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Alleghany: Caudill, Civil War, photo

August 2, 2020


Col. Benjamin E. Caudill -- Maybe

An old photo was passed down to my grandmother.The only note written on it is where she wrote that he might be her grandfatherís brother Granville Billings (1853-1935).I have since found another photo of Granville, and this isnít him.Also, the man in the photo might be too well-dressed to be one of my farming ancestors from Alleghany Co.So who is he?This is the unedited photo on a 4Ē x 6Ē card.



This is the same photo, cropped and cleaned up to make it clearer.


My guess is that heís in his 40s.He has a full beard and is wearing a matching jacket and vest along with a bow tie.Judging by other photos that were found with this one, it was probably handed down from my great grandmother Carrie Williams who was born in 1904 in Alleghany Co.I thought maybe he was one of her grandfathers.



The man in the photo is definitely not her paternal grandfather Colan Williams, but he could be her maternal grandfather Jesse Atwood who was born in 1843.I have two known pictures of Jesse Atwood, and he has a full beard in both of them.This picture is from the 1910s when he was maybe about 70 years old.



The other picture of Jesse Atwood is from a photocopy, and itís not very clear.He is pictured with his wife and perhaps three of their children.Again, he has a full beard.


But you canít make a positive ID on someone simply because he has a beard.A few years ago I found a photo online that, at first glance, seemed to be the same as mine.But this other photo was labeled as Col. Benjamin Everage Caudill (1830-1889), son of John A. Caudill and Rachell Cornett.Below is my photo on the left, and the other photo on the right.



Itís definitely the same man!Heís wearing the same striped jacket and vest.On the left, his shoulders are more directly facing the camera, and his bow tie is crooked.On the right, his jacket is neater and his bow tie is straight.Also, the photo on the right seems to have been edited to make it cleaner.


The photo on the right is attached to several family trees online as being Col. Benjamin E. Caudill.He was born and died in Kentucky.He was a preacher before enlisting in the Confederate Army, reaching the rank of Colonel.I read a short biography online which stated that after the Civil War, he moved his family to Alleghany Co, NC, where he returned to his evangelical duties.He traveled extensively on horseback preaching in North Carolina and Virginia as he attempted to bring Confederate and Union sympathizers together.He encountered a lot of hostility and eventually moved back to Kentucky, settling in Clay Co in 1879.He died in 1889.


For 13 years between 1866 and 1879, he and his family lived in Alleghany Co where my ancestors were.At that time, he would have been in his 40s, and thatís a reasonable guess for the man in the photo.Maybe one of my ancestors heard him preach and obtained the photograph at one of these local events.Or, maybe he gave this photo to one of his biggest fans as a memento before leaving to return to his native Kentucky?Either way, it was kept for all of these years among family photos until I found it 140 years later.


One Ancestry tree online says that the photo of Benjamin E. Caudill (with the straight bow tie) was in a photo album that belonged to one of his great granddaughters.Thereís even a book based on Benjaminís diary that has this photo on the front cover.



I concede that I probably donít have an old photo of one of my ancestors.But maybe I do have an alternate photo of a popular Confederate Colonel and passionate southern preacher from Kentucky.