Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Civil War Ancestors: David A. Edmondson

At first, the story of my great-great-great grandfather David A. Edmondson (1809 -- 1864) appears to be a familiar one.  Furney Alfred Prevatte had a son by the same name, and Edward J. Thomas had a son whose name was probably identical.  (I am not sure about the middle name of Edward Thomas, the son.)  In both cases, it was the son who fought in the Civil War.  David A. Edmondson likewise had a son named David A. Edmondson, and that son fought in the War.  However, the father's name was David Adella Edmondson, whereas the son's name was David Adam Edmondson (1841-1921).  (Yes, "Adella" sounds to me like a strange name for a man.)  Also, in this case, both father and son were in the Confederate Army.  The father was a private in the Georgia Militia, although I'm not quite sure exactly what "PVT CO. DIST 660 7 GA. MIL." means, and the son was a private in Company C of the 26th Confederate Infantry.  1864 was a bad year for the Georgia Militia, and that may or may not have something to do with the date of the father's death; I have not been able to find any record that explains how he died.

A more important difference from other stories is this:  to the best of my knowledge, David Adella Edmondson is the only one of my ancestors to have both owned slaves and also fought in the Civil War.  The "slave schedule" from the 1850 Census shows him owning at least six slaves:  a man aged fifty, a woman aged 35, and four children aged 12, 9, 6, and 5.  Nothing more is recorded about them, not even their names, but the obvious implication is that these were a family.  This is the last entry on the page, so there might be more on the next page.

Certainly other ancestors of mine were also slave-owners.  As a general rule, the greatest number of slaves were owned by ancestors living sometime in the mid-1700's and in either Virginia or North Carolina; the maximum number I have found is twenty four, owned by David Adella Edmondson's great-grandfather, John Cox (1703-1764) of Virginia.  I am not at all sure what caused the general decline in slave-owning among my ancestors through the 1800's:  declining wealth?  distaste for the institution?  something different about the physical or economic environment between north Florida and Virginia?  The last option sounds like it has potential, but I can't really identify a difference, especially since my ancestors arrived fairly early in the colonization of both Virginia and Florida.

By the way, although I should not have to say this, slavery had been, was, is, and always will be a very bad thing.  This is true even in those cases where the treatment of slaves is not marred by cruelty.  Essentially, slavery is an affirmation by government and society of a metaphysical heresy:  the idea that some mere humans are a bit more than human, and that others are a bit less, with the consequence that those who are lesser have significance only insofar as they serve the conveniences of the greater.  This heresy is not always called slavery, but because it makes those in power feel justified in doing whatever they please, it reemerges in every society and generation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Civil War Ancestors: Furney Alfred Prevatte

I don't think anyone will be surprised that I'm not thrilled with certain contemporary trends, among them tattoos for everyone and idiosyncratic names for kids.  Don't let stereotypes fool you:  the trend of oddball names is not confined to any one racial group!  But as someone who is interested in genealogy, I am also annoyed by excessively conservative names.  It's not just that a search for a specific "George Richards" in America during the 1700s can be expected to return dozens, maybe hundreds of different individuals who may not be closely related, there is also the problem that the reuse of the same name within a family name can lead to all manner of confusion -- certainly for me, at any rate.  (I have a good example of the confusion extending to family folklore, but that does not pertain much to the branch I am dealing with today.)

This brings me to Furney Alfred Prevatte (30 June 1808 -- 28 May 1895), the father-in-law of James Wallace Conoley and the grandfather of William Furney Conoley.  He was a minister at the Baptist church in Raft Swamp Township; the church had been built on land donated by his brother James J. Prevatte.  So would the Confederacy want a clergyman in his early fifties to serve as a private?  Based on the case of John George Richards, who was 9 years older than Prevatte and a Methodist preacher (among other things), but who nevertheless served as a private, it is not entirely implausible; and indeed, the records show that Furney A. Prevatte was a private in Company D of the 18th North Carolina Infantry.

In this case, though, there is a much simpler explanation.  The Baptist preacher had a son who was born in 1842, and thus who would have been at the prime of his life for soldiering when he enlisted on May 18, 1861 -- and the son's name was also Furney Alfred Prevatte.  For some reason, the "Jr." (and "Sr.") seem not to have been carefully recorded before the 20th century, but surely it was only "Junior" who served in the war; there do not appear to be two different Furney Alfred Prevattes serving simultaneously, and the various biographies all mention "Junior's" military service, but none for "Senior".  

I cannot hope for a better description of the life of "Junior" than this, which comes from his second wife's obituary as it appeared in his local newspaper, The Robesonian
Of him it was written -- more than one time in long-ago issues of The Robesonian -- "He stood with Jackson at Chancellorsville, with Lee at Gettysburg." In a fight at Hanover Courthouse in Virginia, he was seriously wounded in the shoulder, and at the Battle of the Wilderness he was captured and taken to the federal prison at Elmira, N.Y. He was a prisoner there until Lee surrendered and became a trusted nurse in care of ill and dying Confederate soldiers. When the war ended in 1865, the then-young man returned to his home in the Saddletree area. Not only did he take an active part in veterans' affairs, serving in time as commander of the Willis Pope Camp, Confederate Veterans of Robeson County, but also he began to preach. Rev. Prevatte remained an active Baptist pastor throughout his life, following in the footsteps of his father, for whom he was named. It was said that he baptized Over 1,500 converts, married 500 couples and helped organize 16 churches in Robeson and adjoining counties. At the tune of his death on October 17, 1940, he was the oldest Confederate veteran in the county.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about "Junior" was his marriage to this second wife, the former Dora Moody.  The marriage took place in 1917, when he was a widower and nearly 75, and she was approaching 24.  In fact, "Junior" had officiated the marriage between Dora's father (another Baptist preacher) and mother.  That ... actually makes it a lot creepier, in my opinion.  If they had met as adults, it still would have been a startling age difference, but it seems that he, as a man in his fifties, must have known her as a little girl.  It would be interesting to know what she saw in him; Baptist preachers were not wealthy in 1917 North Carolina.  At any rate, she was fully an adult at the time of the marriage, and since her father officiated, apparently it met with family approval.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Selective Release of the Truth to Shape an Impression

Here is a good example of a phenomenon I have been complaining about for a long time.

A snapshot of's front page as it existed 7 Feb 2016 
at 15:47:39 EST.  This image is used under the fair use provision of 
copyright law for the purpose of commentary.

Notice the story that appears centered just beneath the headline story:  "POISON PEN?  Paper to publish names, addresses of police officers".  For reasons probably better understood by those in the industry, the title for the actual story when one clicks on the link is somewhat different:  "Texas newspaper plans to publish names, addresses of police officers".  As far as I know, nothing in this story is untrue, nor do I wish to comment on the style of writing of the story.  My point is merely that its placement makes it clear that the folks at Fox News want everyone to notice this story; they apparently wish us to accept it as one of the most important stories in the world at the time it was written.

Because, of course, there are an uncountably large number of equally true stories that could have occupied that position instead.  For example, many councils of the Knights of Columbus will be having a fish fry on Friday, February 12 -- the first Friday in Lent.  That is a true story, but few people would regard it as one of the most important things going on in the world today, so of course it does not appear in a prominent location, or indeed at all, on Fox News' web site.

So we are supposed to accept the story as not only true, but also important.  What makes it important?  Its importance comes from an overarching narrative into which we are supposed to buy.  In this case, the narrative is made clear from the trend of Fox News stories, particularly over the past year or so:  The police, or at least the local police, are "the best and brightest", noble knights in blue of whom an ungrateful public is scarcely worthy -- even though the police are unionized!  (The narrative is much less clear regarding federal police forces.)

OK, obviously I am a bit skeptical of this narrative.  The truth is, I consider it hopelessly simplistic and a dangerous assumption for any democracy; there is, after all, good reason to fear any "police state".  However, all news sources have their favorite narratives.  They constitute a major part of the bias of which people complain.  

My point is that although these editorial biases may not result in lies or even misleading reports -- though the latter happens with great regularity -- by carefully filtering the news they can create overall impressions which are entirely false.  No doubt that is sometimes the intention, but even when it is not, editorial positions determine the news coverage.  "We report, you decide" -- but what they report is meant to guide you down a primrose path to a decision they have determined in advance.

So far I have mentioned just one article, but this is just an example of the trend that jumped out at me for reasons that will be clear at the end of this post.  But in exactly the same position -- front and center just beneath the main headline on the main page -- at 7 am on Monday,  February 8, has chosen the story "CARRYING CONFUSION:  Obscure law denies some ex-cops weapons permit"/"Arcane NJ law prevents retired cops from carrying concealed weapon".  What an outrage (we are supposed to think)!  Well, no, it's not an outrage.  The law does not target retired police in general to be treated differently than the general public, which is what the scaremongering headlines imply. Instead, the law seems to set aside retired state police for preferential treatment when getting a concealed carry permit, only the state of New Jersey does not really consider retired university police retired state police.  Whether or not university police should count as state police is debatable, but it is debatable, and losing that debate merely puts them on the same level as other New Jersey residents.  However, the reader is primed to read the situation as outrageous discrimination against police.

This editorial filtering of the news controls not only which stories are featured, but also which stories are suppressed. has its own set of narratives, but they share little overlap with those of  As a result, the story "Miami police union president doxxes woman for accusing cop of speeding" can be found on, but not  It advances an narrative (about how things are falling apart in America) but not the narrative (about how wonderful American police are) -- but note that the objectionable act is exactly the same, the only difference being who is doing it to whom.

Oh, and just to drive home the point a bit further, on this same Monday morning there is an article on that fits into their narrative:  "Cop seeks $10mn from family of black teen he killed, claims he’s ‘traumatized’".

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stupid Math Joke

@1:50 -- Tenerence Love should have said, 
One divided by My Name is Tenerence Love
Equals My Name is Tenerence Love
Remainder Two.


Yeah, my guess is someone else has probably thought of this before already, but still....