150 years after April 12, 1861

My Grandfather Jones. He and his wife (Born a Shipman) both lost their fathers during the Civil War.

Descendents of a dead Confederate Soldier

I’m going to change the subject today as America’s Civil War has been on my mind.  There are several reasons for this.  It’s been 150 short years since April 12, 1861 marked the beginning of a particularly vile and costly war.  The war ended the lives of 620,000 American soldiers, exceeding the nation’s loss in all other wars, from the Revolution against England through Vietnam.  My family lost many of men to a lost cause, (one side of the family sent off 9 young men, and only 3 returned) but I am most familiar with two deaths, those of my two great-great grandfathers.  Grandfather Shipman and Grandfather Jones were reluctant warriors.  Neither man wanted to fight for a cause they did not believe in.  Both wanted to stay home and raise their young families.  It was interesting to me to discover that neither joined the Confederate Army until Alabama passed a law ruling that any able-bodied man not in uniform would be interned in prison.  At that point, both joined the ranks of the Confederate Army.  Grandfather Jones was 44 years old, a man with many children.  Due to his age, he was assigned as a medic, dying of disease in a Tennessee Camp.  His body was never returned to his family and we can find out little about his death.  Grandfather Shipman was 31 years old when he joined, and 34 years old when he was killed by a sniper at Nashville, Tennessee.  Grandfather Shipman had fought in nearly every major battle with the Army of Tennessee, the battle for Atlanta, the battles across northern Georgia and Alabama and Franklin, Tennessee, one of the most costly battles in the war.  The Shipman family valued education, and Grandfather Shipman was a man who perferred quiet pursuits with books and letters.  He left behind a pregnant young wife and young children, (Grandmother Eliza Shipman gave birth to a son, his namesake, two weeks after her husband was killed).   My great-great grandfather’s body was never returned, although I have been to Tennesse twice on a quest to find his body so I could return his remains so that he could rest beside his loving wife.  My great Grandmother was one of those orphaned children, a 6 year old girl, who lived until I was five years old.  Her deathbed scene is one of my earliest and most vivid memories.  My Aunt Margaret (who, along with my father and their brother, Claude) was raised by her grandmother after her own mother died at a young age) often remembers her grandmother remembering and telling details regarding the horror of those years, and how the family was devastated by the death of her father.  Some of her most vivid memories were about food, albeit, the lack of food.  Grandmother Eliza and her children nearly starved to death.  Their lives were saved by one skinny cow they managed to save.  The lone cow was milked daily, with the milk diluted by water.  That diluted milk kept them alive for weeks after the war when no food was to be found.

I admit that I’ve been most interested in the lives of those who lived through, or died during, the civil war.  However, a new book about the civil war is drawing attention to the lost architectural heritage lost to poverty and neglect.  This very important book is titled:  GONE:  A Heartbreaking Story of The Civil War,  A Photographic Plea for Preservation by Nell Dickerson, a photographer and architect.  Since I’m from the south, I’m aware of all the old homes burned to the ground by the conquering Union Army.  But I spent most of my time and energy reading about and researching the lives of Southerns who lived through that era.  Therefore, I have never given enormous thought to the loss of the grand old homes or the modest cabins lost to the civil war.  Yet every home had a story, and when viewing the startling beautiful photographs, those stories come alive.

Although my family endured the most devastating personal losses, and I would have given much for my family to have avoided the horror and the anguish of human loss, I must add to this blog that I am thankful the south lost the war.  The cause of the war was wrong, and slavery will forever be a shame for our country, north and south.  I cringe to think that slavery would have endured until technology made slavery too financially costly to slave owners.

Despite these feelings, I still mourn the loss of life, of my heritage, and, yes, of the grand old homes burned to the ground by our conquerors.  Now, I have new knowledge through this book, information that makes it clear that much of our architectural heritage has been lost to neglect.

I believe that Dickerson’s book will become a collector’s item.  If you have any interest in the civil war, in beautiful photographs, or in antebellum homesteads, or, if you are a person interested in the arts, then you’ll enjoy the journey.  For me, the book is an emotionally charged feast.

GONE by Nell Dickerson on Amazon.com

About jeansasson

I'm a woman with a keen interest in a wide range of topics including women's issues; animal rights issues; humanitarian issues and political movements, such as the events currently sweeping the Middle East. I am an avid reader and collector of books, mainly about travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries. I have enormous curiosity about other people and relish hearing about lives and opinions of people from all over the world. I’m the author of the PRINCESS series, GROWING UP BIN LADEN, MAYADA DAUGHTER OF IRAQ, FOR THE LOVE OF A SON, and more. Over the past few years the princess and I have met and worked together to bring out a 4th, 5th and 6th book. The 4th is titled: PRINCESS, MORE TEARS TO CRY while the 5th is titled: PRINCESS, SECRETS TO SHARE. The 6th, titled PRINCESS, STEPPING OUT OF THE SHADOWS is to be released in October 2018. I am currently working on my memoirs. Details to be released soon. You can visit my website (http://www.jeansasson.com/) or check out my books on Amazon for more info.
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12 Responses to 150 years after April 12, 1861

  1. Thank you for calling our attention to the book. I will be ordering a copy. Enjoyed reading your family history.
    My great-great grandmother had to go and live on the Pauper Farm in Randolph County, Alabama after the war when her husband was killed. I recently found the Pauper Cemetery and walked with a heart full of saddness and regret for her as I looked over the large cemetery – now lost among a pine grove.

    • jeansasson says:

      Hi Rhonda! Well, that is an interesting bit of information to know. I have never heard of the Pauper Farm but I am going to research it now. How terrible for her. I share your emotions and feel so terribly sad every time I think of all that was lost… Our families suffered horribly, along with many other thousands of families. It makes me sad to think that the cemetary is lost among a pine grove… Most members of my family are buried in two different churches in Alabama. Since my Grandfather Harden started one of the churches (he was the pastor for many years) most of my mother’s family are buried in that little country church graveyard. I only get there once a year to put out flowers and walk amongst their graves. On the other hand, I grew up on a few miles from the church and cemetary where the Jones family and Shipman family are all buried. My great grandfather owned the land in that are and he donated it to the church for a cemetary so they are all there. I’m the family member who often goes to visit, and who keeps flowers on the graves. It’s a great pleasure for me. Thanks so much for writing in, Rhonda. I really appreciate it and enjoyed your post. Jean

    • jeansasson says:

      Hi again… I did a little research but can find very little information on the Pauper Home and cemetary. I came across a listing of people buried there. I’ll keep it up because I find it a very haunting existence for your grandmother.

      • There is very little knowledge of the Pauper Farm. The Randolph County Courthouse burned in 1897 and almost all of the records burned in the fire. The records on the genweb page only go back to 1910. I have found a few other articles and budget records of the Pauper Farm in the old newspapers. Our Randolph Leader newspaper began in 1882 and is invaluable to our history.

        Isn’t it sad how so few family members take interest in their ancestors graves? I walk a cemetery at least once a week. It keeps me “centered.”

  2. Well said Jean. You should consider writing a book about your ancestors 🙂

    • jeansasson says:

      Good Morning to you, Tara Umm Omar… I’m glad you read the post. That was such a terrible time for all Americans. I traveled to Charleston a few years ago and visited where the war started and someone asked me how I felt (since my family have always been southerners since the beginning in the 1700’s when they emigrated from England and Ireland) and I replied, “It makes me ANGRY! Horrible cause! Terrible War! Why couldn’t those wealthy landowners realize the anguish they were causing so many people. They could have freed their slaves and then if the people were interested, hired them the same way landowners have always hired people to work for them. Instead, their arrogance caused them to start a war that crippled the south, caused endless death and mayhem.” As I have mentioned, the lives of my own family was forever changed, and not for the better. When I write about all the interesting, marvelous people I have met on this journey, I will probably tell a little about those good people who came before me. They were fine fine people who left Europe and made their way to the USA, fighting in the Revolution, and then in the Indian wars (another wrong) and finally in the Civil War. Of course, after that, men of the family went off to Europe to fight in World War I and then World War II. Then I had cousins to fight in the Korea War and then in Vietnam. While I have distant relatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one that I know well. As much as I hate war, I must admit that war has altered my family in so many ways. What about you? Do you know when your family came to the states and under what circumstances? Every American has an interesting story because we are a land of emigrants, coming from all over the world.

      • jeansasson says:

        Oh, that’s Grandfather Jones on the left in the photo, with his oldest brother in the middle and his youngest brother on the right. I don’t think Grandfather Jones was very old in this photo but life was hard after the war and I suspect that they all aged prematurely. You can’t tell by looking at him in the photo but he was a very tall man for the times, around 6’2″ and his younger brother was around 6’6″, a giant in those days! My mother once told me that Grandfather and Grandmother Jones (Shipman–little girl who nearly starved to death but for a cow) were the two finest people she had ever known. I know that they were very religious and very hard working.

  3. It was a very turbulent time in America, pitting brothers against brothers. So many lives lost but so many lives gained when slaves were freed. Couldn’t there have been a diplomatic solution rather than blood shed? But God willed it to happen this way and it happened for a reason.

    After the Civil War, former slaves were still enslaved mentally and financially through a system called peonage…


    Native American Indians were also subjected to peonage in the form of debt. Ironically, some of the tribes were slave owners and discriminated against Black Freedmen even though they themselves were discriminated against by White people!

    I haven’t gotten as far up my family tree to pinpoint the original countries of my ancestors. Because I’m doing my research abroad, I have been relegated to whatever is available online and will have to fill in the blanks when I get stateside. The furthest I have traced my family is my great-great-great grandparents. After the 1870 census, it slows down for most Black people tracking down their ancestors. If they can’t be found beyond the 1870 census, they were most likely slaves. I am at the point where I am trying to match my ancestors to slave owners on the 1860 and 1850 censuses but there is only so much I can do online. I do know that my surname, Gregory, was taken from slave owners. My GGG-Grandfather, Monro Balam Gregory, was born in South Carolina, probably coming to Mississippi with his slave owner. I found a lot of my ancestors’ first names mentioned as slaves on the will of slave owner, Benjamin J Gregory from South Carolina. I was excited by this big find but since the slave schedules do not list names except for slaves 100 years or older, I hit a brick wall, at least online.

    So although I do have 4 GGG-Grandfathers that were alive during the Civil War, I haven’t yet found them enlisted or in servitude to their owners on Ancestry.com or elsewhere online. That doesn’t mean they weren’t though. I just have to keep searching.

    I could talk more about other branches of my family tree but don’t wanna take up space on here lol. I’d love to do a DNA test to narrow down where my ancestors came from. It can even be traced back to a specific country! Again, I have to put it on hold until I return to the US.

  4. jeansasson says:

    I agree, I would feel exactly the same… Thanks for this article — I’ll be reading it later today. Have a wonderful day, my friend… Jean

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