Thursday, May 10, 2012

{traveling back in time, Part I}

Noah had a big "family" GT assignment recently.  What initally
seemed like an every day, average assignment, turned
into something much more for he & I.  Something that has
opened up things I can't even describe in words. 

Here was our assignment:  "Students will research
their family ancestry for Civil War Era veterans and/or
family stories (1850s-1870s)."

Our journey.....

and, it doesn't have the hero's end for us as we had
hoped it would, but in reality, it ended much better than we
would have imagined.

Part I

General Marion McBay
The Civil War of the United States was fought on our soil from 1861-1865.  It has been estimated that almost 3.5 million soldiers were involved, with a death toll of approximately 620,000. There was not likely a single family living in the U.S. that went unaffected by this war.   Therefore, with these statistics, if a person residing in the U.S. today had family living in America during that time period, it would be quite probable that you would have a family member that actually fought in this historic battle.
After  much research, we were able to verify that we had a family member that was very much immersed in this war.   His story was very intriguing and added a new dimension to our family that we were unaware of before.   When my mom and I were researching,  I first saw the name, 'General Marion McBay' who was linked to other family members and lived during this time period.  Shortly thereafter, we found his Enlistment Documents as well as records  that indicated he was actually held as a Prisoner of War.  He was also involved in one of the largest battles of the war, The Battle of Chickamauga, the last big Confederate Victory.   Interestingly, 'General' appears to be his name or a nickname, as he was not a General.

**I have a picture, but cannot get it to post at the moment.

The only known picture of General Marion McBay]
The story of my great, great, great, great grandfather  begins with his birth in Tennessee in 1836.  Little is known about him until his marriage to Lucinda Brewer on December 13, 1855.   He enlisted in the Confederate Army at the age of 26; it appeared to be a voluntary enlistment although the document was very difficult to read.  He was a private in the 19th Dawson Infantry Company C  Regiment Arkansas. 
He was captured on 1/11/1863 at the Battle of Arkansas Post  and was transported to Alton, IL by boat.   He was changed to a train and traveled on to a Prison Camp at Camp Douglas, IL and arrived on 1/29/1863.   He was subsequently paroled on 4/3/1863 and was transported by rail to Fort Delaware and then by boat to City Point, Virginia where he was exchanged for Union Solders on 4/10/1863.  He then rejoined his Regiment. 
On 9/19/1863 and 9/20/1863 he was involved in the Battle of Chickamauga.  It was noted that after this incredible battle, desertions became more frequent.   This battle marked the end of the Union Offensive in southeastern  Tennessee and  northwestern Georgia called the Chickamauga Campaign.   Chickamauga was the Cherokee word for River of Death.  This battle was the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and involved the second highest number of causalities in the war following the Battle of Gettysburg. 
[Battle of Chickamauga - Library of Congress]
Fighting began on the morning of September 19th.  Although the Confederates launched costly and deadly assaults, the Union Soldiers  held until twilight.   The Confederates lost 2,312 with 1468 captured or missing and 14,674 wounded; my grandfather was one of the wounded soldiers as he suffered wounds to either his abdomen or chest as different documents noted both.   Despite the losses, it was considered a remarkable Confederate victory.   There were no records that we found regarding his recuperation.  However,  we did learn that he went AWOL on 2/29/1864 and deserted on 4/30/1864.  This was a very shocking find, however, through additional research this was a time period in which soldiers who were wounded often did not or could not return to their company and records would note the above.  Or, another finding was that during this time period desertions increased to a high number as the Indians were aware that the husbands and older  sons were away in this battle and had moved into Arkansas to kill and scalp the women and children.  And, a third finding revealed that often the government was behind in payments to these  soldiers by periods of fourteen months and the needs at home for basic necessities such as food was a higher priority than the battle in the fields.    
Information was gathered from the document Dawson's 19th Arkansas Infantry by Merrill T. Pence (1994).  This document compiled a wealth of information.    "The call to greatness if often missed, going unanswered by those who otherwise possess the raw talents to excel.  How many times in life do we wish to go back and start the day anew, but alas, that moment in time has closed. One special day in the history of this country was Sept. 19, 1863.  It started as any other early fall day in northwest Georgia.  The hot days of summer were gone, leaving a faint crispness in the air.  A thin low fog lay in the valleys, waiting for the morning sun's warmth to melt it away.  This day, however, was not destined to be ordinary.  Before the shades of night fell on the following day, some 35,000 casualties would occur here.  For days, two armies had been shifting around, attempting to locate the strength and weakness of the other, to establish a maximum effective position for themselves. "    The following notation was made "The Invalid Corps was made up of men who was no longer able to fulfill services in the field due to a service connected disability.  These men may have lost an arm or leg, so serving in this corps, herding cattle, guiding wounded to hospitals, etc., would free an able bodied man for service in the ranks.  Some of the wounded men were known to eventually return to join their comrades, including:  G. M. McBay." "For their brave and heroic action in the Battle of Chickamauga, the 19th Arkansas was named to the Confederate Roll of Honor, with one man from each company being named as the actual recipient. "  The document went on to describe the following, "The soldier has many enemies when in a theater of operations, and he has to fight each one of them.  Besides the Union Army, who was never very far away, he had to fight others, such as fatigue, hunger, discomfort, and the ever present discouragement caused by being away from home and family.  His life consisted of fatigue from days of marching to another location, followed by hours of backbreaking work in constructing defensive positions and moments of sheer terror when the shooting starts.  Then all this would start over again. The ever present hunger was never far away, and was often satisfied on a hardtack bread and bacon, and for variety, perhaps peas and corn or sweet potatoes, sometimes taken from some farmers fields nearby.  Times were when his day would be interrupted to dig a  grave in the rain for a lifelong friend, and hurry back to his place in the unit.  In moments of quietness, his thoughts turned home to the warmth of the hearthstone and his mothers sweet potato pie, or perhaps some girl who didn't know if he was still alive.  Following Chickamauga, desertions became more frequent, including the following:  G. M. McBay  Feb 29, 1864."  
The document's Prologue ended with this touching statement, "The long struggle was over, perhaps the hardest struggle of this country.  No families were left untouched by this episode in the American Experience.   The long lines of graves, left in the wake by the passing of the 19th Arkansas Infantry, is but a small part of this story.  Numerous men were left buried at the many crossroads, campgrounds, and communities when they passed, many being lost to their families forever in some lonely unmarked tomb.  Those fortunate enough to make it home again were changed, having written so much history in so short of time.  They had witnessed the absolute personification of death, depression and despair."  A pale horseman had ridden across the land, thrusting in his sickle, and reaping the vintage of the land. 

To be continued......

1 comment:

lilcookin said...

Do you have any more information on Marion? He is my 5th great grandfather. I am working on the genealogy, which has proven to be difficult. It looks as though so many of us have a small amount of history, but I am hoping that by piecing together all of the information we can get further details into his life and complete the family lines that have been lost or unobtainable to this point. You said that you have a photo as well but that it wasn't posting. Where you ever able to post this photo? Or is there any way I might be able to obtain a digital copy from you?

Thanks so much,