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.

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