Who were the Mt. Vernon Grays? (part two)

Last week, I told you a little about the Mt. Vernon Grays, who joined the Third Texas Cavalry in August of 1861. This week, I’ll focus on individuals. What were their names and, best I can tell, what happened to them during and after the Civil War?

I used a variety of sources, among them Douglas Hale’s book, “The Third Texas Cavalry in the Civil War”; census, government and public records; family histories; and an online roster of the Third Texas Cavalry’s Company H.

I wish I’d also had a time machine.

In his diary, C.W. Holbrook says there were nine Mt. Vernon Grays, but based on enlistment dates, there were more than nine men in Company H who could have traveled with Holbrook from Titus County, Texas, to Springfield, Missouri.

For some people, the dates were right, but they weren’t mentioned in the diary and I couldn’t place them in Mt. Vernon before or after the war. Sometimes, I found a possible candidate in the 1860 Titus County census, but I just wasn’t sure.

So, here are the seven I feel really good about:

George Stringfellow — George H. Stringfellow is mentioned numerous times in the diary before the group reaches Springfield. He was a merchant from Hopkins County, Texas, which in 1861 abutted Titus County.

According to Hale, Stringfellow was killed at the Battle of Holly Springs in December 1862.

Hale writes that Stringfellow “had advanced in front of the regiment, and a Yankee sharpshooter shot him through the head. Though his comrades knew that Stringfellow ‘had 5 or 600 dollars in his pocket … [his] position was so exposed, none would dare to venture to him.’”

I don’t how Holbrook and Stringfellow were acquainted before the war, but it’s obvious they were friends. After Holbrook’s final entry in the diary (and possibly after Holbrook’s death), Stringfellow writes the following entry. It sounds like a eulogy.

To C.W. Holbrook

If but a wish of mine could make it so, it should be thine to glide through this rough world as softly as the fragrance of the rose, that’s borne upon the zephyr’s gentle breath. It should be thine to ride life’s turbid wave and lightly as the fallen leaf which moves upon the bosom of a placid lake, sent by the softest breeze that ever blew across the silvery tide, a breeze too soft to make the little trembling wavelet rise and yet of force enough to waft it on to the far heaven of its final rest.

A.E. “Gus” Bell — The 1860 U.S. Census lists Augustus Bell living in Mt. Vernon with his widowed mother and likely sisters, Louisa and Kate. The census taker recorded Augustus as 20 years old and born in Tennessee.

Bell is mentioned in Holbrook’s diary three times as “Gus Bell” or just “Bell.”

On Aug. 12, 1861, Holbrook writes that Bell has been left behind to tend to an ailing George Stringfellow. This explains why Bell and Stringfellow enlist three days after Holbrook. Bell enlists in Company H as a private.

After the war, an Augustus Edwin Bell (also called “A.E.”) lived in the Fort Worth area. The 1870 census lists him as a 31-year-old merchant, born in Tennessee. If this is him, Gus Bell married and had children, and he and his family are buried in the City of Greenwood Cemetery in Parker County, Texas.

Charles T. Hamilton — Called “Hambleton” in the diary, Charles T. Hamilton was, as Hale wrote, “a Titus County planter’s son.” He was born in Missouri and is listed with his family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses for Titus County. In the 1860 census, he’s a 19-year-old “day laborer.”

His father, Richard Hamilton, was a New York-born farmer with real estate assets of $7,635 and personal property assets of $5,520. In 2015 dollars, $7,635 equals about $218,000. According to the 1850 census, Slave Schedule, Richard Hamilton owned five slaves, which would have been considered personal property.

According to Hale and the roster, Hamilton is killed on Dec. 26, 1861, at the Battle of Chustenahlah, in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Allen Houston Hargrove — Allen Houston Hargrove is mentioned in the diary six times before the group reaches Springfield. Among other things, he goes with Holbrook to visit a girl.

On Sept. 25, Holbrook writes, “I have been in town almost all day took diner at the Hotel with my friend Hargrove we sasshaed [sic] around town generally and called on Miss Muller and had some fine music, for Missouri.”

According to an online family history, Hargrove was born in Alabama in 1837.

The Company H roster indicates Hargrove was wounded in action on Sept. 19, 1862, at the Battle of Iuka. After the war, he married Mary Sparks in Titus County. They had three children, Ida, Era and John. Ida died in childhood.

The 1870 censuses describes Hargrove as a farmer. He died in 1900 and is buried in Wise County, Texas.

Martin Jones — While he isn’t on the Company H roster, Martin Jones does appear in the diary. On Aug. 12, 1861, Holbrook writes that, while in Fayetteville, Arkansas, “we had the pain of seeing one of our county boys confined in jail, Martin Jones, he had shot one of the Arkansas volunteers in a drinking gambling spree.”

There were Martin Joneses in Titus County prior to the war, but I can’t say for sure that one of those is him. If I find out anything else about Jones, I’ll let you know.

Theophilus B. “T.B.” Turner — Theophilus Turner is mentioned in the diary several times before the group reaches Springfield. The 1860 census lists the Missouri-born Turner as a “stock raiser” on the farm of Titus County physician Leonidus Collins.

While he traveled from Texas to Missouri with the Mt. Vernon Grays, according to the roster, Turner didn’t enlist until Feb. 8, 1862, in Crawford County, Arkansas.

Holbrook’s diary says that on Aug. 15, Holbrook and another man called “Rice” went “home with Theo.” Turner’s widowed mom lived in Springfield. An entry on the 16th indicates Rice and Holbrook returned to camp without Turner.

On Aug. 15, Turner writes this in Holbrook’s diary:

Mr. C.W. Holbrook

You have torn yourself from your kindred and friends and have come hither to imbark in the cause of your countrys defense, and to keep the enemy from invading and desolating your home. Your courage meets my aprobation and may the smiles of the myrters who have long since ascended to the realms of selestial peace. Rest upon thee and all others who have voluntarially came out and are battling for our rights and Liberty, which have been so firmly implanted in the bosomes of the american freemen as to never bee obliterated. May thee and thy come in the same glorious cause ear long restore to this portion of our dilapidated nation peace and prosperity and more. May the wings of comerse bee opened to the breeze and allowed to Sail on distant Seas.

While I’m having trouble confirming this, the roster says Turner was captured at Big Springs, Mississippi, on Feb. 12, 1863, and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Alton, Illinois. Alton Prison was apparently a horrible place and many prisoners died there. Turner, however, is not listed among the dead.

The_Federal_prison_at_Rock_Island,_Illinois,_c1863-1865 - by junius
This sketch was made by H. Junius, a Confederate prisoner at the federal prison in Rock Island, Illinois. While not Alton, this might give some clues as to what Alton looked like. Wikimedia Commons.

The 1870 census has a Missouri-born T.B. Turner working as a laborer in Walla Walla, Washington. More research is needed to establish whether this is the Theo Turner.

An interesting note: the 1870 census lists Turner’s brother, Thaddeus, living next door to Holbrook’s parents and siblings in Titus County. Thaddeus lives with his mother, Mary, and someone named Delia, probably his wife.

Holbrook had a sister called “Delie.” Perhaps this is her.

Columbus Williamson “C.W.” Holbrook — In his last diary entry on Oct. 3, 1861, C.W. Holbrook writes “some of the boys are killing hogs” and the plans are to “leave here in a few days for Kansas.”

What happens after this is not entirely known, but it appears Holbrook died during the war of something. After the war, his younger brother, William Walter Scott Holbrook, pens this eulogy in his brother’s diary:

Mr. C.W. Holbrook

My dear brother that fell a victim in the war. He is gone to his eternal abode where there is piece, joy and happiness throughout the endless ages of eternity. Your brother.

W.S. Holbrook

How did Holbrook die? Apparently, measles, typhoid and dysentery were rampant. As Hale reports, “of the nearly one thousand troopers in the Third Texas, almost a third were absent from duty owing to severe illness” in October 1861.

Supporting this, a Nov. 28, 1861, letter from John Payne Hill, a Confederate captain engaged to Holbrook’s first cousin, Mary Elizabeth Holbrook, mentions “Columbus,” who has been ill:

…  Col. Bolen came into our camp this morning … bringing several [letters] for Columbus and two for Rice, which I will send by the first dispatch leaving here. I have not seen C, but he sent me his compliments a few days ago by one of our messengers and said he had been sick but was then on horseback.

A muster roll from November and December 1861 shows Holbrook “on furlough.” If sick, he survived because on Feb. 9, 1862, Capt. Hill mentions Columbus and Theo (probably Turner) in a letter to Mary Elizabeth:

… I regret I was not in camp the night your cousin Columbus and Theo stayed here. … I did not see them (C & T) but by the hands of C, I am in possession of your very nice and acceptable present the … what do you call it? …

An un-cited, online reference says Holbrook died at the Battle of Pea Ridge, in March of 1862, but he’s not listed among the casualties. Holbrook isn’t listed with those buried in a nearby Confederate cemetery either.

Perhaps, Holbrook died later of injuries sustained at Pea Ridge, or of disease or by accident. It’s possible we’ll never know. S.B. Barron, who chronicled his service with the Third Texas in “The Lone Star Defenders,” had this to say about the challenges of reporting “the truths of war”:

The future historian, the man who is so often spoken of, is going to have a tough time if he undertakes to record the truths of war. When commanding officers will give some facts and then round up their official reports with fiction, conflicts will arise that, it appears to me, can never be reconciled.

 As my husband likes to say, “True, that.” Until next time.

Also, special thanks to the folks at the Franklin County Historical Association, the Texas State Archives in Austin (John P. Hill letters) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.

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