I’m inaugurating a new blog series! I’m finding out so much ridiculously fascinating family history that I want to share it, not just with my family members on Facebook, but with everyone, because I bet everyone has some equally or even more interesting family stories that are as yet uncovered!
Let’s call it #FamilyHistoryFriday!
I’m going to start by posting a photograph or document, giving it some family and historical context, and telling you how I found it, so that maybe you can replicate my method to find out some family history of your own. There’s a lot out there now, thanks to the internet; trips to Virginia courthouse basements (shout-out Heather Bollinger!) are still a fantastic way to follow the documentation trail, but more and more information is available through archival repositories like the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and genealogical networking web sites like Ancestry.
The hive mind composed of thousands of cousins is necessarily going to find a lot more information than you would ever have been able to get before on your own, just visiting your local records center, paging through family Bibles (if you’re lucky enough to have any!), and talking to your auntie—though, please, do all of those things! Your elderly relatives are repositories of so many clues that would otherwise be lost. And they’re just plain interesting to talk to; their lived experience cannot be replicated by any document or photograph.
So, here’s my first post:
N. P. Landrum, Confederate pension application #02458
I know this because I searched the Index to Confederate Pension Applications online through the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (full disclosure: I work there!). As stated on TSLAC’s web site:
The Index provides the names, counties of residence, and pension numbers of 54,634 approved, rejected, and home pensions issued by the Texas government between 1899 and 1975.
Confederate veterans and their widows were dependent upon the generosity of the already impoverished former Confederate states for any postwar pension benefits. In awarding pensions for Confederate service, Texas, like most other southern states, confined its relief payments to veterans or their widows resident in Texas since 1880 who were disabled or indigent. Therefore, the index of applicants for Confederate pensions in no way represents a complete roster of Texas residents who fought for the Confederacy.
I have been an Ancestry user for ten years. My genealogical research was put on hold while I was in graduate school, but now that I have a little more free time, I have been working on it again. I have always been especially interested in learning the name of the furthest back, findable and provable, direct maternal line ancestor. Previously, I had reached a dead-end at one Dorcus Boutwell Landrum, who was born in Mississippi circa 1822, parentage unknown. But a recent review of the evidence led me to realize that Dorcus was not, in fact, my great-grandmother’s grandmother. Based on Ancestry “hints” and a subsequent search of relevant federal census records, I determined that my great-great-great-great grandmother was, in fact, one Eglantine King. We’ll get to her and her family in a subsequent post. The point here is that this information then led me to identifying her husband, Nicholas Powers (“N.P.” or sometimes “Nick”) Landrum, based on census records.
Born in 1834 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, N.P. is listed on the 1850 U.S. Census as a 16-year-old living at home, occupation “student.” N.P.’s grandfather, Thomas Landrum, was a veteran of the American Revolution, having served in the Virginia Line of the Continental Army. He was granted a Revolutionary War pension in Oglethorpe, Georgia, in 1832, aged 72 years. He died the following year. More on him later, too.
N.P.’s mother was Sarah Harvey Taliaferro, a descendant of the famous Taliaferros of Virginia (pronounced, and often Anglicized, as “Tolliver”). The name is Italian and is believed to trace back to Bartholomew Taliaferro, a native of Venice who settled in London and was made a denizen in 1562. He was a musician in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. This marks the second Italian Tudor court musician ancestor I’ve discovered, the other being Jeronimo Bassano, on my father’s side. No doubt these two families knew each other in London in the 16th century. Crazy stuff. More on them later, as well (sensing a pattern?).
Here’s where my search began: now knowing my ancestor’s name and that his age (26 in 1861) made him a likely recruit during the Civil War, I searched the Confederate pension applications index on the TSLAC web site. And there he was!
Using this information, specifically the application number, I then searched TSLAC’s scanned Confederate pension applications, available through Ancestry.com. Note: these are viewable on site at TSLAC in Austin, through their institutional subscription to Ancestry.com. To learn more about on- and off-site resources available through TSLAC, see their Genealogy Resources web page.
Now we’re beginning to pull together the threads of N.P.’s story. Let’s channel Sophia Petrillo and picture it: Lamar County, 1899. At that time, the Old Lamar County Courthouse, built in 1897, was new—the devastating 1916 fire wouldn’t happen for another 17 years. Here is what the 1897 courthouse looked like:
This photo of the 1897 Lamar County courthouse hangs in a display case on the fourth floor of the current courthouse. Photo: Terry Jeanson, 2007.
N.P. was 66 at the time of his pension application. In it, he says he served the Confederacy from April 1861 through April 1865. This implies he was a volunteer immediately at the outbreak of the war (Ft. Sumter was April 12-14, 1861). He lists his assets in 1899 as two horses, value: $40. He says he has no other assets nor means of income, declaring himself indigent. To apply for this pension, he also had to present an affidavit from a physician, Dr. J. S. Marshall, confirming his disability: blindness. His witness was his brother, William Henry (called “Boas,” here listed as W. H.) Landrum, who was four years older than him and a fellow Confederate veteran.
Further searching, this time on the National Park Service Civil War Soldier and Sailor Database, revealed that N.P. served as the chief bugler of the 10th Mississippi Infantry, Companies D and E, aka the “Lowndes Southrons” and the “Southern Avengers.” On the pension application, however, he reports that he served in Company B. The military records list both N.P. and W.H. Landrum as having enlisted in Lowndes County, along with other Landrums, likely all cousins. The 1860 federal census proves that they were resident in Lowndes County at that time. And there are no Landrums listed as having served in Company B. So I suspect old N.P. made an error in completing his pension application.
As a member of this regiment for the duration of the war, N.P. was involved in: the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, Shiloh, the Siege of Corinth, the Kentucky Campaign, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the Atlanta Campaign, the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, and the Carolinas Campaign. I visited the Carnton Plantation portion of the Franklin battlefield a few years ago and had no idea.
Based on this information, I assume that N.P. enlisted in the Confederate army in Lowndes County, Mississippi, where he had moved by 1860 from Georgia. N.P. married the previously-mentioned Eglantine King in Lamar County, Texas, on March 21, 1869. Her family was from Artesia, Mississippi, a small railroad community in Lowndes County, so it seems likely that he met her after the war but before moving to Texas—they probably came together. From the 1870 census on, they both remained in Lamar County.
N.P. and Eglantine’s daughter, Ida, my great-great-grandmother, would go on to marry Robert Clinton Russell in Lamar County in 1894. Robert’s grandfather was Lieutenant Benjamin Hudson Russell , who died at the Battle of Stones River (aka Second Murfreesboro) on December 31, 1862, aged 35. I have a lot more information about him to share in a future post, as well. Once again, two of my ancestors on various branches of the tree were in the same, fated place at the same time, generations before their descendants would marry. Fascinating to think about.
N.P.’s pension application was approved on August 19, 1899, and he was thus entitled to receive $22.32 per annum from the State of Texas for the remainder of his life. His date of death is unknown; the last census he and Eglantine (as “Tiny”) appear on is 1910. I haven’t been able to find the location of either of their graves yet, which is kind of surprising.
Learning that my great-great-great-grandfather was not only a Confederate veteran (unsurprising) but the chief bugler (very surprising!) is just the type of fascinating historical detail that keeps me plugging away at my family history. For me as for many people, it’s often difficult to really feel the presence, the materiality of history. Certainly in the absence of photographs, “meeting” one’s ancestors is often a dry, sparse pursuit; most of them will only make themselves known to us through a line in the federal census, and, if we’re lucky, a mention of their occupation. It’s also really amazing to me that, after a lifetime of eagerly absorbing any and all facts about my family’s history, and 20 years of research, little breakthroughs like this are still possible. The discovery of my descent from N.P. Landrum opened up a whole new, historically attested branch on my family tree, which I will explore in all its historical and moral contrast in future posts.
But the main thing I came away thinking about was this: my father, also a history buff, used to make a point of visiting historical sites as we made our way along the old and new highways criss-crossing East Texas, northern Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. So when we drove to see relatives, we often stopped at this or that historical marker or small museum or battlefield. None left their mark on me more than Vicksburg—to my mind, the most evocative, haunted historical site in America. We would always park the car and walk around the battlefield, considering not just the huge monuments to the fallen (10,142 Union and 9,091 Confederate killed and wounded) but also the small, metal signs and markers commemorating the locations and movements of the various units. My dad would always say, “Shh… Listen. Imagine what it’s like here at dusk, or very early in the morning. Do you think you would be able to see the soldiers? Can’t you feel them here? Do you think you would be able to hear the bugle? Can you hear it?”
Well, can you?