The story of the Lad is one of the great American tales, a tale of survival in the midst of tragedy.
In 1869, as a teenager, a young girl named Emma went missing from her home in rural North Carolina.
Police, desperate for answers, called on a local man, George W. Lathrop, who led them to a remote corner of the woods.
A few miles away, the remains of a teenage girl were found, her throat cut and her body covered in a white sheet.
Her father, James, had also been killed, and the remains were later found near a cabin where his son had been staying.
Lathsrop, a man of few words, confessed to the crime and was sentenced to death.
The following year, Lathrops mother, Emma, was executed.
A decade later, Lathsrops youngest brother, John, escaped from prison and joined the Confederate Army.
He was captured near Savannah, Georgia, and later became a Confederate soldier in the war.
As John Lathrot was drafted to fight in the Civil War, he became one of a select group of Union soldiers who were trained by Lathracs mother.
In 1861, John Lathsrot was promoted to corporal, and by 1863, he joined the 1st Regiment, 2nd Maine Volunteers.
As his regiment advanced through Virginia and Maryland, John was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The next year, his unit captured a Confederate fort near Richmond, Virginia.
The capture of Richmond was the first major Confederate victory since the Civil Wars began.
John Lathamot was among the lucky ones.
After the battle, he was named the first Lieutenant General of the Confederate States of America and became the first American officer to win the Distributed Belt Medal, the highest military decoration for valor.
He died at age 75 in 1865.
On a recent visit to the Lathraps home, I asked him if he could describe what he saw in that time, and he agreed.
“The first time I was out there, we had the worst rain we’d ever had,” he said.
“It was like being in a mud hole, and then we’d have a storm and everything just froze over.”
John Latharot’s life changed when his father, who was stationed at Fort George, died in the Battle of Bull Run.
He had been in the military for just six months, but he was in the most dangerous situation he had ever experienced.
He’d been deployed to the Philippines, where the Confederate general Charles P. Stuart was trying to capture Manila, when his unit was attacked by the Japanese.
Latharote was wounded in the shoulder and sent to a hospital.
There he was given morphine and given a bottle of the medicine called “black tea.”
John was in a state of shock.
He said he thought, This is it, I’m going to die.
But he said he couldn’t help but think about what he was going to do when he was released from the hospital.
“I was going back to my room and looking at the ceiling,” he recalled.
“And I thought, God, I wonder if that will ever happen again, and I wonder how I’ll get through this.”
He went back to his room, sat down, and began writing.
“Just sitting here in this bed and writing, I couldn’t believe it,” he explained.
“For the first time in my life, I thought of the world, and everything that was going on in it.
And I wrote, I hope I’m right.
I hope my mother and my father are alive.”
But after a few days, he began to realize that he couldn.
“Then I remembered that my brother had been killed in the battle and that he was my father.
And it hit me really hard,” he continued.
“So I started to write, and my writing started to go, I know, I want to do something, I don’t know what.
So I went and got the black tea and put it in my mouth.
And then I said, This, is it.
I know I’m wrong, but I’ve got to do it.”
He started taking the medicine.
“That night, I was in my room,” he remembered.
“My mother came in and said, ‘John, you’re getting better.
I’m worried you’ve just had a vision of your father.’
And I said,’ I’ve had one too many, Mom.
I’ve just seen him.
He’s not here.’
And she said, I have to go and see my husband.’
And when I went home, my father was gone.
And he was gone and I was gone.”
John spent two weeks in the hospital, recovering from the shock of being separated from his mother.
He told me that after two weeks he started thinking about what the world would be like if he wasn’t with his father.
“If he wasn’ there,” he remembers, “I never would have had this vision. I would