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.

My Civil War Research began with George Washington

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

George Washington Lowery that is! He’s my g-g-grandfather who fought in the Civil War. He was 38 years old, with six children when he joined the 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in July 1864. After brief military training he joined the 81st in Petersburg, VA, during that long nine month siege. In the following spring of 1865 the war again heated up. During the last few days of March and the first week of April, my g-g-grandfather George Washington Lowery along with much of the Second Corps, pursued General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Norther Virginia, west across the state.

My ancestor saw more fighting in one week than the previous months combined. They battled the Confederates at Five Forks and Sutherland Station. They clashed at High Bridge and then onto Farmville where a battle at the Cumberland Church on April 7, 1865 left G. W. Lowery wounded in the chest. Just two days before Appomattox.

Thankfully I can say my story doesn’t end there on a battlefield in central Virginia. My Civil War soldier was sent to Carver Hospital in Washington and two months later recovered enough to be discharged. He was mustered out of the army two weeks after that. The war for him was finally over.

George Washington Lowery went home to Franklin County, Pennsylvania and resumed his life. Good thing, because my great-grandfather Charles was born to George W. and his wife Barbara in 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War.

Ancestors In A Nation Divided

I’ll bet George would be surprised to learn my search to know more about his Civil War service turned into regular blog posts and even a book!

If you’re interested in learning more of 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.

We’re going to use some of our previous Civil War research and do something different. We’re going on a road trip!

Civil War, 81st Pennsylvania Infantry, Sailor's Creek Battlefield

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

One of the many helpful sources in searching your Civil War ancestor is the unit’s regimental history. There you will learn where the regiment was formed and its years of service, its officer’s names and battles fought. A regimental history is a road map of where your ancestor journeyed during this time in our country’s history.

Let’s take for example the 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Which also happens to be the regiment my ancestor fought with. Now I know my ancestor joined 19 July 1864 and joined the 81st in November of 1864 after two months training. He mustered out of the infantry on 25 June 1865. So let’s take a look at movements of the 81st Pennsylvania during those eleven months.

My ancestor, George W. Lowery would have joined up with his regiment, the 81st at Petersburg, VA. In November 1864 Petersburg was under siege. The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac were entrenched around the city. Months of fighting had resulted in a multitude of deaths and eventually Grant’s army successfully cut off the Confederate’s supply lines resulting in the fall of Richmond. Without the very basics like food, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia moved west across the state in early April 1865, pursued by Grant and Union forces, which included my g-g-grandfather.

Following this trail, outlined in the regimental history, I can now “march” along with my Civil War ancestor. I’ve made this trek twice. Once with my husband and another time with my genealogy-minded sister.

Civil War, 81st Pennsylvania, Sailor's Creek Battlefield

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

I picked up the trail traveling west out of Petersburg to the little known Battle of White Oak Road. I’ve walked the paths there through trees and underbrush imagining troops bursting through the foliage. Making my way back to the small graveled parking lot I slipped a pine cone in my pocket. It was a physical connection for me. I was standing where my Civil War ancestor had been. Continue reading

I’ve had a couple misses but this past week it happened!

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

We research our family history. We blog about it. We continue to research. We keep blogging. Weeks go by then months.

I’ve had a couple misses but this past week it happened! It was a bulls eye! It was right on the mark! I checked my email Wednesday morning and this is what I found:

Guess what…George Washington Lowery was also my Great Great Grandfather…. born in Franklin County PA. Moving to Ohio after the Civil War to the outskirts of Sandusky….
He is the father of my grandfather Calvin Tyler…
I have found records back to his parents in Virginia around 1803 as Susan was the mother of George. George’s wife was named Barbara I do believe.
I would love to discuss and share any information that you have as I am only an hour away from the Adams County Courthouse, loaded with records, located in Franklin County here in PA. Please reply and thanks in advance!

Eureka!! Pay dirt!! A distant cousin who stumbled on my blog! I can’t reply fast enough to this email. After several email conversations back and forth which compare names and descendants I am positive we are distant cousins! We agree to share information. We trade addresses.

Then another email comes: Continue reading

Genealogy’s Thankful Thursday on my blog

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Today is Thankful Thursday and I’m going to take a cue from the Ancestry.com commercial we’ve all seen so many times. The one where the woman says her great-grandmother had five children, yet only one survived. She then says, “It’s easy to forget just how lucky we are,” or something very similar.

I know just what you’re saying Ancestry.com lady. I immediately thought of my g-g-grandfather who fought in the Civil War. He was 38 years old, with six children when he joined the 81st Penn. Inf in July 1864. After his brief training he joined the troops in Petersburg, VA, during that long nine month siege. In the following spring of 1865 the war again heated up. During the last few days of March and the first week of April, my g-g-grandfather George Washington Lowery along with much of the Second Corps, pursued General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Norther Virginia, west across the state.

My ancestor saw more fighting in one week than the previous months combined. They battled the Confederates at Five Forks and Sutherland Station. They clashed at High Bridge and then onto Farmville where a battle at the Cumberland Church on April 7, 1865 left G. W. Lowery wounded in the chest. Just two days before Appomattox.
Thankfully I can say my story doesn’t end there on a battlefield in central Virginia. My Civil War soldier was sent to Carver Hospital in Washington and two months later recovered enough to be discharged. He was mustered out of the army only two weeks after that. The war was finally over.
George Washington Lowery went home to Franklin County, Pennsylvania and resumed his life. Good thing, because my great-grandfather Charles was born to George W. and his wife Barbara in 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War.

On this Thursday I’m thankful my ancestor was a Civil War veteran and not a casualty.