Monday, July 25, 2011

Military Monday - Civil War Ancestor - Whitson Hefley

Whitson Hefley is my Union ancestor. He was born about 1830 in Montgomery County, North Carolina but moved to Montgomery County, Illinois sometime before 1837.

He married Elizabeth H. Eckler on August 3, 1849 and they had one child, Frances Luella Hefley born May 5, 1853. Elizabeth died September 20, 1854 and Whitson remarried Louisa Catherine Lipe on Christmas day December 25, 1856. They had one child William Arthur Hefley born February 18, 1858 in Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois.

Whitson Hefley enrolled in the Civil War on August 15, 1862 in Irving, Montgomery Co., Illinois, by L. R. Slaughter for three years. He was mustered into service as a Sergeant on September 4, 1862 at Alton, Illinois in Company D, 126th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteers by Lt. Curtiss.

The126th Regiment was initially in charge of guarding Confederate prisoners being held in the State Penitentiary at Alton, but when the prisoner were moved on November 20 the Regiment moved down the Mississippi River by the steamer B. M. Runyan  to Columbus, Kentucky. From there they marched to LaGrange, Tennessee and had duty there till January, 1863. From there  4 Companies were on duty at Jackson, Tenn., and 6 Companies at Humboldt, Tenn., from January to March 25; then at Jackson till May 25, 1863.The companies then moved to Vicksburg, Miss., May 25-28, and fought in the Siege of Vicksburg May 28-July 4. They then moved to Helena, Ark., July 24. Expedition against Little Rock, Ark., August 1-September 10. Bayou Fourche and capture of Little Rock September 10.

Whitson was in the Civil War for 14 months. But, according to his discharge papers he was "unfit for duty sixty days" and "Has done no duty for four months." So it looks like he became sick around June of 1863. In June of 1863 according to records Whitson and his unit were at the Siege of Vicksburg  from May 28 to July 4, 1863.

According to the book: The Big Book of Civil War Sites, Morris Book Publishing, 2010, Ulsses S. Grant began his siege operation on May 25 and had all lines of supply, reinforcements and communications successfully cut from Vicksburg. Grant intended to blast his way through by using mines and tunnels and by late June he was ready. I wonder if Whitson helped dig the tunnels? Is that when his sickness started? Working in dark, damp conditions with other soldiers? On June 25, 1863 the powder was fired. The entire top of the hill was blown off and a crater 50 feet wide and 12 feet deep was created. The Confederates had already moved back and immediately started shooting. Hand to hand combat followed but the "Illinois infantrymen attempted to stay in the crater, throwing up a hasty wall in front of them and forming in a double line of battle to keep up a continuous volley fire of their own." If Whitson was still well he would have participated in this fight. On July 4, 1863 the Confederates surrendered Vicksburg.

I do not know when Whitson was sent to Jefferson Hospital in St. Louis Missouri. On July 24 his unit went to Helena, Arkansas which is also on the Missouri River, so he may still have been with them there. Most likely he did not participate in the Expedition against Little Rock, Arkansas. He probably continued sailing up the Mississippi to Jefferson General Hospital in St. Louis. But, this is a guess on my part.

Whitson's Certificate of Disability for Discharge states that he was "born in Montgomery County, North Carolina, is 33 years of age, five feet ten inches high, Light complexion, Blue eyes, Light hair, and by occupation when enlisted a Blacksmith. During the last two months said soldier has been unfit for duty sixty days."    "...and find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of Chronic Diarrhea and great emancipation, -Has done no duty for four months. Is not a fit Subject for Invalid Corps."
U.S. General Hospital Jeff Barracks Mo. Oct 15, 1863
Discharged this 16th day of October 1863 at St. Louis Mo.

It then shows that he would go to Irving, Montgomery Co., Illinois.

I had never heard of "Invalid Corps" before so I looked it up here. It says in April of 1863 the U.S. War Department created a Invalid Corps of men who were or had been in the Army. These were men who had been disabled in some way, by either by weapons, disease or accident. They would serve in a non-combat capacity, such as a cook or in a hospital. Whitson was so bad he could not even do this.

I also looked up chronic diarrhea in the Civil War and I learned that bowel disorders killed more men on both sides of the war than battle. It is sad that they had no idea what caused it or how to treat it.

Whitson was at the U.S. General Hospital Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis Missouri while he was ill. When I looked this up I learned that this was the largest Federal hospital in the country with over 3,000 beds. It was strategically located near a major city on a vital river and railroad transportation system. I could not find any information about the conditions of this hospital, but if it was like other hospitals during the war, the surgeons and nurses did what they could for the soldiers with limited supplies and education.

In his pension papers are an affidavit from his family physician William P. Marshall of Hillsboro, Illinois. He stated on the day Whitson came home from the army on October 18, 1863 he was "suffering from a very severe and unusually protracted attack of chronic diarrhea a disease which said Hefley must have contracted in the Army as he had there but-just returned home and the chronic character of the disease indicated that it was of long standing." He stated that Hefley died early the next day "on or about the 19th day of October 1863 at 4 OClock A.M."

He left a widow and two children ages 10 and 5.

One year later Whitsons brother Levi Liberty Hefley(I love his name) was drafted into Company H, 8th Infantry Regiment Illinois on 27 Oct 1864. Levi was 27 years old. He served one year and was mustered out on October 26, 1865. He was married at this time and I'm sure this was hard on the family, especially knowing that Whitson, his brother had died in the Civil War.

No comments:

Post a Comment