The Whittle Family Tree
I received mail from Ruth just before Christmas with Thomas Whittle’s Civil War records1. It is woefully thin and consists of nothing more than the Muster Roll sheets. I have never found any evidence of a claim for pension by Thomas or by his wife Sarah. As it has been several weeks – lets do a quick recap of what we know and what was told in the family story.
Thomas marries Sarah Flayhart and fathers 6 children. Sometime in the early part of the Civil War (our best guess is 1861) he departs Towsontown and in Feb 1862 he is in the 18th Kentucky Infantry. The family believes he is killed in battle somewhere (we already disproved Shiloh), but it is possible he was captured or deserted.2,3,4
First up is the Company Muster-In Roll from 8 Feb 1862, which says that he “Joined for duty and enrolled” Dec 9, 1861 in Falmouth, Ky and Received one months pay from the State of Kentucky. This confirms “early in the late war” as 1861 and places him in Falmouth Kentucky a full two months earlier than we thought.
There are muster rolls sheets that show he was present for duty from the time of enrollment through Dec 1862. The next item of interest in the Company Muster Roll for Jan & Feb 1863 and at the bottom in the Book Mark section state “Deserted Jany 20/63”
Of greater interest is the List of Deserters sheet from Apl 30, 1863[sic] with the Remarks: “Last heard from Apr 15/63”. Huh? I guess he didn’t die in January when he wasn’t present for duty, as someone heard from him in April 1863. Why didn’t these people keep track of this stuff – where’s the darn reports of who and where????
The last item in the file is the April 4, 1865 Co. Muster-out Roll. This occurred in Goldsboro, North Carolina. It basically shows his last pay draw was from Oct 31, 1862 and gives us some solid information. “Deserted Lexington Ky. Jan 20th 1863”.
In the History of the Kentucky Infantry for the 18th Infantry, the unit was in Lexington Kentucky from December 5 1862 and then moved to Louisville by January 27th. In April, when he was supposedly last heard from, the unit was in Carthage, Tennessee.
Here we are again with more questions:
Who and how did they last hear from him? Did he send a letter to his Company Commander or a buddy? I’m guessing it was a “sent” message as if he had shown up, he would have been disciplined in some way or faced a court martial.
The Union Army felt it was a desertion and there is no evidence of a battle in which he could have been one of the “unknown dead” – so what happened to Thomas Whittle? He didn’t go home, so where did he go? Did he wander west and change his name, as so many did, and start a new life and a new family? Did he desert and head home to see his wife and die enroute? Was there a letter from Capt Littlejohn asking Sarah if she’d seen him as he was listed as a deserter? Was the story about a letter saying he died just a story by Sarah to protect her families reputation?
I’ll leave it to the reader to choose an ending to the story of Thomas Whittle as I don’t have any answers at this time. Hey it’s the Whittle men – what did you expect?