Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Civil War Ancestors: James Wallace Conoly

All my previous posts in this series have been from my father's side of the family, but the stories from my mother's side are similar.  A natural place to start is with James Wallace Conoly (2 Jul 1840 -- 3 Jul 1922), because my mother's maiden name was Conoley (note the slight change in spelling).  In fact, I met his son, my great-grandfather William Furney Conoley (27 Sep 1871 -- Aug 1978) -- or, more accurately, I was in the same room with him and saw him, since I was a child with nothing to say to a man over 100, and he in turn was blind and mostly deaf.

The only stories from the meeting are ones I have heard from my dad, though I find nothing in my own memory to contradict them.  The first is that Great-Granddaddy Conoley kept asking for "something sweet in my mouth, please!"  Being blind, deaf, and confined to a wheelchair, good food was about the only pleasure left to him, but the food at the nursing home was what we have all come to expect from nursing homes:  bland, unsalted, and unsweetened.  The other is that there was a specific yell that had to be made right into his ear that would let him know that family had come.  This was a yell that had been used in his youth to announce that the person approaching was a member of the family, and not, I suppose, a potential enemy.   Theodore Roosevelt discusses in Through the Brazilian Wilderness how this same custom is practically universal among those who live in the wilderness:
The early Saxons in England deemed it legal to kill any man who came through the woods without shouting or blowing a horn; and in Nhambiquara land at the present time it is against etiquette, and may be very unhealthy, to come through the woods toward strangers without loudly announcing one's presence.
Regarding my great-great grandfather, James Wallace Conoly, though, I have no real stories, probably in no small part because my grandfather, Roy Conoley, Sr., was not particularly close to my brother and me.  At any rate, if he passed on any stories about his grandfather, they were not to me.  

This leaves me with just the historical record, which is quite bare.  In the 1860 census, James Wallace Conoly was living in a household headed by his mother, Ann (Patterson) Conoly (45) and a Duncan Matthews (72).  Since Ann Conoly's mother had been Sarah (Matthews) Patterson, this Duncan was probably an uncle of hers on her mother's side.  Two brothers and one sister of James W. Conoly rounded out the family.  As in each case I've been able to trace, there were no slaves owned by my ancestors at the time of the Civil War.

When the war started, he joined Company D of the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry, and North Carolina Troops 1861-1865:  A Roster contains only these few lines about him (on page 131 of volume 2):
Enlisted in Cumberland County at age 20, July 22, 1861 for the war.  Mustered in as Private and appointed Corporal April 1-September 30, 1864.  Present or accounted for through September 1864.
His pension application contains the statement,
During the fight in White Oak Swamp in Northern Virginia I was wounded in my right arm.  I cannot give exact date but it was in the month of September 1863.  However, my wound did not disable me for the remainder of the war.
James Wallace Conoly died in the same North Carolina county (Robeson) in which he had been born and to which his grandfather and great-grandfather, both named Daniel Conoly, had moved from Scotland.  His son William Furney Conoley moved to Florida about 1900.

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