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The Littletons: The Family That Lost Their 6 Sons In The Civil War

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 5, 2023 3:00 am

The Littletons: The Family That Lost Their 6 Sons In The Civil War

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 5, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, John Busbee shares the story of how an Iowa family lost all 6 of their boys during America's bloodiest conflict.

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Requires credit qualification and 36-month phone financing agreement. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including yours.

Send them to They're some of our favorites. Up next, a story from the Civil War that was nearly forgotten to history.

Here's Jon Busby of The Culture Buzz on KFMG 98.9 FM and our own Monty Montgomery with a story. A lot of history, although it deserves to be remembered, can easily be forgotten if people, well, forget about it. It then becomes almost like buried treasure, waiting for someone to uncover it. Delving into history is, it's almost like beachcombing.

You're never quite sure what you're going to find, but sometimes you find some incredible things. And that's what happened over 10 years ago. Someone who's a friend of mine now, Tom Woodruff of Louisa County, Iowa. He had a call from the widow of a boyhood friend of his, who said that this friend's grandmother had put together a scrapbook.

But it roughly went from the late 1800s to the first few years of the 1900s. And she knew it might be of interest to Tom because Tom is an amateur historian. And so she ended up getting that scrapbook to Tom.

So of course, what does he do? He sits down and he has to go through the entire scrapbook. And there on this 57-page scrapbook on page 23 was a little news clipping. It was from a 1907 Columbus Gazette newspaper. And they were talking about the devastating toll the Civil War had. And it talked specifically about the Littleton family were less fortunate when it came to losing people. Of the six brothers, only one lived to return.

And he shortly died of disease contracted in the service. And right there, that was the flashpoint for Tom Woodruff to try and find out more about these six Littleton brothers. Tom had started working on this for a few years. And a mutual friend of ours connected me to Tom. And she knew that I loved history, that I did stories about history.

And she said, I've got a fellow you need to meet. Well, I met Tom Woodruff and the chase was on as they say, what can we do to bring this story back to light? Because it was one of those profound stories that inspirational in service to country, tragic in the total loss of the male lineage of a family. There were four sisters left from that family. And in fact, many of the relatives, the descendants of those four sisters knew very little, if anything, about the six great, great, great uncles that they had at one time. So that was kind of the genesis of getting involved with the Littleton brothers story.

We have a lot of missing puzzle pieces. Some of the pieces we have are based in census records. So a number of the Littleton family members were notated as mulatto. The migration of the Littleton family, they originated from Maryland. And it looks like James and Martha, they were the mother and father. They were the parents of the little family.

They were the mother and father. They started toward moving west because they wanted more opportunity. And their first four children, Sarah, George, John and Thomas, were born in Maryland. They probably left Maryland in late 1836 or so. They ended up stopping in Ohio for a while to keep expanding their family. So Ohio became home for the birth of William and then Mary. Then after Mary was born, sometime after that, between 1839 and 1841, they completed their migration to Iowa. So when they got to Louisa County in around 1840, 1841, that is when the family completed its expansion. Rebecca was born in 1841, Pramila in 1843, and her twin brother, Kendall, same year. Noah in 1845, and that completed the family. Trying to figure out why the Littleton brothers served, that is where the best historical forensic researcher would really have a challenge. You could go to the newspapers, but there didn't seem to be a lot of information about the Littletons in there.

So we really don't know. But Iowa has kind of a Janus personality when it comes to the Civil War. There are virtually no important battles fought in Iowa during the Civil War. But there was a sense of dedication and duty that the people who targeted Iowa as the place they were going to sink their roots, that they wanted to support that fierce patriotism that they seemed to have. And that's what kept drawing so many people to enlist in the service from Iowa.

I think that's part of what drove them into enlisting as they did. Thomas was the first one to enlist. He enlisted in July 16th of 1861. He was in Company C, 5th Iowa Infantry. Next was William Littleton. He enlisted in September 21st of 1861.

Company K, 8th Iowa Infantry. The third Littleton brother to enlist was George Littleton. He was the oldest brother. He enlisted in 1862. And because he was working at the time in Illinois, he enlisted in Illinois. The three final brothers were Kendall Littleton, John, and Noah. And those three brothers all enlisted on August 21st, 1862 and served in Company F of the 19th Iowa Infantry.

And their service was to be relatively short-lived. And you've been listening to John Busby tell the story of the Littletons. And the Littletons lost all six of the boys in that family. The Bloodline.

Four sisters remained. And so many of these stories are untold until they're told. And you're hearing it here on Our American Stories. John Busby telling the story of the Littleton family and so many other families ravaged by the Civil War, the highest death count in all of the wars America has ever fought, 600,000 plus.

The story continues of the Littleton brothers here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture, and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

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Requires credit qualification and 36 month phone financing agreement. And we return to our American stories and the story of the six Littleton brothers who all enlisted to fight in our nation's civil war, our bloodiest war. Here again is John Busby of the Culture Buzz on KFMG 98.9.

And here's Monty. At the outbreak of the civil war, all six Littleton brothers would enlist to fight for the union. And some of them would see action at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Unfortunately, it was that battle that took its greatest and quickest toll on the Littleton family. In battle, Kendall died and was buried in a mass grave there. John was severely wounded in the thigh, and he was transferred to Fayetteville, Arkansas to hopefully recover.

However, he died eight days later and is buried in an unmarked grave there in the National Cemetery. Chances are that he didn't die so much from his wounds as from the infection. Noah did survive the Prairie Grove battle, but it was interesting on what happened to him. He shows that even accidents can happen in war, and that's exactly what happened to Noah. Noah was part of a foraging group. That's one thing that in the civil war, the troops had to forage what was available in the land that they were crisscrossing. Noah was on a foraging trip that included ferrying goods that they acquired across the White River, which is down between Missouri and Arkansas. During the time that they were ferrying things, the rains had kind of made the river turbulent. There's a great passage here.

This was a great passage here. This was a first-hand account by Timothy Phillips, a member of Company A of the Iowa 19th. Several days ago, nearly a hundred men were sent out as guards to a forage train. They returned the day the new boat was built under the supervision of Lieutenant Faust, the first light duty. The boat was considered ample to carry two six-mule teams across loaded and a number of horsemen and footmen. The boat was unmanageable and passing to the center of the stream and sunk. Water pouring over the boat washing one team and several men from the boat which after became submerged broke loose.

The water was very cold and water setting from shore made it require superhuman strength reach it while we as gazers could not render assistance and be only witnesses of their death struggles. One of those who perished was Noah. Thomas, the first to enlist, ironically, fought more battles and served in actual, I guess you'd call, combat situations than any of the other brothers. He fought in the battles of Iuka, in Champion Hill, the siege of Vicksburg, and Mission Ridge, and that's where he was captured. When he was captured, he was sent to Andersonville. Andersonville was located in Georgia and it was situated in a wide open field area, just bare dirt ground.

There was a very sluggish stream of terrible water that did come through it a little bit, not pure. Food rations were inconsistent at best. The prisoners were packed in. If a disease was brought in by a prisoner, it could run rampant through the ranks of the prisoners there.

It was a gulag type situation. When word about what Andersonville was about got around to the Union Army, they knew that if any of their compatriots were sent to Andersonville, it was almost assuredly a death stamp. And after two and a half, almost three years of captivity, that is when he died of chronic diarrhea in Andersonville, and he ended up being buried at the Andersonville National Cemetery. William was in Company K, 8th Iowa Infantry. He was the second of the Littleton brothers to enlist. He fought in the battles of Shiloh, and he was wounded there, Jackson, and the Siege of Vicksburg, and that's where he contracted a disease. A disease he would later die of, like so many others, in a St. Louis hospital.

But what happened to George? George was in Company B of the 65th Illinois Infantry. He did have a battle, and it was at a name that's well known as a battle at Harpers Ferry. He was captured and imprisoned briefly, but in these early days, there were prisoner exchanges.

The honor system was in place where my side has this many prisoners, we want to exchange for that many prisoners on your side, and they will not go into combat for X number of months or something like that. George was reassigned after the prisoner exchange, and he was reassigned to Chicago, where they had what was kind of the Union's version of Andersonville. The winters were brutal, and that is where he probably had pneumonia. He did get back home, and he lived for a while longer, but he finally succumbed to the brutal toll that the military life, the diseases that he encountered, took on his body, and that's what made George become the sixth victim of the six Littleton brothers. The Littleton brothers story resonates with me because it encompasses a national level of kind of cross-sectioning of what happened during the Civil War in a single family. You had all these brothers enlist in the war.

All the sisters were married back home. Some of them had multiple marriages because they outlived husbands, things like that, but with the brothers, you had the diversity of ways that those who served perished. You had in battle. You had wounded from battle and perished afterwards, probably a combination of the wound and disease. You had disease. You had accident.

You had imprisonment. You had all these different ways in this microcosmic perspective of six brothers, and that's where the tragedy is because these days we don't think of having to endure this kind of tragedy, and the Littleton brothers is a special, unequaled sacrifice tragedy that needs to come to light again. And a good way to bring it to light would be a monument, a monument that only recently came about even though the idea had been floating around for a long time. The Loiza newspaper 100 years ago actually commented about this when they talked about the six brothers.

There needs to be a memorial built to honor the lives of these six brothers from Toolsboro in Loiza County who all died as a result of volunteering to fight in the Civil War. When it was dedicated on Flag Day, June 14th of 2016, the keynote was delivered by Tom Moraine, who was an exceptionally well-known historian and scholar. He read something that has always stuck with me in his words. He quoted the Bible. The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and sent me in the middle of a valley. It was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, Son of man, can these bones live? And with that question begins the Bible account of how Ezekiel watched dry bones take on a new life. And in this story, the people of Israel are the dry bones who had lost touch with their heritage, but who could live again if they recover that historical memory. In a similar way, the Littleton brothers would not mean much to us today if we know them only through the bare bones of the census record, George, John, Thomas, Kendall, William, and Noah.

Perished in the Civil War or just thereafter. The Littleton family story here on Our American Story. ABC Thursdays, The Bachelor is entering its golden era with the premiere of The Golden Bachelor. For the first time in The Bachelor franchise history, 72-year-old Gary Turner is setting out to prove it's never too late to fall in love again. Millions are swooning over The Golden Bachelor. The LA Times raves, the series is a love story years in the making. Glamour Magazine exclaims, there's no expiration date on romance. This is must-see TV.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-05 04:18:33 / 2023-10-05 04:27:02 / 8

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