The Abandoned Home

I found this article recently in The Iuka Vidette, April 31, 1910 – it’s not very long, but in very few words the writer paints a vivid picture:

The Abandoned Home

Some three miles east of Iuka, surrounded by a forest of second growth timber, is an abandoned farm. There is a dim, old road that leads to the place, and there are ruins of old chimneys where there once stood a happy home, some half a century ago. Briers grown in the old garden place and choke up the way to the spring from whence came the supply of water for the family years ago. This is the McKeown old place. From this home a stalwart son, Isaac by name, went forth to the great Confederate war and followed the stars and bars till on the bloody field of the Wilderness fight he yielded up his life’s blood. From here went forth two other sons, J. T. and L. A. McKeown, both of whom are Methodist ministers – one in the Mississippi Delta and the other in the wind-swept plains of Texas. Meanwhile silence reigns round the site of the old homestead unbroken save by the owl or the cry of other wild denizens of the forest.

I did a little research, and found that the McKeown family was living in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, when the 1860 United States Census was taken. Thomas and Mary McKeown had a small farm where they lived with their children: Isaac, James, Margaret, Elizabeth, Christopher, Joseph, and Luther. When the Civil War started, the two eldest boys, Isaac and James, enlisted in Company K, “Iuka Rifles,” 2nd Mississippi Infantry.

Looking up the service records of Isaac and James told me the grim story: James, who was 20 when he enlisted in the army, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gaines Mill, Virginia, on June 27, 1862, and he died at Richmond, Virginia, on July 5, 1862. His older brother Isaac, who was 29 when he enlisted, was wounded in action and captured at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Taken to Point Lookout prisoner of war camp, he was exchanged on March 3, 1864. Returning to the ranks of the 2nd Mississippi, he was mortally wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, and died on May 8, 1864, while being transported to the hospital.

The Confederate government never had the means to award medals of valor to its soldiers, but the Southern congress did authorizeĀ its soldiersĀ to vote on which of their members should have their names added to a roll of honor for each battle in which they participated. After the Battle of the Wilderness, the men of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry voted, and one of the names added to the roll of honor was that of Private Isaac McKeown.

In time the war ended, and the surviving members of the McKeown family went on with their lives. Patriarch Thomas McKeown died in 1870, and he was followed to the grave five years later by his wife Mary. The couple are buried in Snowdown Cemetery in Tishomingo County. The McKeown children must have moved off as they married and started their own lives, leaving the family farm to fall to ruin.

Photograph of a ruined house taken during the Civil War. This particular image was taken on the Gaines Mill Battlefield, where James McKeown was mortally wounded - Library of Congress

Photograph of a ruined house taken during the Civil War. This particular image was taken on the Gaines Mill Battlefield, where James McKeown was mortally wounded – Library of Congress

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One thought on “The Abandoned Home

  1. A sad scene likely repeated innumerable times across Mississippi and the entire South. The photograph is sad and haunting.

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