47th Regiment

North Carolina Troops

Descendants Association

 

Telling Their Story

An Essay By Lloyd Fowler

 

     Perhaps it’s unusual that two major passions of a high school senior in Kentucky are genealogy and American history, but those interests have great meaning to me. These passions compliment each other and allow me to understand the participation of my ancestors in the major events of our nation’s past.

     During the American Civil War, every ancestor of mine who was of age fought as a Confederate except one odd ball from Tennessee and originally I only took pride in his service. He wasn’t a traitor; better yet, he shed his blood for the Union and never fully recovered from his wound. I thoughtlessly yelled, “I’m not all traitors!” the day I discovered that he was a Yankee.

     This same erroneous attitude in our society was very evident following the “You lie” moment of Rep. Joe Wilson. Television news reporters and pundits repeatedly reminded viewers that Rep. Wilson belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as if that membership caused his breach of decorum. 

    Listening to the major network commentators, I was reminded that a few years before I too had bought into the concept of negatively labeling everyone who was proud of his or her Confederate heritage. With some embarrassment, I remembered that I had tried to weasel my way out of going to the Confederate Iron Cross of Honor ceremony in Rock Hill, South Carolina for Private John James Misskelley, my third great grandfather. Due to my prejudice, I felt uncomfortable and awkward at the ceremony that Daughters of Confederate Veterans in 1860’s era black mourning dresses, uniformed Confederate re-enactors, a cannon crew and a period-dressed pastor (who gave the eulogy) were in attendance. In my opinion, they were having a  “The South Will Rise Again” rally at my family’s expense. I now realize that I had forced myself to be appalled because I thought it mandatory as a proper member of modern American society.

     School projects and documentaries had established my interest in the Civil War and I was very knowledgeable about historical facts. Thus equipped, I presented historical references to my Granny as to why we shouldn’t honor Private Misskelley. Although I accurately knew historical details, the society I lived in had taught me to be proud of one side and to demonize the other. I now understand that this was an adolescent version of political correctness run amok. 

     Only through my continued personal interest and research have I learned how to remember the Civil War within a historically accurate context and with real perspective. Unexpectedly, the man who taught me to not be ashamed of my Confederate heritage was my third great grandfather, Corporal Henry Warren House. He and his brother, Private James Pinkney House, served in Company C of the 47th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. 

      My epiphany came about a few years after the Iron Cross of Honor ceremony when Granny gave me the 1909 church announcement of Grandpa House’s death along with a box of old family photos. The church announcement reads:

"…. Brother House volunteered in the Confederate Army in the fall of 1861, was a brave soldier, and answered to every roll call until the shot of the enemy fractured both bones of his left leg in a skirmish at Bristoe Station, VA. in October, 1863, inflicting a wound from which he never fully recovered. From 3 p.m. until sometime in the night, when a soldier in blue ministered to him, he lay without attention. From the shoulders of a dying comrade nearby the Federal soldier cut the knapsack to give a more comfortable position and when the comrade died, took a blanket from the sack and wrapped Brother House in it. Early the following morning the Federalist came again, gave water, refilled House's canteen and said, "I must leave now but your own men will find and care for you." They found him at 11 a.m. and removed him to a hospital…"

     The act of compassion given to my grandpa by the Federal soldier dissolved my discomfort with his Confederate service because it clearly revealed both soldiers to be Americans sharing a common bond. I had to ask myself, "If the Federal soldier had nothing personal against my grandpa, then why do I?"

     I now recognize that the humanity of soldiers on both sides should dispel any present day notions that they were anything less than American patriots. As a descendant, I choose to remember and care about my ancestors and give them the greatest gift within my power and ability: the passing on of their stories. Then and there I committed myself to question society’s negative attitude toward people who are proud of their Confederate heritage. 

     I was amazed to find out how accurate the church announcement was when compared to both official battlefield reports for the Battle of Bristoe Station and memoirs of participants. The time of day matched, the description of leaving the wounded out all night, etc… all matched. This enhanced my interest in Grandpa House and I decided to research the other battles in which he fought. I discovered from a pay receipt that he was at the Battle of Gettysburg fought on July 1-3, 1863 and that this was his and his unit’s “baptism by fire.” I also found that a James P. House, also in Company C of the 47th North Carolina, was captured during the Trimble-Pettigrew-Pickett charge on the last day of the battle and died from his wounds on July 20, 1863 in a Union hospital at Gettysburg. My research showed that Grandpa House had taken part in the Trimble-Pettigrew-Pickett Charge, but I became very interested in determining if I had an uncle who was mortally wounded during that same event. It would be amazing to have both a grandpa and an uncle take part in what many consider to be the greatest charge in the most significant battle of the Civil War. 

     My genealogy research revealed that James Pinkney House and Henry Warren House were brothers. Granny told me that Grandpa House was buried at the Raleigh, North Carolina church where my mother was baptized. Further, she said that her grandmother never talked about her father’s Civil War experiences and that no one knew what happened to Uncle James. Through weeks of research I was able to locate the burial places of the other five siblings, but I was unable to locate the burial place of Uncle James. 

     Around the time I started looking for Uncle James’ burial place, I made a surprising discovery. I was rummaging through the box of old photos that Granny had given me and discovered the picture of Grandpa House as an old man. Staring into his eyes, I sensed that he was telling me to find his younger brother that he had left on the battlefield on July 3, 1863.

     I spent weeks researching where the Confederate dead at Gettysburg were buried. I learned that Confederate soldiers were buried in unmarked graves where they fell on the battlefield, although those who were captured and died in Union Hospitals were buried in marked graves. Motivated by this news, I intensified my search for Uncle James, but was frustrated by a lack of success after searching the records of many cemeteries. I then discovered that it took threats in the early 1870’s from Gettysburg farmers to reclaim their lost land for agricultural purposes before anything was done about the Confederate battlefield burials. The women of the South quickly mobilized to raise funds to pay for the removal of every Confederate body that could be found and shipped south, but I didn’t know that they were all sent to one cemetery. I would come home from school and scan for hours through one Southern cemetery list after another for Uncle James. Then an email from a Civil War historian suggested that I search Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. To my great astonishment, I found him. I cried because I had devoted such a long period of time to solving this mystery and was close to giving up. When I picked up Grandpa House’s photograph and again looked into his eyes, I heard him in my heart say, “Thank you grandson." His lost brother was found!

     When the Confederate dead were removed from Gettysburg to Hollywood Cemetery, their loved ones were never notified. No one knew that Uncle James had died except that he never came home. At the end of the war, he was listed on the muster roll as, “Missing since the battle of Gettysburg July 3, 1863."

     Civil War battlefield dead were usually buried in long trenches, shoulder to shoulder, to minimize burial space. When the Confederate bodies were exhumed at Gettysburg, there was no way to separate and identify the remains. Thus, the remains were removed from each trench and boxed together for shipment to Richmond. Consequently, a plot of land at Hollywood Cemetery was set aside for a mass grave that would be the final resting place for these gallant sons of the South. 

     I will forever be grateful to the staff of Hollywood Cemetery for their prompt response to my inquiry about whether or not Uncle James had a headstone. I was advised that he didn’t, but cemetery records showed that his remains were interred in the mass grave. However, they let me know that as the next of kin I could order a free tombstone from the Veteran’s Administration to place over the mass grave. I shared the idea with Granny who agreed to pay the one hundred dollar installation fee if I filled out the paper work. 

    Today a granite Veteran’s Administration headstone marks the place where Private James Pinkney House rests in peace alongside his fellow soldiers. I sincerely hope that others can benefit from my journey of discovery and be able to accomplish something that will honor and preserve the memory of these Americans. 

     I now know that the House brothers were decent, honorable men who fought for what they believed was right and in defense of their state and country. I now feel pride in my Confederate ancestors instead of embarrassment, as I have been privileged to discover their humanity and courage. I can now show my respect by remembering their lives and telling their story.

Lloyd Fowler is a 2010 graduate of duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Kentucky where he was one of eighty-four Valedictorians with a 4.0 or higher. He was the President of the Teenage Republican Club, Parliamentarian of the National Honor Society, member of Key Club and Football Team ball boy. During his middle school years he developed a huge interest in American History, which cascaded into the study of his family history and U.S. Government and Politics. In the Summer of 2009 he was the U.S. Senate Page in Washington, D.C. for the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Lloyd is very passionate about genealogy and a proud member of both the Jamestowne Society and the Sons of the American Revolution. He began attending the University of Louisville in the Fall of 2010 to study Political Science.

 

 

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