I had numerous ancestors who fought in the U.S. Civil War. On my mom’s side, one of my direct ancestors was a Union spy during the war. He was captured three times. We joke sometimes that he was better at escaping from Confederate prisons than he was at being a spy. He survived the war and lived a long life.
On my dad’s side, Dr. Isaac Proctor Farquhar put medical school on hold and became Private Isaac Proctor Farquhar, like many of his brothers did. The elder Farquhar brothers who were already doctors became officers in the Union army, while the younger Farquhar brothers became infantry. All survived, came home to their families and resumed their productive medical careers.
James Washington McAdow did not.
Sadly, James Washington McAdow seems mostly forgotten today. Of all the ancestors I’ve had to dig for, he was one of the most difficult to find, and that took a very lucky break. He left his wife Virginia and his young son Adalaska Garrett (who, as far as I can tell, used the name “Garrett”) to fight in the 18th Regiment of the U.S. Army as a Private. He died, as best I can tell, at the Battle of Chickamauga, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, on September 20, 1863, leaving behind a wife and a four-year-old son. That’s an educated guess; I know he died in Chckamauga, Georgia on September 20, which was the second day of that battle. So I’m assuming he was among the 1,657 killed at that battle.
My family forgot him. I’ve known for a long time that I was descended from a Nellie McAdow, who was born in Ohio, but I did not know her father’s name. The best my mom or I were ever able to dig up were that his initials were “A.G.” Then, one day, Mom found a piece of paper, in my handwriting. It was a family tree that I had filled out in grade school. On it, I found the name “Adalaska Garrett McAdow.” My grandmother must have helped me fill that out. Searching on that name led us to his father, James Washington McAdow, and we quickly surmised from the circumstances of his death that he must have died in the war.
Not all soldiers come home, and that’s why we have Memorial Day.