Saturday, June 25, 2005

Woman Touches Leg of Civil War Veteran

From of June 25, 2005:

Civil War soldier's wooden leg is prized possession at museum


Associated Press

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - Slowly, carefully, Christine Brooks Young slipped her fingers into the white cotton gloves and pulled the protective covering over her hands.

Hesitantly, her hand moved to the dark, aged wood lying on the table at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City.

Seemingly reaching across the generations, Young touched the artificial leg of Isaac Byrum Jr., her great-grandfather.

"It just makes me very proud, after hearing what he accomplished," said Young, a Suffolk resident who started researching her family history recently and found out about the leg.

"I remember, early on in my life, hearing about a relative who had served in the Civil War."

Byrum, a hardworking farmer from eastern North Carolina, lost his left leg in the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloody exchange that many consider the turning point of the war.

Fitted with a wooden leg at a Richmond hospital once he was released from a Union prison camp, the 24-year-old Byrum walked home and resumed his life. He would clear 55 acres of farmland, marry and have several children.

And, when the first wooden leg wore out, he carved two more - one for everyday use and one for church. In 1916, Byrum was buried in his "good" leg, said Don Pendergraft, museum exhibits chief.

"It really does have its own aura, doesn't it?"


Young, a Suffolk businesswoman and wife of a local lawyer, said she thought little about her ancestry when she was younger. But, as she got older, she said, it became more important.

Once she became a grandmother, she wanted to know more about her own family history so she could pass it on to her granddaughter.

She learned about the leg when a cousin, who still lives in North Carolina, stopped by her office one afternoon and announced: "Your great-grandfather's leg is in the Albemarle Museum."


[Read the whole story]

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