William H. Jacobs: More Info Comes to Light

As another weekend comes to a close, I wanted to share my most recent findings on William H. Jacobs. First, let me reiterate what I know and discussed in previous posts:

  1. There were two William Jacobs’ living in Kanawha County prior to the Civil War. I researched both to the best of my ability;
  2. For (about 30) years we believed William “R” Jacobs was our ancestor – this was due to not enough information. The ancestor we were lead to believe was “ours” turned out to be William R. Jacobs, (possibly that middle initial was an H in some records), son of Floyd and Drusilla Light Jacobs of Malden, WV; he fought for the Confederacy, signing up in White Sulfur Springs, WV in August 1861; He was captured in Mercer County, sent to Camp Chase, Johnson’s Island, OH; from there he was transferred to Vicksburg, MS for a prisoner exchange after which he returned home to West Virginia. In 1863, he petitioned for the reimbursement of his personal horse which was captured with him in Mercer County. In 1868, he married Mary E. ADAMS of Gallia Co., Ohio and the two of them are listed in the 1870 Kanawha County, WV Census in the Household of Drucilla (Light) Jacobs, his mother.
  3. Our ancestor was William H. Jacobs, whose middle initial appears as “R” in the marriage record – one issue leading to creating a brick wall in the research. An individual assigned him the middle name “Richard” even though there is no documentation for a middle name. (Do not assign names when there is no evidence – that’s one way of creating your own brick wall). William H. Jacobs married Mary E. McGraw (again, the middle name was a guess) on 20 Feb 1859 in Fayette County, WV. His father was Harrison Jacobs, likely Samuel Harrison Jacobs as he appeared in the 1840 Kanawha County Census. Mary E. McGraw was 6 months pregnant at the time of her marriage, her father Martin having died in October of the previous year. The story goes that her husband William ran off to join the Civil War, deserting his Mary and their toddler children. You are now caught up.

Fold 3, where I began my search for service records, has two documents on William H. Jacobs. In an earlier visit, the documents were mixed and although there was mention of Company H, 4th WV Infantry, the paperwork wasn’t there. I thought nothing of it and drew a conclusion based on his service records for Company K, 7th WV Cavalry, e.g. He served one year (including time after the close of the war), he enlisted at Charleston, WV in August 1864, was assigned to the aforementioned company, was mustered in (I think) in October 1864, then mustered out in Wheeling, WV the following year when his term expired. (Note that he joined the Union Army, not Confederate Army).

That info didn’t “jive” with the family legend about how William had abandoned/deserted his wife and kids BUT family legends get added to and embellished with every telling so I didn’t let that deter me. However, the documents for his term of service with Company H, 4th WV Infantry shed a whole new light on and lent credence to the said Family Legend.

On my second visit to Fold3, a new document had been added. I found that William H. Jacobs had enlisted in the Union Army at Point Pleasant, WV in August 1861. I had to think about that for a spell – he’s in a location (Buffalo vicinity?) that made Point Pleasant closer than Charleston. William signed up for a period of 3 years. Wow! He and Mary already had one child – Virginia Jacobs (Christy), now 2 years old. Further, Mary was two or three months pregnant with child number 2: John William Jacobs (b. 5 Mar 1862, Putnam County). This tells me that the family had moved to the Putnam County region from Fayette County shortly after they were married. Little wonder: Fayette County was packed with Southern Sympathizers including McGraw family members.

William H. Jacobs was first assigned to Company H, 4th WV Cavalry. The reason I missed this document (other than it just wasn’t there before) is because the 4th WV was dissolved or absorbed by other units, namely the 7th WV. Regardless, the “cards” in this collection, in no particular order, show that William was “absent – sick” in January of 1862 from Charleston. I wonder if he’d taken a quick trip home to visit the wife and daughter? He certainly wasn’t going to be around for the birth of his son, John William.

Or was he?

On a card dated March & April 1862 is this note: “Absent with leave.” Had he gone home for the birth of John William? Something tells me he had. Research shows that the 4th had returned to the Kanawha Valley after operations in Eastern Kentucky in January 1862; come April 3, they marched up the Kanawha Valley to join General Cox. So, yes, it is very possible he was home for the birth of his son, John William Jacobs.

It appears the unit (or perhaps William H. Jacobs only) traveled west through Tennessee and as far as Vicksburg, Mississippi. The cards read as follows:

  • From August 31, 1862 to December 31, 1862 he was “absent sick.”
  • In January 1863, his card notes “absent. Deserted from Charleston;
  • April 10 he’s still gone, “deserted;”
  • then July-August 1863 states “absent: Detached in Memphis hospital by order Maj. Gen. Grant June 20, 1863.”
  • Sept & Oct 1863, “Absent: Convalescent guard at Washington Hospital Memphis Tenn by order Gen. Grant.”
  • Nov & Dec 1863: “Absent: Convalescent guard. Washing hospital Memphis Tenn by order U S Grant to be stopped for transportation $9.66.”
  • Jan & Feb 1864: there is no note about whether present or absent, simply, “Transferred to the 8 Mo Vols (8th Missouri Volunteers) per special order M 38 *Hd Gen Div 15 A.C.* … Feb 16 1864.” The letters between the asterisks is my best guess.
  • Jan & Feb 1864: “Present: Assigned of Co. H, 8 Regt Mo Inf; from Co H. 4 VA Vol” – apparently, some confusion here about the company letter and unit number but suddenly he’s a Virginia Volunteer
  • Mar & April 1864 “of Co H 8 Regt Mo Inf; Assigned from Co. H 4 VA Vol Inf under….” more letters that appear to be military code of law (orders from the War Dept).
  • May & June 1864: “Transferred under ditto the above (there it is again);”
  • Muster out Roll, dated Wheeling, WV Aug 26, 1864; Due soldier $17.42; Remarks: Stop Twenty Six Dollars and Eight Cents for transportation furnished by U.S.Q. M.” (U. S. Quarter Master?).

That is the end of the documents in this “envelope” provided by Fold3.

I move now to the second envelope which reveals that William H. Jacops, born Kanawha County, aged 24 years, by occupation a farmer, … acknowledges that he volunteered (for one year) this Twelfth day of October 1864… Sworn and subscribed to, at Charleston, WV. This time, he was assigned to Company K, 7th WV Cavalry. The contents of this envelope were transcribed in this previous post.

How long did it take him to walk from Wheeling to Charleston? (Did he walk from Wheeling upon release from the military?) According to the great and powerful Google maps, the distance is 169 miles or 58 hours. I’ll be conservative and divide the hours by 8 (average workday for most of us now but I suspect he could walk more than 8 hours). That is 7 and one-quarter days on foot at 8 hours per day.

But what if he went to Buffalo first (because that’s where the family of Thomas McGraw was living and I’ve no clue where else Mary E. lived at that time)? That’s 158 miles or 52 hours. That’s 6 and one-half days.

Where did he go and what did he do in the 46 days (besides the week he spent walking) from the time he was mustered out in Wheeling (Aug 26) until he re-enlisted in Charleston (Oct 12)?

Six weeks later, wife Mary E. Jacobs married William J. Duncan in Putnam County on 25 November 1864 (before moving to Mason County). I’ve no clue what became of William H. Jacobs after he mustered out at Charleston, WV on Aug 1, 1865. One thing is certain, though: I’m not so sure he abandoned his wife and family. It reads more to me as though he was gone so long that she assumed that he was dead or she wasn’t willing to wait for him.

It is after his second stint in the Union Army with Co. K, 7th WV Regiment (Oct 12, 1864 – Jan 26, 1865), after his wife Mary had married another man, that William H. Jacobs disappeared off the planet.

**Updated 10/11/2023**

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