Volume 6, Number 9, Fall 1978
This poignant tale was told me by Mrs. Nellie Hanks Werner, who currently resides in the United Methodist Home in Topeka, Kansas.
Mrs. Werners father, Elijah Newton Hanks, was born in Columbia, Tennessee in 1834. Orphaned when he was nine years old he went to live with the grandfather after whom he was named, Elder Elijah Newton Hanks, a Baptist preacher. According to family tradition Elder Hanks father, Moses, was a brother to Abraham Hanks, father of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of our sixteenth President. These two brothers were sons of Luke Hanks, whose father William Hanks had come from England.
Elder Hanks also had a son named Elijah Newton who was just a few months older than Mrs. Werners father, with the result the family home for several years had three Elijah Newton Hanks living in it.
In 1856 Mrs. Werners father came to Nemaha County, Kansas, with two cousins and filed a claim near Goff on a creek which they called Tennessee Creek after their native state. The two cousins soon returned to Tennessee but Mr. Hanks remained, later acquiring land north of Seneca, Kansas, where Mrs. Werner was born.
After the outbreak of the Civil War, Kansas Elijah Hanks enlisted in the 13th Kansas Volunteers, Co. G., attaining the rank of corporal. He was reputedly the only member of the Tennessee Hanks to serve in the Union army.
In March, 1862, Union soldiers under General Samuel Curtis had pushed Confederate troops under General Sterling Price out of Missouri into Arkansas. Price joined forces with General Earl Van Doren in an effort to stop the Yankees in northwestern Arkansas. After skirmishing several times the troops clashed head on at Pea Ridge, or Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas, in what was to be the biggest battle west of the Mississippi river. The engagement began March 7th and continued the next day. At first the Confederates prevailed but by March 8th the tide had turned and the Confederates retreated southward.
Following the battle Cpl. Elijah Newton Hanks, Mrs. Werners father, who had been a participant, was assigned to help bury the Union dead. While on the battlefield he came face to face with the uncle with whom he had been reared, Elijah Newton Hanks, who had been assigned the same duty on the Confederate side. The two were overjoyed and wanted to be allowed to visit, for they were like brothers. Fraternization was not the order of the day, however, and this privilege was denied, one commander saying, "Blood is thicker than water." The two never saw each other again after that brief March 8th meeting. The uncle was later captured and he died soon after the end of the war.
The relationship of Elder Elijah Newton Hanks father to the alleged father of Nancy Hanks Lincoln was traced by the Elders sister. She was a rabid Confederate and hated President Lincoln. She refused to let her children see her genealogical records which she kept locked in a trunk. Eventually she told a granddaughter who was interested in family history that she might have the trunk and records after her death but asked the granddaughter never to let anyone know they were related to Abraham Lincoln.
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