Family Story Friday – James Knox, Civil War Soldier

The Civil War Soldier – His Story

Although I had many ancestors who served in the Civil War, the one whose story I know best is James Knox, corporal in the 18th Missouri Infantry. James was born in 1839, in Bureau County, Illinois. His parents were John Knox and Isabel Bay.

In 1858, James married Sarah Hume in Putnam County, Missouri. Their children were Henry, David, Annie, and Bertha. Bertha is my great-grandmother.

James and Sarah (Hume) Knox

According to the book, The Eighteenth Missouri, James, his father John, and brothers John Jr. and William all joined the 18th Missouri Infantry on the same day.

James was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) and went home for a number of months to recuperate. It was the story of James and Shiloh, told by my grandmother, that really got me started in genealogy.

At the end of the war John took part in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. in May of 1865 – read about it here.  His father, John, died of disease in Atlanta, Georgia and was reburied at the Murietta National Cemetery. On the 1890 Veterans Schedule, John Jr. is listed as suffering from chronic diarrhea related to his military service, James is listed as having the knee wound as well as chronic liver and kidney problems,

Finding James’ Gravesite

A few years back, my sister, Vicki, and I took a couple of days out from visiting  Aunt Helen in Hiawatha, Kansas. We drove to Harris, a little town in northern Missouri. My mom and I had been there several years earlier so I had an approximate knowledge of where James was buried, but not his daughter, Bertha.

Mom and I started at one end of the cemetery and (of course) finally found James and his wife Sarah’s tombstones on the complete opposite side!

Mom standing by the tombstone of Sarah Knox, wife of James.
Mom standing between the tombstones of James Knox and Sarah Hume Knox, James’ wife.

When Vicki and I went back to the Harris Cemetery, we managed to read almost all of the obelisk over her grave:  She was a fond and affectionate wife, a _____ mother and a friend to all.

The stone also notes that their son, David, who died as a teenager, is buried there as well.

Tombstone James Knox
James Knox’ tombstone

Discovering More About James

Vicki and I went to the County Courthouse in Unionville (Putnam County), hoping to find some kind of records about the Knox family. Wouldn’t you know it, the records were all stuck up in the attic. And, it was an especially hot summer day. But up we went, digging through packets until we finally found probate records for James.

Courthouse Unionville, Missouri

According to the records, it appears that James was declared “insane” and that someone else was handling his affairs. We also discovered a previously unknown fact – James owned land somewhere around Liberal, Kansas. How that came to be,  I’m not sure. It’s one of those facts you tuck away and dig into at a later date.

As it happens, James outlived Sarah by 15 years. She passed away in 1905 and he in 1920. His death certificate gives the cause of death as “apoplexy” (stroke).  Click the image to enlarge.


On that second trip to Harris, Vicki did find Bertha’s tombstone. She is buried several rows away from her father and mother. Her husband, who remarried, is buried in a different cemetery. Bertha’s cause of death is listed as pulmonary tuberculosis.

We left her wildflowers.

Leaving flowers on Bertha Dearing's tombstone

What family member can you write about today?

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2 comments

  1. Great story! I have a great, great uncle that was in the Missouri cavalry. Before he was discharged he was in the Power River War and later settled in Western Colorado.

    1. Hi Hartley, Thanks for the comment. I’ve actually been to the site of the Powder River War – pretty spectacular landscape up there. No wonder he settled in Colorado – probably didn’t want to leave the west 🙂 Nancy

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