"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

28 May 2012

Memorial Day

When wild war's deadly blast was blawn
And gentle peace returning
Wi' mony a sweet babe fatherless
And mony a widow mourning
I left the lines and tented field
Where lang I'd been a lodger
My humble knapsack a' my wealth
A poor and honest sodger
-- "The Soldier's Return" by Robert Burns 
Memorial Day came about after the Civil War, when families and friends would visit the graves of their lost loved ones.  All of my ancestors who fought in the "War Between the States" survived the war, though some were wounded and some captured.  Most lived in Virginia and enlisted in the Confederate Army.  Only one, my third-great-grandfather, John Wesley Swindall, fought for the Union.

Born on June 13, 1826 in Ashe County, North Carolina, John Wesley was the elder son of Elizabeth "Betsy" Swindle.  As Betsy was never married, John and his brother Eli kept their mother's name (Swindle / Swindall), and their father's identity remains a mystery.  On July 14, 1851, John married Mary "Polly" Phipps, and a few years later, they and their young sons moved from North Carolina to then-Russell County, Virginia, which later became the newly-formed Wise County.

When the Civil War broke out, John and Polly moved their family into Kentucky, settling first near Piketon, until "some rebel soldiers under Colonel Witcher whipped [John] here, and he had to leave.  We raised one crop on Coon Creek, and then some more rebels came and took everything we had.  [Polly] tried to save a quilt by putting it in the creek, but the rebels hauled it out and took it along."  Afterward, they moved to Paintsville, KY.

On November 18, 1862, John enlisted as a Sergeant in Company K of the 39th Kentucky Infantry Regiment at Peach Orchard, KY.  He was described as 5 ft. 9 in. tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and black hair.  John was present on all company muster rolls until his discharge on September 15, 1865 at Louisville, except for May and June of 1864, when he was on detach to Lexington, KY.

Even before the regiment was mustered into service in February of 1863, it "began a series of fights and skirmishes with the enemy in that section which continued during almost its entire term of service."  While fighting at Piketon in April of 1863, the regiment captured Colonel James French.  In July of that year, General Julius White praised the regiment for having "made a charge up the mountain with great gallantry" and taking a number of prisoners at Beaver Creek.

The 39th mostly stayed in Kentucky, with a few forays into West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee.  In October and December of 1864, the regiment took part in the first and second battles at Saltville, VA – the first a defeat, the second a victory.  At the second battle, the Union forces destroyed one of the Confederacy's main saltworks.

After the War, the Swindalls returned to Virginia, to present-day Dickenson County.  For his service, John applied for and received a pension.  According to his pension file at the National Archives, in March of 1864, "he was taken very ill by a severe attack of Paralysis, which was caused from cold and exposure ... and that he was carried to a private house."  Even after the war, he continued to suffer from rheumatism, catarrh, and bouts of paralysis on his right side.

Included in his pension file is a questionnaire from the Department of the Interior Bureau of Pensions dated June 4, 1898.  On it, John had to list his children, and at the bottom of the page, he wrote, "this is all of my children and all a live and 65 grand children, 55 Republicans Beat tha[t] if you can".

John died from typhoid fever at the age of 74 on September 17, 1900.  He was buried at the Swindall family cemetery at Osborn's Gap in Dickenson County, VA.  His grave is marked with a military headstone.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this! I will keep in touch with any new information that I find.
    Have a great weekend!