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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

Civil War Family History

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 8:52 AM by Jenny Levins

My grandpa Reese lived to be 94 years old and my grandma 93 on a tobacco farm in Watauga County close to the Tennessee line. They were of a long gone generation now, but they were surprisingly knowledgeable about current events even at the end of their long lives.

A lot of their thinking and ways of doing things never changed though. My father used to like to call them a couple of times a week to check on them. Mostly he just wanted to talk to them and hear their voices. My grandma would talk if she answered, but my grandpa was not much for conversation on the phone. He still had the mindset that the phone was for emergencies and important calls.

My father used to get so aggravated when my grandpa would answer the phone. You could tell who had answered by the look on his face. He would ask how they were doing, how the weather was, and tell him that we were all fine. Then grandpa would say, “Okay, well bye” and hang up.

I remember my father turning around and slamming the phone down once, “I am the one who’s supposed to get to say bye. I am the one who called him.” Once grandpa learned you were okay and had nothing important to say he was ready to get off the phone.

My grandparents could also be closed mouthed about some things. Grandpa’s grandfather William Larkin Reece served in company A of the 65th Regiment (6th Regiment N.C. Cavalry) during the Civil War. Company A was the only Confederate group to form and come out of Johnson County, Tennessee which was strongly Union.

I often tried to ask my grandpa about Larkin and what made him join the Confederacy, but they would not talk about it. Larkin was a non-slave holder in an area made up of mostly small family farmers with few slaves.  Almost all his neighbors including a lot of relatives joined the Union.

Larkin’s son Lum was friends with one of the few black families living in that area when my grandpa was growing up. He could remember going to visit them and always referred to them as “good folks.” There didn’t really seem to be any prejudice attitudes among my ancestors, but I know the war itself created bad feelings in the community after the war.

One of my distant ancestors named a son Ulysses S. Grant Reece so you can guess which side he was on. At some point my branch of the family changed the spelling of their name from Reece to Reese and I have often wondered if this was another attempt to separate the different fractions of the family.

The Iredell County Public Library has an excellent collection of Civil War research materials for both genealogical and historical purposes. We recently purchased 151 microfilm reels of North Carolina civil war records including the 1885 and 1901 N.C. Confederate Pension Records.

This past week we received the 100 volume supplement set to the “War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.”  This set was a landmark in historical publishing and at the time of their printing the largest and most exhaustively researched work ever published by the United States Printing Office. It consists of the official reports and correspondence of both the Union and Confederate Armies during the war and is considered even today as the primarily resource for Civil War research. 

The only real complaint about the 228 volumes has been over the title chosen by the publishers. Many in the south do not like to have the war referred to as the “War of the Rebellion.”  The Civil War is the most common term used for the conflict. It is perhaps the oldest term for the war and was used in the writings of men such as Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Nathan Bedford Forest.

Other names for the war include, “The War for Separation, the Confederate War, the War for Southern Freedom, the War of the North and South, the Lost Cause, the War of the Sixties, the War for Southern Nationality, the War Against Slavery, the Civil War between the States, the War against Northern Aggression, the Great Rebellion, the Second War for Independence, the War for States’ Rights, the Second American Revolution, the War for Southern Independence, the War for Constitutional Liberty, the War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance, the Brother’s War, the War of Secession, the Yankee Invasion, Mr. Lincoln’s War, the Southern Rebellion, the War of the Rebellion, War for the Union, War for Abolition, the War for Nationality, the War of the Southrons, and the War for Southern Rights.  

Through the years many have attempted to offend neither side by simply referring to it as “the War” or simply as “the Late Unpleasantness.”  How my ancestor saw it remains a mystery to me for now, but I suspect in his mind it had a lot to do with a desire to be independent from Federal control and to protect his homeland.

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Library offers volumes of Civil War history” on May 14, 2008