dabble in various investments and the ample free time to enjoy his good life. He undoubtedly was an excellent choice as a husband for Christie MacDonald.

For some reason Henry and Christie chose to keep their wedding a secret at least from the public. They began dating sometime before the grand opening of The Spring Maid at the Liberty Theater in New York City that began the day after Christmas in 1910. Their marriage actually took place in November of 1910 but it was not announced until the late spring of 1911 following the summer close of The Spring Maid. Henry and Christie were onboard a ship headed for Europe for their honeymoon when Christie’s sister Belle MacDonald made the surprise announcement to the press of the couple’s previous November marriage. The couple spent their honeymoon in France. They returned in late July spending a week at Henry’s family summer home in the Thousand Island before returning to New York on 7 August 7 1911.

Apparently the marriage of Henry Lloyd Gillespie to Christie MacDonald was a success at least at the beginning. Christie completed her performance in the highly successful The Spring Maid in February 1913 followed by another show Sweethearts that ran from September 1913 until January 1914. In February of 1914 the Gillespie’s announced that Christie was expecting a baby and understandably her stage career came to an abrupt halt. On 10 November 1914 their daughter and only child Christie MacDonald Gillespie was born. In the 1915 New York State Census we find them living in an new and exclusive apartment building at 800 Riverside Drive in New York City that was obviously large enough to house the entire family that included Henry and Christie, their 6-month old daughter, Christie’s 75 year old mother and her 36 year old unemployed and unmarried sister, and three servants. There is every reason to believe that Christie was delighted with this arrangement and the change in her life. Christie MacDonald appeared in her last major show Florodora that ran from 5 April 1920 until 14 August 1920 before retiring. She was at the top of her career when she retired in her early 40s.

As far as we can determine the marriage between Christie MacDonald and Henry Lloyd Gillespie was without any major problems. We do find it kind of unusual however, to discover in the immigration records that Henry traveled abroad every year to Europe beginning in the year 1926 and continuing until 1929, the year of his death, apparently without his wife Christie. This arrangement might be explained by the fact that Christie preferred to stay home with her young daughter. In the 1920 US Census, Henry listed his occupation as a “Building Contractor Houses” so it seems unlikely that he was traveling to Europe on business. While it is possible that Henry was returning to America without Christie every year because Christie elected to stay behind in Europe to extend her vacation, we did find it confusing that we found only one immigration record of Christie returning to America during the 1920s and that was in April of 1929 when she was traveling with her 15 year old daughter and without Henry who had returned in late January of that same year. Unfortunately, just days before Christie arrived back in New York, Henry died of pneumonia on 15 April 1929 at their temporary home which at the time happened to be at the luxury St Regis Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. Henry’s death was totally unexpected and he was only 51 years old at the time.

Christie MacDonald and her daughter Christie remained in New York City until the middle of the 1940s. We know primary from discussions with Christie’s daughter, my stepmother Christie MacDonald Gillespie (see adjacent photograph), that she and her mother traveled at lot during the 1930s both in Europe and within the United States, before my stepmother married George Ralph Spivey in New York City on 20 March 1943. Sometime after their marriage young Christie, who was now 29, and her new husband returned to his home state of California where their son John was born in 1944. Sometime after 1945, Christie MacDonald, the mother, purchased a home in Westport, Connecticut probably with her daughter and her husband George Spivey who had returned with their son from California. Christie’s and George Spivey’s second son Henry, whom they nicknamed “Buddie” after his grandfather, was born in Connecticut in 1948. Christie MacDonald and her daughter Christie lived together as they had done almost their entire lives until the Prima Donna’s death on 25 July 1962. Christie MacDonald was 85 years old when she passed away. She never really gave up the theater however, and as one obituary described her, she was an “active doyenne of the Westport theatrical colony, a frequent patroness of theatrical events and favorite guest at all the parties.” Somehow, this is not surprising.

Christie MacDonald Spivey lost George Spivey to death in 1949. She remarried a John Bradley Fanton in 1951 and they remained married until John’s death in 1970. Christie Fanton remained in her Westport house where she had lived with her mother and two husbands until she married my father in 1974 and together they returned to my father’s home in Lewiston, New York. She died on 9 January 2003 in Lewiston.

So ends the story of my stepmother’s very interesting ancestors.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chapter 32 - The Life Story of John N. Kindall as told to C.A. Baker - Part 1

14 January 1910
As I begin this story of my life I am in my 70th year and ill of health. My body is ravaged by my old age and by the lingering pains from the wounds that I suffered during the war. I have no wife and no children. My parents have long ago passed and my brothers and sisters have either moved away or died and I am not sure of their whereabouts. While I have friends and cousins who care for me in my old age, I know that when I pass my memory, my life, will be forgotten. My life has not been a good life but I am still terrified with the thought that I will be forgotten. Here is my story that you asked for and as I remember it.

Family History: I was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina on the 3rd day of August in the year 1839, the fifth child of William Kendall and Nancy Brown Kendall. My brothers and sisters were James Benjamin born in 1827, Benjamin born in 1829, William Jr born in 1833, Eleanor born in 1837, my younger sister Mary born in 1841, and my younger brother Leander born in 1846. We were all born in Wilkes County. Our family tradition is that we are all descended from a long ago Kendall ancestor who sailed from England in the 1630s and settled in Virginia not far from the English colony of Jamestown. The earliest of my ancestors named in our old family bible was William Kendall, my great grandfather, who was born in Orange County, Virginia around 1740. It is further written in our bible I am told that he married my great grandmother Sarah Ann Foster in 1756 and that in the year 1777 at the age of only 37 he was suddenly and unexpectedly called to God. My great grandmother Sarah Ann now a widow woman with six young children to care for including my three year old grandfather James Benjamin Kendall, decided or perhaps she had no choice but to follow two of her sisters and her brother and their families who in 1778 moved to Wilkes County, North Carolina. My great grandmother later was granted land in 1786 in Wilkes County in her name on which she had a log home built where she lived until her death in 1830.

My grandfather James Benjamin Kendall married my grandmother Mary Dula on 13 October 1795. I remember both of my grandparents as they moved with us when we went to live in Georgia late in year of 1848. Grandma “Polly” died a year later in 1849 when I was around ten. Grandpa James died also in Fannin County around 1857. They were both in their 70s when we moved to Georgia and the long and difficult trip plus the stress of starting a new life at their late age, must have been too much for them. I do not know where they are buried.

1848, Move to Fannin County, Georgia:  You asked me why our family moved from Wilkes County, North Carolina to what was then Gilmer County in North Georgia in 1848. There are a number of reasons and by the way, I should clarify that it was not just our immediate family that made the move to Georgia. Most of my father’s and my mother’s brothers and sisters and their families including several dozen of my cousins all made that very long and difficult 250 mile walk from our old home in North Carolina to our new home in Georgia. The road, well it really was not a road like we know today, was just a rutted and dusty dirt path that was originally used by the Cherokee Indians before we ran them out of the area about 10 years earlier. Except for the older family members and the youngest children who rode aboard the wagons that carried the meager furnishings and supplies that we needed to start our new life in Georgia, the rest of us walked. I was a strong boy at the age of nine, but I still remember that at the end of each long day of walking that included on some days climbing up and down steep hills, that I was almost too tired to eat and all I really wanted to do when we finally stopped walking was to fall asleep.

There were two primary reasons why our family decided to leave Wilkes County. Our extended family were all poor farmers and with each passing generation and with more and more settlers moving into the Wilkes County area each year, the acquiring of additional land for our new family members was impossible especially without our having the necessary money. Furthermore, our family had occupied our land for three generations and with each passing year the soil became less fertile making the corn and other crops harder to grow. Our families therefore had more people to feed, the land produced less food, and new land was just not affordable or available.

Land in Fannin County: On the other hand, the availability of cheap land in north Georgia was well known to the residents of Wilkes County. In 1837, the U.S. Army had forcibly removed the Cherokee Indians from the area and in 1838 land lotteries were established to encourage new settlers to relocate to these mostly virgin farm lands in Gilmer and Union Counties. Furthermore, the area had suddenly become famous due to the discovery of gold in the late 1820s and copper in the early 1840s. It was however, the free land grants that our Kindall family and our cousins in the Brown and German families obtained in the year 1848, that finally provided us the opportunity to resettle our extended family in North Georgia. By 1850, over 50 of my uncles, aunts, and cousins as well as my own immediate family had resettled in what was to become a few years later in 1854, the County of Fannin, Georgia. The population in those years in Fannin County was approximately 3,500 including a few slaves and Indians. The vast majority of us were poor and uneducated but we took great pride in our independence especially from the reaches of the U.S. government and the State of Georgia.

I no longer remember the exact location of my father’s land grant where we built a log home in the winter of 1848-49 and planted our first crops in the early spring of 1849. I think that the area was called Toccoa but I cannot be sure. The farm house in any case is long gone and the land has changed so much over the past sixty years that nothing looks familiar to me anymore. I know that our farm was on the west side of the Toccoa River for each Sunday our family took our wagon and crossed the Toccoa to attend services in our Baptist church located near Morganton. My oldest brother, James Benjamin Kindall with his wife Selena Dula Kindall whom he had married only a few months before we left North Carolina, had settled on the east side of the Toccoa River not far from the church. This area at the time was part of Union County. We use to visit with Jimmy and his family each Sunday after the church service. Selena’s grandfather Bennett Dula was our grandmother’s brother so I guess that sort of made Jimmy and Selena cousins of a sort. Anyway, Jimmy and Selena later moved to Towns County, Georgia and while I saw them rarely in my later years, I did have the opportunity to give my condolences to Selena after I learned that her brother, Thomas Dula, was hanged in Wilkes County after the war for murdering a girl. Selena always maintained her brother’s innocence. [Editor’s note: The brother Thomas Dula became somewhat of a folk hero after his death which culminated with the Kingston Trio’s recording of the ballad of “Tom Dooley” in the late 1950s which sold six million records.] 

I remember that my father complained almost from the beginning about the land that he had been granted but then my father complained about a lot of things. His problem as I recall was that too little of his 20 acres was level. All that I remember from those early years was that the land level or not, was completely covered with huge tall trees that I now know were pines, oaks, chestnuts, and a mixture of other hardwoods. Considering how completely leveled of trees Fannin County is today in 1910, my father should have been delighted to have the plentiful wood available to build our log house and barn and the necessary wood to heat our home in the winter and cook our food.

Fall 1848, Building our Cabin: We began construction of our cabin in late fall of 1848. Because of the approaching winter and the expected cold in the mountains of north Georgia, my father decided that it was necessary to construct the cabin as quickly as possible using tree trunks with the bark not removed nor the logs hand-hewed in any way except at the corners where the logs overlapped. This was the not the best long term way to construct the cabin but it allowed father and my two older brothers with the occasionally help of several neighbors to build the small cabin in about three weeks. At ten years old, I helped as best I could which consisted mostly of gathering stones for the fireplace, helping lead the horses as they hauled the logs from the woods, sharpening axes, and other important tasks that did not require the strength possessed by my father and older brothers. Our cabin when finished had one door, no windows, and no floor, but it gave us shelter for all eight of us that first winter in a covered area of around 350 square feet. For food we survived on the few remaining supplies we had left, chestnuts that we gathered, small game that we caught in the woods, and some amount of food supplies that we were able to purchase on credit in the store in Morganton or borrow from our neighbors. It was never enough and we were always hungry, but we knew that our family was poor. For the remainder of the winter we worked long days excluding Sundays clearing an area of the woods around our new home in preparation for the spring plantings of corn, string beans, peas, and other vegetables that we were told would grow in the hard clay soil of Georgia. The next six years were very difficult for our family and then my father died followed shortly thereafter by the death of my youngest brother Leander. It was devastating for our family but fortunately my mother remarried shortly after my father’s death and moved in with her new husband along with my youngest sister Mary. My older sister Eleanor had previously married and had left home about a year before our father’s death. Benjamin, William, and I were left to make it on our own. I was now eighteen years old and the year was 1857. We were at that point penniless, uneducated, and without any employment skills other than as farm hands which unfortunately was not a skill in high demand. The small amount of money received for the sale of the farm, the tools, and the farm animals was taken by my mother to her new marriage.

Copper Miners: Copper was first discovered in Polk County, Tennessee in 1840 and by 1850 the first copper mine in Copperhill was in full operation. Benjamin, William and I had no difficulty finding immediate employment at one of the copper mines. Benjamin went to live with his friend Merady Blaylock and his family up in McCaysvllle on the Tennessee border after Blaylock who was already a miner in Copperhill helped the three of us get hired at one of the mines. Now that William and I had employment and for the first time in our lives a cash income, we immediately moved into a boarding house in Copperhill. Work at the copper mine was hard and very dirty work but the next few years were some of the best years of my life. There were some 1,000 men living in and around the McCaysville and Copperhill area who worked at the various mines. The hard work made us strong and for the first time in our lives we eat well and as a result we were healthy and full of energy. On weekends we all had cash to spend and it was well spent on liquid refreshments and parties with good friends all around. The area was of course, filled predominately with men and the lack of women meant that the three of us, despite the fact that we were all of an age when most men had married, were still single. Without doubt our unmarried status made it easier for us to enlist in the Army on 22 April 1861. Benjamin was 32, William was 29, and I was 22 when we volunteered.

1860, Election of Abraham Lincoln: As you know, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in November of 1860 despite the fact as I learned later that his name was not even on the ballot in most of the southern states. In any case, I did not vote in this election nor in any other election since. I am not even sure that I was eligible to vote since I did not own property or pay taxes nor could I even read the names on the ballot or sign my name. Furthermore, most of us miners could not have cared less about who won the election. The major issue it seemed was about the right to own slaves and since none of us owned slaves and there were almost no slaves in Fannin County [Editor’s note: less than 3% of the Fannin County population in 1860 were slaves] the slave issue just did not seem to be all that important. Apparently it was because the slave owning politicians in Georgia voted to secede from the Northern States on 1 Jan 1861. They apparently were afraid that the northern states and Abraham Lincoln would pass a law prohibiting the ownership of slaves. Personally most of us, at least the younger men in our group, had no issue with the ownership of slaves as it was kind of a natural way of nature, but our real problem with the Federal government was their trying to tell us what we could and could not do. There were a lot of arguments in the mining fields but for the most part most of us agreed with Georgian politicians and the other Southern States who voted to secede from the Union.

In hindsight it seems kind of pathetic and sad when I recall all of the cheering and hugging that took place among all of our fellow miners when we learned of the bombardment on 12 April 1861 of the Federal troops posted at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor. I do not think that any of us at the time thought that an army of Yankees could come close to matching our Southern Boys in a good fight and the action at Fort Sumter was our proof. The talk of war was immediate and everywhere.

22 April 1861, Enlistment in the Confederate Army: Over the next few days word spread quickly that they were going to sign up new recruits at the Courthouse in Morganton in Fannin County. Benjamin, William and I decided immediately that we were going to enlist. It would give us a chance to get away from the copper mines, to travel through Georgia or where ever, and to get paid while we marched around in uniforms chasing away Yankees. None of us thought that the war if it came to be, would last very long and our enlistment period was in any case for only one year. On 22 April 1861 about ninety of us walked the dusty dirt roads in Fannin County to enlist at the courthouse. It was like a reunion for us as we knew about half of the men who showed up and many of them were family members such as our cousin Larkin German who we elected to be our 2nd Lieutenant, his brother and our cousin Thomas German, Stephen Dobbs, who we elected our 1st Sergeant and who was married to our cousin Selena Brown, and Renee Marion Chastain who later in 1864 married our cousin Rebecca Brown. We were all excited and proud that we were among the first group of Georgians who enlisted to defend the rights of our State.

Our march to Atlanta and then to Savannah: On 23 April 1861, we started marching south following under the leadership of Captain William A Campbell. No one seemed to know where we were going which now looking back in later years seemed to be a pretty typical daily occurrence as we were expected to just follow orders and not to ask any questions. But the next few days was a pleasant march for us down to Cartersville, about a 60 mile march from Morganton, where here we boarded a train headed for Atlanta. I had seen trains before since our copper ore was hauled by rail to Cleveland, Tennessee, but this train was totally unlike those old trains used by the copper mines. This train was beautiful and to excite us even more as we passed through the towns on the way down to Atlanta, small crowds waited alongside the tracks and cheered us as we passed. Atlanta was totally unlike anything we had ever seen. Nothing back home prepared us for this: so many buildings, people, animals, and so much noise and dust. We were taken to a large park where we prepared our camp and began our training which consisted mostly of marching in unison back and forth and all around. It was sure hard to believe that we needed to learn to march to fight the Yankees. We were so proud when crowds of people followed us everywhere and over the next few days we were given new uniforms and the best new rifles we had ever seen and the size of the crowds increased even more. Finally, we were greeted by the Governor of Georgia, the honorable Joseph Brown, who told us how proud he was of us and our decision to defend the rights of Georgia. He even started calling us the Joe Browns. We were to be his Company. We were told later that Governor Brown was worried that the mountain counties in North Georgia, particularly Fannin County, would not support the war effort so that when our small company enlisted so early, he was so delighted that he raised the money for our new uniforms and gear and most importantly, our rifles. After our short stay in Atlanta we again boarded a train headed for Savannah, Georgia. We arrived in Savannah on the 1st day of May, 1861. We were not prepared for Savannah’s oppressive heat and humidity.

May 1861, Camp in Savannah: We set up camp just outside the city in a large field that was a short march from the local train station. We were helped with the camp preparations by numerous Negro slaves who had been provided by some of the locals no doubt to welcome their first Confederate troops to their city. The slaves performed the really difficult work around the campsite such as digging the latrine trenches while we focused on setting up the tents and unloading our supplies and equipment. One thing that really surprised us during our month long stay in Savannah was the sheer number of Negroes in and around the city and we all agreed that there must be two or three Negroes for every white person and the Negroes seemed to be the only ones working. Our typical day in Savannah and later in Brunswick where we moved at the end of May, was that we would rise before the sun came up, eat breakfast, and then for the rest of the day we would drill and learn to load and shoot our weapons. It was interesting at first but after days and days of marching around the field performing the same maneuvers over and over again, it became exceptionally tedious and some of us including Benjamin and William and I even joked that working in the mines for ten hours a day was more enjoyable. At least on Sundays it was less boring and on several occasions we marched through Savannah to the cheers of the local residents. The City of Savannah was an incredible place. We were raised in a small log cabin with few nearby neighbors and later we lived near the mines in a ramshackle wooded house where we shared every room with others. Here in Savannah the homes were huge and built of bricks that were surfaced with stucco. The streets were lined with trees and most of the main streets were surfaced with brick. Beautiful city parks that they called Squares were everywhere. The mud and dust that we experienced out at the camp was almost non-existent here in Savannah. It was it seems, to be our duty as volunteer soldiers to defend this way of life. It was hard to understand but then we were uneducated.

Sickness: None of us were immune from the camp diseases. It was part of our life from birth and we all had lost a close relative to an early death. But, it seemed that the number of soldiers here in our camp that were succumbing to some form of illness was far greater than what we had ever experienced. By mid-May only two weeks after we arrived, more than a dozen men in our company were in the camp medical tent. The rumor was that it was the local swamp air that was causing the fevers and this made sense since we knew that many of the locals were known to leave Savannah in the summer months when the hot swamp air was at its worst. When we departed Savannah at the end of May and relocated to Brunswick south of Savannah, a number of our fellow soldiers were left behind in the hospital. We later learned that two of them had died, one from measles, an illness that at the time I had never heard of. I know now some 50 years later that the fevers were caused by something called germs and many of us who grew up in the mountains were especially vulnerable to these germs. The germs were able to easily jump from one sick man to another man because we lived so close to each other particularly in the crowded tents. However the germs jumped, it became a very serious problem in the months ahead and all of us were sick at one time or another and many men died.

29 May, 1861, To Camp in Brunswick, Georgia: One of the most frustrating things about being a private in the army was that no one told us anything. We got lots of orders but never an explanation as to why we were being ordered to do something; we just had to guess the reason. For example, on May 29th we were directed by our 1st Sergeant Dobbs to start packing up our camp in Savannah. I knew Dobbs pretty well since he had married my cousin Selena Brown a few years back, so I asked him what was happening. He told me that he was not sure, he was just following orders. So was the way of the army. Even during the battles of the next few years we would charge forward and backward through fields and forests and up and down hills with absolutely no idea of what was going on. At least on May 29th no one was firing lead minie balls at us and we soon learned that we were headed for an 80 mile march south down to Brunswick, Georgia. Brunswick as it turned out was just another campground and training area but it was here where we joined other soldiers from all over Georgia and instead of being just a small company of soldiers under the command of our Captain William A, Campbell, we became part of the 2nd Georgia Infantry Regiment under Col. Paul J. Semmes. Our regiment was composed of seven different Companies with a total of almost 700 men that included our own 85 Fannin County group of men. In addition to all of the soldiers and over 200 tents in the field, there must have been two or three hundred other people including men, women and children and negroes. We were told that many of the men were vendors to the army selling everything from meats to straw and the women and children were family members or in some cases prostitutes hoping to earn some of our soldier pay. By the time that we arrived in Brunswick the field was already a dust bowl and in the days following with seven hundred men all marching all over the place, there were times we could hardly see in front of us through the dust. We trained in Brunswick for almost two months and during that period of June and July we had many days when we trained in the pouring rain and rain made the field a sea of mud and it also made the straw on the bottom of our tents where we slept each night, a wet pile of straw mixed with mud. The number of men who came down ill and in some cases died increased dramatically and we had yet to face the enemy. We were tired and we were bored and most of us wished that we were back home.

21 July 1861, Breaking camp and up to Virginia: And then without warning on 21 July 1861 we packed up our camp and the entire 2nd Regiment marched north back to Savannah where we boarded a train and headed north. The train ride north which we were told was headed to Virginia was very slow and we stopped and waited numerous times. The track was obviously busy with other trains. We changed trains at least twice. Since many of us were in open cars normally used to carry cargo, we were exposed to the weather which left us all soon sunburned and even dirtier then we were when we climbed on board. We finally arrived in Richmond, Virginia on 29 July 1861 and from the train station were marched over the next several days up to Camp Walker near Manassas, Virginia which we were told was near the site of the first Battle of Manassas, also called Bull Run, that had been fought only a few weeks early. Camp Walker was crowded with Confederate Brigades from all over the south many of whom had fought at Manassas on the 21st. We all knew that we were near the site of our great confederate victory and only 30 miles from Washington, DC. We all expected that the war would soon be over and it could not be too soon. My brothers and I and almost everyone else for that matter were ready to go home.

If the camp in Brunswick was bad, Camp Walker was ten times worse. We spent seven months at Camp Walker from mid August 1861 until we were suddenly and unexpectedly pulled out in mid-March of 1862. There were thousands of men at the camp with most of us crowded into tents or into small poorly built wooden huts and we had little to no warm clothing for the harsh Virginia winter that we were soon to face. When we enlisted in April of 1861 and trained in Brunswick in June and July no one thought that the war would last more than a few months and the need to provide us with warm clothing for the coming winter months was either completely overlooked or thought unnecessary. Beginning in December of 1861 we had snow on the ground for days at a time. The trees surrounding the camp had been cut down for firewood long before the cold weather set in and the army had to send out teams of men on a full time basis to look for trees and even wood barns or other structures to cut down and haul back to the camp. They had to forage for many miles away from the camp but despite these efforts there was never enough wood to cook our food and keep us warm; there were just to many of us.

The military drilling and the firearm training continued for the entire time we remained at Camp Walker. The only break we got from this otherwise boring routine was an occasional picket duty or our being ordered on one of the many reconnaissance patrols that were continuously sent out to look out for approaching Yankees. We heard that several times there were skirmishes with Yankees patrols where guns were fired, but nothing major. We thought at the time that the Yankees must be afraid of us since we had heard nothing more from their army since the earlier battle in July. My brother Benjamin received some good news on 10 February 1862; he was elected Ensign. He was always the natural born leader in our family.

In hindsight, I now realize that we were in a kind of battle the entire time we stayed at Camp Walker. The battle that was fought in nearby Manassas on July 21st cost our army around 400 men killed plus a number of men who died later of their battlefield wounds. Unfortunately conditions at Camp Walker were so terrible what with the poor sanitary conditions, the contaminated water and food supplies, and the wet and cold living conditions that more men died during the almost seven months we were stationed at Camp Walker than had died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Manassas. Our own small company from Fannin County lost at least ten men to disease while at Camp Walker in addition to the men who died prior to our arrival in Virginia. As of March 1862 we had lost to disease and whatever almost 20% of our 2nd Regiment men and this was before we even engaged in our first combat. At least other than losing weight and having almost continuous problem with diarrhea, Benjamin, William, and I remained alive.

March 1862, Marching south towards Richmond: One day in early March of 1862 we were awakened as always by the bugler but this morning instead of just rising and preparing breakfast and a hot cup of coffee as usual, the sergeant directed us to start packing up immediately as we were moving out of camp as soon as possible. Our Company, the 2nd Georgia Infantry, joined with three other Georgia regiments, the 15th, the 17th, and the 20th to form a Brigade under the leadership of General Robert Toombs. We had around six hundred men able to march in our company and approximately 2,500 men in the total brigade and as a group we began marching southward towards Richmond complete with a long line of wagons carrying our supplies and artillery. Once in Richmond we crossed the James River and headed east towards Yorktown. The exhausting march took us a little over a week and we were pushed the entire way with long days of marching with only short breaks for meals and rest. Rumors abound that we were finally going to battle with the Yankees although it made no sense that the Yankees would be at Yorktown near the Chesapeake Bay when it would have been much easier for them to attack us at Manassas Junction. When we arrived in the Yorktown area we were joined with many other brigades. I learned later that we totaled around 11,000 men all of us under the command of Brigadier General John B. Magruder.

Building Trenches: As soon as we stopped marching we were handed shovels, picks, axes, bayonets, or any other makeshift tool that could be found and we were told to dig trenches and dig we did for the next two or three weeks. The dirt from the trenches was piled up in front so that when we stood in the hole which was around 4 foot deep the crest of the dirt piled in front was at about our crest level. Many of the trenches were reinforced with sandbags and wood timbers especially around the artillery batteries which would be subject to the most intense bombardment. We also cut the trees down along the front of the entrenchment so that any approaching enemy could not use the trees as cover. Miles of these rifle entrenchments were built. Our brigade must have dug at least two miles of the entrenchment that ran continuously from Yorktown on the York River over to the James River a distance of almost ten
miles. Most of the entrenchment followed the west side of a small creek that was called the Warwick River. We were told that our lives depended on the speed of our work and we took that warning seriously. For those of us who had worked as miners at Copperhill, the building of the entrenchments was a reminder of the skills that we had learned in the past. Other brigades built additional trenches several miles or so in front of our line plus another trench line about ten miles behind us back near Williamsburg. Who knew at the time, that building entrenchment fortifications would consume such a huge portion of our lives over the next couple of years. We were now finished with our training. The time had come for war.

April 1862 to July 1862, the Peninsula Campaign:  By late March we started observing a few Yankees patrols in the distance which a few days later turned into a full force of blue uniformed soldiers out in front of us who began moving in artillery and building a line of entrenchments similar to our own. They were so close to us that sometimes we could hear them talking and occasionally we would shout insults and even jokes back and forth. On the 4th day of April 1862, the Yankees began their attack. We were down the line from the point of the attack and we could not see the fighting but the noise of the battle, the cannon fire and the sound of the rifles, could be heard for miles. Our troops were able to hold off the Yankees on this day, but the next month of our lives was lived in pure hell.

It was as if God was disapproving of man’s transgressions and his anger let loose the rains which like in Noah’s day began almost immediately and for almost a month it rained continuously. Our trenches filled with water and no matter what we did to try and drain them, they stayed filled. We did not dare raise our heads above the parapets of the trench fortification for fear that the Yankee sharpshooters were ready to send a minie-ball into our heads. No fires were allowed day or night and even if we could keep them going against the constant rainfall we had no food to cook other than limited quantities of cornbread and salt meat and definitely we had none of our beloved coffee. The artillery bombardment was almost continuous. I cannot imagine looking back these many years now how I was ever able to get any sleep in those water soaked trenches with our constant fear that an artillery shell would explode in our trench. But we survived and fortunately I guess our 2nd Regiment was never engaged directly against a Yankee attack. We lost a few men during this month in the trenches, but their deaths were caused by our abysmal living conditions and not from battle wounds. I observed one day a man who had died not by an enemy ball but from an illness or perhaps his body was simply too weak to live on. We found him curled up and submerged in the mud where he had lain for at least a day before he was discovered. Apparently there were dozens of men who died in a similar manner in both armies during this awful one month period in April of 1862.

Re-enlistment: Ironically, our one year enlistment term was up for many of us who were confined to the trenches. Some of the men refused to re-enlist including my own brother William and my first cousin and our Sergeant, Larkin German. All of us were living in hell but few of us complained which cannot be said of William. He wanted out and he had been saying so for months. We were sad to see them go. After
the war, I talked with Larkin about what happened to them when they returned to Georgia. He told me that there was enormous pressure for them to re-enlist which they did in July eventually ending up in the 65th Georgia Infantry. Larkin told me that their Regiment fought at the Battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863 and I told him that I was wounded at that battle. I went on to ask him if William was at Chickamauga and he told me no. William had deserted to the enemy a month earlier and he had gone on to join a Federal cavalry regiment in Tennessee and sign an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. We never heard from William again. Most of us re-enlisted in the 2nd Georgia Infantry Regiment although it had really nothing to do with any love for the army or the Confederate cause. In my case, I hated the army but at the same time I had no desire to return to Fannin County. My friends and my life were now here in the 2nd Georgia Regiment and despite the horrible past month I did not want to leave my friends nor the hot cup of coffee or whatever that stuff was that we enjoyed together in the mornings.  Nor did I want to give up the occasional card game or the story telling in the evenings. I re-enlisted for another three years but hoped that the war would soon be over.

Our Brigade was soon increased to 35,000 men as new regiments arrived although as we learned later we were still greatly outnumbered as the Yanks were said to have us outmanned by more than 3 to 1. It was also clear that their artillery strength far outnumber ours. Our leaders must have recognized that we were about to be overrun for in the middle of the night on May 4th our entire brigade quietly and slowly retreated down the muddy roads back to the fortifications near Williamsburg. We had no idea what was going on but this retreat if that is what it was, seemed to be well organized. The Yankees attacked our forces in the late morning of May 5th at the Williamsburg line although the brunt of the Yankee attack was against our recently arrived Division under the command of Major General James Longstreet. Our own Brigade did not engage in the battle as we continued our retreat towards Richmond. We could hear however, the sounds of battle and we were horrified to learn later how many of our men were killed and wounded on this day. The many wagons that passed us later this afternoon were filled with wounded men many of them covered in blood and crying out in pain. It was a sight that I will never forget and unfortunately a sight that was to be repeated before my eyes many times over the next few years.

The next two months is only a blur in my memory. Our entire army retreated from the enemy back to the Richmond area where it seemed that daily we built entrenchments only to move the next day to a new area where we again dug trenches. Our Regiment during this period did not attack or defend against the enemy although on multiple occasions we were marched into the field where we expected action only to later be moved to another location. None of us knew what was going on and we woke up each morning never knowing what this day would bring. Would we have any food to eat? Would our friends die from their lingering illnesses? Would I kill the soldier in blue this day or would he kill me? We knew that the war was continuing around us by the ever increasing number of makeshift graves we encountered and by the sight of bandaged and dying men.

27 June 1862, Battle of Garnett’s Farm: My first taste of a full scale battle took place on 27 June 1862 which was later called the Battle of Garrett’s Farm. Apparently that was Mr. Garrett’s farmhouse that was just off to our right from where we stood in the open field facing the Yankees. We were able to field from our 2nd Georgia Regiment only 270 men on this day under our Col. Butt but surrounding us on both sides were the other regiments in Col. Toombs’ First Brigade, the 15th, the 17th, and the 20th Georgia Regiments. We were also supported in our rear by the Third Brigade. At shortly after 7:00 PM in the evening, some of the companies in the 2nd Regiment including my own were ordered to advance and take a position in the ravine in front of us and adjacent to the farmhouse. As we moved forward the Yankee sharp shooters in front of their mainline opened fire and for the first time since joining the army over a year earlier I was terrified that I was about to die. As we ran across the wheatfield the rain of minie balls passing by us sounded much like a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing around our heads and bodies. We were all shouting as we ran perhaps to deflect our fears but in some cases the shouts were actually screams of pain as minie balls scored hits and sent men to the ground. After a seemingly forever amount of time we reached the ravine and dove for cover. We were joined shortly by two other regiments. The enemy soon attacked us to drive us out of the ravine but after an hour or so of fighting we held them off. As it was almost dark, we were ordered to withdraw from the ravine. Our day mercifully ended without further enemy engagement. Of the 270 men of our 2nd Regiment who fought bravely this day, 10 men were killed and around 110 men were wounded including too many who would later die. My good friend William E. Garrison, Willie, was hit in the stomach with grapeshot and he bleed to death in the field of wheat before we could drag him to safety. I never knew anything could be this awful. Fortunately neither Benjamin nor I were injured but unfortunately, more killing was yet to come.

1 July 1862, Battle of Malvern Hill:  A few days later on 1 July 1862 we again met the Yankee army at a place that was called Malvern Hill. We were exhausted and we were hungry and some of us were marching with the pains of wounds received during the previous days of fighting. It was also as hot as hell and our wool uniforms that were already covered with dirt and sweat did nothing to help cool us off. We soon faced thousands of Yankees along with their artillery who were lined up in front of us in long rows on a ridge of higher ground which is what I guess they were calling Malvern Hill. Our boys, more men than I had ever seen in one place, were also lined up in an even longer row. Our brigade under Col. Toombs which consisted of the 2nd Georgia Regiment and the 15th and the 20th, was in reserve behind the brigades of Generals Cobb and Anderson as well as many other brigades to their left and right. We leaned for the first time that our army was now being lead by a new general, General Robert E. Lee. [Editor’s note: It is estimated that the total Union strength at the Battle of Malvern Hill was 54,000 men who faced an almost equal Confederate strength of 55,000 men.] 

We were ordered to move forward against the enemy who were positioned at least a half mile in front of us. Our march which began in an orderly fashion with the regimental flags flying high above the line and the music of the many regimental bands including our own 2nd regimental band loudly playing, soon became a bit disorganized as the different regiments began to crowd into one another. The confusion was further compounded as we got closer to the enemy and their batteries opened up sending canisters down upon us causing the ground around us to explode in balls of fire and rains of metal fragments. The smoke from the artillery and our guns soon clouded our vision as we marched across muddy rutted roads and over wooden stockade fences. Meanwhile we faced a destructive fire of grape shot. We were close to the enemy line, maybe 200 yards, when we were finally ordered, the order shouted over the dreadful noise of the battle, to lie down. None of us who were still standing hesitated to follow the order for we knew full well that we were about to be slaughtered if we remained upright. We stayed down for about half an hour returning fire to the enemy until we were ordered to about face and fall back.

Wounded in Battle: As I stood up, I was suddenly slammed in the upper chest and thrown back several feet onto the ground, the air knocked completely out of my lungs. I struggled and flopped around as I grasped for air. Several of my brother soldiers stopped to help me but they were immediately ordered by our sergeant to continue falling back. I was soon left alone except for the nearby line of Yankees who were hardly paying any attention to me what with the large number of dead and seriously wounded men on both sides lying all around me in the field. I soon recovered my breath but I was unable to move. It was like I was in a dream. At least in my dream there was no pain. When I finally woke up after passing out from the shock of the iron ball that passed through me, it was dark and I was being moved and this time there was intense pain. I was carried on a blanket to a wagon filled with other men who were covered with blood and obviously in agony. I lost track of time but several days later I found myself in a hospital in Richmond. The hospital was crowded to the point where many of the wounded men had no bed to lie in and many of the men were dying from their untreated wounds. The smell and sound of death was everywhere. The intense July heat and the closed in still air in the hospital building was killing men as fast as did their wounds. War was not the noble cause we had once thought; war was just organized murder.

My wound was serious but I had been lucky. I was hit with a minie ball just above my right nipple. The ball passed through my lung and passed out my back just below the shoulder bone. I had several broken ribs and a damaged lung but the wounds themselves were small and the fact that the ball had missed my heart, major blood vessels, and my backbone and then had passed out of my body resulted in my survival. As dreadful as the hospital was, it gave me a chance to rest and eat regularly. The Yankees had won the battle but apparently they were pulling out of Virginia giving us all the faint hope that the war was soon to be over. An incredible number of our Confederate soldiers had been killed at the Battle of Malvern Hill including 11 in our 2nd regiment one of whom, my good friend Robert McMinn, was from Fannin County. I was among the 70 men in our regiment, 3 from Fannin County, who had been wounded. At the hospital while we were recuperating I became close friends with James M Jones who was also wounded at Malvern Hill. He was shot in the left leg although fortunately for Jimmy the ball missed his bone which probably saved him from a leg amputation. Jim and I are still close friends now these many years later.

I stayed in the hospital in Richmond for a little over two weeks and while I was not even close to being ready to get back to normal life, my wounds had not healed and my ribs were still broken and hurt with even my slightest movement, Benjamin agreed with me that if I stayed in that hospital for much longer I was bound to die from one of the many diseases that were in the air everywhere in that building. Our 2nd Regiment was at camp just outside of Richmond and Benjamin using his influence as an ensign borrowed a wagon to carry me and several other soldiers back to the camp. I was hardly in a position to perform my duties but at least at the camp I was around friends and the air was fresh. At least one benefit of being wounded and going to the hospital was that when we left the hospital we were handed new uniforms and shoes taken from one of the many soldiers who had died. Shortly after returning to my regiment, in my new uniform, I was told that Robert E. Lee, our new commanding officer, had reorganized the army and our regiment was now a part of the Army of Northern Virginia. We were part of the First Corps under the command of Major General James Longstreet. The First Corps had five divisions and we were in Jones’ Division as before, under the command of Brigadier General David R. Jones. We were still in Toomb’s Brigade under Robert Toombs although we were directly under the command of Col. Henry Benning and our company was now being led by Lieutenant William R. Holmes who assumed the command in Col. Butt’s absence as he had been wounded at Malvern Hill. Frankly none of this really made any difference to us personally since the only commands we followed were those given by our sergeant. I was really excited and impressed however, when several weeks after returning to our camp, General Lee and General Longstreet rode through our camp followed by a lot of other men on horses. I guess they were inspecting us just like we were inspecting them. General Lee looked like a leader who knew what he was doing and we all felt certain that he will soon lead us to victory and the war would be over.

Our dog Sarah:  By the end of the first week of August rumors were everywhere that the Yankees were pulling out. Perhaps they were as tired of fighting as we were. It had been over a month since I was wounded. I was feeling much better now although I was still not in any condition for a long day of marching. Fortunately things at our encampment were pretty quiet and the men who had been thin and exhausted after the two months of hard fighting, were starting to improve physically and the laughter that was commonplace in the camp before the fighting, was starting to be heard again. One of the things that brought much joy to all of us in the camp were the stray animals, particularly the dogs who must have been separated from their owners in the course of the fighting. Our favorite stray dog in the camp was a collie who one of the men named Sarah. Sarah came around every morning looking for food and she soon became so comfortable with our small group that she would spend the entire day with us even following the men out when they went out on patrols. Sarah became so attached to our small company of men that she followed us when we finally left the camp. Sarah was with us for almost a year. She walked along side of us on the long days of marching and she even followed us into battle running with us and barking as loud as she could. Strictly speaking pets were not allowed in the army, but our officers never told us to get rid of Sarah. I think that they loved her as much as we did. Sarah was killed on the second day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg and we never got a chance to give her a proper burial. We had lost our dog as we had lost so many of our friends.

August 1862, Marching north to Manassas Junction: We stayed at the camp near Richmond until the end of the second week of August at which time we were ordered to march north. For the next two weeks or so we marched. It was an exhausting but an amazing sight to be among an army of over 25,000 men, Longstreet’s First Corp, all moving abreast along a dirt road, past farms and through small cities like Gordonsville. With us were hundreds of horse-pulled wagons and horses dragging artillery. We had little time to eat and little food in any case. Our water supply came from the many small streams we crossed and the Rappahonnock River which we followed for miles. The water was often muddy and tasted awful. The air temperature each day was hotter than anything that we could ever remember experiencing in the North Georgia Mountains. Many of our men dropped alongside the road too exhausted to continue forward.  It had been a month and a half since my wounds and while I had gained considerably in strength the endless days of walking had taking its toll on me and I was not sure that I could continue. Our officers encouraged us to keep moving and assured us that the end would soon be near. Marching before us was the Second Corp of General Lee’s army of 25,000 men under the command of General James Jackson. [Jackson was later to be nicknamed “Stonewall” Jackson]. Our combined strength of at least 50,000 would surely defeat the Yankees. Despite our exhaustion, thirst, and hunger our spirits remained high. On the evening of 28 August 1862 we stopped to rest for the night about seven miles west of the gap in the Bull Run Mountains that our officers were calling Thoroughfare Gap. We were told that Yankee soldiers were waiting for us. We got little rest that night.

29 August 1862, Battle at Thoroughfare Gap: The next morning we were awakened early for the seven mile march to the gap in the mountains. We arrived at the gap through which passed a highway and railroad tracks around 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Our regiment, the 2nd Georgia Infantry, along with several other regiments was selected to attack the Yankee soldiers that had taken up positions in the hills above the road on either side of the gap. After a very difficult climb up the steep slope, our superior numbers quickly chased out the Yankees which allowed our army to finally pass through Thoroughfare Gap. Fortunately no one was killed during this skirmish although around 100 men were wounded. Our poor 2nd regiment was now down to under 200 of the original 600 men capable of standing on a battle line. In this group only 35 of the original 90 men who enlisted with me in Fannin County on 22 April 1861 were still able to march into battle and there were at least 100 men of our original regiment that while still with us were too incapacitated to engage the enemy. After a very short rest our 25,000 man army marched through the night a distance of around 12 miles until we finally arrived at noon the next day, 30 August 1862, at a hilly and partially wooded site located just north of Manassas Junction. Here General Jackson and his Corp were already engaging the Yankees. We were exhausted and in no shape to go into battle and I could not help but notice that some of our men were without shirts and many others without shoes, but despite these conditions and my own personal fears, we readied ourselves to fight the enemy. This battle was later to be called the Second Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run.)

30 August 1831, Battle of 2nd Manassas (Bull Run): I do not really remember the details of the battle other than its horrors. I remember that our Brigade along with others was ordered to advance to the enemy across a field a distance of two miles and much of the way we were running in a double quick time. We were exposed to shot and shell almost the entire way. The Yankees facing our long line of yelling men retreated and we were after several hours of fighting able to capture a number of their men and artillery. Unfortunately after my excitement from the battle ceased to hold me up, I realized that I was exhausted beyond belief and the horror of seeing so many dead and dying men lying on the field around me caused me to sink into a deep depression. I was not alone. We were told the next day that the Yankees were retreating and we had won a great victory. It did not really cheer us up. I did not learn until much later that 1,300 of our men had died at Manassas and 7,000 had been wounded with many more to die later. Of the 163 men in our 2nd Regiment who were healthy enough to go to battle, 2 were killed and 53 were wounded. In our Fannin County Company that was part of the 2nd Regiment, only my good friend James M. Jones was wounded. James as I mentioned earlier was also wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill and we had spent time together recovering from our wounds at the hospital in Richmond. At Manassas however, Jim was very seriously wounded when a shell fragment hit him near the top of his head which apparently cracked his skull. He was unconscious for several days and in the hospital for several months with this injury. Years later after the war, Jim still complained that his head injury affected his hearing in one ear.

We remained camped near the battle site for only a few days before we were ordered once again to start marching. During these few days we rested as best we could but our days were filled with the hard work of collecting and burying our dead soldiers and redistributing their effects. This meant that many of the soldiers who were without such items as shoes, clothing, blankets, canteens, and functioning weapons and ammunition were provided with these items that had been removed from the bodies of the fallen soldiers. In the course of the battle our army had taken around 9,000 Yankee prisoners and many of these prisoners were stripped of their personal items although this was not a policy approved by our officers. Guns, ammunition, artillery, horses, and wagons captured from the Yankee army were also gathered together and organized in a formation so that we could move out quickly. We also over the course of these few days rounded up the prisoners and marched them to the train station in Manassas Junction where they were boarded and taken to a prisoner of war camp somewhere in the south. One of the most unpleasant things that we had to face during these few days was passing by the hospital tents where amputated legs and arms were piled high nearby. We also heard the occasionally scream of a man in terrible pain. None of this horror made much sense to us but we knew that our officers would take care of us and do the right thing and that somehow, sometime everything would work out for the best.

3 September 1862, March north into Maryland: We started our march northward on 3 September 1862 and soon passed into the Northern state of Maryland. I was surprised at first when entering Maryland to see how similar this state was to our own familiar southern states. There were green rolling hills and farm lands everywhere and many of the farms had slaves who we could see working out in the fields cutting the wheat. In a few cases some of the farmers even cheered us on as we passed by and told us that they hoped that we would whoop the Yankees. This was very confusing to us seeing as our army was trying to kill the Yankee soldiers some of whom were Marylanders. As we marched even further north into Maryland the land changed from rolling hills to a more mountainous terrain very similar in appearance to our own Fannin County, Georgia. If the Maryland people were sympathetic to our cause as many appeared to be, the fact that we had to raid their farms for food taking their chickens cows, hogs, and vegetables, and in a few cases even the food off their tables and shelves most likely changed their attitudes toward our presence in their land. Since our army needed to live off the land as our officers were saying since we were now to far from our food supplies in Virginia, our army instead of just marching down the road was spread out in about a ten miles wide path so that we could cover as many farms as possible. On one patrol that I served on, one of our Sergeants shot one of the farmers who resisted our removing his livestock. This shooting seriously bothered me but I kept my mouth shut. I was already incredibly hungry and I knew that without that cow I might not have dinner that night. Anyway, the farmer looked like he would survive his wounds. We followed the Potomac River for a few days before crossing it eventually passing through the town of Frederick. We then marched north through the mountain passes up to a town called Hagerstown, where we turned south again and after a few more tiring days of marching we ended up camped on the outskirts of a town they were calling Sharpsburg. In the meantime we were told that Jackson’s Division of General Lees’ Army had marched to Harpers Ferry where they defeated a small brigade of Yankee troops, captured their supplies, and then marched over to Sharpsburg where they joined us and a very large incoming army of Yankees soldiers and artillery. We had marched over 100 miles between September 3rd and September 15th. Many of us were in torn and dirty clothes and in shoes with holes in the soles, toes sticking out the front or no shoes at all and our feet were sore, and we were all hungry and weary and in need of rest. This is what I remember; I cannot repeat this enough or hide my feelings about what we went through.. The hard march left many of us too sick to stand much less face the enemy. Our own Regiment under General Benning was reported to be down to only 112 men and 17 officers available for duty on the morning of 17 September 1862, the day we met the Yankees and the slaughter that was to be at Sharpsburg.

17 September 1862, Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam): On the evening of September 15th part of our Brigade under Brigadier General Robert Toombs which was composed of our own 2nd Regiment as well as the 20th Georgia Regiment was ordered to take up a position on a small bluff on the Sharpsburg side of a large stone bridge over the Antietam Creek. There were only around 400 of us and we were told that if the Yankees tried to cross the bridge we were to stop them. During that evening and all of the following day, hundreds of those Yankee soldiers in their blue uniforms marched into position on the other side of the creek along with a frightening large number of their artillery guns which began shelling us in the afternoon of the 16th. The cannon fire ceased about the time that the skies darkened in the late afternoon and the heavy rains began. It was impossible for most of us to get any sleep that night. About the time that the skies began to lighten the next morning of September 17th we were aroused from our prone positions behind trees, rocks and muddy trenches in front of the bridge by the sound of artillery fire. After several hours of mostly ineffective shelling, the enemy made a charge across the bridge but we repulsed them with great slaughter on their part. Over the next two or three hours they attempted four more times to dislodge us from our position but they were driven back on each occasion. The number of men in blue that lay dead or dying in front of us was appalling even from our prospective. It was clear to us that many of these Yankees in their new blue uniforms had never before faced our gun fire. Despite the fact that we had been reinforced with additional regiments, our luck finally ran out when the Yankees outflanked us by fording the river below us forcing us to withdraw. The battle continued for the rest of the day, but our two regiments were withdrawn and did not further engage. The Yankees took two hours to get their soldiers across the bridge and by that time our side was reinforced with additional brigades and the Yankees were unable to press their advantage. By the end of the day they had withdrawn back across the bridge. According to reports that we heard in the following days, as many as 1,500 of our men were killed that day and as many as six to seven thousand were wounded. My friend John L Clairborne from Fannin County was
killed during hand to hand fighting before the bridge and our Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Kincaid also from Fannin County, was shot in the left arm and in the left leg. We learned later that he was taken to one of the buildings in the center of the town, in Sharpsburg, that was being used as a hospital and his arm was amputated. We never saw Benjamin again. Our friend George Gosnell was also seriously wounded and when our army later withdrew from Maryland, George was left behind and captured by the Yankees. We learned later that he died in a Union hospital. In total our 2nd Regiment suffered around 7 wounded and 3 killed, a relatively low number considering the size of the force against us. [Editors Note: The 2nd Regiment was one of only three regiments mentioned by name in a detailed report by General Robert E. Lee following the battle. He mentioned both the 2nd and the 20th Georgia Regiments for their heroic stand at the bridge. The Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) is considered the bloodiest single-day battle in American history with a total of around 23,000 men wounded or killed.]

20 September 1862, Retreat south to Culpeper: We woke up the next morning expecting more fighting, more deaths, more killing, but the Northern Army guns remained quiet and our officers’ only orders were for us to collect the wounded if there were any left on the field and gather up and bury the dead. That evening as night fell we marched south away from Sharpsburg. I think that we all were at our lowest morale point since the fighting began so long ago, just six months earlier. The wagon train leaving Sharpsburg that night seemed to stretch for miles. Many of the wagons were loaded with some of the hundreds of men who were wounded and unable to walk. Unfortunately there were also many men to seriously wounded to leave the hospitals in Sharpsburg. These men and a few doctors we left behind to the Yankees and to the mercy of God. We slowly marched southward for the next two weeks until we reached Culpeper in Virginia where we at last stopped our daily marching at least for the next eight weeks.

Camp Fever at Camp near Culpeper: Shortly after settling in at our camp near Culpeper I came down with a high fever and for the next two weeks I remembered almost nothing other than occasionally waking up with an incredible thirst, stomach pains, and a powerful headache that made me want to die just to rid myself of my suffering. Over the past year I had seen many men sick from the diseases in our camps. In fact more men were bedridden from the camp illnesses than were laid out from their battle wounds. But I had been lucky and most of my health problems had been limited to an ongoing case of diarrhea and the occasional chest cold. The camp doctor later told me that I had been knocked down with the camp fever but I had been luckier than many other soldiers who had died from the same illness. I was laid up in bed for almost four weeks and it took another four weeks for me to regain my full strength. I was never a large man. Before the war at 5’-8” tall I weighed around 150 pounds but I was sun tanned and made strong from the hard work at the copper mines. After my illness I was down to 120 pounds and my clothes which were now mostly rags hung loosely from my pale skeletal frame. Unfortunately my appearance which would hardly frighten an enemy soldier in battle, was not much different than the appearance of my comrades. The war this past summer had taken its toll on us and now we were facing another Virginia winter. It did not help that the food we were feed was both inadequate to stop our constant hunger and was tasteless or in many cases inedible. A typical meal consisted of a cornbread cake prepared in some kind of grease and a cup of “coffee” made from something other than coffee beans. When we got lucky we were served meat but it was usually tasteless, salty, and tough to chew and sometimes even rotten. It is no wonder that so many of us were sick. We all prayed that we had seen the last of the war for this year and that while life in a camp especially in the winter was not something we looked forward to, it was better than marching into battle and facing death.

Our march to Fredericksburg: Rumors that we might again stand off against the Yankees were soon spoken everywhere so none of us were surprised when on the 20th of November 1862 we were ordered to march eastward. Apparently the Union army was again on a path to attack our capital city of Richmond. By November 25th we had arrived at the town of Fredericksburg located just north of Richmond. Here we found the Yankees mobilizing to cross the Rappahannock River apparently following a plan to capture Fredericksburg and its surrounding hills. Our regiment was positioned across the river from the enemy just east of town but we could clearly see by the 25th of November the Yankee troops beginning to install floating pontoons that they were using to build bridges to cross the river. The pontoon bridges took about two weeks for the Yankees to build and in the meantime, our army continued to grow in size with the addition of Jackson’s Division plus a number of recently conscripted fresh regiments from our southern states including Georgia who joined our already battle weary troops. Our 2nd Regiment was still in Longstreet’s First Corp and under the command of General Benning but our Division commander was now Major General John Bell Hood. We had heard only good things about General Hood which gave us some hope which in turn helped somewhat to offset our constant fear of going into battle.

December 11th thru December 15th 1862, Battle of Fredericksburg: The Battle at Fredericksburg took place between December 11th and the 15th with most of the heavy fighting ending on the 13th. Fortunately, our Regiment was not heavily engaged in this battle perhaps because we were in no shape to be of much help. On the 11th and 12th of December several of the companies in our 2nd Regiment were sent out to harasses the Yankees as they tried to cross the river but most of us from our Fannin County Company which was greatly diminished in size due to illness, did not engage the enemy. One of our boys from Fannin County however, Jimmy Brendle, I did not know him well, was captured by some of the Yankees sharp shooters during one of our early patrols but he was later exchanged. Jimmy’s not too bright behavior I understand lead to his capture. He told us later that he was well fed by the Yankees and he kind of hated to be exchanged. Our Division under General Hood was in the middle of the battle line with General Jackson to our right and other divisions of Longstreet’s Corp to our left. While it was hard during the battle and even after the battle for that matter to tell from our vantage point whether our army was victorious or not, we learned later that the Battle of Fredericksburg was a great victory for our side particularly as a result of the efforts of General Thomas Jackson’s men who had positioned themselves behind a long stone wall and then held their position firmly and bravely against constant waves of attacks by the Yankees. Following each attack wave despite our distance from the field of battle, we could hear the cheers of our men as the Yankees retreated. The field in front of the stone wall we were told was blue at the end of the battle. Blue from the thousands of killed and wounded blue uniformed soldiers who lay on the ground before our men. General Thomas Jackson was largely credited with our great victory and because his men refused to retreat from their position, “Stonewall” Jackson once again lived up to the nickname he had been given following the Battle of Manassas. Stonewall, because his men refused to budge. We were greatly inspired by this victory. [Editor’s note: The Battle of Fredericksburg resulted in 1,284 men killed on the Union side and 9,600 wounded and 608 men killed on the Confederate side and 4,116 men wounded. Fredericksburg was the last major battle of the war in the year of 1862 and despite the appalling number of deaths to date as a result of the conflict neither side had gained any advantages either militarily or politically. The Civil War however, was already an appalling display of mankind’s complete and utter stupidity.]

Winter 1862/63, Winter Camp at Guinea’s Station: Our division under Major General Hood retreated south from Fredericksburg on 17 December 1862 to an area called Guinea’s Station located on the Rappahannock River where we were to spend the remainder of the winter months in camp. Here we hoped to heal our army from the wounds of the hard battles we had fought, the illnesses that we constantly faced, and the poor living conditions of the past summer. Unfortunately the winter months were much colder than average and many more men died. My memory of that time brings back only great pain. I will continue my story after I have had a chance to rest, perhaps tomorrow morning. Thank you for your patience.