Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In Memorian--My Ancestor & Our Country

Of the 32 ancestors who participated in the American War of Northern Aggression, I have uncovered in my research, today is the 150th Anniversary of the death of one of them, during the Battle of Gettysburg.

John Lee Holt was a father of 2 and husband from Campbell County, VA.  He had been a school master in civilian life and a part time tobacco farmer on the side.  And no, he did not own any slaves.
(Only about 6% of households in the South pre-war were wealthy enough to be part of the Planter Class and own slaves. Add in the free-black and native American households who owned slaves and the % is higher.)

John Lee Holt mustered into service as a private, for the Confederate States of America on 18 July 1861 in neighboring Charlotte County, VA, in the 56th Regiment of the Virginia Infantry, known as the Charlotte Grays, which fought in General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  He was 32 years old and left a pregnant wife and 16 month old baby son the day he went off to defend the South.  He was only able to get a furlough one time during his 2 years of service.  He only met his daughter on that one occasion.

He was present at the battle of Fort Donelson, was captured and exchanged with his unit in February of 1862. After this, his regiment was assigned to General Pickett's Brigade.

He reported sick to the Empire Hospital of Atlanta, GA in March of 1862.  He fought at the Battle of Boonsboro, MD(South Mountain), which was the first battle fought on Northern soil, then the Seven Days Battles, 2nd Manassas and Sharpsburg.  At the Seven Days Battles of the 466 combatants in this unit, 100 casualties were reported.  Only 40 men from this unit were at Sharpsburg with 8 being wounded during that skirmish.

Then he accompanied his wounded brother, Meredith, to the Old School Presbyterian Church & Market House Hospitals in Winchester, VA on 20 September 1862.  He was employed as a nurse there until 1 November 1862, while he brother recuperated. 

He was admitted to Richmond Hospital in November of 1862  but returned to duty in time for the Battle of Fredericksburg.

He may or may not have been at the Siege of Suffolk and by the time surrender at Appomattox occurred only 3 officers and 26 men were left of this regiment.
Unfortunately, John didn't  make it to Appomattox in April of 1865.

As part of Longstreet's Corps, Pickett's Division, Garnett's Brigade, on July 3 1863 at about 2pm, John along with 12,500 fellow Southerners, started the descent down Seminary Ridge, across the cornfield toward the Emmittsburg Road and the Yankee lines beyond.  He was between two of his brothers when a mini ball hit him and he fell.  John waved his brothers forward indicating that he'd be ok.
Federal records in his service record reported that he was being held as a captured POW from 24 October 1863 to 19 January 1864, but we now know that John Lee Holt succumbed to his wounds and died on the battlefield that July day in 1863 in a cornfield by the Emmittsburg Rd.

Of the 286 members of the 56th Regiment participating at Gettysburg, more than 65% were "disabled"(and/or killed).

The family did not know his fate until 1865, as a death claim was filed in March of that year, a month before the War of Northern Aggression officially ended.

Today I mourn our sad bloody past and the wars(this one in particular)that didn't necessarily have to be fought, that make up our history.  We would be a much better nation and peoples if not for the tyranny of our government.

Deo Vindice John, Deo Vindice....




  1. Very interesting to see one vein alone of history instead of a string of battles involving hundreds and hundreds of men, and even more hundreds of families affected. Sad story, but interesting nonetheless.

    1. I find history is always so much more interesting when viewed from the personal human perspective. It's hard to empathize with statistics and battles but put a human face on it and it's easier to get involved in a story.

  2. Your family history is absolutely fascinating!!!

    1. Some of what I am finding IS fascinating.....if you wade through enough of the boring parts. lol

  3. Thanks for posting that, Slugs. I get impatient with people who think we live in a violent and chaotic society. They seem to need a few history lessons about the "good old days."

    1. Yah, the "good old days" always seem so much more pleasant with hindsight. People today don't appreciate how brutal living could be back then.

  4. War of Northern Aggression? I agree that we should have less government intervention but letting states withdraw at will crosses that line, in my opinion.

    Leaving at 32 with a toddler at home and a baby on the way must have been so hard. Did his wife ever remarry?

    1. In American before the war, it was perfectly legal for states to leave the Union. After all, the Founding Fathers founded this country as a republic, a confederate of states, each with it's own rights to govern. There was a balance of powers with the central government having some and each state also having powers over their own destinies, with the states holding slightly more of that power. Lincoln and the federalists changed all that. The country that was set up in 1776 is nowhere near what it has become today.

      As for John Lee's wife....Ellen Lawson Holt. She married John in 1859 at the age of 22. When he left home, she was 24, the mother of a 16 mo. old son and more than 6 months pregnant with their daughter. She became a widow at 26. She is found with her 2 children,living back with her parents in the 1870 census, then living with her widowed mother and 2 children in 1880. Her son died in 1891 at 31 yrs. old and never married. By 1900 she is living with her married daughter and her family. She applied for a widow's pension in 1888 from the state of VA which she was granted.
      She died at age 85 in 1922, having never remarried.


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