Ancestral Lands

Since I have been visiting my parents, where much of my personal library is located, I have had a chance to read a book that I got many years ago when it was withdrawn from circulation by the Gonzales Public Library, an establishment that was a regular haunt of mine in my college days.

In what has been one of the more popular posts on this blog, I talked about my Uncle George Littlefield. The book I am reading is George Littlefield: Texan by J. Evetts Haley, published in 1943 by the University of Oklahoma Press. At the time I acquired it, I knew that I was related to Uncle George – and he was always referred to as Uncle George Littlefield by my mother’s family – but I hadn’t made the exact genealogical connection. I just knew that he had put my great-grandmother through college.

Since, as you might expect, the first chapter of the biography covers his family background, it has been very interesting to read about my great-great-great-grandparents (his parents) in a real book (not a self-published genealogy-driven tome) with real footnotes referencing a wide range of primary source materials. The book details both real and personal property they possessed, acquired and sold. Through my genealogical research, I knew where some of this land was.

The personal recollections of former slaves continues to confirm my understanding the positive relationship they shared with my family. Because that is relevant to the novel I am intending to write, this has been particularly helpful.

During the years I lived in Gonzales County, I had thought it would be a nice place to settle. River bottom being the most desirable and fertile real estate, I had always wanted to own the land at the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. I figured if one river made for good land, two must be so much the better.

Having never read that book I bought from the Gonzales Public Library, I had no idea my great-great-great-grandmother thought the same and not only acquired that land, but also moved there from the original plantation where she had settled with my great-great-great-grandfather located about 15 miles up the Guadalupe.

Were I to someday win the lottery or perhaps become a wildly successful writer – though the lottery win is the more likely of the two – I might yet buy that land.

My Confederate Heroes

Today is the 201st birthday of Robert E. Lee. It is a legal and public holiday in Florida. In Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi it will be celebrated on Monday, along with the birthday of another son of the South.

In my home state of Texas, it is Confederate Heroes Day. So whilst I am happy to remember General Lee, I also think there are others who deserve mention.

In September, 1861, my uncle George Washington Littlefield mustered in as a 2nd Sergeant of Company I, of what would be officially designated the 8th Texas Cavalry, but is usually known to history as Terry’s Texas Rangers. On January 10, 1862, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant.

He commanded the company at the Battle of Shiloh, because the Captain and 1st Lieutenant were on furlough in Texas. The Captain never returned and the 1st Lieutenant was killed a few days after returning to the regiment, so my uncle was elected Captain on May 10. There was only one man younger than him in the entire company and he was not yet 20 years old.

He commanded his company through the battles of Perryville and Murfreesboro. After Chickamuaga on September 18-20, 1863, he was made acting major of the regiment. He fought at the Third (and most famous) Battle of Chattanooga, specifically the part known as the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and then a little over a month later at the lesser known Battle of Mossy Creek.

It was there on December 29, 1863 that, in his own words, “I was blown off my horse by a piece of shell passing through my left hip, cutting a wound 11 by 9 inches from my groin across my hip . . . While laying on the ground, General Thomas Harrison road up and looked at me and remarked that he promoted me to the rank of Major, for Gallantry in action.” My Uncle George was 21 years old. He further commented, “I was never able to do duty again, did not quit use of my crutches until July, 1867, two years after the war was closed.”

George W. Littlefield did recover and later became a successful cattleman and banker, and the single largest donor to the University of Texas in it’s first 50 years. At one point, when the Governor of Texas threaten to veto the biennial appropriations for the university, my Uncle George offered to personally fund the university for those two years. The Governor backed down.

If you visit the plot of George Littlefield’s grave in Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery you will find the another Confederate hero there as well. Nathan Stokes was Uncle George’s life-long servant. He followed him throughout his military service and nursed him back to health from his severe wounds. People who are ignorant about slavery and its aftermath would not understand why the 13th Amendment may have changed the legal relationship between Uncle George and Nathan, but not the personal relationship.

Nathan is a hero on my mother’s side just like Abe Officer, a slave on my father’s side, whose quick thinking saved my cousin’s life from Federal troops when they surrounded my aunt and uncle’s house in Tennessee and massacred the other six Confederate soldiers having breakfast inside and wounded my aunt. (Those troops, as history would strangely have it, also belonged to Terry’s Texas Rangers.) Abe and my cousin would be life-long friends.

There are other Confederate heroes in my family, about whom I know less and time would not allow me to ramble on if I could. Christopher Columbus Littlefield, Charles Erasmus Littlefield, and Robert Littlefield were cousins that also served with Terry’s Texas Rangers. My great-great-grandfather Samuel Pearson Carson Hampton served with several units, including Gore’s Tennessee Calvary. My cousin Alexander Officer died at Corinth, Mississippi. There are many other cousins as well, some whose service I have yet to uncover. May their memories be eternal.

As with soldiers in any war, there are unsung heroes whose acts are known only to God. If nowhere else but in his infinite knowledge, may their memories also be eternal.