Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walking the Sunken Road

As we walked the "Sunken Road" beside the stone wall at Fredericksburg,  I surveyed the field below. I could envision in my mind's eye  the brutal battle scene often portrayed in Civil War documentaries and movies.  But the field, once war torn, showed few scars and instead stood peaceful and serene.  It felt surreal to actually be there and to stand on the very site where so many men had lost their lives.


Present day "sunken road" and the rock wall

My husband and I had traveled to Richmond, Virginia to attend the National Genealogy Society's 2014 Conference.  Afterwards, we visited a few of the many historical sites in the area, including the battlefield at Fredericksburg, Virginia.  While I loved knowing that at one time, my ancestors had been there, I hated knowing why.


Our visit was in May and as is typical for the season, the air was warm and humid.  A few songbirds sang in the trees surrounding the fields, but otherwise the air was still and quiet,  a sharp contrast to December of 1862.  That December, as troops converged on the battlefield, the bitter cold, snow and mud added to the misery of the war.  While cannon balls took out lines of men,  bullets riddled the smoke filled air,  killing many who courageously fought, and yet they were not the only enemy.  Lack of good food, few tents and a shortage of blankets, along with rampant disease and inadequate medical care,
took the lives of many.

Gallant Charge of Humphrey's Division
at the Battle of Fredericksburg
Library of Congress

David Ganus, Burton Cook and James Blackmon were all at Fredericksburg.  David Ganus was born in 1836 in Fayette County, Georgia to James (Gur)Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey.  David was a younger brother to my 3rd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. Burton Cook was married to David and John's oldest sister, Mary, and James Blackmon was married to their sister, Margaret.  David, Burton and James were among the thousands of Confederate soldiers present for the historic battle at Fredericksburg.

Cobb's and Kershaw's Troops
behind the stone wall
Library of Congress



As I paused to read the historical markers, I felt a flood of emotion as I imagined David, Burton and James, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other, their neighbors and friends. Given the number of soldiers there,  it is doubtful that David was even aware of the presence of other more distant relatives, such as Florida cousins, Willis and Moses Gurganus.   As regiments from multiple counties and states joined together at the various battles, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and fathers all fought, sometimes side by side and sometimes on opposing sides




Part of the original rock wall today,  built by Confederate Soldiers

I was grateful that we practically had the park to ourselves that day because I wanted to feel and to think, without the distractions of a noisy crowd.  I wanted to reflect on what I knew about the men that I have researched and grown to love and to pay honor to them as I walked along the road where they had once been. As we walked along the Sunken Road behind the rock wall and at the base of Marye's Heights,  I felt a solemn reverence for the significance of that site,  as it had offered significant protection from the oncoming Union troops.  According to "The Dorman-Marshbourne Letters" by John W. Lynch, the Georgia 53rd was posted on the road below Marye's Heights on December 14th and 15th of 1862.

Luckily David, Burton and James all survived the battle at Fredericksburg, but David developed pneumonia and a few weeks later he was sent to Winder Hospital in Richmond.  With that,  I knew where our next stop would be.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Richmond Bound

While I may have grown up far from my Southern roots, I nonetheless feel a deep connection to everything Southern.

I have Southerners on both my mother's and father's side and, although I have ancestors from many parts of the US, and of course ancestors that came from other countries, it's my Southern lines that I seem to be drawn to the most.  I love learning about my ancestors and I enjoy the "genealogy scenery" along the way, meaning I love to learn about their culture, their traditions, their lifestyle and their history.  So when the National Genealogy Society announced that their conference for 2014 would be held in Richmond, I was thrilled. 

Now, as of yet, my research hasn't actually taken me directly into Virginia.....and notice I said, yet. Having folks in North Carolina at the beginning of the 18th century, I suspect it is just a matter of time before I find myself digging through Virginia records.  But in the meantime, having ancestors that fought in the Civil War, I nonetheless have connections to Virginia, although it definitely lacks some of the warm and fuzzy feelings associated with seeing something like an ancestral home. 

My 2nd Great Grandfather's brother, David Ganus, whom I wrote about in a previous post, died from exposure in December of 1862 in Virginia and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Although he lies in a mass grave, they do know the lot where he is buried and I do have plans to visit there.

Richmond Destruction
Wikimedia Commons
David Gurganus Jr. was a brother to my 3rd Great Grandfather, James (Gur) Ganus.  I shared David's story in this post. David and wife Elizabeth watched all three of their sons go off to war.  Willis, Moses and David all fought for the rebel cause and, of the three, only one survived and returned home.  Civil war records indicate only that Willis was buried in "Virginia." While I wish the records were more specific, knowing that he was there will have to be enough.  

My tree is full of rebs that volunteered from their home states of Georgia, Florida,  Alabama, Tennessee and both North and South Carolina. While none of them actually were from Virginia, Virginia nonetheless played a significant role in many of my ancestor's lives.  Not only did many participate in the bloody battles that took place in Virginia, but I have several who lost their lives and were buried there.  

The NGS Conference promises to be worthwhile with some of the best presenters genealogy has to offer and I am so excited.  The trip will not only be an opportunity to learn from some of the best, but it will also be a time to visit historical sites that played an important role in my ancestors' lives.  I look forward to sharing my adventure with you in the coming weeks.   

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014