Sunday, February 17, 2013

The McKinney Family, Physicians and Soldiers

Alexander Finley McKinney, was born about 1800.  He received his medical degree in 1830 from the University of Pennsylvania Medical College.  In 1837 Dr. McKinney married Grizzell Taylor Lane in Williamson County Tennessee.  The 1840 census lists 18 people in the McKinney household, 13 are slaves.  The family next appears in the 1850 Shelby County Census.  Their children are: Samuel age 11, Courtney age 9, Robert age 7, Findley/Finley age 5 and John, age 3.  In addition to the family there are 34 slaves  on the McKinney place.  Total valuation of property was $43,000.  The McKinney's owned a large tract of land in the Forest Hill area of Shelby County.

During the Civil War at least three of the McKinney sons enlisted in the Confederacy, Samuel, Robert and Findley.  Samuel and Robert died during the war.  Findley would go on to marry and become a physician like his father. Findley inherited the property in Forest Hill. When he died in 1918 he was buried on the property and supposedly his favorite horse and dog are interred with him.

John may or may not have participated in the Civil War but he most certainly became a soldier afterward. He enlisted with the US Army and attended West Point where he graduated in 1871.   Lieutenant John A. McKinney, was assigned to the 4th cavalry and sent to Texas.  He took part in many actions with the regiment against the Comanches and Kiowas.  On November 25, 1876 McKinney was part of a large expedition at Crazy Woman Creek in the Dakota Territory. He led Co. M of the 4th Cavalry into action against the Indians.  He was shot and killed while attempting to dislodge a Cheyenne party from a ravine.  Reports say that Yellow Eagle's bullets were among the first to hit McKinney and that Yellow Eagle was the first to "count coup" on the downed man.  Bull Hump reportedly took a saddle bag full of ammunition from McKinney.

National Republican Nov 29 1876
A Cheyenne Camp Captured
Chicago, Nov. 28 --General Crook, under date of Camp on Crazy Woman's Fork, November 28, reports that Colonel Mackenzie, with the cavalry, attacked a Cheyenne camp consisting of one hundred lodges, on the west fork of Powder river, on the 25th instant, capturing the village and the greater portion of the Indian herd.  The loss on both sides is thought to be considerable, but has not been definitely ascertained.  Lieutenant McKenny(sic), 4th cavalry was killed.  When the courier left the weather was very severe.

McKinney was hailed for his bravery, his horsemanship, his generosity and his devotion to the service.  Once word was received back in Memphis about the death of Lieutenant McKinney a campaign was started by his friends to have his remains brought back from Cheyenne to Memphis for interment.  Telegrams went back and forth between Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Crook regarding the disposition of the body and obtaining authorization from the Secretary of War.  Permission was granted and the body was returned to Memphis at "public cost."  On August 30, 1877, Camp Cantonment was renamed Fort McKinney in honor of Lieutenant John A. McKinney.

The funeral for John A McKinney was a huge event in Memphis.  His good friend and soldier in arms, Rev. Charles Carroll Parsons, preached the eulogy.  Rev. Parsons would become a hero in his own right just two short years later when he helped care for victims of yellow fever during the huge epidemic of 1878.  He would succumb to the fever on September 6, 1878. But for now he was called on to speak words of comfort to McKinney's mother and friends  and to send his friend to glory in a spectacular fashion.  After the service the cortege made its way from St. Lazarus Church to Elmwood.  The flag draped coffin was escorted by  the Chickasaw Guards, Bluff City Grays, family and friends.  The service ended with the firing of three volleys.

From the Memphis Daily Appeal dated December 25, 1876:

Our Soldier Dead.
Funeral of the Late Lieutenant McKinney
U.S.A., Killed in Action
with the Indians in the 
Black Hills.
His Eulogy by an Old Comrade in Arms,
Now Known as Rev. Dr. Parsons,
Rector of St. Lazarus.
The remains of the late John A. McKinney, U.S.A., who was recently killed by the Indians in the northwest, were interred on Sunday in Elmwood cemetery, near the city.  The funeral was largely attended, both the old and the young joining their sympathies and tears for the honored dead.  Around the metallic casket containing the corpse was wound the flag of the Union, and upon this was the brave soldier's sword, a wreath and a cross of evergreens and immortelles.  Four white horses drew the hearse, and behind was led the dead soldier's horse, saddled and bridled.  The Chickasaw Guards and Bluff City Grays acted as a military escort, and when the funeral train moved slowly down Madison street to St. Lazarus church every one of the many who gazed upon the mournful pageant felt a keen pang at the consciousness of the fact that one of the nation's noblest men had so early sunk to rest.  The band in front of the hearse played sweet, sad music, whose strains were in accord with the feelings of the mourners.  Upon reaching St. Lazarus the two companies formed open ranks, through which the coffin was carried into the church, and place in front of the chancel by the pall-bearers, Major G.G. Hunt and Lieutenant L.P. Hunt, United States army; Major W.H. Benyard, United States Engineer corps; W.C. McNutt and Lewis S. Frierson, of the Chickasaw Guards; and Sinclair Arnold,  of the Bluff City Grays.

The funeral services were of the most solemn character, and there was not a dry eye among the many who had assembled and filled the church to overflowing.  The choir, in solemn and plaintive tone, rendered Pelton's touching chant.  Rev. Dr. Parsons read the funeral service, after which he announced hymn No. 512, which was sung by the choir as follows:

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
   Lead Thou me on.
The night is dark and I am far from home,
   Lead Thou me on.
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
   Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
   Lead Thou me on.
I loved the gorish day; and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power has blest me, sure it still
   Will lead me on
O'er moor and few, o'er crag and torrent, till
   'The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

The Eulogy
Rev. Mr. Parson, rector of St. Lazarus church, feelingly and gently said, as he advanced toward the coffin:

My friends--You must bear with me patiently if I try to speak to you to-day.  The young man that lies in his coffin there was more to me than a friend--he was rather as a brother or a son.  In the years that seem to me long gone, I knew him by the cordial grasp of his firm, strong hand-by the winning look of his clear, bright eye, and by the generous tones of a voice that never spoke in falsehood or in guile.  And then; I knew him well in later days, when there were ties between us so honorable to him and so tender to me that I dare not trust my heart to speak of them now.  But, dearly as I loved him, and dearly as they loved him who have a greater claim upon his love than I assert, I do not hesitate to say that I am proud of him as he lies there locked in the rigid clasp of death, and taken away in what men call the opening of a brilliant career.  I am prouder of him, even, than if his name were still upon the roll of living men--than if he stood and spoke among us now.  If you will listen, I will tell you why.  Sometimes, when you go into the cities of the dead, you will see here and there a broken shaft, lifting itself above a grave as if it were meant to mark the last resting place of one whose life on earth was not complete.  It is not a christian symbol, but, on the contrary, altogether opposed to the idea of a God who governs and directs the destiny of every man.  In the better view, in the true faith, every life in time is complete when the God that gave it to be has use for it in eternity and calls it hence.  I think of a little life that was given back to its divine source but a month ago, and I know, and believe, that it was complete, though few but the holy angels knew how noble and beautiful it was.  But, in my view, the life of this man is well-rounded, full-proportioned and finished, and he goes to his honored grave, not on the threshold, bu in the zenith of his career.  If you ask how this can be, seeing he was yet only in the first blush of youthful manhood, and so full of ardent hope, and kindling aspirations, I reply, because the boy had built up for himself and realized his ideal of a soldier's character, in preparation for a soldier's death if need be, and when the form was made it was inevitable that the mould should be broken.  I chance upon something else when I say this, and not to keep back anything in this solemn presence.
I go one step further to say that the perfect soldier, in all that relates to the symmetry of moral manhood, is the complete man.  I do not wish to be misunderstood.  I shall neither here nor elsewhere be so faithless to the integrity of my vocation, or so dazzled by the luster that shines out from the center of imposing military figures, as to class the moral above the religious nature of man; but leave me here and now to speak of my dead and your dead as he was, conspicuous for the illustration of the three great qualities of his calling  The first of these was obedience--the ready, cheerful, thorough yielding of his own will to the exactions of duty or the requirements of discipline.  It was natural that to the case of one like him, of fiery nature, quick impulses and an almost stubborn tenacity of purpose--it was natural in his case, I say, that the development of his soldierly character in this direction should be slow and even painful.  I watched it myself with what degree of sympathy it was proper for me to show, in the time when he was a cadet in the academy that in other days nourished us both, and I was glad for his sake when he was found worthy to receive the choicest military gift in his class while he wore the grey, and one of the marked compliments that were to be bestowed when he went out to take his place among the number of those
Upon whose ear the signal word
  Of life or death is hourly breaking;
Who sleep with head upon the sword
  Their fevered hands must grasp when waking.
From that precept of obedience, wrought into the form of undeviating habit, flows the fortitude that lifts the soldier above all the contingencies of change and chance.  It is not servile, it is not sullen, it is not passive, but is intelligent, actie, real, and it makes of compact bodies, moving or resting, under the direction of one will, to be irresistible in the charge and unconquerable in defense.  And this virtue linked itself naturally into the second of which I speak, namely; that of entire self-consecration.  That, my friends, is the quality that separates war from all its terrible associations, and the battle-scene from all that would otherwise render it and repulsive.  I mean, of course, the spirit in the man that makes him look at himself in two opposite ways--as being, at one and the same time, all-important and of no importance--that tells him his self-sacrifice, his personal consecration to a great act of daring, will give victory or decisive help to his ranks and flag, and, with the thought, bears him up in the tide of a grand, passionate swell of being, until the instant of devotion comes, when, with his life in his hands, he casts himself into the perilous post, there is a quick report, a piercing musket flash, and you, O noble, well-tried soul! You are ours no longer, but your country's and your God's.  Not without witness at the last, in the dying words that broke upon the quivering air--too sacred to be repeated now, in the stillness of this sudden grief--not without witness to the third of those qualities that belong to my theme.  Tenderness of heart, united to those that have gone before.  Some of you may remember the story told of himself by one of our American poets--how he stood among the camp-fires of the Crimea, what time  hey were lighting up the hostile battlements that frowned around Sebatopol, and heard the English, Scotch and Irish regiments singing the simple songs that came across land and sea from their cottage homes; and how, sitting awhile afterward, by the flickering fire-light, he sang his own thoughts in that touching lyric, from which I glean a double line:
  "The rarest are the tenderest, 
        The loving are the daring."
And this fallen hero--I shall not say fallen again--this risen hero, he was so much of both--so impetuous by nature that the thought of a wrong to be resented set his heart in rapid throbbing, and snet the blood thrilling through his veins, and yet so magnanimous that he forgave more quickly than he punished, and when he forgave, forgot also, and never, like a mean soul, cherished the memory of a misdeed against himself.  So indifferent to his own safety or interest, but so thoughtful of all that concerned the welfare or comfort of others.  So penetrated with a glorious and absorbing love of his profession, but so willing to turn his mind and heart, by day and night, back to the home that had sheltered him and the loved ones clustering there.  So grand and true and great hearted in all that becomes a man, and with it all, as it should be so gentle and considerate, that it was a delight for all to say they knew him and that he loved them.  There is one thing more that I think I can wisely and justly say--because he gave part of the thought to me, although we little knew for what a purpose.  You all remember what was fourteen or sixteen years ago, and that I need not tell you.  Well, after that time had just passed, and while its sad memories were fresh in grieving hearts, this man, a mere boy then, but with a man's heart beating in his fearless breast, went out from the midst of a community, nay, even from the bosom of a family that had suffered much for the perpetuation of the idea of a separate political existence for a portion of these States.  He entered the national military school of the republic, and from that time he seemed to regard himself, as indeed he was, in a peculiar manner, the representative of a community who offered him to the republic as a pledge of the sincerity with which they accepted the restored order of civil affairs, and the fidelity with which they would abide the oath he should swear upon the altar of his country and his God.  In this sense he toiled and studied, and disciplined himself, and it was God's will to give him, and you, such earnest of reward from year to year, that now we have to say that he, in whose veins coursed the purest and richest of your blood, and whose kin have been, and are, among the most distinguished of your fellow-citizens, for titles they have well earned and uniformly borne, that he should be the first from a large section included within the view I have taken, to graduate from the military academy with signal military distinction; to bear the military commission of the general government faultlessly for five years, and then, to add, by one act of fatal but necessary heroism, another page to the volume of the nation's imperishable renown.  It was the dear name and fame of his native city, his native county, his native State, that he bore with him down into that dark and treacherous ravine, and the soil from which he sprung has sprinkled these far-off rocks and sands with the life-blood of her own gallant son.  It is well, therefore, that you take him back to-day; that your press should render him the eloquent tributes he has earned; that your young men should give him the honors due to his rank; and that Elmwood, receiving him to her sacred care, should mould her dust with his own. Let her leafless oaks stand for a time in mournful silence around his grave, until spring-time shall come again, and cover it with green.  Dear soldier, comrade, brother, friend!  I give you the salutation, old as the story of noble deeds--hail and farewell!  You leave no braver, truer heart behind you here on earth.  But you leave hearts braver and truer, because you have lived and died, and hearts warm with the love which your generous soul inspired.

During the delivery of this very beautiful and graceful eulogy deep silence pervaded the congregation.  So touchingly, so gently, and yet so grandly did the good man speak that all listened attentively and each heart responded to his words.  After the sermon the coffin was replaced in the hearse and escorted by the Chickasaw Guards and Bluff City Grays to Elmwood Cemetery for interment.  A long train of people followed and were present to pay the last sad rite to the dead.  No funeral has ever aroused more interest in Memphis, for Lieutenant McKinney was a native of this county, and fulfilled every expectation and every hope of friend, father and mother.  Upon reaching the grave, Rev. Dr. Parsons read the Episcopal burial-service, and all that was mortal of the gallant soldier was laid to rest, the military companies firing three volleys above the grave.  

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