Back to Top

UWBTS — Chapter 1: Your Starting Line and a Personal Navigation Strategy

Section One: How to Make this Booklet Your Personal Adventure.

Chapter 1 — Your Starting Line and a Personal Navigation Strategy.

By Howard Ray and Judith Willis White, S. I. S. H.


When beginning a new adventure, always push off at your Starting Line.  We will help you find it and do that.  But first, we offer these personal stories about our family ancestors.

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?

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.”

Ancestors Who Suffered So Much, 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, 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.   

A Personal Approach to Engaging this Booklet.

The title on the cover says, “Understanding the War Between the States.”  So, if a student, how do you fit in?  Are you diligent about your studies and by nature inquisitive – inquisitive about your state, its people today and those that came before?  How old are you: 13, 15, 17, 20 or beyond?  Do you thirst for Understanding?  If 13 or 15, you may not yet be ready to tackle this booklet’s more difficult pages.  Guidance below will help.  But, before completing your education and becoming a responsible voter, you should earnestly engage all of the pages, all of the chapters and soak up the valuable wisdom to be gained – wisdom essential for good citizenship.

Perhaps you are beyond school age but have never gained the understanding within this booklet.  Perhaps you are a teacher or a parent or grandparent of a teenager, or maybe a college professor or college student?  Or maybe you are unlike those mentioned above, but are by nature diligent, inquisitive and hungry to finally understand how America’s politics degraded into State Secession (then thought legal), horrible War between the States (then thought illegal) and Political Reconstruction (which escalated into an all-powerful Federal Government).  You could be anyone pondering the reading of Understanding the War Between the States.  So our first job is to, together, think about how to make this booklet your personal adventure.

Your Personal Adventure

The stories on the front and back cover are great starting points; read them twice.  If you are young and think the total 40-chapter set is too much, go for 20 as follows: Chapter 3 (Revolution); Chapter 5 (1801-1824); Chapters 7 and 8 (Expansion); Chapter 9 (Slavery World View); Chapters 13, 14, 15 and 16 (Northern States Political Sectionalism); Chapter 18 (Secession); Chapter 19 (Lincoln Incites War); Chapters 20, 21 and 22 (War History); Chapters 25 and 28 (Total War), and Chapters 29, 30, 33 and 36 (Political Reconstruction).  This reading plan involves 20 of the 40 chapters.  To this program chapters can be added.  Add 2, 4, 17 and 23 about limits to government power.  Add 6 and 12 for the rest of westward expansion.  Add 10, 11, 26, 27, 34 and 37 for African American history.  Add 24, 31, 32, 38, 39 and 40 for the rest of the story.  Yet, many people will feel confident to just start with chapter 2 and read sequentially to the end.  You choose.