Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesdays With Rita: Ancestry and the Civil War

Friday I watched "Who Do You Think You Are" featuring Brooke Shields. This is an on-and-off program presented by Ancestry in which celebrities dig into their family history. Usually, if you go far enough back you will find common ancestors such as I have with Brooke and thousands of others with a royal connection. It was fun watching her talk about, and visit, some of the places where our common ancestors resided.

That gave me the bug to work on my own genealogy a bit. This is a project I started over 30 years ago and have very sadly neglected the last few years. I, of course, went straight to Ancestry and lo-and-behold I found a photo of the gravestone of my great, great grandfather who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Samuel Wilburn was born in 1839 and died in 1893. Living most of his life in Arkansas with a short stint in Coffeyville, Kansas. He was married to Mary McFerran who outlived him by many years. Here is a photo my aunt took at a family member's house of Sam and Mary.
The family story is that Sam and Mary planned on getting married but when he went off to fight for the South they put the marriage off. Afraid Northern soldiers would destroy their belongings they hid them in any way they could. Mary's wedding dress was wrapped in oil cloth and put into a hole in an old tree. There it survived until he returned from the War.

The other part of the story is that Sam was captured and placed in the Rock Island Prison during the War. He did serve and he was captured but that is all I have been able to prove. The story continues that his brother, Frank, was a Union soldier and was also captured. An agreement was made to release the brothers but for some reason the North didn't follow through. When Frank was later recaptured by the South he was killed in retaliation.

I don't know if the part about Frank is true. I haven't found any records of Frank Wilburn serving or anything about the exchange. It is still a great story. My Great Aunt Nell and Uncle Bill, who told me this story, were proud of our ancestor who fought for what he believed in. Does it matter I can't prove the story? Not really. I'm proud of my ancestors, too.

Do you have war related stories that have been handed down in your family? Have you written them down where your descendants will find them and the tradition carried on?

Please do, and not just in a computer where they may get lost. Save those stories for all the future genealogists.