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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Family in the Civil War, Part Three: Ansel Wilson

Ansel Wilson, 17th Regiment Kentucky Infantry, Company C

Ansel Wilson is a great-great grandfather on my mother's side. He was born on October 8, 1834 in Ohio county, Kentucky to Christopher Collins Wilson and Ursula Satterwhite Wilson. He was the oldest of their 14 children except for one older brother, Zephaniah, who died shortly before his first birthday.

Ansel Wilson

He married Harriet Stinson on November 30, 1854. He was 20 and she was 19.  Harriet gave birth to twins the following August. Sadly, the twins were stillborn, and Harriet died giving birth.

The following year, Ansel married Miss Cinderella McIntyre on September 8, 1856. Imagine my delight as a 10 year old finding out my great-great grandmother was Cinderella! This couple went on to have 14 children. Their oldest son Carson was my great-grandfather.

At the time the Civil War broke out, Ansel was 26, Cinderella was 22, and they had three young children.  They lived on a small farm in Ohio County, Kentucky. Ansel enrolled for duty as a private in Capt. Gary's Company of the 17th Kentucky Infantry on October 28, 1861, which came to be called Co. E. Soon, the 17th and 25th Regiments were consolidated due to loss of men; they kept the name of the 17th and Ansel was eventually put in Co. C.

The Company first mustered in at Calhoun, Kentucky, on January 4th, 1862 and were sent into battle the next month at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. I'd like to point you here to an excellent blog that follows the 17th through the war and really brings home what these men went through. Just for this engagement alone, I learned that the men were not allowed to have campfires; three inches of snow fell during one of the nights of the battle, and the temperature dropped to 10 degrees. This was the first time many of these men had seen combat, and certainly the first for Ansel. You can learn more about this battlefield via our National Parks Service.

As with my other posts, I want to focus on my ancestor more than the specific battles; however, the 17th was a well-respected and admired regiment. They fought at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Kennesaw Mountain, just to name a few.

Perhaps due to his age (nearly 30) and farm experience, Ansel Wilson was appointed the position of wagoner on June 30th of 1862. I inferred from this he drove a wagon, of course, but wasn't sure what that entailed. I found a great description of the job on a Civil War message board, and I'll quote it directly here:
"You have charge of at least two of the most incredibly stupid beasts ever created. You don't just just ride a wagon, you have to take care of the horses. You have to feed them and curry them and try to not work them overmuch. And you have to take care of the tack and the wagon and you don't get all that much time to grab a beer with the guys.  
You have to know when the horses need a break. When you're pushing them too hard. When they're not working together. When the axles need greasing and about how far you can get without greasing them.
Being a teamster or wagoner was not a cushy job. He was not ordinarily expected to man the ramparts or fix bayonets, but one of the primary objectives of an opposing force was to cut the line and capture the wagons. 
It did take a special skill-set to be a wagoner. It was not an assignment for the slacker."
Civil War Supply Wagon
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Ansel was detached from his company all of the summer of 1862 to drive the division team in the 4th Division of the Army of Ohio. Then, on November 9th of that year, he did something that at first shocked me.

He deserted.

Ansel's story will be continued next time.


  1. Wow! Love seeing the pics and all the information! Would love to find out more on what you know of either of their ancestors. I am also a descendant, through their son John W. Wilson :)

    1. Hi Carrie, always glad to get in touch with cousins! I think we have made contact via ancestry? I look forward to sharing more.

    2. Yep, that's me! I can't wait to see what more you have! Thank you :)

  2. Was Ansel a famous wartime person and did he have any family in Los Angeles by any chance?

  3. Not as far as I know, on either account. He was a Kentucky farmer who returned to his home and lived life as before. He had some family who moved to El Paso, TX. None in LA that I am aware of.