Saturday, April 6, 2013

Family History Friday #9 - Baxter County Arkansas during the Civil War

     Linda has traveled to Utah this week in order to attend General Conference. In her absence, I had planned to fill my lonely hours with genealogy, but I've been pretty busy so far.  March and April are very busy months at the bee store. As it turned out, Thursday night was the first real opportunity I had to put in some serious family history time.

    I spent some time looking for civil war records pertaining to Arkansas ancestors. I found a number of records indicating that a Jonathan Cunningham served in the Union Army in an infantry unit in 1862 and a cavalry unit in 1863. I was unable to view the actual record as that required membership in yet another genealogy website. I also found records pertaining to the service of James Sinor in the Confederate Army. I was also unable to view those records for the same reason.  However, I was able to put the records in the "shoebox" in family search so I will be able to easily find them again.  Jonathan Calvin Cunningham fought in the Union Army, but his daughter, Laura Cunningham, married Randolph Sinor, the son of James Sinor , who fought in the Confederate Army. I believe there is a similar "opposite sides of the Civil War" connection in the Heiskill family. John Bettis fought in the Confederate Army but his daughter married into a pro-union family.  It would appear they were able to lay the Civil War to rest and didn't let it continue to blight their lives long after the war was over.

   According to a book, "The History of Baxter County", Jonathan Cunningham walked to Springfield, Missouri at the beginning of the war in order to enlist in the Union Army. It stated that he served as a supply sergeant, but didn't tell much about his military service. There was one story of interest which I quote as follows:

     "Once he tried to buy a big fat goose from a farmer (Southern sympathizer).  The man refused to sell so Cunningham quietly "borrowed" an ear of corn from the farmers corn bin. As he started back toward camp, he shelled the corn, dropping kernels along the path, with the greedy goose in hot pursuit. When he reached camp, the goose was pounced upon and was soon cooking Indian style, in a pit covered over with hot coals.

     Directly here came the angry farmer, who searched the camp to no avail and stalked off, searching for the missing goose. As soon as he was out of sight and smell the soldiers enjoyed a fine meal of roast goose."

   There is another story in the same book as to how James Heiskill was loyal to the Union and decided to move his family to Missouri until the war was over.  I'm not sure where they went in Missouri or how long they were there but I can't find them on the 1870 census in either Arkansas or Missouri. The Heiskill family does turn up again in Baxter County, Arkansas on the 1880 census.

    While Baxter County (part of Marion County during the civil War) was not the site of any major battles, there were lots of skirmishes and raiding associated with the war.  After many of the men left to join whichever army they chose, the families they left behind were subjected to raids by bushwhackers, outlaws who owed allegiance to neither army.  Also there were "foragers" from both armies whenever they passed through the county.

    "The History of Baxter County" indicated that Jonathan Cunningham grew up on a plantation near Covington, Tennessee but had moved to Arkansas to get away from slavery.  When he cleared his land in Baxter County (then Marion County) his mother had offered him the loan of 16 slaves, which he had declined. The hard labor of clearing who knows how many acres of land would indicate some depth of commitment in his opposition to slavery. I'm sure he left his family to fight in the Civil War due to deeply held convictions. Obviously, there were significant sacrifices involved. I'm less clear on what motivated my ancestors who fought for the Confederacy as I'm not aware that any of them owned slaves.

    I spent a little time looking at census records in Baxter County, Arkansas. I was able to find relatives on about 10 consecutive pages of the 1900 Federal Census for Barren Creek Township.

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