Looking for a Confederate Soldier, 55th Georgia, First Name Unknown

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Aug 2, 2019
So I've been looking for a guard at Andersonville who I could research and write about for a while, and I may have found one, thanks to @lupaglupa's posting about Newspapers.com's free weekend access.

There are two articles in June, 1890 in the Leavenworth (Kansas) Times about a police officer who has been discovered to have been a former guard at Andersonville, and there is a big ruckus about how he should be fired. To their credit, the police chief, at least for the length of these two articles, seems to stand by his man, but he's getting slandered in the press and the residents of the local soldiers home have written a petition demanding that he be removed.

This looks like a perfect fit for a chapter in the book I'm working on about stories from Andersonville that most people are not aware of. But I still have a couple of obstacles to get around, probably the biggest one being that the two articles never give the man's name - he's always just referred to as "Matthews" with no first name.

Fold3 has a C M Matthews in the 55th Georgia, but again, not enough of a name to trace. Can anyone find this man's first name, or anything else about him?

Other smidgens that I can get from the article are that he is reportedly 42 years old in 1890, which would make him born around 1848, and that would mean that he was 16 years old when he would have been a guard at Andersonville. And he had a wife.

As near as I can tell, there's no article about the resolution of this incident - was he fired? Did he stay? did he leave town? Was he harassed? - but I have an email in to the Leavenworth Public Library asking if they can find out anything more. Reading the articles, it seems like there should be more articles about it - the June 14th one doesn't sound like the first time the issue is raised, but this is all Newspapers.com came up with.

This is the first article, dated June 14th. I know that the 55th Georgia wasn't raised expressly to guard at Andersonville, so read with an awareness that the accuser is intentionally inflammatory. And, oh, yeah, none of the "Former prisoners" mentioned in the article actually appear on the NPS's database of Andersonville Prisoners, and only one of the names of the guys mentioned on the Union side appears on Fold 3, and that guy was discharged from a NY regiment in 1862, about a year and a half before Andersonville even opened. So I'm sensing a conspiracy at work, here.

Any input would be gratefully appreciated.

Gary

Oh

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lupaglupa

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Okay - good news and bad news. The good news is, I found your man. The bad news is, he doesn't help with your book. He wasn't a guard at Andersonville.

Our man is one Henry H. Mathews, born in Charles County, Maryland in 1848. He enlisted in the US Army at Baltimore in 1872, age 24, occupation clerk. In 1876 he married Isabella Taylor in Jackson, Missouri. He was in Kansas by 1878, as their oldest child, Edgar, was born there. In the 1880 US Census and the 1885 Kansas Census we see the growing family living in Leavenworth. Mathews is listed as a prison guard. About 1889, Mathews left the Army and applied to be a police officer. He had glowing letters of commendation from his superior officers - which were reprinted in the paper as part of the police commissioners defense for retaining Mathews despite the accusations. The commissioner explained to reporters that Mathews had proven he was still in school during the Civil War and had never been in the Confederate Army, much less a guard at Andersonville. Mathews died sometime between 1894, where he is listed as a resident of Leavenworth in a local directory, and 1900 when his wife is a widow in the 1900 Census.

Why was he accused? The only hint I could find was another article from the paper in which Mathews spoke out in open court contradicting another officer over the circumstances of an arrest. Maybe he was a rigid man who followed rules closely - a trait that worked well in the US Army but not so well in a local police force.
 
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Okay - good news and bad news. The good news is, I found your man. The bad news is, he doesn't help with your book. He wasn't a guard at Andersonville.

Our man is one Henry H. Mathews, born in Charles County, Maryland in 1848. He enlisted in the US Army at Baltimore in 1872, age 24, occupation clerk. In 1876 he married Isabella Taylor in Jackson, Missouri. He was in Kansas by 1878, as their oldest child, Edgar, was born there. In the 1880 US Census and the 1885 Kansas Census we see the growing family living in Leavenworth. Mathews is listed as a prison guard. About 1889, Mathews left the Army and applied to be a police officer. He had glowing letters of commendation from his superior officers - which were reprinted in the paper as part of the police commissioners defense for retaining Mathews despite the accusations. The commissioner explained to reporters that Mathews had proven he was still in school during the Civil War and had never been in the Confederate Army, much less a guard at Andersonville. Mathews died sometime between 1894, where he is listed as a resident of Leavenworth in a local directory, and 1900 when his wife is a widow in the 1900 Census.
Interesting. So do you think that the police officer at Leavenworth is a completely different person from the C M Matthews who actually WAS with the 55th Georgia and therefore likely WAS a guard at Andersonville? (His record on Fold 3 gives his place of enlistment as "Andersonville Georgia," March 1, 1864.)

That would explain why the newspaper never bothered to mention the guy's first name (which is pretty weird). It would also explain why one of the articles mentioned that he was considering suing for liable. This, covered with the fact that none of his accusers were apparently ever AT Andersonville does suggest a smear campaign.

Honestly, I'm glad he was apparently able to exonerate himself, even if it does mean that I have to keep searching for a suitable guard to write about.

Thanks for the nifty detective work!
 

lupaglupa

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Interesting. So do you think that the police officer at Leavenworth is a completely different person from the C M Matthews who actually WAS with the 55th Georgia and therefore likely WAS a guard at Andersonville? (His record on Fold 3 gives his place of enlistment as "Andersonville Georgia," March 1, 1864.)

That would explain why the newspaper never bothered to mention the guy's first name (which is pretty weird). It would also explain why one of the articles mentioned that he was considering suing for liable. This, covered with the fact that none of his accusers were apparently ever AT Andersonville does suggest a smear campaign.

Honestly, I'm glad he was apparently able to exonerate himself, even if it does mean that I have to keep searching for a suitable rack CM Matthews to be sure.
I found a later article in the Leavenworth Times that used his initials, which was how I located him. Mostly they seemed to use a title, either "officer' or "sergeant." So I think that was their norm, not that they were avoiding using his name.

We could do a search on CM Matthews to be certain. But it does not look there was any overlap between the men.
 
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We could do a search on CM Matthews to be certain. But it does not look there was any overlap between the men.

Which brings me back to my original conundrum - how to find C M Matthews.

The one thing that's kind of bugging me - they specifically say in two of the articles that "Matthews" belonged to the 55th Georgia, which is one of the actual regiments that served as guards at Andersonville. That's a pretty specific detail for a bunch of guys who were never POWS and who were launching a smear campaign. Even more surprising is that there WAS a C M Matthews in the 55th Georgia. Did they know that, or was it just a weird coincidence?

There are possible explanations, or course, but like the question of how sailor William Ritson got the identify of a soldier named Curtis at Andersonville, it's probably going to be one of those "we'll never know" deals.

I did find more newspaper articles about the situation when I took "55th Georgia" out as a search term Fred Boyles, the retired superintendent of Andersonville National Historic Site, suggested that I try looking for a relatable guard in that regiment.

Back into the archives while the free weekend is still going. So far I've found a clearer photo of my great great grandfather than I'd ever seen before in the Boston Globe and two distant cousins who were wounded in action during WW II.

Way cool!
 

lupaglupa

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Maybe one of the men had a connection to a prisoner and the name Matthews had been passed on? Then when they met - and disliked - a Southern man named Mathews they decided he must be the same person?

I considered the possibility that H H Mathews was lying but it seemed like an improbably elaborate plot to pull off. There would be way easier ways to hide after Andersonville than enlisting in the US Army.
 

OldSarge79

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You might try researching in the counties that the 55th Georgia drew its men from. One of my ancestors was in the 55th, and involved in a scandal, leaving the army when his one-year enlistment was over, before they were assigned as guards at Andersonville. I have a biography on him you could have used if he had remained in the 55th long enough to have been at Andersonville.

Most of the regiment was captured at Cumberland Gap, I think in 1862, before the remnants and those exchanged were sent to Andersonville. My ancestor and many others in the 55th were from Randolph County. It would be easy enough to find out what other counties they were from.

ALSO, I was in contact with a descendant of my ancestor's captain, (Turner Ball), also of Randolph County. He used to be on CWT at "GaConfederate", but inactive since 2012. His ancestor may have been at Andersonville. I'll see if I can find his contact info. It should be around here somewhere.
 
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You might try researching in the counties that the 55th Georgia drew its men from. One of my ancestors was in the 55th, and involved in a scandal, leaving the army when his one-year enlistment was over, before they were assigned as guards at Andersonville. I have a biography on him you could have used if he had remained in the 55th long enough to have been at Andersonville.

ALSO, I was in contact with a descendant of my ancestor's captain, (Turner Ball), also of Randolph County. He used to be on CWT at "GaConfederate", but inactive since 2012. His ancestor may have been at Andersonville. I'll see if I can find his contact info. It should be around here somewhere.
Thanks, @OldSarge. The tricky part is that it's not enough to find someone who was a guard there. There has to be enough of an account of his experiences to get a chapter's worth of information out of. Letters would be good (I've come across a few guard letters, but usually it's one letter per guy, and they talk about crops and friends and not so much about their job), a diary would be awesome, but I haven't found one yet. I'm looking now at newspaper accounts, which is how this thread got started.

The book I'm presently wrestling with is going to be stories from Andersonville that don't ordinarily get told, and I figure you can't understand the situation unless you look at it from multiple different points of view. After 150+ years, I think it's time to take a look at the guards and other people whose stories have gotten lost. So far I've got a black prisoner, a Southern Unionist prisoner, a citizen prisoner, the last identified prisoner to die there, a prison doctor....

It's been an adventure. It doesn't help that I'm still waiting for pension records that I sent to the National Archives for back in November of 2019. I really miss life pre-covid.
 

lelliott19

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The tricky part is that it's not enough to find someone who was a guard there. There has to be enough of an account of his experiences to get a chapter's worth of information out of.
How about A J Childress? https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn89053204/1919-04-21/ed-1/seq-2/
Or George W Glover https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn89053204/1908-02-12/ed-1/seq-1/
Glover became a merchant/grocer in Americus after the war https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn89053204/1907-05-26/ed-1/seq-3/

Or maybe you can locate these two - one a former prisoner and one a former guard
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The Cleveland Progress. (Cleveland, Ga.), June 05, 1896, page 3.
 
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Bob Velke

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There was also a Zackery Taylor Mathews ("Z. T. Mathews" in service records) in Co. C, 55th Georgia who enlisted at Andersonville on 1 Jun 1984.

Probably Zachary but "Zackery" on his tombstone. 1850 census says "Zac Taylor". 1860 census says "Zack T." Death certificate says "Zachry." Maybe he used "Z. T." in the service because nobody could remember how to spell it out properly. :smile:

He was b. 8 Apr 1847 in Richland, Stewart Co., GA; honorably discharged in July 1865; applied for a pension in 1920 from Terrell Co, GA; d. 29 Jan 1932 in Bronwood, Terrell Co., GA; bur. in Sardis Baptist Church Cemetery in Oakville, Terrell Co., GA.

Photo from FindAGrave:
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From FamilySearch.org:
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From Ancestry.com:
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From Ancestry.com:
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From FindAGrave.com:
85699681_133019963285.jpg
 
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I would imagine most guys who served at Andersonville didn't talk about it after - not really something to brag about.
True. Look at what happened to the guy at the beginning of this thread - he underwent witch hunt and he wasn't even there.

I may have found my - or not. There's an article in the May 9. 1874 issue of (and I'm not making this up) The Weekly Caucasian, a newspaper out of Missouri. It goes on for four and a half full page columns and is a defense of the conditions and practices at Andersonville by Lemuel M Park of the First Georgia Reserves. It's not his story as much as a refutation of the alleged conditions at the prison. Spoiler: he blames everything on the North and the prisoners themselves. So I have a guard and his own words, but now I have to mull how to use them. He is unabashedly racist - says he moved to New York because in the South "negroes were being placed over us by Yankee bayonets and in their vernacular, "de bottom rail was agittin' on top er de fence." And he is also pretty questionable in some of his assertions (the water was just fine and the guards got the same quality and quantity of food as the prisoners.), but I have four and a half full page newspaper columns of a guard talking about the prison, so ...

Now my job is to trace the rest of this guy's life and decide how to use what he says.

Curious that he moved to New York, though. Doubt he told too many people what he did during the war. The article original appeared in "the Southern magazine" and was reprinted by the Caucasian.
 

lupaglupa

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True. Look at what happened to the guy at the beginning of this thread - he underwent witch hunt and he wasn't even there.

I may have found my - or not. There's an article in the May 9. 1874 issue of (and I'm not making this up) The Weekly Caucasian, a newspaper out of Missouri. It goes on for four and a half full page columns and is a defense of the conditions and practices at Andersonville by Lemuel M Park of the First Georgia Reserves. It's not his story as much as a refutation of the alleged conditions at the prison. Spoiler: he blames everything on the North and the prisoners themselves. So I have a guard and his own words, but now I have to mull how to use them. He is unabashedly racist - says he moved to New York because in the South "negroes were being placed over us by Yankee bayonets and in their vernacular, "de bottom rail was agittin' on top er de fence." And he is also pretty questionable in some of his assertions (the water was just fine and the guards got the same quality and quantity of food as the prisoners.), but I have four and a half full page newspaper columns of a guard talking about the prison, so ...

Now my job is to trace the rest of this guy's life and decide how to use what he says.

Curious that he moved to New York, though. Doubt he told too many people what he did during the war. The article original appeared in "the Southern magazine" and was reprinted by the Caucasian.
Where did he live in New York?
 

lupaglupa

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Fold3 says he enlisted at Atlanta April 28, 1864 at the age off 17. He was 5'10" tall, had a dark complexion, black hair and black eyes. His occupation was farrier. He seems to have been sent to Andersonville right away - see this card in his service record:

LemuelPark.png


A second card shows him at the stockade Sept. and Oct. No further records.
 
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