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AUTHOR: Linda H. Barnette

It all began many years ago when my grandmother, Blanche Dwiggins Smith, gave me a daguerreotype of one of her ancestors who was killed in the Civil War. I wish I had asked her more about it, but being young and busy earning a living, I did not have time to pursue it and just let it stay in a dresser drawer. Now that I have retired, I devote much of my time to genealogy and writing, so I have not only discovered who was in the picture, but that information also led me to find out how many others from her family fought in the same war. The family information shared here is my own, but the specifics about the dates and regiments came from the following book: North Carolina Troops, published by the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History.

As it turned out, the daguerreotype is a photo of her grandmother’s brother—my grandmother’s great uncle—John Leach. He was born in Davie County in 1831, the son of James Leach and Mary Kurfees of the area known as Calahaln. John was a farmer, as were most people in that era, and he married Mary Warren in 1856. He enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private on August 6, 1861 in Company F, 13th Regiment of North Carolina soldiers. He rose quickly in the ranks, becoming a sergeant, and served until he was wounded in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. He died at the army hospital in Richmond on August 23, 1863. Apparently, he was buried in Virginia because there is not a cemetery location here in his home county.

John’s brother David Leach, born in 1836, also my grandmother’s great uncle, was a farmer here in Davie County who married Mellina Warren in 1859, enlisted in the Confederate army at age 25 in 1861. As fate would have it, David was wounded on the same day and in the same battle as his brother John. He, however, even after being wounded again in October of 1864, lived to return home. When he did, he resumed farming, and he and Mellina had five children. David died in 1892 and is buried along with most of my Dwiggins relatives in the Center United Methodist Church Cemetery in Mocksville, NC.

One other Leach brother also served in the war after enlisting as a teenager: James Leach, born in 1844, was listed as a farm laborer on his father’s farm and joined the Confederates. He was killed at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 1, 1864. The place of his burial is not known.

I can only imagine the grief and suffering of James’ and John’s parents and their other family members after losing both of those young men in a war in which they likely had no stake. They were not, to my knowledge, slave owners.

My grandmother’s grandfather, James Patterson Dwiggins, also fought in the Civil War. Born in Davie County in 1840, James was the son of Ashley Dwiggins and Mary Holman Dwiggins. He married Sarah Penry Leach in 1860, and their first child, John, was born in 1861. James joined the army at age 22, enlisting in Company H of the North Carolina 5th Cavalry Regiment on July 15, 1862. He made it through the war unscathed, returned home, farmed, and he and Sarah became the parents of four more children, one of whom was my great-grandfather, William Joel Franklin Dwiggins, who lived across the street from us and died in 1952 when I was 11 years old. What a treasure it was to know him!!

Daniel Holman Dwiggins, James’s brother, also went to battle, survived, came home, farmed, and with his wife had 7 children. I don’t know the details but have read enough to surmise that he was never stable after the war.

Another relative by marriage who served in the war was Joel Penry, who married my 3rd great-grandfather’s sister, Ursula Dwiggins, daughter of my first Dwiggins ancestor in Davie County, Daniel Dwiggins. Joel was born in 1821 and joined the army in 1863 at the age of 42. On Sept. 18, 1863, Joel, like James Patterson Dwiggins, enlisted in Company H, North Carolina 5th Cavalry Regiment. He was paroled in Salisbury in 1865, then came back home and resumed farming. Joel died in 1872 and is buried in the old Dwiggins Family Cemetery on Boone Farm Road.

There were many other relatives of my grandmother who went off to war. Most of those who I have mentioned were simple farmers who had nothing to really gain by fighting other than the pride of knowing they were willing to risk it all for a cause. The war affected almost every family in the area. I am so glad that I decided to do this research as I did it to honor those soldiers in my family during that time. I shall always remember John Leach’s face in the daguerreotype, so young and innocent and doomed.

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