Monday, April 10, 2023

The Moses Harrison(s) Conundrum

 Moses Harrison(s), Senior and Junior,  23rd Kentucky Infantry

Stories about more than one member of the same family serving in the Civil War are not unusual, yet I have been pleasantly surprised by how many “family ties” I have uncovered just here in Campbell County as I have researched local war veterans. 

Among these is one that may or may not qualify to be in this category is the confusing and clear-as-mud case of Moses Harrison Senior and Moses Harrison Junior. 

Both of these men enlisted in company G of the 23rd Kentucky. Military paperwork indicates that Moses Sr. had been born in about 1830 in Kenton County, Kentucky, and their files do each show a form including the suffixes to their names. 

Moses Jr., by name seemingly the son of the other Moses, was listed as having been born about 1836, also in Kenton County. 

Obviously, Moses Sr. did not have a child when he was just five or six years old, i at first thought  the age listed in his file was wrong, but census records of 1860 and 1870 support a birth year of about1830-31, leaving a question of if/how the two Moses Harrisons were related. 

Census records, particularly in 1850 which shows him as 12 years old and 1860 which record him as 24 years-old, also show that Moses Jr. entered the world about 1835 -1838. One family tree suggests that his father – obviously named Moses Sr. – was born in 1815. Was this actually a second “Moses Harrison Sr.” in Campbell County? Was the Moses Sr. who joined the military a different relative of Junior? Were the two men named Moses Sr. related? The fact that two Moses Harrisons joined the same company of the same regiment at the same place on the same day means they likely knew and/or were related to each other, but how? 

 One possibility, perhaps the most likely one in my view, is that the two men called Moses Harrison Sr. were distantly related, perhaps cousins, and just happened to share the same name, both likely named after the Biblical prophet. Maybe Moses Jr.’s father did not want to join the war, as he was about 45 or 46 years old when it started, but his son and his relative of the same name did, so they decided to join at the same time since agreeing to join a war was such a momentous decision. Multiple family members joining the same company of the same regiment was not unusual during the war, so this scenario is plausible.

Perhaps they even shared a laugh about their similar names and the confusion it would cause when they told others they were not father and son..

They both enlisted on October 11, 1861 at the Newport Barracks, and both mustered in at Camp King on December 16. 

Their compiled service records do show that they did have different appearances. Moses Sr. was 5 feet 7 3/4 inches tall with a dark complexion, hazel eyes, and dark brown hair. Moses Jr. was described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a light complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. Of course, appearances can be a random result of genes, plus the recruiter may note wrong information, so this is far from any kind of proof of them being related or not related. 

Both also shared Kenton County, Ky. as their birthplaces and farming for an occupation.

I just wish I could find definitive evidence of any relation they may have shared rather than rely on speculation and guesses. Are there other obvious possibilities I’m missing or overlooking? 

Here is a summary, certainly redundant, but perhaps more concise and orderly:

Moses Harrison Senior was born about 1830 in Kenton County. 
He was 5 feet 7 3/4 inches tall with a dark complexion, hazel eyes, and dark brown hair.
He joined company G of the 23rd Kentucky Infantry on October 11, 1861 at the Newport Barracks, and mustered in at Camp King on December 16. 
He was promoted to corporal, then reduced in the ranks.
Forms included “Sr.” as part of his name.
He survived the war and appeared on later census records. The 1860 record shows him being 30 years old, living in Newport, and already married to Delia, a name which had various spellings on different records.
The 1870 census shows Moses Sr., age 39, living in Grant’s Lick with wife Delia, 3 daughters and 1 son.
 He died on June 16, 1909 in Kentucky. His burial place is unknown. 

Moses Harrison Junior was born about 1835-6 in Kenton County.
He was 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a light complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair.
He was a private in  company G of the 23rd Kentucky, also enlisted on October 11, 1861 at the Newport Barracks, and mustered in at Camp King on December 16. 
Forms did include “Jr.” as part of his name.
The 1850 census shows him with Martin Thomas family and reports him as age 12 in Campbell County, so his birth may have been in 1838.
In 1860, he was 24 years old and lived in the Kane area of southern Campbell County and worked as a laborer. He lived with 17-year-old Harriet, who may have been his wife, 21-year-old William, and 7-month old Richard.
A family tree shows him as Moses Jr., his father as Moses Harrison Sr., born in 1815, and died in 1891. A second family tree shows those same names, but nothing more on his father.
His wife was Harriet per the 1860 census and a pension card. He apparently married Harriet in 1858. 
He died on December 31, 1862 at the Battle of Stones River. His burial place is unknown, but probably in the Nashville/Murfreesboro area, perhaps on the battlefield itself.


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