Anthony Wayne Van Leer Gen 11

Anthony Wayne Van Leer was born 8/3/1847 in Dickson County, Tennessee.  He came to Fannin County, TX with his parents as a young boy.  After the Civil War, he  graduated from Carlton College in Bonham. He was a teacher in Bonham and Gainesville. 

Anthony suffered from exposure during the Civil War, returning home in ill health.  He died of consumption July 3, 1877, at the age of 29 without kids and he never married.

Anthony Wayne Van Leer is buried at Shiloh Cemetery outside Bonham, TX. His marker, like most others, has been destroyed by grazing cattle.

His war experiences were pieced together from

  • Stories told by his brother, Isaac Guilford Van Leer, to his granddaughter, Mabel Doris Van Leer.
  • Documents obtained from Texas State University from the  pension papers of his comrade, Hade Whitsett.
  • Texas State Historical Association

As the account below shows, the extreme violence of the Civil War, in general, and of the Missouri guerrillas, in particular, are not compatible with Anthony’s personality traits:

  • He plays the piano and sings.
  • He dances around his blanket on the hard ground.
  • He weeps at news from home.
  • He enjoys math and teaching.

Years after his death, his brother recounted his adventures to his grand daughter, Mabel Doris Van Leer, with what she described as “pride–but also with an effort to justify and to understand.”  Perhaps it is impossible for later generations to fully understand the passions felt during the Civil War.

 Last Year of the Civil War – 1864

Texas by all accounts handled the Civil War the same way they did every event, with a unique “Texan” way. Voting on Secession events in Texas were delayed, largely due to the resistance of Southern Unionist governor, Sam Houston. Conditions in North Texas are discussed in more detail under Anthony’s father, Wayne Van Leer.   Despite the prevailing view of the vast majority of the state’s politicians and the delegates to the Secession Convention, there were a significant number of Texans who opposed secession. The referendum on the issue indicated that some 25% of the (predominantly white) males eligible to vote favored remaining in the Union at the time the question was originally considered. The largest concentration of anti-secession sentiment was among the German Texan population in the Texas Hill Country, and counties of North Texas. Texas counties in which significant numbers of people opposed secession were Angelina CountyFannin County (Van Leer’s lived here) and Lamar County. Ref Wiki Confederate conscription laws forced most men of military age into the Confederate army, regardless of their sentiment. However, at least 2,000 Texans joined the Union ranks. Texas’s relatively large German population around Austin County led by Paul Machemehl tried to remain neutral in the war but eventually left Confederate Texas for Mexico. East Texas gave the most support to secession, and the only east Texas counties in which significant numbers of people opposed secession were Angelina CountyFannin County, and Lamar County

Anthony Wayne Van Leer being the family rebel he was, barely 16 years old and two of his friends–James Haden “Uncle Hade” Whitsett (age 16) and William H. “White” (age 18) secretly left Bonham with the guerrillas in the spring of 1864.

According to Mary Ragsdale (White’s sister) in 1931, the boys gathered at the Ragsdale’s the night before they went to war where they played the piano and sang “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” 

“Everyone was so sad, because the boys were so young.”
“Vanleer Papers,” Chester County
                 Historical Society


Anthony and his friends were fortunate to be able to leave the military as part of the legitimate army–Shelby’s guard. Hade Whitsett’s pension application includes a receipt showing that he turned in his sword to federal authorities on August 17, 1865.

Fearful of civil prosecution, pro union locals, guerrilla activities were never documented.  Anthony’s activities with Quantrill’s Raiders are based predominately on oral history passed on by his brother, Isaac Guilford Van Leer to his children and grandchildren.  These stories were, then, cross referenced by comparing them to historical accounts of guerrilla actions in 1864-5.

Likewise, there are no official records of legitimate  Confederate service for any of the three: Anthony, Whitsett, or Ragsdale.

William H. “White” Ragsdale was the owner-editor of local newspapers for several years and later served as a County Judge.  His biography with the local Confederate veterans’ association simply states that he “served in the Confederate Army toward the close of the war.”

James Haden “Uncle Hade” Whitsett owned a general merchandise store in Dodd City for a number of years.  He lived to be 103 years old.  As one of the last 3 Confederate veterans in Texas, he was awarded the rank of “Colonel” by Texas Governor Allen Shivers.

Anthony Wayne Van Leer attended a small college established in 1867 in Bonham by Charles Carlton, a minister of the Disciples of Christ.  He was running a school in Gainsville, Texas when he died of consumption in 1877 at the age of 29.