There is a man I am distantly related to by the name of Jeremiah McBride and a few months ago I was told his story which I now pass on to you. We are told that the “Civil War” was about retaining the right to slaves and nothing else, told that it was a war the rich slaveholders tricked the poor whites into fighting for them. Soldiers like Jeremiah show how much more there is to the story, and how they were rewarded for it.
Jeremiah McBride had been born in Bedford County, Virginia, but years before the war they had moved to what is now West Virginia. When war broke out, there were men on both sides who chose instead to enlist in the other army. In the case of Jeremiah and his brother Thomas, they traveled to a place called Narrows, Virginia to enlist and help the Confederacy. Jeremiah enlisted in March 1864, a time when the tide had turned and the Union was winning the war, but he went anyway believing it the right thing to do even though his immediate family no longer lived in what had become the Confederate states.
By September, only six months later, Jeremiah was listed as a prisoner of war and sent to Point Lookout in Maryland. The Union used freed black men as guards, encouraging them to violence by the officers offering them $10-15 for each Confederate prisoner they found an excuse to kill in the course of their duties each day. A letter from Jeremiah’s brother, Thomas, to their family tells that the prisoners were made to dig graves every day, but it was not just those who had already died who was placed in them if there were ditches left to fill. Additional prisoners would be carried out to the graves and buried. Sometimes they were shot first, sometimes buried alive.
Thomas wrote “… they carried Jeremiah out alive and he was buried. Didn’t hear any shots that day.”
Jeremiah is listed in the official record as dying November 22, 1864 at Point Lookout of “pneumonia.” He was about 19 years old.
To think he could have just stayed home in West Virginia safe and sound.