Doubting Thomas – Part 3

The Whittle Family Tree

Part 3 of Doubting Thomas will deal with the departure of Thomas from his home and his enlistment in the Federal Army in Kentucky. This has really been the stumbling block for the story of Thomas with the family. I was greatly interested in the family story regarding Thomas Whittle, and in who might have started the story. Stories like this come down in every family and pinning down where they begin is usually near impossible. The undated news article that I posted Saturday may at least help us narrow down where the story came from. The article (in part) said

“In the early part of the late war he left Towsontown for Pittsburgh and the last heard of him was that he had left that city and had enlisted in a Kentucky regiment of the Federal Army and took part in the battle of Shiloh. A letter afterwards received from his captain stated that he was seen before entering the battle, but that his regiment had met with great loss and it was not known whether Mr. Whittle was killed, captured, or had deserted. As nothing more was ever heard of him there is no doubt that he was among the unknown dead. The deceased [unreadable] three children – E. Dorsey, Joshua T. and Mrs. William H Hoffman. Joshua T. Whittle is the well known ice-cream manufacturer in Glyndon. W.M.R.R.”

Who gave the reporter the story? The death of an older female resident rarely elicits much more then a short paragraph, but this reporter wrote something closer to a story on Thomas. Sarah was gone, so who told the story? The options are her brother, one of her two sons, or her daughter. I am doubtful it was her daughter Annie as she lived in Baltimore at the time. Her brother Edward Flayhart was about 70 when the article was written and had been a pump maker in Towsontown, but this would hardly make him a newsworthy man. Edward Dorsey Whittle had been a Constable in Towsontown1 and Joshua T. Whittle was the former Sheriff of Baltimore County.2 Both men would have been well known in the community and would also have been considered “newsworthy”, so my money is on one or both of the boys.

Why is it important to know who told the story? It’s about level of knowledge, perspective, and distance from the event. When Thomas left “in the early part of the late war”, how old would these people have been and what type of memory would they have of the event? In 1861 Edward Dorsey would have been about 14 and Joshua T. would have been about 5. Edward would have had very clear memories of the departure and becoming the man of the house, while Joshua’s would have been the memories of a child. They are no less valid than Edwards, but a young child’s memories are often based on hearing a story over and over, while an older child’s memories are of the event itself.

I think in this case it would be wise to utilize a time line for Thomas Items in brackets {} are the items from the news story that are unproven.

1820 – Birth of Thomas Whittle in Maryland
1842 – Marriage to Sarah Flayhart
1844 – 1849 Birth of son Andrew Jameson, son Edward Dorsey, daughter Sarah Rebecca
1850 – Census Towsontown Baltimore County
1852 – 1856 Birth of daughter Ann E., death of son Andrew Jameson, birth of son Joshua T.
1856 – Builds a small home in N.E. Towsontown (the stone house Sarah would sell)
1860 – Birth of son Robert
1860 – Census Towsontown
1861 – {Early in war departs for Pittsburgh}
Feb 1862 – Enlists in Kentucky Infantry (from military records in Ruth’s possession)
1862 – {Participated in the Battle of Shiloh}
1863 – Military Records list him as deserted (from military records in Ruth’s possession)

The time of the event now becomes a larger piece of the equation. “In the early part of the late war” is a pretty open time frame. The war began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter 12-13 April 1861 and ended 9 April 1865 at Appomattox, Virginia. What does the early part consist of? In February 1862 the war would have been less than a year old, but 30 years later it could have been seen as the early days of the war.

We will probably never know why Thomas Whittle left Baltimore and wound up in Kentucky. There are loads of reasons you can try to apply to the situation – search for work, land and opportunity away from the war or escape from family obligations. Baltimore was not a fun place to be during the Civil War, and it truly was a city of divided loyalties. Perhaps Thomas was simply going to look for a better place for his family. There are no Whittles in Pittsburgh on the 1860 census, but there are numerous Whittles in Kentucky. Regardless of why he went, we can look at the route he would have taken. The natural travel route in 1861 or 1862 to Kentucky would have been through Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, as the direct route to Kentucky would have been through Virginia, which was controlled by the South. His first major stop would have been where the wagon road ended in Pittsburgh. “… he left Towsontown for Pittsburgh and the last heard of him was that he had left that city …” If you break this down it makes sense that the last heard of him was that he left that city. It would have been the last opportunity to mail a letter prior to his departure for Kentucky. He would have boarded a river boat of some type in Pittsburgh and gone down the Ohio to Kentucky.

February 1862 he enlisted in the Union Army in Kentucky according to the records Ruth received from the National Archives.3 His nephews Samuel and Charles are in the Maryland Regiments – if you were simply going to enlist why would you leave and go all the way to Kentucky to do it? As Arwen pointed out to me when we reviewed the news article – not every man enlisted where he lived. However, the enlistment somehow does not seem like the reason for the trip. Regardless of the reason behind it, there is documentation that a Thomas Whittle of the correct age and place of birth enlisted in the 18th Kentucky Infantry in February 1862 as a private in Company F run by Capt. William H. Littlejohn.

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Wrapping Up The Whittle Plot

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