Wednesday, September 30, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 19: "Service" - Andrew C. Shawver

This post requires a bit of a preface. When I committed to doing the #52Ancestors challenge for 2020 at the end of 2019, I looked at the list of themes for the whole year, and then went through and penciled in which ancestors I wanted to write about for each week. So it was still 2019 when I chose to write about this particular ancestor, and about this particular topic - well before the racially-charged events of 2020 even happened. I also want to make a few things perfectly clear from the start: I am an adamant supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, I am completely against racism of any kind, and I am in no way glorifying the ideologies of the Confederacy.


When I saw that Week 19's theme was "service," I decided to not only write about my ancestor who served in an elite military brigade, but to write about how this part of my family's past affects me today. I usually try to keep my personal feelings out of these posts, but I feel like this topic ties into an extremely relevant national discussion that, in my opinion, is long overdue.

Military Gravestone of 
Lieut. Andrew Shawver
Andrew C. Shawver was born on January 9, 1838 in what was then Greenbrier County, Virginia, to Robert Shawver and Jane Callison. 25 years later Greenbrier County became a part of the new State of West Virginia, which has the honor of being not only the only state to be formed during the Civil War, but to be the only state to succeed from the Confederacy and (re)join the Union. Unfortunately, many of the residents of West Virginia's southern counties did not support West Virginia's succession, and many enlisted in the Confederate army.

Andrew Shawver was one such resident. He was from what would today be considered a middle class family: they owned property and were educated, but they were not wealthy. His family did not own slaves. It would be difficult to say what his motivations were for enlisting in the Confederate army instead of the Union army; but whatever his motivations, he enlisted in the 27th Infantry of the Confederate army at the age of 23. This company was one of the 5 companies that were joined together to form the Stonewall Brigade, an elite military unit that was hand-picked and trained by General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. By the end of the war, Andrew had risen to the rank of 1st lieutenant. According to military records he was described as 5'11'' tall, with light colored hair, a sallow complexion, and grey eyes.

Ladies Relief Hospital, Lynchburg, VA
Despite (or perhaps, because of) his high rank, Andrew did not have an easy time of it in the war. He was either sick or wounded in late August of 1862, and spent 8 days in the Ladies Relief Hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia (which was not only one of the best hospitals with one of the highest survival rates, but had the most interesting start of any Civil War hospital, and was operated entirely by women). He was captured on May 10, 1864 and became a prisoner of war. I believe that Andrew was captured during the Battle of Chester Station; it was fought on the same day that Andrew was captured, and General A. H. Terry of the Union army reported that there were "some 50 [Confederate] prisoners remaining in the hands of the Federals" after the battle. Andrew was undoubtedly one of these 50. He spent over a year as a prisoner of war, and was released on June 16, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and receiving a pardon from President Andrew Johnson. 

An article about the group of Confederate soldiers who took the oath on June 16th was published the next day in Harper's Weekly, and featured an artist's depiction of the group taking their oath. I hope that the artist captured this scene accurately, and that one of the men shown in the illustration is a faithful likeness of Andrew. Perhaps he was the man in front, just to the right of the center of the image: this man seems to be tall with light hair, and he seems to be wearing an officer's uniform.

"Rebel Soldiers Taking the Oath of Allegiance," Harper's Weekly, June 17, 1865.

After the war Andrew went back to his family, and lived a quiet life until his death on April 27, 1894. He married Amanda Frances McClung (daughter of Allen McClung and Frances Remley) a few months after his release, on October 16, 1865. They had seven children together: Hurndon, Francis, Buren, Annie, Earnest, Hubert, and Mamie.


I have often spoken about Andrew Shawver when I see the phrase "heritage not hate" used as a defense of displaying the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments. It is true that I am proud of my 4th-great-grandfather - I am proud of his history of military excellence, his bravery in the face of being a prisoner of war for a year, the recanting for his actions during the war and swearing an oath to the US, and the strength it must have taken to move on with his life when the war was over. But I do not consider the Confederacy to be a part of my heritage, because a heritage is something that is cherished and passed down from generation to generation. That was not the case in my family; I never knew that I had an ancestor who fought for the Confederacy until I found him through my genealogy research. I was always taught that racism of any kind was wrong, and that Confederate soldiers were fighting to preserve a system that was totally built upon the concept that some human beings were inferior to other human beings because of something that they had no control over. As I got older, I realized that a lot of the "southern values" that so many people praise still have subtile undertones of the ideals of this system, and so I rejected those ideals. 

I don't believe that being proud of my 4th-great-grandfather for his military accomplishments in and of themselves is a bad thing, because as I mentioned above, Andrew himself rejected the ideals of the Confederacy when he took his oath to the Union. I don't know whether Andrew believed in slavery enough to fight for it, or if he was simply a young man who was excited at the prospect of having a leadership role in the military. I hope it was the latter; but more importantly, I hope that spending a year as a prisoner of war taught him that no human being should ever be in bondage, and that every single person deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.


My descent from Andrew C. Shawver is as follows:

Andrew Shawver 1838-1894
4th great-grandfather

Hurndon Lindsay Shawver 1865-1912
Son of Andrew Shawver

Nora Maggie Shawver 1904-1971
Daughter of Hurndon Lindsay Shawver

Madaline Eva Moore 1923-2017
Daughter of Nora Maggie Shawver

Phyllis Carolyn Hunt
Daughter of Madaline Eva Moore

Lora Quinn
Daughter of Phyllis Carolyn Hunt

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Lora Quinn


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