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Features Forgotten Times Forgotten Times: The Chitwood family's Civil War tragedy

Forgotten Times: The Chitwood family’s Civil War tragedy

Forgotten Times is presented by United Cumberland Bank on the fourth week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Back Page Features series.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally written by Paul Roy in January 2008.

By 1864, the Civil War was winding down, but chances are most people living in Scott County were not aware of what was going on anywhere else but on the home front.

By that point, the war had taken its toll on the county and its people, due to the fact that most of the able bodied men had joined up and gone off to do battle in far-away places, leaving the women and children with the responsibility of running the farm until the men came home from their great adventure. Those left behind had to endure the deprivation resulting from soldiers passing through scrounging for food, as well as lawless bands of ruffians running the hills, taking advantage of the absence of heads of household and lack of organized law enforcement.

One Winfield homemaker, 49-year-old Nancy Hamby Chitwood, had a particularly rough year in 1864, although it was probably a year or more before she actually learned the fate of her husband and her three eldest sons. As it turned out, Nancy lost her husband and three of her 11 children as the result of the Civil War — all in 1864, and all as the result of their having become prisoners of war on the same day — November 6, 1863.

That was the day their outfit, the 2nd Tennessee Infantry, U.S.A., was overrun by Confederate forces at the Battle of Rogersville, Tennessee. That was the day John H. Chitwood, and his sons, Henry Hamby, Daniel M. And James Harrison were captured by the Rebels. All went to prisoner of war camps, and all died within a four month period as the result of illnesses contracted during their confinement.

John H. Chitwood and his sons were members of Company G of the 2nd Tennessee — a company made up mostly of men from Scott and Morgan counties. The father and two of his sons, Daniel M. And John Harrison, had traveled to Camp Dick Robinson (in Garrard County, Kentucky) and joined the federal forces on October 25, 1861, a little over two months after the regiment had formed. The eldest son, Henry Hamby, joined his father and brothers two and a half months later, as he enlisted on January 8, 1862. John H., a well-to-do farmer, was 51 at the time of his enlistment, while his sons were all in their twenties: Henry Hamby, 25; Daniel M., 23; and James Harrison, 20. None of the boys were married. John H. Went in as a corporal. Daniel and Henry were sergeants and James was a private.

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The 2nd Tennessee Infantry had been involved in several clashes with the enemy in the two years leading up to the Battle of Rogersville, including participation in the Battle f Wildcat (Ky.) and minor roles in both the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky (January 1862) and the Battle of Stones River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee (December 1862). The regiment became a mounted infantry in June 1863, and was among the outfits put in pursuit of Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan and his forces through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio in July 1863.

The regiment returned to Tennessee in time for the Battle of Blue Springs in Greene County on October 10, 1863, and the Battle of Rogersville in Hawkins County a month later, where two thirds of the regiment was captured. Over the next several months, two thirds of those taken prisoner at Rogersville died as the result of their confinement — and, among the dead, were four men from one Scott County family.

The 1850 Agricultural Census for Scott County reveals that the John H. Chitwood clan was a fairly well to do family, having 75 acres of improved land, 500 acres of unimproved land, and an estimated $600 cash value for the real estate, $75 for farm implements and machinery, along with “5 Asses and Mules, 2 Working oxen, 5 other cattle, 40 Sheep, 350 Swine,” with the livestock being valued at $200. In addition, the report shows that the Chitwood farm grew rye, Indian corn and tobacco. By 1860, the value of the Chitwood real estate and personal property had risen considerably, to $930 and $1,745, respectively.

But thoughts of a prosperous farm in the hills of East Tennessee were replaced by thoughts of food, clothing and shelter for John H. Chitwood and his sons following their capture by the Rebels. After being taken prisoner, they were marched to the railroad station in Bristol, loaded onto a train and transported to the Bell Isle prison camp in Richmond, Virginia.

Andrew Jackson “Jack” Snow, a private in Co. A, 2nd Tennessee Infantry, who spent 13 months at Bell Isle and Andersonville as a prisoner of war, describes what happened following their surrender to the enemy forces in an account penned by a Roane County journalist around 1935.

“That night the men were herded onto the road and, through all the long night hours, the Rebels marched their captives towards Bristol in an effort to, as quickly as possible, get them out of the country where they might come upon a large Union force. Some of the men escaped in the darkness, but the Rebel force was so large it prevented any wholesale escape of the men and morning found them still captives on their way to a horrible fate.”

Daniel M. Chitwood, the second son, went into Hospital 21 at Richmond with a case of bronchitis just three months after his capture, on February 20, 1864. He was the first member of the family to die, as he succumbed to his illness on March 19, 1864.

The youngest of the sons, James Harrison, was admitted to the same hospital at Richmond just a few days after Daniel, on February 24, 1864. He was suffering from dysentery and lingered until he passed away on April 6, 1864.

Then, 18 days following James Harrison’s death, the father, John H., who had been transferred from Belle Isle to the newly established POW compound at Andersonville, Georgia, developed diarrhea and died on April 24, 1864. He is buried in the cemetery at Andersonville in Grave No. 717.

The lone survivor, Henry Hamby Chitwood, would expire exactly three months later. He suffered from diarrhea and tuberculosis and was admitted to the hospital at Richmond on March 14, 1864. He was paroled at City Point, Virginia on April 16, 1864 and was admitted to Jarvis Hospital at Baltimore, Maryland, where he died on July 24, 1864. He was buried in the Vaca Cemetery there in Grave No. 905.

So, in the span of four months, a father and three sons died as the result of disease contracted in Confederate prisoner of war camps. It is not known how long it took for the news of these deaths to reach Scott County, but it is known that on January 1, 1866, the Scott County Court appointed a neighbor of the Chitwoods, Archibald Murphy, as a guardian of the minor heirs of John H Chitwood. Those children were identified as Amildia, 20, Alfonse M., 17, Elizabeth, 15, Isaac M., 13, and Laura M., 9. Also surviving were children who had reached their majority: Granville W., 23, Loranza D., 22, and Sally A., 27.

Nancy Hamby Chitwood survived her husband by 23 years. She died at the age of 71 on July 18, 1867. She is buried in the Davis Cemetery on Alderville Road in Winfield.

John H. Chitwood was the first child of Daniel and Anna Chitwood of Winfield, and was born in 1810.

His brothers and sisters included: Mary, born 1812, Martha, born 1816, Hannah, born 1817, James, born 1823, Elizabeth, born 1831, and Joel B., born 1833.

His paternal grandfather, James Chitwood, moved to what is now Scott County from Virginia, where he died in 1839. James was the grandson of the family’s immigrant ancestor, Matthias Chitwood, who was born in England in 1681 and died in what is now Powhatan County, Virginia in 1754.

John H. Chitwood’s wife, Nancy Hamby, was the daughter of Henry and Sarah Cross Hamby, and was born on September 26, 1815 in North Carolina.

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