William Hunt Beckwith, Infantry

William Hunt Beckwith enlistment

In 1850, William Hunt Beckwith and Laurence Ranson Beckwith were 4 and 8 years old, respectively. They lived in the town of Columbia, South Carolina with their mom, their dad, and their two sisters. A native of Virginia, their father worked as a town clerk while their mother ran the house. The boys’ neighbors were a mix of native and foreign born, most with small families they supported as clerks and merchants with the exception of the engineer two houses down.

Eleven years later, on August 15, 1861, William and Laurence, ages 15 and 19, joined Company A of the 15th Regiment, South Carolina Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia.

William’s enlistment card gives an age of 16 in 1861. His tombstone, weathered but standing, does not stretch the truth. Died January 4, 1862. Age 15 years, 9 months. At the time of William’s death, their unit was not fighting any battle but disease was rampant at camp.

He was picked up in Lightwood Knot Springs, ready to fight alongside his older brother, and laid to rest next to Trinity Episcopal in what has grown to be the city of Columbia.

Laurence fought another year as a Private after his brother’s death, but secured a rank of First Sergeant when he reenlisted. June 12, 1862, he joined the 6th Cavalry Regiment South Carolina, Company G. Upon leaving military service with his own grave injury, Laurence made the decision not to return to the town where he and his little brother had enlisted to fight.

More on his story here.

But Not Her Child

I’m not a radical person.

I never really have been.

And I never thought much about slavery.

And it seems odd that what brought me to where I am now was a curiosity about my grandparents, two white people born long after slavery’s end.

But here I am.

Reading these words from a Will:

Thirdly to his daughter Francis Redgell one negro women Named Bede but not her child which she is pregnant with which is previously disposed of to his son Hansel Beckwith. “Beckwith, Henry Of Marion District, Will Typescript (Mss Will: Book 1, Page 141; Estate Packet: Roll 44) (2 Frames). Date: 5/28/1829.” South Carolina Will Transcripts (Microcopy No 9) (S108093), Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.

Please stop expecting me to entertain the the benevolent master trope or any other kinder, gentler telling of chattel slavery.