9 Nov 1863: McKaskle Brothers “Left Sick” at Camp in Monroe, Louisiana

Was any American family untouched by the Civil War?  No, most likely.  Among my ancestors, my McKaskle family was especially affected, the oldest four sons of George Washington McKaskle, Sr., and his wife Mary Jane serving on the Confederate, Union — and sometimes both — sides.  On November 9, 1863, two of my McKaskle fourth great-uncles were left sick at camp near Monroe, Louisiana, by their their Confederate unit.  It’s a fascinating story, rediscovered through military records and studies of their unit, the 28th (Gray’s) Regiment, Louisiana Infantry.

At the onset of the War, my fifth great-grandparents, George Washington McKaskle, Sr., and his wife Mary Jane, lived near Vernon, Jackson Parish, Louisiana.¹  George and Mary Jane were fairly new arrivals to Louisiana, having lived in Alabama in the mid-1830s to mid-1840s, and Mississippi from the mid-1840s through mid-1850s.   Like many farmers of this time period, their family likely migrated westward in search of fertile soil and inexpensive land.

George and Mary Jane had twelve known children² (sons important to this story bolded):

Daniel Monroe McKaskle, born about 1834, in Alabama
Sarah McKaskle, born about 1836, in Alabama
Mary A. McKaskle, born about 1838, in Alabama
Hugh Lawrence McKaskle, born about 1840, in Alabama
Robert Neil McKaskle, born about 1842 or 1843, in Alabama
George McKaskle, Jr., born about 1844 or 1845, in Alabama or Mississippi
John M. McKaskle, born about 1846 or 1847, in Alabama or Mississippi
William W. McKaskle, born about 1848 or 1849, in Mississippi
Henry L. McKaskle, born about 1849, in Mississippi
James N. McKaskle, born about 1853, in Mississippi
Isabell J. McKaskle, born about 1855, in Mississippi
Alonzo McKaskle, born about 1858, in Louisiana

The 1860 U.S. census for Vernon, Jackson Parish, Louisiana shows George, Sr. and Mary Jane, with presumed children Robert Neil through youngest Alonzo living in one household.³  In the previous household appears oldest son Daniel Monroe McKaskle, with his wife, two young sons, and Hugh L. McKaskle, aged 20, most certainly his younger brother.⁴  The oldest males, heads of households George, Sr. and Daniel, as well as the older sons Hugh, Robert, and George, Jr. are all reported to be farmers.⁵  They were a large, extended family independently working their land near the Jackson / Winn Parish line.⁶  Whether a matter of conscience or a limitation of their finances — or maybe because they had enough able-bodied sons themselves — the McKaskles do not appear to have owned slaves, as they are not listed in the 1860 census slave schedules for Jackson Parish.

Then the Civil War erupted, and the Union campaign up the Mississippi River led to the formations of new companies and regiments throughout Louisiana in spring 1862.⁷  One of these units was 28th (Gray’s) Regiment, Louisiana Infantry.    Dr. Terry L. Jones explains in his history of the 28th,

Although most of the area was in no immediate danger, the people saw the need to stop the invasion before it reached their homes.  Some joined these organizations through dedication to the Confederate cause.  Others were dragged in reluctantly, in compliance with the Conscription Act, or joined voluntarily to escape the stigma of being labeled a “conscript”.⁸

Daniel Monroe McKaskle, my 4x-great-grandfather, along with his younger brothers Hugh and Robert, experienced these concerns — and perhaps complicated motivations — personally.  The three McKaskle men enlisted as privates in Company F, Jackson Volunteers of 28th (Gray’s) on May 5, 1862, in Vernon for “3 years or the [duration of] the war.”⁹

Their combined service records show all three McKaskle brothers mustered with their unit on May 16, 1862.¹⁰  The unit trained that hot summer in Vienna, Louisiana, near Ruston.¹¹  They were then stationed near Milliken’s Bend on the Mississippi River, joining with other units to guard the railroad between Monroe, Louisiana, and Vicksburg, Mississippi.¹²  Illness swept through the troops,¹³ and the McKaskle brothers were not immune. Hugh and Robert’s muster cards from January/February 1863 note they had been sick,¹⁴ but the remarks give interesting information about their statuses (transcriptions follow):

Muster Cards - Hugh & Robert - Jan-Feb 1863
Muster Cards for Hugh Lawrence McKaskle and Robert Neal McKaskle, January/February 1863¹⁵

From Hugh’s muster card:

Present or absent Absent
Remarks : 9 Nov 62.  Left sick in camp near Monroe. Reported well.

From Robert’s muster card:

Present or absent Absent
Remarks : 9 Nov 62.  Left sick in camp near Monroe. Fit for duty.

Daniel’s muster card from the same period states he was present,¹⁶ but both his brothers were absent.  An initial reading gave the impression the brothers were sick and absent, not quite deserted.  But the phrases “reported well” and “fit for duty” seem to suggest doubt by their superiors that the brothers were truly ill.  Could this be historical evidence of my ancestors playing an epic case of hooky..?

It appears so.  On the next available set of muster cards from July/August 1863, Hugh and Robert are recorded as deserted.¹⁷  Oldest brother Daniel, my direct ancestor, is absent without leave.¹⁸  These muster cards are the final records documenting the three McKaskle mens’ Confederate military service.

Why did the McKaskles desert their unit?  My first theories were informed by general knowledge of Civil War history and soldiers’ motivations.  Crops needed to be harvested.  Perhaps their aging father couldn’t provide for the rest of the family at home.  Maybe the unit was about to camp for winter and the McKaskles planned to return in the spring.  Closer examination of the 28th (Gray’s) movements and other military records tell a different story.

At the time of the McKaskles’ desertions in November 1863, the 28th was moving from a defensive position of guarding a close-to-home railroad to an assignment farther away and with a higher likelihood of engaging the enemy in combat.¹⁹  Their unit was ordered to the Bayou Teche region of southern Louisiana.²⁰  If the McKaskles weren’t committed wholeheartedly to the Confederate cause, this change in mission would be a good reason to leave.

Two other pieces of evidence give clues to the brothers’ motivations.  On December 17, 1863, Robert enlisted in Natchez, Mississippi, as a private in the 2nd Regiment, Louisiana Calvary — for the Union!²¹  He mustered a few weeks later in New Orleans and served on the Union side until at least June 1864, the last muster roll on which he appears.²²  Younger brother George, Jr., enlisted in the same unit in Alexandria, Louisiana, on April 10, 1864, and died just a few months later on July 11, at a regimental hospital in Baton Rouge.²³

The McKaskle family produced four sons who served in some capacity in the Civil War — two who deserted the Confederate army, one who deserted and then re-enlisted with the Union, and one who joined the Union cause directly.  Among my purely Confederate ancestors, these men are an interesting anomaly, and I’m fascinated by their motivations.  Central Louisiana, the area in which my McKaskle ancestors lived, was an area of dissent to the Southern cause.  Winn Parish, just south of my ancestors’ home, voted against secession in 1860²⁴ — and political sentiment doesn’t just stop at a parish line.  The Confederacy even sent five companies into Jackson and Winn parishes to arrest conscripts — and even shoot those who tried to escape — during the war, but the hills, swamps, and canebreaks made these orders difficult to carry out.²⁵  Neighboring Winn Parish even has a reputation as the “Free State of Winn” — an area of rebellion similar to Mississippi’s famous “Free State of Jones.”

Whatever my ancestors’ motivations, the story for three of these four McKaskles sons ends at the Civil War.  George, Jr. died in Baton Rouge while serving with the 2nd Louisiana (Union).  I have been unable to find any military records for Hugh or Robert beyond their final muster cards; they also remain undiscovered on any subsequent census or in any vital records.  I descend from oldest son Daniel Monroe McKaskle, who returned to Jackson Parish after deserting the Confederates, seems to have laid low during the remainder of the war, and lived in Jackson Parish until his death in 1891.²⁶

 


¹1860 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Vernon Post Office, p. 91 (penned), dwelling 581, family 581, George W McKaskle family; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4231222_00445/38261548 : accessed 7 Nov 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 411.

²Three census records aggregated contribute names, approximate ages, and birth locations for these children.  The family appears twice in the 1850 census for Attala County, Mississippi:
1850 U.S. census, Attala County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 272 (penned and crossed out), dwelling 677, family 677, George McKaskle family; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4195938-00329/3343216 : accessed 7 Nov 2018) citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 368.
1850 U.S. census, Attala County, Mississippi, population schedule, Township 13R 8E, p. 157 (stamped), dwelling 983, family 985, George McKaskel family; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4195938-00368/3344868 : accessed 7 Nov 2018) citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 368.
1860 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, LA, pop. sch., p. 91 (penned), dwell. 581, fam. 581, George W. McKaskle family.

³1860 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, LA, pop. sch., p. 91 (penned), dwell. 581, fam. 581, George W. McKaskle family.

⁴1860 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Vernon Post Office, p. 91 (penned), dwelling 580, family 580, Daniel McKaskle family; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4231222_00445/38261548 : accessed 7 Nov 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 411.

⁵1860 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, LA, pop. sch., p. 91 (penned), dwell. 580-581, fam. 580-581, Daniel McKaskle and George W. McKaskle families.

⁶George McKaskle, Sr. patented 81.68 acres of land in Jackson Parish (township 14N, range 3W, aliquots N½NE¼, section 4) on 1 July 1859.  This property is in southern Jackson Parish, near the Winn Parish line.
George McKaskle (Jackson Parish, Louisiana), state volume patent no. 16981; “Land Patent Search,” images, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx : accessed 9 Nov 2018).

⁷Terry L. Jones, “The 28th Louisiana Volunteers In The Civil War,”  Pen & Saber (http://www.penandsaber.com/grays28th/Jones28th.html : accessed 7 Nov 2018).

Ibid.

⁹”Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 Nov 2018), “Daniel M. McKaskle,” NA catalog identifier 586957; citing Record Group 109; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865.
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 Nov 2018), “Hugh Lawrence McKaskle,” NA catalog identifier 586957; citing Record Group 109; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865.
“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 Nov 2018), “Robert Neal McKaskle,” NA catalog identifier 586957; citing Record Group 109; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865.

¹⁰Ibid.

¹¹Jeff McFarland, “History of Colonel Gray’s 28th Louisiana Infantry,”  Pen & Saber (http://www.penandsaber.com/grays28th/mcfarlands28th.html : accessed 7 Nov 2018).

¹²Jones, Pen & Saber, “The 28th Louisiana Volunteers In The Civil War.”

¹³Ibid.

¹⁴Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” digital image, Fold3, compiled service record of Hugh Lawrence McKaskle.
Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” digital image, Fold3, compiled service record of Robert Neal McKaskle.

¹⁵Ibid.

¹⁶Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” digital image, Fold3, compiled service record of Daniel M. McKaskle.

¹⁷Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” digital image, Fold3, compiled service record of Hugh Lawrence McKaskle.
Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” digital image, Fold3, compiled service record of Robert Neal McKaskle.

¹⁸Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Louisiana,” digital image, Fold3, compiled service record of Daniel M. McKaskle.

¹⁹Jones, Pen & Saber, “The 28th Louisiana Volunteers In The Civil War.”

²⁰McFarland, Pen & Saber, “History of Colonel Gray’s 28th Louisiana Infantry.”

²¹”Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State Of Louisiana,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 Nov 2018), “Robert M. McKaskle,” NA catalog identifier 300398; citing Record Group 94; Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to units organized for service from the State of Louisiana.

²²Ibid.

²³”Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State Of Louisiana,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 Nov 2018), “George W. McKaskle,” NA catalog identifier 300398; citing Record Group 94; Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to units organized for service from the State of Louisiana.

²⁴Encyclopædia Britannica. (https://www.britannica.com/place/the-South-region/media/555542/3841 : accessed 9 Nov 2018), “Vote on secession in the South by counties.”

²⁵John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963), 306.

²⁶Lora Diane Peppers, Obituary Index of Ouachita Parish Newspapers (Monroe, Louisiana: Ouachita Parish Public Library, Genealogy Department, 2002).

One thought on “9 Nov 1863: McKaskle Brothers “Left Sick” at Camp in Monroe, Louisiana”

  1. Fascinating Jess, thank you! Up here we never heard much about southern soldiers fighting for the Union. On my dads side My g- g grandfather fought for the Union while his twin fought for the Confederacy. Settling in Missouri after the war. They never spoke again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *