Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Not Just a Twig on the Ancestral Vine

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Not Just a Twig on the Ancestral Vine

Article excerpt

The folded letter, now brittle, was written 135 years ago. It wouldn't be of interest to Andrew Carroll's War Legacy Project (Page 16), but it has enough meaning to my family that my great- grandmother, my grandmother, and my dad all saved it. Now it's mine, a link to an ancestor about whom I know little.

It's a request from David Rice McGhee, a Confederate soldier mired in the siege of Petersburg, Va., during the summer of 1864 that he be granted leave to return home because his wife was dying.

I've often wondered if he returned to his company after his sad journey was completed. Surely the temptation would be great not to go back. I've also puzzled over what motivated a possibly illiterate farmer from Bedford County in Virginia, who never owned a slave, to leave his wife and five children to fight in the Civil War.

Does the fact that he saved this leave paper until his death 45 years later indicate the importance he placed on his war experience? …

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