NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Tuesday October 17th 2017

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The count of Union and Confederate Civil War Veterans remains challenging Part II: Two, New Confederate Veterans

General Index Cards of Isaac Breathed and Derusha Daffi

During the American Civil War 1861-1864, every few weeks to every few months depending on the unit, usually at the company level, soldiers’ names were recorded on muster rolls. Beginning in the 1880s General Ainsworth’s staff in the Department of the Army indexed these records originally to determine who was eligible for a pension. His staff wrote a card for every time a soldier’s name appeared on a muster roll. When Ainsworth’s staff finished the Compiled Military Service records, each soldier’s file usually had many cards representing each time the soldier’s name appeared on a muster roll.

One type of card, the General Index Card listed the soldier’s name, the soldier’s rank at the time of enlistment from the first card and the date the soldier left the service with the soldier’s final rank from the last card. These General Index cards form the basis for the Soldier names in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System.

When Ainsworth’s staff completed the project, there were 6.3 million General Index Cards for the soldiers – both Union and Confederate – who had served during the American Civil War. Historians have determined that approximately 3.5 million soldiers actually fought in the War. A soldier serving in more than one regiment, serving under two names, or spelling variations resulted in the fact that there are 6.3 million General Index Cards for 3.5 million soldiers. Data from all 6.3 million cards is in the CWSS.

This is one of the first sources used when we are trying to identify our veterans at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery.

By TIMOTHY McCALL, Guest Writer

There are two confirmed Confederate Civil War veterans buried at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. One, Isaac Breathed, having only recently been identified. What were these veterans doing so far from home? Read on…

Isaac Breathed; Virginia 1846-1901

Isaac Breathed was born in Virginia in 1846. His father, Judge John Breathed, was a wealthy Virginia farmer and slaveholder. The 1860 Census lists Judge Breathed’s family living in Washington County, Maryland, with a net worth of over $41,000 and that they owned 8 slaves. At the outset of the Civil War, Isaac’s older brother James, joined the Virginia Horse Artillery and quickly rose through the ranks. Robert E. Lee is reported to have said that James was “The hardest artillery fighter the war produced.” Isaac must have felt the burden of being compared to his older brother and the expectation for similar success on the battle field, when he enlisted on November 20, 1863 in Company A, 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, also known as Mosby’s rangers. The term of his enlistment was for a period of three years or until the end of the war. Isaac’s service, however, was to be shorter than he could possibly have imagined, as he was captured and became a prisoner of war on December 20, 1863, one month after he had enlisted. On June 10, 1865, Isaac swore an oath of allegiance to the United States at Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, Massachusetts and was released. He was described as having a dark complexion, brown hair, blue eyes and was 5’ 8” tall. Nothing else could be found of Isaac’s whereabouts until September 27, 1879, the day he married Ms. Sydney Curry in Big Rapids, Michigan. Sydney gave birth to their only son (James) in January 1880. It can be said with near certainty that it wasn’t for love that they married, considering that in 1880, Sydney and James were living in Illinois, where she was working as a servant for the Charles Mayer family, while Isaac was living in Big Rapids, Michigan, working as a hotel clerk. In 1884, Isaac resumed his military career by enlisting in Co. B, 7th U.S. Infantry and was stationed at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. He reenlisted and was transferred to Co. A, 17th U.S. Infantry and was stationed in Russel, Wyoming and also spent some time in San Francisco. He was discharged in 1894 with the rank of Corporal. Why or how he ended up in Minneapolis is hard to say. He had visited one of his brothers in Chicago shortly before his discharge and so, perhaps he was looking for work. Isaac Breathed died while being transported to the City Hospital on September 18, 1901. The cause of death was heart disease. He was 55 years old. Isaac is buried in Lot 21, Block i-2.

Derusha Daffi; Alabama 1827-1868

Derusha Daffin, our first confirmed Confederate Veteran, was well known in Clarke County, Alabama, where he was born in 1827. His family had been living there before Alabama became a state in 1819. He worked as a printer for the Southern Recorder newspaper in his late teens and in 1849, he and his partner J.T. Figures, purchased the paper renaming it the Grove Hill Herald. In 1851, he married his first wife Rebecca Woodard with whom he had two sons; Henry and William. That same year, he was elected Clerk of the Circuit Court of Clarke County, Alabama, a position he held for 17 years. He was also a prolific writer and poet. During the Fall of 1853, the town of Grove Hill was visited by “that scourge of the tropics” yellow fever. Many people died and all business ceased to operate within the town. It was during this time that he wrote the following poem:

Now the night arose in silence,

Birds lay in their leafy nest,

And the deer crouched in the forest,

And the children were at rest;

There was only sound of weeping

From watchers round a bed;

But rest to the weary spirit.

Peace to the quiet dead!

GroveHill, Ala. D. D.”

In 1854, he sold his interest in the Grove Hill Herald, possibly to help administer his father’s estate, who had passed away in November 1853 and to concentrate on his job at the Circuit Court.

The 1860 census shows Derusha living with his two sons and a three-year-old girl, Martha K. Daffin, his wife having died in 1859. Martha may have been a ward, but I can’t say for certain who she was. That same year, he purchased 360 acres in the town of St. Stephens and is listed as having owned two slaves. It may have been his intention to take up farming, but there is no evidence that he ever did. In 1861 he married Clarinda Coate, with whom he had two sons, John and Robert. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Governor of Alabama appointed him Assistant Adjutant General of the 22nd Brigade. This position required him to help supervise all activities of the state militia and all military property held by the state. In 1862 he was commissioned Captain, Company E, 4th Alabama Volunteer Militia (90 days). By 1868, quite possibly due to the deprivations of war, he had contracted Tuberculosis. In an attempt to ease his suffering, he traveled to Minnesota, accompanied by his friend Judge Torrey. It was a common misconception of the time that a higher latitude and cooler climate could help cure afflictions of the chest and lungs. While in Minnesota, he visited Minnehaha and the falls of St. Anthony and wrote a number of letters to the Clarke County Democrat about the state and its resources. Derusha died on the 28th of August, 1868, west of Wayzata, Minnesota. The cause of death was consumption. He is buried in Lot 17, Block A.

Friends of the Cemetery commitment to authenticity

Ironically, of the four gentlemen discussed, Breathed and Daffin this month, Parker and Dutiel last month, only Jonas Parker’s grave has a marker, and it, well, it’s just plain wrong. Another case of mistaken identity. One of the goals of the Friends of the Cemetery is to make sure that all of the veterans graves are marked, “positively” identified and with the correct marker. It’s a slow process, but one day, we believe they all will be.

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