With the Help of a Friend
by Terry Hogan
Some of you may remember a column or two in the past concerning my decades-long genealogical search of my Hogan line. It stopped abruptly at my great grandfather, Jasper Newton Hogan, although I suspected that I knew who his father was. In a recent article, based on DNA analysis of the Y-chromosome, it is very likely that I'm correct. Jasper's father was Banester W. Hogan, born in North Carolina.
Interestingly enough, at least to me, Jasper served in the Company H of the 91st Illinois Infantry from 1862 to the end of the Civil War in 1865. His father, Banester, served in Company H of the 44th North Carolina Infantry, volunteering in 1862 and dying while on active duty in January 1863. Thus, father and son fought for the South and the North, respectively. It is very unlikely that either knew of the other's role in the war, however.
Jasper Hogan is buried in Galesburg, with a military marker, confirming his unit and service in the Civil War. I also have his military records from the National Archives.
Banester's burial site was unknown to me, although I knew he died at a hospital in Weldon, North Carolina on January 8, 1863. I knew this from his civil war records from the National Archives. As there were no reported battles near Weldon around that time, and because more troops died of disease than wounds, it was a good guess that he died of a disease.
Searching the Internet, I found a brief reference to a neglected Confederate burial ground in Weldon, North Carolina that contained an estimated 500 soldiers in unmarked graves. The land had been given, as a gift, to the Daughters of the Confederacy, who cleared the site of undergrowth and trash that had been dumped. A local black citizen donated the land containing the Confederate burial site. Time can heal many things among honorable folks.
There are on-going efforts by Weldon citizens to protect the burial site and to learn what they can about those buried. A state archeologist was recently invited to tour the site to see what insight he could bring.
An individual's name was given on the Internet that pertained to the burial site. After a few phone calls and referrals from one to another, I ended up talking with Bentley. Bentley spoke with an accent that I had not heard since I lived briefly in Virginia decades ago. That was when it was my time to served in the Army. Bentley offered to do a little research and to send me what he could find.
Time passed and I got an email from Bentley, apologizing for being slow. I responded and explained that I'd been searching for decades so a few weeks did not constitute "slow".
It wasn't much later that I received a large envelope through the mail. It was from Bentley. Inside was undoubtedly all available information, and a little more. Bentley had outdone himself and certainly far exceeded any reasonable expectations that I might have had. He sent a copy of a list of known Confederate deaths at Weldon. On the list was my great grandfather, Banester, as well as several others from his regiment. Bentley also provided information about the "hospital" in which Banester died. It was a church that had been taken over to serve as a hospital. It is reported that the old church was relocated years later and became the center section of a black church in Weldon. Nothing of the original church is visible.
Bentley confirmed that most of the deaths were due to disease ("fever") during the early part of the war as many of the soldiers assigned to Weldon were not resistant to the local fevers found in the marshy lowlands of the 1800's. Later in the war, some of the dead were war wounded who were shipped directly from the battlefield by rail, or transferred by rail from Richmond, Virginia hospitals that were overloaded.
Weldon, it turns out, was a crucial rail center for the south. There was a key railroad bridge across the Roanoke River at Weldon that connected northern Virginia to the rest of the Confederacy. As such, Weldon was heavily defended by the South. Bentley provide this information plus copies of local history of Weldon during the Civil War.
And if all of this was not enough, Bentley also sent photos of the burial site, and a drawing showing the location. Bentley topped this off with a small plastic bag that contained a "Williams Bullet", along with information about the bullet. The note assured me that it was collected from private land near Petersburg, Virginia - north of Weldon.
I'll likely never know for sure if Banester is buried at Weldon, but it is most likely. There is not record of his burial in Montgomery County, NC - where he and his wife and family lived when he enlisted. Therefore Weldon seems to be a probably burial site.
I sent Bentley an email thanking him, and noting that I'd be sending him a check to cover his costs and a little for his extra efforts. He quickly responded back, asking that I not send a check. He wrote that he enjoyed doing it.
So this article is a little bit about genealogy. But it is more about the kindness and goodness of people. People like the black man who donated the land to the Daughters of the Confederacy. People like those who cleared the site of weeds and brush and carted off the trash. People like Bentley who took the time to help someone whom he had never met.
Genealogy is not only about family. It is also about friends.