Stories and Anecdotes
Last Update: 08/19/2005 10:11 AM
In this section, I will relate interesting stories and anecdotes that I have encountered while researching the Hitch family. I will try to add a new story every two weeks to keep this area fresh. Please E-Mail (email@example.com) me to let me know what you think about these little tales.
This is a story I originally did in the August 1995 edition of the Hitch Family Newsletter. I have updated it to reflect some new findings with regard to John O.W. Hitch's parentage.
John Oscar Whittington Hitch
This is the story of John Oscar Whittington Hitch. His story might otherwise be forgotten were it not for some modern coincidences that happened with me and my everyday business travels. You see, John O.W. Hitch was the last generation in an extinct branch of the Hitch family that began with the patriarch Adam Hitch (1658/59-1731), through his son John Hitch (c1695-1762/63), his grandson Joshua A. Hitch (1729-1792), and his great-grandson John Hitch (c.1775-1803/04). John Hitch had son Joshua W. Hitch born c.1799 in Maryland*. Joshua W. married Elizabeth Whittington on March 30, 1825 in Worcester Co., Maryland according to extant marriage records from that county. She evidently died soon thereafter for, on September 6, 1826 Joshua married Mary Dennis in the same county who would become the mother of the subject of our story here.
In 1835, Joshua W. And Mary E. Hitch moved to Vicksburg in Warren Co., Mississippi where he became a merchant in the young city. Joshua died on June 9, 1844 and was listed in an obituary in the Vicksburg Daily Sentinel for June 10th of that year that states, "Died yesterday morning, J.W. Hitch. Mr. Hitch was formerly of Maryland, but for several years past has been a merchant in the city. He left a wife and one child." The same newspaper for June 17, 1844 indicates the Sexton's report for the two weeks ending June 15 saying, "J.W. Hitch, (died age) 45 years, congestion of bowels." The Constitutionalist of Vicksburg for June 1844 gives an obituary as, "Departed this life on Tuesday evening last, Joshua W. Hitch, in the 45th year of his age. Mr. Hitch was a native of Maryland, but the last nine years a citizen of this place. He left a wife and little son."
Joshua left no will so his estate was divided through the Chancery Court over several years following his death (See Folder 1072, Warren Co., MS Chancery Court Records). The "little son" referred to in each obituary is the subject of our story, John O.W. Hitch and this is where the "coincidences" come in that I alluded to earlier in this article. You see, I work as the Director of Engineering in a small company specializing in computers and communications. In the course of that work, I have developed a sizable account with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which has a large scientific and engineering installation in Vicksburg called the Waterways Experiment Station (WES). To manage the account, I travel to Vicksburg quite often and this is where, in the old records of the Vicksburg Courthouse, I stumbled onto the story of John O.W. Hitch.
John O.W. Hitch was born on May 21, 1840, so he was only 4 years old when his father died in 1844. His mother, Mary E. Hitch passed away on April 2, 1857 and he was left without a family at the age of 16. Mary Hitch left a will written on May 23, 1849 where she wished to lay out provisions for "the raising, education and management of my Dear Boy." In the will, she appointed "Mr. and Mrs. Brown, My Neighbours" to be his guardians. The will was filed in court on April 28, 1857 (Folder 1637, Warren Co., MS Chancery Court Records). Consequently, just before his 17th birthday, John O.W. was left to his own with what remained of his mother's property including four (4) slaves; Eby, Margaret, Mary and William. John. He now went by the name of Oscar Hitch, and shows up in the 1860 Census in Vicksburg as a clerk, born in Mississippi, and living as a boarder in the household of one A. Naora.
For the years leading up to that time, tensions had been building in the U.S. which eventually caused the outbreak of the Civil War and John O.W. Hitch, like many other young men of the era, felt the call to serve. He enlisted in Company A of the 21st Mississippi Infantry, the "Volunteer Southonors", on May 15, 1861, six days shy of his 21st birthday. Two weeks earlier, on April 30th, he composed his will in consideration of the extreme dangers he would face in the war. The will was filed for probate in Vicksburg on August 2, 1862, meaning that John Oscar Whittington Hitch had died. (NOTE: The complete will is transcribed at the end of this article.)
This was basically the end of my research in Vicksburg. I was quite pleased with my discoveries and my ability to uncover the story of this young man. However, on my flight back to the Washington area, I was bothered with the thought of what exactly happened to John O.W. Hitch. How did he die? Where? I had to have some more answers. My trip then took me to the National Archives in Washington, DC where there are extensive records on microfilm of both Union and Confederate units and individual soldiers. In the index there, I found John O.W. Hitch of Company A, 21st Mississippi. The records showed how John O.W. Hitch, single, age 21, joined the army "for the (duration of the) war" on May 15, 1861 at Vicksburg, Mississippi where he was employed as a clerk. He was signed into service by Captain D.N. Moody. Most of this information I already knew, so I had done little but to confirm my research to that point. But, as I read on, I saw in black and white, John O.W. Hitch's engagements in the Civil War. The records stated: "Seven Pines, May 31, 1862, unhurt; Savage Station, June 29, 1862, unhurt; Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862, killed". John Hitch had died in battle at Malvern Hill on the first of July 1862! Success!
At this point, I was beside myself and ready to call it quits for a job well done. However, I had one more loose end to tie up - how did our John Hitch come to be in Malvern Hill on that fateful day? Thinking my obsession to be completely out of control, I didn't know whether to forge on or go home and take some tranquilizers. Fortunately, I embarked on the former. In the Archives, they also have all the records of the various units who fought in the Civil War. So, in an underlit backroom there, I found a microfilm with the compiled records of the 21st Mississippi Infantry. It gave the handwritten record of that group from its organization in May 1861 through the end of the war! The 21st Mississippi left Vicksburg in May and arrived in Richmond, Virginia in June 1861. It camped there until July 20th when it then went to Manassas, arriving on July 22, 1861. The 21st saw no action and stayed in Manassas until November 9, 1861. Then it marched to Leesburg to camp over the winter until March 7, 1862. From there, it marched to "Rapid Dam Station" and took the "cars" back to Richmond, then a boat to Yorktown where it arrived about April 7th. The 21st commenced the retreat from the Peninsula on May 4th and arrived back at Richmond about the middle of May 1862 "after much suffering from excessive heat, severe rains, and short rations resulting in many cases of severe illness."
The 21st Regiment was "on the field" at Seven Pines on May 31st and performed "arduous picket duty" until June 29th, but did not engage the enemy. They did engage, however, on June 29, 1862 with only slight casualties. Finally, on June 30th, the 21st Mississippi reached Malvern Hill and met a "heavy force" of enemy that was "positioned strongly." At 4 P.M., they charged several times to try to dislodge the Union troops from the position but failed. Hurting, they withdrew from the field having suffered wounded or killed of at least one-third of its men. This is where John O.W. Hitch fell, single with no wife or children, thus ending that line of the Hitch family. While it was the end of the road for our John Hitch, the 21st Mississippi went on to serve bravely at Gettysburg, New Market, and Petersburg before the war ended in 1865.
To me, this story is an amazing mix of family history, American history, and personal sacrifice that makes genealogy a most embracing pastime. I hope you all catch the genealogy "fever" and yearn explore your past. The following is a transcription of J.O.W. Hitch's will - notice how he seemed prophetic to his eventual fate in the Civil War:
*Note that this lineage has changed since the originally publication of this article. This was required based upon some new findings from the Somerset Co., MD Orphans Court Records identifying John Hitch as Joshua W. Hitch's father. It was originally believed that William Elgate Hitch, who also had a son named Joshua (born 1797/99) was the father of Joshua W.
Will of J. Oscar W. Hitch, Vicksburg, April 30th 1861
Being about to depart to the wars and knowing the certainty of death at all times and that it would be double more so in an engagement, I deem it my duty as well for my own satisfaction as for the satisfaction of my friends to leave behind my wishes with regard to the distribution of my property which I direct as follows. That first all debts which I may owe at the time of my death be paid forthwith. Arthur who has always been a faithful servant with Eby to be free and to be left in charge of some good person who will take the ownership of them and who will not receive any money from them than would be necessary to remunerate said person for the trouble or expense which they might be at to said person . Mary I give & bequeath to Mrs. William Brown (now residing in Port Gibson in this state) who has always been a friend to my mother and since her death been to me as a mother. Margaret and William together with my Real Estate and the money that remains after distributing as I have already directed or may hear (sic) after direct I give and bequeath to Mrs. Elizabeth Cannon and Miss Mary E.L. Cannon to be divided equally who are now living at Newtown Eastern Shore Maryland. To William Brown Jr. son of the above named Mrs. Brown I give my Sharps Rifle should it not be disposed of before my death. To Samuel Folkes a cripple now living in town I give $500.00 Five Hundred Dollars. I also give $250.00 to Episcopal Sunday School for the purpose of raising a library. I direct that the silverware, Bed quilts together with other things that may belong to the household to be divided between Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Mygatt, Mrs. Hackett and Mrs. Suvis to be divided equaly (sic). It is my desire should it be my fate to be killed on the Battle Field that my body be brought and intered (sic) next to my mother and that Mr. Lord or whoever may be the rector of the of the (sic) Episcopal Church at Vicksburg be requested to preach at my funeral Sermon. I have herein expressed briefly my wishes and I think plainly and explicitly enough to be understood and it is my last request they that (sic) be carried out to the letter. Should I come to my death before the 21st of May 1861, this will is to be null and void as there has already been a provission (sic) made should I die in my minority. Written in good health and sound mind, I now bid adieu to all my friends and Enemys (sic) should I have any and hope that I may meet them all in heaven reaping their reward. I am done. J. Oscar W. Hitch (Folder 1637, Warren Co., Mississippi Chancery Court)
Image of original J.O.W. Hitch Will