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April 9, 2015

The Full Story Behind "Home to Emily"

150 years ago today, the Civil War officially ended. But it didn't quite. There were still battles fought after that date, somehow, with soldiers wounded and dying after surrender was declared. My great-great-great-great grandfather was one of them.

Unfortunately when it comes to the stories of ancestors, the "full story" is often much more sparse than we'd like. But I do know a bit more information about Joshua and Emily than can be reasonably conveyed in a five-minute song, so I wanted to share those extra details here.

Joshua David Smith (born as best I know on October 27, 1818) and Emily Jane Beall (born as best I know on October 24, 1819) each grew up in Virginia, at least Joshua in the part that would later become West Virginia. I don't know how or when the two found each other, but they were married around 1840--the best I can find is March 5, 1840, so we're going with that until proven otherwise.

By 1861 The Civil War had broken out, and Joshua enlisted with the 11th West Virginia Infantry (Union) on August 18, 1862. He began service on September 21, 1862 and fought through the rest of the War, with a several-month break in 1864/1865 due to illness.

The war dragged on until mid-1865, and Joshua was wounded in a battle in April or May of that year, supposedly at the Battle of High Bridge, though I have conflicting info on exactly where and when. Just after the war ended, on June 4, 1865, he died of those wounds, leaving behind Emily, his wife of twenty-five years, and ten children ranging from three years old to adult (at least one of whom also fought and survived the war despite being wounded).

Joshua is buried in Hampton National Cemetery, a Veterans cemetery in Virginia, and Emily, who died February 3, 1892, is buried in Bethlehem Cemetery in Grantsville, West Virginia, both places which are pretty high on my list of genealogical sites to visit.

When I first got into genealogy back in my mid-teens (which experience you can read more about here), I somehow found Joshua Smith's picture online--not a terribly common occurrence in the quest for ancestral info. I understandably flipped out. I've tried to track down the owner of this photo in the past but wasn't successful, but one of a few sources of the photo is here. I also found a description of Joshua: fair complexion, black hair, brown eyes, 5' 6", and a farmer. I know much less about Emily (not even sure who her parents were), but I just so wish I had her picture.

If it's possible to have favorite ancestors, Joshua has always been one of mine. And since March 5, just a few weeks ago, was Joshua and Emily's 175th wedding anniversary, and June will bring the 150th anniversary of his death, along with the 150th anniversary of The Civil War's official end being today, I wanted to share their story here, along with the song I wrote about them. (Yes, I took a couple of artistic liberties with it.) Which, if it didn't lead you here but vice versa, you can watch here (I suggest making sure it's on the highest resolution so it's most readable):

This song is the product of a desire to tell my ancestors’ story, no budget whatsoever, and minimum resources availableI wish I had the physical and technological capabilities to capture this song in absolute perfection. So while you won’t see Hollywood quality in this production, I hope you see the love that went into it.

It's not all sunshine and roses, but neither was their reality. No doubt a lot of it was a nightmare, but no doubt there was also love, and love lives on.

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