Reunion in Small Steps: A Yankee Comes South (Battlefield Series, Part 3)

September 23, 2018

On 6 July 1876, a wedding took place in Dade County, probably on Lookout Mountain, that had great significance not only for the way it affected the future of this area but also because of how it came to be.


The groom was a young man of about 25 years named William Alexander “Alec” Moore and his bride was Margaret Recella Eckles, about 24 at the time of her marriage. Alec was born in Tennessee, but we know that he was in Dade County by the time of the 1870 census. His bride was born in Indiana and her appearance, and that of her family, in this neck of the woods is a major part of our story.


She was the daughter of George Washington Eckles, a native of Pennsylvania whose first acquaintance with Dade County came when he served as a member of the 14th Ohio Volunteers during the Civil War. Like many of the Indiana regiments, the 14th spent the first couple of years of the war in campaigns in Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama. But when the fighting in our area heated up, his unit and many others from Indiana, Ohio and Illinois found themselves in Nashville about to embark on the Tullahoma campaign.

 The Alec Moore family (Photo courtesy of Ken Pennington)


This movement led over the Cumberland Mountains and, eventually, to the Battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863. After Chickamauga and Chattanooga, the 14th marched on to participate in the fall of Atlanta, Sherman’s March to the Sea, the fall of Savannah, then the final stages of the war in the Carolinas.


The regiment was mustered out in Louisville, Kentucky, on 11 July 1865. George Washington Eckles must have been a good soldier as he was promoted several times during the war, from 1st Sergeant to 1st Lieutenant to Captain as the war ended. He certainly saw a lot of Southern geography from the back of a horse as he traversed all those distances during his many campaigns, and he must have seen something he liked as he can be found living with his family in Cumberland County, Tennessee, in 1870. He died in 1874, by one account here in Dade County, so he did not live to see his daughter married and settled here, but he probably expected such an event when he brought his family south.


Alec Moore and his wife, Margaret, made their home near Daniel Creek Falls in what is now Cloudland Canyon State Park. Over the years, they produced a family of nine children, who in turn married, produced many children and began to grow a community. One of their children married a McKaig, another married a Bradford, another a Massey, another a Gray, another a Street, and yet another a Mathews. All of those surnames are still to be found in profusion all over Lookout Mountain and Dade County. All of these folks had their origins in a Yankee officer who came back to the South after the war and whose daughter became very much a part of the South and this community, whatever her origins.


A couple of brothers go North

As the Civil War began, a couple of brother roamed the woods and trails near their home at Rising Fawn. They were Henry Clay McKaig and his brother, James, sons of Hugh McKaig and grandsons of Francis McKaig, who had moved to that area with his large family by the time of the 1840 census. Henry was the elder, born in 1843; James was born in 1847. So when the war began in 1861, they were still teenagers but, as time wore on, their youth mattered less and less. The South needed troops as it had a smaller population to pull from than the North, and Southern armies had suffered many casualties by that point. Conscription patrols canvassed the area looking for available men to press into service so, even as teenagers, the McKaig boys must have felt pressure to make a decision.


Apparently at some point they came into contact with the 4th Indiana Cavalry and their decision was made. There was a story told within the family that they were taken and impressed into the Northern army against their will. Such events did happen—one of Donna Street’s ancestors had that terrifying experience—and it would be understandable to think that the Indiana Cavalry would be glad to have the assistance of a couple of young men who knew this area and its people very well, whether they came willingly or unwillingly. But the McKaig boys chose to go. After the war, they were listed as being eligible for a pension for their service, which would not have happened had they not been full-fledged enlistees in a Northern regiment.


The 4th Indiana Cavalry participated in many of the same campaigns as Captain Eckles’s group, beginning at Nashville and on to Tullahoma, Murfreesboro and eventually Chickamauga. They were involved in taking Atlanta and went on a bit farther south, but then they were sent back to Alabama and activities to the west. The brothers were together during their service, which must have been a source of some comfort to them, but these must have been very hard years for a couple of boys who had to become men in a hurry.


After the war, the McKaig brothers came back to Dade County and returned to farming and their neighbors. Henry Clay McKaig married Elizabeth Buffington and raised a family of 13 children, which partly explains the strong presence of the McKaig surname in Dade County even today. He lived until 1915, which is amazing to consider. He fought a war from the back of a horse and lived long enough to see cars, telephones and other modern developments which he could probably never have imagined as that teenage boy who made a gutsy decision so many years before. James McKaig never married and died in 1894. He and his brother are buried in the McKaig family cemetery in Johnson’s Crook.


These two stories happened in our area, but there are thousands more like them that happened in countless other places. People had to take a side in a terrible conflict that came near to ripping this nation apart but, after the conflict, they had to come back to a normal life. They had to live with neighbors who perhaps disagreed with the choices they had made and with the reasons why they had made them. They had to somehow come to terms with this and be a part of their communities and families and churches and businesses.


I often wonder what Margaret Eckles Moore taught her kids about her father and their grandfather. I think she must have conveyed her pride in what he accomplished as that pride is still to be found in her descendants today. I wonder how the McKaig boys’ parents found out what they had chosen to do, whether the brothers tried to explain their actions to their families and friends and whether they suffered any ill will as a result.


Whatever the outcomes, the marriage of Margaret Eckles and the return home of Henry and James McKaig were small acts of reunion among former opponents. Multiplied many times across the nation, particularly the South, these became the basis for large-scale remembrance and reconciliation efforts such as veteran’s reunions, parades and campaigns which led eventually to the creation of very concrete remembrances of the war and its participants, such as Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.


Next installment: The idea of a park is born.



  • A word of thanks to Ken Pennington, local historian and raconteur, for sharing so much of his family history on for folks like me to access. He is a direct descendant of Alec and Margaret Eckles Moore.

  • The Dade County Historical Society will have a quarterly meeting on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Dade County Public Library at 10:30 a.m. followed by a talk on the Dade County Coal Company and mining in our area. The program will be led by Donna M. Street and other knowledgeable members. This will serve to prepare for ​​the next hike into the coke ovens in Cole City. Planned date is not firm, but will either be in early December or January

  • Civil War buffs, mark your calendar for a program at the library sponsored by the Historical Society on Thursday night, November 8, at 7 p.m. Medical practices during the Civil War will be the subject. More information about the speaker will be printed at a later time.

--Joy Odom





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