Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Skeleton in the Closet? Part 2

If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out to see how this got started.

I found Oliver Perry Register's Confederate pension application a few pages after that of his wife, Mary Jane Clifton Register. His was much longer than hers.

The first thing I noticed was the note on his application that it was disapproved. A note on the side says quite bluntly "This man deserted."

The next page was curious. A WF Sedgwick signed as a witness to OP's service, stating that he served with him in Company D 9th Florida Regiment from 1863 to 1865. He stated that OP he thought OP was present at the surrender at Appomattox or at least close by and that he did not leave service until the time of surrender.

At this point, I decided to go looking to see if there was a pension application for WF Sedgwick. There was, and it appears that his application was approved. On an interesting note, one of his two witnesses to his service was OP Register.

Getting back to OP, the remainder of his application package includes several letters. The first is a letter from the ordinary of Clinch County. It's difficult to read, but appears to be asking for a second look at the application. It says that OP was cut off from his regiment during battle and got lost in the woods.

A typed petition on the facing page says that he was caught by yankee troops about twenty days before the surrender and since he was aware the war was nearly ended, he took an oath of allegiance so he wouldn't be imprisoned. The petition is signed by 31 soldiers from Clinch County, including several Registers, AB Swearinger (who served as witness of WF Sedgwick's application) and a number of other names.

The remainder of the pages consist of two handwritten letter by OP Register himself. The first letter in the package is actually the second letter he wrote so I'm going to start with first one chronologically. It is dated July 11, 1911 and covers 9 pages. It basically explains the situation in which he got lost in the woods and was picked up by a Union patrol. Rather than be placed in one of their prisons, he took the oath and was released. He notes that five of his brothers, as well as his father, served during the war.

He must have got a response rather quickly because the other letter is dated July 17, 1911. I have to say I had to smile. Even though he was nearly 70 at the time he wrote the letter, he was still full of the fighting spirit that can be found in our family today. He starts off nice, but is obviously perturbed by what he sees as a deliberate misinterpretation of what he said. By the end of the 4 page letter, he not so subtly tells the Commissioner of Pensions, JW Lindsey, where he can stick his pension. Needless to say, when OP passed in 1913, he still hadn't received his pension.

So was Oliver Perry Register a deserter of the Confederate Army? I'm not sure. He admits to signing the Oath of Allegiance, one of the documents behind his pension turn down, but says he signed it so he could go home rather than prison. At that point in time, it was apparent the Confederates were not going to win the war; it was merely a matter of time before they lost. If I were in the same situation, I'm not sure I wouldn't sign whatever someone asked me to if it meant I got to go home to my family instead of rotting in prison.

The fact that 31 men stood up for him in the petition also makes me wonder if he was falsely accused. Family members aside, I can't see these men, many of which were on the pension already, signing the petition unless they truly believed that he was innocent of the charge.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. If that many men took the trouble to speak in his behalf, they must have known something about him - I'm with them.