Just in time for Veterans Day 2016, I’m posting the last blog in my Civil War series to commemorate one of our many ancestors who were U.S. war veterans.
My blog series on our Civil War ancestors is ending with this story of our great-great-grandfather, Eli Fletcher Williams. Eli was the maternal grandfather of our grandmother Mable Cousins McCune and the father of our great-grandmother, Susie Elizabeth Williams Cousins.
Born on 23 March 1838 in Russell County, AL, to Eli and Mary Hollingsworth (Truesdale) Williams, Eli Fletcher enlisted in the Confederate Army at age 26. Like many of our other male ancestors in the 1800s, Eli was a rural farmer. He lived his entire life in Alabama except for the 11 months he served in the Confederate Army. Little did he know that in less than a year of joining he would fight in one of the most famous battles of the Civil War and bear a physical reminder of it for the rest of his life.
Eli joined Company A, 34th Alabama Regiment at New Hope Church in Paulding County, GA, on 5 Apr 1864 as a private. The 34th was formed in 1862 under the Army of Tennessee and had already lost hundreds of men in battles in Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge when Eli joined.
Then in the spring of 1864, the Hundred Days Campaign began in Dalton, GA, which eventually led to the historical Battle of Atlanta on 22 Jul 1864. Eli found himself in the thick of it under the Confederate leadership of Gen. John B. Hood who was trying to protect this major Southern rail and industrial center. Eli’s regiment was in Brig. Gen. Arthur M. Manigault’s Brigade, part of Maj. Gen. Thomas Hindman’s Division. From the battle map, it looks like the brigade was positioned north of the Georgia Railroad line just southeast of Atlanta. Of course, we all know the outcome. The Confederate Army fell to Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union forces.
When the Atlanta campaign ended with the Union’s victory, the Confederate dead numbered around 5500 and Union soldiers killed numbered about 3700. These figures vary as do the numbers of Confederate wounded, 18,300, and captured, 13,000, depending on which resource you’re reading. Our great-great-grandfather Eli was among those wounded in that battle, and many years later, applied for a Confederate soldier’s pension. Just where his wound was inflicted is up for question.
The Kidd-Carlton Family Record Book states that Eli Fletcher Williams “was crippled in the War Between the States and had to wear something to protect his leg” for most of his life. However, his Confederate Pension application filed in 1916 states he was “wounded in the right arm by a piece of shell.” Maybe he sustained both injuries, but more than likely, his family descendants thought his leg problem was from an old war wound when it was from another injury entirely.
Per Fold3.com, Eli was admitted to the Ocmulgee Hospital in Macon, GA, on 24 Jul 1864, and transferred to Camp Watts in Notasulga, AL, on 28 Jul 1864. My research revealed that Camp Watts was a camp of instruction and included a training barracks, rail line and station, hospital, and cemetery. It was attacked in Rousseau’s Raid under Union Maj. Gen. L.H. Rousseau on 18 Jul 1864 and everything was destroyed except the hospital. Eli arrived about two weeks after the raid to a hospital surrounded by destruction.
Following the Battle of Atlanta, the 34th Alabama fought in battles in Tennessee and North Carolina. The regiment suffered severe losses at Nashville and very few of its soldiers were left to surrender to the Union Army in North Carolina on 26 April 1865. I don’t know at what point Eli rejoined his regiment after being injured, but he was with the regiment at the time of surrender.
Eli had two brothers who were also of age to enlist as Confederate soldiers. John Wesley Williams, b. 1840, is listed on the roster of the 34th Alabama Regiment, Company A. So evidently, the two young men joined together. I could not find their brother, George Washington Williams, b. 1846, in the 34th, but there are 14 G.W. Williams from Alabama who fought in the war in other regiments. I haven’t yet determined if he was one of them.
After the war, Eli returned home to Alabama to deal with Reconstruction issues facing all Southerners. He married Lucy A. Kidd on 21 Mar 1867 at age 28. The 1870 U.S. census shows him living in Elmore County, AL, as a farmer with Lucy and his two sons, Fletcher, 2, and Robert, 1. Reconstruction years in the South were difficult ones. Industries, public buildings, homes, and farms throughout the South were mostly burned or destroyed. In 1860, the value of Southern farmlands was listed at $175,824,032. In 1870, land values had decreased to $54,191,229. Livestock values were cut in half. Farmers who still owned their land were left with no animals, seeds or farm implements to cultivate it.
Where cotton had been the king crop before the war, after the war the primary crops were cereal grains. Farmers cultivated rice, oats, corn, pumpkins, peanuts, field peas and sweet potatoes. Many family meals consisted of cornbread, milk, and syrup twice a day with meat served maybe once a week. Syrups were made from watermelon and cornstalk juices. Needless to say, life for the Williams family was not an easy one.
It’s very interesting to me that The Kidd-Carlton Family Record Book states that in 1874 “Eli Fletcher Williams was named Steward Pro-Tem of Pleasant Grove Grange, an organization of farmers that banded together to deal with the harsh economic times after the war. He was on a committee assigned to apply to The National Grange in Washington, D.C., for a charter.” Eli was working not only to support his family, but also to help his state recover agriculturally and economically from the devastating effects of the war.
In 1880 at age 42, Eli and his family were still living in Elmore County, AL, and he continued to support his family by farming. Along with Fletcher, now 12, and Robert, 11, Eli and Lucy had five more children: Mary Eolia, 9; Susie Elizabeth (our great-grandmother), 6; Lula Cornelius, 3; and Rolenia Alice, 11 months.
The 1890 U.S. federal census was destroyed, but the 1900 census shows that Eli was still working the fields at age 62. Along with his wife, Lucy, he was supporting his daughter, Lula, 23, and two sons, George Kidd, 15, and Rufus Marion, 13. However, the 1910 census showed a change in jobs. Now 72, Eli is listed as a merchant in a general store in Elmore County, AL. He owned his home and stated that he could read and write.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a will for Eli Fletcher in the Alabama records. He might have felt that he didn’t own enough property to justify a will. When he applied for his Confederate pension in 1916, he declared himself a widower with no income and no valued property. He had nine living children with his youngest, Rufus, named as an invalid. He stated that two sons, Fletcher and George, were farmers; his son, Robert, was a minister; his daughter, Mary, was the wife of a doctor; his daughters, Susie Elizabeth and Alice, were the wives of farmers; and his daughter, Lula, was the wife of a merchant. Perhaps, Eli had been employed by this son-in-law in 1910. He was approved for his Confederate soldier pension on 15 June 1916 at age 78 and drew a pension until his death 15 Nov 1923 at age 85.
I think it’s likely that Grandmother McCune knew her grandfather well since she had grown up in Elmore County, AL, and was 24 when he died. I wonder if he ever talked to his children or grandchildren about the Civil War or reminisced about life on an Alabama farm during Reconstruction. There’s also a very good chance that Eli held his great-granddaughter, Frances McCune Dykes, b. 1920, and his great-grandson, William T. McCune, b. 1922. Isn’t that simply amazing to think about?
Eli Fletcher Williams, our Civil War ancestor who survived the horrors of that war, lived a long and productive life. He is buried in Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Eclectic, Elmore County, AL, alongside his wife, Lucy, and three of their eight children – Fletcher Orlando, George Kidd and Rufus Marion.
 Elmore County, Alabama, census, 1907-08, “Alabama, Civil War Soldiers, 1860-1865,” (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2015), entry for Eli Fletcher Williams, Company A, 34th Alabama Regiment.
 Thirty-Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment, Alabama Department Archives and History (http://www.archives.alabama.gov/referenc/alamilor/34thinf.html: accessed September 2016).
 Smith, Sam, “Voices from the Storm: The Battle of Atlanta,” Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields, Civil War Trust (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/atlanta/atlanta-history-articles/voices-from-the-storm/: accessed 19 September 2016).
“Atlanta,” Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields, Civil War Trust (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/atlanta.html?tab=facts: accessed 19 September 2016).
 Ibid, “Atlanta.”
 The Kidd-Carlton Family Record, rev. ed. 1993, 57.
 Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Alabama 1864, Alabama Archives (http://www.fold3.com/image/14391936?xid=1945: accessed September 2016).
 Camp Watts (http://maconhistory.weebly.com/camp-watts.html: accessed September 2016).
 “Confederate Alabama Troops, 34th Regiment, Alabama Infantry,” The Civil War, National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=CAL0034RI: accessed September 2016).
 1870 U.S. Census, Township 19, Elmore County, Alabama, population schedule, page 116, dwelling 814, family 814, E. F. Williams, image, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com: accessed 2015); citing NARA M593.
 Fleming, Walter Lynwood, Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama, New York: The Columbia University Press, 1905, digital image, Google Books (http://books.google.com: accessed October 2016,) 254.
 Ibid, 232.
 The Kidd-Carlton Family Record, 57.
 1880 U.S. Census, Good Hope, Elmore County, Alabama, population schedule, E.D. 70, p. 79B, dwelling 176, family 176, E. F. Williams, image , Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2015), citing NARA T9, roll 12.
 1900 U.S. Census, Eclectic, Elmore County, Alabama, population schedule, E.D. 67, Sheet 12B, dwelling 215, family 215, E. Fletcher Williams, image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2015), NARA T623.
 1910 U.S. Census ,Eclectic, Elmore County, Alabama, population schedule, E.D. 86, Sheet 1B, dwelling 14, family 14, Eli F. Williams, image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2015), NARA T624_12.
 Alabama, Texas and Virginia Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958, image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed September 2016).