Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Cousins brothers - October 12, 2006

For the past couple of days I’ve been working on an article about Franklin and William Henry Cousins. Both served in the 37th North Carolina Troops and both were tri-racial: African-American, Native-American, and white, commonly known today as Melugeon.

They were from Randolph County, North Carolina, and came to Watauga County sometime around 1850. In 1860, Franklin was married and William Henry still lived at home. When then- Capt. George N. Folk formed the Watauga Rangers in May 1861, he took both men and impressed them into service as company servants. Mark Holesclaw, also from Watauga, wrote a letter to Governor Ellis asking that the two be set free. They were, and in September 1861, both volunteered to serve in the Watauga Marksmen, which would become Company B, 37th North Carolina Troops. William Henry became the regimental wagoner, a common occupation for free persons of color in the Southern army. But Franklin maintained his place on the front lines, and was killed at the battle of Second Manassas on August 29, 1862. His remains lie in a unknown grave. I wonder what ever become of his widow Elizabeth and his daughter Mary?

For most of my life, I have been interested in the common soldier. For the years that I actively served as a living historians/reenactor/interpreter, I worked to teach people about those who lived in the 1860s. I still do that today, but less with rifle or sword in hand, and more with a keyboard. How many other stories are there out there like the story of the Cousins brothers? I hope to find those stories that, if not recorded, will be lost.

Hopefully the article on the Cousins brothers will find a home. When our ancestors are portrayed as an all-white, all-slave owning aristocracy, it is not easy to swim upstream. But that Hollywood image of a homogenous Confederate Army does a grave disservice to brave and fascinating men like Franklin and William Henry.

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