Sam H. Ralls and the Civil War Questionnaire

I don’t know if I’m related to Sam H. Ralls. Can you guess what his middle name is?

Sam Houston Ralls. Another example of naming your boys after famous people, the same as in Francis Marion Rawls and Francis Marion Webb.

He filled out a Civil War questionnaire. There’s more about that project here. You can also see the index.

The effort to record Civil War veterans’ experiences, during the conflict and before and after it, started in 1914. Dr. Gus Dyer, Tennessee State Archivist, developed a questionnaire and contacted all known living Tennessee Civil War veterans, asking them to return the questionnaires to Nashville.

In 1920 the project was continued by John Trotwood Moore of the Tennessee Historical Commission and also State Librarian and Archivist. The 1,650 completed forms were returned by 1922 and were made available for historical research. They are on file in the TSLA and have been microfilmed for security and ease of use (Microfilm #484).

The responses are rich in detail about pre- and post-war life, as well as military experiences. They include personal and family information; opinions about class and race distinctions; and details of agricultural, business and educational opportunities for the young in nineteenth century Tennessee.

  1. State your full name and present postoffice address: Sam H. Ralls, Paris Tennessee.
  2. State your age now: will be 84 March 10, 1922.
  3. In what State and county were you born? Tennessee and in Henry County.
  4. In what State and county were you living when you enlisted in the service of the Confederacy, or of the government? State of Tennessee and in Henry County. Confederacy.
  5. What was your occupation before the war? Kept a grocery.
  6. What was the occupation of your father? Farmer raising corn, tobacco, cotton and wheat.
  7. If you owned land or other property at the opening of the war, state what kind of property you owned, and state the value of your property as near as you can: Groceries, valued four hundred dollars.
  8. Did you or your parent own slaves? If so, how many? Parents owned about 10 but several died.
  9. If your parent owned land, state about how many acres: about 200 or 300 acres.
  10. State as near as you can the value of all the property owned by your parents, including land, when the war opened: $2,500.00.
  11. What kind of a house did your parent occupy? State whether it was a log house or frame house or built of other material, and state the number of rooms it had: in a two story log house, 4 or 5 rooms.
  12. As a boy and young man, state what kind of work you did. If you worked on a farm, state to what extent you plowed, worked with a hoe and did other kinds of similar work. (Certain historians claim that white men wouldn’t do work of this sort before the war.) Kept a grocery store. Can’t remember how much I plowed but I plowed a good deal cause I stopped school.
  13. State clearly what kind of work your father did, and what the duties of your mother were. State all the kinds of work done in the house as well as you can remember – that is, cooking, spinning, weaving, etc.: My father was a farmer. Mother kept house. My mother, sisters and the slaves spun and wove everything in line of clothing made of wool and cotton.
  14. Did your parents keep any servants? If so, how many? None
  15. How was honest toil – as plowing, hauling and other sorts of honest work of this class – regarded in your community? Was such work considered respectable and honorable? Yes such work was respectable it was considered honest in the community in which I lived.
  16. Did the white men in your community generally engage in such work? Yes.
  17. To what extent were there white men in your community leading lives of idleness and having other do their work for them? Slaves & owners worked together.
  18. Did the men who owned slaved mingle freely with those who did not own slaves, or did slaveholders in any way show by the actions that they felt themselves better than respectable, honorable men who did not own slaves? All the slaveholders and non-slaveholders were just as friendly with each other as if they all owned slaves. The non-slaveholders were honored as much so as others. There were one or two families that got off to them selves because they wasn’t thought much of.
  19. At the churches, at the schools, at public gatherings in general, did slaveholders and non-slaveholders mingle on a footing of equality? Yes they all thought themselves on an equal; of course there were one or two families wouldn’t have any thing to do with the other people.
  20. Was there a friendly feeling between slaveholders and non-slaveholders in your community, or were they antagonistic to each other? Yes, there was a friendly feeling between slaveholders and non-slaveholders.
  21. In a political contest in which one candidate owned slaves and the other did not, did the fact that one candidate owned slaves help him any in winning the contest? No, it was his character or his life behind him that helped him.
  22. Were the opportunities good in your community for a poor young man, honest and industrious, to save up enough to buy a small farm or go in business for himself? Yes.
  23. Were poor, honest, industrious young men, who were ambitious to make something of themselves, encouraged or discouraged by slaveholders? Yes, they were encouraged.
  24. What kind of school or schools did you attend? Log cabin, off & on two & three months in a year.
  25. About how long did you go to school altogether? Twelve months.
  26. How far was it to the nearest school? Mile and a half.
  27. What school or schools were in operation in your neighborhood? Van Cleve School, Simmons School, Rumbly School, Marberry School, Granger School, Awsbrooks School,. All in Henry County. These schools were taught and conducted by the names as quoted above. After Mr. Awsbrooks (a Methodist preacher) was through teaching he stole my neighbor’s wife & eloped.
  28. Was the school in your community private or public? Private.
  29. About how many months in the year did it run? From three to ten months.
  30. Did the boys and girls in your community attend school pretty regularly? About like myself.
  31. Was the teacher of the school you attended a man or a woman? Men.
  32. In what year and month and at what place did you enlist in the service of the Confederacy or of the Government? 1861, May. Paris Tenn. Confederacy.
  33. State the name of your regiment, and state the names of an many member of your company as you remember. 5th Tennessee Regiment Company B. Captain Long. Lieut. Bomar. Lieut. Kendall. Lieut. Nathan Fuqua. Sergts. David Holly, Upchurch, and Kendall. Rumbley & Frank Ralls.
  34. After enlistment, where was your company sent first? Humbolt, Tenn from there to Union City.
  35. How long after your enlistment before your company engaged in battle? Not is a real battle until the battle of Shiloh. Was in (?) skirmish.
  36. What was the first battle you engaged in? Battle of Shiloh (Shilo).
  37. State in your own way your experience in the war from this time on to the close. State where you went after the first battle – what you did, what other battles you engaged in, how long they lasted, what the results were; state how you lived in camp, how you were clothed, how you slept, what you had to eat, how you were exposed to cold, hunger and disease. If you were in hospital or in prison, state your experience here.  West south to Corinth Miss. Wasn’t with the army but about 2 yrs. Was sick the reason & didn’t stay longer at (??). After the battle of Shiloh our company went to Mississippi. We just moved around in Miss. then come back to Tennessee. Never was many more big battles just in skirmishes. Some time a day – 2 or 3 days and sometimes a week or ten days. We had beef & hard tacks and coffee & sugar and whatever we could pick up. At first we had good clothes* (see below)
  38. When and where were you discharged? I was never discharged but was paroled the 3rd year of the war on the account of sickness.
  39. Tell something of your trip home. Had a hard time getting home for I had to dodge the Yankees. Walked home from Mississippi. It took me about a week and four days to get home.
  40. What kind of work did you take up when you came back home? Worked on the farm when I was able. Because there was nothing else to do when I came home.
  41. Give a sketch of your life since the close of the Civil War, stating what kind of business you have engaged in, where you have lived, your church relations, etc. If you have held any office or offices, state what it was. You may state here any other facts connected with your life and experience which has not been brought out by the questions. Engaged in farming, lived in Weekly (Weakley) & Henry Countys. Never join any church but beleive in the Methodist Church.
  42. Give the full name of your father: Alfred Ralls born at Stewarts Ridge Tenn in the count of Houston (was Stewart then) state of Tennessee. He lived at East of Paris (after birth). Give also any particulars concerning him, as official position, war services, etc., books written by, etc. Father was to old to do anything but owned a farm and had it cultivated.
  43. Maiden name in full of your mother Myriah Compton. She was the daughter of Walter Compton and his wife Elizbeth Adams Compton who lived at Near Paris.
  44. Remarks on Ancestry. Give here any and all facts possible in reference to your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., not included in the foregoing, as where they lived, offices held, Revolutionary or other war service; what country the family came from to America; where first settled, county and state; always giving full names (if possible), and never referring to an ancestor simply as such without giving the name. It is desirable to include every fact possible, and to that end the full and exact record from old Bibles should be appended on separate sheets of this size, thus preserving the facts from loss. 

And #44? He has no answer or comment at all.

He continues #37.

*Later on we were about half naked. We slept on blankets on the ground some time we didn’t have much.

Then he continues…

If questions are not answered clearly send more papers and will try to answer more clearly as I am confined to my room and can’t write.

Respt,

Mr. Sam H. Ralls

Paris, Tenn.

604 Washington St.

 

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OK, Sam. Who are you?

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