So how many Gorbys were Confederate Soldiers?

So how many Gorbys were Confederate Soldiers?

According to the “The Gorby Family, History and Genealogy” published by Alva Gorby in 1936, there were five which included her father, grandfather and two uncles in Missouri, and one Lewis M. Gorby in Tennessee.

So what did Alva publish about Lewis?

“Lewis M. Gorby married a girl from Tennessee and they lived in Tennessee.  He served with the Confederate Army during the Civil War, this fighting against his two brothers who were serving with the Union Army.  Lewis lived in or near Nashville and he lost his life at Memphis when the Confederate Army was blowing up a fort to prevent its falling into the hands of the Union Army.

When the explosion did not occur as was expected, Lewis went inside to find the trouble, and the explosion occurred while he was inside the fort.  During the war he lost his life, his plantation, and all he owned.  He was a First Lieutenant.”

About her father Sylvester Scott Gorby:

“He enlisted in the Confederate army from Knox Co at only 15 years of age, serving as scout and spy under Col. Porter.  He served only in Missouri in engagements at Palmyra, Memphis and his last battle at Kirksville.”

About her grandfather Thomas Gorby:

“Thomas Gorby lived in that section of Missouri that sympathized with the South, he himself owning slaves at that time, so when war was declared he enlisted with the Confederate army, serving for three years and seven months, two years and five months of that time being spent in prisons at Ft St Louis, McDowell Medical College, which was being used as a prison, and at Alton, IL.  He enlisted from Knox Co, MO, and most of his service was in Missouri and nearby states.  He rose to the rank of Colonel before the close of the war.  His three older sons also served in the Southern army.”

About her uncle Orrin Gorby:

“Orrin Gorby served in the Confederate army for two years and five months, enlisting from Knox Co, MO, seeing service in Missouri and nearby territory.  He rose to the rank of Major, and like his father, he spent many months in prison.”

About her uncle Thomas Owen Gorby:

“He, too, served with the Confederate army for two years and five months, in prison many months, was a Major also, serving in and near Missouri.”

Now, the only problem with the Civil War records Alva wrote of these five gentlemen is that none of them are true.  Let’s look at the historical record, starting with Alva’s grandfather, Thomas Gorby.

Thomas was a 4th generation Gorby (son of Job, son of Thomas, son of Samuel).  He is thought to have been born in Majorsville, Marshall Co, WV, almost on the state line with Pennsylvania.  His father moved to a farm near Hiramsburg, Noble Co, OH in 1816.  In 1847 he moved his family to Iowa and is found on the 1850 Federal Census living in Vernon Twp, Van Buren Co, IA as well as the 1852 and 1856 Iowa State Censuses.

We find Thomas living in Benton Twp, Knox Co, MO, on the 1860 Census dated June 6, 1860.  Living next to him is his daughter Melissa (Gorby) Henry’s family, and next to her is his son Thomas Owen Gorby’s family.  What we don’t find, however, are any slaves in any of these households.

On the 1860 Census of Knox Co, MO, there were 94 slave owners holding a total of 1895 slaves.  But Thomas is not one of them. So  unless Thomas purchased one or more slaves between June 1860 and December 1861 when the Federal Government effectively established control over Missouri, he was not a slave owner.

So what about the details of Thomas’ service?  “… serving for three years and seven months, two years and five months of that time being spent in prisons at Ft St Louis, McDowell Medical College, which was being used as a prison, and at Alton, IL.  He enlisted from Knox Co, MO, and most of his service was in Missouri and nearby states.  He rose to the rank of Colonel before the close of the war.”

Nope.   Never happened.  This is what really happened:

From September 13 to September 20, 1861, the Union Army and the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard clashed at Lexington, the county seat of Lafayette Co, MO.  Although the Missouri State Guard won this battle, capturing over 1000 Union troops, they decided to withdrawal to the southwest portions of Missouri.

Even so, some Southern recruiters such as Colonel Franklin S. Robertson remained in the northern-most counties of Missouri, attempting to fill their regiments.  Thomas Gorby evidently joined up with one of these units.

Robertson collected his recruits at Grand Pass where they elected officers. On December 16, 1861 the 750 men began their March south. The plan was to first link up with Colonel J.J. Clarkson’s recruits near Warrensburg, Johnson Co, MO before proceeding south to General Price. They were unable to merge with Clarkson but they were joined by Colonel Ebenezer Magoffin, who was on parole after being captured while attempting to recruit his own regiment.

General Pope of the Union forces learned on the evening of December 18 that Robertson’s force would be camped at Milford.

Early the next morning Pope’s force marched toward Knob Mobster, MO.  Pope ordered Colonel Jefferson C Davis’s brigade to the Blackwater bridge where he was to force the bridge. Simultaneously a battalion of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry (“Merrill’s Horse”) moved northeast to complete the envelopment.

Realizing his guardsmen were in a precarious position, Robertson formed a firing line of approximately 250 men while Colonel Magoffin was detailed with several dozen men to take possession of the bridge before the Federals arrived.

It was insufficient. Colonel Davis ordered three companies of the 4th United States Cavalry forward under Lieutenant Charles Copley Amory, with the 1st Iowa Cavalry in support. Amory dismounted his men and gave two volleys to the bridge’s defenders causing them to waver. Amory ordered a charge and the defenders fled. The now mounted force pursued, encountering some casualties at they made contact with the second line. They held their positions as the infantry came up and the envelopment was completed. Robertson’s men recognized their predicament and requested a brief truce before surrendering.  Pope recorded 634 captured guardsmen to be sent to the prison at Alton, IL.

On December 19, 1861, among those who surrendered was one Thomas Gorby, private.  He was arrested by Federal forces (since he was a member of the militia, not an actual “Confederate” he was not a “prisoner of war”) and was among those sent to Alton Federal Military Prison in Alton, IL.  He and many of the others arrested that day were released after one-two months of imprisonment and after signing an Oath of Loyalty.

So… not a “Colonel”.  We also know Alva’s contention that he served “for three years and seven months, two years and five months of that time being spent in prison” is untrue because in May 1862, he married his third wife in Sedalia, MO.  Otherwise he would have been in prison until May of 1864.

Now let’s take a look at Alva’s father Sylvester Scott Gorby.  Specifically Alva said:

“He enlisted in the Confederate army from Knox Co at only 15 years of age, serving as scout and spy under Col. Porter.  He served only in Missouri in engagements at Palmyra, Memphis and his last battle at Kirksville.”

Col. Joseph Chrisman Porter’s Guard Division covered Knox Co.  The Union forces considered this to be a “guerrilla” unit.  This unit was pursued by the Union MO 2nd Regiment Cavalry under Capt. Lewis Merrill.  There was a skirmish near Memphis, Scotland Co, MO, July 18, 1862.  Then Union troops pursued Porter’s forces until they arrived at Kirksville, Adair Co, MO.

Porter captured Kirksville, then Union forces moved in on August 6, 1862.  Merrill had artillery while Porter did not.  In the aftermath of the fight, there were about 150 Confederate dead versus 6 Union dead.  Porter’s command was basically destroyed after this engagement.

So why does Potter’s  defeat matter?

Sylvester Scott Gorby was born February, 1848.  He would have been 14 years old when Potter’s forces were defeated at Kirksville.  Yet Alva said he joined up at age 15. There is also the problem that Palmyra was September 12,1862, a full month after Kirksville.  The historical time lines just don’t add up.

So, Alva’s uncles Orrin and Thomas Owen Gorby:

Neither seemed to have anything to do with the war.  It is possible they joined up with the Missouri State Guard when their father did, and simply evaded capture at Blackwater Creek.  However, in 1863, both Orrin and Thomas registered for the Union draft.

Living in Colony, Knox Co, MO
Orrin Gorby, age 28 (as of July 1, 1863), Farmer, Single, born in OH.

Living in Millport, Knox Co, MO
Thomas O Gorby, age 27 (as of July 1, 1863), Farmer, Married, born in MO.

Doesn’t sound much like a pair of Confederate Majors, does it?

So now we are left with Lewis M. Gorby.  Lewis is a 5th generation Gorby (son of Richard, son of Joseph, son of Joseph, son of Samuel).  He was most likely born in Delaware Co, PA although he and his two brothers listed both Pennsylvania and Delaware as their place of birth on census records.  His parents Richard Gorby and Margaret Carter did not get along, divorcing in 1828.

Lewis headed west, ending up in Nashville, Davidson Co, TN where he set up shop as a seller and hanger of wall paper.  He married Mary Horn of Nashville in 1847.  Mary’s father was Williamson Hartley Horn who had a successful house painting business and was mayor of Nashville from 1852-1853.

In May 1861, one month after Fort Sumter with war imminent, Lewis’s brother-in-law,  William L Horn, helped form a unit of cavalry.  This became the Tennessee 1st Cavalry Battalion (McNairy’s) Co B.  William was one of the captains, and Lewis was a 1st lieutenant.  So this much Alva got right.

Lewis is the only Gorby that actually shows up on a Confederate troop roster.   From “Roster of Confederate Soldiers 1861-1865” edited by Janet B Hewette:

Lewis M. Gorby served with TN 1st Cav Btn (McNairy’s) Co B.  This company was made up of men from Davidson Co, TN and was organized at Nashville May 25, 1861.  Rank 1st Lieutenant, commissioned 23 May 1861.  His pay in 1861 was $100/mo.  Also known as “The Shelby Dragoons”.

Too bad he was killed during the war.

But wait… we find Lewis on the 1870 Federal Census, still living in Nashville with his wife, son Richard and daughter Carrie.

So Lewis wasn’t killed during the war, and his unit was not at Memphis, and he never owned a plantation.  Most of the members of McNairy’s company went home after serving for a year, and the entire battalion was reorganized into the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in June 1862.  Early in 1862 a horse had fallen on his brother-in-law Captain William Horn, breaking his leg so badly that he spent the rest of the war in Nashville.

After the war, in addition to running his business, Lewis was also assistant chief of the local fire department. In 1871, he was painting a civic building in preparation for a celebration, contracted pneumonia and died a few days later.

So, did Lewis have two brothers who served during the war on the Union side?

Lewis had one brother, Robert Cloud Gorby who served in Company A, 37th Regiment PA Militia during July-Aug 1863.  This was a unit that was hurriedly formed when Lee invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg.  It existed for only one month.

Alva also listed Lewis’ brother Joseph Carter Gorby as serving in same unit.   Actually, there was a second Gorby in this unit, but it was George Gorby (whose relationship to the rest of us remains unknown).  His brother Joseph was not listed and during the war he lived in Milford, Kent County, DE where he ran a candy store and served as both a tax collector and town constable.

So there you have it good reader.  We had one Confederate soldier, and one member of the Missouri State Guard. How could Alva have gotten her own family’s service so dreadfully wrong?

I tend to blame her father for that.   In a book of biographies of prominent Indiana men published in 1893, under Sylvester’s entry is the following about his father Thomas:

“He was colonel of a Missouri regiment in the Confederate army during the Civil War but was captured and held a prisoner for two years.”

Wishful storytelling simply doesn’t hold up to historic facts.

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