Monday, May 5, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: Reasons for taking up arms

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  (Recently the posts have been sporadic, but for a few years it was weekly.) Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe and share their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.


I've written in the past that in the role of Family Historian "I’m careful not to infer what someone’s thoughts or beliefs were, unless they were written down. I record the facts as they are known." While the reasons that the southern states seceded in the Civil War are well recorded with each state's Declaration of Secession, the reasons individuals chose to take up arms are not. The reasons individuals join the armed services today differ greatly, and I imagine the reasons differed 150 years ago, as well. So I refuse to sit in judgment of the decisions of my ancestors without knowing their reasons.

Two years ago, I discovered some records at Fold3 concerning my wife's 3rd great grandfather, Lewis C Gober. It appeared that he spent some time in the St. Louis Gratiot Street Prison as a prisoner of war after voluntarily giving himself up. The records indicated he surrendered himself on Aug 28, 1863, was charged with violating his oath of allegiance, was tried by court martial, and was released on Feb 29, 1864. There was no other information, so I had no clue why he violated his oath and joined the Confederate army. I also had no clue why he decided to surrender himself.

In the past 2 years, Fold3's Civil War records have grown. I conducted a search recently, and found some more relevant records. I found the actual signed Oath of Allegiance, dated December 23, 1862, as well as the official declaration of charges against him, and his signed statement explaining his actions.

A transcription of his statement follows:

Statement of Lewis C. Gober

I am 33 years old reside in Cape Girardeau County and by occupation a Blacksmith. I took the oath of allegiance the 23th December 1862 at Jackson Mo. The oath was administered to me by Adjutant Greene.

I joined Co. A Jeffers Reg’t C.S.A. in May ’63 for the war and deserted on the 18th of August following. I knew I was violating the oath of allegiance but was under the influence of whiskey at the time I enlisted.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 15th day [?]‘63
L Dodge
District Adj’t Marshall

This is a reason for taking up arms I hadn't previously considered, and is a good example of why one shouldn't make any assumptions about an ancestor's thought processes without seeing an explanation in their own words.

[Note: This statement is clearly in the handwriting of the District Adj't Marshall, and was likely transcribed from oral testimony. Lewis Gober's signature indicates he did at least know how to sign his name.]


gensearchdeb said...

The word you have a question mark for is war.

Great entry, just another way we can see that our ancestors were more like us then we often want to believe.

John said...

Thanks - I updated the transcription. It always seems more obvious once someone else deciphers it.