When my uncle Jerry heard Cathey was hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2014, he said, “The trail goes through Sams Gap” (at I-26 in Madison County, NC, north of Asheville). It’s an intersection of geography and family history. Jeremiah “Jerry” Bradley Sams was my maternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather.
The 1850 Census has Jeremiah B. Sams of Yancey, NC, a married farmer born in 1828 with 2 children. 1860 has Jeremiah Sams of Flag Pond, TN, married farmer born in 1827 with 7 children. 1870 has Jerry Sams of Flat Lick, KY, married farmer born in 1826. He died in 1880, uncounted.
His war record is more detailed. On May 10, 1862, at age 36, Jeremiah B. Sams enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army at Madison County, NC, the 64th infantry (11th Battalion, Allen’s Regiment). On my ancestry.com family tree, his name is the only one with a Confederate flag icon.
The 1870 Census indicates he was a male US citizen with the right to vote. My uncle believes when Jerry Sams moved to Kentucky, his service in the Confederate Army was not discussed. Maybe that’s why the census-taker knew him only by his nickname.
His oldest child, John Melvin Sams (1847-1934), my great-grandfather, “hated Lincoln” according to his youngest child, my grandmother. Hate facilitates insurrection and war. I’m sure his dad and other adults at Sams Gap blamed the war on Lincoln. I had new compassion for my Lincoln-hating great-grandfather when I realized he was three days shy of 15 when his dad went to war, leaving his mom, his 6 younger siblings–and him–on the farm. Only compassion can heal the wound of Civil War.