Dancing for Uncle Sam

June 30, 2011

John Haworth family

I was thinking about the upcoming July 4 holiday, and it reminded me of a story in David Haworth’s Civil War diary (he’s my great-great-grandfather John Leonard Haworth’s brother).

The Haworth family lived in Jefferson County in northeast Tennessee at the beginning of the Civil War. As you probably know, Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy. But the residents of a few counties in the northeast corner of the state were loyal to the Union and vehemently opposed that decision. This irritated the Tennessee Confederates to no end, so they began forcibly conscripting east Tennessee men into the Confederate Army. East Tennessee was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Surrounded by the Confederacy on three sides, the only way for Union sympathizers to escape conscription — or prison, or worse — was to flee over the Cumberland Mountains north into the border state of Kentucky. Thus began a remarkable exodus of an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 men.

From David’s diary:

April 8, 1862

Just about sundown, three of us boys, my oldest brother William C. Haworth, Isaac B. Haworth and myself left home. Bid our Mother and Father good bye and started for Kentucky for the purpose of joining the Union Army.

(The youngest brother, John, initially stayed at home, presumably because of his age, but joined his brothers later.)

April 13, 1862

After four nights of hard marching, we never traveled in a road. Just at night on the fifth day we came in to London, Kentucky where the Government had a recruiting station. There was the stars and stripes on a big flag pole. We marched around that with our hats off cheering for Uncle Sam, pretty good.

The next morning I couldn’t get my boots on and they were calling for all men that wanted to join the army to get in line. I went out in my sock feet and lined up. When the Officers came down to me and John N. Northern we told them we wanted to join the army until the southern army was whipped if it took ten years. He said he couldn’t enlist us for only three years or during the war. Every man that got in line wanted to join the army and was sworn in.

What a picture of youthful enthusiasm — these weary men, who had just finished several days hiking over the Cumberland Mountains, dancing around the flag pole!

After I read this section of the diary, I noticed the dates. The Haworth boys left home in east Tennessee on April 8, 1862. The Battle of Shiloh had just taken place at the other end of the state in Hardin County April 6-7. Hardin County is the ancestral home of my mother’s mostly Confederate family. And the very next day, my father’s Haworth ancestors were fleeing to Kentucky to join the Union Army. An interesting juxtaposition and a great example of the deep divisions within the state of Tennessee — not to mention my ancestors. It’s like half of my DNA is at war with the other half of my DNA. (Hmm, that could explain a lot …)

Have a great holiday weekend! If you have the opportunity do some dancing, flag poles and sock feet are optional.


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

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4 thoughts on “Dancing for Uncle Sam

  1. Fascinating story. I have several Civil War ancestors (mostly indirect — a lot of great-great-granduncles), but they all fought for the Union out of Ohio.

    Things were much more complicated for your family in the South. Reminds me a little of my grandparents who immigrated from Italy to the United States just before World War II — suddenly their home country was at war with their new country, and their brothers back home were fighting on the opposite side from their sons.

  2. I imagine that must have been very difficult for them. Same thing for German Americans. Its funny though…I have direct Civil War ancestors all over the place but there is only one WWII vet! WWII was so much more recent you’d think it would be the opposite but my grandparents generation were too old and my parents’ too young. And I have to yet to find ANYONE who immigrated to US any later than the 18th century. So boring! I would have loved to have Italian grandparents!

  3. It is nice to have some recent immigrants, and then a branch that has been around much longer — makes for two very different genealogy experiences.

    I think during World War II the Italian ancestors just lived around the contradictions, valuing family above what was going on between the two countries. Still, complicated times… one of the ships my grandparents immigrated on was sunk by the U.S. during the war.

  4. Gee, I just found a great-great grandfather who fought at Shiloh in the 45th Tennessee CSA and was seriously wounded by a mortar. He and his family started to move to Hill County, Texas in 1881, went back to TN to get the rest of their worldly possessions and returned in 1885. Can’t figure out why they did that except for land.

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