A Divided Country; A Divided Family
With Kentucky being a neutral border state, it was not surprising families were divided during the Civil War. An estimated 125,000 Kentuckians fought for the United States while 35,000 sided with the Confederates. Like many families in America, the Moore family can identify ancestors who fought in the Civil War – on both sides. Three of Hal Moore’s great-great uncles – John, George, and Augustus Moore – were brothers together at the beginning of the war: John and George would eventually enlist in the United States Army and Augustus in the Confederate Army.
Except for Augustus, the family was intensely loyal to the United States. Hal’s great-great-aunt, Mary Ann, when documenting her memories, recalled being “soundly slapped” in the face for singing this pro-Confederate ditty on the way home from school:
“Jeff Davis is a smart man
Abe Lincoln is a fool
Jeff Davis rides a white horse
Abe Lincoln rides a mule.“
The father of the three boys, Alexander Moore (1777 – 1860), was a patriot who served as a sergeant in the 1st Regiment, DC Militia during the War of 1812. In an 1871 statement made by Robert Smith and J.J. Mudd in conjunction with the application for a widow’s pension based on Alexander Moore’s service, both swore:
“…at no time during the late rebellion against the Authority of the United States did she or her said husband, adhere to the cause of the enemies of the Government or give them aid or comfort…”
The two older brothers, John William Moore (1820-1864) and George Washington Moore (1826-1908), enlisted in the United States Army at a relatively old age: John was 41 and George was 35. Both were veterans of the Mexican American War (1846-1848) yet felt the need to stand up and fight for the United States. Family records show John was the first to join the fight against slavery; he enlisted for three years on July 1, 1861. George followed him into the Army on October 18, 1861, and his muster roll shows he enlisted for “period three years or during the war.”
John served with B Company, 5th Regiment Kentucky Infantry (Louisville Legion) of the United States Army. Under the command of Major General Henry Halleck, he was wounded in a skirmish during the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, on May 28, 1862. Given his enlistment date and the unit history, John likely participated in the battles of Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. He mustered out in April 1864 and died six months later at the age of 44. It is not clear if his death was service-related.
George joined A Company, 10th Kentucky Infantry of the United States Army. He was promoted to Sergeant in October 1861 to serve as the Regimental Commissary Sergeant. In 1863, he assumed duties as the Regimental Ordnance Sergeant. He also did a stint as a recruiter in his hometown of Bardstown, Kentucky and was a nurse for several months. George was committed to the cause of the United States and reenlisted in February 1864 to serve the remainder of the war.
The unit history of the Union’s 10th Kentucky Infantry reflects heavy combat. According to the 10th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster, a 2009 book by Dennis Belcher, the initial strength of the unit was 867 men. It suffered a casualty rate of approximately 40% during the war. In addition to fighting at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, one description says it fought a “severe engagement on the north bank of the Chattahoochee River, engaging single-handed and alone, a brigade of the enemy and holding them until reinforcements arrived.” The 10th Kentucky Infantry mustered out of service in December 1864.
However, George was not done with the fight and continued to serve. Near Atlanta, he was moved by order of General Sherman to serve in the Post Office detachment – probably because of a disability – on September 21, 1864. He survived the war and, according to the 1870 Census, was an Assistant US Marshal. He lived until 1908, dying at the age of 82.
Moore family papers document that the third (and youngest) brother, Augustus James Moore (1828-1894), enlisted when he was 33 years old on October 2, 1861, and served with the Confederate B Company, 9th Kentucky Mounted Infantry (known as the “Orphan Brigade”) and ended the war a Corporal. His enlistment date is interesting since his older brother, George, enlisted in the United States Army on October 18 a few weeks later. One can only speculate on the conversations and arguments between these two brothers that resulted in them choosing opposing sides.
Augustus’s record is better known because of Edwin Thompson’s book, History of the Orphan Brigade (1898), which includes the following comment about Augustus Moore’s service:
“A. J. Moore, Bardstown, fought at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Hartsville, Stone River, Jackson, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Rocky Face Gap, Resaca, and Dallas; from Dallas to Atlanta; at Peachtree Creek, and Intrenchment Creek. He was captured at the latter place, July 22, 1864, and did not return in time to participate in the closing engagements.”
Augustus was wounded twice during the war – once while helping a wounded comrade at Russellville and again at Intrenchment Creek. In June and July 1863, Augustus was confined to the 1st Mississippi CSA Hospital in Jackson, MS sick with dysentery. In Campfires of The Confederacy (1898), Ben LaBree published a poem Augustus wrote called “The Dead Man that Lay at My Door” that memorialized the hospital’s procedure of moving those who died overnight into the hallway to await burial the following day.
John Jackman’s Diary of A Confederate Soldier (1997) mentions Augustus twice. The entries were non-combat related, one about obtaining bread for a meal, the other commenting on a stage production. These references raised Augustus’s profile.
In a war where brother fought brother, one can only speculate on the almost certain, and cruel, possibility that John and George fought directly against Augustus at Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Atlanta –engagements specifically involving all three units in which the brothers served.
In fact, the last major engagement the 10th Kentucky Infantry participated in prior to mustering out in December 1864 was the Battle of Jonesboro as part of the Atlanta Campaign. The unit history reflects that, for the first time documented, the 10th was directly and violently engaged with the Confederate 9th as the 10th assaulted the 9th with a bayonet attack followed by vicious hand to hand fighting.
The Sgt Major of the 9th wrote – “The commanders of the two regiments were brothers in law and the men relatives, friends, acquaintances and schoolmates. They hated each other accordingly and the fight between them was more bitter if possible than anywhere else on the line.”
Looking at George’s service record, he would have still been with the 10th for this fight. However, Augustus was captured on July 22 and would not have been present. Augustus spent the rest of the war as a prisoner-of-war in Camp Chase, Ohio.
Abraham Lincoln addressed the issue of loyalty with the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction issued on December 8, 1863. It provided a full pardon to soldiers engaged in the rebellion who took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States (except for the senior leaders of the Confederacy). Augustus took the Oath at Camp Chase on March 18, 1865 and was released a few days later.
Following the war, Augustus moved to Calhoun, Kentucky, where he rebuilt his life. The pamphlet by the Honorable Ben Webb entitled, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky, acknowledged Augustus’s role in starting a Catholic Church in McLean County. He served as the deputy circuit clerk and master commissioner for the county. He was 60 years old when he died. Apparently, Augustus was a popular figure, as his obituary acknowledged his nickname as “Uncle Gus.”
Generally, on the home front, the Civil War had little impact on Kentucky. However, during the pursuit of General Bragg’s Confederate forces into Kentucky that culminated in the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, Hal’s great-great aunt Mary Ann kept “watch” on the corpse of her mother:
“All the menfolk were off to war, and they had received word not to have lights. They put up sawhorse trestles with boards on them up in the attic, third floor. They bathed, dressed the body for burial, but no men were there to buy or to make a coffin.
A small light was needed to keep the rats from bothering the body, so they hung heavy comforts over the small window and lighted one candle, and Mary Ann sat up all night, alone, as other women in the family were afraid, and she was the eldest. They took turns in the daytime, as the movement of a person would discourage the rats.
She could hear the soldiers marching over the cobblestones of the turnpike and faintly hear the officers’ commands. In a day or two, someone contacted the officials, and men were relieved of duty long enough to bury the civilian dead.”
As was common after the war, Mary Ann said the family did not discuss the war, given brothers who fought on both sides.
Veteran’s Administration Headstone Installation for Augustus Moore in 2000
After the Civil War, Congress standardized the headstones for the graves of Confederate soldiers. Starting in 1906, regulations specified how the headstones should appear, what inscriptions were allowed and how to apply for one through the Veterans Administration (VA). One of Hal Moore’s nephews in Kentucky was a Civil War reenactor who became interested in the history of Augustus Moore. He located the grave of Augustus Moore in McLean County, and requested the appropriate Confederate version of the headstone from the VA. Upon receipt, he scheduled a memorial service/reenactment in 2000 to install the headstone and invited his uncles and aunts, Hal/Julie and Bill/Della Moore, to attend.
The local newspaper (The McLean County News) announced the event to the public. Hal Moore always valued family history and family relationships and made plans to attend. On April 9, 2000, in conjunction with a visit to his mother in nearby Bardstown, Hal and Julie attended the gravestone rededication for Augustus. The News reported on the event as shown below – once when the event occurred and a second time after the release of the movie, We Were Soldiers, in 2002
Given the announcement of the service to the public and Hal’s celebrity as a New York Times bestselling author and legendary Vietnam War commander, many of those who attended took photographs. Civil War reenactors participated and some of those photos naturally included Confederate flags and uniforms, as Augustus was a former soldier in the Confederacy.
History notes Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction (December 8, 1863) providing a full pardon to soldiers engaged in the rebellion who took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Augustus Moore took the Oath at Camp Chase on March 18, 1865.
Hal visited the gravesite only to pay his respects to an ancestor in keeping with his devotion to family. Hal’s visit was not made to show support for the Confederate cause. Indeed, Hal’s biographies and his own writings show he was appalled by the racism in the Army he encountered during his career, and he was formidable in his insistence for fair and equal treatment of all soldiers regardless of race. While serving as the Commanding General of the Army’s Military Personnel Center and later as the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel – roles that gave him authority over personnel policies applied to the entire Army — Hal created and implemented the first Army-wide policies on Equal Opportunity.
One senior General wrote of him, “[General Moore is] possessed of an unusual empathy with people in general and troops in particular, his leadership during a period of social tumult has been nothing short of inspired. He is a soldier-oriented General who has proven himself a total advocate and practitioner of equal opportunities for all.”
These are principles Hal Moore knew were true — right from the start. They remain so in his legacy and in his memory. Read more about Hal’s perspective on race and racism in this linked article: