All research and writing done by the author of this blog is his own copyrighted material. It may not be reproduced without permission of the author, except for small quotes amounting to no more than one hundred words.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

                                                       No Better Cavalry Officer
Colonel Marcellus Pointer (1841-1909)

Marcellus Pointer, a man who was described at the end of his life as “broke and friendless…too proud to beg…” and having “died of a broken heart,” was the youngest of eight children. Though he would later claim to have been born in 1844 in Virginia, his actual birthplace was Caswell County, North Carolina, on April 19, 1841. His father, David Pointer, graduated from Transylvania Medical College, Lexington, Kentucky, in 1822, marrying Obedience Torian two years later. Originally from Halifax County, Virginia, the Pointers moved to North Carolina, shortly before Marcellus’ birth.

 By 1843 the family had relocated to Marshall County, Mississippi, where Dr. Pointer practiced medicine. The doctor was also a cotton planter, having inherited a few slaves. By the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, the number had grown to 64. In the late 1850s, Dr. Pointer hired architect Spires Boling to build a Greek Revival mansion on Salem road in Holly Springs.

Pointer’s resume, written in 1898, states that he was sixteen when he graduated from an unnamed military academy after attending for two years. When Mississippi seceded from the Union, young Marcellus joined what would become Old Company B, 9th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. His one-year enlistment in the 9th expired in March 1862, prior to the Battle of Shiloh. There is no documentation that Private Pointer fought there. However, his older brother, Monroe, was slightly wounded in that battle, serving as a corporal in the 154th Tennessee Infantry.
Whether Marcellus sat out the Battle of Shiloh or not, on July 20, 1862, while at Holly Springs, General Joseph Wheeler was given command of Chalmers’ cavalry brigade. Pointer’s appointment to serve as a volunteer aide-de-camp to Wheeler, with the rank of second lieutenant, is dated the same day.

Pointer served with Wheeler’s cavalry for the rest of the war, having been wounded five times, according to a letter Wheeler wrote long after the war. His first wound, received in a rearguard action on the retreat from Perryville, Kentucky, in October 1862 was serious enough to put him out of action for several months. A letter Wheeler wrote to Dr. Pointer details some of the circumstances. In it Wheeler tells the doctor that his son’s wound was not serious, then goes on to praise the young lieutenant for his bravery during the recent campaign.

The wound was apparently more serious than General Wheeler claimed, for Lieutenant Pointer did not return to duty until January 1863. That year saw a number of incidents which tested his mettle to the limit. At Shelbyville in late June, after a fight to hold the Duck River Bridge against ten times their number, Wheeler gave the order, “Every man for himself!” He then leapt his horse off a fifteen-foot embankment into the rushing river, followed by Pointer and a few others.
That autumn, about the time of the Battle of Chickamauga, Pointer captured a flag from a fleeing Federal trooper after shooting him off his horse. To quote Wheeler, his young aide then “dashed through the enemy camp” before returning with his trophy.

In November of that year, while operating near Maryville, Tennessee, Wheeler, Pointer, and other staff officers, supported by Dibrell’s regiment of Tennesseans, rode toward enemy lines on a predawn reconnaissance. Coming upon dismounted companies of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry (US), Wheeler ordered a charge. Caught off guard, the Kentuckians scattered, losing over 150 captured. Riding in pursuit of two escaping Federal officers, the general and his aide rounded a bend, only to be confronted by a second enemy cavalry regiment, drawn up in line of battle.

“Follow me!” shouted Pointer, who, without a moment’s hesitation, pistol blazing, rode straight into the stunned Federals. Wounded in the shoulder, the fearless lieutenant broke through, making his way back to Wheeler by way of a backroad. The general, who had turned his horse in time to avoid the melee, had given up Pointer for a goner.
However, not all such escapades were covered in glory. In late December Wheeler’s worn-out troopers attacked a Federal wagon train as it crossed the Hiawassee River Bridge at

Charleston, Tennessee. The odds against Wheeler were so one-sided that a reporter embedded with the Confederates questioned the general’s military judgement. The command was routed, but not before Pointer was confronted by two Federals demanding his surrender. At first Pointer agreed, but, having no intention of actually surrendering, he suddenly fired his pistol at one of his captors. Just as the wounded trooper fell from his horse, a second Federal returned fire, wounding Pointer in the chest. Yet, not only was he able to escape himself, but the intrepid lieutenant helped cover Wheeler’s escape from the same melee.

As if in a James Gang raid gone bad, plucky troopers picked up unhorsed comrades and hoisted them onto the backs of their own horses during the mad rush to the rear. Pointer’s wound would again put him out of action for months, while his return to duty was met with a completely different sort of war than the one he fought in Tennessee.

During the early months of 1864, Wheeler’s command was tasked with guarding the rugged mountain passes, known as gaps, which separated the Army of Tennessee, then commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston, from a growing Federal presence based at Chattanooga. A large Federal push through the gaps would threaten Johnston’s much smaller army, based at Dalton, Georgia, and open the campaign to capture Atlanta. Brutal skirmishing characterized the fighting for control of the gaps, and men who had volunteered for glory and honor now found themselves liable to summary execution simply for being on the wrong side.

On April 23, 1864, Confederate Col. Reuben R. Ross led a raid on the isolated pickets of the 92nd Illinois Mounted Infantry at Nickajack Gap, a raid controversial for being especially brutal. Lt. Horace Scovill, along with twelve of his men, were captured. Conducting them to the rear
was a detachment allegedly commanded by Lt. Pointer. Their hurried trek to Wheeler’s headquarters at Tunnel Hill would not be without incident.

Scovill would survive both the trek and the prison camps, but many of his men would not. In 1867 he sent a letter to a congressional committee investigating Confederate treatment of prisoners. In it he claimed that one Lt. Pointer of Wheeler’s staff had knocked him down with a revolver. He added that Pointer shot and killed one of the prisoners for “no reason at all.” At Tunnel Hill Wheeler interrogated Scovill for about an hour, “feigning” disbelief in his allegations.

Wheeler was ordered to file a report of the incident, in which six or seven Federal troopers were said to have been murdered while trying to surrender. That one-paragraph report is the only Confederate mention of murder at Nickajack Gap that has survived.

In charge of the ambush that captured Scovill and his men was Lt. Joe Vincent of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry. A contemporary newspaper account written by an eyewitness claimed that Vincent “shot ten of them dead in the lane,” and captured 43 prisoners, most of whom were wounded. “None went back to tell the story” the author gleefully remarked. Ten is the generally agreed on number of Federals who were killed in the fight, with thirteen captured. Wheeler’s report, filed a few days later, claims that his staff officers did not commit any “improper” acts in the raid. Wheeler gave no details, asking instead for the names of those involved.

In absence of any Confederate after action report, only the word of Lt. Scovill made its way into the historical record. Yet in 1909, speaking of Pointer’s death, Scovill told a markedly different story, leaving out all allegations of murder. Still, Lt. Pointer’s record has carried this blot ever since. In light of the Confederate eyewitness account, Lt. Vincent was far more likely
to have killed any Federals trying to surrender. Federal reports state that all the bodies but one were found near the scene of his ambush. The other was found a mile away but was not specifically stated to lie along the route to Tunnel Hill. Vincent’s 1899 biographical sketch mentions that “thirteen prisoners were taken,” along with several Federals killed, but at that point the narrative assumes passive voice.

Pointer’s records contain nothing of this raid, nor do they detail any of his 1864 experiences other than a dispatch he delivered during the fighting around Atlanta that summer.That November, Lt. Pointer was promoted to second in command of the 12th Alabama Cavalry, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. With its commander missing while bringing in stragglers, Pointer eventually led the regiment to South Carolina, arriving near Hardeeville on Christmas Eve.

Marcellus Pointer’s role in the Civil War ended in February1865 when he was severely wounded near Aiken during a cavalry charge. Wheeler’s final report, dated April 15, 1865, states that Pointer was still recovering from his wounds. Pointer, who had by this time been promoted to full colonel, surrendered on April 23. Family legend maintains that he traveled to Brazil to become a mercenary soldier in a country where slavery was still the norm. If, so, he did not remain long, for he married Willie Anna Mayer in Holly Springs on October 19, 1865. His obituary in the New York Times states that he later worked in Mexico as a railroad (civil?) engineer, presumably for the French invaders under Maximillian. In 1867, Mexican revolutionaries defeated the French, causing most of the “Confederados” to return home.

A letter written in September1867 from Arkansas by Pointer’s older brother Samuel, invites Dr. Pointer to move to that “country,” makes inquiries about Samuel’s brothers by name, but fails to mention Marcellus. Since Col. Pointer’s first child, Lily, was born in 1868, putting these
two facts together adds credence to the notion that Marcellus remained in Mexico until the French defeat. The 1870 census lists Marcellus at home with his parents in Como, Panola County, while at the same time his wife and (now) two daughters were staying with her parents in Holly Springs. Dr. Pointer died in Como that same year. Meanwhile, his youngest had set his eyes on Texas.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, many defeated Southerners moved west. Marcellus Pointer’s name appears in Dallas newspapers as early as 1873, showing that he was trading in real estate. He may have induced others to join him, for most accounts of the Pointer family state that they moved to Dallas about the winter of 1874-75. With them came relatives named Wynne, Starks, Watts and Falconer. Those who stayed in Mississippi were overwhelmed by the yellow fever outbreak of 1878.
That year saw a railroad war develop out of a feud over the management of the Dallas & Wichita Railroad, a failing commuter line plagued with graft and failed deadlines. Its stockholders were divided into two groups. Pointer, one of its officers, was a member of the pro-Confederate, Democrat faction, while its general manager, Dr. J.W. Calder, a Republican, saw little action as a Union cavalry officer in Arizona. The Calder faction was constantly involved in litigation with Pointer and his allies, leading eventually to the hijacking of the D&W’s only train. Calder, behind the hijacking, was ordered by a court to return the train to its owner, who had loaned it to the D&W. Undaunted, Calder then went to Federal court in Austin and had the line declared in danger of going bankrupt, naming him general manager under receivership.

Tempers boiled over in September of that year, culminating in a blaze of gunfire. At a confrontation in the streets of Dallas between representatives of the warring factions, accusations
of theft caused Capt. Ira Harris, Jr., a Union naval veteran with over ten years’ service, to slap Pointer in the face. Pointer responded by flogging Harris with his cane. To the rescue rushed a just-arrived Calder, waving a pistol. Before he could do any damage with it, Calder was hit by gunfire six times. He died in the street, firing harmlessly into the air, his wounds spanning the length of his body.

Three of the Confederate faction were arrested, and, a year later, Pointer stood trial for murder. Perhaps because Harris had testified at the coroner’s inquest that he never saw Pointer draw a pistol, let alone fire, the jury, after deliberating for twenty-five minutes, voted not guilty. Added to the Harris account was the damning testimony that Calder had once threated to kill any of the Confederates who got in his way. Though no one was ever convicted in Calder’s death, the railroad went bust and was ultimately sold in 1880.

Marcellus Pointer, now father of three girls, speculated in land and raised cattle. He even faced down another man with a gun in the streets of Dallas. Armed only with his cane, Pointer dared him to shoot, but the man turned and fled.

When Pointer’s daughter, Mary Cornelia, mother of a two month-old infant, died of tuberculosis in 1894, his life seemed to take a downward turn. He had been traveling around South America on business and had even sought employment as a mercenary, armed with recommendations written by General Wheeler. His land speculation brought him more debt than income. All the while in and out of court, sometimes being sued, other times initiating the suits, one of his cases went to the Texas Supreme Court, while another was eventually heard by the US Supreme Court. Pointer and his associates lost both cases, which involved real estate dealings.

At some point, the land speculator left his family behind and moved to New York City. In 1898 he tried to join up in the war with Spain, but his application, endorsed by Wheeler, went nowhere. He even called on President McKinley in Washington to urge his cause. The president didn’t see him, but a note Pointer wrote him has survived. In it Pointer told of having spent a year in Cuba, coming down with yellow fever while there.

When Pointer’s old friend and commander died in 1906, Wheeler was one of only a handful of Confederates ever buried at Arlington. Though named as an honorary pallbearer, Pointer could not be located. Three years later, the old colonel died “broke and friendless” in a Bowery hotel in New York, a place he had called home for some months. On July 10, 1909, a hotel employee found the body. Letters by his bedside identified him, and the sad circumstances of his death were written up in papers all over the country, including two obituaries in the New York Times. Local Confederate veterans were planning to bury him in New York until they received word from Pointer’s nephew to have the body shipped home.

Marcellus Pointer’s final resting place would be Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. Willie Mayer Pointer died in Los Angeles in 1924, and she and two of her daughters are buried there in the same cemetery. Some twenty years later, Pointer’s granddaughter, Mary Williams, donated some of his Civil War relics to what was then known as the Museum of the Confederacy. They included a saber and scabbard, a pair of binoculars, a drinking flask, a red sash, and the colonel’s Southern Cross of Honor.

No epitaph on his Veteran’s Administration grave marker, “died broke and friendless,” and “too proud to beg,” seem hardly adequate to sum up such a life. Perhaps the best epitaph of all
would be the compliment paid him long after the war, again from his obit, quoting General Wheeler; “a better cavalry officer could not be found in this country.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dear Boy, Do You Long To See Me?

The American Civil War has sometimes been called a war that pitted "brother against brother." Yet in recent times, revisionist historians have called this aspect of our worst national tragedy a myth. The following story, highly illustrative of how the war divided families, encompasses all the elements, both of great fiction and of the truth that is always out of step with how we prefer to view our past. We pick up the story when all the main characters are in place-- the fall of Savannah to Sherman's army, just before Christmas in 1864.

When the city fell, the Reverend Joseph H. Meyers, an "Old School" Presbyterian minister who taught school and owned property, opted to stay behind, though not a Southerner either by birth or inclination. His thirty-one year-old wife, Elizabeth, known as "Bessie," immediately packed her belongings and took their four year-old son, Peter, home to Northhampton, Massachusetts. Bessie was the forty-two year-old clergyman's second wife, his first having died in St. Augustine in 1854. Myers had a son, John, by that first marriage. Now serving in the Confederate navy, stationed at Charleston, John would soon become the focus of far more family drama than merely his siding with the South might have caused.

John's willingness to join the Rebels might best be explained by theological differences in the Myers family. The niece of Erastus Hopkins, Bessie came from a family of well-known abolitionists. However, her husband's Old School Presbyterians had not strongly opposed slavery before the war, and had even adopted something of a comfortable accommodation with the South.

In fact, the Myers family had lived in the South for most of John's life. Born in Knoxville in 1846, the boy spent much of his youth in St. Augustine. How the family came to be living in Savannah in 1864 is not known. However, in their 1860 household in Florida lived Bessie's younger brother, George, who had recently graduated from medical school. George would join the Union navy as an assistant surgeon, serving throughout the war. While this does not exactly constitute brother against brother, it nevertheless comes close enough.

Only sixteen when the war broke out, John remained in Florida for two years, finally traveling to South Carolina in December 1863 to join the Rebels. His experience at sea allowed him to enlist as an ordinary seaman, a rating above landsman, the normal recruit. This nautical know-how of John's leads to some interesting speculation about his family.

According to the 1860 census, the Reverend Myers was worth $38,000, quite a hefty sum for a man who presumably owned no slaves. By contrast, the Myers family listed a net worth of a comfortable, though hardly wealthy, $8,000 on the 1870 census. One fact that stands out about Bessie's family was their support for recolonization of freed slaves to Africa. Was the money her husband claimed in 1860 being used for that purpose, and did John participate in voyages from Charleston to Africa in the prewar years? Charleston had been home to Bessie's uncle in the 1830s, the Reverend Erastus Hopkins mentioned above. All this sounds as if the Hopkins-Meyers family was making use of pooled resources to promote recolonization. Yet, as a Massachusetts delegate to the 1856 Republican Convention, Erastus Hopkins stated in a speech that he favored bullets, if ballots proved ineffective to put an end to slavery. Recolonization clearly had failed.

Less illustrious than her uncle, Bessie's father, the Reverend Samuel Hopkins, was pastor of a church in Saco, Maine, for the greater part of his career. He had published a few monographs, but otherwise was not as well-known as other men named Hopkins, whether related or not. Though the Hopkins-Wheeler-Meyers genealogy has been published, it would be of little interest to the general reader of this essay. Suffice it to say that Bessie's father was not the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, Hyde professor of church history at Theological Seminary, Auburn, New York.

Once back in Northhampton, home to quite a community of abolitionists, Bessie received word through a relative that her stepson was a prisoner of war at City Point, Maryland. Neither she nor her husband had heard anything from John since before the fall of Savannah. Enough documentation exists to allow us to confirm that John was captured at a place called Penn's Bridge, South Carolina, on February 11, 1865. By John's own account, but not confirmed by any records, he was wounded while attempting to escape. He also wrote that he had been wounded in the leg at Morris Island, one of the forts defending Charleston, in December 1863, the very month and year he enlisted. (An attack on Morris Island's Fort Wagner figures prominently in the 1989 movie "Glory." However, the battle shown in the film took place several months before John enlisted.)

To put John's capture in perspective, it must have been a harrowing experience. Charleston would be evacuated on February 15, three days after John was taken prisoner. Union forces occupied it on the 18th. John's route from Charleston would take him toward Columbia, which fell to Sherman's forces on the 17th and 18th. The city went up in smoke and flames, by some accounts, the fires having been set by Wheeler's Cavalry. John's pension claim states he was captured near Orangeburg (though he wrote Columbia on another page of the forms). Sherman's forces left that place a smoldering ruin on the 13th. Yet another barrier lay in John's path. The Edisto River runs in a southeasterly direction a few miles below Orangeburg. At various points between Aiken, Blackville and Branchville, due south of the city, the Confederates had been burning bridges and fighting rearguard skirmishes, one or two on the day John was captured. Had he been captured in one of these fights after passing through Orangeburg on his way to Savannah?

According to John, his attempted escape earned him a bullet in the side. After capture he was transported to New Bern, North Carolina, not arriving at Point Lookout, Maryland, until April 3rd. That two-month lag time would be consistent with John having been wounded, though not seriously. By the time the Myers family knew of John's circumstances, Lee had surrendered.

Bessie, maternal, literate, and methodical, sent a package to John, along with a list of its contents. Whether he ever received the package or not, we do have the list. The J.K.M. she mentions was her husband's brother, John K. Myers. 

List of contents of carpet bag I sent J.K.M. to be forwarded to you.

Coat, pants- vest- 4 pr socks- 2 pr drawers 2 flannel shirts- 2 white cotton shirts- 1 pr shoes, 1 hat- 1 box paper collars- 1 necktie to wear with them- 2 pocket hdkfs [handkerchiefs]. comb, toothbrush, nail brush- Castile soap- pumice soap for the hands- 2 towels. Needle book containing knife.- scissors in coat pocket. 1 testament, Harper's Monthly for Apr, 1 novel, Life for a life- Letter paper and envelopes- pen holder and 2 pens- pins- thread- needles- two or three postage stamps (all I had in the house). I believe this is all and I hope you will get it soon. E.H.M. 

John's voucher to take the oath  Click on any image to enlarge it.
List of items Bessie sent
Document ordering John to report to Baltimore
Envelope addressed to John at Point Lookout. On the reverse side Bessie gave permission for it to be opened and read, begging that it then be sent on to him.
Bessie's note to the officer who might read the contents

 The following are transcripts of two letters Bessie wrote to John, urging him to take the oath to the United States and come to her at Northhampton. The most plausible explanation for why the letters were included with John's prisoner records is that the officer whose task it was to read the letters before allowing John to have them thought they were too long. Someone whose initials, ACP, could be understood to mean "Acting Commander of Prison" or "Acting Commissary of Prison(ers)" wrote in very large letters in the margin of one of the letters "Too long by far." "Too long" was also written on the outside of the one surviving envelope, leading us to believe that John never got his letters.
Letter #1:

Bessie H. Myers to John W. Myers

Northampton, April 10th, 1865

My Dear Dear Johnny,

How can I express to you my state of feeling, on hearing this from your Uncle John K. Myers, that you were a prisoner of war, my excitement and my joy at learning that you were safe somewhere. How many anxious thoughts your father and I have had about you, not knowing where you might be, how many letters he has sent you, how he has thought of going out in search of you, how we have all prayed for you, even little Peter, every night that "God would take care of brother Johnny and bring him safely back to us"! and now our prayers are to be answered very soon, I trust, and we shall see your face. Dear boy, do you long to see me as I do to see you, I wonder, and will you come to me soon? I felt today as if I must fly to you as soon as I heard the news, but perhaps I had better wait till I hear from you. How I shall rejoice to see your hand-writing once more after these four long months. I sent Uncle John K. $20 for you today wh I asked him to forward to you, and tomorrow I shall send you some clothes. And now I want you to promise me something, which is, that as soon as you are released, you will come to me here first. I have many very good reasons for this request, the first of which is that I understand your thoughts and feelings and can sympathize with you and explain things to you better than anyone else. Your friends will all want to see you and will be pulling you this way and that, I doubt not, but no one can blame you for wanting to come first to Mother. My father and mother will welcome you most affectionately, for your dear, departed mother's sake, for my sake, and for your own. Uncle Erastus ditto. He is rejoiced to hear that you are safe and will write to you, and see what he can do for your release.

I arrived here Jan. 21st, and have been here since, except about four weeks when I was visiting Grandma Myers, Uncle John K., and Aunt Lucy Shedd. We remained quietly in Savannah through all the siege and capture, and your father is there still, teaching, but in another house, as the one we were in is used for a hospital. He was well when I heard last. Let me know if you want anything else than what I send. I shall try to think of everything necessary to your comfort, do you want blankets? Dear boy, how much you must have gone through these four months, and we too a little.

About your release, Johnny. I am very anxious for it, but don't feel sure that it can be attained at present, unless you are willing to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government. I wish you would and come to me speedily; all will soon take that ground probably. I suppose you know that Richmond is taken, Lee and his whole army captured and paroled, and there will be little, if any, fighting, the end is plainly before us. Come to me, dear boy. You shall stay just as long as you like, then go to see Grandma Myers and your Aunt Lucia, if you will, and then I know your father will not object to your going to sea if you choose, or something else you may prefer. How can I wait for the answer to this letter. God Bless you.

Your loving mother,

Bessie H. Myers

Letter # 2: 
Northampton, April 12th, 1865

    My Dearest Johnny,

    I cannot rest tonight without writing you a few lines. I have already sent you two letters, dated 10th and 11th, but as I had not then your full address, I fear they may not reach you; perhaps if you enquired for them you may get them. They were directed simply to J.W. Myers, a prisoner of war, Pt. Lookout, Md. I sent yesterday to your uncle J.K. to be forwarded to you, a comfortable outfit of clothes, which I hope he will send on to you immediately. I will enclose a list of what the carpet bag contained. If you want anything else, let me know immediately and I will send it on. I enclosed $20.00 to your uncle John K. as soon as I heard from him of your whereabouts, but he returned it today, saying he had already sent you money. He is very kind. If you want more, let me know dear boy, and as soon as I know that letters reach you safely, I can enclose some. I hope you will soon join me here, but I want you to have things comfortable while you remain where you are, and to be able to feel at your ease when you first present yourself to Northern friends. The coat I have sent you will, I fear, be rather short in the sleeves, but don't mind that just now, it is the fashion I believe in N.Y., and you shall have a better one when you get here. If the shirt-sleeves are too short, let me know at once, and I will contrive a remedy. I did not like to send you many or very nice things in this way, lest they might never reach you, which you can understand and appreciate, I doubt not.

    I have told you in a previous letter how rejoiced I was to hear that you were safe somewhere, and now I do so long to see you, to embrace you, to comfort you, and make you comfortable, and to be comforted by you.

    Will you not consent to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government at once and come North as soon as you can arrange to do so? This is your mother's strong desire and will be your father's I think, as soon as he hears from you. If you hesitate about this, as I hope you may not, let me suggest as reasons for it, these; your relatives are now all on this side of the lines, and shd you be exchanged and sent back, (of which there is no present probability, I think) by your lone self you would be very desolate; then the whole country will very soon return to its old allegiance since as Richmond is taken and Lee and his army surrendered, peace must very soon be restored under the old order of things. I sd in my first letter that if you take this course I doubt not your father would consent to your going to sea if you wish it, or anything else you may prefer. I hope you will ever be very courteous to those in authority over you. I know you will cheerfully accept this and a little more advice from one who loves you so truly and tenderly, and who understands you and your peculiar mind traits, (let alone the outer ones) better than anyone except your father.

    If you are released and meet with the relatives before I see you, meet them in an affectionate, unconstrained manner, as if nothing particular had happened, but I would be very reserved in speaking of our experience during these last four years. I want you to come to me as straight as you can when you are at liberty to do so, and don't let anyone stop you on any pretext; some may wish to do so, though they wd not say so openly. Let this be hint enough to you dear boy (I cannot explain my special reasons in a letter, aside from the first of all that I want you, I want to see you and talk with you). I do not demand it of you dear Johnny (to come to me), of course, but I most earnestly request it and feel sure that your heart wd prompt you to it. My father and mother are most anxious to welcome you here, and in this house, you can stay and rest as long as you wish, and then go see your Grandma Myers and your Burlington friends, all of whom are ready to welcome you with open-arms. My father has written to you under cover to the commander of the post where you are, wh letter I hope you will receive.

    Write me as many particulars of your health, present condition, past experiences, etc., as you can, and to your father also. Box 483 Savannah Ga. (he has changed his box). Can I send sealed letters to you as often as I wish? I sent you but two hdkfs in the bag as no more were hemmed, but I have others to send by mail as soon as I hear they will reach you. I have here for you 1/2 doz fine white shirts, a nice overcoat, a pr of boots, some nice Summer drawers I got. I didn't think it best to send you, but they are waiting for you. Peter and I are well. Your fond, loving mother

    How long have you been at Point L? Address me care Rev. Saml Hopkins, Northampton, Mass.

John's records show that he was ordered to report to the provost marshal at Baltimore, where he would be allowed to travel to New York. We then lose track of him until the 1870s. The 1870 census shows his family living in Ulster County, New York, but not him. He must have been at sea, as implied in the letters. Ulster County records do show he married Florence "Florida" Foreman there in 1874. Other records show that in subsequent years John became a master mariner, meaning he would most likely have been the captain of whatever vessel he sailed aboard. Captain Myers' Civil War experience may have been the reason he became involved a very intriguing business in the late 1890s. 
Newspaper accounts from the period leading up to the Spanish-American war show that John W. Myers was the captain of two ships engaged in "filibustering," that is, the running of guns, ammunition, supplies and even recruits to Cuban rebels. The name of the ship most often engaged in this illegal business was Dauntless, often chased and sometimes boarded by United States revenue cutters. Oddly enough, the papers often printed the suspected routes and destinations of the filibusters almost before they left port. We can be sure this is our John Myers because his Confederate Pension application gives his address. He had come home to St. Augustine in the 1880s and had joined the local Confederate veterans organization. Without that pension claim, which included letters of endorsement by his fellow veterans, we would not have such a clear picture of John's activities during his later years. 
Whether John retired after his filibuster days or continued to sail the seas, we have no inkling. He and Florida appear to have had no children of their own, but census records show they had two adopted daughters. Bessie's "Dear Boy" died in 1913 and is buried in St. Augustine, while his widow lived another four years. 

The story of  John Wheeler Myers has all the elements of good drama and illustrates as well how the Civil War did indeed divide families. Already divided by religion, at least as it touched on the issue of slavery, the Myers-Hopkins clan endured the whole spectrum of war-- captivity, siege, separation, and finally, reunion, both national and familial. 

Lastly, we leave it to the reader to infer whether the unfeigned affection gushing forth in purple prose from Bessie's letters to John betrays anything deserving of a Eugene O'Neill in their interpretation. Whatever Bessie's intent, she left us a window on a part of the Civil War not often dealt with in dry history books. A story worth telling, revealed in letters that may never have reached their intended recipient, this one also illustrates the difficulty we as moderns have in reading our own social mores and attitudes into the lives of those now long dead. 

Since the story has been told largely from Bessie's letters and John's Florida Confederate veteran pension claim, we know little of John's feelings for his stepmother. Yet, seemingly acting on her advice, he took the oath to the United States and was released from Point Lookout, no doubt making his way to New York via Baltimore. We know nothing of his reception in Northhampton, and only that he married in the same county where where his parents were living in the 1870s. Thus, the novelist who might take on this story would have plenty of empty space on the page to fill in using his or her imagination. While some speculation is necessary in order to make sense of this family's peculiar circumstances, none of it in this essay goes beyond what is known from the historical record. That having been said, this story would make an excellent subject for a novel.