Water Cooler – My Family And The Civil War, A Wound That Never Closed

Dagmar pic
Ruth "Dagmar" Egnor

You may have noticed that today we had quite a few Civil War posts today. It was something of an unofficial (and unplanned) theme. I thought I would end the day with the story of the Civil War and what it did to my family.

Everyone you ever meet or hear of who spells their name Egnor is a relative of mine. That includes the famous 1950’s vamp Dagmar Egnor. She was, um, err, how to put this… well endowed and wore the pointy style of bra. She was so well known that the pointy embellishments on Cadillac’s were actually called Dagmar’s after her.

I never knew Dagmar or any of the Egnor’s on that side of the family for a simple reason, the Civil War. The Egnor’s lived in Virginia for quite a long time before the Civil War. The ones that lived in the eastern part of the state were marginally better off than the ones in the West.

When Virginia seceded from the Union, the western part of the state split off to become West Virginia. At this point my family fractured. The Civil War often talks about brother against brother in the fighting. For the Egnor’s this became literally true.

It is a division that my father would never talk about. Even though he’d point out other Egnor’s who had made good from that side of the family, the division that was caused by the Civil War was one that never healed. When West Virginia’s part in the war came up he would change the subject. He never wanted to go and see the famous battle grounds and monuments. To him, even more than 100 years later the war was something personal to him and his family.

If asked he would always say that it was in the past and that nothing we could do now would change it. There were a total of 16 Egnor veterans of the Civil War, 10 Confederate and 6 Union.

The Virginia Egnor’s have continued to be the more conservative branch of the family with folks like the infamous Dr. Michael Egnor who is best known for pushing the ridiculous idea of intelligent design.

The generation that knew of the split in my family is long gone. Even Dad’s generation is gone with the exception of Uncle Don. There is no way for me to know what it was exactly that kept the two branches of a family with a rather unique name apart for so long but I can imagine.

My best guess is that it was about patriotism. That each branch decided that it must fight to support the nation that it was part of at the time. The Virginia Egnor’s probably felt betrayed that the West Virginia Egnor’s did not join the Confederacy by moving. The WV Egnor’s probably felt that the others were traitors to a nation that our family had been part of since before it was a nation.

Or maybe it was more personal, perhaps the two sides had the misfortune to actually fight in battles against each other, and blame for deaths on both sides festered. As I said it is impossible to know, but even though the nation found a way to mostly paper over the wounds of four years of Civil War, my family could not find it in themselves to forgive or forget. My father was born nearly 80 years after the start of the Civil War, and yet it affected the way he thought about half of the people who carried his last name every day of his life.

This is the Egnor legacy of that war, kin divided still after 150 years over issues we no longer remember and can not ask after.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

Comments are closed.