Something about my research this past weekend, combined with everybody talking about the meaning of Memorial Day, gave me a wild hair to drive out to Moore County and pay my respects.
By myself, 50 miles each way. Not even a library or courthouse open to make the trip "worthwhile." Oh, and I had family plans in the afternoon. Just find the cemetery and come right back.
All their lives, my grandfather and uncle got excited whenever they heard the name Maness. In Moore County, though, you can't throw a rock without hitting a Maness. Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church cemetery looked like a field of Manesses.
I finally found Thomas Swain Maness' grave (thanks to the person who posted a photo on Find-A-Grave with a view of the larger stones near it).
I'd brought a special flag: the Confederate version of the POW/MIA flag. During the long drive I thought about Thomas, who lied about his age to get into the army at 12 or 13 years old. After three years of hellish battles, he lied, deserted, did everything he could to get out.
Instead of letting him take the Oath of Allegiance, the Union kept him in prison camps at Point Lookout, Md. and Elmira, N.Y. for the next year. He eventually returned, married at about 17, and led a very full — and somewhat disturbed — life.
I wanted to bring an American flag, too, but this was a last-minute jaunt and I didn't have one. Thankfully, some kind-hearted soul had placed flags at all of the veteran graves in the cemetery. Thomas was both.
Sadly, they missed his brother Shadrach, even though his stone reads "KIA." He really did sacrifice everything and, in his case, for a friend. Shadrach went into the army as a substitute for Quimby Wallace (who had a wife and children), and never came home.
At least Shadrach's grave is next to a kinsman, Reuben Maness. Reuben was a chaplain in the army. He was also killed.
Maybe I'll bring an extra flag or two next year.
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After all these years ... Thomas, meet your great-great-granddaughter.
As the little flag says: "You shall not be forgotten."
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