Friday, January 24, 2014

John David Kitts - Civil War Soldier

It's COLD. I'm working on many things, mainly trying not to be in pain with my muscles just really giving me a fit. I think it is the cold. I just am not typing much or moving much and so my blog is suffering. But I have other items I have written in the past that I can dig out and share. Here is one story of one of my grandfather's John David Kitts and his service in the Civil War. I have Grandfathers that fought for both sides. I will get to that. 

John David Kitts - Civil War Soldier
John David Kitts joined the Confederate Army on the 9th of October 1862 as a Private in the 16th Virginia Calvary Company I under Colonel William Graham at Tazewell, Virginia. He was in his early 30's.
John David Kitts picture courtesy of Verla Barr Kitts
Many YEARS ago

For nearly 3 years John Kitts fought with the 16th Calvary. Lack of resources for the Confederacy had his last pay as being received 31 August 1863. In August of 1864 his company was under the command of General John McCausland and General Johnson. This particular campaign was a part of Early's raid and operations against the B&O Railroad. While returning to the Shenandoah Valley after burning Chambersburg, McCausland's and Johnson's cavalry were surprised at Moorefield on August 7th 1864 and routed by Union calvary. A battle ensued with 531 casualties. John Kitts was captured the same day at Moorefield, arrested by General William W. Averell forces. He was sent to Camp Chase Ohio, on August 11th 1864 and arrived August 12th. Camp Chase was one of the five largest prisons in the North for Confederate prisoners of war.

By the end of the Civil War, Northern prisoner of war camps were as bad as the South for their deplorable conditions. News of bad conditions in the southern prison camps for Union soldiers, accelerated bad treatment and conditions in the Northern prison camps for Southern soldiers. 

According to an exchange agreement reached between North and South on July 22, 1862, Camp Chase was to operate only as a way station for the immediate repatriation (return to country of birth or citizenship) of Confederate soldiers. After this agreement was mutually abandoned July 13, 1863, the facility swelled with new prisoners, and military inmates quickly outnumbered political prisoners. By the end of the war, Camp Chase held 26,000 of all 36,000 Confederate POWs retained in Ohio military prisons. Crowded and unhealthy living conditions at Camp Chase took a heavy toll among prisoners.

Despite newly constructed barracks in 1864, which raised the prison capacity to 8,000 men, the facility was soon operating well over capacity. Rations for prisoners were reduced in retaliation against mistreatment of Union soldiers at Southern POW camps. Many prisoners suffered from malnutrition and died from smallpox, typhoid fever or pneumonia. Others, even those who received meager clothing provisions, suffered from severe exposure during the especially cold winter of 1865. In all, 2,229 soldiers died at Camp Chase by July 5, 1865, when it officially closed. 

For a better understanding of what John Kitts endured as a POW you should research Camp Chase on the internet. There are first hand accounts on several sites. For one click here for McNeil's Diary.

John Kitts stay at Camp Chase lasted from August 12th 1864 until he was transferred to Point Lookout Prison, St. Mary's County, Maryland. (Odd that this is where my parents were living when I was born 93 years later!) March 18th, 1865. His release from Point Lookout occurred between March 18, 1865 and June 24, 1865, being transferred to Camp Lee, near Richmond for exchange. He was then transferred from Camp Lee to Charleston, WV for parole. He signed his Parole of Honor papers in West Virginia, 24 June 1865, and was released the same day. Note the Civil War officially ended April 9, 1865, took a few months to release prisoners.

His oath of allegiance reads: Head Quarters First Separate Brigade, Department of West Virginia, Charleston, WV, 24 June 1865
" I, John D. Kitts Pvt Co I 16 Va Cav Regiment, C.S. Army, do hereby give this my Parole of Honor, that I will not take up arms against the United States Government, until I am regularly exchanged; and that if I am permitted to remain at my home, I will conduct myself as a good and peaceable citizen, and will respect the laws in force where I reside, and will do nothing to the detriment of, or in opposition to, the U.S. Government. Signed John D. Kitts this 24 day of June 1865. Wm Harmon Major & Provost Marshall."

I couldn't find other prisoner of war muster rolls for Point lookout, Md. Curiously his last muster roll is a regular CSA record and states, Company Muster Roll of the organization named above, for Oct 31, 1863 to March 31 1864, Dated April 1, 1866. Enlisted Oct. 9, 1862, in Tazewell VA. by Wm. L. Graham, for period of 3 years, last paid by Capt. Ward to Aug 31, 1863, Present or absent, it lists him as PRESENT in 1866. After enlisting in 1862; not being paid for a year after August 1863; being captured in August 1864; enduring the worst conditions of the prison camps until end of the war, I would say being present for muster roll in 1866 was a very big deal.

The following information was provided to me by Glen Gallager
"I have a book on the 16th Virginia Cavalry (unfortunately the book's no longer in print), but I think I can fill in some of the questions you asked. The book has a biographical appendix in the back that lists many members of the regiment. Your John D. Kitts is included. It says he enlisted on 10/9/1862 in Tazewell County. He was captured at Moorefield on 8/7/64 - he was 34 years old at the time. The book says his height was 5'9", he had dark complexion and blue eyes. He was exchanged for other prisoners at Camp Lee, Richmond and paroled at Charleston, WV on 6/24/65.

Here are the battles that the regiment fought in between the time of his enlistment and his capture.
1. Weather was very bad during the winter of 1862 and early spring of 1863 - the unit stayed encamped at Camp Zirkle near Salem, VA during this period.
2. The regiment manuevered around Virginia during the spring of 1863.
3. In late spring the unit began moving north towards Pennsylvania.
4. Early July 1863, the unit fought at Gettysburg. There was a cavalry battle on the third day of Gettysburg that the 16th was involved in. One of the Union regiments that the 16th fought against was commanded by George A. Custer.
5. They fought at Droop Mountain on November 6, 1863.
6. In January 1864, they fought in skirmishes around Wayne County, WV.
7. On February 14 they engaged the 14th Kentucky Infantry and the 39th Kentucky mounted soldiers in Lawrence County, KY.
8. There were cavalry battles fought around Lynchburg in June 1864
9. Fought at Hagerstown on July 7, 1864.
10. Fought at the Battle of Monocracy on July 9, 1864
11. Fought at Winchester on September 19, 1864
12. It would have been during some of these actions that Kitt was captured.

Hope that helps.

John D. Kitts died of liver cancer in 1907 and is buried next to his second wife, Susan Elizabeth Hall Kitts, in a very beautiful cemetery at the Lutheran Church in Burkes Garden, Tazewell Co. Virginia. He had 11 children of which one was my Great Great Grandmother, Araminta (Minnie) Haseltine Kitts Perdue. 
Lutheran Church Burke's Garden VA

Me at the Church last summer

Minnie Kitts Perdue

Susan Hall Kitts Wife of John David Kitts

View from Cemetery Hill Lutheran Church Burke's Garden VA

Burke's Garden Lutheran Church formed 1828