John Wilson of Fox 13 News, Tampa, knew next to nothing about his great-grandfather Alfred Wilson. Even his 96-year-old aunt, Opal Mullins, knew only that Alfred had served in the Civil War. So neither was prepared for the shock when Ancestry.com genealogy experts uncovered exactly what Albert was up to during this turbulent period of American history.
John learned that Alfred Wilson lived in North Carolina and enlisted in the 33rd North Carolina Confederate Regiment, but after only four months, he was hospitalized in Winder Hospital for over a year—which could have been a death sentence, considering the typical conditions in hospitals at the time.
But what happened to Alfred once he left the hospital was the most shocking discovery of all. Rather than returning to his regiment, Alfred went AWOL. He deserted, but he didn’t return home. He travelled to Knoxville, Tennessee, re-enlist, but this time to fight for the Union Army. Alfred Wilson was a turncoat.
“Now I know why [my family] didn’t talk about him,” remarked a stunned John Wilson as he absorbed the news.
While fighting for the Union army, Alfred took a bullet in his shoulder that doctors were unable to remove in surgery. Until the end of the war, Alfred guarded Union supply lines. After the war ended, Alfred married Nancy, a woman twenty years his junior. Surprisingly enough, Nancy’s father and brothers had all fought for the Confederates.
But there was one more surprise waiting for John Wilson. It turned out that Alfred, the man nobody seemed to know, had been buried only a mile away from the Wilson family home, in a grave lost under weeds and overgrowth.
These insights into Alfred’s life have opened the floodgates of previously inaccessible family information. The Wilsons have discovered long lost cousins and have connected with other Ancestry.com users to help fill in the other gaps in their family tree.
For the Wilson family, finding Alfred wasn’t the end of a journey. Alfred was only the beginning.
Follow John’s journey, or start your own on Ancestry.