Ten Things To-Do for your Civil War ancestor

Civil War, 4th OVC, Noel Clayton, Civil War Saturday, genealogy researchSince you stopped by today chances are you love doing genealogy research. You’re a family historian who wants to learn all you can about the people that came before you.

In fact, seeing that you’re here, you’re probably doing some pretty serious research on your Civil War ancestor too. You’re like me. You’ve got to know about his military life. What did he do during the war? Was he injured? Was he a hero? How did it affect his family?

So to add a little spice to your research here’s a Civil War To-Do list. Just a few things you might take the time to do to help you better understand your Civil War ancestor. And it can be a lot of fun too!

Civil War Ancestor To-Do List

1. Research the uniform your ancestor wore. You can start here http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-uniforms or here http://www.memorialhall.mass.edu/activities/dressup/notflash/civil_war_soldier.html Google images for an idea of what your soldier wore. See the layers of clothing these men lived in and marched in. Take a look at the number and weight of items a regimental soldier carried on a daily basis.


2. Eat a little like he ate. Make their old stand-by: Hardtack or Johnnie cakes. Recipes below.

3. Spend some time looking at Civil War photographs, especially the newly colorized versions. Get a feel that these were real men who were lonely, hungry and scared, yet continued on with their duties. The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of Civil War era photos. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/

4. Find a book (check your library, Google) written specifically about a battle your ancestor fought in. Become really familiar with the movements of his regiment. Then:

5. Walk where he walked. Tour the battlefield(s) where your ancestor fought. Take a moment to imagine the sites and sounds he experienced there. The fear, the blood, the destruction. If you can’t do it physically do it virtually through Google maps.

6. Choose a Civil War era song and read the lyrics. Can you hear your ancestor humming it as he marched or set up camp? If he was a Confederate soldier it may have been Goober Peas, Bonnie Blue Flag or Dixie. If he was a Union man maybe it was Battle Hymn of the Republic, When Johnny Comes Marching Home or We Are Coming Father Abraham.


Civil War, 4th OVC, Jacob Seib, genealogy research

Civil War Reenactors – Photo Credit: Cindy Freed


7. Watch a Civil War movie. Even though movies aren’t exactly historically accurate and produced mainly for entertainment, there are scenes, costumes, firearms and battles portrayed that will help you identify with your Civil War ancestor. Try Glory, Gettysburg, Gone With the Wind or maybe North and South, Red Badge of Courage and most recently Lincoln.

8. Read a newspaper or two from the locale your ancestor was from that was published during the Civil War. Even though it was a week later, I was really surprised at how much coverage the battle at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) got in my own hometown newspaper. I should have known since a lot of men from the area fought there. It’s also neat to see the ads and events of the times. A great place to start your newspaper search is here. http://www.theancestorhunt.com/newspapers.html

9. Calculate the number of ancestors, direct and collateral, that fought in the Civil War. Did your family fight for both sides? You’ll be surprised at how the war affected your family with many members leaving home and joining the fight. Doing a little research on these extended family soldiers may produce some interesting and sought Pvt. George W Loweryafter family information.

10. Take a photo of yourself by your ancestor’s headstone or if that’s not possible take a photo of yourself at the nearest Civil War monument paying special attention to the inscription and who the memorial honors.

Now if you’ve done all or most of the items on this Civil War ancestor list there’s one last thing to-do. Write a short narrative about your Civil War ancestors military experience. You’ve “walked” in his steps, “tasted” his food, and “experienced” the sights and sounds of war. Whether you post it on your blog or slip it in his file, by documenting his story with your new awareness, you honor his service and that’s what the list is all about.

Let me know how you did working through the list or any suggestions you might have. Either way have fun with the Civil War Ancestor To-Do list!




Hardtack for the Union soldiers

2 cups of flour

1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat (bacon grease or lard was used in 1860s)

6 pinches of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff dough, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/4 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet.

Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut dough into 3-inch cracker squares. With a fork or skewer, punch four rows of holes, with about four holes per row, in each cracker.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn crackers over on the sheet and return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes or until every bit of moisture is gone.


Johnnie Cakes for the Confederate soldier

2 cups of cornmeal

2/3 cup of milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (bacon grease was used in 1860s)

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix ingredients into a stiff batter and form 8 biscuit-sized dodgers*. Bake on a lightly greased sheet for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Or you can spoon the batter into hot cooking oil in a frying pan over a low flame. Remove the corn dodgers and let cool on a paper towel, spread with a little butter or molasses. (If you were lucky enough to have butter or molasses.)


* Corn dodger – a cake of corn bread that is fried, baked, or boiled as a dumpling

Civil War Quick Tip

FBGenCircleLogo1Here is a database for researching the Applications for the Robert E. Lee Confederate Soldiers’ Home.

Be sure to click the links at the bottom of the page too for Robert E. Lee Confederate Soldiers’ Home Register of Residents, 1883 – 1939 and the About Robert E. Lee Confederate Soldiers’ Home Applications for Admission.

Exciting research possibility if you think your ancestor may have been a resident. Good luck! I hope you find some good stuff!



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 South’s Greatest Soldier?

John Hunt Morgan

Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan

John Hunt Morgan, a daring Confederate cavalry general, was seen as the epitome of southern chivalry and bravery by its citizens and supporters. Those in the north thought otherwise. They saw a dare devil, ruffian and marauder who was a constant threat to the Union army and the men in the western theater.
Whichever definition you choose there’s no doubt he was daring and adventurous and today a legend.

The Young Mr. Morgan

Morgan was born in Alabama but due to his father’s financial losses moved at the age of six with his parents and siblings to Kentucky. John grew up among his mother’s relatives and came to love Kentucky and regarded it as his homeland as much as they did.

As a young man John Hunt Morgan attended Transylvania College for a short time but was expelled for dueling with a fraternity brother. He went on to enlist with the 1st Kentucky Cavalry during the Mexican American War. There Morgan made a name for himself at the Battle of Buena Vista. This combat experience solidified his path for the rest of his life.

Morgan in the Civil War

Back home John established himself as a hemp manufacturer but his love of military led him to establish a militia known as the Lexington Rifles. He equipped this group out of his own pocket. There was no doubt once war was declared in 1861 Morgan would throw his support behind the confederacy along with his militia. The Lexington Rifles joined the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry and John Hunt Morgan was the regiment’s colonel.

The 2nd Kentucky Cavalry soon saw action at the Battle of Shiloh. Morgan was assigned to Joseph Wheeler’s division in Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. His gutsy behavior during battle soon spread throughout the south. Many saw a solid confederate future through the gritty military actions of John Hunt Morgan. Continue reading

Civil War Quick Tip for your Alabama Ancestor

FBGenCircleLogo1Here’s a great resource for researching your Alabama Civil War veteran.

This site, Alabama Civil War Roots, lists numerous helps for researching your ancestor. Everything from Alabama Soldiers with Florida Pensions to Civil War Letters. If your Civil War ancestor served in an Alabama regiment you’ll want to check this out.

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!

Anguished Ghost of Camp Chase

We’ve all read the stories of brave men cut down in their youth during vicious Civil War battles. Along similar lines are the many “after” stories. The ones that tell of ghosts clad in uniform, soldiers who have suffered a horrible death, haunting a battlefield or cemetery. Even though Ohio was pro-Union and only one battle was fought on her soil Ohio has not been left out of and

Civil War, ghosts, Camp Chase

Photo Credit: Dizzy at stock.xchng.com

Ohio was a backbone for the Union cause during the Civil War. Sending the third largest number of men into battle, it ranks only behind Pennsylvania and New York, in Civil War enlistment numbers. Along with that notable fact Ohio also housed two prisoner of war camps from 1861 to 1865. The most recognized of the two are Camp Chase. Located in the center of the state, Camp Chase was a mere four miles west of the capital, Columbus. Originally named Camp Jackson and used as a training ground for recruits, it was renamed Camp Chase to honor President Lincoln’s Secretary of State and native Ohioan, Salmon P. Chase.


When it became apparent the Union would need housing for rebel prisoners of war, Camp Chase which was a training facility for the newly enlisted or a discharge point for those leaving the service, also became the lockup for captured Confederate officers. As the war drug on, Johnson’s Island nestled in Lake Erie became the new prison for officers and rebel enlisted men were detained at Camp Chase.


As with all Civl War prisons Camp Chase was horribly overcrowded. At it’s peak 9,200 captured rebel soldiers were held there with two to three men sharing a single bunk. Food and medicines were scarce and disease ran rampant. A small pox epidemic spread unchecked through the facility killing many men. By war’s end 2,200 Confederate prisoners had died while confined at Camp Chase.


These souls were buried in a Confederate cemetery on the grounds of the camp. Their graves marked with wooden headboards that eventually fell into disrepair and were replaced with stone markers. Over the years the remnants of Camp Chase was claimed by the growing city of Columbus. All that remains today is the Confederate cemetery and the Lady in Gray.


Seen and heard by many over the years, the Lady in Gray is a young woman in her late teens or early twenties clothed in 1860s traveling clothes. Her cries and weeping can be heard through the cemetery as she stoops over each headstone as if reading the etched names. Continue reading