Grave of Alfred C. Ward, my 4th great-grandfather. Unpublished photo from “Jordan’s Journey” by Jordan M. Scoggins.

Recently I wrote a series of posts on Delila Brown Ward (see here, here, and here). Today is a sort of follow-up to those posts, focusing on Delila’s husband, Alfred C. Ward.

Alfred (or Alford) C. Ward, my 4th great-grandfather, was a son of Absalom Ward and Nancy Ann Coleman and the grandson of Nathaniel Ward and Susannah Trail. Nathaniel had been a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The Absalom Ward family lived in Union County, South Carolina. Absalom and Nancy were members of the Gilead Baptist Church in Jonesville (Marby 293; Hair 64).

It was in Union County where Alfred would have met and married Delila Brown. Alfred and Delila are first counted together on a census in 1850, still in Union, already with their first two children ( 1850). Sometime during the following decade, they migrated to the Armuchee Valley area of northwest Georgia, where they were counted in East Armuchee on the 1860 census ( 1860). Alfred is the only one of his family who left Union County (Walker 406).

More details of this story are told in the Jordan’s Journey book and are not repeated here–as the focus of this article is not to duplicate the book but to expand upon what is already there.

As with many other men in Armuchee Valley (and throughout the South in general), Alfred soon picked up the call to arms and joined the Confederate army. He enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant in the 39th Regiment, Georgia Infantry in LaFayette on 4 Mar 1862.

Grave of Alfred C. Ward, my 4th great-grandfather. Unpublished photo from “Jordan’s Journey” by Jordan M. Scoggins.

A little over a year later, on 4 Jul 1863, he was captured at the Siege of Vicksburg and (faring better than some other prisoners of war in my family) paroled on 8 Jul. When paroled he signed an oath swearing that he would “not take up arms again against the United States, nor serve in any military, police, or constabulary force … held by the Confederate States of America” (Service records). Alfred did not keep that oath and continued to fight for the CSA and was even promoted to Full Captain on 15 May 1864 (Historical).

The interesting thing to note is that family legend–as written by Evelyn Morgan Shahan (like me, a direct descendant of Alfred C. Ward) and discussed in the Jordan’s Journey book–makes no mention of Alfred’s military service. In fact, the story says that while living in East Armuchee, he assisted the Union army during their march through Snake Creek Gap as a civilian. While this is not impossible–he could have been home on furlough from the CSA at the time–the curious bit of the story, as told by Mrs. Shahan, is that Alfred contracted pneumonia during this expedition and died as a result (Walker 406-7).

But Alfred didn’t die during the war. He died on 18 Nov 1869. Or at least that’s what his tombstone says. Yet even if the tombstone was somehow incorrect, the story says this happened during the winter (the reason for the pneumonia). McPherson captured Snake Creek Gap in May of 1864. Even if it were an unusually cold May, it certainly doesn’t qualify as winter. Somewhere along the way, the details must have gotten confused. Who knows the true telling?!

This is why documentation is key. It helps us build stories and–sometimes–pick apart others. Ultimately, though, it’s not a game of right or wrong. As much as I strive to record accurate details and document every fact that I can, the core attraction of genealogy is the story. The stories inspire our imagination and propel us forward. Building a family mythology takes time and effort as each generation adds to–and takes from–the stories we pass down.

Just like history is not black and white, neither is our family mythology. Did Alfred lead the troops through Snake Creek Gap or did he not? Did he contract pneumonia and die from it, or did he not? These are important details, yes. But sometimes you have to rest with the uncertainty, embrace the unknowing, and learn from the story as time has seen fit to interpret it.

I visited Alfred’s grave in November 2010. It’s located on private land in the foothills of Johns Mountain (see the map below). According to Mrs. Shahan’s story, this is where the Ward homestead was located at the time of Alfred’s death. The top photo above shows a detail of his headstone. The other image is taken from behind the headstone, showing the footstone as well as Johns Mountain in the distance.

View Alfred C. Ward grave in a larger map

SOURCES 1850 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Web.
Census Place: , Union, South Carolina; Roll: M432_859; Page: 81B; Image: 414. 1860 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Web.
Census Place: East Armuchee, Walker, Georgia; Roll: M653_139; Page: 748; Image: 211; Family History Library Film: 803139. U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Web.

Hair, Thomas L. The Long Journey, A Family History, 1687-1991. Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Co, 1992. Print.

Historical Data Systems, comp.. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009. Web.

Marby, Mannie Lee, ed. Union County Heritage. Winston-Salem, NC: Union County Heritage Committee/Hunter Pub. Co., 1981. Print.

Service records for Alford C. Ward; Company K, 39th GA Inf, CSA. Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations (National Archives Microfilm Publication M266, Roll 446). War Department Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109; National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. Accessed via Fold3.

Walker County History Committee, comp. Walker County Georgia Heritage, 1833-1983. LaFayette, GA: Walker County History Committee, 1984. Print.

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