Five Brothers in the Civil War

by | Jan 6, 2016 | Clay, Confederate affiliation

Submitted by: Brenda Kay Ledford and Barbara Ledford Wright

The shadow of the Civil War loomed over Clay County, North Carolina. Thomas and Eliza Ledford worried that their five sons would enlist and get killed fighting for the Confederacy. Tillman enlisted at Valleytown, North Carolina on September 29, 1861. He served with the Captain John W. Francis Company, 25 Reg’t North Carolina Infantry. He received a bounty of $10.00. Since Tillman was small, Eliza feared for his life. She hugged her son and kissed him good-by. “Come on, Ma,” said Tillman. “ Don’t cry. Since I’ve joined, the war will soon end. I’ll march home before you know it.” He urged his other brothers to join the Confederates. Amos and Robert wanted to leave the farm, and seek adventure beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. Amos was muscular, but the same height as Tillman. They found their chance to enlist when they drove a wagon load of produce to the market in Asheville, North Carolina on August 10, 1861. They joined the Co. D 25th NC Infantry as privates. The two brothers took their wagon home and mustered in at Cherokee County, North Carolina that month. Sanford refused to stay on the farm. He wanted to fight with his brothers. He enlisted in Clay County under Captain W.P. Moore on July 5, 1862. At age 26, he mustered in as a Private. When Captain Moore saw his abilities, he appointed Sanford to 1st Sergeant in Company B 7th Battalion NC Cavalry. Then Sanford transferred to Company F, 65th Regiment NC Troops (6th Regiment NC Cavalry). Sanford provided his own horse and received 40 cents daily. He and Coyote made names for themselves. Coyote was powerful, spirited, and fearless. He carried Sanford on tedious marches over the bullet-swept battlefields. The average life expectancy for war horses was about six months, but Coyote survived the Civil War. Another brother decided to enlist. Eliza wept when her fifth son, John, left home to join the war. “This family has supported the Confederates enough!” she cried. John enlisted on July 12, 1862 in Company H. 39th Regiment NC Troops that raised in Cherokee County. This regiment was assigned to Lieutenant Colonel David Coleman’s Battalion NC Troops at Reems Creek Campground, Weaverville, North Carolina in late February 1862 and was designated Company H of that unit. Eliza cried and prayed for the safety of her sons. She longed to hear from them, but letters were sporadic during the Civil War. The enemy intercepted the mail. One hot August day in 1862, she spotted a man hobbling up the dirt road. He looked like a scarecrow wearing filthy rags. She ran and hugged Robert. He was discharged due to injuries in battle. Another year passed. John and Sanford came home and said Amos and Tillman were heading to Virginia. One September in 1864, Eliza and the girls were hanging clothes on the line. A horseman galloped to their cabin. He handed a letter to Eliza from Captain J.H. Francis. Tillman was hospitalized at Petersburg, Virginia with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He died on August 23. The horseman gave Eliza a black box that contained Tillman’s effects. A leather bag held seven gold coins, a picture of Tillman in a Confederate uniform, a small pocket Bible and some clothes. Eliza fainted and everything scattered on the hard, clay ground. One more son remained in the war. Eliza prayed night and day that he would return home. She received the last letter from Amos on April 8, 1865: Dear Ma and Pa: Today I saw General Robert E. Lee riding into the court house on his magnificent white horse, Traveller. Lt. General U.S. Grant met him on his horse, Cincinnati. Negotiations began between General Lee and General Grant in the McLean House near Appomattox Court House. They agreed on the terms of surrender and signed the papers. General Lee left the court house for his headquarters. As he passed me, tears streamed down his face. He said, “Men, we have fought the war together. I have done the best I could for you.” Ma and Pa, the Civil War is over! I’m coming home! Your loving son, Amos

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