Lewis K. Harris

Lewis K. Harris, my great-great grandfather

As our nation begins the commemoration of the sesquicentennial (i.e., 150th anniversary) of the Civil War, I have been spending a lot of time researching one particular ancestor of mine who was involved in the war.  My great-great grandfather Lewis Kinsey Harris served from one of the first battles to one of the last.  He rose from the rank of private to captain.  In the last battle he was in on April 9, 1865, the colonel of the regiment went down and he served for a few weeks in his place.  When L.K. died 53 years after the end of the war, the local newspaper announced “Captain Harris Called by Death.”

I am writing another blog (called An Indiana Soldier) in which I am tracing week-by-week L.K.’s involvement in the Civil War.  So far I’ve put up a few posts about his life before the war, but this week begins the actual story of him as a soldier.  I’m sure some of the weeks will have great stories and sometimes all that I’ll be able to report is the mundane movements of his unit from one place to another–a true representation of the nature of army life, even in an exciting time like the Civil War.

Several years ago I started researching L.K. and his wartime experiences.  Our family had a few documents that had been passed down from generation to generation.  I knew a few of the stories.  But to really get a sense of what he did, I had to get a copy of his pension file from the National Archives (over 200 pages long!) and research each of the regiments he was involved in (three total:  the 8th Indiana, the 36th Indiana and the 69th Indiana).  It’s been fascinating and fun, but it’s also been frustrating because there’s always more to learn and it feels like there’s always more out there to find (alas, time and resources are limited).

Since I’ve started the other blog, two interactions with people have caused me to think more deeply about the Civil War and my family.  A cousin of mine asked which part of my family L.K. came from (undoubtedly wondering if she was related to him).  Then I read another person’s genealogy blog who is also interested in the 69th Indiana and she mentioned having 24 confirmed Civil War veterans in just one branch of her family (see The Faces of My Family blog).

Re-enlistment papers for William H. Jarvis, dated January 4, 1864. (Click to enlarge).

This made me reconsider the question of who among my ancestors had served in the Civil War.  I had briefly looked into this years ago, but hadn’t found any other direct ancestors who had served.  I cursorily glanced at some of my three-times-great uncles’ records, but didn’t find anything of interest–especially when compared to the life and service of L.K. Harris.  The only other veteran I found was L.K.’s brother William who served in the 69th Indiana with him as a musician, but since his service paralleled L.K.’s there wasn’t much to say about him.

But now, since I have reopened the question of who among my ancestors–uncles, cousins and all–served in the Civil War, I have found another potentially interesting story.  My three-times-great uncle, William H. Jarvis, was the brother of my great-great grandfather, Ambrose Jarvis (for more on Ambrose, see my previous post Dying in 1918).  The Jarvis family lived in Clay County, Kentucky among the foothills of the Appalachians, in an area where the question of which side to join was open to debate.

I am just beginning the process of researching William H. Jarvis and his service in the Civil War.  A brief glance on turned up his consolidated service record and some enlistment papers indicating his age.  In January 1864 when he re-enlisted after his first three-year commitment was up, he said he was 20 years old and 7 months.  That means in 1861 when he initially signed up for the war, he was 18 years old (assuming he didn’t lie about his age, although census records indicate he might have been 16 at the time).

He apparently fought for the Union in several battles that L.K. didn’t–Perryville, Stone’s River, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge.  It looks like he served from near the beginning of the war (September 1861) to the end (August 1865), but he started and finished as a private.  His infantry unit (the 8th Kentucky Infantry) was eventually dissolved and absorbed into a mounted infantry unit (the 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry).  His wartime experience will likely look very different than L.K.’s.

Signature of William H. Jarvis from January 1864 re-enlistment papers.

I’m looking forward to learning more about William H. Jarvis.  If anybody who stumbles across this blog has any information about him, I’d love to hear from you.  I’ll try to post more as I learn more about him.

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7 Responses to Sesquicentennial

  1. bronxboy55 says:

    Fascinating stuff as always, Kevin. This question of the border states and who would fight for which side raises so many more questions. How many families and communities must have been destroyed by divided loyalties? As you said, the Civil War was an exciting time, and unimaginably tragic, as well.

    • My cousin says she has ancestors on both sides. I think the Confederate ones are her ancestors and not mine, though. I haven’t yet found any Confederate ancestors.

      The situation in Kentucky must have been particularly challenging. I’ve started reading about Kentuckian’s response to the outbreak of war and it’s expanded my perspective. I tend to think of the time before the war as pretty clear-cut: either you were for the Union or for the Confederacy. The reality must have been much more complex. I know most the decisions in my own life are more complex than they appear on the surface.

      And I totally agree that the Civil War was unimaginably tragic.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. pokedpotato says:

    man I don’t know how you keep track of all your ancestors. I am pretty sure I would lose total track once I got to the great grand parents (aside from the fact that those relatives would all be dead & gone in China somewhere…)

    I am way behind on reading your blogs but am totally enjoying catching up!!

    • It is challenging to keep track of everybody, but that’s part of the fun–like a puzzle.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! I’m a little behind on yours too.

      Happy Easter!

  3. Kay Jarvis says:

    Hi, I am a Jarvis. Through I have found the 1st Jarvis in my line to arrive from England in 1750 in Baltimore. So John Jarvis, the new baby was apparently born on ship and then registered in January in Baltimore County in January. He was the young couple’s first child, father John Jarvis and mother Hannah Hill, from Hillshire England, near Southampton. Then they had a second child in 1753, still in Baltimore County I believe, a boy Solomon. This child may be in your direct line. I say that because both Solomon and brother John fought in the Revolutionary War and were awarded land grants for their service. John, my relative, took his land in western Virginia. Now West Virginia. His brother Solomon took his land in Kentucky. I really think that many, many Jarvis’ in KY are centered on that land from Solomon. There may even be some mention of the county where Solomon chose his land in the docs because there is for John in the Revolutionary War records.

    John Jarvis and Hannah Hill beget:

    John Jarvis b 1750 and Solomon Jarvis b 1753

    John Jarvis b 1750 and Sarah Hood beget

    Thomas Figgins Jarvis b 1804 in Harrison VA

    Thomas Figgins Jarvis b 1804 and Ailsey Bentley Connolly b: Abt 1806 in Harrison,Virginia beget:

    George Solomon Jarvis b: Abt 1834 in Lewis,Virginia

    George Solomon Jarvis b 1834 and Sarah E. Siers b: 29 MAR 1837 in Monroe, Virginia beget:

    John Thomas Jarvis b: JAN 1866 in Calhoun,West Virginia

    John Thomas Jarvis b 1866 and 2 Flora Brannon b: 11 JUL 1868 in Calhoun,West Virginia beget:

    Matt Jarvis b: 20 FEB 1884 in Calhoun, West Virginia

    Matt Jarvis b. 20 FEB 1884 and Maude Meadows b: 14 OCT 1886 in Calhoun,West beget:

    AS Per 1930 US Census:

    Tygart, Wood, West Virginia
    Enumerated April 29, 1930
    All born and parents born in West Virginia
    Matt Jarvis Head MW 45 M at 27 Engineer, Ice Company
    Maude Wife FW 44 M at 26
    Macel Dau FW 17
    Hartsel Son MW 15
    Hazel Dau FW 14
    ChloeDau FW 11
    Rex Son MW 3 11/12
    Donald Son MW 1 2/12

    Sharon Kay Jarvis, b 1949, Daughter of Rex Calvin Jarvis b 1926 and Nita Marie George b 1929
    Researched on RootsWEb’s WorldConnect Project: Walker Kreaps DECEMBER 2008

    So, my research trails off quickly for Solomon except for mentions of both brothers in the Revolutionary War.
    Hope this sparks a search!
    All best,
    Kay Jarvis.

  4. John Whaley(Jarvis) says:

    My mother was Pauline Melva Hunt, her mom was Katherine Jarvis whose father was Henry Jarvis, im just seeing if there is a connection, im knew at this but love working on this. The Jarvis family are from Kentucky and Southern ohio (Adams County in Ohio) where my Mom is from!!

  5. Chuck Gargan says:

    Hi Kevin’
    My name is Chuck, and right off the bat I must tell you that I just may happen to be in possession of your great-great grandfather’s Colt Model 1860 pistol from the Civil War. I sure hope so, for your sake & the sake of history. I love the extensive work & research you have done to inform history buffs (like myself). I got into the Civil War by trying to trace an ancestor from my mom’s side who was in the 8th Mass. Vol. The connection became addicting, so much so, that I traveled to Lynn, MA to “explore.” I found so much! There is a picture of Thomas Hun Berry (our ancestor) on-line that reminds me of LK Harris. Lt. Berry mustered out in 1864 as a Capt.
    Back to the pistol: Circumstantial evidence: 1) I have strong suspicions to begin with (there is something special I feel when holding the Colt!). 2) The initials LK are (period) carved into the butt, twice! 3) The serial number (7668) and inspector marks are early in the CW, (1861 manufacture), which obviously means it was issued early on 4) The pistol saw hard service, but still clicks like a charm!…the martial markings are faint, probably from use and cleaning. 5) The Colt would have been issued to officers. I am a CW collector, but can greatly appreciate family connections, so I would rather see interested loved ones carry on their history . If we can possibly authenticate it further (the next try might be through Colt to track its movement to the field…maybe even to LK’s Regt.), I would be happy to sell it to you for a fair market price. The Colt is a Second Model (only 7000 made) which makes it worth more money that the 4th Mod. (most common), but if this indeed LK’s CW pistol, it might be priceless to you. It would be great to hear from you & we can talk further. My no. is: 609-602-6992 I can e-mail you pictures!

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