Tuesday, April 29, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 17: S S Sprague, age 55 and a Captain in the Civil War

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Sidney S Sprague was born 29 April 1806 at Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada.  (They were Americans, only briefly in Canada.) His family moved to Ohio when Sidney was 8 years old.

He married Mary in about 1832 in Defiance, OH. They had four children.  Sadly, his only son Frederick drowned in the Maumee River in childhood.  He also had three daughters, Caroline, Mary (who later married John B Lewis) and Adaline.

“Sidney was an attorney and merchant in Defiance, OH where he held several minor town offices.  He was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, in 1843-44 and  in 1849-1850. In 1851, Sidney was elected Mayor of Defiance, OH.

Official roster of the soldiers of the State of Ohio
in the War of the Rebellion

At the opening of the Civil War, Sidney (age 55) raised Company D for the 14th Ohio Infantry and was elected captain." (1)    At that time, the 14th Ohio Infantry service term was for three months.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 16: John B Lewis in the Civil War: deserted, arrested, captured at Spring Hill, dead in a fiery explosion!

When I first found John B Lewis (1837-1913) on the list of soldiers for the 9th Indiana Infantry, I was so happy just to find his name.  As I read across the page, under remarks, it said: deserted, returned, captured at Spring Hill, mustered out June 28, 1865.  Wow.  I had to know more.

 I got his service file from the National Archives… and it’s a good story.

John B Lewis was born in Indiana, got married to Mary Sprague, and had a little girl named Ida May.

Then on March 1, 1862, he volunteered and joined the Union Army.  He was assigned to the 9th Indiana Infantry in Company K for a three year term.  The Regiment shipped out and arrived in Nashville one week later.

The 9th Indiana Infantry, Company A (same regiment, different company)

And a week after that, John was sick in the hospital.  (He had passed his physical just two weeks prior.) He was granted a 5 month discharge furlough on March 27, 1862 and he headed back home. While John was gone, his unit fought in the Battle of Shiloh, a major battle of April 6-7, 1862. When August 18 came around, he should have returned to duty.  But for some reason he did not.  Ida May was not yet one year old.  John stayed home (for over a year), presumably farming, and supporting his young family.  But it was a short lived respite.

13 months and 13 days (October 3, 1863) after John was supposed to report back to his unit, he was arrested, and returned by the Army to join up with his unit in Tennessee.

His unit saw a lot of action in the Civil War.  They were part of the Union Army’s IV Corps, First Division, 3rd Brigade.

The Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought November 24, 1863, where union forces defeated confederate forces at Chattanooga, TN and “opened the gateway into the Deep South ... casualties were relatively light by the standards of the Civil War: 408 Union, 1,251 Confederate (including 1,064 captured or missing).  Sylvanus Cadwallader, a war reporter accompanying Grant's army, wrote that it was more like a ‘magnificent skirmish’, than a major battle.

General Grant, writing in his memoirs, ‘The battle of Lookout Mountain is one of the romances of the war. There was no such battle and no action even worthy to be called the battle on Lookout Mountain. It is all poetry.’ “(1)    Nevertheless, the action was important in assuring control of the Tennessee River and the railroad into Chattanooga.

After 3 months of service, in January and February of 1864, John B Lewis was listed as on furlough at home in Indiana, then he was present in March, and listed absent sick in a hospital in Cleveland, TN in April 1864.

Sherman's army destroying rail infrastructure in Atlanta, 1864
Then for the next 9 months he was with his regiment and they saw a lot of action: “The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May 1864. Atlanta fell on September 2, setting the stage for Sherman's March to the Sea and hastening the end of the war. “(2)

As General Sherman headed east, Maj. Gen. John Schofield's Army of the Ohio with a force of 27,000 troops (including John B Lewis’ regiment), was detached and marched west to Tennessee. There they encountered Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's confederate Army of Tennessee, at 39,000 men, which constituted the second-largest remaining army of the Confederacy, ranking in strength only after Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

Union General John M Schofield and Confederate General John Bell Hood

"From November 24 to 29, Schofield and Hood clashed at the "Battle of Columbia" which was a series of mostly bloodless skirmishes and artillery bombardments while both sides re-gathered their armies.” (3)

Then on November 29th, Hood’s troops head north and outflanked Schofield, splitting his army in two. Hood thought he had trapped Schofield, and took the night off.  Meanwhile, Schofield maneuvered his army in the middle of the night, escaping.  “Both the Union infantry and supply train managed to pass Spring Hill unscathed by dawn on November 30, and soon occupied the town of Franklin 12 miles to the north. Hood was furious!  After an angry conference with his subordinate commanders in which he blamed everyone but himself for the mistakes, Hood ordered his army to resume its pursuit north to Franklin." (3)

What’s interesting about that, is that John B Lewis was captured on that very night; the night when the Union Army sneaks away from the Confederate Army.  I don’t know how that happened, but he was captured and became a prisoner of war.

John B  Lewis was sent to Cahaba Prison also known as Castle Morgan, near Selma, Alabama.  “Cahaba was located in a cotton warehouse on the banks of the Alabama River. At its peak in 1864 and 1865, 3,000 men were housed there in with an average living space of only six square feet, by far the most crowded of any prison, north or south. Conditions were harsh, but thanks to a humane prison director and the kindnesses of town people, fewer than 250 soldiers died there.” (4)

After 4½ months at the prison camp, John B Lewis was released because the war had ended.

The soldiers were transported to Jackson MS and then "they had to walk the rest of the way to Vicksburg, which was then about 50 miles on the old road.  Many of the men had no shoes and their feet were bleeding by the time they reached Vicksburg MS.  They were also extremely hungry." (5)

"At Camp Fisk, they were given clean clothes and food, while arrangements were made to transport them north on the Mississippi River.“(5)  On April 10, John B Lewis entered the parole camp hospital near Vicksburg with diarrhea and was returned to duty the next day.

SS Sultana
On April 27, the Steamship Sultana arrived.  The Union Army paid the Sultana $5 for each soldier’s transport.  The Sultana “already had about 180 private passengers and crew on board, but by the time more than 2,000 paroled prisoners (and others) boarded, the boat left Vicksburg with about 2,400 people on board – more than six times its capacity. There was standing room only." (5)

"Around 2 a.m., while most of the men were sleeping, the Sultana exploded and caught fire about seven miles upriver from Memphis. The (3 of the 4) boilers that heated water for its steam engines had exploded due to a faulty design and the heavy load of its human cargo.  Some were killed instantly by the explosion. Others awoke to find themselves flying through the air, and did not know what had happened. One minute they were sleeping and the next they found themselves struggling to swim in the very cold Mississippi River. Some passengers burned on the boat. The fortunate ones clung to debris in the river, or to horses and mules that had escaped the boat, hoping to make it to shore, which they could not see because it was dark and the flooded river was at that point almost five miles wide.

Of the approximately 2,400 people on board, about 1,700 died (800 of them from the Cahaba Prison). The Sultana remains the worst maritime disaster in American history — more people died than with the 1912 sinking of the Titanic."(5)

The records state that John B Lewis perished on the Sultana.

But then, the record was amended and said that John survived the Sultana with a slight scald and was treated (for anemia) at the Gayoso Hospital in Memphis. He was returned to duty three days later on April 30.

"Most of the passengers who survived did so by floating on pieces of the boat until they made it to shore or could be rescued. One man survived by floating almost 10 miles on the back of a dead mule. One survivor recalled that there was at least one person clinging to every tree along the flooded banks of the river. All of them were very cold, and some sang songs to try to keep their mind off their troubles. Other survivors mimicked the sounds of birds or frogs." (5)

"In the early morning hours of April 27, 1865, as word of the disaster spread, numerous boats began to assist in the rescue, and the survivors were sent to hospitals in Memphis. Many were naked by the time they were rescued, having shed their clothes to make it easier to swim. In Memphis they were given red long johns (much like thermal long underwear), which some of them wore as they wandered the streets of Memphis." (5)

"When they were well enough, the survivors were put on other boats and sent north, where they finally made it home. The Sultana remained at the bottom of the Mississippi River."(5)

On June 12, 1865, John B Lewis was at home in Logansport, Indiana, but he was sick in bed and could not write.  Charles Lasselle (the same name as the man who recorded the 1860 census) wrote a letter on his behalf asking that his disability furlough be extended.

John B Lewis was discharged on June 28, 1865.

Even though there was so much information in his service file, mysteries still remain:  about his illnesses, about his service: what did he see in all those battles, about his time as a prisoner of war and his release, about his experience with the explosion.  I wish he had written his memoirs, it would be fascinating reading.

John B Lewis was remarried in about 1870 to Sarah M.  I don’t know what happened to his first wife Mary.

John, wife Sarah and daughter Ida May moved to Iowa and were living there in 1880.  Then John and Sarah moved south over the border into Missouri and are counted in the 1900 and 1910 censuses.

John B Lewis died on 18 April 1913 at the age of 75.  (just one year before our grandpa Delbert was born)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 15: Skidmores in the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War

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This is the fifth, and last entry for the Skidmores; they were an amazing, adventurous family.  Again, this is the research work of Warren Skidmore in 1980.  Here is a synopsis:

James Skidmore was second son of Joseph and Annes Skidmore.  He was born in 1732 in Murderkill Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. As a young man, he moved with his family to (West) Virginia in the early 1750s.

He married Sarah McDonald in about 1758.  They had 6 children.

He served in the French and Indian War with his brothers Joseph and John in the company commanded by Capt. Abraham Smith.

In 1768, James and his family moved south to Virginia and purchased 88 acres on the James River near Jennings’s Creek for £55 and in 1779 he bought a plantation of 123 acres on the south side of the James River.

He filed a claim in Botetourt (pronounced Bot-i-tot) County under the Commissary Provision law of 1782 and a certificate was issued to him for the payment of 468 lbs of beef furnished to the Revolutionary Army on 14 Feb 1782.

In 1783, he was taxed on 7 horses and 25 head of cattle. In 1786, James purchased an additional 60 acres on the James River for £55.  This land descended to his son Randolph Skidmore and either he or his father operated Skidmore’s Ferry there for many years. "The fare for a man was four cents, and for a horse, the same."

James (age 75) died in Botetourt County, Virginia before December 1807. Sarah (age 81), his widow, was living as late as 17 Feb 1816.

All of his sons except Randolph went to Kentucky.

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Lieutenant Joseph Skidmore was the oldest son of James Skidmore (above) and Sarah McDonald.
He was born 31 July 1761 in Pendleton County, (West) Virginia.

Joseph Skidmore served in the American Revolution.  His pension application outlines his service: About 1 November 1780 he was drafted in Capt. James Smith’s company of Botetourt County Militia. The company marched to New River and, with other troops, was attached to Col. Crokett’s regiment.  They marched through Washington and Montgomery Counties (in Virginia) to North Carolina and thence to the French Broad River where they joined Col Campbell.  Joseph was then part of the company of Capt. Cartman and marched to Fincastle County on the way to join General Greene.  His service was for six months, and he did not participate in any major battles.
signature of Joseph Skidmore on his Pension Application
Joseph (age 27) moved to Lincoln County, Kentucky in 1788.  His pension application says that in 1791 he was ordered out for 60 days as an Indian spy by Col John Logan and attached to the company of Capt. John Blaine.

Joseph married Hannah McKinney on 6 Aug 1791 in Lincoln County, KY.  On 19 Jan 1796 he bought 100 acres on the waters of the Hanging Fork Creek for $100.

Joseph and Hannah had five children. Hannah (age 38) died in 1806, leaving her children ages 14, 12, 10, 8 and 6.  Polly (our ancestor) was their second child and later married Samuel McAninch.

Joseph was remarried, shortly after his wife's death, to Catherine Manning on 27 Aug 1806.

Joseph (age 73) was pensioned (for his war service) on 9 April 1834 at the rate of $20 per annum. He (age 86) died before 8 Feb 1847 in Lincoln County, KY.

  • Thomas Skidmore (Scadamore), 1605-1684, of Westerleigh, Gloucestershire, and Fairfield, Connecticut by Warren Skidmore, 1980  https://openlibrary.org/books/OL4164222M/Thomas_Skidmore_(Scudamore)_1605-1684_of_Westerleigh_Gloucestershire_and_Fairfield_Connecticut/borrow
  • Pension application of Joseph Skidmore S15648: http://revwarapps.org/s15648.pdf

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 14: Two Joseph Skidmores, Indian Raids and Life on the Frontier

Again, this is the research work of Warren Skidmore in 1980.  Here is a synopsis:

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Joseph Skidmore Sr. was born about 1674 at Jamaica, LI.  The 4th of 5 children of John Skidmore and Susanna Davis. His mother died when he was 3 and his father died when he was 6.  It is assumed that he was raised by kinsmen.

As adults, two of his older brothers went to Kent County Delaware, and Joseph Sr. joined them there.

Joseph Sr married Rebecca Miller of Kent County, Delaware in about 1702, and they had two children.

On 10 July 1702 Joseph Sr (age 28) purchased for £14 silver money, a 92 acre tract called “Fisher’s Delight” from his brother Thomas (age 37).

Joseph Sr (age 34) died in Murderkill Hundred, Kent County, Delaware before 12 May 1708.  In his will, Joseph Sr left his entire estate to his wife Rebecca.  His daughter Susanna was to have a yearling colt and his son Joseph was to have “the 92 acres of land that I dwell on.”

Murderkill Hundred = A”hundred” is smaller than a county, each with 100 households.  Kill (dutch) means creek.  It got its name after the local Indians attacked and killed the members of a Dutch settlement in 1648.

Joseph Skidmore was born about 1706, the son of Joseph Sr (above, who died when Joseph was 2 years old) and Rebecca.

Joseph (age 24) married Annes Caldwell in about 7 April 1730.  Her father was one of the most influential men in Kent County, Delaware and her brother Andrew was in the General Assembly of Delaware from 1745 to 1757.   They had 11 children, born between 1730 and 1750.  Our ancestor is their second child, James.

On 18 June 1736, Joseph, yeoman, (a commoner who cultivates his own land), sold Fisher’s Delight (inherited from his father) for £70, and moved to Maryland.

In 11 June 1748, Joseph (age 42) bought a tract of 50 acres called Monican in Maryland for £50, but only lived there briefly.
Harper's Ferry, with the Shenandoah (left)
and Potomac (right) rivers.
Joseph took his family south into Virginia passing through the gap at Harper’s Ferry. They “camped” for a time while Joseph and his older sons crossed the Alleghenies looking for land.  There is a place at the mouth of the North River called to this day Skidmore’s Fork.

By 1753 they had crossed the mountains and settled permanently in Augusta County, VA what would become Pendleton County, West VA. Beginning on 7 Oct 1754, many land surveys were recorded by Joseph Skidmore. It defined the boundaries of 180 acres on Friend’s Run near the present county seat of Franklin.  He entered small tracts that promised some easy development.  After the French and Indian War when settlers came flocking, he had a fine selection of the very best land to sell them.

Joseph Skidmore had scarcely gained a footing in Virginia before the whole of the frontier was bathed in blood.

At the time the Skidmores settled near Ruddle, West Virginia, no Indians lived in the immediate area and those who passed through on hunting expeditions were friendly.  However, the French soon after supplied them with arms and induced them to attack the English.  With tensions rising, two English forts had been built to defend the 200 or so families who lived in Pendleton County.

On 27 April 1758, a Shawnee raiding party of about 40 braves captured and burned Fort Upper Tract (about five miles from the Skidmore settlement at Ruddle) killing 22 people.  The next day they attacked Fort Seybert where they killed 17 of the white settlers and took 11 prisoners.

Many of the surviving families fled. In the summer of 1758 a number of wills, inventories and sale bills were recorded at Staunton for those who perished in the forts.  The Skidmores figure in many of these instruments settling up the estates of their former neighbors.

We have ample evidence that the Skidmores stayed despite the perils.  On 14 September 1758, the Assembly at Williamsburg voted to pay for the public expense of the war and Joseph Skidmore (age 52) is listed as being due £1, 7sh.  The accounts also list his three oldest sons, Joseph, James and John Skidmore, who were entitled payments for their service in the Augusta County Militia during the French and Indian War.

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Joseph's home was near the present crossroads at Ruddle where he built a mill on Skidmore’s Mill Run.  His original house has since been enlarged and sided over on the outside.  The original burr stone from his mill was used many years ago as a foundation for a chimney added to the house.  It was still there as of 1977.

The Skidmores did most of their trading at a store kept by Felix Gilbert at Peale’s Crossroads.  His account books survive for the years 1774-1777.

Joseph (age 72) died before 17 March 1778 at Ruddle, West Virginia. His will was dated some three years earlier, “being overtaken with the infirmities of age and weak of body.“  The estate totaled nearly £550, including slaves.  (I was so disappointed to find out that we had ancestors who owned slaves.  When you go looking into the past, you never know what you might find, and I think it's important to share both the good and the bad aspects of our family's history.)

Annes Skidmore survived her husband by many years at least until Jan 1792 when she would have been about 80 years old.

  • Thomas Skidmore (Scadamore), 1605-1684, of Westerleigh, Gloucestershire, and Fairfield, Connecticut by Warren Skidmore, 1980  https://openlibrary.org/books/OL4164222M/Thomas_Skidmore_(Scudamore)_1605-1684_of_Westerleigh_Gloucestershire_and_Fairfield_Connecticut/borrow
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murderkill_River

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 13: John Skidmore and a Murder Trial

Again, this is the research work of Warren Skidmore in 1980.  Here is a synopsis:

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John Skidmore was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts on 11 April 1643, the youngest child of Thomas and Ellen Skidmore.

John married Susanna Davis in about 1662 in Jamaica (named after the Jameco Indian Tribe), Long Island, and they had five children.

John had settled at Jamaica, Long Island, by 1662 when it was voted and concluded at a town meeting that “John Skidmore shall have the first lot next the highway…upon consideration that he shall do the town’s work for smithery.”

On 1 January 1663/4 his name is signed as one of the proprietors of Jamaica in the statement of allegiance addressed to Charles II.  Long Island was under Dutch rule at this time and the men of Jamaica protested that their “soil being invaded and His Majesty’s rights usurped by the Hollanders to the great scandal of government and discouragement of His Majesty’s hopeful plantation which we will for the future defend as Englishmen, just proprietors, and loyal subjects.”

First Presbyterian Church
 of Jamaica,Long Island,
 Queens, New York

His name appears frequently in the Jamaica town minutes. As early as 1668, he served as town clerk and was given “twelve shillings for his pains (service).” He was also clerk for the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica which dates from 1662 and claims to be the oldest church of the denomination in the United States.

His home lot in Jamaica was on the north side of the burying ground (now Prospect Cemetery at 159th Street near Jamaica Ave).

In addition to blacksmithing, John Skidmore was also a tobacco planter.

In 1675, his eldest son John, then about 12 years old, accidentally shot and killed a young friend, Thomas Barker, while his parents were gone from home. In spite of his youth, the lad was indicted for murder.  On 22 July 1675 John and Susanna Skidmore addressed a petition to Gov. Andros; “to our great grief and trouble it fell out so that my son taking up a gun which stood in the house not knowing it was charged, yet presuming to cock the gun without examining whether it was charged or not, it did that mischievous act killing the other for which hath been so great a grief to your petitioners in so much that we know not well how to bear our affliction.”

The petition asks that the case be heard by persons unprejudiced to their son for “seeing some of our neighbors manifest so much malice against us and our child adds much to our grief." The petition is signed by John Skidmore and the mark of Susanna, his wife.

The trial was at New York City on 7 October 1675. Samuel Barker, the father of the victim brought an indictment against John Skidmore, Jr. The jury was sworn and the lads present at the shooting said that there was no quarrel between the boys.  Another witness stated that the young Barker forgave John Skidmore before he died.  The jury returned with a verdict of “chance medley” and the prisoner was cleared.  His younger brother Joseph (our ancestor) was only about 1 year old at the time.

The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead
(a home in the Jamaica area built in 1654)
Painting by William R Miller
On 13 Feb 1677/8, John Skidmore, “being now sick of the small poxe” made his last will.  His wife Susannah had just died, perhaps of the same complaint.  John left all his property to be divided among his five children.

However, John recovered from the pox, but then died about 3 years later:  John (age 37) died at Jamaica, Long Island, just previous to 7 July 1680 when an inventory of his estate was made. Including real property, it totaled £127. His children (approx. ages 17, 15, 12, 6, 4) appear to have been divided among several kinsmen.

  • http://www.firstchurchjamaica.org/
  • http://www.thirteen.org/queens/history.html
  • Thomas Skidmore (Scadamore), 1605-1684, of Westerleigh, Gloucestershire, and Fairfield, Connecticut by Warren Skidmore, 1980  https://openlibrary.org/books/OL4164222M/Thomas_Skidmore_(Scudamore)_1605-1684_of_Westerleigh_Gloucestershire_and_Fairfield_Connecticut/borrow
  • Records of the town of Jamaica, Long Island, New York, 1656-1751, edited by Josephine C. Frost,Published 1914 by Long Island Historical Society in Brooklyn, N.Y .