Wednesday, June 24, 2020

52 Ancestors - MIDDLE: House Divided

My poor 3X great-grandmother Helena Eppard – she was truly caught in the middle. It was 1860 and war was declared between the North and South. As residents of Rockingham County, Virginia, the Eppards sided with the Confederacy declaring the right to secede from the Union.

Helena’s two sons, Thomas and George, both served in Company L, 97 Virginia Militia under Col. Mann Spitler. Thomas rose to the rank of Sergeant while George remained a private, probably because he was unable to fight after breaking his leg in 1863.

While no doubt Helena worried about her sons, she probably was equally concerned about “the enemy,” some of them anyway. Across the line in Tennessee, Helena’s brothers and nephews donned the blue uniforms of the Union. 

Being caught in the middle was not unique to the Eppards. In neighboring Greene County, Thomas Frazier, nephew of my 3X great-grandmother Nancy Frazier Shiflett, was himself torn about the issues that had divided the nation. He wrote a short book called The Olive Branch in which he explained how he had wished to side with the Union because he opposed slavery but did not want to fight and kill his friends and neighbors. As a result, he ran. After he was caught and imprisoned as a deserter, he managed to escape. A rather long excerpt is available on the Shiflet Family Website. It is quite a lively story.

When I studied the Civil War in American History in high school, I thought the Mason-Dixon Line marked a true division in politics. I thought the entire North was anti-slavery and the entire South was pro-slavery. But no. Within Virginia and within families, sentiments were frequently in conflict.

House divided.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Fascinating! Hubby and me were just talking about this last night about how families were divided during the Civil War. I can't imagine. Of course families are divided these days for similar issues and politics.


  2. What a great post to the blog prompt! It must have been horrible fighting against your family and friends.