My great-grandfather, John Alexander Brads was a private in the Confederate Army. One of thousands of bounty soldiers, he was inducted for a $50 bounty into the Rebel band taking the place of a rich man.
Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.
One of Jackson’s foot soldiers, he was wounded and captured at Harrisonburg, Virginia after the battle of Good’s Farm and during the Battle of Harrisonburg.
Wounded and captured in a battle his army won, he spent 18 months as a Union Prisoner of war, was released in a prisoner exchange and came home with a wounded and gangrenous shoulder.
His mother put maggots in the wound to eat the decaying flesh.
I doubt that Great-Grandpa cared a whit about states’ rights, agrarian v industrial societies, or slavery; the family wasn’t wealthy, owned little, and the only land deeded to anyone with our surname at the time was the property of distant relatives; a mere 22 acres.
He was a working man, a subsistence farmer.
When my great-grandfather was a child his own dad died while they were living in Ohio. His mother walked with her two children from the Buckeye State’s Greene County to Rockbridge County Virginia. She came home with little more than her children.
There was a Bible of course.
She came home because war clouds were gathering and her family in Virginia was her main hope of survival.
Great-Grandpa died in 1913, some eight years before my father was born and nearly forty before I came along.
I didn’t know him, I only knew of him.
There were no great war stories to tell, there was no telling of the lost cause, there were no tales of bravery and courage. He was just a poor man fighting because an army had invaded his homeland and he was called.
Like many before and millions after him, he went when called, true to his state and his nation.
The fact the cause was not as noble as we’ve been led to believe does not belie the fact that he was a patriot even though he was a rebel.
He fought because he had to; I can’t condemn him for that.
Great-Grandpa came home to Kerrs Creek, Virginia, took the oath, became a Republican, followed Lee’s advice and claimed the United States as his country.
There’s no statue, there’s no plaque to remind us, there’s no Confederate Battle Standard tucked away in a drawer.
But as my ancestor, his picture remains. It reminds me that I came from a line of principled men who fought for what they believed, realized when they’d been defeated, and cherished the fact that they survived to tell the story.
His picture will remain, my Confederate Great-Grandfather; he is the Confederate Soldier on my wall.