Grey and Blue

By Millie Woods, Air Force wife and founder of the Ruidoso Military Appreciation Weekend (MAW)

My family, the Evans family lived in Hertford County, N.C. and owned the only gristmill in the state.  They also owned slaves.  My Great Grandfather, Elisha, had a cousin who was the first female to graduate from a university in the state of North Carolina.  Elisha’s older brother, Jim, had been fighting in the American Civil War since the beginning. When Elisha joined the Army, he lied about his age, and got in as a drummer boy at the age of 15.  He immediately began searching for his older brother, going from one camp to the next. They were reunited when Jim recognized Elisha as he walked through the many rows of cots, searching faces for his brother.  Jim’s face was still black from cannon gunpowder, and Elisha was passing him by, when Jim raised up on one elbow, calling out to Elisha.  Three weeks later, the American Civil War ended.

The two Evans boys collected their salaries, and the elder Evans bid their sons farewell, knowing they would likely never see them again, and they did not.  The boys boarded a Mississippi River boat and began their journey to the new world, Texas.

A large family, named Valentine, which included four teenaged girls boarded in Mississippi.  By the time they disembarked at the Port of Houston, the two Evans boys were in love.  The elder Valentines invited Jim and Elisha to join them on their journey inland to find a place to settle.  The group boarded the train and rode it to the end of the line, Humble, Texas. There the group bought two wagons, four mules, and enough supplies and food items to get them to Rockdale, Texas.  Jim became owner of the only mercantile store in Milam County, and he had one child who died at birth.  Elisha, my Great Grandfather, married Carrie Melissa Valentine and they had eleven children.

Elisha was considered a wealthy man.  He owned thousands of acres of crops and he had a house full of children.  He often stood on the second story deck of his large home, looking out over his fields and congratulating himself for his accomplishments.  He realized that he was a very fortunate man, and he took credit for his wealth and his fine family.  He was a deacon in the church.  One daughter played the piano in the church.  Another daughter played the organ, and his other children made up the most of the choir.  He often told himself, “Well done, Elisha, look what you have done since arriving in Texas”.

In 1918 flu epidemic claimed eight of his children and three daughters-in-law.  His daughters Betty, Ruth, and Mary and wife, Carrie, were all who remained of his family. Ruth married a carpenter and had my mother, Cora Ailene.  I was born five years and one week after my brother.  I have two younger sisters, and I was reared in a family of seven in Waco, Texas.  I became the genealogist in the family and traced Uncle Jim’s military history through his military records.  Great Grandfather Elisha was too young and was in too short a time to be recorded in the annals of the American Civil War.

In 1996, my nephew, Rodney Jack Owens (who was on the USS Enterprise when the plane crashed through the deck, killing many of his sailor buddies) and I arranged for Uncle Jim to have a military funeral ceremony at his grave site. He and Elisha are both buried, along with their wives and children in the Lexington Cemetery.  There is a bronze plaque at the foot of Jim Evans’ grave.  It gives the dates of his service in the Confederate Army of the American Civil War.   I drove my mother to the cemetery in Lexington.  That was a highlight of my mother’s last eight years.  She died in 2004 at the age of 97.

My Mother recalls how her Grandfather used to complain about those damned Confederate soldier neighbors, long after the Civil War was over, who still complained that their military pay checks were less than his.  Spoils of war.  So the war raged on between the old men who fought in the gray and blue of the American Civil War.


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