It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen
may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The
war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from
the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding
arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand
we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? — What
would they have? Is life so dear, — or peace so sweet,
as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God! —— I know not what course
others may take; but as for me, — give me liberty, or
give me death! —–Patrick Henry —– March 23, 1775
As with most Americans our family has a heritage that has been sometimes acknowledged but not always remembered during the Memorial Day festivities. Since I am the family historian I am going to remedy that lack of knowledge with some notes about our many ancestors and family members who have served and in some cases died for our country.

Many of our New England, Puritan, Pennsylvanian and Southern ancestors were citizen soldiers and here is a list of some of them…….

“They trusted in God and kept their powder dry”

This article was written in 1848 by Levi Purviance, a member of the Purviance family about one of my ancestors through the paternal Bowling/Fletcher line.

COLONEL JOHN PURVIANCE the father of David Purviance, was a native of Pennsylvania, and was married to Jane Wasson, Aug. 2d 1764. Shortly after marriage, they settled on the south fork of the Yadkin River. Rowan (now Iredell) County, North Carolina. The country was new, but by industry and frugality, he procured a comfortable living for himself and family. He and his wife were both respectable members of the Presbyterian Church. He filled the office of Justice of the peace, for a number of years, with general approbation.

At the commencement of the Revolutionary war, he volunteered in defence of his Country’s Rights, and was appointed Lieutenant in the army. He behaved himself valiantly during the war, and was gradually promoted to the office of Colonel. He fought bravely for the liberty of his country, and rejoiced to see the Colony free. He returned with a thankful heart to the bosom of his family, and lived happily there until the fall of 1791.


Our direct ancestor through the paternal Bowling Woods line, Samuel Woods was born in 1741 in Augusta Co., VA. He married Margaret Holmes in 1768. Samuel was a Capt. in the Revolutionary War and commanded a company in the famous Battle of Kings Mountain. After the war they moved to Kentucky and later to Fort Nashville, TN. they had eleven children.

ZACHARY ISBELL, my ancestor through the maternal NOLEN-ISBELL line fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War. He was a founding member of the Watauga Association.

Matthew Payne, my ancestor through the maternal PAYNE-MABRY line was one of the most interesting Winston County, Alabama settlers. According to family legend, he volunteered as a youth in the Revolutionary War, was wounded in the shoulder and lost an eye by a British saber thrust at Brandywine. He was at Yorktown when the British surrendered. By 1783 he was in Davidson County, Tennessee, where he received a land grant of 640 acres on the north side of the Cumberland River at the mouth of Gaspers Creek.

In Davidson County he married Amelia (Milly) Cooper on June 17, 1791. By 1811 Matthew Payne and family were residents of Madison County, Missisippi Territory (now Alabama), where court records indicate he was active in land speculation, traffic in furs, hides, and frontier commodities, often in partnership with his son, John B. Payne.

According to an affidavit on file in the National Archives, executed by him November 7, 1850, at Lawrence County, Alabama, he volunteered in the War with the Creek Nation of Indians in 1813 in the regiment commanded by Colonel John Coffee. He was in Captain Russell’s Company, one of General Andrew Jackson’s spy companies, and was mustered into service at Fort Williams on the Coosa River a short time before the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

He stated that he had “followed the Army from home with his son John B. Payne (now dead) and upon catching up with it, at Fort Williams, he found Gen. Jackson there in command, who was his neighbor and friend at home and that gallant and distinguished soldier, knowing affiant’s qualities as an experienced woodsman, frontierman, and Indian fighter, pressed him to enlist in Captain Russell’s Company of Volunteers, who acted as Spies, and affiant did so, and continued in actual service in the War with the Creek Nation of Indians until the Battle of the Horse Shoe (Horseshoe Bend) on the Tallapoosa River, on the 27th March 1813 (March 27, 1814) in which battle affiant was left among the wounded at Fort Williams where he remained unable to be moved for about forty days, afterwards he was carried to Fort Strother, and thence home, an invalid for life……

Affiant was left at Fort Williams by General Jackson’s order with his son, John B. Payne to attend on him, where it was expected he would have died in consequence of his wound….”

He was placed on the pension rolls April, 1816, at $96 per annum. In August 1854 he executed a power of attorney appointing a representative in Washington D.C., “my true and lawful agent and attorney to prosecute the claim of my pension for any amt. of Revolutionary Pension or increase of pension that may be due….”

The judge of the Hancock County, Court of Alabama certified on September 11, 1856, that Matthew Payne died in that county on August 17, 1856, leaving a widow, Milly. Preston Payne (another son) was named attorney for the widow. He was buried in what is now a five-grave cemetery about two miles northeast of Pleasant Hill in Range 8 West, Township 9 South, Section 19, the same cemetery containing the grave of Stephen Garrison.’

WILLIAM WHITMARSH, an ancestor through the maternal WHITMARSH - WRIGHT line was born at Abington, Massachusetts, Sept. 22, 1723. He married Jan. 8, 1746-7, Elizabeth, daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Faxon) Hayden, of Braintree. Farmer, sometimes called “gentleman.” In Braintree records he is called Lieut. William Whitmarsh. In the Muster Roll of Capt. Samuel Thaxter’s company, William Whitmarsh of Braintree is Lieutenant, in 1755, in the Crown Point Expedition.

CHARLES WHITMARSH, son of William Whitmarsh and Elizabeth Hayden was born at Braintree, Mass., July 12, 1763; married Nov. 27, 1782, Anna Faxon and removed to Lyndeboro, N. H. He was a Private in the Revolutionary War.

WILLIAM FAXON WHITMARSH, grandson of Charles Whitmarsh (in my maternal line) was born January 27, 1829, in Milford, New Hampshire. William Faxon Whitmarsh died of malaria following the Civil War. He was in the Union Army CO D 1st Iowa Calvary and part of Union occupation troops in Arkansas. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.

JAMES GREEN NOLEN, ancestor in the NOLEN-WEBSTER maternal line is listed as having served in the First Alabama Infantry Regiment, CSA, Company E as a Private.

“This was the first regiment organized under the act of the State legislature authorizing the enlistment of troops for twelve months. The companies rendezvoused at Pensacola in February and March 1861, and about the 1st of April organized by the election of regimental officers. Transferred to the army of the Confederate States soon after, it remained on duty at Pensacola for a year. It was chiefly occupied in manning the batteries and took part in the bombardments of November 23, and January 1, 1862. A detachment was in the night fight on Santa Rosa Island.

Being the oldest regiment in the Confederate service, it was first called on to re-enlist for the war, at the end of the first year, and seven of the companies did so. Ordered to Tennessee, the regiment, 1000 strong, reached Island Ten March 12, 1862. In the severe conflict there, all but a remnant of the regiment were captured. Those who escaped were organized into a battalion, which was part of the garrision at Fort Pillow, and afterwards fought at Corinth.

Those captured were exchanged in September, and the regiment rendezvoused at Jackson, Miss., having lost 150 by death in prison, 150 by casualties since and during the siege of Island Ten. At once ordered to Port Hudson, they participated in the privations of that siege. They were captured, after losing 150 killed and wounded.The privates were paroled and the officers kept in prison till the peace. The men were exchanged in the fall, and joined Gen. Johnston in Mississippi, 610 strong.

The regiment was then at Mobile and Pollard, and joined Gen. Johnston at Alatoona. In Cantey’s brigade, it fought at New Hope, and was afterwards transferred to the brigade of Gen. Quarles, in which it served till the end. It participated at Kennesa, and lost considerably at Peach Tree Creek.In the terrible assault on the enemy’s lines at Atlanta, July 28, the regiment won fresh renown, but lost half of its force in killed and wounded.

Moving with Hood into Tennessee, it again lost very heavily at Franklin and Nashville. Transferred to North Carolina, it took part at Averysboro and Bentonville, and about 100 men surrendered at Goldsboro. Upwards of 3000 names were on its rolls at different times during the war, including the companies that did not re-enlist.”
The above information is from the CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS AND SAILORS SYSTEM and “Brief Historical Sketches of Military Organizations Raised In Alabama During the Civil War.”


Thomas Weir Ford, my second great grandfather in the Ford - Mackey paternal line was born October 20 1833 in Tennessee. He was said to be a “brave soldier in the camps, on the march and on the the field of battle and of death.” His family was on different sides in some battles and in the Battle of Chickamauga Thomas’ brother was facing him on the other side.Thomas was in the 28th Infantry Regiment, CSA. The 28th was originally the 2nd Mountain Regiment, Tennessee Volunteers. He made corporal in October,1861. He was in the battle of Shiloh. He told his grandson, Harold Ford Sr. that he was at Shiloh where they “Fit the Yankees and fit em and fit em.”

2ND LT. JOHN R. BOWLING, my third great grandfather in the paternal Bowling-Fletcher line was the son of Jeremiah and Mary Russell Bowling and was born in Tennessee in 1842. He married Martha Woods and they had one daughter, Margaret Clementine before he went off to war to fight for the Confederates. He never returned home and is said to have died in a Yankee prison camp.

DAVID MILTON WOODS, the father-in-law of John R. Bowling and father of Martha Woods in the Bowling - Woods paternal line was born 24 DEC 1805 in Wilson Co., TN and died 20 AUG 1866 in Pea Ridge,Benton Co., Ark. He was married to Elizabeth Kelsey Copeland. David Milton Wood’s death was due to injuries received during the Civil War when bushwhackers beat him unconscious and the bottoms of his feet burned, in an effort to make him reveal where his money was hidden. By the time this incident occurred he had spent all his money on support of the families of two of his sons and three daughters. His two eldest sons and three of his sons-in-law were with the Southern forces and their families were living with David and his wife.

OSCAR JAMES MACKEY, my second great grandfather in the Mackey - Drew paternal line was born July 29, 1843 in Cattaraugus County, New York and married Avis Wilhelmina Drew. Oscar J. Mackey was a veteran of the Civil War, having served as a private in Company I, Thirty-seventh regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry. He died February 8, 1919 in Bentonville, Arkansas.

HENRY MAXIE WEBSTER, the brother of my grandfather, Guy Smith Webster in the maternal Webster - Whitmarsh line served in the Pacific Theater of World War ll. Sgt. Henry Maxie Webster fought in the battles of Tarara and Cypan in the South Pacific.

SGT.MAX FLETCHER, my uncle in the Fletcher - Mackey paternal line served in the Army Air Force, 500 Bombardment Squadron, Pacific Theater in World War ll. He was a tailgunner on a plane that was shot down twice. Here is a letter he wrote home to his folks.

SGT Max E. Fletcher, Army Air Corps, 500 Bombardment Squadron, Pacific theater.The following letter was read aloud on the radio after the war was over on “The Hunt Salute to Our Boys in the Armed Forces” in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Dear folks, I received a letter from you yesterday. As always I was very glad to hear that you were all well. Now that censorship is lifted, I can write anything I see fit. First, I’ll try to tell you all the places I have been. I left the states on the last day of March and by the 16th of April I was in San Marcelino, on Luzon in the Phillipines.

During these short 16 days and nights of constant travel, I stopped and visited several islands, Hawaii, Tarawa, Kwajalin, Bisk, New Guinea, Lae, Layte, Los Negroes, Guadalcanal, Nadjab, and the Christmas Islands. After arriving at San Marcelino, I learned to be a radio man. I didn’t fly any there. In five weeks we moved to Clark Field and on that one I lost two very good friends, my navigator and co-pilot- Swallow and Graham.

The day they went down, I had a feeling that someone on the crew would be lost. You see there were only four ships on the mission to Formosa, and that island was just one big gun. My crew was split up into all four ships: Baker in one, Swallow and Graham in one and me in the third. I knew that if any one of the planes went down it would get one of us. All of the planes picked up holes from ack ack.

Swallow had just made Squadron Navigator and was flying lead ship. I was third over the target. Beker was second. I was riding in the tail strafing houses and gun positions when I spotted their plane on the ground, burning. As far as I know, no one got out, but of course, I couldn’t look too good as I was covering our tail as we were leaving the target. You can imagine how I felt.

I knew it was one of my crew, and I didn’t know which one for several minutes. Our plane got 57 holes from ack ack. Our upper turret was blown away. The gunner had just bent down to get his flak helmet. Lucky! More than luck. It sure is hard to think of your buddies being killed every day, but we must all die sometime and we can’t all die for something.

After leaving Clark Field, we moved to Ie Shima. On this island, Ernie Pyle was killed. It is only a mile and a half from Okinawa, the closest of our possessions from Japan. I flew four combat missions to the Japanese sea, searching for Japanese shipping. We found it too. My plane sank several ships. In all, over two each mission. In all, I only flew five combat missions and I’m thankful I don’t have to fly anymore.

I will fly patrol for a while. Pray? I thought I had prayed before, but now I know I hadn’t. I have received four combat stars and have been put in for the Air Medal, but it hasn’t come through yet. It was to be awarded for outstanding performance. In my case it was for participating in sinking several ships. I don’t see why I should get it- I didn’t drop any bombs.

I don’t have enough points to come home just yet, but I hope it won’t be too long. I think we are going to Korea. I wondered if you heard the program directly from here about our group leading the Jap planes to Ie Shima? I have some good pictures I made of them. Hope they come out okay. We worked on the point basis. When we collected one hundred points we got to go back to the states. It worked this way:

For every ten hours you get three points, for fighter interception, without fighter cover, we got three points. If a plane in our flight went down, we got two points, and for holes we got one point. If we got one hundred holes we got only one point. If we got one hole, we got one point. Doesn’t sound logical does it? Our losses were very high. Since I came into the squadron we have had one hundred percent losses.

Thank God the Japs didn’t have the atomic bomb. One bomb can do as much damage as six million infantrymen can do in four to five months. I know. I’ve seen what they can do. Nagasaki looks like a big black flat piece of slate. All the fellows you know that came here are alright excepting Swallow and Graham. However,there were only three crews of us and you didn’t know some of the ones who went down. Jack Crossland and Jimmy are okay.

Jimmy has flown one time and is still scared. He almost went to pieces. We have had several fellows blow their tops. One shot himself night before last. War is Hell! And you’ll never know it until you have seen it. I must get some sleep. I have to get up very early in the morning to fly. Take care of yourselves, and I have a feeling we will all be together again before too long. There doesn’t seem to be much more to write, so I’ll close for now.

As ever, Max

P.S. Why didn’t you tell me Grandpa was sick before he was sent home from the hospital!