Flags of Our Fathers (and Mothers)

My family fought in the Civil War under the Confederate flag and we lost, if that’s how you want to look at it.  Personally, I don’t see it that way.  My family comes from the south – from South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and eventually landed here in Texas.  Our family stories from that time mostly focus around the aftermath of that war.  They tell of hidden blood-caked swords, of Andrew Johnson’s “Reconstruction Plan”, of Carpetbaggers and Scalawags, of former Union soldiers being run out of town by an angry great-great grandfather.  A lot of the ire that continues to persist through the generations can be tracked back to the years that followed the Civil War.  It’s why the South continues to stay mad.  We lost, you didn’t and we’re still sore about what happened afterwards.  That ire is perpetuated by stereotypes – the ones that we Southerners and those of Southern decent encounter every time we run into Northerners, flip on the TV or go to any movie that depicts one of us.  The one that bugs me personally is the perception that the clip of a person’s speech is some how directly related to intelligence.  We have a drawl, our speech is a little slower, therefore it follows that we must be a bit simple. Bless our hearts. I remember a co-worker from Ohio once told me he came to Texas to sell some product here versus some place up north, because he knew that we were less intelligent and therefore more likely to buy.  When I balked, he claimed I was the smartest Texan he’d met in a failed attempt to appease me.  (It’s a sad day when I rate as “the smartest Texan”, trust me.)  Mocking us in the media, is like pouring salt into an open and festering wound.  We’re not actually all dimwitted toothless cousin-marrying yokels wandering around barefoot while clad in overalls   Not that we don’t have our share, but I suspect you can find that kind of person in any rural area of any state.  Plus, never forget that we have our own ideas about Northerners that are a tad unkind, but I digress.

Before my family fought in the Civil War, we fought for Texas Independence and before that we fought in the Revolutionary War.  We were the first pilgrims who arrived on ships long before there ever was an Ellis Island or a Lady Liberty to welcome us to these shores.  We were Huguenots escaping France.  We were French, Prussian, Scots, Irish, Swedes, Welsh and English long before we were Americans.  A melting pot of nationalities who lived, fought and died under many different flags.

Of all the flags we’ve lived and served under, the one that bothers me the most is the Confederate flag. This controversy recently flared up in our media thanks to a group who want to honor Confederate Soldiers from Texas by displaying it on a license plate.  An argument that has been used is that the Buffalo Soldiers are also applying for a license plate and certain regiments of theirs were responsible for the genocide of the American Plains Indians.  “Why is that less controversial?” I do get this argument, but it’s still not the same in my mind. The confederate flag is no longer the symbol of a fight for states right, if it ever truly was to begin with. It’s a symbol of something completely different now and to put it quite simply, the places that would fly that flag are not places I want to be near.  If you came for a visit, I wouldn’t take you anywhere near those places either.  By that same token, I don’t think that the people who would buy that plate would be doing it solely to honor those who fought in the Civil War.  For many, it’s a very clear statement about race and when it flies in the South (or near South as we are), you’re making a very clear and deliberate statement about your beliefs.

I can honor my ancestors without a license plate and without that flag.  I can believe that what they fought for, they believed was right. I can imagine that part of why they fought had more to do with where they lived and being swept up in the emotions of the time.  And I can appreciate why they held such anger in the aftermath of Reconstruction. I can truly think of them as fallen heroes who died on the wrong side of a cause.  And if you could transport me back in time, I would go out of my way to find and spit on Sherman, out of respect to all of my relatives who wrongly suffered in Atlanta.  Hell, I’d shoot that man if I could get close enough and you can thank my family’s legacy for that thought, but I will never fly that flag.

However, that being said, I am French and German and Scottish and Irish and Swedish and Welsh and English and Southern.  My family lived and served and died under many flags – no one flag more important than the other.  No one flag that I feel more compelled  than the other to represent me or my family’s odyssey through time on a license plate.  I am proud of the entirety of my heritage (even you French genes, get over here so I can ruffle your hair) and there’s only one flag that really represents who I am today.

(Unless a certain someone becomes President and then I may have to don a tuque and embrace a more maple leafy flag.)

17 thoughts on “Flags of Our Fathers (and Mothers)

  1. wagnerowicz says:

    hey, do you know what regiments or battles your ancestors were in? mine fought too, I wonder if they ever shot at each other? OH and my family and my husband’s got here in like 1630 into Plymouth – imagine we were related? that would be neat. if you don’t know i can find out cause i do genealogy- this could be fun 🙂

    • Beth says:

      I wish I did. We have the one creepy relative that knows all of the details, but speaking to him on the phone is up there with gargling glass. (I can say this because he completely fears the evils of the internet and thus will never know.) I ended my Family Tree Maker subscription (Ancestry.com suscription?) when I ran into a hiccup (namely Creepy said that there’s a false leap everyone makes in our line and that it’s pervasive and likely around the early 1800’s I’m goofing up – again, would take Creepy to untangle and well, his name says it all. BTW, I mean “Creepy” in the nicest family-supportive way. Honest.) Now, I do know that according to Creepy’s dad (who Creepy didn’t inherit the right 1/2 of his DNA from – again, that was typed lovingly) that side of the family was part of the 2nd Jamestown settlement. On Dad’s side, we’re supposedly related to Edward Doty who came across on the Mayflower. Any family tree says so, but the one weensy problem I have with that is they can trace his line down to a point and it goes away, then they can trace ours up to a point and it goes away, so they’re making an assumption that might be true or might not, but by the power of drawing lines they feel like it’s true. I’d really like to see that proven. I know we’ve been here since the late 1600’s (through other lines), but I’d love to say “yes, definetly 100% certain we are surly troublemaker Edward Doty’s descendants.

      (Sorry for the novel! Now moving to your next comment for novel pt. 2. I didn’t have much human contact today, thus you’re having to suffer. SORRY!)

      • Beth says:

        Side note – the story in our family is that at least one of them was held prisoner during the Civil War – he would have been from Atlanta, but again, I’m having a heck of a time proving that. Could be impatience on my part or misspellings on the prison’s part.

  2. wagnerowicz says:

    I also agree with you about Confederate Southerners – their grandfathers fought a government so they could be free and then the government their forefathers put into power comes along and tells them that they have to change their way of life. I think it was unfair. It WAS NOT just about slavery and making 12 year old Molly O’Shannahan right off the potato boat work in a sweatshop for 30 cents a week so she could live in a rat infested tenement with no windows “up north” was slavery too. But this is a touchy subject and if I post too much it’ll cause all kinds of trouble on your nice post.

  3. Beth says:

    There are just so many things to be proud of from the past and from our history that I don’t see why we have to focus on this one event. I mean, as a daughter of the American Revolution (I do know this one, we had family that fought at King’s Hill? King’s Mountain? Err umm… there was “King” in there somewhere and it was a big fight – lots of shooting – some death. I’m sure I’m amazing you with my depth of knowledge as I’m amazing myself. It’s hard to be me) I’m not pushing for a Union Jack on the back of the car with a slogan that amounts to “Hey, we fought for the Brits and lost!! WOO HOOO! Suck it colonial rebel offspring!!” And really (this will probably get me in huge trouble with the nice men in white sheets) that’s what we’re kind of saying along with “we sure as hell want you to know we ain’t forgotten and we ain’t forgivin’ Damn Yankees. 😦 Now I’m going to rock on my front porch with my JD and nurse my wounds. Ma’ throw on “Dixie”.”

    And we do have a rich history of racism and slavery that crosses the entire nation – from child labor to indentured servants to kidnapping foreigners. Child labor is still an issue – we just like to keep that in third world countries so we can’t see the children working away for pennies a day to provide us with our goods.

    Oooh, have you come across any good stories on the subject in your research of buildings in NYC?

    Apologies, too – I didn’t mean to be overly political. The flag subject just chaps me in the way those people do who come into Texas (from Ohio for example), declare themselves President of Texas and start screaming we’re seceeding. Oy.

  4. wagnerowicz says:

    You can be political, that’s cool. I’m currently dealing with the whole OWS thing up here – ugh! And I am NOT the most liberal person or PC Person although you’d think I’d be “down” with everything being a filthy NYer. Anyhoo, it pisses me off that people think that slavery or racism is an American phenomenon. The Irish were slaves too, I have a kid’s book w/an old Irish folk tale that begins with “Bridget was a slave to” some dude, probably named Patrick or Sean or something. And speaking about racism, did you see the story about the black superhero sandwich cookie from Romania. priceless. That being said, I am proud of my ancestry and ain’t apologizing to nobody for the Battle of New Ulm which my great-great grandfather was part of or anything else. My grandparents were in forced labor camps during WW2, but I married a German guy, whose great granpa was rumored to have been a Nazi supporter and I just had German food the other day. It’s over people, move on.

    Back to genealogy and stuff, I still have my ancestry subscription, so if you can remember where you got stuck let me know. I haven’t been in a blogging mood lately but my bro-in-law found a cool pic so I might shanghai that from him and start one. Oh, and sorry about your Ohio problem, my sister married an Ohio person, I can only imagine what you’re going through.

  5. Beth says:

    I may take you up on that (and was actually, but now I see that when I reformatted my computer, I forgot to install the FTM software – I actually had a panic that I didn’t back-up the files, but I just found those). I know one specific name I’d love for you to look-up if you can access the Civil War regiment info. I need to open the software to make sure I have the name right. It’s going to be something like Valentine Cearley (at least I think that’s his last name – also, people couldn’t spell Cearley, so it may be a variation of Cearly, Curly, Carley – it seems like the census just didn’t like those extra vowels lurking about)/ As soon as I get back home, I’ll find the software and give you the real name.

    Here’s an old post on FTM – https://bigbluemess.com/2009/10/22/family-tree-maker/
    I’m not pushing reading that post – just showing a picture of my Great Grandfather and my Great-great Grandfather (his father-in-law). This is the family line that got screwed up somewhere along the line.

  6. wagnerowicz says:

    that picture is awesome. so, since geneaogy is my crack, i looked up your Cearley person and there were a bunch and some were McCearley and a lot were side-windin rebels too (see, I’m usin’ your lingo). were they in TX?

    my great great grandma on my mom’s side, well, let’s just say, “she’s just a gal who can’t say no”. and someone in my husband’s family murdered her son – then she moved to TX so watch it cause crazy descendents may be out there.

  7. Beth says:

    BAH! I can’t find my most recent copy of the software (I probably downloaded it and will need to poke around and see if I can get it restored). Of course, I stil have the one version from like 2001 with its 10 discs winking at me, but I’m not sure it would read the updated family files. Oo, yay for me having the foresight to upload the info onto Ancestry.com. So, the person I *think” was imprisoned was Mitchell Valentine Hollingshead, but I can’t prove that. And I think it’s somewhere around Larkin Cearley (or maybe one of the George’s or William’s) that my relative clames is where people veer off. If people would name their relatives something besides William or George, that would have helped – like Buford or Jermaine.

    My branch of the Cearley’s didn’t get to Texas until my grandmother was born, so around 1915. They originally came from Atlanta and Nelson, Georgia and I think before that one of the Carolinas.

    Was that the great-great grandma you wrote about in a previous post? That was a GREAT family story!! If we have any child killers in the family, they got away with it and didn’t leave me with a good story. Blast their hides.

  8. wagnerowicz says:

    that broad is on my husband’s side. My great great grandma was Mary Kelm and she and homesteaded up in MN with all the Irish and the Swedes, killin’ Injuns and eatin’ lutefisk. She done got herself w//child and didn’t know who the daddy was so her daughter was raised by her grandparents as if she was their daughter not their granddaughter.This was in 1885 and was so horrible that the baby’s birth record his crossed out in the MN birth register. Mary did it again, but this time it appears that her father pulled out the shotgun and so she ended up marrying her second baby daddy who was – dare I say it – a JEW! A travelling salesman Jew no less. Just like in Oklahoma! I just realized that.

    Anyhow, ancestry shows Larkin Cearley of Georgia as having served in NC in Company E, 39th Infantry. He enlisted in 1861 when he was 25 so he was born around 1836. If you look up the the battles he fought, he mustered out on March 1st, 1863 so he obviously didn’t fight in anything after that. He was born in NC to George (also born in NC) but is in Union County GA in 1850 and 1860. By 1860 he’s married to Alpha and has a kid named Julius who was born in TN. NOW it looks like Alpha died? and he remarried Elizabeth and had John and baby girl who was born in 1870, no name on the census in 1870 cause she was only a month old. By 1880 he moved to MO and had kids named – Texas and Tennessee. I bet you knew that, didn’t you. Texas seems to be the unnamed infant in 1870. There was also a girl named Louisia – was that short for Louisiana? And Ella and Joessa. Tennessee grew up and married Newton Swaten. The last place I find him is in MO in 1910. His sone John and all his kids are there too.

    So, I guess this is your guy? I hope it helps some, he had a bunch of siblings too, like Rufus, Noah, Witley and Colbert. And there’s an assload of Larkin Cearleys in family trees on ancestry.com too.

    as for your POW, i’ll look him up tomorrow. Beavis and Butthead and The League are on tonight 🙂

  9. Beth says:

    A traveling salesman Jew! That must have caused quite the scandal in the family and lit up every dinner table conversation. We only had a uncle making special needs babies with his niece. I’m so proud when our family tree looks more like a family trunk.

    I had to look up lutefisk and then just as quickly I had to stop looking, because it looks a little like what it sounds. And they use lye? Mmm lye and fish. Crazy Scandinavians!

    So, I think it’s the George’s that cause the problem and I’m wondering if it’s right around Larkin. The Larkin I have in my tree was born in 1776 (good year!) in Halifax, VA and married Mary Barnes. Together they had George Cearley (the suspected problem) in 1802. He married Mary Lowdermilk (or the more German Laudermilch) and they had Newton in 1830. Newton married Rebecca Walker and George W. Cearley in 1850. Now where I know it’s the right family is with this George W. – he married Hillia Brown and I’m about 95% sure that Hillia, who would have been my great great great grandmother was my grandmother’s namesake (I’d never say that out loud, because my grandmother hated that name and went by her middle name, Elizabeth), her eldest brother was a George, I’m guessing named after their grandfather, Hillia’s husband. I think Creepy said it was a George and that people who’ve done research hop down that wrong George’s bunny trail. It’s frustrating because I’m really good at theiving info and plopping it onto my tree where I really need to research a bit harder. Of course, this is the guy that gave me a hand written family tree and put a squiggle line to the side that said “Davy Crockett”. So, he’s on my list since that’s a lot like cheating and I had to upset the family with the whole “here’s the REAL deal with Davy” (I have to admit, I like the other Larkin’s family better – look at all of those great names! We just had George, George, George, Elizabeth, George)

    I really do appreciate your looking this up! Feel free to throw in the towel at any time. I can’t imagine how fun it would be tracking down a foul-mouthed Texans ancestry. I mean, I personally lovei t!! But don’t let me bore you with my crazy family. I owe you, though. So, if there’s ever any crazy facts you’d like researched, I’m in! 🙂

  10. wagnerowicz says:

    ya know what? I see where your problem is – I can’t find anything that “proves” that Newton was the son of George 1802 at all. George is probably the son of Larkin 1776 and then Larkin 1837 was named after his grandfather, but Newton is in Georgia in 1850 while the rest of the Cearleys are still in NC. Since he was born in 1831 and Larkin in 1837, they are probably brothers. The rest of the Cearley’s were farmers who stayed close to him while Newton was a blacksmith and stone mason. In 1850, George and Mary Lowdermilk Cearley and all their kids are in Union, GA while Newton and Rebecca Walker and her parents are in Lumpkin, GA (yeah, that’s right, Lumpkin, you can’t make that up). But by 1870 they all meet up again in Union and live pretty much right next door to eachother. I think you’re right about everyone. George and Hilarie are on the 1880 census in Dooley, GA w/kids William, Columbus, Mary, Martha and Arthur. George, oldest Cearley is still around and is 78 – he’s in Dooley a few doors down from his grandson. Newton is not there though, but his brothers Rufus, Elijah and Colbert are.

    So, to sum up, it would go Larkin, George, Newton, George and then down to you. The Civ War Larkin is an uncle.

    BUT just to annoy you, I searched the 1850 census for everyone named Larkin who was born in the 1770’s and found Larkin Kerley born 1772 in Virginia living in NC with William and Martha Jones and kin. I bet Martha is Larkin’s daughter and this Larkin Kerley could be your Larkin Cearley BUT there is a Larkin Carly (said to be Cearley by an ancestry contributor named Raymond Cearley) and Larkin Kerley both in NC in 1840 so the who the F knows! Aargh. On a side note, I think it’s funny the Uncle Larkin appears to have named his daughters after confederate states.

    I couldn’t find much on Hollingshead – he did fight in the Civ War but no proof that he was a POW. and his name was originally spelled Hollinshed. I’ve been doing Cearley stuff so I haven’t looked that this other guy too much.

  11. Beth says:

    AWESOME!!!!! Thank you so much for looking all of that up. And of course my family would be from Lumpkin; it explains a lot. Karen, you absolutely ROCK!

  12. wagnerowicz says:

    i have to say, i think your problem is Newton. OK, here goes: first, go here: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~carley/boyde_carley2.htm

    and look for Larkin. You’ll find he was born Jan 10, 1776 in VA to William Cearley, Jr. and Rachel Neale. He married Mary Barnes and their grave is here: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5864743.

    Larkin died in 1841 which is why he ain’t on the 1850 census. Anyhow, this is my theory about Newton. He decided to venture out on his own – no farming for him, he was gonna be something cool like a blacksmith! He moved away, married Rebecca Walker over in Lumpkin and had George and a few others. Rebecca died sometime between 1860 & 1866 and he married Martha Thomas in GA and had Colly who was born in 1870. It’s sometime between Rebecca’s death and 1870 that he decided to come back near his family and he’s still smithing but by 1880 he has succumbed to farming 😦

    NOW it seems that he either divorced Martha or she died, but he looks to have then married Rosetta Mason (or Coffey, she was married once before so I don’t know which name is which) in 1890 who is at least 30 years younger than him – eeew. By 1900 they are in MO with kids Nancy b. 1887, possibly Martha’s and also kids who appear to be hers from a prior marriage. All of Newt’s kids from earlier stayed in GA. Newton died, probably in MO btwn 1900 and 1910 – Rosetta and her kids are living w/Nancy and her husband, Green Sparks, in Howell, MO. I hope this is the same Newton – he was born in GA in 1829 so I’m thinkin’ it has to be him. His brothers, Larkin and Rufus both got land in MO in 1895 so maybe ants in his pants Newton went out there to manage it?

    So all of this should clear up your problem. William Cearley Sr. is listed on tax lists or whatever as far back as 1704 in VA so I’m guessing that’s when it all started and you can read the thing there and figure it all out. It’s very cool, lots of info to add. AND http://www.familysearch.org has added gobs of free stuff and they put more in every day.Guess they’re preparing for the rapture or something.

    Also go here: http://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/Cearley-Descendants-30

    that is it, woman! yer on yer own. enjoy

    • Beth says:

      Ok, this all just blows me completely away. Thank you so much for doing all of that research this is such a great start – lots of things for me to poke. Any chance that you do research for a living? If not, you should! Any chance I can exchange you for Creepy in our family? We’re dysfunctional but largely friendly folk! 🙂

  13. wagnerowicz says:

    no problem, it’s fun for me. better than hitting refresh on Facebook all day. besides, one day I will discover that i’m related to one of my friends which is one of the reasons i do it so much. I was almost related to my husband but we were Puritans and they were Quakers and we kicked them out of Plymouth. there’s actually a John Bryant Cearley in your tree – I think it’s John – which means you may have Bryants and that’s what I have and I may just check that out.

    Oh, and none of the Cearley’s owned slaves, at least not that I saw, so if anyone gets uppity about your Southern pride and your flag you can tell them to suck it.

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