Growing up I was never all that interested in history. In school, like almost every other student (there were exceptions, of course), history was just some ancient storytelling that had absolutely nothing to do with me or my life. Since I began chasing information on my ancestry, I have begun to develop an interest in and understanding of what those historical events meant. I have learned that my ancestors were quite a patriotic lot. I’m sure that’s a big reason why I’m so passionate about my country and the things that seem to be eating away at the very core. But I digress….
Today I write about my maternal great-grandfather, Andrew Creighton McNeal. Five feet, 8 inches tall with dark hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. Great-grandpa Creight (pronounced Crate) as he was called or also A.C., was born about 1843 in Scioto County, Ohio. He worked as a farm laborer in his teens. In February 1861, at the age of 19, he left home and enlisted with the 53rd Ohio Infantry. His military records show that he was promoted to a Corporal of Company “D”. Another report later shows him as re-enrolling as a Private after being home sick for some time. Perhaps his rank changed when he re-enlisted as a Veteran Volunteer. Later Pension reports leave his rank blank. He served a total of three years and was mustered out 11 August 1865 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
I can’t begin to imagine what these soldiers suffered physically and emotionally. Almost every medical report of his recorded (and filed in the National Archives) reports suffering of diarrhea. I would imagine it would have to be from the probably tainted food and water they managed to get along their marches.
The last battle he was involved in was the Battle of Atlanta, GA from July 20 to September 2, 1864. On or about the 22nd day of July, 1864, Creight received an injury to his head under the following circumstances (as reported by various doctors): He was in the skirmish line and was behind some bridge timbers when a percussion shell struck the timbers above his head and exploded surely shocking him and causing permanent injury to his head. This causes a continual pain in the base of his brain which when aggravated by cold becomes almost unbearable and it has affected his eyes.
In a letter written by A.C. McNeal in 1899 to the Commissioner of Pensions, he talks about the injuries he received during the Battle of Atlanta, together with other health issues contracted during the war. He writes: The trouble in my head originated at the battle at Atlanta, GA on the day that Genl. McPherson was killed … caused by the explosion of a shell from the enemy’s gun, in such close proximity to me that the concussion knocked me down and against a pile of RR bridge timbers and ever since there has been a noise in my head like escaping steam, and at times very painful and similar to a neuralgia. And as I grow older it seems to be getting worse and affects my hearing to a greater extent. Chronic diarrhea I contracted at Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing Tenn, but has not bothered me to any extent for a number of years. I dropped the doctors in that case and cured myself with salt, vinegar and water. Rheumatism I first felt it in my life while we layed at Little Rock Arkansas after the fall of Richmond but it was to such a slight extent that I paid but little attention to it, but it continues to hang on to my right hip and shoulder while my left leg is swollen at all times until it will measure from 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches more than the right.
He continues: I am a man that can turn my hand to almost anything that I see anyone else do. Consequently, my several disabilities have not kept me from following some kind of work outside of manual labor, unless it might in a few instances that I be layed up for from one day to a week or such a matter.
He returned home after the war and in 1867 he married Mary Virginia (Jennie) Hoskinson. They had three children, two boys and a girl. On the 1870 Census, Creight and Jennie were living in Greenup County, Kentucky. Creight’s occupation was listed as steam engineer, the operator of a boiler. He was in charge of the machinery at the Star Furnace in Carter County, Kentucky. In 1873, he took a job in Indiana where, for a reason I haven’t been able to determine yet, Jennie died. Creight then returned to Ironton, Ohio and in May 1875, he moved to Kilgore, Kentucky and took charge of miner’s machinery for the railroad.
Sometime that year, Creight met and married Mary Columbia Woods Vaughn December 31, 1875. The ceremony was small and private being held in Creight’s home. Mary was a widow with three children. She and Creight then had two children together, Julia and Henry. Julia was my maternal grandmother.
They were living in Coaltown, Kentucky during the 1880 census. He was listed as “A. C. McNeal” and as being born in Pennsylvania. He was listed again as a stationary engineer, the operator of a boiler. He was also a telegrapher (the first commercial telegraph between Washington DC. and Baltimore was installed in 1843), a steam engineer and worked at the powerhouse at the railroad in Rush, Boyd County, Kentucky. The powerhouse may have provided electrical and or steam power in support of mining activities. Creight was always reading about science and made clocks.
Crate died Feb. 4, 1903 in Rush, Boyd County, Kentucky at age 61. He is buried with a military headstone in Kilgore Cemetery, Carter/Boyd County line, Kentucky. The cemetery is on the top of a hill on Route 60 near the interstate on the Boyd County, Carter County border. It basically is within the bounds of Carter County. However, this cemetery is at the turn to Rush and is located in the Rush/Kilgore area. Both of these being mining towns in their day. The cemetery (as of 10-12 years ago) is located in a virgin forest with periwinkles.