Saturday, April 16, 2011

Civil War Saturday - Matthew McAdams' Brief War

Matthew Judson McAdams and his two younger brothers John Cloyd and David Brainard McAdams left their home near Locust Mount in Washington County, TN in early November, 1862 to volunteer for the Union Army.

Matthew was born August 15, 1835, the eldest of the eleven sons of Thomas and Cynthia Stephenson McAdams. In 1862 he was 27 years old, and had been married eight years to Sarah E. Sevaney (or Swinney). They had at least two children, Cynthia, David and likely another, Thomas, and were living near his parents. He and his brothers were all farmers, probably working his father's prosperous land. Mathew, Sarah, their two eldest children, her sister and mother (who appears on the next page in the census) all appear in the 1860 census next his father.

1860 Census, from

I noted in an earlier post about the 1860 census that Matthew's father had two slaves who were originally enumerated with the family, then crossed out and transferred to the slave census. Having grown up hearing of the McAdams brothers' Union service I was more than surprised to learn that they came from a slave owning family.

Nevertheless, Matthew and his brothers decided to join the Union Army. They rode northwest, through the Cumberland Gap to McKee, Kentucky where, on November 5th, they were enlisted as privates by Lt. Mullenix in what became Company B, 4th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. According to their muster records Matthew was the shortest of the three brothers, standing 5' 6" tall. They stairstepped in height with David, the youngest, standing the tallest at 5' 10". All three shared dark hair, eyes and coloring. They likely moved quickly to Louisville and then towards Nashville where the they were officially mustered in on February 9, 1863. And there they stayed.

From Google Earth

Matthew spent the remainder of his entire, brief war in Nashville. He died of typhoid on June 19th only seven months after leaving home and was immediately buried. He lies in the National Cemetery just north of Nashville. It seems he never saw combat, only the tedium and disease of camp life. The Tennessee GenWeb site history of the regiment quotes a letter from Brig. General Robert Mitchell written in March complaining of a lack of weapons for the regiment. It was autumn before the 4th Cavalry was deployed.

Death Record from

Matthew's brothers both survived the war, as did his younger brother Samuel, my great-great grandfather, who enlisted in November, 1863.

Matthew's widow Sarah first filed for a widow's pension on October 12, 1865. She married William Mahoney, who had enlisted and served with the McAdams brothers, on August 21, 1866 in Washington County, TN. He may have been the brother of John Cloyd McAdams' wife Sarah Jane Mahoney.

William, Sarah, Matthew's children and their own children all appear in Greene County in the 1870 census and in Washington County in the 1880 census. Sarah's sister Nancy is still living with her. The McAdams children are enumerated as Mahoney in 1870 and 1880, but Cynthia and Thomas both appear in Tennessee marriage records as McAdams.

1880 Census, from


       1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Tennessee, Washington, Campbells District, p. 64, dwelling 1145, family 1145, Matthew J McAdams; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1277. 
       1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Tennessee, Washington, District 1, enumeration district (ED) 28, p. 431D, dwelling 65, family 66; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 1284.
        Matthew J. McAdams, John C. McAdams, and David B. McAdams muster rolls of Co. B, 4th Tennessee Cavalry, 5 Nov 1862-19 Jun 1863; NARA M395; Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Tennessee; digital images, ( : accessed 7 Apr 2011).
       "Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900," database and images, (accessed 7 Apr 2011); Matthew J McAdams; NARA T289.
        R.N. McAdams, "McAdams Family Record" (Private). 


  1. Oh wow...what a shame to have enlisted and then died from disease without ever fighting. How hard that must have been for Sarah with small children.

  2. Susan,
    Our local genealogical society just had an all-day workshop on learning about Civil War and related records. The speaker was Craig Scott. Right now I'm feeling totally overwhelmed with the information. It is apparent that the info is out there, but I can't afford to either go to NARA in D.C. right now or hire a researcher. Maybe one day . . .


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