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Monday, September 10, 2018

Two More Civil War Ancestors Discovered: Southern Unionist Served In Union Army

updated from 10-29-17 post: typo correction.

Stith J. Landtroop was the Uncle of our
John Daniel Littrell and Cassandra  Urban
was John’s grandfather.

Farmer  Cassandra Urban [age 36] and his brother-in-law, Stith J. Landtroop [age 16], enlisted in Company B of the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment. three days apart (February 3-6, 1864) in Pulaski, Tennessee.

Cassandra was described as 5’8” tall dark hair, dark eyes, and dark complexion. He is listed as deserting* in Mooresville, AL, on April 13, 1864, the same day he is also shown as ‘mustering in’ at Decatur, AL.

dedicStith is shown as deserting* in Rome, GA, on August 15, 1864 with his carbine and equipment.

*from Teaching History.org : “I have found that most of the men said to be deserters in the Adjutant General's reports by State and their CMSRs actually served honorably and were mustered out from a "second" regiment. I believe these men received permission to transfer but the adjutant for their "first" regiment simply failed to note the order.” this appears to be the case with Cassandra and Stith as they obviously didn’t desert.   GlennDL

Free State of Nickajack: 

Nickajack was made up of loosely defined regions of Alabama and Tennessee where popular sentiment remained loyal to the Union, and were decidedly anti-slavery. 

There had been increasing talk of secession by the politicians representing wealthy plantation owners in the Black Belt. Hill country residents in the Nickajack areas, however, were typically poor dirt-farmers and rarely slave owners. They believed a war of secession would be "a war for the rich, fought by the poor," and they wanted to have nothing to do with it.

Composed of parts of Southeast Tennessee and North Alabama, Nickajack was home to many Southern Unionists who resisted the yoke of the Confederacy and attempted to form their own state – to be called Nickajack – from parts of both states.

The residents of these parts of Alabama and Tennessee had little in common with the wealthier parts of the state. Plantations and slaves were scarce in the Nickajack region, as was agriculture like that of the central and southern parts of Alabama and the central and western parts of Tennessee. There was little support for secession or the Confederacy in the Nickajack region.

One in ten southern soldiers served in the Union Army.

Southern unionists were not threatened by Lincoln’s election but saw him more as a blank slate. They were willing to give him a chance as president and did not see the federal government as any threat to their property rights.


Family Civil War Story:

All my life I have heard a story about how our male  ancestors had to hide in the woods during the day, come out to work the crops at night, and crawl under the house to be fed through the floor boards by the women folk, for fear of being discovered and forced to go off to war.

When I got older and started to do research on our family history I found several flaws in the story:

  1. Virtually every southern family has such a Civil War story.
  2. The story was always assumed to be about a Littrell ancestor, but our Littrell Ancestor (Eli Literal) did serve in the Confederacy for most of the war until his death at Tunnel Hill.
  3. The children of this ancestor were two young to of ever been under threat of being forced to serve. Specifically our direct ancestor, Timmons Literal.

I approached Aunt Onene about my concerns and she was a little offended that I doubted the story. She emphasized that she heard the story many times from her grandmother Mary Catherine Urban Literal. This further complicated the story because Mary Catherine was not married to Timmons during the Civil War, both were too young, so it couldn’t be our Timmons. At the time we had no information on our Urban ancestors serving during the Civil War.

It wasn’t that I doubted Aunt Onene, I’m sure she heard the story from her grandmother, but I did start to think that she might be mistaken about which Grandmother. Her grandmother on her Ezell side of the family (Cynthia Poteet Ezell) was the spouse of a Civil War veteran,a southern unionist.

It has been my experience that most family tradition/myth/stories are factual in their nature, just absent of facts after being told so many times for so long. Another family story (an Ezell story) has been handed down for generations about four brothers (three Union and one Confederate) serving during the war. As it turns out the facts are that it was an Uncle and three nephews (two were brothers). So you see, factual, but with inaccurate facts.

The problem with the theory that it was Cynthia feeding her boys through the floorboards was that her oldest son was only 5 at the start of the war.

At this point I accepted the possibility that the story was more than likely about a non-direct family member. An Civil War family closely connected to Mary Catherine or Cynthia. That Onene did hear it from one of them, most likely Mary Catherine, and as the story was told it it became less and less accurate.

Until now. The discovery of above mentioned Stith and Cassandra and the information on the Nickajack region sheds new light on the story as follows:

  1. Virtually every southern family has such a Civil War story: This observation is no less true than when pointed out above, but the story of the southern unionist in the Nickajack region corresponds to the enlistment of Stith and Cassandra.
  2. The story was always assumed to be about a Littrell ancestor, but our Littrell Ancestor (Eli Literal) did serve in the Confederacy for most of the war until his death at Tunnel Hill: We rule out our Littrell ancestor because he enlisted in the Confederacy, meaning that his late age entry after years of not serving was less likely to be ideological. On the other hand with Stith and Cassandra (one was too old to be conscripted and the other too young) their decision to enlist in the northern army points towards an ideological motive. It would also point to them, at least Cassandra, having anti-slavery/secessionist motives.
  3. The children of this ancestor were to young to have been under threat of being forced to serve. Specifically our direct ancestor, Timmons Literal: Mary Catherine is brought back into the story through her mother (Susannah) by her father and uncle. As an anti-slave/anti-secessionist, Cassandra’s late enlisting could have placed him under the floorboards for the preceding years of the war. The fact was that at age 36 he still couldn’t just come out of the woods to work the farm and claim that he was no longer subject to the draft. This may have forced him to face the fact that the war was not going to end without more civic participation.  
On the night of July 14,1862, Chris Sheats, spoke to a gathering of unionists telling his fellow Alabamians that the time had come join the army of the United States and fight the Confederacy “to hell and back again.”
“Tomorrow morning I am going to the Union army…I have slept in mountains, in caves and caverns, till I am become musty; my health and manhood are failing me, I will stay here no longer till I am enabled to dwell in quiet at home.”

Refusing to serve the confederacy was not a minor infraction. The penalty was anything from forced service to death. Cassandra would have had to remain hidden until the war was ended…one way or the other unless he enlisted.
In addition, Stith’s enlistment points at the presence of another ‘under the floorboard’ family member. Stith was too young to be conscripted, but if the draft age had not been expanded by this time (even for Cassandra) it would be soon. More importantly, Stith was the youngest of Susannah’s brothers. Four of her other Landtroop uncles could have been hiding under floorboards. Susannah had 4 young children when Cassandra enlisted, which would probably have made it impossible to farm and would have necessitated her moving back in with her father or brothers. Obviously the odds are very high that she experienced the floor board story at some level.

So as you can see it is most probable that Onene was right, she did here the story from her mother, Mary Catherine, but not about Mary Catherine’s husband, but about her father and uncles.

The dangers of being a southern Unionist:

Henry Tucker, a private in Company B, of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, US,(the same company as Cassandra and Stith) was arrested by the Home Guard at his home in Marion County and tortured to death. He was tied to a tree, castrated, his eyes removed and his tongue cut out before he was literally skinned alive. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery, south of Glen Allen, Ala.

But Tucker’s vicious death was avenged. Home Guard leader Stoke Roberts who personally directed the torture of Tucker, was eventually caught by a group of unionists near Winfield. They took a long iron spike and drove it through his mouth and out the back of his head and nailed him to the root of a big oak tree.


In an irony not lost on modern historians, the Confederacy, created to preserve the principle of states’ rights over the primacy of the central government, instituted the draft by act of the new central government. Passed by the Confederate Congress in April 1862, it imposed manpower quotas on the individual states. Every able-bodied white male between the ages of 18 and 35 was subject to military service. Each state was required to produce a certain number of men for the Confederate armies. If a state’s quota wasn’t filled by volunteers, the men must be conscripted. In the hill counties of the Southern states, including north Alabama, volunteering fell far short of the numbers required. Frustrated at the refusal of these “tories” to see the light, Governor Frank Shorter of Alabama sent conscription parties, most composed of Home Guards, into the northern counties with leave and license to coerce their reluctant neighbors into the Confederate army. To refuse meant jail at the very least, and, quite possibly, death. To make matters worse, through much of the war north Alabama was occupied by the forces of both sides, and groups of bushwhackers, many of them deserters from both armies, sprang up to prey on the people. Farms were burned, livestock, goods and money looted, and murder was not uncommon. Little wonder, then, that these men, set upon in every conceivable way by their fellow citizens, chose to take up arms and return the favor.
History of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, USV
                             Knights of the Free State of Nickajack
                             The First Alabama Cavalry, United States Volunteers
                             By Steve Ross         

excerpted from:

“Military Roll Call: The Littrell Family
of Mississippi County, Missouri”
Chapter 1.
The Revolution. (click here)
Littrell Family Veterans Video


"Walking Among The Stones: The Littrell Family of
Lawrence County, Tennessee & Mississippi County, Missouri

Chapter 2. The Lost Littrell Cemetery.

reposted from 11-5-2016:   75 / 122 / 185

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