Soldier's graves near General Hospital, City Point, Virginia. During the Civil War, more men died of disease than from bullets. (Library of Congress photo. LC-DIG-cwpb-01872 DLC)

Soldiers’ graves near General Hospital, City Point, Virginia. During the Civil War, more men died of disease than from bullets. (Library of Congress photo. LC-DIG-cwpb-01872 DLC)

Over at the In-Depth Genealogist, Cindy Freed writes about “What Do You Do When Your Civil War Ancestor Isn’t Quite the Hero You Thought He Was?”

The article is about Freed’s thoughts as she researches a possible ancestor, a soldier who died during the Civil War. At first she imagines him dying a hero’s death. Then she discovers with some disappointment that he was a sickly soldier who died from disease. Finally she realizes she discovered a real person who had tough youth, who loved his family and served his country.

I, too, had an ancestor who died from disease during the war, Joseph Jay. His service in the Confederacy and death is a story of some irony. At the time the war began, Joseph lived in Jasper County, Mississippi, on farmland he bought from the U.S. government. The federal land patent of 1861 bore the signature of Abraham Lincoln. Joseph, who owned no slaves, died of disease a year later fighting against Lincoln’s soldiers around Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I never thought about being disappointed by an ancestor, as Freed seemed to be at first. In fact, I find the scoundrels to be more interesting.

While researching family history in the library one day, I overheard two other researchers talking about the rascals they had found in their family trees. One talked about the horse thief he had discovered. The other said, “Heck, it’s not the horse thieves that bother me. It’s the ancestor who was a congressman that embarrasses me.”

Enough said.

Advertisements