3rd Lt. - 2nd Sgt, Company B

Burnet's Battalion, 1st Texas Sharp Shooters

22 May 1832 - 16 Mar 1872

By Billie Galyean Brown

592 Belden Ave.

Camarillo, CA 93010

My search began for this man as a family myth, or I thought it was a myth, for quite some time. After my Aunt Tenny and my older sister Ione died, there was no one who was actively pursuing much of the family, except my niece, Clydene. She was not retired and was a very busy person. She had provided me with charts that she had prepared for her church activity and I was very grateful. I wanted to know more, it was a desire within me that I had harbored since childhood. I never had grandparents to know and love, and I wanted some. Thanks to the Lamar County Genealogy Society of Paris Texas. They have provided me the clues and the assistance. It has been four long years, but the work and the waiting has been worth it.

I have discovered many grandparents, but am not yet content. I am still searching. In this attempt at recording Robert Joseph Pirtle, I will try to connect his Civil War activities with his family records, oral history, and the events in the society of those times.

His father was born in KY, in 23 June 1809; his mother was born in TN, 6 April 1808, and he was born in TN on 22 May, 1832. He married Elizabeth A. Brummette in 1855, who was born in AR in 1838. So his family had migrated from KY to TN, TN to AR, and AR to TX. At the time of his death, he was the father of a large family, and a prosperous farmer. His physical health had not been very good after he returned from the Civil War. He died seven years after he returned home. (His father died three years later on Christmas day, 1875). R. J. left his widow with seven children, possibly eight, I am still searching for 'Joe Lee'. The two oldest were girls, 12 and 14 years old. The war hurt many people, for generations after, and our family lived with this mystery of a deserter, until now. In the Ron Brothers CSA records, I have found some information that can provide a resolution to our wondering.

Robert Joseph Pirtle (R. J. Pirtle / Robert J. Pirtle/ R. J. Pyrtle) seems to have such an array of clues to unknown events, in his military CSA records. I feel a great need to solve as many of the mysteries as I can, or at least let some light into his past life, in my attempt to write a comprehensive biography. I have tried to sort the events and explain the brief entries in the war journals, using my own logic and our family's oral history.

I have successfully copied, with my trusty computer, a family photo, of R. J., that has been loved for over four generations. It is attached, and obviously, was taken sometime around the Civil War years. As his great granddaughter I am proud of his countenance. His face shows strength of character, especially the strong chin, which I have inherited. It has caused me many confrontations in my lifetime (both inside my family circle and out). The photo of R. J. is typical of the time. A suit and tie have been painted on , so we do not know how he was dressed. His image has been touched-up, by the photographer, until it is difficult to determine his complexion. The family believes that he was actually not as dark as the photo displays. He is said to have looked like Custer (which we do not consider a compliment), in that he was blonde, blue eyed, and wore the style of hair and mustache that was popular at that time. The CSA records have been reviewed, but there is no personal description of him. I suppose the personal description information, required by all our documents in this day, was not a practice they had time for in those days.

The earliest date, on the CSA Texas records is 19 June 1861, but the family arrived in Lamar County around 1856. This was the era of mixed events in the land. There was a conflict in Utah between the Army, the Indians and the Mormans. The Mormans had killed 120 immigrants leaving only 17 children alive. They claimed the immigrants had killed their leader, Joseph Smith. There was a Financial panic, it resulted in 4,932 companies failing. Railroads went bankrupt. Same things we worry about today. There was a sharp increase in violence in Texas. A dispute arose about a matter so trivial that no one remembered what started it. They called it the Cart War. There were kidnaping, beatings and murders, so frequent they were considered 'Common Place'. The Army in Texas had been using Camels for their beasts of burden, to help the Second Cavalry. They decided to transfer them to California. The soldiers said they would not miss the smelly things. There was even problems with Nicaragua, a man named William Walker, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the States, about running that country. That news appears to be not much different than our news today.

I shall assume my great grandfather was not too concerned with those other events. He occupied, during the years from 1856 to 1861, with getting married, obtaining a head-right (or purchasing land), settling down, and beginning farming. Obtaining land at that time was easier than it is today, but our understanding of their process is not easy. I have a copy of one of the land transactions. I quote, in part, the description of the sale. '....(the description of property is). Beginning at the South East corner of said original survey a stake on Davis line, from which a post oak marked X bears South 14 degrees, West 3 varas, and another marked X bears South 15 degrees East, 4 varas thence North with said line 220 2/3 poles, a stake, and two red oaks and 1 hickory. The South East corner, of said original survey, from which a post oak marked with a blaze and 2 chops bears South 4 varas thence East with the South boundary line 142 poles the place of beginning, containing two hundred acres, be the same more or less....' No wonder there were many land conflicts, cut down a tree and the whole world went mad.

There was always a confrontation within the family about the property; that had been deeded to my grandmother, Mary Pirtle Lyons, by her father Robert Joseph Pirtle. Not that we wanted it, but that we wanted to know where it was, and to solve the mystery of why she was not allowed to keep it. Her husband, John M. Lyons, rejected any attempt to find out about it, saying it was American Indian land and did not belong to us (meaning her, I guess). I have not been able to put any light on that problem, but I believe it to be her part of her fathers property the children were to receive upon the remarriage of her mother. The is property could have been purchased from an American Indian, or it could have been his wife's heritage. Elizabeth A. Brummette Pirtle, Mary's mother and R. J.'s wife, is said to have been part Native American, but that will be another story. This is to be Robert Joseph Pirtle's story, as much as I am able to determine it.

I have to assume that all the CSA records, of Robert J. Pirtle, are his, because I have found no other person whose name is similar. His two brothers, James and Jenkins, I find it difficult to determine which records belong to which brother. They may be combined, but this is R. J.'s story. The use of the initials J. B., by both of them, at various times, is apparently the basis of the problem. I, also, believe that the record of a James N. Pirtle is actually James J. Pirtle, with a miss reading of the middle initial N. It is obvious that extended research, on my part, is required to fully document those brothers, but my great grandfather is my priority, and rightly so.

R. J. volunteered for the Hill's Lamar Cavalry, Company number 2, organized on 10 June 1861. That is the oldest military record that I have seen concerning. The record indicates he was assigned as a Private. It was under the command of Captain James Hill, and located at Persimmon Grove, Lamar County, TX. The record was filed on 19 June 1861, and states that the unit was part of the Texas Militia Battalion organized under the act to incorporate volunteer companies, that was approved on 15 February 1858. The History of Lamar County, by A. W. Neville, was published by the North Texas Publishing Company in 1937. His record appears on pages 120 and 121, as a member of the Lamar Cavalry Number 2 (I have heard it referred to as the Second Cavalry). This was a period that would have been difficult for him, as a family man, his wife was expecting their third child, which arrived on 5 September 1861.

It is recorded that he mustered in on the Company Roll of Burnet's Battalion of Texas Sharp Shooters. The record indicates that he was 30 years old. (He would have been 30 years old on May 22, 1862). The Muster-In Roll was 10 December 1862. (That would be correct according to his birth date). How frightening for his family to face this separation just two weeks before their Christmas celebration. I will have to do more research to determine how he went from Hill's Cavalry to Burnet's Sharp Shooters, but one may have been organizing, and the other an authorized unit going to war. He may have been in a hurry to participate and chose to change units. He could have been negotiating a higher rank, or rating. He was a private in the other unit, and appears here as an officer and as a sergeant in the others. Those variances, in ranks and ratings, may be errors in interpretation. The writing 'of old' is hard for us 'of today' to read. He was Mustered-in for three years of service, on 1 August 1862, at Camp Jackson, Lamar County, TX, as a 3rd Lt, from further review of his records it appears that the rank or rating may have been Sgt. rather than Lt. because he went from 3rd Sgt., to 2nd Sgt., to Sgt., in the records as time progressed. He was assigned to Company B of the 1st Battalion which is referred to as Burnet's Battalion (this is taken from the National Archives Microfilm Roll 323, #261.)

To leave his family, must have been a troublesome thing for him to do, even though he was dedicated to supporting his beliefs with his personal sacrifice of life and limb. He must have been very concerned with the war, for him to make the decision to leave his family and join his three brothers, to make the family foursome, that charged into the war. Isaac, their father, had to see his four oldest sons go off to war, leaving him with a great deal of responsibility, at the age of 53, which was considered old at that time. R. J. Pirtle's youngest child, was a daughter named Eunicy. She had been named after his mother, who died in 1857. Eunicy had been born on 5 September 1861, while he was planning to leave. Leaving a wife, with the small child, must have been difficult for him, as it surely was for her. She was left with three children, the oldest was only a six year old girl.

He remained in the area only a short while, as he got his affairs in order, and prepared to join in the actual fighting. The years he was away fighting, running, and being ill, were very difficult years not only for him, but for those at home as well. Food was short and there was no help with the farming, the children had to become adults and work with their mother to have anything to eat. Luckily my great grandmother, Elizabeth A. Brummette Pirtle, was a very strong woman. She lived many years after her husbands death. My mother Zuola Lyons Galyean, born in 1883, was lucky enough to have known her, and remembered the stories she told of her husbands war tribulations.

In the information in the Roll dated December through February 1963, the date of 31 October 1862, was given as his first payday. He was paid by Captain E. J. Shelton. Captain Shelton was considered the Quartermaster and part of his duty was to pay the soldiers. He was the only officer that was recorded on the pay records for the days that followed. Those entries included whether soldier was present and sometimes it indicated what the payee's current rank or rating was. The Gatling gun was developed that year, but was not produced in sufficient numbers to be used in the war. It had been developed with the thought that it was so horrible, men would be turned away from war. It did not work that way, a form of it is still being used on US ships today, mainly the firing projectiles are different. The war events created agony throughout the land and some of that agony is still in our society today.

To quote Adlai Stevenson, 'A hungry man is not a free man.' Our land was teeming with men (and women and children) who were not free before the war, and there were many more after the war. Hunger is still a social issue, even as we approach the 21st Century. We, in this 'Land of the Free,' remain faced with the problem of the person who is not free.

Many trivial things happened, too. Fashionable uniforms were developed by the North and the South. There was the emergence of the Great Coat, and Overcoat, some versions are still in fashion today. There were financial events that reverberate still. Events that we've seldom heard about. One, that is in current controversy, income tax. The first nation-wide income tax was approved by congress. Gad, has it been in effect that long, since 1863? For incomes of $800.00 or more a levy of 3% was collected. I would gladly accept that today, but in those days, it must have been shockingly high.

The CSA consolidated three month report March through April 1863 indicated that R. J. was present on 18 February 1863 and appeared as a 2nd Sgt. There is a statement that he was absent (I assume from duty) and was sent to the hospital on 27 April 1863. He was paid on 30 April and appeared as a 2nd Sgt. It does not indicate if Captain Shelton paid him in the hospital, or on duty. There was another entry for May through June indicated an absence and an added remark, that he was sick at Port Hudson, dated 6 May 1863. It indicates that his pay on 30 April 1863 was the last he received. He appears to be absent at the other times indicated for payday. The record does not indicate if R. J. was still ill. He had only been participating in the fighting less than a year. It had seemed to him that he had been there for most of his life. They fought in deplorable conditions.

The Northern troops had come by ship and captured New Orleans, the main port from which their supplies could be delivered. I am sure you have hear of Farragut and his accomplishments. R. J. repeatedly told of how hungry they were, and how they were forced to eat anything they could find. That search for water and food resulted in many of them becoming very ill, with severe diarrhea, vomiting, and other side effects. One of his brothers had to resign his commission and leave the service because he could not recover. After 10 days leave to recuperate, he still had the problem with which he had suffered, diarrhea for two months. I am surprised he survived. I believe that he was James B. Pirtle, who was born in 1830. I, also, believe his illness was fatal, he died in the war or shortly after. He was not in the Census records for 1860, his wife was a widow living with his younger brother.

Great grandfather said that when he got out of the hospital and was returned to the fighting, everyone was starving. He was an especially resourceful man, and when he found a cow wandering around their area, he shot it. He butchered it and got it ready for his unit to cook and eat. Everyone ate it and relished the meal, including his commanding officer. Then the next day he was brought up for Courts Martial. He was charged for killing the cow because is belonged to a Southern family. With the fighting that was going on around New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Port Hudson, who could tell who owned the cow. He was shocked when leg irons were fastened on, and he put in the jail at Port Hudson, La.

As Stonewall Jackson died of his wounds he received, 6 May 1863, at Chancelorsville. He is quoted as asking to be taken across the river to rest on the other side under the shade of a tree. He never recovered and died on 10 May 1863. When R. J. decided to escape, it was around the end of May 1863. I am sure he would have like to have been allowed to cross the river and rest under the shade of a tree, but he was on the run. Luckily, he was a ventriloquist who had perfected many sounds and that helped him to managed his escape. He used them to divert the attention of the jailors, and to escape. His sounds of a javalina (Wild Boar), were very effective, because they were of a very vicious animal, and therefore, considered dangerous to anyone on foot. The searchers ran away from that sound. R. J. found rocks and scraps of iron and used them to cut off his leg irons. It took days to be free of them. He went where ever he could to escape being caught by the unit that was searching for him. He went through swamps and crawled on his belly. He tried to go directly home, an incorrect decision. He was caught on 12 June 1863 and they transferred him to New Orleans, as indicated by the List of Prisoners sent down from Port Hudson, dated 15 June 1863. The prisoners were sent to the Provost Marshall General's Office, New Orleans, La. He never mentioned another escape, so perhaps he was captured by the North when they continued to take the areas around New Orleans. I must check to see if there was a Southern jail around Lafouche (Lafourche). Otherwise he escaped again and was hiding in the swamps when the Northern Soldiers found him.

The records do not show why he was in the Lafourche (a bayou), south of New Orleans area, but that was where the Northern Soldiers captured him, on 23 June 1863. He was a Prisoner of War for a short time and was paroled. It was customary for the North to lecture their Southern prisoners, to threaten them with death if they were caught fighting again. They would then free them, with directions to return to their homes. Most of them did as they were told, feeling that the war was lost. I believe R. J. would have done that, after the way he was treated for provide food for his group.

There is another quarterly report in the record for July through August, 1863 indicating that he is still missing, but it appears that R. J. returned to his unit, thinking they would allow him to continue his duties, if the record of clothing issue is correct. The record confuses me here, for I do not believe he would have taken that action. I believe he would have returned home when the North released him. The record of clothing, he received on 8 July 1863, confirms his return, but not his status at that time. Was he still a prisoner, or was he allowed to return to his unit? The next day after he signed for the clothing issue, Port Hudson surrendered to the Northern Army, 9 July 1863. It is reported in the strategy journals about the war that the fall of Port Hudson completed the Union campaigns for control of the Mississippi and split the Confederacy in two. Poor R. J., he was there in the thick of it, and unable to help as he had signed up to do. There was another quarterly report for September through October on record and it also indicated that R. J. was absent. The end of the CSA record gave me the information, our family had long been seeking.

Whatever the real truth, R. J. did escape, as the report indicates. He traveled the dangerous journey home. He again crawled, hid, and successfully ran from both sides of the warring group. He traveled at night and slept where ever he could in the day. He also ate what he could find, but the family was familiar with the native plants that were edible, so with rabbits about, he made it home. My grandson identifies with our R. J., because he had survival training at the Air Force Academy and thought he would starve to death, but he learned to eat off the land, as did his great great great grandfather.

R. J. arrived home very ill and his wife treated him as best she could. It was not a joyous occasion for the family because, he insisted on staying in the cellar, for he believed everyone was searching for him. He wanted to stay there until the war was over. It put great pressure on the family, especially children. The family had to pretend that he was still in the war. For the children it was difficult, because they were so glad to have him home. He would get up and work in the fields at night, to try and help the family finish their crops, for it was harvest time when he arrived.

The next year, 1864, the war was still raging, but he could not hide for long because his wife became pregnant with another son. Her reputation would have been ruined, and for a woman of that day, it would have ruined the lives of her daughters as well as hers. He had to come out of the cellar. He decided to pretend to return, legally. It was not as difficult as he had thought, for he was very ill, and never did really get well. So everyone assumed that he was too ill to continue fighting. The secret never got out, or perhaps no one really cared, for they began to wonder why the terrible struggle ever happened.

There war celebration, as much as they could afford. Their first son, Robert Joseph Pirtle, (Jr.) was born on 24 July 1864. R. J. kept to himself as much as he could, and did not participate in the politics of the area. Some of the news he heard pleased him. General Lee was still fighting at the Rapidan River, and the news was good. He had tried to lead his men into the fighting, but they refused to let him, shouting, 'Go back General Lee, Go Back.' They valued his life well above theirs.

Also, far away in Europe there was a sea battle between the C.S.S. Alabama and the U.S.S. Kearsarge. The Alabama was in the harbor at Cherbourg, France for repairs. The Kearsarge captain found out about it and challenged the Captain of the Alabama to a fight. The Alabama's officers were Confederate, but the crew was English. The battle was observed from the cliffs by 15,000 spectators and special excursion trains that came from Paris. Before this battle the Alabama had created tremendous damage to the Northern ships. They had captured or damaged over 60 Northern Merchant ships, before losing this battle, perhaps their need for repairs was one factor. It is so hard to imagine the fighting so far away from our shores. It is more puzzling yet, to imagine people watching (by choice) a war. There were crowds watching in the South, at the beginning, when they were sure the Confederacy would win in a short time.

The war continued and so did the political campaigning. Nevada was quickly admitted to the Union to allow them to vote in the elections. They became the 36th state. In 1865 the War was over, but the real anguish of the war had just begun, especially in the South. Even in Texas, I note on the Brother's Web Site, there is a list of indigent there in 1865, I was pleased not to find any of my family on that list. I am thankful for their strength, family support, and perhaps the need to 'do it on their own', that I have inherited. I am sure they went hungry and in patched clothes, but they survived for the most part, and went on to complete their life's work. It was a sad time at R. J.'s home too, not only was their problems the same as others, but that year their Eunicy died, she was only four short years old. Most, of those years she spent without a father.

The war ended and many things began to take its place in the events of the day. In march of 1867, Nebraska became the 37th state, and in April Alaska was purchased. Carnegie started his Pullman Company, although he had build his first pullman car in 1863, which indicates his mind was not on the war, but the comfort for his travel. Later he developed it for the other travelers and it is still with the railroads today, yet not as comfortable, I think.

The suffragists began their movement, which reverberates today, in many forms. The mail order business began, which was a great help to women. They had a choice of buying their clothes and other needs and did not have to weave, knit and sew everything for the family. Even 'men things' could be purchased. They had guns, buggies, such a variety of things, it is hard to imagine. I got a reproduced copy of the Sears book and it was amazing. They eventually sold houses, cars, and horses and saddles. Elizabeth A. Brummette Pirtle must have welcomed it especially. It would have helped her to dress her seven children. It was part of the lives of the settlers who continued into the west. That movement required the government to maintain the Cavalry, which had a constant job of protecting them. Posts were established to provide a place of safety. The fort soon developed into places of social activities. The catalogue provided a means for the settlers to have the things they needed. They desired to make a satisfactory appearance, even in their frontier society. It was one of the things that helped them to keep in touch with a civilization that they left.

At the time of the 1870 Lamar County Census R. J. had two more children. His brother James B. Pirtle was dead, his brother Jenkins (Jenks) was married, had four children, and lived on a farm near his father Isaac. Jenks was caring for his brother James B. Pirtle's family. James was listed on the 1860 census but is missing from the 1870 census. I believe he died in the war, but I have not found his death records, yet. His brother Isaac Newton was living close by, as was their father Isaac who still had three of his children living at home. It was the time of the Jesse James Gang, Buffalo Bill Cody, and a skating rink fad. The skating fad reached from New York, and Rhode Island to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Whistler painted his mother at that time, and Burbank grew his better potato. It was a changing world, but has it ever stopped changing?

Another son was born the year J. R. died. He was Joseph A. Pirtle, born in 1872 and he has created another mystery for me. I have family photos of Joe Lee, but assumed he is older than Joseph A. So far I have found no records of any other Joseph Pirtle that is related to this family, nor have I connected these two.

Our family knows that R. J. was a good citizen, he never gave anyone any trouble. His memory is not marred by any tale of disagreement with anyone. His writing of his will indicated that the first thing that he wanted to be done, was to pay any debts he owed. He was a caring husband and father. He specifically worded his will so that the children could share in his estate, but provided for his wife, even the event that she would remarry. Although his will was well worded and was probated, there was a contest of control of property later. It resulted from the children's reaction to their step-father. They did not approve of the handling of their estate after their mother's marriage. The two of the youngest boys, who were still at home, went to court to contest the handling of their estate, and to ask that their sister's husband be made their guardian. Robert Joseph and Isaac Jefferson asked that my grandfather, John M. Lyons, be appointed, by the court to be their guardian. Their mother contested the insinuation that she was not a proper mother. In formal legal documents the court stated that the decision, that was made, concerned the property control, only. She was contented as she would never let anyone take her children away, or erode her authority over them, after all, she was on of the wives that survived the war, caring for her children without help from a husband. Her name, as a mother, she cared about, but she cared little for the property. The family remained friends, there are pictures of gatherings at the youngest son's house. It appeared everyone was there. Great Grandfather Robert J. Pirtle would have been pleased.

It is difficult for me to explain how happy I was when I read the last word of his Confederate service record. There was the word "DESERTER." Although I knew what the word was supposed to mean, but, to me it meant the lost had been found. I knew that this was the man our great grandmother had loved so much. She was still relating stories about him, long after his death, and her remarriage. My life's mystery was solved. The family members, who knew all the details, were long ago gone to be with him, and the younger of us, that were left, had only dim childhood memories of the wonderful stories we heard. No one was sure of the details or the exact names of those long ago family members. (My grandchildren recently told a friend, that asked what was their grandfather's name. They joyously replied, 'Grampa'.) Memories and stories faded along the 126 year trail the family followed West. I had feared I would never know. Now I know and shall tell everyone. I am proud of him, and glad he deserted before he starved to death. His cause had long before been lost. Now I have found our War Hero. He has received no ticker tape parade down Broadway, but I propose that he deserved it more than some of those who did.

Robert Joseph Pirtle is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, in the Forest Hill Community of Lamar County, Texas.

Private, R. J. Pirtle is found listed in Lamar County Deed Book L, p. 324, as a member of Hill's Lamar Cavalry Company No. 2, organized 10 Jun 1861 under Captain James Hill, at Persimmon Grove, Lamar Co., TX, filed for the record on 19 Jun 1861. The document states the Company "is a volunteer Company and attached to the... Texas Militia Battalion organized under the act to incorporate volunteer companies approved February the 15th, 1858."

R. J. Pyrtle is found in THE HISTORY OF LAMAR COUNTY, by A. W. Neville, North Texas Publishing Co., 1937, pp. 120-121 as a member of Lamar Cavalry No. 2.

Robert J. Pirtle, 3rd Lt., Co. B, age 30, appears on Company Muster-in Roll, Burnet's Battalion Texas Sharp Shooters, 1st Battalion Texas Sharp Shooters, National Archives Microfilm Roll 323, #261.

Roll dated Camp Jackson, Lamar Co., TX, 10 Dec 1862, joined for duty at Fannin Co., TX, 1 Aug 1862 by C. Z. Bridge for 3 years of service.

Roll dated Dec - Feb 1863: last paid by Capt. E. J. Shelton on 31 Oct 1862, present, appears as 3rd Sgt.

Roll dated Mar - Apr 1863: last paid by Capt. E. J. Shelton on 28 Feb 1863, appears as 2nd Sgt., absent, sent to General Hospital 27 Apr 1863. Roll dated May - Jun 1863: last paid by Capt. E. J. Shelton on 30 Apr 1863, appears as 2nd Sgt., absent, left sick at Port Hudson 6 May 1863.

Roll dated Jul - Aug 1863: last paid by Capt. E. J. Shelton on 30 Apr 1863, absent, same as last muster. Roll dated Sep - Oct 1863: absent, same as last muster.

R. J. Pirtle appears on a receipt roll for clothing for 3rd Quarter of 1863, issued on 8 Jul 1863.

R. J. Pirtle, Sgt. Co. B, appears as signature on a Roll of Prisoners of War paroled at New Orleans; captured at Lafouche, LA on 23 Jun 1863.

R. J. Pirtle, Sgt., Co. B, 1st Regt. Texas Sharp Shooters, appears on a List of prisoners sent down from Port Hudson, La., list dated Provost Marshall General's Office, New Orleans, La., 15 Jun 1863; date of capture 12 Jun 1863, remarks: 'deserter.'

May 24, 1999

©Ron Brothers and Billie Galyean Brown, 1999, All Rights Reserved.

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