Civil War & Stephens County, OK (18)

Newman, Richard Lafayette (1844-1927)

While it is true that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union forces on April 9, 1865, the Civil War by no means ended that day. It would take months for word to circulate throughout the land that hostilities were to come to an end. General Joe Johnston’s troops as well as General Zachary Taylor’s men did not surrender until nearly one month later. When General Kirby Smith’s troops overwhelmed a Union force nearly three times its size in distant west Texas at the Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12-13, Smith had not even heard of Lee’s surrender. General Stand Watie and his men fought on until nearly the end of June, finally surrendering at Doaksville near Fort Towson in Indian Territory.

What that means is that for some of those who served as Civil War veterans, the biggest share of their service was after the time normally recognized as the end of the war, and their service was often no less dangerous. Such was the case for one Richard Lafayette Newman.

Born the eighth of ten children to George Shaw & Jamima (Oliver) Newman, Richard would grow up to enlist in the Union Army on January 22, 1865. Richard was mustered into service as a Private in Co. K of the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment on March 10, 1865. In late May 1865, the 4th TN MI was ordered to make an expedition “through White, Overton, Fentress” and Morgan Counties, to Montgomery, Tennessee to deal with the Confederate guerrillas who “so much infested” the region. The 4th TN MI was mustered out of service on August 25, 1865.

Of special note is the fact that one of Richard’s older brothers, William J. Newman, was killed in the bloody Battle of Gaines Mill in June 1862. William it appears, however, did not serve in the Union Army, rather, he served as a Private in Co. B of the CSA, 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Turney’s). Regrettably, it seems the Newman family was one of the multitude of families that saw itself rent asunder by the war, having sons who served on opposing sides.

On December 17, 1866 in Lincoln County, Tennessee, Richard married Emily Francis Stone (1847-1926). Richard and Emily would go on to have seven children born to them between 1867 and 1887, the last being born in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. This is all I currently know of Richard’s life following the war. I wish I knew more.

Richard’s gravestone in the Old Velma Cemetery in Velma, Oklahoma bears testimony of his military service and makes specific mention of the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry.

Civil War & Stephens County, OK (17)

Johnson, Moses (1839-1907)

Moses Johnson served as a wagoneer with Company H of the USA, 98th Illinois Mounted Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. As a teamster, he drove a wagon that carried the company’s essential supplies (food, equipment, ammunition, spare parts, baggage, etc.). He had to have some mechanical skills to maintain the wagon and keep it ready for service at all times and in all sorts of conditions as well as have no small amount of patience in the care and keeping of the horses or mules that pulled the wagon. A wagoneer had to be good at a number of things; something of a patient, jack-of-all-trades sort of person, if you please. It was hard, endless work that not just anyone would have been cut out to do well. While he would not normally have been one to serve in combat in a line of battle, it would not at all have been beyond request for him to do so should the need have arisen, and from the biography that follows below (which was penned in the mid to late 1890’s) we know Moses was involved in such.

“Moses Johnson, a retired farmer and prominent citizen residing in Olney, is a native of Richland County. He was born on the 24th of May, 1839, in Decker Township, and is a son of Moses and Sarah (Mason) Johnson, the former born in Kentucky in 1799, and the latter in Pennsylvania in 1805. When young people they came to Richland County, where their marriage was celebrated [on December 23, 1869]. Mr. Johnson was one of the earliest pioneers, locating here in 1815. For many years he engaged in farming and stock-raising upon a farm which he developed and improved. His death occurred August 13, 1849. His wife long survived him and died at the home of her son Andy in 1887. Mr. Johnson started out in life poor, but became the possessor of a handsome property as a result of his diligence and industry. He took quite a prominent part in public affairs and was a leading citizen of the community. In politics, he was a Democrat, and was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Johnson family numbered eight children. Thomas, who served as a Captain in the Ninety-eighth Illinois infantry, is now deceased; Jane died in this county; Polly and Elizabeth are both deceased; A. V. is a prominent farmer of Decker Township; Permelia has also passed away; Moses is the next younger, and Celia, deceased, completes the family.

“The boyhood days of our subject were spent upon a new farm, and he was early inured to the arduous labors of developing the raw prairie. He conned his lessons in a log schoolhouse, which was four miles distant from his home. When ten years of age he began plowing with oxen. He early learned to swing the scythe and cradle, and in all departments of farm work he became proficient. He remained at home until 1862, when he enlisted [on September 3, 1862] in Olney as … [an original] member of Company H, 98th Illinois Infantry [Regiment], of which his brother [Thomas] was Captain. The regiment was assembled at Centralia and started for Louisville, Kentucky. The train was wrecked at Bridgeport by rebel sympathizers, and seven men were killed and seventy-five wounded. Mr. Johnson afterward went to Nashville and from there to Murfreesboro. He participated in the battles of Chickamauga, Atlanta, Lookout Mountain and Resaca, and was for one hundred days under fire while on the way to Atlanta. He started to the sea with Sherman, but returned to Louisville, where he was put in a cavalry corps and took part in the famous raid under Gen. Wilson. With his regiment he charged the works at Selma, Alabama, and after the capture of that place went to Macon, Georgia. In 1865 he was honorably discharged and on the 7th day of July of that year reached his home. The regiment lost heavily, about two-thirds never returning. Mr. Johnson was wounded in the service, but he proved himself a faithful soldier and was always found at his post of duty [until he was mustered out on June 27, 1865].

“In 1869 our subject married Miss Margaret Porterfield [b. July 3, 1846 in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania; d. October 16, 1932 in Duncan, OK], a native of Pennsylvania, and unto them have been born the following children: Mary P., James Allen, Sarah A., Idella, William Herbert, and Laura [and two more who died at an early age]. After his marriage, Mr. Johnson began farming and stock-feeding. He owned one hundred and twenty acres of land, a part of the old homestead, and for many years he successfully carried on business, but in 1892 he laid aside all cares and removed to Olney, where he is now living a retired life. Socially, Mr. Johnson is a member of the Grand Army Post of Olney, the Masonic lodge of Mt. Erie, and the Independent Order of Mutual Aid. With the Methodist Episcopal Church he holds membership, and to its support he contributes liberally. The duties of citizenship are by him faithfully discharged with the same fidelity which he manifested when in his country’s hour of peril he aided in the defense of the Stars and Stripes.” (Source: History of Wayne County)

The 98th Illinois was part of a rather famous brigade, Col. John T. Wilder’s “Lightning Brigade.” Wilder’s Brigade was among the first of Union brigades to be equipped with the new Spencer repeating carbines, an armament that greatly increased a regiment’s available firepower over that of its foes. Since the Spencer provided literally a seven to ten fold increase in sustained rate of fire, it’s no guess as to the genesis of the brigade’s nickname of “Lightning.” The 98th Illinois received their Spencers on May 31, 1863 and a look at the regiment’s record of service will tell you that they stayed hot. Hoover’s Gap (June 24-26, 1863), Chickamauga (September 19-21, 1863), Resaca (May 13-15, 1864), the siege of Atlanta (July 22-August 25, 1864), Rome (October 12-13, 1864), and a famous charge that resulted in the defeat of Nathan Bedford Forrest‘s men at Selma, Alabama (April 2, 1865) are just some of the better known instances of the 98th Illinois’ exploits during the war, with their action at Chickamauga being the most significant.

When exactly Moses came to Oklahoma from Illinois, I do not know. I know several of his children moved to the Duncan area prior to his death and one of them struck it rich in Oklahoma with an oil well. One of his sons, James Allen Johnson, was also one of the earliest businessmen in Lawton, OK, served as a Captain during the Spanish-American War, served as the school superintendent for Comanche County from 1915-1924, and went on to be elected twice to serve as an Oklahoma state representative in the early 1930’s.

Moses Johnson died on Monday, January 7, 1907 and is buried in the Duncan Municipal Cemetery (block 7, space 6) in Duncan, Oklahoma. His black gravestone proudly gives testimony to his service in the 98th Illinois Infantry.

Civil War & Stephens Co., OK (15)


George W. McLain (1845-1922)

Beneath a tall, robust, black marker a few dozen yards northwest of the south entrance of Hope Cemetery, buried in the red dirt of Stephens County, Oklahoma, lies the body of a man by the name of George McLain. Nothing on his marker gives any indication that there was anything particularly special about this man or that he was a Civil War veteran. However, if you were to draw conclusions from the absence of outwards signs, you would be mistaken.

It might interest you to know that George was the eighth of ten children, the fourth son, born (Dec. 9, 1845) to Issac & Elizabeth (Holloway) McLain. Perhaps you’d find it interesting to know that he was born in a place that would be heavily contested during the Civil War: Chattanooga, Tennessee (Hamilton County). If you were to research where he showed up in the various census records across the decades you would note that he moved just a few miles away to Georgia while he was still quite small and that he grew up to marry “Lucinda Jane Keith” (b. Feb. 27, 1848 in GA; d. July 22, 1909 in Jones County, TX) in Bradley County, TN just after (Aug. 1865) the Civil War’s conclusion. You’d likely notice that George and Lucinda were blessed with eleven children, the first half of their number being born in Georgia (Murray County) and the latter half in Texas (McLennan County). As you perused the records further, you’d observe that George and his family moved at some point in the late 1800’s to Indian Territory (the Chickasaw Nation) and that he would show up in the census there (Stephens County, OK) until his death at the age of 76 (May 13, 1922), spending the last twelve of his years as a lonesome dove, a widower.

But what you wouldn’t know if you limited your quest for knowledge of this man to searches in census, cemetery, and military records and didn’t range into genealogical study is that George was a man who surely knew better than most just how bitter and divisive was the anything-but-civil Civil War. You see, George’s own family was one of those that experienced divided allegiance over the war. You recall George had two older brothers: David (b. 1834) and Jonas A. (b. 1839) [a third, Issac, died in infancy]. However, what you don’t know is that while his two older brothers (and a cousin, Thomas) served as Privates in the Confederate Army (Co. E of the CSA, 60th Georgia Infantry Regiment), George served as a Private in the Union Army (Co. F of the USA, 5th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment). The McLain family was a house divided against itself.

George’s service did not begin until the handwriting was well on the wall as to which way the war would go (Oct. 1864). Not so with his older brothers. David and Jonas had both sworn allegiance to the Confederacy just outside of the first year of that four-year long conflict (May 1862). The vast difference in the experiences of David and Jonas serving in the Confederacy and David in the Union are expressed well in the tight summaries of their regiment’s records – the former, horrific; the latter, mild by comparison.

For David and Jonas:

“The CSA, 60th Georgia Infantry Regiment was organized during the spring of 1862 at Savannah, Georgia, by adding four companies to Stiles’ 4th Georgia Battalion. This battalion had been formed during the summer of 1861 with six companies and served at Hilton Head. The men were recruited in the counties of Walker, Fannin, Whitfield, Bartow, Gilmer, and Dooly. Ordered to Virginia in May, it was placed under the command of Generals Lawton, John B. Gordon, and C.A. Evans. The 60th was active in the campaigns to the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Cold Harbor, then was involved in Early’s Shenandoah Valley operations and the Appomattox Campaign. This regiment reported 42 casualties at Second Manassas, 59 at Sharpsburg [Antietam], 78 at Fredericksburg, and 35 at Chancellorsville. It lost 6 killed and 16 wounded at Second Winchester and about fifteen percent of the 299 at Gettysburg. On April 9, 1865, it surrendered with 5 officers and 85 men.” (Source: NPS Soliders & Sailors site)

For George:

“The USA, 5th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment was organized at Cleveland, Nashville, Calhoun and Chattanooga, Tenn., on September 23, 1864. Attached to District of the Etowah, Dept. of the Cumberland, and garrison duty in that District and at Dalton and Marietta, Ga., till July, 1865. Skirmish at McLemore’s Cove, Ga., February 1, 1865. Expedition from Dalton to Coosawattie River and Spring Place, Ga., April 1-4. Mustered out July 17, 1865.” (Source: NPS Soliders & Sailors site)

None of the three brothers escaped from the war physically unscathed. George’s oldest brother, David, was wounded on the first day of Gettysburg, the bullet entering his right wrist and traveling up an arm bone, leaving him unable to have any grip in his right hand for the remainder of his life. A quick scroll through the muster roll of Co. E of the 60th Georgia will tell you that he was “one of the lucky ones.” He also spent a year and a half (Oct. 1863 – Feb. 1865) as a POW in a Union prison camp. Jonas was also wounded in action, on March 25, 1865 at Petersburg, just a few week’s before the war’s end. George would muster out of service in May 1865 on account of some unnamed “disability” (whether the disability was temporary or permanent is also not stated).

We can only imagine what sort of tension filled the air when George announced to his father, mother, brothers, and sisters that he would join the Union Army, an army at that time already responsible for the grievous wounding of the first born son in the family and who held that son in prison even at that moment. Try to grasp what it must have been like to serve on garrison duty for an occupying army just a few miles southeast of your home and all of your family while your brother is suffering all kinds of deprivation in your own army’s prison camp and while another brother is fighting siege warfare in the trenches with your army. Could it have been this tension and division that ultimately led to George’s move to the west (Texas, and ultimately, Oklahoma) while the rest of his siblings either remained in Georgia or apparently never moved further west than Arkansas? Or did their common suffering in wartime experiences help patch a breach in the family’s relationships and so, make for better times together in later years? With no further record, we’re left to wonder.

One more note. While there are several Civil War veterans buried in the Hope Cemetery, George McLain is the only Union veteran buried there that I know of at this point in my research, perhaps the only one buried there, period. As George swam against the tide in life in regard to his family during the war, he still swims against the tide, as it were, in death.

While it certainly takes great courage to put yourself physically in harm’s way for your beliefs, fighting for what you believe in the defense of your family, it is surely a far greater courage to not only put yourself in harm’s way for your beliefs, but to do so knowing all the while it will likely cost you your family relationships to do so. This latter courage was the courage George W. McLain apparently expressed.

War is hell, dividing and wounding families a thousand different ways. God deliver us from such.