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Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Civil War Ancestors: John George Richards and Daniel Thomas Richards


The recent hubbub over the Confederate flag has spurred me to investigate my Confederate ancestors, and from that I have moved on to a more general inquiry into my genealogy.  This is still ongoing, incomplete in places and probably inaccurate in a few places I'll mention when they come up.  Two Confederate soldiers on my father's side are pretty well documented, though:  John George Richards and Daniel Thomas Richards. That makes them a good place to start a new series of posts.
Daniel Thomas Richards (1825-1879), survivor of an Indian attack on Fort Richards/Fort Place, and son of Rev. John G. Richards of Wewahitchka, built Moss Hill Methodist Church in Vernon (1857), Chipola Primitive Baptist (1873), and organized the Chipola Methodist Church (1874) in his log home. In 1876 Daniel and his sons built a log church near this site.  -- Historical Marker at the Site of Altha Methodist Church, Florida
On this site are the remains of early area settlers, the Richards family. As a prominent Virginia Colonial family, George Richards (1727-1818) was with Washington at Braddock’s Defeat (1755), and with his sons in the Revolutionary War (1776). The family served in the War of 1812, Florida Indian Wars and Richards Company of Friendly Indians, settling Ocheese Bluffs, Wewahitchka, and Altha. As one of Florida’s first pioneer families and Interpreters for Andrew Jackson for Florida treaties, they built Fort Richards where George’s son Thomas C. Richards (1774-1838) was killed during an Indian attack. Thomas’s son, Rev. John G. Richards (1797-1876), built the church and named Wewahitchka, and served as Calhoun County Elections Inspector (1843), Clerk of the Court (1851) and in Company A 2nd Florida Calvary. His son, Daniel Thomas Richards (1825-1879), buried at this site, survived the fort’s attack and built Moss Hill, Chipola Baptist and Altha Methodist Churches. He was a Civil War Veteran (6th Florida Infantry Regiment Company G wounded at Chickamauga, Georgia in 1863) and Washington County Clerk of Court.  -- Historical Marker at the Site of Richards Cemetery, Florida
... Daniel Thomas Richards is reported to be the first white child born in Calhoun County.  Six weeks later he was left motherless when Eliza Porter Richards died of pneumonia.  Eliza was only 15 years old.  Daniel T. Richards was living in the fort at Wewahitchka, FL with his grandparents Indians attacked his Uncle James Richards home in 1838. His grandfather and sons built the first Methodist Church in Wewahitchka. It was a one room church of hewn logs. After his marriage, Daniel T. Richards and his wife continued to live in the fort. They moved to Washington Co. near Econfina Creek and made it their home for many years.  Later they moved to Jackson County, south of Marianna and then to Calhoun County. The Civil War forced Daniel T. to leave his wife and young children with no one to take care of his farm. He was mustered into the 6th Florida Infantry, Company G on March 11, 1862.  While he was gone, his wife welcomed other young women left with no means of support into their home. These women and children remained together for the duration of the war.  --  State Archives of Florida Online Catalog, "Richards Family photographs, 1865-1908."
At the time of the 1850 census, Daniel Thomas Richards was living in a small household consisting of himself, his wife Ann (née Nelson), their infant son John Daniel, and his wife's brother Rambling Nelson, who was 20 years old but was already a veteran of the Mexican-American War.  (If "Rambling" was a nickname, it seems to have been one he went by his whole life, including his military pension application.)  By the 1860 census Rambling had moved out and three additional children had been added.

The 1830 census shows the household of John Richards consisting of himself, one "free white woman" (his wife, the former Eliza Porter, who would have been about 20) and one child (Daniel Thomas, who would have been about 5).  The family had grown by 1840, and even more by 1850.

It appears that at no time did either John Richards or Daniel Richards own slaves.  (The two previous generations had owned slaves, especially George Richards, Sr., but I will go into detail about them in a later post.)  The Methodist Church, of which John Richards was a minister, was at least "in principle" opposed to slavery, with John Wesley having written against it, so perhaps this was a religious decision, or perhaps it was a part of a pattern of the growing distaste for slavery (few if any of my other Confederate ancestors were slaveholders), or perhaps Daniel and John Richards were simply land-poor -- it is not clear which.  Regardless, they had no direct incentive to support slavery, but they appear to have genuinely supported the Confederate cause.  This is not a surprise, because suggesting that the Confederate cause was only about slavery is as absurd as suggesting that Pat Tillman enlisted to fight for cheap oil.

They did not enlist until there was a general conscription in effect, but at that time they were 37 and 63 years old, respectively, which is beyond the ideal age for a private.  Daniel Richards obviously saw action, though, since he was wounded at Chickamauga. As for John Richards, my guess is that he was either mustered out (or into a kind of home guard), as too old to be useful at the front, or was assigned some sort of clerical duty, for which his previous public service indicates he was well-suited.  The other possibilities are that he served as a chaplain, but he seems to have been a private, not an officer, and he does not appear on lists of chaplains; or he might have just been exceptionally blessed, since he did survive the war.  (Update 7 Sep 2015: A John Richards appears as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Florida 4th Infantry Co. B, having mustered in on 30 Apr. 1861 and discharged in August 1864 for disability.  I am unsure whether this could be the same John Richards, but it is plausible, given his position in the community and his experience as a 1st Lieutenant in Richards' Company of Friendly Indians.  There are other surviving documents on Fold3.com that probably through additional light on the career of "John Richards", but the handwritten notes are too indistinct for me to read them.)

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