Civil War Ancestors: Farm Boys to Soldiers, Part 1

The Civil War was a controversial war that divided our nation for many years. Even though it’s not one of my favorite reading topics, learning about our ancestors is. The McCune and Cousins families sent five young men to fight in this war, and I wanted to find out more about them. Did they volunteer as supporters of the South’s secession or march off reluctantly? We may never know the answers to that, but we can know a bit more about their experiences.

Since I’ve found the most information so far about Granddaddy Bill’s paternal grandfather, Andrew J. “Frank” McCune (1845-1907), I’ll begin with him in today’s post and follow up in later posts with some of Granddaddy’s ancestors on his maternal side, the Tillman men, and also with Grandmother’s maternal grandfather, Eli Fletcher Williams (1838-1923).

McCune Pedigree Chart
McCune Pedigree Chart (modification of original birth place template created and shared by genealogist J. Paul Hawthorne, “GeneaSpy”)

For several years, I struggled with the identity of Andrew J. and/or Frank McCune. Were they different men, brothers, or one and the same?  In the 1860 census, his name is listed as Andrew J. His marriage certificate says Andrew J. In the 1870 census, he’s listed as Andrew J. In a book listing Civil War soldiers from Georgia, both A.J. and Frank McCune are named. In the 1880 and 1900 censuses, his name is given as Frank. But his wife, Sarah, and his children’s names match up, so I decided Andrew and Frank must be the same man.

A couple of years ago, I met a third cousin on, a descendant of Martha McCune, Andrew’s daughter, and she confirmed that they are the same person, and she suspected that the “Frank” nickname came from his mother’s surname, Franklin. I’ve not yet found out what the J. initial represents. John, James, and Jesse are all possibilities as some descendants carry those names.

To prevent confusion over Great-Uncle Frank McCune (1897-1946) and his grandfather, Andrew J. “Frank” McCune, I’ll refer to our Civil War ancestor as Andrew. He was born April 1845 in Alabama to William and Fanny McCune and lived in several different counties in Alabama and Georgia all of his life. William and Fanny are the elusive disappearing ancestors I’ve researched for many years. Andrew was the father of William, Granddaddy Bill’s father, who was murdered in Griffin, GA, in 1911, but Andrew didn’t experience that tragedy because he died in 1907 at age 61 or 72, depending on which source you’re reading.

In the 1860 U.S. census, Andrew, 14, was living with his parents on a farm in Arkadelphia, Walker County, AL, which is in the north-central part of the state. I would assume he worked alongside his father in the cotton or corn fields, clearing and tilling the land, and planting and harvesting the crops. They were probably tenant farmers, as the census doesn’t show that William owned real estate, and grew their own vegetables and chickens and maybe had a milk cow. Children worked hard along with their parents just to make ends meet. Andrew’s younger sisters, Elizabeth and Frances, would have been helping their mother with household chores, cooking, mending, gathering firewood, and preserving food for the winter months. The rural South prior to and during the Civil War was a difficult place to support a family.

If Andrew was born ca. 1845, which most of the censuses support, he was only 16 when he joined the 30th Georgia Regiment, Company G, in Savannah, GA, on 15 Aug 1861. Can you imagine sending your 16-year-old son off to fight in this horrendous war?

When Ft. Sumter in Charleston, SC, was fired on in April 1861, Georgia’s Governor Joseph Brown immediately called for volunteers. By the end of the year, over 25,000 Georgia men had joined the Confederacy.

According to Andrew’s pension application of 1894, he fought in the Battle of Chickamauga in Tennessee and northeast Georgia in September 1863, which was the second deadliest battle in the war, and the Battle of Jonesboro near Atlanta in August 1864, a battle which turned the tide for the Union. Having seen two major battles, would our Great-great-grandfather Andrew escape unscathed?

Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, public domain
Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, WikimediaCommons( accessed 18 Apr 2016), image in public domain.


Next time – What happened to Andrew?


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