Soldiers, families suffered during Civil War

Published 9:46 am Saturday, August 20, 2011

by Phillip Wood

On the issue of the Civil War and slavery, let’s go back to 1860 Virginia, where more than 10 percent of free blacks held ownership papers on other blacks, and in South Carolina, more than 16 percent of free blacks owned slaves with some free blacks owning plantations with many slaves.

Most families in the South — no matter what race — did not own slaves. In the back country and mountain areas, whites and free blacks lived on hardscrabble farms, living no better and some even worse than slaves.

There were only so many wealthy plantation owners with large slave holdings. You read of Lincoln’s humble beginnings and being born in a log cabin in Kentucky. During that period, most back country people lived in log cabins and were poor.

Few Southern soldiers owned slaves; some say less than

6 percent, although some people today have pushed those numbers up to 18 to 20 percent with few of those holding large numbers. The thousands of common soldiers North and South alike were not fighting this war to keep or end slavery.

Many wealthy northern families paid substitutes to fight for their family members. There were prominent and politically connected northern families that owned plantations and large slave holdings in Cuba and South America into the late 1880s. We did not extinguish 600,000 lives to free those slaves.

It ended there as it would have here without all the death and destruction of the war. Slavery is an evil institution that started when time began, and it thrives all over the world today and probably will go on forever. The war was started over money and political power as most wars are.

It evolved into a much larger and longer tragedy than any of the political powers North or South could have imagined. It became a slavery issue when the North saw that as a way to keep England and France from giving more assistance to the South.

My great-great-grandfather from Meadows of Dan, which is in the mountains of Patrick County, owned no slaves. In May 1862, at the age of 34, he left his wife and four small children to walk about 75 miles to Wytheville to enlist in Company K of the 50th VA infantry.

In late summer into fall, his company made two marches across the mountains to Charleston, W.Va., and slightly north. In late 1862, they were at Dewey’s Bluff in Petersburg for a short while, marched to seven miles south of Franklin Depot in Southampton County, and were in the Battle of Deserted House in Isle of Wight County. Then in July 1863, they were at Gulp’s Hill in Gettysburg, Pa.

My great-great-grandfather was wounded at Gettysburg and was sent to a hospital in Richmond. I don’t know when he made it back to the 50th on the Rapidan River. From May 5-7, 1864, he was at the Battle of the Wilderness and May 8-12, he was at Spotsylvania Courthouse in the part of the lines called the mule shoe.

On May 10, they were thrown in to push the Yankees back and restore the lines. The morning of May 12, at the center of where the Yankees hit, they were overrun and captured and sent to the prison in Point Lookout, Md., and then in early July, he was sent to an Elmira, N.Y., prison.

On Feb. 16,1865, he died from malnutrition and exposure due to the lack of warm clothing, blankets, wood for heat, clean drinking water and food. His name was I.B. “Dosher” Shelor, but he is listed as being buried in grave 2181 as J. Sherlor.

He is buried there with 2,949 other Southern boys. In today’s history, they want you to believe he suffered all of this and much more to perpetuate slavery.

PHILLIP WOOD is an Isle of Wight County resident and a member of the Urquhart-Gillette Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans. He can be reached at 742-1336.