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McDonald Tales - MT2 - Daniel and Jane During the Civil War

Updated on May 6, 2018
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

During the war, the nature returned in the valley where they had lived

The valley had returned to nature...
The valley had returned to nature...

They wrote letters to each other

Old letters
Old letters | Source

“Separation makes the heart grow fonder”

As did many (perhaps most) who served during the Civil War, Daniel and Jane kept up a continual correspondence by letter during those four years. They never knew what would come next, of course, but with Daniel serving in the Patton Cavalry Regiment, he never actually left the state of Missouri and was in the Jefferson City area from time to time. He was promoted to Sergeant, in the Company that Lewis led, and they worked well together.

Jane lived with her grandparents in Jefferson City as she had while attending the Davis Academy for Girls. She was able to be helpful to them, to earn her keep, and not be a burden on other family members in the area. Harry and Sarah, and their three daughters, Caroline, Mahala, and Rebecca, purchased a home there. With wartime business booming, precarious as some freight runs were, sometimes in war zones, Harry McDonald and Jacob Weston combined their freight lines to become the Weston-McDonald Freight Line. Jane could see the handwriting on the wall that Harry would likely now make this his life’s work. As she saw it, this was wonderful. All the farming responsibility would fall to her and Daniel, but that was just fine with them. She would see to it that it worked out to their advantage, and Daniel agreed wholeheartedly when they were able to talk about it.

As all the family did, Jane and Daniel were constantly concerned for Henry and his grandson, Alex, who had chosen to stay behind, in the valley, living in the caves on the hillside above (north of) the farm and Oak Creek. They essential lived as mountain men. They hunted and fished, and stayed out of sight. At least, that was the plan. But, how was it working for them, as the years passed? Only time would tell. They each felt they were “continuing their claim” to the land, even though it had been ravaged by roving gangs of bandits, Rebels and Yankees alike. They later learned not a building had been left intact. All were burnt to the ground over those first couple of years. The land was returning to nature.

Death and destruction was not limited to war zones, of course. In the summer of 1862, out for a routine ride in their carriage, in the Jefferson City area, Robert and Susannah Baldridge, parents of Sarah and David, were both killed when their carriage overturned and crushed them. It was a freak accident and family and friends were devastated. They had continued to work, during the war, as brokers of cattle stock, providing meat for the military units, and prospered. Jane saw this as the key event that caused Sarah to be happy to stay in Jefferson City, with Harry, and not even think of returning to the Oak Creek valley. David, after he found out about the death of his parents, was even more determined to return to rebuild the mill that he and his father had gone there to build. He wanted to show that he could do it, as well, on his own, with the help of his friends, of course. The mill would be needed, and he wanted to meet that need.

William joined the family

A baby boy
A baby boy | Source

Daniel and Jane were joined by William

In the middle of 1863, Jane realized that she was pregnant. Young William was born on the 31st day of January of 1864. Jane’s parents, Hugh and Victoria, were there to celebrate the arrival. Hugh was now a State Representative, and they lived in the area, as well. He had been working as a contractor for the Union, gathering and purchasing mules and horses for the Army. Daniel was able to get leave shortly after the birth, and they celebrated the birth of their big, bouncy baby boy together, as well.

When Lewis and Caroline had both reached 21 years-of-age, late in the summer of 1864, they were married with all of the family able to attend the ceremony. Through that fall of 1964, through the winter and into the early winter of 1965, it seemed clear to Colonel Patton and the other local leaders that the war would soon be ending. He began to convene meetings of persons committed to returning to the Oak Creek valley, and Oak Springs, to begin preparations for their return.

By the end of the war, in April 1865, Lewis and Daniel were designated as the first to return, and hopefully meet up with Henry and Alex, to begin their new life in the valley. Colonel Patton had had one communication from Henry, in November of 1863, via a cavalry patrol, that seemed to indicate he and Alex would be waiting, when the time came. All hoped that would be true.

They rode their horses to the valley

A saddled horse
A saddled horse | Source

Daniel was discharged and prepared to return home

Daniel and Jane doted on their son, William, now more than a year old as they prepared for Daniel’s return to the valley. By the end of April 1865, the Patton Cavalry Regiment was disbanded, and both Lewis and Daniel worked anxiously to return to the Oak Creek valley by mid-May, so that a “spring planting” could be put in for a fall harvest, when some of the families would return. Colonel Patton was leading the effort to make this happen,

From an early date in the planning process, it was determined that some of the young men would return to the valley first, in pairs, taking needed animals and supplies with them. It was not safe to travel alone, which was known, for sure. The young men would be well armed, and would look after each other. Still, it would be a dangerous journey, so they prepared well. As the first, Lewis and Daniel would each ride horseback, leading two pack mules each. The mules carried extra harness and seed as well as general supplies. The mules would be left there to be used to begin plowing and planting fields of grain. They had cached plows in the caves that they assumed they would be able to recover and use.

Daniel hated to leave Jane and William behind, but understood that preparing for a successful family return later would be worth the short-term sacrifice. By the 8th day of May, Daniel and Lewis set out on their first trip south, from Jefferson City, to the Oak Creek valley. The trip to Rolla was fairly routine as the Union army had men stationed there, with the railroad, and travel there was safe. South of Rolla, to Salem, was much the same, but they saw fewer and fewer people along the way. South of Salem, it was like riding in the wilderness, and that continued as they crossed the Dent County line, heading south along the west side of Oak Creek approaching the valley.

“Daniel, it that really you?” Henry stepped out from behind a tree, startling the horses the men were riding.

Getting the horses under control, Daniel handed his reins to Lewis, and jumped to the ground to embrace his father, who looked like a grizzled mountain man, which he was, of course. By this time, Alex had joined them. Alex was still small, but appeared as tough as nails like his grandfather, Henry. There were big smiles, all around.

Note from Author

Much of this McDonald Tale (MT2) has been told in the short story collection, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” but here we are seeing the activity through the eyes of Jane and Daniel McDonald, along with new material and insights. Daniel was always seen as the younger brother of Harry and not of much significance expect as eventually becoming William’s father. This Tale starts to tell a much different story that will be continued in coming Tales. These Tales are a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of stories.

“The Homeplace Saga” family saga, historical fiction stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, MsDora... Families are Forever! ...for sure! ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Good that family connectedness remains despite all the comings and goings. I like that.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank for the visit and comment... have a good one! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's one of those days when the chores are piling up and I have little time for the computer. Just stopped by to wish you a very Happy Easter.


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