Monday, May 30, 2016

Where have all the flowers gone?

Irvin Walker died of illness a few months after he "joined"
      Since Memorial Day originally started out as Decoration Day to remember those who died in the Civil War, I thought maybe I should mention some of my ancestors who fought in that war.
      Most of my relatives who served in the Union Army survived. My mother's grandfather,Granville Coleman, was born in Virginia but his family moved to Missouri when he was a child. He joined the Missouri Cavalry when he was 16 and fought at the Battle of Pilot Knob, the opening engagement of Gen. Sterling Price's raid on Missouri in 1864. Granville fell off his horse and was dragged along the ground. He was hospitalized for much of the remainder of the war.
     Granville's father-in-law, William Nicholas Rogers, was a lead miner from England. He served in the Missouri Infantry. They were fighting in Louisiana in  February, 1863, when Nick developed such severe lung disease that he was transported by ambulance boat up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Although Nick and Granville both received small pensions for their ailments, they lived well into the 20th Century.
      Robert B. Walker, my father's great-grandfather, went to Springfield, Ill., in February, 1864, to join the Illinois Infantry, although he was most likely rounded up in Missouri by Union soldiers and forced to join.  He survived the war but died in 1877, the same year his daughter, Dad's grandmother, was born. She was orphaned five years later when her mother died as well.
        Robert's brother, Irvin B.Walker, was 36 and planning to sit this one out when he was "recruited" in  the fall of 1864 to serve in the 48th Missouri Infantry guarding the railroad from Rolla to St. Louis. He became sick at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and died in January, 1865, about three months after he joined. He was one of 120 in the regiment to die of illness that winter.
       Even more of the Confederate cousins died. The Coleman relatives who stayed behind in Virginia joined the Confederacy. John was killed at Richmond in 1862. Brothers Joseph and Thomas were wounded at Gettysburg and became prisoners of war.
        Andrew Tullock, one of my mother's gggreat uncles, lost his legs in the war, came back and lived with his brother but died a few years later. Another uncle Andrew J. Tullock died as a Confederate soldier at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in 1862. His brother Samuel was killed in battle a year later.
       Oh the futility of it all! I can't help thinking about that '60s folk song, "Where have all the Flowers Gone?"  If you are out decorating graves today, sing  a verse for me.

"...when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tale of two cousins

Kit Carson
Last week I told you about my gggreat uncle James Jamison who was considered an outlaw during the Civil War but became one of the most famous lawmen in Texas. This week I'll tell you about his cousin who was also praised and scorned. Perhaps you've heard of him: Kit Carson.
         Actually Jim and Kit were third cousins. They shared the same great-great grandfather: Moses Carson. And since Jim's sister, Anna, was my grandmother's grandmother, I suppose I'm a distant cousin of Kit Carson too.
         But fame, I've come to understand, is something you want to touch with a long pole.
         Carson was born in Kentucky but moved to Missouri when he was just a baby. His parents settled near Boone's Lick in the middle of the state and were friends with the sons of Daniel Boone. Kit's father died when he was 8 and Kit was apprenticed to a saddle-maker in nearby Franklin.
          Now Franklin is a town where less than a hundred people live today, but in 1821 when Missouri became a state, Franklin was one of the most popular cities. That's where the Santa Fe trail began. People stopped by the saddle shop on their way West. It wasn't long before 16-year-old Kit joined a wagon train full of trappers.
          He supposedly killed his first Indian when he was 19 and became known for his ability to hunt and kill Indians who had attacked settlers or stolen their horses.
          In the 1840s John C. Fremont hired him as a guide for his expeditions mapping the Oregon Trail  and California. Fremont's reports brought national fame to Kit Carson. By 1847 exaggerated versions of Carson's adventures filled dime novels that everyone read.
            Carson served in the Mexican-American War and led New Mexico's Union troops during the Civil War. Since there weren't many Confederates to fight in New Mexico, Carson spent most of the war fighting Apaches and Navajo.
             Carson served as an Indian agent for the Utes and one of his final acts was to accompany Ute chiefs to Washington so they could plead their case to President Johnson. He died in Colorado in 1868 of an aortic aneurysm.        
          In the 20th Century,  many historians criticized Carson's participation the military's slaughter of whole Indian villages during the Civil War era.  Tales of his early Indian fighting years also show an over-eagerness to kill Indians whether they were a threat or not.
          Fame is a fickle thing. The same public opinion that calls you a hero can turn into hatred and blame. Cousin Jim would understand.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Genuinely scary

       They called him Genuine Jim, the real thing. But as I sort through reports of my most notorious ancestor, I have a devil of a time deciding what is real and what is legend.
         I can't even tell you for sure when he was born. His tombstone in Yoakum, Texas, says he was born in 1841 yet on the 1850 census he was listed as age 6. Other age reports conflict as well.
          About all we know for sure is Jim Jamison was a healthy young man in the unhealthy state of Missouri during the Civil War. Imagine if you took all the political disagreements of today and tried to solve them by shooting anyone who held an opposing view. That was Missouri in the 1860s!
           According to his widow's pension application, Jim served as a Confederate soldier from 1862 to the end of the war. But even that service is in dispute. Some say he spent the entire war in prison. Some say he wasn't an official soldier but a "Bushwhacker" who rode with the likes of Bill Wilson and Quantrill's Raiders.  The most frightening tales come from the memoirs of a former Union soldier, Col. William Monks, who describes Jamison as terrorizing southern Missouri in the years after the war, slaughtering returning Union soldiers for no reason.
          By 1870 Genuine Jim moved to Texas where his gun-slinging ability was appreciated. He served as a deputy or marshal in several Texas towns -- Halletsville, Luling, Flatonia, Schulenberg, Gonzales. Even those records don't always agree on his title and jurisdiction.He supposedly killed about 20 people during his lifetime, and was wounded at least that many times.
        When he died of pneumonia in 1906, an obituary called him "one of the best known peace officers in the state of Texas... He never knew what fear was and handled the toughest desperadoes with a facility and fearlessness that caused his very name to strike fear to the hearts of lawless people."
           Evidently Genuine Jim still has the ability to be pretty scary.
           Lavaca County Attorney John Stuart Fryer keeps a picture of Jamison on his office wall in the courthouse. Even in black and white, Jamison's icy blue eyes are so menacing that Fryer said one visitor commented that he looked like he was going to kill him.