Sunday, September 18, 2011

Parental Kidnapping: Civil War Vet, John McCray, Devoted His Life to Searching for His Children

FULL TEXT: How many minor tragedies there are of which the world has no knowledge. Less than a week ago there was sounded the last note in a long drawn minor strain to which one man’s life had been attuned for nearly thirty years. An unknown man was knocked down by a horse that ran away in a Pittsburgh street. Two or three hours later he died, but before the end came he said his name was John McGray and that he had served with the Ninth Illinois Cavalry during the war.

In 1862 John McGray, then a prosperous Chicago merchant, enlisted in the Union army and went to the front, leaving behind him a wife and two children. After three years of faithful effort on behalf of the flag he returned home only to discover that his wife had abandoned him and had taken the little ones with her. Those two children were very dear to John McGray. In camp, on the march, and amid the roar of conflict their images were often before his eyes. He would not give them up. Disposing of his remnants of property he started out to seek his own.

Patiently and with fidelity that knew no wavering he continued his quest but without any appearance of encouragement. Then his money gave out and the search moved less rapidly but without diminution in its persistence. With but one object in life the soldier worked at whatever occupation he could find, scorning charity, until funds enough had been saved to make another movement possible. From state to state he wandered, occasionally believing he had a clue, but more frequently groping in the dark.

He was looking for employment in Pittsburgh when that runaway horse came along, and then, perhaps, John McCray found his children.

[“Perhaps He Found the Children – Sad Life Romance, Beginning with the War and Ending Last Week,” Chicago Tribune (Il.), May 19, 1893, p. 18]

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