The Legal Genealogist Inspires Me to Take Another Look at the Puzzle of Jeremiah. Treasure Chest Thursday

I just read Judy Russell’s blog post The drafty Ohioan in her blog The Legal Genealogist where she discusses why Ignatius or Ignatz Fleitz didn’t fight for the Union during the Civil War.  Her discussion focuses  on laws at that time and what the possibilities were for not fighting.

And of course my 2nd great grandfather, Jeremiah Gillespie, pops into my head.  His older brother Everett Milton enlisted.  His younger brothers Varlan, William and John all have enlistment paper trails.  But I have never found any record of Jeremiah fighting.  Why not?  He lived in Amherst County, Virginia in 1860 and in 1870.  The Confederacy by the end of the war had almost every male between the ages of 17 and 50 fighting.1

So how old was Jeremiah during the Civil War?  His birth year has always been a bit fuzzy, but here is what we know.  I have a record of a bible page, that lists his birth date as March 4, 1826.2

Jeremiah Gillespie's birth date in the Gillespie Family Bible

Jeremiah Gillespie’s birth in the Gillespie Family Bible: March 4th 1826

His marriage as it is recorded in the Amherst marriage register suggests that he is was born in 1828 or later.  He is married November 21, 1848 and as listed as underage (under 21).  If he were born March 4th, 1828, he would have been twenty.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume he was born either March 4, 1826 or 1828.

Register entry for Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie

Register entry for Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie

I build a table to see how old Jeremiah was on the dates of various Conscription Acts:3

Dates and Age of Jeremiah for 3 Confederate Conscription Acts

Dates and Age of Jeremiah for 3 Confederate Conscription Acts

From this table, we see that at least by July 15, 1863 he should have enlisted in the war.  Why didn’t he?  What exemptions were there?

On October 11, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed what was known as the Twenty Slave Law allowing men who owned over 20 slaves exemption from service.4 But the 1860 slave schedule shows us that Jeremiah owned no slaves. The only Gillespie in Amherst County who is listed as owning slaves in 1860 is Wyatt Gillespie, whom I believe to be Jeremiah’s brother-in-law.5 I don’t think it was the Twenty Slave exemption.

I do notice something interesting on the Encyclopedia page. It’s a picture of document used for Applying for a Military Exemption. Can anyone say “To Do List!”

It was possible for a man to purchase a substitute for $300.  But I don’t believe that Jeremiah was a man of much means. In 1860, he declares he has real estate worth $300 and a personal estate of $50; his occupation as a farmer.6  Sure, anything is possible, but I don’t think this is it.

The Confederacy did exempt men who worked in occupations “such as railroad and river workers, civil officials, telegraph operators, miners, druggists and teachers.”7

So I have two possibilities:

  1. He enlisted and I just haven’t found the right record yet or
  2. He has an exemption, and I should try searching for that paper work.

And I always wanted to believe he was a spy! But for now, I’m going to try and track down exemption records.  The answers are out there.


1. Wikipedia (, “Confederate States Army,” rev 4:16, 31 Dec 2012.
2. The Holy Bible, (New York, American Bible Society, 1857), “Family Records, Births”, p840; privately held by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California, 2012. The sons of Tarlton and Mahala Gillespie are listed with their birth dates; it appears that they were all written at one time and are dated April 20 1860.
3. Wikipedia, “Confederate States Army,” rev 4:16, 31 Dec 2012.
4. Lee, Susanna Michele, “Twenty-Slave Law,” Encyclopedia Virginia (http:// accessed : 10 Jan 2013); Foundation for the Humanities, 31 May 2012
5. 1860 U.S. census, Amherst County, Virginia, slave schedule, Gill?spie; NARA microfilm publication M653.
6. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule,, p. 132 (penned), dwelling 979, family 977, Jaremiah Gillispie; digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll 1332.

7. CJ’s Civil War Home Page ( accessed : Jan 10 2013 ), “Confederate Draft.”

6 thoughts on “The Legal Genealogist Inspires Me to Take Another Look at the Puzzle of Jeremiah. Treasure Chest Thursday

  1. Mariann Regan

    I just read Judy Russell’s blog before I came to yours! Apparently Ohio kept lots of records of reasons for exemptions, and I wonder if Virginia did the same? You are systematically ruling out reasons why you can’t find him, and I hope you can find a satisfying answer to this puzzle. I can’t find my grandfather in the Confederate Army, either, but since he was born in 1817 I’ve kind of dismissed him as “too old.” I should re-ask that question, because there are family stories that he served. Thanks for this blog.

      1. Mariann Regan

        Anne, Thank you for directing me to this last article. Amazing. I would never have thought this was likely. Now I will start searching again for my great-grandfather (I said grandfather before; I meant g-grandfather). I am impressed with how many kinds of documents are available.

  2. Pingback: Never Assume Anything. Sixty and Serving. Sorting Saturday. | finding forgotten stories

  3. Joanne Dickinson

    In addition to your story, your examples of your search and discovery processes are great ones for those newcomers who may want to know more about the “to do’s” of capturing family histories or genealogy.

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