The Battle of Gettysburg, the 20th Maine and George Washington

Little Round Top Gettysburg National Battlefield

Little Round Top viewed from Devils Den – Gettysburg National Battlefield

What hasn’t been said about the infamous battle that took place in the tiny southern Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg? The Army of the Potomac clashed with the Army of Northern Virginia in a savage three day battle that resulted in horrendous loss of life. Both sides suffered substantially with more than 51,000 casualties, nearly one third of all those who fought.

Millions of words have been written about specific events of those three days. The heroic stand of Buford and his cavalry the first day. The bloody assaults at the Wheatfield where possession of the land changed hands multiple times that afternoon. The decimation of Pickett’s Charge but none may be as memorable as the fight waged by Union Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and the men of the 20th Maine at the battle for Little Round Top.

We all know the story. It was the second day of battle at Gettysburg. The Union troops grip on the high ground of Cemetery Ridge was slipping. To shore up the Union’s defensive position troops were dispersed to the hills just south of town. General George Sickles was to move his II Corps to a hill known as Little Round Top. His reinforcements would bolster a weak Union line and was ordered by the Union commander himself, General George Meade. Yet Sickles in one of the greatest blunders known to military minds took it upon himself to defy orders. He moved his troops about a mile away into a heated battle at the Peach Orchard. Sickles left the Union left flank completely open to devastation. If Confederate troops could exploit this breach the Union line would fall like dominoes losing the high ground, maybe even the entire battle to the rebels.

The vulnerability of the Union line left by Sickles at Little Round Top was soon discovered. Col. Chamberlain and his men were immediately dispensed to bolster the inadequate defenses there. It was while these troops were heading toward Little Round Top that an unimaginable event occurred.

The men had come to a fork in the road. Being unfamiliar with the territory the 20th Maine wasn’t sure which route to take. It was at this point a huge white stallion appeared out of nowhere. The horse and rider had an ethereal air about them. Some of the men later called it an eerie glow. The rider erect in the saddle wore a tri-cornered hat and old fashioned clothes. Those soldiers who got a glimpse of his face swore it was the very man who fought for and fathered this country decades before, George Washington. Although dead for 60+ years the men had seen paintings and etchings of Washington and were sure this was who was directing their path to Little Round Top. If the appearance of George Washington wasn’t enough some men said Washington raised his sword and led the troops to the appropriate position on Little Round Top. Continue reading

Crafting Genealogy: Family Photo Blocks

Family Photo BlocksWelcome back to Crafting Genealogy! This time around we’re going to make some Family Photo Blocks. This project is really easy, inexpensive and can be done in just an hour or so.

Let’s gather our supplies and get started. You’ll need:

Children’s blocks or pieces of wood

Sandpaper

Acrylic paint/small craft paint brushes

Vaseline

Copies of family photos

Modge Podge

Gathering our supplies

My husband bought the children’s blocks I used. He loves to bargain hunt and stops at garage sales, yard sales, etc. So he bought some older blocks at one of the sales he stopped at. As you can see it was a few blocks, not a complete set, so I was limited in some of my options. I was able to pick out the words “Our Family” and spelled that out with the blocks. I used the rest of the blocks to add my photos.

You could also use some scraps of wood instead of children’s blocks. If you have a spare 2×4 or 2×6 you could cut them into small blocks for this project.

Rough them up with a little sanding

First off I grabbed a piece of sandpaper and sanded the corners to make sure they had a worn, distressed look. I like most of my craft projects to look like they’re old and vintage. I wiped the blocks off with a cloth after sanding to make sure there wasn’t any dust clinging to them for the next step.

Family Photo Blocks

Painting. I decided to use a two step method to paint the blocks. I’m only painting a side or two on each of my spare blocks. First I put a base coat of gray on the side of the blocks where I’m adding the photos. I used gray because that was the color I had on hand. You could use any color or none at all. When the gray paint dried I put some Vaseline on the edges of the blocks. Some blocks had a little more Vaseline than others and you’ll be able to see that in the finished product.

The Vaseline keeps the second coat of paint from sticking to the previous coat. So with the Vaseline applied I put the yellow topcoat of paint over both layers. Once this top coat dried completely I used fine sandpaper on the corners of the yellow painted sides to reveal some of the gray underneath giving the blocks a distressed look. If I sanded off too much yellow I went back and painted over that area.

Since my blocks were small I used very small photos. I picked a few out of my stash of copied family photos. With the wet adhesive used in this project you’ll need prints from a laser printer or printed professionally from Walgreens or WalMart. Ink jet photo copies will smear with this adhesive. I love using my vintage family pics but current photos work just as well. Once I chose my pics I cut them down to fit the blocks.

Using the Modge Podge I put a light coat of adhesive on the painted side of a block. I let it sit for just a moment to dry to a tacky state. Then I added a light coat of Modge Podge to the back of the photo. Now I pressed the photo on the block. I tapped the photo with the end of my paint brush to make sure the edges of the pic were pressed down. Finally I added a light coat of Modge Podge over the block and pic to seal it. I let the Modge Podge dry completely and then I arranged my finished blocks.

Family Photo Blocks

I completed my Family Photo Blocks in just a couple of hours and used supplies I already had on hand. I think the next batch I make I’ll use scrap wood pieces cut a little larger. Although I really like my finished project here, larger blocks will allow me to use larger photos and I’ll also be able to use any color scheme I’d like. Either way these Family Photo Blocks are a fun, easy project and would be great to do with the kids and grandkids. Enjoy Crafting Genealogy!!

Civil War Quick Tip: Take a look at the FamilySearch Memorial Day post

Memorial Day CrossesI hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. and that you got the chance to honor our fallen soldiers either in a moment of silent tribute or by visiting a cemetery.

Memorial Day is a holiday that has its roots in the Civil War. It was originally known as “Decoration Day” and folks both north and south set aside a specific spring day to pay tribute to their fallen veterans by decorating their graves.

FamilySearch.org did a neat blog post on May 22nd. They asked family historians to share stories of their favorite Civil War ancestor. I was honored to be among the four and wrote a short piece about my own Civil War ancestor. You can find that post here.

Along with some really moving stories about Civil War soldiers, FamilySearch gives several suggestions for Civil War research in their vast databases. You’re sure to find a tip, a record set, or a new search idea that will help you find more on your Civil War ancestors.

So please take a look at the FamilySearch post, “Family Historians Share Stories of Their Favorite Civil War Ancestors” and maybe leave a comment about your favorite or most interesting Civil War ancestor either on their blog or right here in my comments. I’d love to read about your own favorite or interesting Civil War ancestor.

A Little Decorating on Decoration Day

With Memorial Day this past weekend my gene-buddy sister and I headed out on Saturday morning to “decorate” the graves of our Civil War ancestors and any soldier we found that needed a flag. Actually most cemeteries are very good at marking the graves of all veterans for the Memorial Day holiday. We added flags to just a couple graves.

George W Lowery Co A 81st Pennsylvania

George W Lowery  Co A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

Our first stop was to honor our direct Civil War ancestor George W Lowery. He was a private and served with Co. A 81st Pennsylvania until he was wounded at the Battle of Cumberland Church on 7 April 1865. Two days later Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Our great great grandfather missed Appomattox by two days!! Thankfully he recovered from his injury, came home and fathered my great-grandfather.

 

Phillip Lowe

Next we stop at the grave of Phillip Lowe. This is my sister arranging his flag and flowers. Phillip Lowe is either our 3x great grandfather or our 2x great uncle. You know how that goes. Lots of Phillip Lowes in our family and we’re still trying to find the records that will identify each one individually. We’re honoring Phillip Lowe’s service with Co. D 112th Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery.

 

James R and George S Vanmeter

Next we leave flowers for our first cousins – four times removed James R and George S Vanmeter. They were brothers and both served with Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. George was wounded while with the 4th and was discharged and sent home. Meanwhile James died of “lung fever” in February 1864 and is buried in a local cemetery. George reenlisted with Co. G 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. He died on the battle field 13 April 1864 outside of Florence Alabama. His body was never recovered. So we honor George by placing his flowers alongside his brother James.

 

Thomas William

Thomas Williams is a half-brother to our 2x great grandfather Isaac Williams. That makes him our half great great uncle (?) or something like that. As you can see Thomas fought with Co. B 129th OVI and Co. D 161st OVI. I know very little about him. I really need to spend some research time on Thomas and get back to researching Phillip Lowe too!

 

Hidden Soldier Julius Curtiss

Then we found this hidden soldier resting peacefully among this greenery. We set his GAR marker upright and added a flag.

Julius Curtiss

I’m glad we were able to mark the grave of Corporal Julius Curtiss of the 151st OVI on this Memorial Day.

My sister and I went to four cemeteries on Saturday and walked every inch of three of them. You know how happy that makes a genealogist! It was a beautiful day and we were so glad we could honor a lot of Civil War veterans. Did you write a blog post honoring one of your Civil War veterans? Why don’t you put the link to your post in the comments. I’d really like to read about your veteran ancestor.

Remembering His Ultimate Sacrifice

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend I thought I’d dedicate my posts to the Civil War veterans in my family. Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day was set aside to honor and remember Civil War soldiers. So in this post I want to remember my first cousin 4x removed who both fought and died in the Civil War George S. Van Meter.

George S. Vanmeter born in 1841 was the third of seven children to parents John and Rachel Stevenson Vanmeter. John and Rachel had deep roots in Putnam County, Ohio. Both were born there, they married there and started their family there nestled in a prosperous farming community. (John’s brother James is my 3x great grandfather.)

George’s closest friend and playmate growing up may well have been his brother James. Only 22 months younger, I’ll bet James and George were close. Their reliance on each other may have been strengthened when the family left their home, grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins to live in Lucas County, Ohio. Quite a distance from their relatives and friends, the family farmed in their new location. Their close family ties came to a screeching halt when John the family patriarch died in 1851.

Cannon at Battle of Five Forks Virginia

Cannon at Battle of Five Forks Virginia
Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

George was only 10 years old when his father died. Along with his siblings he brought his father’s body back to Putnam County to be buried. Laid to rest among family members John Vanmeter’s death rocked this family to its very core.

Mother Rachel could not support her seven children ranging in age from 13 years to baby John just over one year old. The children were sent to live with aunts and uncles in the area. Their family was broken apart.

George and James lived in different households for a few years. Living with extended family I think they were able to see each other at church and other gatherings. Yet those years separated didn’t diminish their brotherly love.

When politics became tumultuous in the early 1860’s and war became a reality the Vanmeter brother’s were quick to answer the president’s call for troops. Together both young men, George 20 years old and James now 18 joined Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in the village of Rockport. They enlisted on September 6, and mustered in November 12, 1861.

The boys enlisted to serve their president, their country and maybe even to make their late father proud. Although in the same company their time spent together soon ended as James was sick often with lung disease and spent much time in and out of the hospital. George went on serving gallantly with the 4th.

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

The next events of George’s life can only be stated as facts without a lot of details. He married Samantha Allison January 27, 1862 in Allen County, Ohio. Perhaps he had permission to leave his company long enough to go home to wed. Next George is listed in the hospital on May 14, 1862 in Murfreesboro, TN and then discharged with a surgeon’s certificate of disability on June 16, 1862. His service to the 4th OVC complete. Going back home to join his bride, George and Samantha become the proud parents of a daughter Louisa on April 24, 1863.

George’s story doesn’t end here following a long, happy life and a house full of children. Whether he missed the camaraderie of his cavalry mates, had an overwhelming urge to preserve the union or he was pursued by a persistent enlistment officer, George did reenlist. This time in Co. G 9th OVC. He was mustered in as a private on October 9, 1863 just 16 months after receiving his discharge from the 4th.

Spending a couple of months at Camp Dennison the newly formed unit joined the regiment and was assigned patrol duty along the Tennessee River at Athens and Florence Alabama. On April 12, 1864 Co. G was spending the night on a farmer’s property near the river. George Vanmeter and a couple other men were on picket duty. The 27th and 35th Alabama completely surprised the men of the 9th OVC killing the three soldiers on picket duty and capturing the larger part of Co. G along with their horses, mules and supplies.

In that instant Samantha Vanmeter became a widow and Louisa a few days from her first birthday was fatherless. George Vanmeter was another casualty in the War Between the States.

In a strange twist of fate George’s brother James died seven weeks earlier at home on furlough. He succumbed to the continued illness and lung disease that wracked his body during his military service.

It’s not known where George Vanmeter is buried. His death is listed as “near Florence Alabama”. Perhaps he’s in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery or his final resting place is close to where he fell. In any event George gave “his last full measure” to his country.

So as celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow I want to remember my 1st cousin 4x removed George S. Van Meter. A casualty of the Civil War. A hero in his own right.