Monday, November 12, 2012

Military Monday - Civil War Pension of Joseph Jones, Pt 1

[Updated] Although yesterday was the legal public holiday for Veterans Day, the Monday after is treated as a Federal holiday. This means our little guy's school is closed. I also take this opportunity to begin a review of the Civil War pension of his 4th-great-grandfather, my third-great-grandfather, Joseph Thomas Jones.

On Friday I wrote about the wives of Joseph Jones, based from the information contained in his Civil War pension file. This post takes a closer look at that file. This is the start of a careful review of not only Joseph's military service during the Civil War but the impact of the war on Jefferson and Hamblen Counties in Tennessee, and the service of Joseph's relatives during those turbulent years.

For the moment, we're going to put to the side the Thomas Jones who was in the 61st Mounted Tennessee Infantry of the Confederate Army and captured at the Battle of Big Black River in May 1863. I have some theories on this, and will save them for a separate post.

The Pension File
As a record, the file at the National Archives is nearly two inches thick. There's a ton of information there, and I need to go back and make better copies. Joseph's Civil War pension file has been combined with the file of Harvey Bales, a private in Company M of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry in the Union Army. Based on the file and other records, Bales was born on 27 May 1844 in Greene County, Tennessee, and died on 8 June 1924 in White Pine, Jefferson County, Tennessee. He married young Pearl Cox Jones on 12 April 1911, over a year after Joseph passed away in 1910.

Joseph submitted a pension application for service in Companies C and L of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry in the Union Army. Joseph's cousins, Joseph Marion Thornhill and Thomas W. Thornhill, also served in Company C. 

Personal Appearance
In the service record for Joseph Jones (source, he is described as 5 foot 7 & 1/2 inches, with fair complexion, blue eyes and dark hair.

This record shows that he was a farmer, born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, and that he enlisted on 25 January 1863 in Grainger County, Tennessee. His pension file states he enlisted on 1 February 1863, was at Chickamauga in September 1863, where he contracted malaria and was discharged on 27 May 1865 after receiving treatment for malaria and diarrhea. There's also a question of a gap in service in 1864-1865.

Disputed Claim
A claim was filed on 28 June 1880 from Maryville, Blount County, Tennessee. In March 1885, a reviewer named Mr. Camp wrote to Mr. Van Mater, Chief Board of Review in the Pension Office, noting several inconsistencies in Joseph's file. Camp wrote, " my opinion [?] his silence on material points as evidence that he courts concealment. But for the fact that he is so ignorant he cannot write, claim is forwarded for rejection. Shall that action be taken? Shall it be further marked rejected or admitted as it stands?"

Van Mater's reply two days later was very brief. "Mr Camp, In my opinion, line of duty should be accepted and claim allowed." This did not end the review, and in April 1885, Joseph's case was referred to a Special Examination by the Department of the Interior, US Pension Bureau.
This claim was rejected on 5 April 1886, on the ground that the wound he claimed to have received did not occur in the line of duty. Joseph refiled his claim on 18 February 1890. This claim was rejected on 10 October 1902 on the ground of inability to produce satisfactory testimony. His application was later approved, and he was granted a pension of $15 per month.

Joseph's claim later made it to the attention of Congressman R. W. Austin in Washington, DC, who wrote to the Commissioner of the Bureau of Pensions in 1909 and 1910 on this case and the widow's claim later filed by Pearl Cox Jones.

A Shot in the Arm, and Confusing Testimony
The bulk of the file includes detailed medical reports and testimony from a variety of witnesses living in Jefferson and Hamblen Counties. It appears that Jones and his Thornhill cousins came back to Panther Springs in December 1864 after hearing something troubling about the command of Captain John Thornhill (he was a Captain in the 9th Tennessee Cavalry). The record notes there was a dispute over whether Joseph and the Thornhills deserted or were granted a furlough by their commander James P. Brownlow. There's also an earlier claim that Joseph deserted at Graysville, Georgia in June 1864.

Some of the testimony covers the discharge claims from May 1865 where he states he was suffering from rheumatism, malaria and diarrhea. In one document he states that he had trouble doing manual labor for several years and took a light job as a section boss with the railroad in Hawkins County. Then he got "considerably better and could make about half a hand on the farm."

Witness Eliza Line claimed that Joseph was shot in the arm by Rebel guerrillas who came to his home. The medical reports confirm he was shot.

Witness Madison Line stated that Joseph told her Brownlow had granted him a furlough and that he had not deserted.

There's a letter in the file dated 24 March 1888 from the Adjutant General's Office removing the charge of desertion dated 26 June 1864 from Joseph's record, stating "He was absent without proper authority from June 26, 1864 to April 28, 1865."

It appears that there is confusion over whether Joseph was acting as a scout for his cousin Captain Thornhill or had deserted (or if there was something else going on). Many of the witnesses were related by marriage or birth.

There's also an affidavit in the file signed by Joseph's brother-in-law, Anderson Walker, from Thorntown, Boone County, Indiana, where we states Joseph received the gunshot wound while on "special detailed duty...under the order of Capt John A Thornhill." Walker, who was also a member of Company L, married Joseph's sister Margaret Caroline Jones on 25 July 1865. The family moved to Indiana before continuing on to Kansas.

Another note signed by Joseph states that "I was detailed under Capt. Thornhill during the time above mentioned [June 26, 1864 to February 28, 1865] I was in the United States service all the time, never was absent a day till wounded."
I have lots of questions. Was Joseph really detailed as a scout for Captain Thornhill in 1864-1865? What was going on in this part of the county at the time? I'm interested in reading further about the Civil War history of Jefferson County, and have a few books on my wish list to look up at the Library of Congress during the upcoming holidays. I am hoping that other researchers have devoted some time describing what was happening with the 9th Cavalry in the Dandridge and Morristown area, as I think this may shed some light on what happened. I also need to pull the pension files related to John A., Joseph Marion and Thomas W. Thornhill.

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