Plowing Through the Lean Times

John C. Bates (1817- 21 July 1863)

When I started drafting this blog post I was not planning on writing about my 2nd great-grandfather, John C. BATES. Nope. I was going to tell you about my great-grandfather Nicholas Wilhelm REITER. Both of these men are my ancestors on my mother's side. I'm very proud of both men for very different reasons. The theme this week was “plowing through” and I wanted to tell you how Nicholas persevered through some difficult situations in his life and how late in life he became a cabinet maker and I wanted to show you pictures of a circa-1900 plow plane similar to what he likely used in his work. One day- I'll finish that post and publish it. But today, I want to tell you about “plowing through” all the dead ends until you finally hit pay dirt.

It was getting late tonight when I was trying to write the original post and I don't write well when I'm tired but I couldn't go to bed yet either. So I switched tactics and began browsing through I decided to click on one of my “brick walls”- John C. BATES. I didn't expect to find anything that I hadn't already found a hundred times. There was no “little leaf” telling me Ancestry had found new hints for me. It was just a routine “I'll try one more time because I'm bored and tired and have nothing better to do” try. As has happened so many times- and always when I least expect it- one of those routine “tries” netted me some much-needed and long-sought-for bits of information.

Before we get there though, let me back up and fill you in on who John is to me. John C. BATES is my second great-grandfather. I'm almost certain his middle name is Columbus as that is a name that has been handed down through the generations. John's son was George Columbus BATES. George's grandson was Troy Columbus BATES. So it stands to reason that John's middle name was most likely Columbus as well. I always surmised that John died while fighting in the Civil War. I lost track of him in the records around that time and he never re-appeared. It was a hunch that I could never prove.

John was born about 1818 in Georgia. In 1840 he was living in Murray County, Georgia which is just south of the Georgia-Tennessee state line. That was also the year he married Mary Jane MOBLEY. In the 10 years between census enumerations, they had three children together- Martha, Greenberry, and Washington. In 1850 they were in East Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia but by 1856 they had moved to Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia where they had my great-grandfather, George. As far as I know, they lived in Murray County, Georgia when John died. I previously believed John died between 1860 and 1862.


In 1868, Mary married Paul BRINEGAR and they remained in Murray County, Georgia until sometime between 1870 and 1880. In 1880, the family was living in Benton County, Arkansas where Mary remained until her death. Mary is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Hiwasse, Benton County, Arkansas. One story my granny always told me that I have neither proved nor disproved is that George walked behind a wagon all the way from Georgia to Arkansas when the family moved to Arkansas.

Now to the exciting find on tonight! I found the following story tonight that finally explained John's death and why it has been so difficult to find information about his death and burial.

When a man and wife both have very common names it is difficult to
determine exactly who they were and which families they came from.
This John BATES was born about 1817 in Georgia. His wife, Mary
BATES, was born about 1822.

The Census of 1860 listed the household as: John BATES, age 43;
Mary BATES, age 38; Green B. BATES, age 18; and Columbus BATES,
age 4. They used the post office at Fancy Hill.

Records in the Murray County Courthouse listed John BATES
(or BAITS), with service that began November 1861. While a member
of Company F, 3rd Confederate (Whorton Brigade), Army of Tennessee,
was captured at Tullahoma, Tennessee. He was taken to Rock Island
Prison, in Illinois and died there while a prisoner-of-war. Confederate
Army records listed him as John BAITS.

A transcription (also found on the Ancestry website) of Civil War records states,

JOHN BATES (Private). Service began November 1861. First known
as Company C, 3rd Confederate, then reorganized into Company F, 3rd
Confederate, Whorton Brigade, Army of Tennessee. Captured at Tullahoma,
Tennessee, during fighting in that area from January 2 to September 10,
1863. Died while a prisoner-of war at Rock Island Prison, Illinois.
Preceding was copied from records in Murray County Courthouse, with
spelling of battles and place names corrected as needed and dates of
engagements added. Military service records contain this information:
John Baits, Company F, 3rd Confederate Cavalry. Murray County
Census of 1860, visitation #720, shows John Bates, age 43, wife Mary,
used post office at Fancy Hill.

I just made this discovery late tonight so I have not had time to further research it. There is a lot left to learn. There is a conflict in the dates given in the above transcriptions and the official opening date for Rock Island Prison. (Just so you know- Rock Island was the Yankee version of the Confederates' Andersonville Prison. It was the worst possible place for a Confederate soldier to go.) I'm hoping to clear up some of the confusion in the near future. In the meantime, I will leave you with some photographs and links to information about Rock Island Prison.

Click here to read a personal account from a former Rock Island Prisoner.

Rock Island Confederate graves

Click here to look at the official National Park Service website about Rock Island Confederate Cemetery.

I am looking forward to learning where Rock Island prisoners were buried and other information about Rock Island prison and John BATES' service during the Civil War. I am looking forward to finding my own way to say 'thank you' to POW Private John C. Bates of Company F, 3rd Confederate Cavalry, Whorton Brigade, Army of Tennessee- a man who fought for something he believed in and fought to keep his family safe.

So tonight I encourage you to plow through all your dead ends and all those endless genealogies and records that don't seem to be the right ones. Plow through those websites, lists of researchers and potential relatives to contact “one day”, and all those notes and copies you've made. The only people who are guaranteed to never break through their brick wall ancestral lines are those who stop looking. Don't be that person!

Be sure to click on over to these blogs for more great stories! Down in the Root Cellar and Theology for Mom

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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