Confederate fortifications at Yorktown reinforced with bales of cotton. Library of Congress photo. LC-DIG-cwpb-01599 DLC.

Confederate fortifications at Yorktown reinforced with bales of cotton. Library of Congress photo. LC-DIG-cwpb-01599 DLC.

The first Europeans began settling Virginia more than 250 years before the Civil War. It is not surprising then that both Confederate and Union troops camped, marched and fought over the same grounds where many of their ancestors had lived, fought their own battles and died.

In the early hours of April 9, 1862, Francis and his comrades in the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment headed toward one of the most famous battlefields in America. They marched down to a James River landing in Richmond and boarded the steamboat Curtis Peck. Under a drenching rain, the boat steamed down the Peninsula, landing around 4 p.m. at Kings Hill wharf. From here the rebels marched about 10 miles through mud in “some places half boot leg deep.”

Around 10 p.m. that night, “cold, wet and hungry” they reached the Confederate defenses near the old Revolutionary War battlefield at Yorktown. Francis was among the fewer than 13,000 Confederates who dug in along the bank of the Warwick River. The graycoats and butternuts were there to block Major General George B. McClellan’s 55,000 troops from getting any closer to Richmond.

Francis probably didn’t know it, but his great grandfather William Hearne fought on this same ground.

Hearne served as a soldier of the Revolutionary War. Born in 1746 in Somerset

Grand French Battery, Revolutionary War Yorktown

Grand French Battery, Revolutionary War Yorktown. National Park Service photo.

County, Maryland, he died in Lowndes County, Alabama, on Sept. 21, 1832, six years before Francis was born.

During the Revolution, Hearne served in Gen. Kazimierz Pułaski’s legion, later absorbed into the legion of Gen. Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de la Rouërie. The legion, also called the 1st Partisan Corps, took part in the assault on Redoubt 10 at Yorktown that led to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.

Francis and his comrades were now trying to dissolve the very Union that their ancestors had fought so hard and sacrificed so much to create.

But Francis and his brothers and rebel comrades no doubt believed they were defending the constitutional principles they believed in and the legacy of the American Revolution.

Did your Civil War ancestors have Revolutionary War ancestors? What meaning can you draw from those links? Or did your Civil War ancestor family line arrive in the country after the Revolution? Did they see a different meaning in the fighting in the Civil War?

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