What You Don’t Know

A family skeleton.

Watching “Lincoln” on the issue of slavery, I am propelled through the maze of my own history.

In drawing my own line from before as well as through that time, I found myself suddenly on intimate terms with slave holders by way of the appraisal of the estate of William Downs, my5th Great Grandfather , in which the enumerated items of value were a bed and furniture worth fifteen dollars, a plot of land worth fifteen dollars, and a negro fellow named Tom age about fifty-two worth two hundred dollars bequeathed both to William’s daughter Sarah and to his son David.

After a while, I came upon the Last Will and Testament of Daniel Davis, my 5th Great Grandfather, in which is bequeathed to George Washington Davis – the keeper of the Come And Take It cannon – his boy Bob, with his girl named Sarah going to his daughter Rosana with direction that Sarah be sold at such time as the last of Rosana’s children are of age with the proceeds distributed equally among Rosana’s heirs.

In the emancipation which followed the end of The War For States’ Rights and ratification of the 13th Amendment, all souls in servitude to William Wood Downs were freed, with each family receiving a house with adjacent land and forming a community which in 1890 was named Downsville in his and his son John Wesley Downs’ honor.

Daniel Davis, my 5th Great Grandfather, was a horse trader who is said to have brought into the DeWitt Colony the finest string of horses ever to enter Texas. Together with his sons, my 4th Great Grand Uncles, George Washington Davis and John Davis, he became a notable figure in The War For Texas Independence. It was George who in 1835, along with friends and neighbors, dragged The Come And Take It Cannon out of a peach orchard and opened fire on one hapless Mexican Lieutenant Castaneda in what became The Battle of Gonzales and marked the beginning of The War For Texas’ Independence. And John was lost in the defense of The Alamo.

Finally, from every which direction – Georgia, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas – came those who served in diverse elements of the Army of the Confederate States Of America and who have variously created me one of The Sons Of Confederate Veterans. Men and women some of whose descendants, to this day, can scarcely believe that the word Yankee doesn’t start with the letter D.

Now, I have landed in Fairfax, Virginia. Twenty miles from Washington, D.C. Twenty-five miles from Manassas. One hundred miles from Richmond. Eighty-five miles from Gettysburg. Sixty miles from Sharpsburg. One hundred four miles from Cold Harbor. Fifty miles from Harpers Ferry. Sixty-one miles from Winchester. One hundred twenty-five miles from Petersburg. And one hundred fifty-six miles from Appomattox Courthouse.

What a long, strange trip…