The Tracy Family History
War of 1812 & Civil War
As the War of 1812 approached, Lieutenant-Colonel James McDowell recruited a regiment of 1,200 men at Lexington, Virginia, and offered their services to the President. This regiment would not face combat although a great number would fall to disease. It is interesting to note that the historian, Jos Waddell, was not able to locate even one letter, let alone a series of letters, from any soldier in this regiment telling of their experiences during the war.
“The militia of Rockbridge was full of patriotism and military ardor.” ... at the beginning.
The regiment was known as the “Flying Corps.” They patrolled the peninsula between the James and York Rivers. It is said that their presence stopped the British from invading Virginia.
At the end of the war the government refused to pay the soldiers, so Col. McDowell stood on the steps of the treasure office in Washington DC, until his men were paid. (“While other commanders allowed their men to return home without a penny or with no more than ’short rations and ragged garments.’ “)
McDowell was tall and strikingly handsome, and leading his regiment, he “...was exactly like Washington.”
As for our Anderson County people, it is said that every man of military age in the county volunteered for the war.
The given reason for fighting the War of 1812 was the British actions of stopping American ships at sea and impressing American seaman to serve aboard British ships. This lead to a series of actions and counter-actions until war was declared. The North Eastern Seaboard states were strongly opposed to the war as their livelihood depended upon shipping and trade. However, there was another hidden reason for the war.
To understand the War of 1812, we must go back to the Revolutionary War. It is impossible today to understand the intense hatred our people had for the British during this War for Independence, 220 years ago.
For our people in the South it began with "Waxhaws." This barbarity by the enemy would set the stage for an embittered attitude towards the British. Day-by-day, this attitude of hatred would be inflamed by the British armies' mistreatment of the civilians, and, as well shall see, of the combatants as well.
In the North, the British army was almost totally sustained by the British merchant marine. In the South they had to be supported by raiding parties foraging the country side. The enemy soldiers literally plundered the land, taking whatever they wanted from the farms and destroying what they could not carry away. The families, even the women whose men were away at war were abused. This created a hatred that would last for decades.
The livestock and even the slaves were taken. There was the constant fear that their slaves would be taken, then used against them. The plundered families were left with nothing.
One eyewitness tells us of what he experienced and saw happen to his neighbors. ...the Cattle (were) killed, the women insulted, & even the negroes plundered.” And he was a loyalist!
The greatest hatred towards the British was caused by their treatment of prisoners, not only military but also civilians. They were crowded into churches, warehouses, or any building they could be crammed into. In summer they would suffocate from the overwhelming humidity and heat. In winter they would freeze, dying of exposure and pneumonia. Provided with little food; and what food they were given was usually rotten. The prisoners died like flies from starvation and its side effects. Always there was dysentery, and the myriad of disease prevalent at the time.
Even worse was the fate that befell those on the prison ships. In the middle of the war the British established a chain of a dozen ships that lie in anchor at Brooklyn. Some were called prison ships, which were extermination camps. Others, were called hospital ships, which were extermination camps. These once might warships had now outlived their usefulness... except at exterminating the Patriot prisoners of war (even though one-third of the prisoners were actually civilians.)
The High Command provided funds to maintain the prisoners. These funds were routinely stolen by those running the prison system. The worse prison ship was the H M S Jersey.
1,100 men were crammed into this one ship. A dozen would die each day. Their bodies would be rowed to shore for a hasty burial in a shallow grave; or, more conveniently, just dumped overboard. Of the more than 10,000 men held on the Jersey, few would survive the war.
It is hard to imagine but the conditions aboard the prison ships were even worse than those in the prisons on land. The men rotted away in the hulks of the rotting ships. They were treated brutally, sadistically, by the guards. 200-300 were secretly hanged without trial.
Thousands of American privateer ships ravaged the British merchant marine that supplied the British forces in America, 900 of these ships were captured by the British Navy. These sailors were taken to the prison ships.
So corrupt was the commander of these prison ships that he was hung in England a few years after the war. Upon the gallows he confessed to his inhumane treatment of the America prisoners under his control.
This little known horror of the war came home to our people as there were also prison ships in the Southern ports of Charleston and Savannah.
There was one way, a very simple way, that the prisoners could avoid this horrible, lingering death. That was to sell their souls and go over to the British. All they had to do was agree to join the British army, or navy, and they would be freed, taken into the enemies armed forces, given a uniform, three meals a day and treated on the same par as any other British soldier. Few chose to go over to the enemy.
This hatred of the British was passed down to the next generation who were ready to fight The War of 1812. These were our people of the Southern states that that still maintained that "patriotism and military ardor."
"...they fight one another."
Home of Judge Lemuel F. Smith
We are back on the Meriwether Grant of 1735.
This dwelling has been profiled before in the Slavery chapter. The owner who
died in 1807, regretted that he could not free his slaves.
Our story: During Sheridan’s raid a regiment was encamped here and carried off horses, servants and other valuables. Mrs. Sinclair at the time was nursing a seriously wounded Confederate soldier, but was successful in concealing his presence.
The story of the American Civil war is massive with an unbelievable amount of material written on virtually every aspect down to the smallest incident and detail. I will touch upon this subject briefly and list some of our people who were involved. We are coming close to history as there are many people living today who personally knew, or were even related to some of those who fought in the Civil War.
The American Civil War must have been the strangest war in history, for it was not a war between enemies but a war between friends. I will tell of two men who clearly stated their views at the onset of the war.
One was a London newspaper correspondent living in Washington DC. He wrote honestly of the impending conflict. He saw both sides having a romantic notion of the glories of war. “It is curious to observe how passion blinds man’s reason in the quarrel.”
He antagonized the North and the South equally. Banished from American in the first year of the war, both sides were happy to see him go, so they could go on with the slaughter.
The second quote was from a man who saw the folly of the impending conflict when South Carolina began the war by firing on Fort Sumter. “South Carolina is too small to be a nation and too big to be a lunatic asylum.”
Our people were in the war from beginning to the end. I will not bother giving the pedigree of each listed, but they are ours. I tell the stories of just a few that I found of interest.
Charles Irving, Troop F., 10th Virginia Cavalry, Confederate States of America: Took part in the first battle of Manassas and continued in service to the end, surrendered at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865. Manassas was literally the first major battle of the war, and Appomattox was literally the last with Robert E. Lee’s surrender. There were not many Confederate soldiers left by the time of Appomattox. This shows the dogged determination of just one of our cousins.
A note for those of you who are unfamiliar with Civil War research: The North usually named a battle after a nearby stream or river. Manassas, in the North was called the Battle of Bull Run. The South tended to name battles after a nearby town, in this case a railway junction, Manassas.
Rockbridge County provided 3 companies to Stonewall Jackson’s army: Rockbridge Grays; Rockbridge Rifles; Liberty Hall Volunteers (our college). 38% would become casualties: killed, wounded, or died in service. Over 2,300 men would fight for the Southern cause from Rockbridge County.
William, the brother to my John Miller Wallace, served in the Tennessee State legislature, during the War between the States. I do not know if he was Confederate or Union, because Tennessee entered the war as a Confederate State. However, in 1862 the Union took over the state and appointed Andrew Johnson (later president) as military governor.
One expert at the Manassas Battlefield writes me, “It was not unusual for families to be divided during the Civil War...” It may not have been unusual, but it seems mighty peculiar.
Brothers: Samuel Rutherford Lapsley was a Confederate soldier and received a fatal wound at the battle of Shiloh in 1862, while bearing the colors of his regiment. Samuel McKee Lapsley, was a soldier in the Federal Army, died in1862.
Brothers: Elijah Severs Wallace was a Confederate and William Wallace was a Union soldier. They were on opposing sides in the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, although they did not meet face to face.
Brothers: William Goodloe was a Major in the Federal Army during the Civil War. Harry Goodloe was a Confederate soldier and fell in battle at Green River Bridge, 186--
General John Miller was the son of Daniel Miller and his wife, Susannah Anderson Woods. He was wounded in the battle of Richmond, KY, August 30, 1862, and died on September 6, 1862. He held a Commission from President Lincoln as Brigadier General.
Colonel William Hudson: On April 25, 1861 he enlisted at Corinth, Mississippi, as Captain of Company I, 11th Mississippi Infantry, Confederate States Army, with age recorded as thirty years. Elected Colonel of the regiment May 4, 1861. He raised the 11th regiment and as its Colonel was stationed at the Battle of Bull Run. Soon after the Battle of Bull Run he was accidentally wounded. In May, 1862, he became Colonel of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry. Was in command of this regiment at the Battle of Corinth and was wounded and captured by the enemy. Died November 9, 1862, and General Rosecrans sent his body through his lines into the Southern lines to be buried at home in the family graveyard.
McDowell Cemetery: Samuel Wallace, Lieutenant in the late Confederate army. Born Feb. 23, 1834. Killed at Petersburg, April 1864.
Margaret Woods; married James M. Jones (whose second wife was Elizabeth Hannah Woods, a sister of Rev. Neander M. Woods author of the Woods-McAfee Memorial.) They had one child: John Sanford Jones, who died in Federal Military prison at Alton, Ill.
General W J Landrum, Brigadier in Federal Army.
Maj. Hervey McDowell, commanded a company under Roger W. Hanson’s 2nd Kentucky regiment, CSA.
Both sides in this Glorious War thought that the conflict would last no more than 100 days. There would be one great battle: One side would win and one side would lose and the war would be over.
The first great battle was Manassas, or Bull Run. We have seen our 3 Rockbridge companies fight in this battle to save the Southern way of life. The North sent their man of the hour to save the Union. Who lead the Federal army to Manassas? It was General Irvin McDowell, great-great-grandson of Magdelene.
Our people from Rockbridge County were not the only ones to fight. Our people were from all over the place. I am telling of those names I have come across in my research. Obviously, if we consider that General Irvin McDowell was the great- great-grandson of Magdelene then there would have been a very large number of our people who fought on both sides.
General Irvin McDowell (also the name Irwin was used) is often referred to in history books, magazines, etc. However, there is no biography book written on the man. Because he had a chance to save the Union at "Bull Run" on just one day in 1861, I will give a brief history of the man.
He was born in 1818, in Ohio to Abram Irvin McDowell and Eliza Selden Lord. (You notice how the same names keep showing up with our people. Selden must be related to the genealogists George Selden Wallace.)
He was educated at the Collè ge de Troyes, in Frances. (This shows the family had to have money.) Upon his return home, he received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point in 1838. He graduated number 23 out of a class of 45. After a normal tour of duty he returned to West Point as an instructor until the Mexican War.
He served in the Mexican War and in the occupational forces. His career so far was fairly routine. He was promoted to Major in 1856.
He was serving in Washington DC at the outbreak of the Civil War. This positioned him politically, although not militarily, as qualified for high command. General Winfield Scott, head of the army, thought highly of him at West Point and McDowell knew the right politicians.
At the outbreak of the war a large number of men, qualified and unqualified, political and military, were given rapid promotion. McDowell is promoted to Brigadier General.
I will not go into the First Battle of Bull Run as there are books written about this strategic battle. Let me say briefly that both sides were ill prepared for this historical event.
Historian Ethan S. Rafuse writes of a visitor to General McDowell’s camp: “I saw him do things of details which in any, even half-way organized army belong to the specialty of a chief of staff.”
McDowell’s fault: He had always served under a commander, but had never been in command. Now he commanded an entire army. All historians agree he was woefully unqualified.
How did General McDowell do at the Battle of Bull Run? “...although foredoomed to failure, yet it came within inches of success.” (Johnston, post, p.269).
After the battle, the army's command was given to another, and McDowell was demoted, eventually to lead a division in the same army. (One of the peculiarities of the Civil War on the Union side was the constant yo-yoing of commanders from lower position to head position, then back down to lower commands, all in the same army.)
This has McDowell in subordinate command at the Second Battle of Bull Run. His actions in this battle are interesting as he was highly criticized, which caused him to be removed from command: He requested an official inquiry and was exonerated. Leave it up to historians on this one.
His days of fame and glory are over. He eventually ended up in San Francisco and retired from the army with the rank of Major General in 1882. He is buried at the Presidio with his grave marker carrying the name Irwin.
As a person: He was a block of a powerful man. He was blunt but personable. A list of his positive traits: loyal, brave, truthful, aside from combat, even competent; always a serious man who did not evoke warm or close friendships. His mind was always on the job at hand. He was not on an ego trip, and unlike many military men, had no political ambitions. He was a high-ranking plow-horse who did his job the best he could. Our Irvin McDowell was a true blooded, patriotic American, devoted to the military and the Union.
It is noted that he never drank nor smoked. To those of you doing period research it is of interest to understand what this meant in the context of the times. At this time in history it was assumed that all men were drunks...unless specifically stated otherwise. ..He was just unlucky at field command.
The Shenandoah Valley was the bread basket for Robert E. Lee’s army. It provided food, shelter, riding horses, draft animals, and soldiers.
“I have destroyed over 2000 barns filled with wheat, burned over 70 mills filled with grain and flour... I have made the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia so bare that a crow flying over it would have to carry its knapsack.” -- Union General Phil Sheridan, 1864.
"A great many of the McDowells were officers and soldiers in the War of 1812, and more than a hundred were in the Civil War, being equally divided between the Union and Confederacy" ... Brevet Major General (Union) William Birney, our cousin.
During the Civil War our families were killing one another at a rate faster than they could be replaced by birth.
Footnote: The best novel of the American Civil War was not The Red
Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, published in 1895. It is a little known
book that goes by the melodramatic title, Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from
Secession to Loyalty, by John W. De Forest, a Union officer. Published two
years after the war in 1867, it was never popular. It is well crafted.
My family history web site has 79 chapters. If you would like to know more about the other chapters then go to my
Home Page www.thetracyfamilyhistory.net