Yesterday, I wrote about my paternal grandfathers. Today, I must tell the stories of my mother’s fathers and their fathers. Their stories are just as interesting and possibly more critical to my being here than those of my Cuban ancestors.
My mother’s family came from England by way of South Carolina. From there, they migrated west into the Wiregrass area of South Alabama and further into Mississippi. Some went south into Florida. They were all good Southerners.
Today, I can travel to Dothan, AL and drive northwest along Highway 231 to County Road 18. Turning to the west, I can drive four-tenths of a mile to the gate of a small cemetery on the right-hand side of the road. Buried in the cemetery, my great-great-great grandfather lies next to his wife.
I wonder how many people are capable of standing at the grave of their great-great-great grandparents. When I was a child, my grandmother brought me to this cemetery and made comments about how we should never forget those who came before us.
She talked of the times in The South after The War. She said the period of Reconstruction was awful. She told of how these people in the ground before us lived through that period of history. Being a young child, incapable of appreciating what she was trying to say, I did not get it. I had no interest in the stories she was trying to tell.
Now I do.
The stories are fascinating but unfortunately, I can now only acquire them through the broad stroke of history books and general research, rather than the finely detailed stories of my family. I have actually pieced together some of the family stories through research of historical documents which still bear the names of the family.
Standing in the family cemetery, I look at my great-great-great grandfather’s grave and wonder about his life. Aris was born in South Carolina in 1802 and died in the Wiregrass in 1880. He and his wife, Caron, bore a son named John Alexander.
John Alexander married a woman named Rebecca and they, too, lived in the Wiregrass. Then The War came along. John, believing the same as many of his cousins and friends, felt as though he had to do his part to defend his home against the Northern Aggressors. So he and many of his family and friends joined the 15 Alabama Infantry and became members of Co. G. He marched off to war leaving behind his home in the Wiregrass and his young, pregnant wife.
John Alexander would never again see his beloved Wiregrass. He would also never meet his son, John Webster. He fought along the men of Co. G in some of the great and lesser known battles of the war between the North and South. It was at The Wilderness he became a prisoner of the North.
The Union sent John Alexander to Elmira, NY where they incarcerated him as a prisoner of war at Camp Rathbun. The camp housed about 12,000 Confederate soldiers, of which more than 3000 died.
My great-great grandfather actually survived the war; when General Lee surrendered The South to General Grant on April 9, 1865, John Alexander was so sick he could not leave prison compound.
He lay sick in his bunk until his death on June 4, 1865.
© 2010 J. Clark