Biography of Burrell and Malinda AKERS
Burrell Akers was born about 1824, in Franklin County, VA. At this time his parents names are
not known. It is very likely that Burrell migrated west to Floyd County, KY by 1840. There were
over a dozen Akers families in Franklin County, VA in 1930, when Burrell would have been six
years old. Ten years later there were only four. But there were now seven AKERS and five
OKER families in Floyd County, KY. Several of those families have more than one adult female.
Maybe a migration was due to the death of Burrell's father. Maybe it was that land was easier to
come by in Kentucky.
Regardless, by the time Burrell was 20 years old, he had migrated to Kentucky. He was described
as having blue eyes, light hair, a dark complexion, and standing about 5' 9". He weighed in the
neighborhood of 140 lbs. The earliest record of Burrell is on his marriage bond to Malinda Bowe,
on September 5, 1844, in Floyd County, KY.
Almost nothing is known of Malinda. Census records show that she was born in Virginia about
1826. Her parents are not known, for certain. But her marriage bond, with the aforementioned
date, was put up by Burwell (Burrell) AKERS and Joel BOWE. The 1850 census lists a 49 year
old Joel BOW. That would make him about 26 years old, when Malinda would have been born.
The Joel BOW family included his wife Nancy, and children starting at age 21 and decreasing in
age by two or three years to 13. I think it likely that Joel and Nancy BOWE were Malinda's
parents, but a brother or uncle is not out of the question. The census records do indicate that
Malinda could read and write.
The Akers were farmers. By 1850 the couple was in Carter County, KY with their own farm, and
three children. The oldest was almost certainly George, born about 1846. There is a Mary, on the
1850 census, listed as age 9, but that would make her three years old when the couple married.
Possibly she is their's, but unlikely. She is listed last, when birth order is the normal way on the
census. Often on the census, the person's outside the immediate family are listed last. Elderly
parents, servants, nieces, nephews, and other kin would be there. The most like answer is that
she was a niece or cousin. Malinda would havebeen about 15 when Mary was born.
But, a child as a result of a youthful mistake, or even rape is a posiblity. We may never know for
But, more children followed. Ann was born in 1852, James in 1854, and Eliza in 1857. Burrell
continued to farm and to provide for his family. But in 1861 two things happened. Edward their
7th (6th?) child was born and the Southern states began to withdraw from the union, setting the
stage for the start of the Civil War.
Kentucky was a border state. A border state was a southern state, that did not withdraw from the
union. All of the border states were of course on the northern "border" of the Confederacy, and the
Southern "border" of the union. As such, these states were more divided as to loyalty that the states
more towards the poles. Burrell's loyalties evidently held strongly with the Union, as he enlisted
on October 21, 1861. The unit
Burrell signed up for was a group
of volunteers. The Union would
not institute the draft for another
18 months. Burrell signed up for
a three year hitch or the duration
of the war, whichever came first.
Though he couldn't know it, his
active military career would last
not much more than a year.
Burrell's unit, the 22nd Kentucky
Volunteer Infantry saw it's first
significant action in the Battle of
Middle Creek. The Battle of
Middle Creek was fought on
Kentucky soil, just north of
Prestonburg, and many units were represented. Kentuckians fought on both sides. This
engagement, fought in January 1862, was important for two reasons. For practical fighting
purposes, the Union victory drove the Confederates out of Eastern Kentucky. Second, it got the
young colonel who commanded the union troops there, noticed and later promoted. His name was
James Garfield, who later became President of the United States.
The 22nd gradually worked it's way south through the Cumberland Gap, and east to Memphis.
From there they followed the Mississippi River south, until in December 1862 they were near
The opening salvo to capture the strategically important city of Vicksburg began with the Battle of
Chickasaw Bluffs, fought on the 27th through the 29th. Several Union regiments, including
Burrell's 22nd Volunteers, were thrown against a rebel force that was occupying a well defended,
and much higher ground. A picture survives, showing a Union soldier holding the Stars and Strips
and the Regimental Flag as they looked after the battle. The two flags are little more than rags. The
fire heaped upon Burrel's unit and the others was very intense. As a result Burrell sustained
wounds in his right thigh and shoulder. He was treated and stabilized at the field hospital, and on
Jan 13, 1863 was placed on the ship "City of Memphis", to be transported to Paducah, KY. In
Paducah, Burrell was admitted to St. Mark's Hospital, where he convalesced until Feb 10, 1863.
At that time he was returned to active duty.
Burrell's unit was still assigned duty in Vicksburg. The city would not fall (to siege) until July of
1863. Prior to that, the 22nd KY volunteers fought a battle at Fort Gibson, MS, also know as
Thompson's Hill. There, on May 1st, Burrell is listed as sustaining another, unspecified wound.
This was evidently either a trivial wound or a clerical mistake, as there is nothing mentioned in his
Peniston file about another wound.
Days after Vicksburg surrendered to Union forces, Burrell came down with a fever. His
statements to the doctors in the following years unfailingly describe how he believed that this fever
had caused him to lose a part of his sight. Years later, when Burrell was applying for a pension
and after that when seeking a revision of his disability status, doctors would describe his left eye as
cloudy or having a cataract. Burrell always attributed this to this bout of fever. The Vicksburg
area, where Burrell's unit had been stationed was part of the Mississippi delta. It was mosquito
infested, and the perfect breeding ground for a variety of diseases. It is likely that one of these
swamp bugs is what afflicted Burrell. His eyes were mentioned in the discharge, indicating he had
the loss of sight in his left eye.
The eye problem was not his only complaint, though it would be his longest lasting. A very
common ailment was to affect Burrell's eventual discharge. On his medical discharge certificate
(dated Aug 6, 1863) he was listed as being unable to perform his duties due to "chronic diarrhea
and fever which has been continuos for six months" It further stated that Burrell was "much
emaciated and has done little or no duty for six months" Incidentally this would include the time of
Thompson's Hill. Diarrhea was not a trivial complaint, nor was it a laughing matter. The Civil War
produced more American casualties, than all of the other wars we fought in combined. Disease
killed more of those civil war soldiers than did wounds. A sick, half blind, and no doubt
disillusioned Burrell Akers was sent back to Carter County, KY.
Burrell could read and write, and with the majority of men in the unit from the same area as
Burrell, it is likely he was not surprised to find a baby when he arrived home. Ellen Akers was
born in Aug 1863. Nine months prior would have been Nov 1862. The 22nd was in the general
area at that time. They were listed as "Evacuation of Cumberland Gap, to Greenup, on the Ohio"
Sept 16 to Oct 3rd. Then "Expedition to Charleston, WV" Oct 21 to Nov 10th. Greenup County,
KY was very close to home. I think it likely that Burrell (& others) would have been granted
liberty and visited their families at that time. So about nine months later, when Burrell returned
home, it is likely that new baby, Ellen Akers (our ancestor) was there (or nearly there) when he
It would have taken months for Burrell to regain his strength. He evidently never regained full use
of his left eye, although later examinations did show some improvement. Burrell would have went
back to farming. The 1870 census shows that Burrell owned a small farm, $600 worth, as
compared to his two immediate neighbors who had $1600 and $5000 w orth of land. Earning a
living was undoubtedly tough. A small farm in a poor county is not the way to prosperity. The
family managed, and added their final child, Sarah Cathern (Sally) AKERS in March 1867.
Burrell and Malinda managed. Burrell and his eldest son George (17 in 1863) would have earned
a living as best they could on the farm. Malinda and the other children had plenty to do as well.
There would have been some livestock to tend, a cow at least. Chickens and a family garden. Not
to mention churning butter, sewing, cooking, cleaning the house, laundry, and many other chores
that occupied a 19th century home. But, in 1874 Malinda became sick. She died on December 9,
1874. She was laid to rest in Carter County. This left Burrell alone to finish raising the remaining
children (Mary, George and Lavina were certainly out of the house by then. Ann would have been
22 and James would have been 20 by then) and to earn a living. This was getting tougher. Burrell
was 50. He was blind in one eye, and the sight in his right eye had been effected by the disease as
well. His leg bothered him, and the years behind a plow would have worn down his knees, hips,
The US Congress, recognizing it's debt to the soldiers of the Civil War had allowed soldiers who
were disabled as a result of their injuries, or became such to collect a pension. This was in effect
even before Burrell was discharged. It appears, that as a result of his thigh wound, Burrell was
granted a 1/4 pension, $2.00 (two dollars), upon his discharge. But in Nov 1876 Burrell applied
for a pension increase. This was a full 13 years after he had been discharged. The reason for the
delay, though not completely explained in the file is almost certainly a combination of things. The
basis for his new claim was his blindness.
Burrell may not have known or thought he qualified for
anything as a result of his eyes. But, Civil War pensions were big business. Think a cross
between Social Security and Injury Settlements. A whole industry of lawyers sprang up as a result.
For a fee (in Burrell's case, $25.00) a lawyer, who had knowledge of how the system worked
would help his client obtain a pension or pension increase. Or possibly back pension. Full pension,
for Burrell's rank (Private) was $8.00 per month, when he was discharged and $10 per month 13
years later. Burrell retained the services of P.H. Fitzgerald, and Indianapolis, IN attorney, who
undoubtedly was one of these specialists. It would be interesting to know exactly what was
promised and what was awarded by the Department of Interior, with respect to the pension. $25
was a lot of money for a man whose pension was $2. There is a document in Burrell's pension file
that rates his disability, based on his eyes, for the years 1863 to 1883. This could mean that Burrell
was trying to recover additional money based on his blindness. He was eventually (1883)
approved for the additional disability, moving from 1/4 disabled to 3/4. It is not known if any back
pension was paid.
Burrell was acquainted with all of the folks in the area. Some, such as Daniel Adams, he had
known since childhood, possibly as far back as Franklin County, VA. One of these families was
the DEALS. Willis and Harriet Evaline DEAL, plus their three children, James, Eva and John
Edwards. Willis Deal died in 1886, leaving Harriet a widow with children 12, 10, & 7 to care for.
By 1889 Burrell's youngest, Sally, was 22. She married James ADAMS about this time, and
moved out to start a family of her own.
Burrell, now 65, was alone. He had a now $8 per month
pension, about 40 acres of land, at least a cow and a mule. But his health was failing. Harriet
needed a husband and means of support. Burrell and Harriet were married on Mar 5, 1889.
This union was to last about 5 1/2 years. Burrell contracted tuberculosis, and passed away on Nov
17, 1894. He was buried beside Malinda.
Harriet (who went by Evaline) was to survive on Burrell's pension (which she had to jump
through many bureaucratic hoops to get) until her death in 1910