Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 219/365 Gotta Love Your Ancestors

Or at least try to figure out what they did, when and why.

I just recently found this statement from one of my gr-gr-great uncles, H. Magruder, addressed to the Clerk of Circuit Court, District of Columbia, dated April 16, 1862.

The text reads:

Sir, You will please file and record in your office the annexed [attached] statement and schedule under the provisions of the Act of Congress entitled "An Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia." Approved 16th April 1862.

And the schedule below it reads:

George York, 47 years, male, Very black, five feet seven inches high, sound & healthy

Duke Williams, 40 years, male, A dark yellow color, five feet 4 inches high, sound & healthy

Adeline Williams, 35 years, female, A bright mulatto, five feet 2 inches high, sound & healthy

Lewis Williams, 8 years, male, A dark mulatto, five feet high, sound & healthy

Charles Williams, 6 years, male, A dark mulatto, four feet, four inches high, sound & healthy

Maria Williams, 3 years, female, A dark mulatto, three feet eight inches high, sound & healthy

And the summary below:

The persons mentioned in the foregoing schedule were by reason of African descent and acquired title my property and by me held to service and labor in the District of Columbia, at the time the Act of Congress above cited was approved, the benefit of which is hereby claimed.

The bad news? My Southern ancestors were slaveholders. Not too unexpected, since some were upper middle class, but until now there's been little trace of it to be found. But, like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, it bears closer examination.

This statement from H. Magruder was filed in the District of Columbia. He didn't work or live there. He was actually a resident of the seceded Commonwealth of Virginia, at that time one of the Confederate States, which, most assuredly, did not have any laws in place guaranteeing the freeing of slaves.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation wouldn't be signed until September 22, 1862, five months after H. Magruder traveled from southwestern Virginia almost 300 miles north to D.C.,during wartime, to free his slaves.

He could have freed them in Virginia, but state law required that any slaves that were freed were to be immediately separated and transported to the state line, without possessions, and literally dumped over the state line. If they returned at any time, they were to be seized by the state and sold further south.

In other words, he went out of his way before he was legally required to do so, to free what appears to be a family, and most likely a brother, intact with their children and in such as a way as to make them legally freedpersons, able to come and go as they pleased even back into Virginia.

He also states they were slaves "by... acquired title", meaning he inherited them. Whether it was from his father or his wife isn't known.

What I do know is that our original ancestor was either his great uncle, or gr-grandfather, and that ancestor was deported from Scotland by the British in chains as an "enemy of the Crown sold as an indentured servant". His gr-gr-grandfather was hunted by the English, and had his name and lands taken by the English Crown. His gr-gr-grandmother had a G branded on her cheeks, and her home burned around her.

I really, really want to think that all that family history made them more compassionate once they arrived here. Particularily when they saw others in a similar state of slavery.

You know how family history goes though....

This is a second document, concerning another relative, Capt. W.D. Killinger, Co. A, 8th Regiment Virginia Cavalry.

The text reads:

Report of Prisoners belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, who have been this day surrendered by General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., commanding said Army to Lieut, General U.S. Grant, commanding Armies of the United States.

Paroled at Appomatox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865.

These are his official parole papers, the only official set I've been able to find, although my gr-gr-grandfather was also there (also surrendering), having fought for all four years of the Civil War in the Stonewall Jackson Brigade, in almost every major battle in Virginia, and being wounded four times. W.D. Killinger was his cousin. I find myself wondering if they realized the other one was there, or if in the confusion they found their way home separately.

I know my gr-gr-grandfather never mentioned the war again, until he was alone on his deathbed, and he dictated his memories to the preacher that sat with him. He was wounded twice in his back, and twice in his knees (which shows the shooting patterns of soldiers), went to a couple Grand Reunions (the kind where the old veterans are shown shaking hands, white beards blowing in the wind). I have his Southern Cross of Honor, and his portrait in his new uniform, taken the day he shipped out in 1861.

In hindsight, all these relatives are such products of their time - all Virginians, one traveling so far to free a family he feels responsible for, and the other traveling so far to fight for the people that want that family kept enslaved.

Five years after H. Magruder released the Williams family and two years after W.D. Killinger surrendered at Appomatox, my gr-gr-grandparents joined the two families in marriage.

What I wouldn't give to go to that family reunion..... lots of horrified looks and "You did WHAT?"

1 comment:

  1. fascinating. reading this, so many thoughts -- singing "we are family!" and "the night they drove old dixie down" -- and thank you for forgiving me my englishness! have to see these things.