In the modern era, starting over in one’s 50s usually mean reinventing or redefining a career — or maybe working through a mid-life crisis — but for Mary (Hull) Beaty, my grandmother from the Civil War era, it was about rebuilding her life after the death of several family members.
When the War of 1861 — as it is called on government documents from the late 1860s — broke out, Mary Beaty, who went by Polly, had no way of knowing the high price she was about to pay. By the time it was over, it would cost her two sons Andrew Jackson (AJ) and Thomas as well as her son-in-law Andrew Owens and shortly after the War ended, her husband Alexander and an infant grandchild, would also be dead.
The War, and the death of her family members especially her third oldest son Thomas, left Mary destitute and dependent on the charity of others to subsist.
Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
As Unionists, Mary and her family had the misfortune of living in northern Tennessee when the War began. This created a deadly situation after the State joined the Confederacy. In the borderland region of the Cumberland Plateau, it essentially put a target on the backs of the Beatys and other Unionists. Gangs, vigilantes and former neighbors turned on each other in what would become one of the bloodiest regions of the conflict. The only other portion of the country where a comparable level of violence and brutality existed was the Missouri-Kansas border.
In these two regions the War became very personal and acts of War were often thinly-veiled murderous acts of revenge and retribution. It was, in a very real sense, a return to the Biblical concept of an ‘eye for an eye.’ Due to the unconventional manner in which the War was fought in the borderland, civilians were subject to attack. These civilians were often women, children or the aged, left to fend for themselves after the males entered military service. Loyalists on both sides of the conflict utilized a ‘no-quarter’ approach to the War. Simply put, if you were captured, you were killed. And some of the murders were grisly, from beheadings to tortured deaths, carried out in front of pleading family members.
But before the War intensified to that level, there was an exit from the region and it is possible that Mary, Alexander and the younger children left. My grandfather’s (Rob Beaty) grandfather, James Knox Polk — later known as Big Jim — would have been about 12 or 13 when all of this was unfolding. Whether or not they left Tennessee is difficult to prove. But in a letter written by Mary’s nephew, Morgan Hull about six months before Morgan and Mary’s sons became POWs in 1863, Morgan notes that Jonathan’s family is in Kentucky (pdf). However this could mean Jonathan’s wife and son.
If the Beatys did move north to Kentucky, it was a matter of practicality and not cowardice as Mary’s husband Alexander, 17 years her senior, crippled by arthritis and closing in on 70, would have most likely found it difficult to protect his family. If they left the area, they probably went to Adair County (Kentucky) to join other Unionists from northern Tennessee. If Alexander and Mary stayed on their homestead, they were undoubtedly protected by Unionist Tinker Dave Beaty.
What is known for certain, is three of Mary’s sons and one son-in-law (Julia Ann’s husband Andrew Owens) enlisted in the Union Army and were mustered in at Somerset, Kentucky on Sept. 28, 1861. They became members of Company B 2nd Regiment of the Tennessee Volunteers. This regiment would see action at Mills Spring and pursue CSA John Hunt Morgan into Ohio before nearly 500 members of Company B were captured near Rogersville, TN in 1863. (Click here to see how they were treated. You can also read John Ransom’s Andersonville Diary — a first person account of the ordeal.)
No Stranger To Hard Work
Based on pension records, even before the War broke out Mary was no stranger to a hard life. At the time of Alexander’s death in 1867, a doctor’s affidavit stated Alexander had suffered with ‘crippling’ arthritis for at least 25 years. This meant, Mary and the children tended the farm. But as the children aged, most of this work fell on her third-oldest son, Thomas.
In the 1868 Mother’s Pension application Mary filed, we uncover two facts about Thomas. First the application reaffirms that Thomas financially supported his mother (she states he gave her $10 per month). The application also means Thomas was unmarried and had no children. If he were married or had surviving children, his mother could not receive a pension based on his military service.
Reading the application, you get a sense of how much Mary needs the pension to survive. She is now 56 years old, her husband has been dead for about a year and she has no source of income. It appears she has not had any significant source of money for nearly five years. The only money she brings in is from sewing or knitting jobs. Thomas began financially supported her in 1855 and continued until his capture in 1863. Besides money, Thomas was also supplying labor. He had also been planting and harvesting the crops (oats, wheat and corn) on her 28-acre farm.
The $8 per month pension was approved.
Death of Her Sons
Although it is difficult to know when Mary learned of her sons’ deaths, the first son to die is her oldest, Andrew Jackson. He dies on Feb. 15, 1864, on Belles Island, roughly three months after being captured. He was about 32. Thomas lasts a few months longer, passing away on May 16 around the age of 28, in the Andersonville, Ga. prison. Their brother-in-law Andrew Owens dies less than a month later on June 9th in Andersonville. He was about 28 years old.
Andrew Jackson is survived by his wife, Jane. They had been wed nearly a decade — married on Christmas eve in 1854. Andrew Jackson also left behind two sons, John A., born April 26, 1861 and James, born on Dec. 8, 1863 — a month after his capture. This younger son, though, dies in 1865. One would presume Andrew Jackson never saw this son.
About two year’s after Andrew Jackson’s death, his widow, Jane, remarries. She is 28 or 29 when she wed William Gunter on July 18, 1866. After’s Andrew’s Owens’ death, July married Creed Garrett.
Life Before The War
In 1860, a year before the War broke out, the Beatys were living in Fentress County. The oldest son, Andrew Jackson, has his own place. According to the Census report, Andrew Jackson, 29, and his wife Jane, 25, have an infant son, John. The report lists Kentucky as Andrew Jackson’s birthplace. Find a Grave lists it as Clinton County, Ky. which should be correct since his father, Alexander, owned land in Clinton County.
1850 Census Records
Just 10 years before the War, Mary and her family are living in Overton County, TN. She is listed as 40 years old (she may be slightly younger since she appears to be born in 1811 or 1812 (North Carolina)). Her husband was 57. The household consisted of the couple’s three teenage children:
- 17-year-old Jonathan
- 15-year-old Thomas
- 13 year-old Rachel
And the younger children:
- 10-year-old July — or Julie Ann
- 8-year-old John T.
- 4-year-old James Knox Polk (my grandfather’s grandfather)
- 2-year-old Lewis
The only one not listed in her household is her oldest son Andrew Jackson., who, at 19, is one his own.
The Final Decade
According to the 1870 Overton County Census, Mary Beaty’s household consists of Mary, her oldest daughter Rachel, 31, and her youngest son, Lewis C., 19. The son that is in my direct line, James Knox Polk Beaty (Big Jim) and his wife Elizabeth (Garrett) Beaty — both 23, also live in Overton County. Their son John is two months olds.
Both households list farming as their occupation.
In 1881, Mary passes away. According to FamilySearch.org she is buried in Allardt Cemetery in Fentress County, TN.
Since there are a lot of names and dates in this post, here’s a barebones timeline:
- 1850s: All of the Alexander and Mary Beaty family, except Andrew Jackson, are living under one roof in Overton County. At 19, Andrew Jackson is on his own.
- 1860s: Two households still exists, but now everyone is in Fentress County. Alexander and Mary’s with all of the children at home except Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson’s household includes his wife Jane (Ragan/Reagan) and infant son John.
- 1861: War breaks out. Tennessee secedes from the Union. Near the end of September, Mary’s three oldest sons — Andrew Jackson, Jonathan and Thomas, as well as her son-in-law, Andrew Owens (July’s husband), enlist to serve with Company B.
- 1863: A little more than two years after enlisting, at least three of the four men are captured by the CSA (uncertain if Jonathan is captured).
- 1864: Two sons, Andrew Jackson and Thomas, as well as son-in-law, Andrew Owens, die as POWs.
- 1865: Early in the year, Mary’s grandson — Andrew Jackson’s infant boy (James) — dies.
- 1866: Andrew Jackson’s widow remarries.
- 1867: Mary’s husband, Alexander dies.
- 1868: Near the end of the year, October through December, Mary applies for — and receives — a military pension based on Thomas’ years of service.
- 1870: Mary Beaty — and my direct forefather, James, are living in Overton County in separate households. Mary’s household consists of her oldest daughter and her youngest son. The household of James Knox Polk and Elizabeth includes a child.
- 1880: James, now known as Big Jim, and Elizabeth live in Fentress County.
- 1881: Mary Beaty dies.
Mary Hull Beaty’s Family Tree
Based on the research conducted by Jack Masters and presented in his book Smith, Bowers, Hull & Beaty Family History, Mary’s lineage looks like this (just the males are included in the chart I am referencing — found on page 12 of the book):
- Joseph Hull born in England, 1596
- Samuel Hull, born in New Jersey, 1649
- Samuel Hull, born in New Jersey, 1678
- Samuel Hull born in New Jersey, 1703
- Moses Hull, born in New Jersey, 1729
- Moses Hull, born in New Jersey, about 1751
- Josephus Hull, born in North Carolina about 1772
The Rest of The Story (I feel like someone else used that phrase)
This is the year of death for Mary’s children:
- AJ (Virginia) and Thomas (Georgia) die in 1864.
- Jonathan dies in 1907 in Fentress County.
- July died in 1912.
- My grandfather of the era, Big Jim, passed away in 1920.
- Louis, the youngest, dies in 1916.
- Uncertain when Rachel and John died.
Cordell Hull Connection?
Mary (Polly) is the daughter of Moses Hull and Elizabeth Crockett and is possibly a relative of Cordell Hull since he was born in Olympus, TN. Cordell was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations and is the longest serving Secretary of State in U.S. history. On her Civil War Widow Pension application, Mary lists Olympus, TN as her mailing address. Since Cordell was one of five sons, Mary can’t be a sibling, but it is possible they were cousins. At some point I intend to research the connection, if there is one.