Civil War Saturday – It’s been 150 years

Sometimes the present takes precedence over the past and that’s what happened with this blog post. I intended to write and publish it last Saturday July 19th but my daughter had an out of town, three-day volleyball tournament. We made some fun family memories and a little family history of our own last weekend and this post easily waited one more week. Here’s what I had planned for last Saturday . . .

You know how we love to mark monumental events in our family’s lives like turning 21 or celebrating 50th birthdays and wedding anniversaries? It’s ingrained in our culture to recognize such events. I’m adding one more to my own list of family birthdays and anniversaries. In fact I’m going to honor it for the next year! It’s the 150th anniversary of my great-great grandfather’s involvement in the Civil War.

On July 19, 1864 – 150 years ago my great-great grandfather George W. Lowery was drafted and mustered in to serve with the 81st Pennsylvania Infantry. He reported to Chambersburg, which is Franklin County’s seat and incidently had been burned a year earlier by Confederate forces.

George was a 37 year old man with six children. A laborer, standing 5’9” tall with dark hair and gray eyes, his description fit most men of the era. His enlistment was for three years.

By September 5, 1864 George was at Camp Biddle in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Camp Biddle was a piece of land northeast of the army post at Carlisle where Civil War draftees and substitutes received their military training. Camp Biddle had recently opened in April 1864 just a few months before George ended up there.

As I remember the Civil War events in George’s life I know questions will pop up. Like Camp Biddle. I’d overlooked that in the past. Now I’m interested in where and what it was. How long was George there and so on.

You can come along with me on this journey. Where was your Civil War ancestor 150 years ago? Sometimes being very specific helps us narrow our research and produce better results. Less distractions. Researching one single topic like Camp Biddle is not as overwhelming as researching the life and times of my Civil War ancestor! Break his service down into manageable pieces and I bet you’ll accomplish more than you imagined.

So whether you research along with me or check in to see what George was doing 150 years ago I hope this helps you take another look at researching your Civil War ancestor.

(1) George W. Lowery, Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldier Who Served in Organizations From the State of Pennsylvania compiled 1899-1927, documenting the period 1861-1866, publication no. M554 (Washington: National Archives), fiche 0073.

Civil War Quick Tip: Really? I was fascinated by this guy’s story

FBGenCircleLogo1A couple of years ago I wrote a monthly article for a local Civil War Roundtable’s newsletter. I was in charge of writing about the next meeting’s speaker. One month the speaker was an acquaintance of mine. His office was one floor below where I worked. It was one of the easier interviews to set up and write.

The guy I was interviewing was easy-going and didn’t know a stranger. After talking about his collection of reproduced Civil War firearms he spoke of his own Civil War ancestor.

His great grandfather had fought with a company raised in our hometown. He survived the war, completing his enlistment, but not without a lasting affect. It seems his great grandfather spent nearly every night after coming home from the war going downtown to a local bar. Then later that evening my friend’s great grandmother went to the bar and brought her drunken husband home.

Apparently this Civil War veteran held a job during the day but needed booze nearly every night to chase the ghosts and ease the pain of his war years. My friend then relayed how the Civil War had a direct impact on his life.

His grandmother, the veteran’s daughter grew up with this drunken father. She was vehemently opposed to drinking throughout her life. Her own daughter, my interview’s mother, was also staunchly against drinking and my friend remembered the many lectures he received about the evils of drinking from both women as he grew up.

It was only later in his life, when this man working well into his retirement years, realized it wasn’t that his mother and grandmother didn’t trust him when it came to drinking. They were hurt by their loved one’s traumatic war experience and how he coped with it. They didn’t want that life for their son and grandson.

I was fascinated by this guy’s story. Who would have thought this man in his early seventies could pin-point how the Civil War had affected his life decades later? Even into the 21st century!

Do you have a similar family practice or belief that’s been passed down through the generations? Can you trace a family habit, good or bad, to a specific ancestor?

Write your story down. Blog about it, even if it’s only two paragraphs long. Don’t lose that insight to history. You’ll not only preserve another valuable piece of your family history but it may jog our memory, your readers, to some of our own specific family beliefs or customs.

If you do write a blog post or already have please leave a link in the comments. We all love to read the stories that make our ancestors real people. I hope you do I’m looking forward to it!

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If you’re interested in researching your Civil War ancestor’s story check out Ancestors In A Nation Divided – Kindle. Also in paperback. Great research help as you seek your veteran’s place in our country’s history.

Also I’d love for you to sign up for my monthly tipsCivil War Research Tips here. I’ll share pointers and info to help in researching your Civil War ancestor. Please take a moment to sign up and thanks so much!

The July Issue of Going In-Depth is Available!

Going In-Depth is a free, digital genealogy magazine presented by The In-Depth Genealogist. In each monthly issue, you’ll find guest articles, regular columns, and free resources such as Ask Ephraim and MIAA to help you along your family history journey. As with all IDG products, they strive to create a resource for every genealogist, no matter the age, stage, or focus of your research.

My article this month is “When It Comes To My Civil War Ancestor: No Diaries, No Letters, No Problem!” Click the magazine photo to start reading excellent genealogy research ideas for free!

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If you’re interested in researching your Civil War ancestor’s story check out Ancestors In A Nation Divided – Kindle. Also in paperback. Great research help as you seek your veteran’s place in our country’s history.

Do You Have a “Special Research Project”?

Pvt James R Van Meter

Pvt James R Van Meter

As family historians we all have niches in research we tend toward. A favorite ancestor or maybe an era in history we love to research. We might even have a “special research project” saved for when we have more time, money, vacation, etc.

Several years ago I was wandering a cemetery looking at family headstones and noticed a lone grave of a Civil War soldier. His marker was engraved with an eagle and the inscription “Rest Soldier Thy Warfare is Ore”. Oddly enough his surname was one in my family tree but I knew he wasn’t a direct ancestor. When I saw he was only 21 years old when he died I decided to learn about him.

I needed to find out about this young man who died in during the Civil War. Had he been shot in battle? I wondered if he had a wife? Did he leave children? My instinct was that he didn’t and even though I’m sure he was mourned by his parents and siblings it wasn’t too many years later that his name probably wasn’t mentioned again. Not out of malice of course – life goes on. Parents pass away, siblings marry and have families of their own. Brothers who died in the war are mentioned as a passing comment.

So here I was 140+ years after this young soldier’s death, kneeling next to his headstone, telling him I’d learn about his life and he’d never be forgotten. At that moment he became my special project.

imageDo you have a Civil War ancestor you’d like to research? Not sure where to begin? Ancestors In A Nation Divided will guide you through the steps of researching your Civil War ancestor. From the beginning if you only have a name – to an in-depth search of his military and post-war life. This book will take you through the process step-by-step. Ancestors In A Nation Divided – Kindle. Also in paperback. Great research help in learning more about your Civil War veteran’s life.

Ancestors In A Nation Divided

imageDo you have a Civil War ancestor you’d like to research?

Not sure where to begin?

Ancestors In A Nation Divided will guide you through the steps of researching your Civil War ancestor.

From the beginning if you only have a name – to an in-depth search of his military and post-war life.

This book will take you through the process step-by-step. Ancestors In A Nation Divided – available in Kindle. Also in paperback. and as a .PDF too!

Great research help in learning more about your Civil War veteran’s life.