Chapter 28: Tighten the Traces: Johnny Ain’t Comin’ Home

Blue vs Gray

Blue vs Gray

In an article in The New York Times, a startling announcement was made in 2012. “For 110 years the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War. 360,222 from the North, and 258,000 from the South.” With digitized census data, a historian at Binghamton University in NY recalculated the figure to be closer to 750,000. See: Or the article in the NY Daily News on Mary 28, 2012, about the academics who supported this new estimate.

I would have to say, at this point what does it matter Hillary? The toll of human life represents a pathetic inability of politicians to broker a meaningful compromise. We endured fiery rhetoric among mighty men who only sat on the sidelines. Many did not give thought to the effect of their self righteousness, but they ordered other people to sacrifice. Not all. Many were men of deep conviction but not loud enough.

Wikipedia reported on the anti-draft riots of 1863. Of the 168,649 men drafted to serve in the Union, 117,986 were substitutes, mostly Irish immigrants. Of which there was an abundant supply. At that time the population in the North was 20 million people, in the 11 Confederate states there were 9 million, of which 3.5 million were slaves. Some contest.

And sane men never would have started it in the first place. Right.

North Carolina families written about on this blog series were severely affected by their participation in the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending upon the reader’s viewpoint.

In Montford Cove, Barzillai Ledbetter gave heavily to the cause. In 1830 he built a large seven room clapboard house on the east side of Cove Creek across from his younger brother Richard O. on the west side. Neighbors all their lives like it should be. This is where Barzillai and Sally raised 12 children. In 1854, they lost a daughter,  in 1856 Sally died, and one son died in 1857. Barzillai remarried in 1858 and had a son Richard in 1862. Then he lost three sons at war. In ten years, his whole world turned inside out. He was fortunate to have a large family for support. But this was just one family:

1. William Overton Ledbetter died May 4, 1863. He broke his left arm at the Battle of Chancellorsville and died 21 days later at Richmond.

2. John Ledbetter, Private Co C 34 NC Inf, died as a POW. His widow would marry his uncle Richard O. Ledbetter.

3. Samuel Hampton Ledbetter died Oct 14, 1864 at Point Lookout, barren swampy land at the mouth of the Potomac where they packed 20,000 prisoners into an enclosure made for 10,000. They lacked sufficient water, food and shelter, and 3,000 Confederates died here.

4. Daughter Rhoda Emmaline Ledbetter married Joseph Underwood Whiteside II in 1862. He died six years later, possibly as a result of battle injuries. Maybe PTSD.

Over the mountain in Nanney Town, consider the effect on one other family, the children of Thomas Nanney (1794-1856) who had married Polly Flack. They had ten children who survived infancy.

1. Their son Amous Nanney, a Colonel in the local militia, enlisted in Co 50th Reg NC of the Confederate army on March 24, 1862. He survived.

2. His brother William enlisted with him. He died three months later at Richmond. He left a wife Nancy Jane Sorrells he had married in 1857.

3. Brother Cebrun also enlisted with Amous. He died eight months later in November at Petersburg. He left a wife Alvira Koone he had married in 1852.

4. Brother Martin Lee (born 1834) was lost at war. He left a wife Jane Morgan he had married in 1860.

5. Sister Myra married in 1846 to Ichabod Robertson (Buddy) and had 5 kids. Buddy died at war.

6. Sister Grizialle married in January of 1860 to George Hill who died in October 31, 1860 at war.

7. Sister Alzira married Porter Morgan in 1852. He died in Point Lookout prison camp.

8. Brother Drury was an eager warrior who enlisted in Sept 1861 at the age of 17. He survived, mustered out on 2-16-65, and married Naomi Koone in 1866 but he did not escape heartbreak. His baby died in 1867, his wife died in 1869.

9. Sister Narcissa (Nursey) Nanney was born on April 22, 1829. She was two years younger than Amous and seventeen years older than Drury, the only brothers to survive the war. She lost three of the five.

Her story was passed down through the years by her children to the archives of Mary Glenn and reminds us that life on the home front suffered also. Nursey married Barnet (Barney) Hill on March 29, 1848. Barney was raised in a cove up Pinacle Mountain, and Narcissa was raised in Nanney Town. She was born with one normal arm and only a stub for the other. Yet, she raised ten children and lived until 1916. During the Civil War, Nursey spun, wove, and sewed a suit for Barney who left their farm to serve in the home guard at the age of 32. The effort of love left her fingers raw and bleeding. Barney was one of the lucky ones who made it back to Nanney Town to enjoy his family until his death in 1917. He got to see the effects of air warfare in WWI.

10. After the war sister Zeruiah Nanney married Jason Flack in 1872. He had enlisted with his brothers at age 18, survived and outlived his first wife and baby. Zeruiah and Jason had 14 children. One of them was Miles Flack who would be a prominent leader in the community. Tragically Jason’s brothers Lewis and Andrew Flack did not make it home.

In 1863 the battle flag of the southern cross had to be replaced. There were thirteen stars representing the original seven states plus four more. Virginia seceded April 17, 1861, Arkansas on May 6, Tennessee on May 7, and North Carolina on May 21. Plus two stars represented Kentucky and Missouri who talked about secession but never did. The problem with the battle flag was that the stars and bars were on a large white field which caused some confusion to the enemy because it looked like a flag of surrender when the wind wasn’t blowing. In 1865, a red bar was added. This is something they could compromise on????

I have to mention the anecdote that one of Mary Glenn’s contributors told about her Grandpa Newton Nanney. “Grandpa Nanney came from Hardin County, KY, immediately after the Civil War. Nothing is known of his ancestors or early life in KY. According to his own story, when the war was over some of his neighbors came to him and said, Newton, you were on the wrong side during the war. It will be healthier for you if you go elsewhere. He followed their advice and as far is known has never returned.” He settled on Hog Creek in Missouri and had eleven children.

Confederate Navy Jack Flag 1963 to Present Symbol of States' Rights
Confederate Navy Jack Flag
1963 to Present
Symbol of States’ Rights


I never gave much thought to the Civil War battle at sea, except for Captain Rhett Butler’s contribution in Gone with the Wind. The Confederates showed great ingenuity for future sailors when they experimented unsuccessfully with a submarine. Then they rebuilt the Merrimac, a sunken Union ship, into an ironclad CSS Virginia and her first day at war was very impressive. But the next day she was challenged by the ironclad USS Monitor, and nobody won that battle. However the Confederate Navy Jack flag was a success, and from 1863 to the present, it is recognized as a symbol of the South’s cause of states’ rights. Refer to Flags of the Confederacy at

In spite of efforts to find something entertaining about this period, the stark reality was that families were ripped apart because anger overcame common sense. It happens frequently in other countries. The boiling pot will overflow when we don’t turn down the heat. It could happen again.

Next post will be mellow.



Copyright, 2015, Georgia Wilson




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