Monday, September 5, 2011

Whatever Happened to John A Edmonds? (Mystery Monday, Military Monday)

“Whatever happened to John A Edmonds?” has long been a family mystery. John A Edmonds was the older brother of my great grandfather Augustus Newell Edmonds, the first-born son of William A Edmonds. John was born in 1842 in Georgia shortly before William A Edmonds and his wife Mary Frances Appling moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, then to Fayette County, Alabama. William and Mary Frances had 10 more children, most of whom survived to adulthood. John is listed in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in his father’s household, then poof!  He disappears from common records.  In A Memorial and Biographical History of Johnson and Hill Counties, Texas [1892] , John’s brother Augustus Newell Edmonds listed him as “whereabouts unknown”.
Note: There was another John Edmonds living in Fayette County in 1850, the son of Nathan and Eleanor Edmonds. He was a little older, having been born in about 1835. Although apparently missing from the 1860 census, he shows up again in 1870 and later, having married Manerva Kilgore in 1866. Edmonds researchers have often easily gotten the two John Edmonds confused.

Given that our John Edmonds “disappeared” in the 1860s, one must consider the possibility that he was a Civil War casualty.

There was a John Edmonds who enlisted in Company A, 26th Alabama Infantry (O’Neal’s) clip_image002October 3, 1861, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Tuscumbia, Colbert County, is a few counties away from Fayette County where John Edmonds lived. However, histories of the 26th Alabama Infantry indicate that “men were recruited from Fayette, Marion, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston counties.”  This seems like our John Edmonds, but we can’t be sure yet, especially since the other John Edmonds was also from the area. [Extensive Civil War records can be found at, formerly]

imageThe 26th Alabama Infantry fought in the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and suffered losses of 7 killed, 58 wounded, and 65 missing. John Edmonds’ Confederate records show him captured at Gettysburg and a Prisoner of War at Point Lookout, Maryland. They also mention that he “joined the U.S. Service”.
Now it’s time to look in the Union Civil War records. Found: John A Edmonds who enlisted January 29, 1864 at Point Lookout, Maryland, in the Company D, 1st Regiment US Volunteer Infantry. These Union records show that John A Edmonds born in Wilkes County, Georgia, was 22 years old at the time, and was a farmer. This fits our John A Edmonds exactly. He is also listed as 5’ 10” tall, light complexion, hazel eyes, and sandy hair.
The 1st US Volunteer Infantry was made up almost entirely of captured Confederate soldiers who were given the opportunity to enlist for the Union in order to get out of Prisoner of War camps. These soldiers were dubbed “Galvanized Yankees”. However, they weren’t sent to fight against the South -- they couldn’t be trusted for that. Instead, they were sent to guard forts in the Dakota Territory.
imageJohn A Edmonds’ records show that he was promoted from Private to Corporal on July 1, 1864. On September 11, 1865, he was listed as “deserted” from Fort Rice, Dakota Territory.
John A Edmonds wasn’t alone in his desertion.
Many deserted—as men chose home or the gold fields over another winter of death at Fort Rice. Eleven percent of the command had died the previous winter, and all who survived still suffered from scurvy's lingering effects.
Like volunteer troops elsewhere, the First U.S. Volunteers believed that they had earned the right to go home—especially since their former prison comrades had been released in the spring. The ex-prisoners of war had requested through channels to be mustered out when news of Appomattox reached the Upper Missouri, only to be turned down by the War Department.

[Prologue Magazine; Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4; Trading Gray for Blue
Ex-Confederates Hold the Upper Missouri for the Union
Desertion might not have been such a bad choice. John A Edmonds and other Galvanized Yankees weren’t exactly welcome back in their home states in the South. Likewise, they didn’t have much in the way of ties to the North. The West may have looked like a good opportunity to start a new life.
I would love to find John A Edmonds in records in California or elsewhere in the West after 1865.  These findings may not take me to John Edmonds’ eventual rest, but they do add a few more exciting years on to his history.

1 comment:

  1. Let me see if I can help.

    There are 3 John Edmonds in miltary service during the civil war listed in the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

    However none as John A.

    The John Edmonds who joined O'Neal's 26th Alabama on October 3, 1861 was born in Pike County Georgia in 1834 and after the war married Manerva Kilgore in 1866 is my great great grandfather.

    He was captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Transfered to Ft. McHenry, MD and then to Ft. Delaware, DE.

    At Ft. Delaware he took the Oath and joined the Union Army under Captain George W. Alh's Independent Battery, Delaware Heavy Artillery.

    He was mustered out of service on July 25, 1865.

    After the war John Edmonds returned to Alabama and married Manerva Kilgore (Nee Studdard) (the widow of Thomas Kilgore who died while a member of the 1st Alabama Cavalary during the war).

    John Edmonds died July 31, 1918 at Natural Bridge, Winston County Alabama. Manervia Died Novemeber 7, 1910.

    They are buried side by side at the Concord Church Cemetery Natural Bridge, Alabama. His head stone marked with a Union Shield reads John Edmonds Ahl's Del. H. A.

    The "Volunteer Enlistment" above belongs to John "A" Edmonds who was also born in Georgia but in Wilkes County and also moved to Alabama.

    The key is the "A" and the fact that John A Edmonds could write and signed his own name. John Edmonds couldn't.

    (Of course having an enlistment officer sign your name wasn't unheard of)

    But I would imagine that anytime you see John A Edmonds born in Wikes Georgia that would be the older brother of your great grandfather.

    My great aunt has done years of research and at one point noted that the first time she saw an "A" was a medical service record during the war.

    Again I would suggest this is your John "A" Edmonds.

    But from there is gets rather confusing. I suspect that John Edmonds was later confused with the younger John A. Edmonds and as records were compiled the two names merged.

    But even so there was clearly a John A. Edmonds and a John Edmonds who both served in the CSA and later the Union Army.

    Amazing stuff.