SUBMITTED BY: Sam Cook (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
My name is Sam Cook. My mother is a Ragland, and James Madison Ragland was my great-great-grandfather. The following story is based on the research and writings of my cousin, Charles J. Ragland, Jr. He wrote The Raglands: The History of a British-American Family, Volumes 1 & 2, and the following piece is based on information found in Volume 1, which was published at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1978.
James Madison “Matt” Ragland, eldest child of William G. Ragland and Mary Frances Kinton Ragland, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, on September 30, 1844 (pg. 274). Raised on his parents’ farm near Oxford, James Madison was…too young to be among the first flood of Confederate volunteers at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861; he, nevertheless, enlisted on March 27, 1862, although still only seventeen years old. James Madison and his sixteen-year-old brother, John, were mustered into Company E (Captain Robert L. Heflin’s “Tar River Rebels”) of the 46th North Carolina Infantry at Camp Mangum near Raleigh on April 16, 1862. After spending several weeks at Camp Mangum, where they “received instruction in the art of war,” the Forty-sixth was transferred to Goldsboro, North Carolina (pg. 275). In late May, both James Madison and John got sick and were sent to the hospital. Unfortunately, John died on May 27, 1862, but James Madison, who was still very ill, remained at the hospital until the end of June. Released from the hospital on the first of July recovered but weak, James Madison was sent home on “sick furlough.” He recuperated at home for almost eight months. On March 30, 1863, he rejoined his unit. [See photo above. Click to enlarge.]
After a short stay at Wilmington during the spring of 1863, the Forty-sixth was ordered north to Richmond where they arrived in early June. During the following fall, James Madison and his unit participated in the operations along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad and took part in the Battle of Bristoe Station. [On May 5, 1864, James Madison was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness. After recovering from his injury, he was able to return to his company about two months later, on July 1st. On August 25, 1864, the Forty-sixth, along with James Madison, participated in the Second Battle of Reams Station. After Reams Station, the regiment returned to the lines around Petersburg, occupying different positions until December, when winter quarters were built on Hatcher’s Run, near Burgess’ Tavern, about ten miles from Petersburg. (North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster)]
After surviving the hunger, cold, and other hazards experienced during the 1864-65 Petersburg siege, in the spring of 1865, [James Madison took part in the battle at White Oak Road where, according to maps of the battle, his regiment was positioned near Burgess’ Tavern (https://www.battlefields.org/learn/maps/white-oak-road-march-31-1865).] The official War Department records indicate that James Madison was taken prisoner at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, on March 31, 1865 and was confined at Point Lookout, Maryland on April 3rd. Although General Lee surrendered at Appomattox several days later, James Madison was not released from prison until after he took the Oath of Allegiance on June 17, 1865. Afterward, James Madison, probably tired, hungry, and dirty, walked home to Granville County.
James Madison arrived home in early July to find that, not only had both of his parents died, all of his brothers and sisters, who then ranged in age from seventeen to two years old, had been scattered around the community to live with friends and relatives (pg. 278). [James Madison’s father, William G. Ragland, had enlisted in the Confederate Army on April 4, 1863 at Grace Church, North Carolina. According to his compiled military record, he “mustered as a substitute into Company G, N.C. 30th Infantry” (North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster). On Jan. 10, 1864, William died of disease at Orange County Courthouse, Virginia. According to her headstone at Ragland Family Cemetery, Oxford, N.C., James Madison’s mother, Mary F. Kinton Ragland, died a few months later, on April 30, 1864.] James Madison gathered his siblings together at the Ragland homeplace and began the job of rebuilding their lives. The farm was in ruin, and money was almost non-existent. Charles J. Ragland, Jr. indicated in his writings that, first, James Madison bought a broken-down mule, a horse (probably an old cavalry mount as it was branded “CS”), and a wagon. He then went into business buying tobacco around the country where the price was low, then hauling it down to eastern North and South Carolina where he sold or traded it for vegetables, oysters, fish, sugar, and other goods, which he hauled back to Granville County and sold. These trips to the East kept him away from home for long periods of time, so before each trip he would make the necessary arrangements for his siblings’ well-being, and he left the older children in charge. He soon found out, however, that this system was not working. The older children did not do well during James Madison’s absence, and their neighbors, who were also suffering after the war, often took advantage of them by “borrowing” much of the food that he left. Nevertheless, James Madison continued this hand-to-mouth operation for about three years.
By 1868, some of the children were old enough to begin caring for themselves. According to Ragland, James Madison then took the older boys—perhaps Stephen, William, and Robert—into the yard, showed them the plow, outbuildings, and fields and told them it was time for them to begin to care for themselves. Some of the younger children were placed with relatives who lived in the community. [Census records indicate that James Madison’s younger brothers and sisters continued to take care of one another after he left the farm. According to the Granville County, N.C. 1870 Census, James Madison’s brother, Stephen, made a home for three of his younger siblings—Emily “Emma”, Mary Jane, and Willie (sometimes spelled Wiley”). In 1870, Angelina “Nannie” Ragland was living with the Vaughn family nearby. According to his obituary, this is when young Joseph R. Ragland—only about nine years old—decided to leave home and make his own way. He did eventually get an education and did well for himself. Unfortunately, Benjamin and Elizabeth both died young: Benjamin died in the 1860s, and Elizabeth died around 1872. The Census records indicate that the youngest child of William and Mary Ragland, Carolina “Lina” Ragland, was living with her older sister, Nannie Ragland Blalock, in 1880 at Orange County, North Carolina. Lina was recorded as being sixteen years old at that time. Also, in 1880, Mary Jane Ragland Bullock and her younger brother, William, resided together in Oxford, North Carolina. And, at the same time, Robert Ragland and his brother, Wiley (also spelled “Willie”) Lewis Ragland, lived together in Forsyth County.]
After he left the family farm, James Madison decided that he would go to Texas; however, during his travels, he had heard that a railroad was being built between Greensboro and Salem, North Carolina, and men were needed to work. Leaving Granville County with “only the shirt on his back,” he went to work on the construction of the railroad, hoping to save up money for his trip to Texas. He traveled to Forsyth County, North Carolina, in the spring of 1868 and sought employment from Mr. Henry Edwards, who lived east of Kernersville on a large farm and had contracted with the railroad to build a section of the line. James Madison worked for about a year on the railroad and then a year for Mr. Edwards on his farm. Afterward, he decided to return to farming, so he used the money that he had saved to purchase a farm about a mile east of Kernersville. …On November 2, 1870, James Madison married Louisa Jane Peeples, a daughter of the Rev. Hubbard W. Peeples and Louisa Nelson Peeples of Oak Ridge, North Carolina (pg. 280). Louisa Jane was born on September 24, 1854 at Guilford County. The couple raised a family and lived together on their farm near Kernersville. James Madison retired from active farming in the early 1900s. Louisa Jane died at home on July 5, 1908. Living for more than a dozen years after his wife, James Madison died on March 9, 1922 in Forsyth County. They were both buried at Mount Gur Cemetery, Kernersville, Forsyth County, North Carolina.