My Great Great Grandparents' House Burned by Union Army NW Alabama

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lelliott19

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For those who have heard this before, bear with me. I'm going to tell the story here again because I just found a newspaper article that confirms the approximate date that my great great grandparents' house was burned by Union forces in NW Alabama. When we were kids, my sister and I sat in the lap of our maternal grandfather and listened to stories. His grandfather, Dr. William Cordwell Cross (my 2x great grandfather), served as a Confederate Surgeon.
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Born in 1815, Dr. Cross was 46 years old when the war started. Despite being exempt from service due to his age, he served as a Surgeon through the war and pledged his parole of honor May 12, 1865 at Meridian MS.

As kids, when we would go to Cherokee to visit my grandfather's sister, his other siblings would come over and they would sit around the living room and tell stories. One of the stories we heard many times was how Dr Cross' house was burned by "the Yankees" while he was away, serving in the Confederate Army, and how one of the young sons hid the silver in the well. My grandfather and his siblings knew all about it. But by the time I became interested in seriously studying the war, all of them were dead. One thing I never thought to ask was when it happened.

Kate Cumming served as a nurse in a number of Confederate Hospitals (including The Bragg Hospital.) She kept a diary of her experiences. This excerpt from the diary confirms the substance of the story we had always heard related to the burning of the house:

Dr. Cross was a man of wealth, and when he joined the army left his family well provided for. They lived near Tuscumbia, in the northern portion of Alabama. When the enemy went there they took every thing that Mrs. Cross had: upward of seventy negroes, twenty five thousand pounds of meat, all her livestock, and a large amount of grain and a large supply of groceries for family use. After they took all of these things, they politely asked Mrs. Cross to leave the house, as they intended to burn it. They would not give her time to get a change of clothes for her children. Her old father was an invalid, and had to hobble out on crutches. After getting through with her house, they went to a neighbors and did the same. The officer in charge made a great fuss talking; but as usual did nothing to restore what was lost. I have been intimate with this amiable family for some time, and their uncomplaining endurance of their wrongs has excited my unbounded admiration. I have never heard a complaint from any of them. Mrs. C (sic) tells me that, since she has lost everything nothing annoys her. [A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Kate Cumming, page 156.]

Although I still didn't know exactly WHEN it happened, I had loosely narrowed it down to some time prior to Chickamauga. According to carded records, Dr. Cross arrived at Chattanooga on April 25, 1863 and was ordered to proceed to Ringgold, GA where he joined other surgeons operating a hospital at nearby Cherokee Springs. The Bragg Hospital was first named at Chattanooga and operated at Cherokee Springs from at least April 25, 1863 to Sept. 2, 1863. By Sept 3, 1863 the Bragg Hospital had moved to Newnan, GA and was operated there until about August 16, 1864.

Kate Cumming's diary also makes specific mention of Dr. Cross' wife Mary Ann Frances Harris Cross and his eldest daughter, Minerva.
The Bragg Hospital was on the train with us. Miss Burford and Mrs. Byrom, the matrons, and Dr. Cross's family were with it which made the trip much pleasanter for us. [A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Kate Cumming, page 156.]

So, by the time the Bragg Hospital moved to Newnan, on or before September 3, 1863, his wife and daughter had joined him at the Cherokee Springs Hospital.

But I still didn't know when the house was burned -- until now. Tonight, I was helping @alan polk with his research - looking for period newspaper accounts of the Battle of Big Black - when I found this:
1576207736384.png

Daily Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), May 20, 1863, page 1.

So now I know.....my great great grandparents' house was burned prior to May 20, 1863. Now to find some issues of the Huntsville Advocate -- if they exist.

Because of his wealth before the war, Dr. Cross was not allowed to pledge the Oath of Allegiance. After the war, he had to file a Request for Special Pardon through the provisional governor. I won't repeat that story here, but those who are interested can read it here. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/request-for-special-pardon-and-accusations-by-provisional-governor.106283/#post-988950

About 1866, Dr. Cross rebuilt another house on the farm. He had his practice right there in the house, as was common at the time. My great aunt inherited the house from her parents (my g grands) and, when my mother was young, she used to go there to visit/stay with the aunt and her family. I imagine my mother actually wandered in and out of the room Dr Cross used for his office. My aunt and her family sold the house before I was born and moved to "town." The house is still there - standing today outside the little town of Cherokee, Franklin County (now Colbert) AL. I have been there many times and visited the cemetery nearby, but I have never had the opportunity to enter the house. See OP Image Cross House built circa 1866. To the right (out of view), surrounded by a neat stone wall, is the family cemetery where Dr Cross, his wife, and other family members are buried.
@Diane123
 
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Belle Montgomery

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For those who have heard this before, bear with me. I'm going to tell the story here again because I just found a newspaper article that confirms the approximate date that my great great grandparents' house was burned by Union forces in NW Alabama. When we were kids, my sister and I sat in the lap of our maternal grandfather and listened to stories. His grandfather, Dr. William Cordwell Cross (my 2x great grandfather), served as a Confederate Surgeon.
View attachment 338330
Born in 1815, Dr. Cross was 46 years old when the war started. Despite being exempt from service due to his age, he served as a Surgeon through the war and pledged his parole of honor May 12, 1865 at Meridian MS.

As kids, when we would go to Cherokee to visit my grandfather's sister, his other siblings would come over and they would sit around the living room and tell stories. One of the stories we heard many times was how Dr Cross' house was burned by "the Yankees" while he was away, serving in the Confederate Army, and how one of the young sons hid the silver in the well. My grandfather and his siblings knew all about it. But by the time I became interested in seriously studying the war, all of them were dead. One thing I never thought to ask was when it happened.

Kate Cumming served as a nurse in a number of Confederate Hospitals (including The Bragg Hospital.) She kept a diary of her experiences. This excerpt from the diary confirms the substance of the story we had always heard related to the burning of the house:

Dr. Cross was a man of wealth, and when he joined the army left his family well provided for. They lived near Tuscumbia, in the northern portion of Alabama. When the enemy went there they took every thing that Mrs. Cross had: upward of seventy negroes, twenty five thousand pounds of meat, all her livestock, and a large amount of grain and a large supply of groceries for family use. After they took all of these things, they politely asked Mrs. Cross to leave the house, as they intended to burn it. They would not give her time to get a change of clothes for her children. Her old father was an invalid, and had to hobble out on crutches. After getting through with her house, they went to a neighbors and did the same. The officer in charge made a great fuss talking; but as usual did nothing to restore what was lost. I have been intimate with this amiable family for some time, and their uncomplaining endurance of their wrongs has excited my unbounded admiration. I have never heard a complaint from any of them. Mrs. C (sic) tells me that, since she has lost everything nothing annoys her. [A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Kate Cumming, page 156.]

Although I still didn't know exactly WHEN it happened, I had loosely narrowed it down to some time prior to Chickamauga. According to carded records, Dr. Cross arrived at Chattanooga on April 25, 1863 and was ordered to proceed to Ringgold where he joined the surgeons operating a hospital at nearby Cherokee Springs. The Bragg Hospital was first named at Chattanooga and operated at Cherokee Springs Ringgold, GA, from at least April 25, 1863 to Sept. 2, 1863. By Sept 3, 1863 the Bragg Hospital had moved to Newnan, GA and was operated there until about August 16, 1864.

Kate Cumming's diary also includes mention of Dr. Cross' wife Mary Ann Frances Harris Cross and his eldest daughter, Minerva.
The Bragg Hospital was on the train with us. Miss Burford and Mrs. Byrom, the matrons, and Dr. Cross's family were with it which made the trip much pleasanter for us. [A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Kate Cumming, page 156.]

So, by the time the Bragg Hospital moved to Newnan, on or before September 3, 1863, his wife and daughter had joined him at the Cherokee Springs Hospital.

But I still didn't know when the house was burned -- until now. Tonight, I was helping @alan polk with his research - looking for period newspaper accounts of the Battle of Big Black - when I found this:
View attachment 338334
Daily Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), May 20, 1863, page 1.

So now I know.....my great great grandparents' house was burned prior to May 20, 1863. Now to find some issues of the Huntsville Advocate -- if they exist.

Because of his wealth before the war, Dr. Cross was not allowed to pledge the Oath of Allegiance. After the war, he had to file a Request for Special Pardon through the provisional governor. I wont repeat that story here, but those who are interested can read it here. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/request-for-special-pardon-and-accusations-by-provisional-governor.106283/#post-988950

About 1866, Dr. Cross rebuilt another house on the farm. He had his practice right there in the house, as was common at the time. My great aunt inherited the house from her parents (my g grands) and, when my mother was young, she used to go there to visit/stay with the aunt and her family. I imagine my mother actually wandered in and out of the room Dr Cross used for his office. My aunt and her family sold the house before I was born and moved to "town." The house is still there - standing today outside the little town of Cherokee, Franklin County (now Colbert) AL. I have been there many times and visited the cemetery nearby, but I have never had the opportunity to enter the house. See OP Image Cross House built circa 1866. To the right (out of view), surrounded by a neat stone wall, is the family cemetery where Dr Cross, his wife, and other family members are buried.
@Diane123
Oh please try to ask kindly of those living there to enter the house! If they refuse I'd contact the local media or /historical society/ or museum with your story and maybe they can they help persuade them or at least do a human interest/history story about it. Fascinating yet sad!
 

lelliott19

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History of La Grange Military Academy and the Cadet Corps, 1857-1862, John Allen Wyeth, 1907, page 13.
"All the buildings of old La Grange College were burned by Federal troops under Gen. Cornyne, April 28th, 1863. The libraries, consisting of about four thousand volumes, the chemical and philosophical apparatus, a cabinet of minerals, and all the furniture were also burned."

LaGrange College & Military Academy was located about 26 miles east of Dr Cross' house. It was burned on April 28, 1863, so I think I'm safe in assuming the house was burned between April 28, 1863 and May 18, 1863.
 
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redbob

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History of La Grange Military Academy and the Cadet Corps, 1857-1862, John Allen Wyeth, 1907, page 13.
"All the buildings of old La Grange College were burned by Federal troops under Gen. Cornyne, April 28th, 1863. The libraries, consisting of about four thousand volumes, the chemical and philosophical apparatus, a cabinet of minerals, and all the furniture were also burned."

LaGrange College & Military Academy was located about 26 miles east of Dr Cross' house. It was burned on April 28, 1863, so I think I'm safe in assuming the house was burned between April 28, 1863 and May 18, 1863.
I was speaking to the new Civil War Roundtable in Florence in November and I always try to stop by the LaGrange college site when I can.
 
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Fairfield

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How wonderful that you have researched so much! Too often, those who have gone simply became statistics: names and dates. But these were living people with stories of their own. And too often, events are simply chronological entries in some history--devoid of the impact upon human beings.
 

lelliott19

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Union Army unit identified with burnings? Any specific officers?
Hi Bruce. Thanks for your reply. LaGrange College was burned by the 10th Missouri Calvary, known as the “Destroying Angels” and commanded by Col. Florence M. Cornyn, 1st brigade, Blair's Division, under General Granville Dodge. I really dont know what the specific orders were. Sounds like a good research project. :D Ill let you know what else I find.
Every corn crib and smoke house in the neighborhood was forced open, the camp was strewn with flour, bacon, preserve and pickle jars, ladies' dress, infants' clothing, and every imaginable kind of plunder. Before morning nearly every residence in town had been gutted, ladies pulled out of bed and searched, money, watches, plate, jewelry, forcibly taken; as fast as one set would leave a house another would come in, and the same search gone over with. Officers vied with privates; every one seemed to be trying to act worse than his predecessor. The male citizens, if they remonstrated, were hurried to prison.​
The churches were vilely polluted, organs smashed, carpets torn up, and the flag of the "best government the world ever saw" hoisted in triumph over the church steeple. Now these things were not the work of a few; all were at it. Col. Cornyn, upon being remonstrated with for allowing such things, replied, "I don't care a **** what my men do." The vilest gestures and language were used towards ladies; acts were committed which I cannot shock your readers by mentioning. You have had Mitchel and Turchin with you; compared to Cornyn and his set, they were angels. This Florence Cornyn is from St. Louis. He was a physician by profession, and I am told by persons who know him in civil life, that he passed for a gentleman. He has made a name in the annals of licentiousness more ****able than that of Butler. Wednesday morning, after the commander had let his men get all the money and valuables in the town, by the knock down and drag out method... [Southern Confederacy. (Atlanta, GA), March 15, 1863, page 2.]​
This account is dated February 28, 1863 so it seems like the destruction of private property may have been stretched out over a longer period of time than I first thought. So instead of April 28-May 18, 1863, I suppose I have to include this longer time frame. Hmmmm. Sure wish I could find something definitive. Maybe if I can find it, the Huntsville Advocate will clear it up.
 
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alan polk

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One wonders about the motivation for such pillage, and how the soldiers felt about it after the war. How do you justify that?
At the time, they justified it by thinking such burning and pillaging made the civilians “realize their own crime in bringing calamity upon the country.” This made even children guilty for their parents. Those who voted against secession guilty for those who voted for it.

Not unlike Vietnam: Sherman ordered a town along the Mississippi River burned after guerrillas in the town fired on a Union vessel. The guerrillas could not be found. So he torched it. His reason: “We cannot overlook these acts of outrage. Therefore we punish the neighbors for not preventing them.”
 
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