Sunday, May 31, 2009

Britton Wainright - Part I

One of the things I really enjoy doing is riding my bike on the Little Miami Bike Trail. I was riding along one day and they had placed a historical marker, about a mile up the trail from Miamiville. It spoke of what had happened on the railroad when Morgan's Raiders came through. I remembered that Britton had died in defense of his town in Indiana and I wanted to know more.

Britton was, and came from, a family of blacksmiths. He was born in Cincinnati in 1819. Several Cincinnati City Directories reference his father and later, Britton and his brother, as blacksmiths.

Cist Cincinnati Directory 1843

Wainright J. & B. wagon makers and blacksmiths, cor Front and
Wainright John, (J. & B. W.) Front bet Washington & Collord
Wainright Britton, (J. & B. W.) boards Wm Wainright
Wainright William, blacksmith. Front bet Washington & Collord

Britton married in 1847. In 1850 he was listed with Mary Elizabeth and their daughter Ruth Catherine still living in Cincinnati. Somewhere shortly thereafter, the family relocated to New Albany, Indiana where Britton continued to work as a blacksmith.

My first surprise was finding out that Britton was actually listed on the Civil War Pension Index. That enabled me to literally order a copy of the file from the national archives. It contained a wealth of information including a copy of the Marriage License for he and Mary Elizabeth Darby. It also listed the names and ages of his three surviving children at the time of his death and stated that he died of heatstroke in defense of New Albany from Morgan's Raiders.

I got a copy of the book The Longest Raid of the Civil War by Lester Horwitz, a Cincinnati author who became interested in Morgan after buying a home near Loveland that had been raided by Morgan and his men during the Civil War. On July 9, 1863, Morgan and his band of 2200 men confronted approximately 450 home guards at the Battle of Corydon in Indiana. Being badly outnumbered, the town was quickly surrendered. The locals lost nine men and the Confederates lost eleven. The weather was extremely hot that day and two women who were carrying water to the soldiers died from the effects of the heat. No mention was made of Britton, despite my knowledge that he, too, had died on that day.

I spoke with the author and he suggested that I review the correspondence between the Union and Confederate generals. Unknown to me our library had a complete set of this correspondence. I quickly discovered that Gen. Burnside predicted that Morgan and his raiders were going to attack New Albany. In fact the newspaper in Indianapolis for July 9th reported:

It is supposed the rebels are marching on New Albany and Jeffersonville, where large quantities of supplies are stored. Troops are being organized throughout the State and sent forward as rapidly as possible.

The generals got it wrong. Instead of heading east to New Albany, the raiders headed north to Palmyra and Salem before turning east. Therefore, Britton was not listed as one of the casualties of war. Yet there was the issue of the pension. How did Mary Elizabeth get a pension which clearly stated that Britton had died in defense of his country against Morgan's Raiders? This puzzled me for more than seven years -- and only this year did I find the definitive answer. I'll discuss it in Part II.

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