By William Pannill
The purpose of this blog is to collect and publish family stories. In the 1970s, I began collecting photographs, letters, and memoirs from my relations. Then I began to visit the places they lived, worked, and even fought. The more I followed their lives, the more interesting the family histories turned out to be.
William C. Cherry, my great-grandfather, fought throughout the Civil War in a Georgia brigade. He joined the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 — 150 years ago — for its first battles under Robert E. Lee. He fought in some of the greatest battles of the war and then was taken prisoner under inhumane conditions. Life in the defeated South proved as much a battle to him as the war had been.
My great-great grandfather Henry Pannill left Virginia for Louisiana but removed to Texas in the last years of the war. He bought land along the Trinity River and created two plantations, but died in his early 40s leaving an impoverished family.
Henry’s grandfather, William Pannill of Orange, Virginia, joined the vestry of the parish church and swore allegiance to George III in 1768, but six years later served on the Committee of Public Safety — the revolutionary committee — with a young James Madison.
My mother, Mary Ellen Goodrum, grew up fatherless in poverty during the Depression but never lost her bonds with her family. My father, Fitzhugh Hastings Pannill, grew up under a patriarch — his father, Judge William Pannill, a trial lawyer whom Dad followed into the law. But in 1943. as a young lawyer with two sons and a wife to support, Dad entered officer candidate school in the United States Navy and volunteered for sea duty in the Naval Armed Guard aboard oil tankers in the Pacific.
I intend to write what I have learned in the digital age about them and many more. The narrative begins with Private Cherry in the battle of the Seven Days in 1862.