Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Did These Beard Brothers Die in the Civil War?

As I began researching my great great grandfather, David Fleming Beard, Sr., for the umpteenth time, I realized the fate of two of his sons by his first marriage is clouded in mystery...at least to me.

David was married twice and it is the two sons he had with his first wife, Ann Dooley, I am questioning.

The wives and children of David Fleming Beard, Sr.; created using
Microsoft PowerPoint

Edward M. Beard

David's eldest known child was Edward M. Beard was born about 1843 in Bedford County, Virginia. Edward appeared in the 1850 and 1860 census with his parents and younger siblings. Those are the only records I have collected that I know belong to "my" Edward M. Beard. My questions begin with the Civil War and end with when did Edward die.

Report of Sick and Wounded; courtesy of Fold3.com

I have at least three possibilities for his death date:
  1. A Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, indicated an E. M. Beard died in 1862 in Bedford County. No approximate birth year or location was included.
  2. A 14-page military file for an E. M. Beard, born in Bedford County, died on 16 June 1863 in Richmond General Hospital No. 20 of typhoid fever. One page of this record indicated his name was Edward M. Beard.
  3. A Bedford County 1901 Chancery Court file indicated an E. M Beard was a plaintiff, along with his sister and her husband, in a case initiated in 1891 when the bill of complaint was filed.
The military service file raises additional questions about why his enlistment date and location changed. Please note the name of the attorney who filed a death claim with the War Department. James F. Johnson well known to Edward's grandfather, James Harvey Beard. He was the executor of his will and James Beard entered into a contractual relationship with Mr. Johnson in order to secure his second wife's financial independence. This is a strong indication that the E. M. Beard who died in 1863 of typhoid fever was the son of David Fleming Beard.

Click image to enlarge.
Analysis of the 14-page military service file for E. M. Beard (click on the
image to enlarge); created using Microsoft Excel

Based on the three conflicting records -- 1862 death index, 1863 military service death, 1901 Chancery court case -- I thought I would find at least three men named E. M. Beard in the 1860 Bedford County census. But I did not. There were 25 men with the surname Beard but other than the Edward M. Beard, who lived with his parents, none of the other 24 look remotely like possibilities for the two men who died in 1862 and 1863.

The bill of complaint filed with the Bedford County Chancery court stipulates the relationship between the parties:

"B. D. Mitchell and Martha V., his wife[1], and E. M. Beard, complainants, respectfully represent that David F. Beard departed this life several years ago, intestate, leaving surviving him his widow. Beard had the following children to wit: Martha V. Mitchell, E. M. Beard, Effie Beard, Berta Beard, and David Beard. The last three of whom are infants[2]. At the time of his death the said David F. Beard was [illegible] and possessed of a tract of land containing 210 acres, mostly mountainous and of little value. The widow and infant children occupied this place until last September when she, the widow, died."

It seems pretty straightforward. E. M. Beard did not die in 1862 or 1863 as he was alive in 1891 when the bill of complaint was filed until you realize that one of David F. Beard's children by his second wife was not mentioned. Albert M. Beard was over 21 years of age at the time the case was initiated and had an interest in the disposition of the land.  Therefore, he should have been named in the case as plaintiff or defendant. Could it be that E. M. Beard was really Albert? If Edward and William died during the Civil War, then the order in which David Beard's child were listed in the bill of complaint was in the correct birth order if E. M. Beard was Albert M. Beard. If Edward M. Beard died in 1862 or 1863, he died unmarried and without issue, meaning he left no heirs who would have an interest in their grandfather's estate.

Albert M. Beard was assigned by the court as administrator of his father's estate in 1891 after his mother died and filed a list of sales of personal property and an administrator's account with the county clerk. 

In 1895 David Fleming Beard, Jr., asked the court to make E. M. Beard his guardian. This could be another sign that E. M. Beard in this case was Albert.

What do you think?

William H. Beard

I do not have source information for William H. Beard's death date and location. Every public tree I have seen contains a death date and location but not a single tree includes any source information. He was born about 1847 so could have joined the Confederate States Army (CSA) in 1864 or 1865.

I have found a W. H. Beard who was conscripted into the CSA on October 16, 1863. The muster card indicated he was 20 years old, making five years older than he actually was. It is possible William lied about his age. This W. H. Beard served in Company C, 6th Battalion (Tredegar's), Virginia Local Defense Troops. In September 1864 the 6th Battalion and the 2nd Infantry Battalion were consolidated. W. H. Beard was assigned to Company F, 2nd Virginia Infantry, Local Defense.

I have a note for William H. Beard, which states he died on 31 May 1865 at Point Lookout Military Prison in Maryland. However, I can find no record of his death and there is no notation of his death in the service record of W. H. Beard, which is unusual. The Saint Mary's County Historical Society began publishing the Chronicles of Saint Mary's in 1953. The publication includes information about the Civil War and the prison. I have contacted the society to learn if they have the definitive information about William's fate.

Last muster roll record for William H. Beard; courtesy
of Fold3.com

So did David Fleming Beard, Sr., lose two sons in the Civil War? One son? No sons? And if not, what happened to Edward M. and William H. Beard after the war? I would very much appreciate readers' thoughts on the next steps for my research to solve this conundrum.

[1] B. D. Mitchell was Burwell David Mitchell and Martha V., his wife, was Martha Virginia (Beard) Mitchell. Interestingly, Burwell was the older brother of Barbara Ann (Mitchell) Beard, the defendants' mother.
[2] Infants in legal terms of the day meant the children were under 21 years of age.

David Fleming Beard, Sr. (1812-1878): A Man of His Times
The Court Doth Adjudge, Order and Decree


  1. I did a quick look through of the chancery record. Could it be that Albert may have spelled his name Elbert? From the order the children are listed it would seem that E.M. would be Albert. How is he listed in census etc.?

    1. In every record I have for him he is Albert M Beard, hence my hesitation. However, none of the records are in his own hand. It is the one explanation that makes sense and why is he not listed as a party in the Chancery case about their father's land? He was alive. That E. M. Beard is Albert is my weak working theory at this point, but I don't think it would meet any standard of proof.