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Monday, May 27, 2013

In Memory of My Fallen Military Ancestors

Whatever your plans are today, Memorial Day, please remember to honor the sacrifices of America's fallen military heroes. 
The portrait above is of John Bennett Dickson (1793-1876), my fourth great-grandfather, who served under Andrew Jackson during the 1814 Creek War in the War of 1812. He then served side-by-side with Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, the final battle of the War of 1812, where he was wounded in the leg.
He later became a prominent businessman in Fort Worth, Texas. A widower, he raised several of his 12 children there.
Two of his sons, my third great-grand uncles Dempsey Powell Dickson (1843-1862) and Ephraim Albert Dickson (1840-1862), followed in their father's footsteps and volunteered for military service. They enlisted with the Texas Confederate Cavalry during the Civil War.
Dempsey, having enlisted upon leaving college in 1861, was killed in the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March 1862. This painting of the battle is by Andy Thomas:

John Bennett Dickson learned that Texans slain on the battlefield had been rolled in their blankets and buried apart from other soldiers. He sent a relative to remove Dempsey's body from the battlefield to the Dickson family cemetery near Bentonville, Arkansas.
On July 8, 1862, Ephraim, who was his father's business partner, was shot through the head during the Skirmish at Paroquet Bluffs in Arkansas.
He was buried at Paroquet Bluffs with other Texan soldiers, and later his father had him buried at the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Crippled by grief, John Bennett Dickson closed his successful mercantile store on the square in Fort Worth and spent the rest of his life as a recluse on a farm outside of the city.
* * *

This photo is of Elizabeth Gaines Easley (1818-1894), my second great-grandmother, who was married to my second great-grandfather Joseph Easley Jr. (1805-1883).

It is difficult to imagine their reaction and subsequent grief upon receiving word that two of their beloved sons had been killed while serving side-by-side on the same day during the Battle of Perryville -- Oct. 8, 1862.

Perryville, Kentucky, was the site of the most destructive Civil War battle in the state. It left more than 7,600 killed, wounded or missing and was the Confederacy's last serious attempt to gain possession of Kentucky. This sketch by Henry Mosler appeared in Harper's Weekly on Nov. 1, 1862.

My great-grand uncles Hamilton Easley (1837-1862) and William Easley (1841-1862) had enlisted in the Union Army together in August 1862. They served as privates in the 15th Regiment, Company B of the Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.

Hamilton's military records state that he stood 6 feet tall, had a light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. There are no records of his burial; he is presumed to be buried somewhere at the Perryville Battlefield.

According to William's military records, he stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall and also had a light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. He is buried in the Easley family cemetery near Harrisonville in Shelby County, Kentucky.

Their brother, my great-grandfather Edward Merritt Easley (1846-1903), survived the Civil War, which is why I am here. He served in the Union Army's 20th Regiment, Company B and as a corporal in the 30th Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Company G.

He was a successful real estate agent before the war, but he began showing signs of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after returning home and worked the rest of his life doing manual labor.
These kinds of disorders were misunderstood back then, and no treatment was offered by the U.S. government. He was still exhibiting behavioral issues when he married my great-grandmother, May Crouch Easley, in 1881 in Linn Creek, Missouri (they settled in Lebanon, Mo.). She was only 16 and he was 34. She and their children simply had to put up with these ongoing issues, which became worse over time.
Finally, in 1902, he was admitted by court order to the Federal Soldiers Home in St. James, Missouri.
From there he was admitted to State Lunatic Asylum #3 (a horrible name) in Nevada, Missouri, where he died in 1903.
May Easley became a widow at age 39 with five children to raise, including my beloved paternal grandfather Jess Harper Easley (1891-1983), who served in France during World War I. Thankfully he survived -- another reason why I'm here.
There are many other stories of military heroes in my family line, from the American Revolution to World War II.
I won't tell all the stories now, but I'm glad to have an opportunity to honor a few of them today.


  1. Thank you for telling us about these men, Ann. This is a lovely tribute.

    I know you don't mean to, but you shame me. I know so little about my ancestors' military service. My father's, yes. My uncle's. That's about it.

  2. Thanks for the memories, PIO Emeritus.
    When locals ask why my interest in loco history, you're the one to blame!

  3. Lovely tribute indeed, Ann. Thanks for sharing your family history. As a first generation American, my roots are not so deep.

  4. Interesting description "memory lapses and illusions" That would have been very scary for a young woman to deal with. I'm enjoying your family tree. Makes me want to dig into mine.