I have certain ancestors whom I cherish more than the others. One is my Great Grandfather Junius Jay Wilson MacMurray. He was a son of slave-holding plantation owneers in southern Missouri, at Carondalet. At the age of 16, he was enrolled at Washington College, now Washington University, in St. Louis, MO, in the 1860-1861 academic year and was approached by a group of pro-secessionsists who were planning to take control of the St. Louis Arsenal and hand out the powder and ball therein to their side so that they could take Missouri out of the Union. They had assumed that Junius was in favor since he came from a slave-holding family. They were wrong. He played along with them to get the details of their plot and carried the information to a pro-Union group who got to the arsenal first and held it until Federal troops could come to their relief from Jefferson Barracks outside of town. For his efforts, Junius was given a commission as a 1st Lieutenant in the Missouri Volunteer Artillery. He served under Grant, McPherson, and Sherman all of the way from Vicksburg to Columbia, S.C. At Vicksburg, his battery was so noted for its efficiency that Grant chose that place to take Pendleton's surrender of the city. General McPherson, who was killed outside Atlanta, gave Junius a telescope to honor his service in the siege of Atlanta.
When the War was over, he tried to go home but they ran him off at the point of a loaded shotgun, so he applied for a commission in the Regular Army. That was in 1866, not a good time to make such an application. But he had some good references such as U. S. Grant and W. T. Sherman who backed his request and he was duly commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Artillery. He served in that regiment throughout the Indian Wars and my maternal grandmother was raised, in large part, on the frontier Army posts of the period and when he would go out to talk peace with an Indian tribe, she would ride along on her little white circus pony as a sign that he came in peace. She told some WONDERFUL stories.
His last post was Fort Barrancas, Florida, one of the Coast Artillery forts guarding Pensacola Bay during the Spanish-American War. You may know that Pensacola was a major point of embarkation for troops going to Cuba and Puerto Rico, so protection of the port was most important. A yellow fever epidemic broke out during this period and, while he could send his family north to his Van Antwerp in-laws in Albany, N.Y., he had to remain at Pensacola. He died of complications from the yellow jack.
Another favorite ancestor from that time was William Albert Smoot of Alexandria, Virginia. His family lived in what was, then, a bustling seaport town and had no need for slaves. But, when Lincoln sent Federal troops to occupy the town BEFORE Virginia had seceded, he took offense and rode out to Warrenton, VA, and enlisted in the 4th Virginia Cavalry. He served the entire War in that unit, rising to become the Color Sergeant by the end. Along the way, he was awarded a saber by Robert E. Lee and another by Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson for gallantry in action. He was wounded three times and I have a .52 caliber carbine bullet that was taken out of him on one occasion. The 4th Virginia was with Fitzhugh Lee when he broke out of the Appomatox encirclement and headed south to link up with Joseph E. Johnson in North Carolina. But Johnson surrendered to Sherman before they ever got out of Virginia, so they surrendered down around Danville and Lynchburg, near the state line. As Color Sergeant, GGF Smoot was not ready to surrender his regiment's standard to the damnyankees so he rolled it up and tucked it under his tunic, carrying it off of the surrender field. It spent the next several decades sewn up inside of a pillow as possession of such a flag of insurrection by a Confederate veteran was highly illegal, especially since this veteran had NOT signed an oath of allegiance and regained his citizenship. I now have that flag at home and, when I hold it, I feel in touch with the flow of history.
The third of my favorites is, of course, Goody Parsons. How could I not love such an irascible old gal?