Both Willis ARTHUR (1791-1856) and Emily “Millie” Jane FREEMEN (1796-1880) were born in Bedford County, Virginia and are my paternal 4th great-grandparents. Willis’ father, John ARTHUR, Sr. (abt. 1858-1850) was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and lived and died on his beloved land in Goose Creek, Bedford County, Virginia. Like his father before him, Willis followed his father’s example of patriotism and became a veteran of the War of 1812, having served in the 4th Regiment of the Virginia Militia.
Willis and Millie had seven children. There were four boys, James P., Caleb, Meredith and William, and three girls, Mary Ellen, Sarah Jane and Emily. Willis and Millie had moved around quite a bit early on living in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois at various times during their marriage. But by 1850, the family was all living back in Lawrence County, Ohio. Sometime after 1850 and before 1856, Willis and Millie moved to Clark County, Illinois where Willis passed away in 1856. After Willis died, Millie once again returned to Lawrence County where she resided with her youngest son, William.
Events Leading to the Civil War
In the first half of the 19th Century, there was a lot of discord among the States. Prior to the Civil War, the country was becoming increasingly divided between the north and the south. There had been talk for years by the southern states of cessation from the Union. Willis had been greatly influenced by his father, his grandfather and his grand-uncle Barnabus ARTHUR.
Barnabus ARTHUR (1735-1815), was living in Goose Creek, Bedford County, Virginia, and had granted freedom to his slaves in his Will upon his death in 1815.
An excerpt to his Will reads:
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Item: In consequence of long and faithful service of my negro man George and my negro Betty, it is my desire that they be emancipated, whenever the laws of this state will allow it and they have the tract of land I purchased of Benjamin Williamson for and during the term of their natural lives; to live upon and maintain their idiot daughter Amy and until they can be so emancipated it is my will that they shall live upon said land and maintain their said daughter and have all the profits of their labor, under the direction of my son Lewis and moreover that they be furnished with one year provision out of my estate whenever they leave it in consequence of this article and the said negroes are not to be considered or appraised as part of my estate.
Item: The residue of my estate both real and personal, after executing the above bequests together with the part left my wife, after her decease and that left to my negroes George and Betty, after their decease, I give and bequeath in equal shares to my children . . . .
So, according to his Will, Barnabus made sure that certain of his faithful slaves were to be provided land and sustenance for the remainder of their lives. Barnabus’ then controversial actions drew both anger and affirmations among his neighbors. Willis would have been witness to this and would have shared these ideals with his own children. Eventually they could not escape involvement of the national debate over State’s rights and slavery.
One of the primary reasons the southern states were considering cessation was over the issue of slavery. Slavery was prominent in the south but was becoming increasingly banned by the northern states. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he had run his campaign on a message of anti-slavery. After his election, the South felt it was just a matter of time before slavery was completely outlawed which led to cessation. Click here for some further discussion of events leading up to the Civil War.
In 1859 the abolitionist, John Brown, unsuccessfully attacked the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, where he was captured. Brown’s trial ended with a conviction and a sentence of hanging for treason. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that, a year later, led to secession and the American Civil War.
President Lincoln Issues a Call to Arms
It couldn’t have been easy for Millie to send three of her four boys to serve for the Union in the Civil War. Their oldest son, James P. ARTHUR (1823-1897), was pushing 40 years and already had five children and another one on the way. There is some evidence that James served as a Pastor of the Solida Creek Missionary Baptist Church but confirmation of this is now impossible as all of the records of the church were destroyed in a fire in 1972. But the timing and location indicate it as a strong possibility. That may be another reason why he chose to stay home.
His three younger brothers heeded the call and left families and loved ones behind to fight for the cause.
Caleb ARTHUR (1829-1903). At the time of the 1860 Census, Caleb was married to Sarah HICKS (1830-1875) and they were living in Lawrence County, Ohio with their three young children, Willis, Joseph and Urania. A fourth child, Lynn, would be born in 1861, the same year Caleb was mustered into service 8 November1861). Caleb served in the Civil War with Company G, 2nd West Virginia Calvary. His rank in was Corporal and rank out was Quartermaster Sgt. (29 November 1864).
To All Whom It May Concern:
Know Ye that Caleb Arthur a Quartermaster Sergeant of Captain Joseph Ankrom’s Company G, 2nd Regiment of WV Calvary Volunteers who was enrolled on the twenty-eighth day of August, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty One, to serve three years or during the war, is hereby discharged from the service of the United States, this twenty-ninth day of November 1864 at Wheeling, WV by reason of expiration of term of service. (No objection to his being re-enlisted is known to exist.)
Said Caleb Arthur was born in Wayne County in the State of Tennessee, is 31 years of age, 5 feet 11 1/2″ high. Rudd Complexion, Blue Eyes, dark hair and by occupation when enrolled, a laborer.
By the 1870 Census, Caleb and Sarah were living in Fayette, Lawrence County, Ohio with their now five children, Willis, Joseph, Lynn, Urania and Jesse. Caleb is now a lawyer and has also been serving as a Justice of the Peace.
MEREDITH “MED” ARTHUR
Meredith “Med” ARTHUR (abt 1835-1900) was married to Roxey BALLARD (1841-1926) and they were living in Fayette, Lawrence County, Ohio on the 1860 Census. At that time they had one son, William H. Arthur. He was a farmer by trade.
Meredith served in the Civil War with Company A, 188th Ohio Voluntary Infantry. He was 32 when he joined on Feb. 15, 1865 to serve 1 year. He was promoted from 1st Sgt. to 2nd Lieutenant on July 10, 1865. He mustered out with Company A at Nashville, Tennessee on September 21, 1865.
By the 1870 Census, Meredith and Roxey were living in Lemoine, McDonough, Illinois with their son William, now age 11. Meredith is back to farming with the help of his son.
WILLIAM HARVEY ARTHUR
William Harvey ARTHUR (1838-1895). William was still single when he decided to join the Union soldiers. He enlisted in November 1861 in the Ohio 6th Cavalry and served through Gettysburg in July 1863. In December of 1863 he was discharged at Warrenton, Virginia. He then enlisted as a volunteer in the 14th KY Infantry. He served until January 1865. The 14th KY Infantry saw service from 1862 through Sherman’s March to the Sea and garrison duty recalled home by the Kentucky Governor. It was mustered out January 31, 1865.
There were several times during his service that he was absent from duty due to illness. Twice he was hospitalized and once recuperated at home. The same year he returned from the
War, he married Margaret Elizabeth Hanna FULLERTON on September 3, 1865 in Lawrence County, Ohio. The wedding took place in her parents’ home and was officiated by William’s older brother, Caleb, a Justice of the Peace. William was listed as a laborer on the 1870 Census of Lawrence County, Ohio.
The photograph below is from the Reunion of the 14th and 22nd Kentucky Regiments held September 23 and 24, 1884 in Ashland, Kentucky. For whatever reason, William is not listed as one of the attendees.
This family was so lucky. All of Millie’s sons returned home safely from War. Although I don’t have copies of their records, I have not found any reports of injuries other than William’s recorded sickness and hospitalizations. They were all able to come home and resume their lives.
I know there are other men from my different family lines who also served in the Civil War. As I progress with my research, I hope to determine that they were all fighting on the same side and not family against family as in many instances.
The Civil War remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Historians estimate the death toll at ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40.