One of the hardest, but certainly the most satisfying, aspects of this disease called genealogy is trying to find the people behind the documents. All of the facts that we collect show us when someone is born, when and who they marry, whether or not they have children, have a home, work for a living, and ultimately when they die and are buried. In between the facts are the real people.
Instead of just looking at the facts, we try to figure out who the people involved in the facts really were. Most of the time this is a job for the imagination. We have to think about how we would react to a similar situation. Sometimes the documents give us a brief glimpse behind the veil to understand more about how people interacted,
Sometimes we see hints of love and devotion between friends and family members. And sometimes we see examples of conflict.
I suppose every family has some kind of conflict in it. There are those that would call the afternoon when I locked my little brother in the dog house (with a really large spider, he says) an example of family conflict. But if that’s as bad as it gets, things are pretty good.
I think that as I look at the various branches of my family, I don’t see a lot of family rifts, of branches of the family isolating themselves from other parts of the family. At least, I have not found them. But, when you keep looking, you can find things that must have been great sources of conflict within a family.
Meet Faver Cason. You have already met his brother, Jeremiah H. Cason, and heard a little bit about him. Faver and Jere were two of the sons of Jeremiah Cason (b. 19 Sep 1800, Abbeville Co., South Carolina, d. 22 Jul 1866, Simmons Bluff, Wilson County, Tennessee) and Elizabeth “Bettie” Faver (b. 29 Mar 1795, Culpepper Co., Virginia, d. 24 Mar 1867, Simmons Bluff, Wilson County, Tennessee).
Faver was Jere and Bettie’s first child, born 19 December 1826, in Limestone County, Alabama. Shortly after his birth, the family moved into Wilson County, Tennessee. Faver’s older sister, Fanny, was born in Wilson County in June 1828.
As a young man, Faver enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a part of the Mexican War. On 8 May 1846, he mustered into Co. B, 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry of the U.S. Army and was bound for Mexico. His unit was primarily guarding wagon trains and participating in guerilla skirmishes while in Mexico. On 10 November 1846, he was accidentally shot with a shotgun by members of his own company. He received a glancing shot to the face and neck. In his pension file at the National Archives in Washington, DC, there are notes that express some doubt about whether the men in camp were screwing around when he got shot. Maybe so. In any case, later in life, he reported that parts of the shot were still in the left side of his face and that he had pain from this from time to time. At the end of May 1847, Faver mustered out of the Army in New Orleans, his term of service having expired.
Once he was out of the Army, Faver headed back to Tennessee, living in Rutherford and Wilson Counties. Faver married Mary Helen Tharp on 23 Mar 1848 in Cainsville, Wilson County, Tennessee. In 1850, we find Faver and Mary in Wilson County farming, with five slaves. In 1860, they are still in Wilson County, their economic lot having improved. Now they owned eleven slaves.
By mid-1863, the war Civil War had reached Middle Tennessee. I suppose Faver saw the writing on the wall and decided to side with who he thought would be the winners. In September 1863, Faver re-enlisted in the 5th Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, a unit of the U.S. Army – the Yankees. He entered service as a Captain and was promoted to Major in June 1865 as he was leaving the service. The 5th Regiment was a part of action throughout Middle Tennessee. Interestingly, this unit lost 175 men to disease and 68 to the battle itself during its history.
Faver was injured again during his service. He was thrown from a horse and injured in his back and legs. He was carried to hospital and treated. He also felt like he developed an asthma-like problem while in the Army, living in the field.
What kind of internal conflict went on with Faver as he decided to re-enlist? Was he committed to the cause of the Union? Seems odd as a slaveholder, and the son and grandson of a slaveholder. Or was it loyalty to the United States that led him to enlist both the first time and the second? I am sure he heard stories from his mother’s father, John Favor, a Revolutionary War veteran who served in Virginia. Was he conflicted over this choice? Did he decide that he had to enlist to evade local raiders? I have other ancestors in Arkansas who appear to have done this. Or was it a cynical move to position himself better for the future?
How did this go over with his family? Remember Jeremiah H. Cason, his brother? Well, J. H. Cason was passionate in his own right. Not having so much property as his older brother, he was still committed to the cause of the South. He enlisted as a chaplain (being a Baptist preacher) early in the war. Shortly, he resigned and re-enlisted as a fighting soldier. He quickly rose to the rank of Captain in the 41st Alabama Infantry. And in December of 1863, while Faver was with his unit in Middle Tennessee, J.H. Cason was at the Battle of Bean’s Station in East Tennessee, where he lost his left arm.
What kind of Thanksgiving dinners went on in their family after the war? Two officers, each serving on a different side. One, suffering a serious, life-threatening injury but finding himself on the losing side. The other, a slave-holder and Southern property owner who served with the North. His wounds were superficial and possibly the result of carelessness. But, since he was on the winning side, he was receiving a pension as he aged.
After the war, Faver was able to parlay his wartime service into a seat in the Tennessee legislature as both a State Representative and a State Senator. He was a Radical Republican and reconstructionist. Certainly this caused additional conflict through the latter part of the 19th century. This is the land where Nathan Bedford Forrest established the Ku Klux Klan, after all. I wonder how he was regarded by his family, his neighbors, and his constituents.
By the 1890s, he applied for an invalid pension due to his wartime injuries and his inability to work. Several times, he applied for increases in his pension. In December 1909, a private bill (H.R. 10288) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to grant an increase in pension to Faver Cason; this bill was referred to the Committee on War Claims by the Committee on Invalid Pensions. One conflict, he avoided. In some of his pension depositions, he states that he waited to claim a pension from his Mexican War service because his father felt it was unseemly for him to claim a pension when he was not actually in need. Instead, he waited until his father had died to apply for his pension. He makes the case that he is in desperate need, his only asset being a small farm that he rents out since he is unable to farm it, due to his war wounds.
So, who knows what goes on in families. And who knows what’s behind all of the records that we find. As genealogists, we have to follow what the records say and what they prove for us. But, we also have to try to figure out what’s lying between the lines and the letters to tell us who these people really were. After all, they are our ancestors. We owe it to them and to ourselves to make them to be real people.