Monday, August 24, 2015


Not all is what it seems.  It's really hard to build a person from a few documents and a bit of speculation.  If this young man pictured above is truly Robert Livingston Jeffries, M.D., then he was my 2nd great granduncle, for what it is worth.

Apparently, if the document in the Provost Marshal's file at the National Archives is correct, he started out as a Rebel Spy in the Civil War.  He was a member of the well-known Achilles Whitehead Jeffries family in Union, Franklin County, Missouri.  His father was a prosperous farmer, attorney and slaveholder of 10 or 11 slaves.  The document referred to was related to his arrest by the Federal forces.

As one reads through the documents, it would appear that he spent some time in custody in Cincinnati, Ohio and then for health reasons he asked to be released.  He signed a loyalty oath in order to effect this release and apparently shortly thereafter, he became a spy for the U.S. Government.  He told his father in a letter (referred to in a different letter) that he was working for the Secret Service.

This was in late 1864.  At that time he headed to Paris, Kentucky, where after a short time he was set upon by some "guerillas," robbed and then shot, dying on the spot.  His body was taken to a nearby residence and he was given a decent burial.  The story is told by military documents flying back and forth between Kentucky and Cincinnati, and sad letters of inquiry from his father, Achilles W.

It appears in these documents that the guerillas were caught, 2 killed and 2 captured.  Those captured were tried and found guilty.

There are several interesting books that speak to Provost Marshal documents that are not yet digitized and that help this information to seem correct.  However, there also is a book written by Ellsworth (name appearing under the photo above) that varies so widely from the National Archive material that it is hard to even be sure that the picture above, which is in the holdings of the Thomas Henry Hines holdings at the University of Kentucky, is, in fact, Robert L. Jeffries.

It is true that both sides used lots of spies, and it is true that many spies changed sides - probably because it was in their own best interest to do so.  Because this relative is so distant from me -- his sister Martha Jeffries is my 2nd great grandma - I will not be doing any further research on Robert, or on his brother Benjamin Franklin Jeffries or his brother Andrew Jackson Jeffries - and other more commonly named siblings.  I'm moving on.... but I surely do think Robert Livingston Jeffries qualifies as an Immortal Nobody.

And in case you don't know who Robert Livingston Jeffries was named after, do a Google search on Robert Livingston and you will find he is right in there with the others - and he was in the right place at the right time to help secure the Louisiana Purchase for the U.S.

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