Sunday, May 11, 2014

Threads Make Up the Weave

Hard Honesty, as a blog, was initially created as a digital beacon: I'm signalling to other researchers that I want to know as much as possible about 'Uncle' Monk (died 1835), slave-named Estill. (See the tab above.) He saved the life of my 4x great-grand-father, and became the first slave freed in what is now Kentucky.

Over time, another character in my family tree, Squire Turner (1793-1871) became a subject of deep research. Think of him as a protégé of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay (1777-1852): a fellow Whig jurist with superior legislative talent. Ardently pro-slavery, Turner fades from history to waver, mainly, as a foil in one of the manic excesses perpetuated by Clay's pro-emancipation cousin, Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903). 'Cash' Clay interrupted an 1849 campaign speech to disembowel Turner's son, Cyrus.

Another cousin, Antonia Ford (1838-1871) has my attention as well. She was implicated in the 1863 capture of a sleeping Union General by Confederate partisan raider, Lt. John S. Mosby. Ford was deemed a spy and imprisoned. The story pivots when a Union captor fell in love with Ford, left the army, and married her. (Antonia and I descend from Randolphs and Fords, occasionally depicted here.) Ford and her husband, Major Joseph Clapp Willard (Ret.), adjourned to his civilian role; as a wealthy proprietor of the Willard Hotel, premises of such profound influence in the nation's capital, it's as if the term 'lobbyist' would have originated there.

I'm currently unpacking the military exploits of Jeremiah Turner (1840-1917). Slave to Squire Turner, Jeremiah gained his freedom by enlisting in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. One of his descendants makes a compelling case that Jeremiah and I are related: Jeremiah is to have been the product of a slave rape by Squire or his father (my 3x great-grandfather, 'Ol' Marsh' Thomas Turner (1764-1847). In September, re-creators will gather at Camp Nelson, Kentucky - where Jeremiah enlisted - 150 years to the day of that enlistment. I want Jeremiah's great-great-grandsons to know of their ancestor's sacrifices for a re-configured Union.

I've been documenting the tortuous path the Lincoln administration took, in giving legal cover to drafting/ recruiting/ impressing slaves in the loyal state of Kentucky during the Civil War.

It's really just a small observation ... amidst huge reams of data that seem to clamor for my attention.

"After the fall of Fort Sumter and before Lincoln's call for troops could be met, Washington appeared to be defenseless." A "semblance of order" was created by Cassius M. Clay of Kentucky who, while negotiating with Lincoln for appointment as his Minister to Russia, "hastily organized" a small command: the 'Clay Battalion.'

"With three pistols strapped to his waist and carrying both a sword and his favorite knife, [Clay] was an inspiring sight at his headquarters in Willard's Hotel."
- pp. 131-132,  Lincoln of Kentucky by Lowell Harrison (2000)

Long enamored by Jungian synchronicity, I was momentarily stupefied as the tangled weave of three story lines manifest itself as a trio of overlapping threads.

Setting the stage for Jeremiah's eventual call to arms, I had uncovered a word portrait of not only the man ... but perhaps the very Bowie knife ... that had taken Cyrus Turner's life a dozen years earlier. (Jeremiah - and Cyrus' orphaned son, Charles - were nearly the same age & stayed in life-long relationship.) It takes but little imagination to see Antonia Ford's future husband in the background: as proprietor of the Willard Hotel, he was undoubtedly seeing to the flamboyant Clay's every need. It would be the following April before Joseph Willard would secure a position as Aide-de-camp on Brigadier General Irvin McDowell's staff.

I'm willing to give Google some of the credit. Algorithms have long been tracking my search predilections; they know of my hunt for Squire Turner and Cassius Clay, and may well have ranked results so that I'd come across Harrison's work.