SEE MY 1/26/13 UPDATE HERE.
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When I was a kid we played the telephone game, AKA Chinese whispers: whisper a little story in someone's ear, then that person whispers it to the next in line, and so on, until the last person tells the story out loud for all to hear, but by then it has changed a little or a lot.
Apparently it's the same with family lore: a real event happens to a real person, who tells it to the grandchildren, who tell it to the next generation, and so on, until each retelling changes a little or a lot.
Such was the case of the story I had been told about one of my ancestors that I reported at the end of my Sept. 26 blog post:
"I'm going to try to find time to visit nearby Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park before I return home.
"One of the family stories I grew up with was that my great-great-great grandfather Andrew Jackson (no relation to the president), a captain in the Confederate Army, was captured during the Battle of Prairie Grove, taken as a prisoner of war to a Union prison camp in Springfield, Illinois, where he was transferred to the prison at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore. He escaped from Ft. McHenry somehow and walked home from Baltimore, Maryland, to his hometown of Cane Hill, Arkansas, where he lived a long and productive life."Here he is in his elder years -- the only photo I have of him:
Last week my sister Charlou and I went to Prairie Grove to see if there were any records there about Andrew.
Turns out he was never at Prairie Grove!
Alan Thompson, the Arkansas state historian and registrar who works at the battlefield's interpretive center, was very helpful in hunting down the actual story, using Confederate and Union records.
Here he is showing Charlou where Roseville, Arkansas, is on a historic map (Roseville is no longer a town).
So here's the real story:
Andrew Jackson (1831-1913) was a first lieutenant, not a captain. He was attached to the Company H of the 1st Regiment, Arkansas Confederate Cavalry.
The reason he was not at the Battle of Prairie Grove was that he was leading a decoy unit a few miles away at Roseville, Arkansas, with the intention of keeping the Union army away from Prairie Grove after they crossed the border from Missouri (it didn't work).
Confederate pay records show that he went five months without being paid. Here's one of his pay receipts:
Before he made it home he was found by Union soldiers, taken as a prisoner of war and transported to a Union prison at Springfield, Missouri. He was 32 years old at the time, a widower with a young daughter.
From there he was taken to St. Louis and then transported all the way to City Point, Virginia, where he was taken to Fortress Monroe as part of a prisoner exchange.
When he and some other prisoners found their opportunity, they overpowered the Maple Leaf and escaped. (I found an interesting history of the Maple Leaf.)
And my great-great-great grandfather Andrew Jackson walked all the way home to Arkansas.
Telephone game, anyone?