Chapter 28 – A Personal Story of a Tennessee Family and a South Carolina Family, by Howard Ray and Judith Willis White of N. C., S. I. S. H.
The Bloodstains, Howard Ray White’s Story
My grandfather lived on a farm in Middle Tennessee near Murfreesboro where the terrible Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) was fought on this and surrounding farms as 1862 concluded and 1863 began. Using our farmhouse as a field hospital, Federal surgeons had sawed off irreparable arms and legs, tossed them out the window, drawn the skin tight against the stump and stitched them closed. The battle had been terribly brutal; about 3,000 men had been killed, and a much higher number had been wounded.
My family lived on Granddad’s farm in 1948. I was ten years old. My brother and I slept in the upstairs bedroom amid the bloodstains. Our school bus traveled beside the Federal graveyard as rows and rows of gravestones filed past the window. I mourned all those dead men – over 6,000 Federal soldiers – as my childhood mind sought the answer to what I considered then a simple question: “Why?” Why did men from the northern States come to Tennessee bent on conquest? Had not their grandparents fought beside my Tennessee, Carolina and Virginia ancestors to make everyone’s state independent of British rule?
Living in that old battlefield farmhouse, amid the bloodstains, changed my country’s war history into a very personal story of terrible times 85 years back into the past. But I tucked those pictures safely in the back of my mind as I resolved to one day undertake a determined study of the political history of that era, to understand “why?”. Eventually, my time for serious study arrived. Perhaps you too will develop such a passion to understand truthful history, to understanding “why?”. You desperately need to understand “why?” because “War is Hell.”
I suppose it is because of my connection to the Battle of Stones River that I began study of the history of that era upon approaching retirement from a long career as a chemical engineer. I am now 80 years old and continue to study and write. I am told that I am a good example of a person who writes helpful, truthful and meaningful American history. As a student, do not totally depend on professional teachers, or, in future years, on college professors. If you look around with discernment, you are likely to find great resources outside of the realm of the career teacher or professor of history. My book is a vast history of four volumes. Called Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed, you might consider that one later in your adult life. For now you are holding a great book suited to your needs – American History for Home Schools. Keep it for future reference after completing the course work within.
How My Ancestors Suffered, Judith Willis White’s Story
My Bowen ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side were Carolinians of Welsh ancestry. Lt. Reese Bowen was killed leading a charge in the Revolutionary War battle at Kings Mountain, near Charlotte, NC, the first major Patriot victory that eventually led to British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. And six other Bowen relatives fought alongside Reese. Later my Bowen ancestor, John Bowen and wife Elvira Hunt Bowen, of Pickens County, SC, saw five of six sons off to war in defense of the Confederacy: Colonel Robert, William, Captain John, Samuel and Sergeant Thomas. Captain John Bowen was with Hampton’s Legion and survived one year in a Federal POW prison. Sergeant Thomas Bowen was twice seriously wounded, each time recovering to rejoin the fight, surviving to the end. The Bowen parents were unusually fortunate to see all five sons return home. Lieutenant William Uriah Hunt was another Confederate officer on my maternal grandfather’s side. Also of Pickens County, SC, he was captured at Missionary Ridge above Chattanooga, TN and sent to the Federal POW prison at Johnson’s Island on Lake Erie where he almost froze to death, almost starved to death, but survive by determination and eating rats. Also of Pickens County, my maternal great grandfather David Ervin Hendricks was called into service late in the war, and after one battle, contracted measles and was sent home where he recovered. But two brothers had already been killed at Chancellorsville, VA: John Baylus Hendricks and William Fields Hendricks.
On my father’s side of the family, Daniel and Elizabeth Willis saw five sons off to war, to fight in the WBTS, one being my great grandfather James. John was killed in the Wilderness Battles in VA in May 1864. Marcus was killed near Petersburg, VA in September 1864. Erastus was killed in the Battle of Bentonville, NC in March 1865. Perry and James survived. I exist because James Willis, an artilleryman near Charleston, SC survived the war.
What Might be Your Personal Story?
Ask your parents about your ancestors. Perhaps several fought in the Civil War. Perhaps some were seriously wounded or died. Are you diligent about your studies and by nature inquisitive – inquisitive about your family history, your state history — its people today and those that came before? Do you thirst for understanding about these historical matters? Before completing your education and becoming a responsible voter, you should earnestly engage all of the pages, all of the chapters in this book and soak up the valuable wisdom to be gained – wisdom essential for good citizenship.
As a student, the history of your family, your state and its people, today and before, should matter to you. In this chapter, you read an example of how author Howard Ray White and his wife have been influenced by their combined family history, and the war-deaths suffered.
Suggestions for Class Discussion
What do you and your student friends know about their ancestor’s lives during colonial days, during the American Revolution, during the Civil War? Make an effort to learn about those things and share in discussion.