My most recent discovery of my great great grandfather's Civil War experience has refueled my interest in not only his life but also his lineage. An ancestor already known to me from family notes rather than discovered through genealogical research, I had given little time to his history. With a quick discount of importance, I placed his name on my family tree and moved on, searching for others I considered more noteworthy. Perhaps finding an ancestor who was an officer in the Revolutionary War, heralded in history books for his strategic military mind. Or if I look further back, I might discover an heir to a monarchy, providing validation to my lifelong assumption of royal lineage!

But after years of searching, my attention to an early interest of undiscovered fame has evolved into an acceptance of 'just average' ancestors. And yet as I delve further into their daily 'average' lives, I find these individuals to have remarkable strength and endurable grit. And I am taken back by a man who took great risk in pledging his allegiance to the Union army, and the country he loved.

I honestly had never given much time to learning about the Civil War. Of course as all, I sat through my college U.S. History class; reading assignments in order to pass one more required credit. But reading my ancestor's words of his experience of the war has provided a deeper understanding of what these soldiers and their families went through. And I am left to compare their lives with ours.

With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War at the top of national news and the subject of newly released movies, I feel my Civil War ancestor, Wesley Lewis, deserves a second chapter to this small weekly blog. With a quick review of his story from last week's post, Wesley escaped from a Confederate state in order to join the Union army. Returning home to tend to his sick wife, rebels invaded their home and forced Wesley to witness his wife's death.
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But the second chapter to this heart-wrenching saga leads us to Wesley's children. Without documents found giving explanation of their care and whereabouts after their mother's death, their disposition was left to my imagination: Until my recent discovery of Wesley Lewis' probate records from the courthouse of Washington County, Arkansas.

Leaving little time to grieve, Wesley had to quickly find refuge for his young children. Unable to parent them due to his duty in the war, he took them 700 miles from home, placing them in a Catholic boarding school for their education and protection. But when Wesley returned to the school after the war to retrieve his children, he was told they were no longer there. Most likely placed for adoption, he spent years searching for his children but they were never found. And this unheralded 'average' Civil War soldier lost his entire family as a result of the war.

Wesley Lewis eventually took a second wife, my great great grandmother, and built a new family after the war, but his tragic loss of his first family cannot be denied. And I am humbled by his life. This 'average' man did not hold great military honors nor was he descended from royalty but the story of his life reveals a man of great honor and I am proud to call him my ancestor.

As a tribute to my great great grandfather, I have developed a new page to this website, providing links to search for Civil War ancestors and view other sites dedicated to the Civil War. It is my hope that these efforts will do justice to my 'above average' ancestor.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
 


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