Speculation about Lafayette Hodnett

Lafayette Hodnett was born in Georgia or Alabama. Some family records show his birthplace as Georgia, but the1860 Federal Census (Hempstead County, Spring Hill Township, p. 794) shows Alabama. (If Lafayette had been born in Georgia, why would he tell the census taker that he was born in Alabama?) Lafayette's father, Samuel Hodnett, did own land at one time in Shelby County, Alabama, according to what we assume is his federal land patent (AL0950_.141), dated March 15, 1839 (after Lafayette's birth). Based on the age given in the 1860 Federal Census, Lafayette Hodnett was born in 1823.

McGehee Descendants Volume III, p. 84, by Jane Grider says the following about Lafayette:

"1-5-2-1-9-1 Lafayette Hodnett b. 7 Aug 1825 GA/AL (family records show GA, 1860 census shows AL), d, during the Civil War : m. in Tyler, TX, Mary Ann Cooper b. 27 Jan 1839, d. 23 Dec. 1922, i. Macedonia Cem. near Patmos and Hope, AR, d/o Martha Braizier of Scotland and William E. Cooper. Lafayette is believed by the family to be buried at Natchez, MS. Mary Ann m/2nd 18 Aug 1864 in Hepstead Co., AR, William Hiram Johnson and had a daughter, Susan Margaret."

According to family tradition, Lafayette Hodnett probably died during the Civil War in Natchez, Mississippi. It was believed by the family that Lafayette was buried at or near Natchez.

One family story is that he was near his home on war maneuvers and decided to go see his family when he was seen and shot as a deserter. However, Natchez, Mississippi is nowhere near his home in Hempstead County, Arkansas. Another story was that he was simply killed in action. There was a lot of war activity in the Natchez area in May 1862 and July 1863.

According to research done by Allison & Mark Sedgwick and Dan Floyd (Civil War expert from Mississippi who specializes in the history of the Confederacy), Lafayette may have been killed when Natchez was surrendered to the Union on May 12, 1862, or around the time of the battle of Vicksburg, which was June 25-July 4, 1863. Natchez was a major port on a hill along the southern Mississippi River, near Vicksburg. (See the history section at www.vicksburg.org.) According to the Vicksburg Web site, Natchez was surrendered to the Union "without a fight," shortly after the Union army captured Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After Natchez was surrendered, Confederate soldiers were trying to run the blockade that was set up by the Union, and Lafayette could have been killed while trying to run the blockade, or during some other war-related activity.

We know that Lafayette was alive in 1859, according to his federal land patent (AR1310__.210) dated July 1, 1859. He was alive and living in Hempstead County, Arkansas when the 1860 Federal Census was taken. He signed a legal document called an "Estray Bond" on February 26, 1861 in Hempstead County, Arkansas. He had two more children after this, Thomas Edward Hodnett and Nancy Caroline Hodnett. Lafayette's youngest child, Nancy Caroline Hodnett, was born March 9, 1863. Lafayette had to have lived long enough for her to be conceived, but have died before August 18, 1864, when his widowed wife Mary Anne, married William Hirum Johnson. If Lafayette had been killed when Natchez was surrendered to the Union in May 1862, he would have had to have been around to participate in the conception of his daughter Nancy (which probably occurred in May 1862 ), then died immediately after that. Lafayette could have been killed then (assuming that Nancy's birthdate is correct and that she was born 9 months or less after being conceived). However, he would have had to have had time to march from his home in Arkansas to Natchez very quickly, then get killed as soon as he arrived. Therefore, it is possible that Lafayette could have been killed later in a skirmish that took place around the time of the battle of Vicksburg. Either way, the likely dates for Lafayette's death are about May 12, 1862 or June 25-July 4, 1863.

We are still looking for Lafayette's Civil War records. Most of the Confederate soldiers from Arkansas were mustered into the army by the county in which they lived. The soldiers served side by side with their family members and neighbors. We have not as yet been able to find the records for Lafayette or for anyone else from Hempstead County, Arkansas. Hopefully the records will be able to shed further light on the subject.

Copies of the 1859 land patent, the 1860 Federal Census, and the 1861 "Estray Bond" document are in possession of Mark & Allison Sedgwick (www.sedgwickresearch.com).


Sedgwick Research's Hodnett Family Web Site

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