Thursday, April 26, 2012

Walk into your past......a civil war story of tragedy, courage, passion, and loyalty. {Part 1}

Over the last several months, I've spent what "free" time I can find dabbling around in some of my family history.
I am by no means a professional genealogist, but I have learned a couple of things or two when it comes to tracing your family roots via the internet.
One thing I've found is the AH-mazing amount of information that is available for you to find with extreme ease from the comfort of your own home.
It just takes some time.
And that is what is a rare and precious commodity for me.
I can usually only find the quiet, uninterrupted time to concentrate and research when my children are safely, peacefully tucked into their beds.
Recently, I've had some real struggles with depression and hormonal imbalance, and it has left me feeling despondent, unmotivated, tired, and overwhelmed with all that is on my plate on a daily basis.
In an effort to keep moving, and to focus on something interesting, and to not drown in self-pity, I've allowed myself some extra time snooping around in my family history while my husband tends to the children.
That has helped me get through some really tough spots.

I had been hunting diligently for anything I could find on the family history of my Grandfather from my mother's side.    My mother's father was not the friendliest guy around, but he was delightfully quirky and humorous.
Slightly mean and obnoxious, but he had a soft spot for his grandchildren.
He never talked about his family though.
He passed away on Easter Sunday in 1994, and I wished I had had the tenacity when I was younger to really push for more information.
I remember sorting through some old, sepia colored family photos in a box at their apartment outside of Philadelphia one summer, and he would name off some of the fellows in the pictures.
But that was it.
When I pulled out two extraordinarily old photos (think victorian era) of a man in what looked to me like a civil war uniform, and an older woman dressed in heavy black cotton sitting in an ornate chair, my grandfather could not tell me who these people were.
It was like he was seeing these photos for the first time.
So I put them in a box and promptly forgot I had them.

Then several weeks ago, I made an extraordinary find!
I feel I must share it as a means of recording this for my own children so that this story is not lost again.
I'm just astounded that this story was not preserved in the family....that I had to dig around and put it together by makes me sad.
I want to keep these stories alive, to use them as a means of teaching character to my own children!

William J. Gallagher
A civil war story of courage, passion, and loyalty.

On March 11, 1848, William J. Gallagher and Sarah Ann Rhoades were married privately in the home of the Reverend Daniel Dodge, the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Philadelphia, PA.
No witnesses were there, just the pastor and some of his family.
He was 23 and she was approximately 24.....and expecting their first baby.
He wasn't their pastor.
You see, they lived in Wilmington, Delaware, 30 miles from Philadelphia.
It was a different time.
There was a stigma associated with carrying a baby before marriage.
So, they couldn't marry in their hometown and receive the good wishes of family and friends.
They began their union quietly, and went back to Wilmington to begin their life together.
In late summer, their first son, John Stotseuberg Gallagher was born.
By 1850, the young family had joined St. Andrews (Episcopal) Church in Wilmington and baptized their first son, and William was employed in leather production.
Within the next 10 years, they added 5 more children, one of which died at the young age of 20 months.
His name was George Alfred and it is unknown what caused his death.
In April of 1861, the War of the Rebellion had been declared.
Delaware was a border state, a slave state that was thought to be against military coercion of the Confederacy, though it never declared its succession.
But the Gallagher's pastor (rector), Bishop Alfred Lee, was very vocal
 about his opposition to slavery.
William J. Gallagher decided to get involved.
He joined Regiment 3, Company B of the Delaware Infantry as 2nd Lieutenant in Wilmington, Delaware on October 12, 1861.
In June 1862, he was "with his detachment in charge of camp and baggage at Harper's Ferry" in 
Virginia (which later became West Virginia).
By October of that year, he was sick, but received a promotion from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant   the following month (November 1862.)
He received orders from General Robert C. Schenck to apprehend deserters back in Delaware in the following months.
But William was not feeling well.
In fact, for two years he had been dealing with a painful, discharging "fistula."
He also had a chronic abcess that was so debillitating to him that the company surgeon,
declared in a certificate that he was "unfit for duty" and that "because of the nature of his diseases, and the depraved condition of his constitution, there remained no hopes that he would, ever again, be fit for military service."
William signed his letter of resignation on February 10, 1863, and was honorably
discharged on February 16th.
He goes home to Sarah and his children in Wilmington to recover and enjoy some time getting to know his newest son, William Johnson, who had been born while he was fighting at Harper's Ferry
in June of the previous year.
On July 6, 1864, the Confederate General Jubal Early crossed the Potomac River

That unit was the 7th Regiment of the Delaware Infantry.
William J. felt the call.
He had obviously recovered enough to feel he could go where he was needed in an emergency situation.
Sarah probably begged him not to go.
He had been honorably discharged due to a disability, he had made it home alive, and now they
had a brand new, 2 month old son, Evan Watson Gallagher.
But William was determined.
He was loyal to the cause.....
and was for a maximum of 30 days....right close to home.
So, he mustered in on July 11 in Company C in Wilmington.
But just days before the term of service was over,
he contracted typhoid fever while in Havre De Grace, MD.
He was quickly removed to Wilmington, Delaware were he died on August 10, 1864.
Sarah was left behind with 7 living children ages 16 to 3 months.
She was able to file for and receive a widow's pension in the amount of $15 a month for herself until her death and $2 a month for each child until they reached the age of 16.
Sarah passed away at the age of 70 in 1883 of heart disease.
Her youngest son, Evan Watson Gallagher, married and had 4 boys.
His oldest son, Evan Hazel Gallagher, died at the age of 28 in October 1918 
after contracting the flu and pneumonia
during the infamous Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.
He left behind his wife of 6 years and their 5 year old son, my grandfather,
Norman Council Gallagher.
It wasn't until a couple weeks ago that I remembered the photographs
 I had asked my grandfather about.
I'm just sure this is William J. Gallagher.

And this would have been his wife, Sarah Ann Rhoades Gallagher.

This story is just so dramatic and inspiring to me.  
A testament to a great tenacity of will, and standing with your fellow countrymen for a cause you are passionate matter the cost.
Yes, it has a tragic ending.
But is it the end of the story........I think not.

In tomorrow's post {Part 2}I would like to present my thoughts on this story and some of the tremendous lessons that can be learned.
It is just rich with truth that can be gleaned from lives lived during a tumultuous time in American history.
The culture was changing........the way women were viewed was changing, the way an entire race of people was viewed was changing, politics and the western expansion of our country was influencing the culture!
The stories of these men and women have much to teach us!!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

A couple years ago, I read a series of books on WWII. As the Germans marched through the Belgian town of Stavelot, some of the townspeople resisted by taking potshots at the Germans from windows and rooftops. In retaliation, the Germans killed 130 of the townspeople, over half of them women and children, including some babies. Besides being a terrible tragedy, I was struck (and still am as I write this) that 50 miles away lived another Belgian family--father, mother, and children. They survived WWII, and because of that, I am here today. That father and mother were my grandparents, who emigrated to the US in January of 1948, when my grandmother was 5 months pregnant with my father, who became the first native born American of his family. Although they didn't know it, God directed them to northwest Ohio, where my father would meet my mother, become a Christian, and become the Christian leader of our home. What a difference 50 miles can make!