Jane (Jennie) Letitia Gammon (1834-1925) – Heroic Daughter, Nurse to Confederate Soldiers and Educator

Jennie Gammon (1834-1925)

Jennie Gammon (1834-1925)

I was first intrigued by Jennie, when I saw her name on the notable persons list at Old Gray’s cemetery with the description “Helping nurse the wounded, CSA”.  We don’t often know the stories of the women who lived through the Civil War and I was curious about what I could find out about her.

Early Years

Jennie was one of 6 children born to Mary Hamilton and Nathan Gammon in Jonesboro, Tennessee. The family already had deep roots in the area; Nathan’s grandfather Richard Gammon signed the Tennessee State Constitution in 1796. Nathan moved his family to Knoxville in the 1850’s where he was a merchant responsible for transporting goods from the Tennessee River to the interior.  When the railroad came to town, he served as the first freight agent.  He later became Clerk for the District Court of the United States (Court of the Confederacy in 1861-1863).  It is reported that Jennie helped her father with transcribing documents for the court. The family owned 5 slaves (3 adult males and 2 children), according to the slave schedules of 1850 and 1860.

Civil War

Jennie would have been 26 years old when the Civil War started.  Her three brothers William, Joseph Hamilton (Hammy) and George joined the Confederate Army.  At first this would have been a heady, high-spirited, patriotic time when the Confederate Army was in control of Knoxville, but it must have quickly became more stressful as the tides of war turned.  William was wounded in the arm and unable to stay in the army.  He was released from service in the spring of 1863.  It appears that Hammy served the Confederate cause until the war ended in 1865. He must have had some perilous experiences as suggested from family letters that tell of his near escapes from capture. Unfortunately, George was not so lucky and he was taken prisoner by the Union Army in the summer of 1864 and taken to Camp Morton in Indianapolis.

Camp Morton Indianapolis 1862-1865 (Library of Congress)

Camp Morton Indianapolis 1862-1865 (Library of Congress)

In September 1864, William traveled to Indiana to see George at the Confederate prisoner of war camp.  He was unable to see him in person, but left him gifts and money from the family.  Afterwards, William went north to New York and New Jersey.  It is not clear from his letters if he was there on family or military business.  And then he disappears…….  His father, Nathan, looked for him after the war, but without success. The family assumed that he was murdered. (I have some very un-genealogically supported theories on this one….but perhaps I have read too many mystery/conspiracy books.)

Univ of TN Knoxville 1903 (Library of Congress)

Univ of TN Knoxville 1903 (Library of Congress)

Meanwhile, Knoxville was occupied by the Union Army by the fall of 1863 and the Union sympathizers had their revenge on the Confederate supporters.  According to family stories (I haven’t been able to get a copy of “Reminisces” presented to the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1899 which might confirm these), Jennie was small but a “veritable storehouse of energy.” She protected her family from angry mobs and went to court with her father when he was arrested for treason for his role as Clerk for Court of the Confederacy.  She fed and nursed Confederate Soldiers that were at the temporary hospital at the University of Tennessee.  She even received a bullet wound in her leg by a stray “minnie” and refused to be seen by a Union doctor.  She sounds like a spitfire!

More about Jennie’s life after the Civil War in Part II

Posted in Civil War, Tennessee Genealogy, Tennessee Genealogy Records, Women Ancestors | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Genealogy Conferences and Seminars – Preparing in Advance for the Trip

It’s that time of year when there are many upcoming genealogy conferences and seminars. It has me thinking about all the things I need to do ahead of time to make sure I make the most of the time I am there.

Luggage - Saturday Evening Post 1933 pg 892  Flicker Commons

Luggage – Saturday Evening Post 1933 pg 892
Flicker Commons


  • Registration for the event – register for the event, meals and any special activities.
  • Hotel reservations – make reservations well in advance to ensure I get a room and see if any of my genealogy buddies want to join me!
  • Packing – sometimes this is the hardest part
    • Clothes – What will the weather be like? If you are attending the Northwest Genealogical Conference in Washington…layers are always recommended! Also with air-conditioning, a light weight sweater is good to stick in your bag.  Do I need to dress up for any evening functions? I will be sure to pack my go-to black pants that pack well and work for multiple types of occasions.
    • Will I need a computer or not? Will my iPad be sufficient?
    • Will I be doing any research when I am there? Bring research plan and documents I need to reference (preferably on my computer)
    • Conference staples – bag, water bottle, protein bars, pens, notebook and whatever must-have’s I need. Lately it’s been peach gummies.
    • Pack camera or will my phone be enough?
  • Restaurant reservations – I am a foodie, so I do research on restaurants in the area and make reservations in advance, especially if they are popular.

Conference Schedule:

  • First pass at the schedule – I do a quick review of the schedule to see the overall design of the conference so that I know if there are particular tracks that I want to focus on.
  • Selection of classes – I print out the schedule and make my selections based on 1) my educational goals for the year 2) speakers I just can’t miss and 3) classes I may not have a chance to take in the near future. This year I trying to fill in some gaps I have regarding land records and how to use DNA results to help my research.  There are so many good speakers at the NwGC, attendees are going to have tough choices to make!
  • At the conference – I reserve the right to make a different choice on classes when I get to the conference.

Genealogy Research in the Area:

  • Do I have any ancestors that lived in the area? This is great chance to go to libraries, genealogy societies and archives in the area.
    • I determine the best location to get the most information I can, especially if I am on a time limit.
    • Confirm days and times they are open. Do I need to make an appointment?
    • Develop a detailed research plan well in advance. I have paid dearly in the past by not having a comprehensive plan and I have to return to Texas because of it. It was a very expensive lesson. Do this!

      Current Research Log (Modified from Thomas MacEntee's)

      My Current Knoxville TN Research Log (Modified from Thomas MacEntee’s)

    • Are there any cemeteries, houses, sites where significant events took place for my ancestors? I will create a strategy to get to as many as I can and map them with addresses, directions and any identifying markers about the place.
Seattle - Space Needle, Ferry, Pike Place Market anyone?

Seattle – Space Needle, Ferry, Pike Place Market anyone?


  • What are the historical and “must see” sites in the area? – Review “top ten” sightseeing websites to determine if I can manage the time to go see some of them.

I am sure I have forgotten something, so please let me know if there is something I should add!

Posted in Genealogy General | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Genealogy Do Over: Week 7 and 8

Week 7 and 8 haven’t been too bad as I made some changes in 2014 related to the topics.

Week 7

Reviewing Genealogy Database Software

Like many genealogists, I have gone through many different genealogy programs. Our needs change as we develop our abilities as genealogists and as new products come out to meet the demands of the community. I have used Reunion, Family Tree, RootsMagic and most recently Legacy.  I am currently using Legacy because it most closely meets my citation citing process and requirements, but choosing a program is a personal decision that everyone must analyze for themselves.

On-Line Trees – well this always sparks a huge debate on message boards as genealogists try to protect the integrity of their data. Being a relatively “new” genealogist, I started my genealogy search on Ancestry.com.  I am admitting my sins of the past – I have an old tree that has errors on it from accepting hints that at the time seemed accurate and have since been proven wrong with research.  I have been steadily cleaning my own tree up, but I haven’t even tried to correct others who have the same errors unless I am contacted about that line. I made the decision to stay on Ancestry, because I have connected with so many “cousins” that have provided photos and details about our family.  I can’t imagine cutting off that line of potential communication and I remain ever hopeful that someone will help with some of my brick walls.

Digitizing Photos and Documents

HP Officejet 7612When I found out that I was going to move across the country last summer, I was filled with dread about my bad digitizing habits.  I realized that I was going to have to send all my genealogy research on a moving truck and hope that it didn’t get lost or in an accident.  No way was I going to lose years worth of documents I had tracked down traveling to archives, libraries and courthouses…not to mention all my family photos!  I quickly went out and bought HP Officejet 7612 scanner/copier/printer that could also scan 11 X 17.  Best buy ever!  I copied all my original records that I couldn’t get on-line, stored them on computer, back-up drive and Dropbox.  I was a little better off with photos, since I have been a long time scrapbooker and had digitized most of my photos. Though now I see that the standard is to put them in 600 dpi TIFF files. Guess I have another project to convert the jpg’s to tiff’s…    The good news is everything arrived in the moving truck, so I can start my scanning picture project anytime I find the time!!!

Week 8

Conducting Collateral Research

Tom MacEntee’s definition of collateral research is:  “A search for those who are not direct line ancestors, but who are considered part of the same family. These include siblings, half-siblings, in-laws and others through marriage. Example: take time to look at the siblings of a woman’s husband or her husband’s parents and who they married, as well as their children.”

I have done collateral research on quite a few lines of my family, but I haven’t been thorough.  I use the technique when I get stuck or when I become enthralled with a particular family like my Mattson Family that just keeps giving amazing documents and details. So, I will be reviewing my families again and see where my gaps are.  I have some big ones for those few families that had 10+ kids.  For once I am grateful for my one direct line that only had 1 child for the last 5 generations. I am not sure I will change my approach to collaterals, but I will at least highlight where I could do more in-depth work when I am in the research location.

Reviewing Offline Education Options

States surrounding Tennessee using http://m.maploco.com/

States surrounding Tennessee using http://m.maploco.com/

I feel like I really have this one handled.  I belong to a quite a few genealogy organizations and attend national, regional and local events.  This year I will be going to NGS in St. Charles, MO and IGHR in Birmingham, Alabama. Now that I am in Tennessee and I am centrally located to quite a few states, I have new opportunities to be able to go to conferences in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia etc. Exciting!

Good luck to those of you doing your Genealogy Do Over!  Let me know how it is going for you.

Posted in Genealogy Do Over, Genealogy General | 2 Comments

Tennessee: A Very Short History of Their Civil War

To understand who the people were that I found in Old Gray Cemetery, I need to know what their Civil War experience might have been.  Most of my education about the Civil War is oriented towards the battles in Virginia and Gettysburg, because that is where my Pennsylvania and New Jersey ancestors were. In my research, I was surprised to find that Tennessee had the 2nd largest number of battles fought on its soil after Virginia.  It was also perhaps the most contentious state with its people divided in allegiance between the Union and the Confederacy.

Tennessee Battlefields Civil War

Tennessee Battlefields Civil War

The eastern part of the state (where Knoxville is located) was primarily Unionist and the western part of the state (that includes Nashville and Memphis) was mostly Confederate. To make matters worse, the Union Army had taken over Nashville and Memphis by early 1862 and the Confederate Army held Knoxville until the fall of 1863.  So that meant that both sides of the state experienced “occupation”, martial law, and all that it entails.  Both areas had rebel groups launching counter attacks and sabotage that resulted in hangings, imprisonment and a general state of unrest.  There were 38 battles fought in Tennessee; the battle of Shiloh was the most well known with 23,746 casualties (US 13,047; CS 10,699).  And finally, while the Federal and Confederate armies managed to keep the cities relatively safe and the people fed, the countryside had gangs (loyal to no one) roaming and terrorizing farmers.  They stole their food and money and at times killed them.  Many of the county people left their farms and came to the city for safety creating additional stress on limited resources of food and housing.  Tennessee was the embodiment of Civil War.

Nashville - The First Union Dress Parade 1862  (Library of Congress)

Nashville – The First Union Dress Parade 1862 (Library of Congress)

Abbreviated Timeline:

  • Lincoln elected President – Nov 6 1860
  • Tennessee’s voters rejected Referendum to succeed from the Union – Feb 9 1861.
  • Confederate States of America formed with Jefferson Davies as the President – States include South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas – February 18 1861
  • Lincoln inaugurated – March 4 1861
  • South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter and Lincoln sends Union troops to defend the fort – April 12 1861
  • Tennessee voted to succeed from the Union by Referendum. The total vote is 69% to 31% to leave the Union, but in Eastern Tennessee the percentages are flipped with 69% against to 31% in support of succession. – June 8 1861
  • Tennessee Unionists held convention in Greeneville that denounced succession and petitioned the legislature to have Eastern Tennessee become separate state – June 17-20 1861
  • Tennessee joined Confederate States of America – July 22 1861
  • Eastern Tennessee Unionists burned 5 of 9 railroad bridges that helped to supply the Confederates with provisions– Nov 8 1861
  • Confederate Army “occupied” Eastern Tennessee, implements martial law and executes many of the “bridge burners” – November 1861
  • Battles at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Confederate troops surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant – February 16 1862
  • Federal troops occupied Nashville – Late February 1862
  • Battle of Shiloh – April 6 1862 (Federal victory)
  • Battle of Stone River – December 31 1862 – January 2 1863 (Federal victory)
  • Federal troops under Gen. Burnside took possession of Knoxville – September 1, 1863
  • Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia (Confederate victory) – caused Federal troops to retreat to Chattanooga, TN and Confederates surrounded the town – September 1863

    Fort Sanders, Knoxville, TN -  Col. Orlando Poe and Col. Orville Babcock 1863? (Library of Congress)

    Fort Sanders, Knoxville, TN – Col. Orlando Poe and Col. Orville Babcock 1863? (Library of Congress)

  • Battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge – Gen. Grant lead Federal troops to victory and siege of Chattanooga ends. Confederates return to Georgia – November 25 1863
  • Battle of Fort Sanders (Federal victory) and Knoxville are finally free of Confederate occupation – November 29 1863
  • Battle of Franklin (Federal victory) December 15-16 1864
  • Surrender of General Lee – April 9 1865
  • President Lincoln assassinated – April 15 1865
  • President Johnson declares war ended – August 20 1865

All of these events were important and had an effect on the people who are buried in Gray’s Cemetery.   Next you will hear about the Gammon Family and what they were doing before, during and after the Civil War.


  • Bergeron, Paul H., Stephen V. Ash, and Jeanette Keith. “The Civil War”. In Tennesseans and their history. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999. 132-157.
  • “CIVIL WAR TENNESSEE.” Civil War Traveler: Tennessee. Accessed March 17, 2015. http://www.civilwartraveler.com/WEST/TN/index.html.
  • “Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.” Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. Accessed March 19, 2015. http://www.tncivilwar.org/.
  • United States. National Park Service. “Civil War Battle Summaries by State.” National Parks Service. Accessed March 17, 2015. http://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/bystate.htm#tn.
  • United States. National Park Service. “Civil War Timeline.” National Parks Service. March 4, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2015. http://www.nps.gov/gett/learn/historyculture/civil-war-timeline.htm
Posted in Civil War, Knoxville Tennessee, Tennessee Genealogy | 6 Comments

Genealogy Do Over Progress: Weeks 5 and 6

I am a little behind in my Genealogy Do Over due to surgery, but luckily you can participate in Thomas MacEntee’s program at your own pace.

Week 5 : Research Tool Box and Citations

Research Tool Box

I have been through various methods of building a “Research Tool Box” in the last 7 years.  I started with binders by state and country and filled them with information that I got from genealogy magazines, e-mails etc.  I then got overwhelmed and put the cut out information on my bookshelf in a large pile and e-mails in email folders, so I could reference them if I needed to.  Definitely an example of going backwards, not forwards.  But in the last 6 months, I have been liberated by finally going to a PC for my genealogy research.  (Sorry Mac users, I love mine too, but I just got too frustrated with trying to make it work for genealogy programs….).  With my Office 365, I get One Note which appeals to my visual organizational nature with notebooks, sections, pages all beautifully color coded.  You can take whole e-mails or “snip” a picture and include it on your page. I love it and now I have a real “Research Tool Box” (not to mention my e-mail inbox has never looked better!Genealogy Tool Box - One Note

Citations – Urgh!

I will always struggle with this…guess that wasn’t very positive statement, but it does seem to be the hardest part of research for me.  This is an area I really would like specific rules and it seems that while there is a “general rule” for each type of item to cite, there is slight variation among professional researchers, genealogy programs and with the information age there are always new types of things to cite. Elizabeth Shown Mills says “it’s an art, not a science”, but sometimes I think my “art” belongs on a Kindergarten wall, definitely not the Louvre.

Thomas MacEntee has templates within his research logs and adds new ones as he cites new types of documents, this seems as logical as anything and I am willing to try it.  Perfection is not possible in this area; I must give it up.

Extra Credit – If anyone knows how I should accurately cite (Source List and First Reference Note) Anthony Mattson’s Dependent file on Fold 3 mentioned in my last post let me know. I think it is a merging of the examples on EE pages 604 & 605, but lack confidence to be definitive! http://www.fold3.com/image/1/314648817/

Week 6: Evaluating Evidence and Reviewing Free Education Options

Evaluating Evidence

After a review of the Evaluating Evidence skill building articlelesson found on the Evidence Explained website named in the article, I was feeling pretty good about my basic knowledge and that I am using the labels correctly.  This week’s assignment also gave me the motivation to finally start using Clooz that I bought last May at NGS in Richmond.  I watched the free videos on their website to see how I could integrate this tool in my research process.  My biggest concern was not to duplicate steps by entering the information in multiple places – my research log, Clooz and then finally Legacy.   After reviewing the product, I confirmed that I will be able to leverage the document analysis in Clooz (ex. they have very powerful templates for census records that will cut down manually entering data in spreadsheets) and best of all when the document is ready for prime time, I can export it to Legacy without having to reenter the data. Cool!  I am realizing I have to rethink my overall research documentation process that I did in Week 1, but I will have to use it for awhile before implementing process improvement.

Reviewing Free Online Education Options

No problems here.  I am always taking free (or subscription site) online webinars and my only challenge is how to fit them all in!  Thomas MacEntee’s list had some sites I didn’t know about….just what I need is more ideas!  I keep my list on OneNote, as I find out about webinars I want to take.  I won’t get to them all and will prioritize those that overlap with my overall genealogy goals for 2015.

Currently on my growing list for this year:

Genealogy Education - Free Webinars

If you are doing the Genealogy Do Over, let me know about your progress and if you have any insights!

Posted in Genealogy Do Over, Genealogy General | 4 Comments

It’s Here! Anthony Mattson’s (Alias William Thompson) Widows and Dependents Pension File

I have been researching the four Mattson brother’s who served in the Civil War for almost 5 years.  They have gradually given up their secrets, but Anthony has been the most illusive. I wasn’t even sure what his name was until I found records of his orphan children at the Chester County Archives in Pennsylvania.  See blogs Missing Mattson Brother Part I & Part II.

Well, his pension file has been just as hard to get my hands on as his name. I was so excited to be able to go to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. last May to finally see what the pension file could tell me. It was a very productive trip, except for being able to get Anthony’s pension file.  I was told by the Archivists that it was being filmed by Fold 3 with all the other Widows and Dependent Pension files. Well, that was back in May 2014 and I have checked Fold3 every month to see if the file was there, and with every attempt I experienced failure. I thought it would take maybe 6 months, but  I didn’t get it by Christmas. I had almost given up, thinking maybe it was lost, until yesterday!  What a surprise to do my standard search and to finally see it!

Anthony Mattson Dependents Pension

Anthony Mattson Dependents Pension

So what secrets did the file reveal?

  • An Affidavit of Anthony’s marriage to Lydia Ann Ryan on 25 Jul 1850 (I only had her first name up till now)
  • Date and details of Anthony’s wife’s death – well actually 3 different dates depending on the document! It could be 10 Dec 1858, 8 Feb 1859 or 15 March 1859 or perhaps something else?
  • Confirmation of the names and birth dates of all of Anthony and Lydia’s children.
  • Additional details of Anthony’s death at the Battle of the Wilderness on 10 May 1864.
  • A letter to my direct ancestor John Conway Mattson (Anthony’s brother) explaining where to write to him and instructions to use the name William Thompson. The letter is quite poignant as he recounts his experiences as a sailor and how being in the army is much better.
  • And finally an explanation of why he had enlisted using the name William Thompson.

So why did he use the name William Thompson to enlist?

I knew that the pension wouldn’t have been approved if Anthony had enlisted for an illegal reason (such as being a bounty jumper), but I still was bewildered as to what could be the cause.  According to the pension records, “William Thompson” was drafted on the 20 July 1863 and mustered in as a Private in Company H in the 90th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Other letters and documents state that Anthony Mattson joined the army as a substitute, but didn’t want to use his own name because of the “prejudice general at this time against substitutes”.  So what was a substitute? The law allowed for a draftee to pay another man $300 to be his “substitute” if  he was drafted, but sometimes they paid a lot more than the $300.  An article on the NARA website gives an example of someone who was paid $1100!

Battle of the Wilderness Reenactment May 2014 - 150 Anniversary

150th Anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness Reenactment May 2014

Anthony was a widower and had 3 children to support, it makes sense that he would want to take advantage of whatever additional financial benefits he could get by joining the war. His letter to his brother John states that he sent his mother $200, but it is unclear if he got more money or not.  I hope that he didn’t get cheated.  He also writes that he intends to see the war through and hopes he isn’t killed. Unfortunately, he is fatally shot at the Battle of the Wilderness while “advancing on the enemy” on 10 May 1864. His children are left without a mother or a father and are raised by their Grandmother Mary Mattson.

You got to love the pension records – it was worth the wait!

Posted in Civil War, Civil War Pensions, Mattson Family | Tagged | Leave a comment

Old Gray Cemetery – Knoxville, Tennessee

Old Gray Cemetery Grounds

Old Gray Cemetery Grounds

As part of getting to know my new town, I have made a couple of trips to the Old Gray Cemetery that was established in 1850 in downtown Knoxville.  My sister Cayley and I first visited Old Gray last fall as part of our sightseeing tour of the city. We don’t have any relatives buried there, but we share a common love for cemeteries.  We walked among the graves, observing the quiet resting place for over 9000 people including Tennessee politicians, businessmen and Civil War Veterans.  I knew I wanted to return as a way to learn about the history of the city and the people who lived here.

Old Gray Cemetery Website

Old Gray Cemetery Website

Before my next visit, I reviewed the cemetery website which is more informative than most of those I have used in the past.  Here I found a printable map with the “famous” graves and a short biography of the historical figures. I was also able to get a list of all the Civil War soldiers buried there.  Of the 185 men who served, 82 were Union, 102 were Confederate and there was one man who served on both sides.  This confirms what I know about Eastern Tennessee and it’s divided loyalties.  Literally brothers and neighbors could be on different sides of the Civil War and now they lie together in their final resting place.  There is something poetic about that.

Old Gray Cemetery Index

Old Gray Cemetery Index

On entering the cemetery, I was impressed by their “user friendly” map and a weather protected binder listing of all the people buried there and the location of their graves.  If you did have a relative buried here, it would be a refreshing sight to be able to find them yourself! I wish more cemeteries did this.  I went back to the binder a few times when I was trying to find the exact location of a particular grave.

Here are a few people I visited – I will be writing about them and other interesting characters in future blogs, as I learn more about them through Tennessee records.

Eldad Cicero Camp

Eldad Cicero Camp

Leonidas C Houk

Leonidas C Houk

Jennie Gammon

Jennie Gammon



Posted in Civil War, Knoxville Tennessee | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments