Attributing our traits to our ancestors
Some days when I look at myself in the mirror, I can see glimpses of my ancestors. My once beautifully brilliant blue eyes; I remember seeing these same eyes in my maternal grandfather, Roy (a Ford from Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina). Unfortunately, I also get my thick midriff from either or both–my maternal grandmother, Loretta, (a Lathrop from Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania), or my paternal grandfather, Jesse (a Boling from Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania County, Virginia). Of course, it is a natural human instinct to attribute our traits to relatives we have known or through our family’s stories about them. But, other similarities or differences don’t flow so naturally or with ease. When we reflect back we tend to most often focus on the ‘good times,’ the ‘good traits,’ or happen upon a history that we’d as soon forget, or, for fear that it might repeat itself.
Let’s look back about 150 years or so to April 9, 1865, in Appomattox, Virginia:
After four years of conflict, General Robert E. Lee (commander of the Army of Northern Virginia), surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces in Appomattox, Virginia, to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army, ending the Civil War. (Grant in four short years would become our 18th President.) The war bankrupted the South, left its roads, farms, and factories in ruins, and all but wiped out an entire generation of men. And this answers my family’s question about our ancient aristocratic Bolling family who had emigrated to Virginia from England, which was; “What happened to our family’s nobility–their societal standings, their wealth, and their great estates?”
As you can see from the map below, the Confederacy included 11 southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The North (called the Union) consisted of the remaining 25 states which were located in the north.
So . . . This means that my ancestors were on opposite sides of the American Civil War. I had direct relatives primarily in Pennsylvania (the Chamber’s, Lathrop’s, and Westler’s) and in Virginia and North Carolina (the Boling’s, Carpenter’s, Ford’s Morris’s, and Taylors). Within each of these union and confederates, states lived both my maternal and paternal relatives–truly brothers, uncles, cousins, and even in-laws. And, ninety percent of those men volunteered to fight for what they believed or to protect their families and livelihoods from “their enemies”.
1“. . .The 141st Pennsylvania Regiment was known as the Bradford Regiment. Most of these volunteer recruits came from Bradford County, Pennsylvania and joined the Union Army in the summer of 1862. Company A came from Wyalusing. It had one of the most distinguished combat records in the Army of the Potomac, serving from the battle of Fredericksburg to the surrender at Appomattox. In just two battles alone, from May 3 to July 2 at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, the regiment shrank due to combat casualties from 419 men and officers to 58 (56 percent casualties at Chancellorsville, and 73 percent at the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg. . . .”
I found my maternal great-great-grandfather, Searle P. Lathrop, of Bradford County, at age 43, on the U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations List of 1864-1865. His brother, Edward Lathrop, died as a member of the Union’s Company E, 171st Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteer Regiment, in New Bern, North Carolina, at the age of 38, on May 30, 1863, only two months prior to his 39th birthday.
My paternal great-great-grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling served from 1861-1865 in the Confederate 30th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They organized in Fredericksburg, Virginia, June 1861. Men of this unit came from Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Stafford, and King George–all counties where my Boling family lived.
2It was assigned to General J.G. Walker’s and Corse’s Brigade and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Fredericksburg. After serving with Longstreet at Suffolk, it was on detached duty in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the spring of 1864, the 30th returned to Virginia and saw action at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor. Later it endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River and ended the war at Appomattox.
The 30th Infantry regiment reported 1 killed and 4 wounded at Malvern Hill and 39 killed and 121 wounded in the Maryland Campaign. Many were lost at Five Forks and Sayler’s Creek, and on April 9, 1865, the 30th regiment surrendered with 8 officers and 82 men.
3Battle of Chancellorsville – May 1-4 1864
Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops fought Union Commander Joseph Hooker’s forces. Together, they had 194,760 men engaged in this bloody battle (60,892 Confederate forces and 133,868 Union forces).
At its conclusion on May 6, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville became the bloodiest battle in American history. The 30,764 combined casualties eclipsed the losses suffered at well-known battles such as Shiloh (23,746), Second Manassas (22,180), Antietam (22,717), and Stones River (23,515).
By far the bloodiest day of the battle was its first (May 3, 1863), when Lee’s Confederates were forced to attack a larger, now-alerted Union foe, largely positioned in prepared defenses. The aggressive fighting at places like Salem Church produced more casualties than the entire Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run).
Chancellorsville’s title of the bloodiest battle in American history would be short-lived, however. From Chancellorsville, Lee began his journey towards Gettysburg and the epic fighting to come on July 1-3, 1863. Yet, at the end of the American Civil War, Chancellorsville was still ranked as the fourth bloodiest battle of the Civil War, after Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Spotsylvania Courthouse.
Battle of The Wilderness – May 5-7, 1864
My paternal great-great-grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling (mentioned above), married Sarah Tapp, daughter of the now famous Catharine Dempsey “Widow Tapp,” (making Widow Tapp my 3rd great-grandmother). Widow Tapp and her daughter Eliza “Phenie” Tapp had the misfortune of living on the land that became known as the “Wilderness Battlefield,” in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the Civil War.
There, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops went up against Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant’s troops. Together, they had 171,920 troops (Confederate forces: 61,025 and 101,895 Union forces), in the fields of this wilderness farm. And together, over a 3-day period, they lost 25,416 men (17,666 Union and 7,750 Confederate).
Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands died of disease. Roughly 2% of our “American” population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty (more than any other war in American history). Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million.
The official Reconstruction Era (where Union soldiers occupied the 11 southern states) covered a period of twelve years from 1865-1877. Southern states rebuilt and gradually were re-admitted to the United States (July 1866-March 1870). Virginia and Texas were the last two holdout states. They rejoined the United States in 1870.
So, just how similar or different are our beliefs today based on where we live in these United States?
Let’s take a look at today’s map below from electoral-vote.com. Here, we’re looking at the status of electoral votes post 2016 presidential campaign conventions over these past two weeks. Setting aside the presidential runners (which is another or several other posts that I won’t be writing), you can view our similarities or differences strictly at state levels based upon electoral votes. When we compare my relatives who today live in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Virginia (13 electoral votes), Maryland (10 electoral votes), and North Carolina (15 electoral votes), (where my ancestors lived during the Civil War), we find that today’s generations are more alike than different and are “likely to strongly” democrat.
And, just how similar or different are democrats from republicans?
Whether this information is comforting to all of us or not, based upon the example used, it would appear that our families have unified beliefs; that it is unlikely we would fight on opposite sides if, God forbid, the United States entered into another civil war.
However, it does seem, when compared to our ancestors of the Civil War era, that today’s generations who have more global and increased technological capabilities and therefore extended communications, maybe just as uncivil to each other as those ancestors who chose to shoot at each other about 150 years ago.