My Civil War Ancestor was Injured 150 years ago today at the Battle of Cumberland Church

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Infantry

I want to pay special tribute to my 2x great grandfather George Washington Lowery who was shot during the Battle of Cumberland Church, outside of Farmville, VA. 150 years ago today.

Just a little info on my great great grandfather, George Washington Lowery. He was drafted July 19, 1864 at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Next he was assigned to Co. A, 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry for three years. Born in Franklin County, PA my grandpa was a 37-year-old laborer at enlistment time. At 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a fair complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair, he was an average guy, his description was not uncommon for the time.

After a brief two-month training stint to make my “every-day man” grandfather a soldier, Lowery and the rest of the recently drafted recruits were sent to join their regiment. The 81st Pennsylvania had been mired with the rest of the Second Corps at Petersburg, Virginia, which had been under siege for months. Even though they were in the midst of war, it’s been written that many Confederate officers who lived in the area were able to slip away and visit with family and attend Sunday church services. The fighting here didn’t come in intense bursts as so many other battlefields but it was long, hard months of exhaustive trench warfare.

But soon my great great grandfather learned the true magnitude of war. His regiment pulled out of Petersburg and was involved in what is known as Lee’s Retreat.

He was part of the pursuit of Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, west across the state, in the final week of the war. The experiences this regiment endured would hardened any soldier. This was the time George experienced the full impact of fighting.

The nine months dug in at Petersburg probably did not prepare him for sleeping only moments at a time, the constant skirmishes and out-right battles. His regiment continually moving, marching with the weight of supplies and a rifle. Smoke so heavy in the air an infantryman couldn’t see where his bullet hit if it hit anything at all.

The regiment found sporadic food consumption a luxury. Yet above all that – experiencing those you’d come to depend on, your fellow soldiers, your friends, ripped apart by flying shrapnel. The thud of a minie-ball as it plunges into a human body. The yelling, cursing, and then slow moans as the injured soon become casualties. It was during this time my great great grandfather came to know the full meaning of war.

There was the fighting at White Oak Road, where the Confederates prevailed. The battle at Sutherland Station was a union triumph due in great part to the fighting of the 81st. The battle at Sailor’s Creek was some of the bloodiest fighting of the war, yet recognition has been lost to the surrender at Appomattox, which was only three days later. There was the skirmish at High Bridge, reminiscent of a modern day movie.

Then just outside Farmville, on April 7, 1865, the Battle of Cumberland Church took place, where George Washington Lowery was wounded. As the 81st Pennsylvania, 2nd NYHA and part of the 5th NH encountered Confederate soldiers entrenched upon the ridge surrounding a church, intense fighting broke out. A minie-ball struck my great great grandfather in the chest, one and a fourth inches below the right nipple. The ball traveled through his body, ranging downward and lodged against the skin about a half inch right of his backbone, where it was taken out by an Army Surgeon the day after he was shot.

Transferred to Carver Hospital in Washington DC my grandfather recuperated there for two months. He was honorably discharged with a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability June 5, 1865, and went home to his wife and children back in Franklin County, PA.

I want to dedicate this post to you George Washington Lowery, my great great grandpa. I want to honor you and just let you know I’m so proud of you and so glad I have the honor of being your descendant.

Civil War Saturday – Medical Cards

Carver General Hospital, Washington City

Carver General Hospital Photo Credit: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, (Record Group 111) Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives. No known restrictions on publication.

About a month or so ago I saw wrote a blog post about Civil War Medical Cards. These are medical files, for Union Civil War soldiers, and are housed at the National Archives in Washington DC.

These Medical Cards document the health issues of Union Civil War soldiers. If your ancestor was wounded or contracted an illness the details were recorded on a card.

This information is not found in a pension file or in a Compiled Military Service Record. Medical Cards are a file all their own.

The files can contain a lot of information you may not already have, and like all files some cards are may be more detailed than others.

Some of the information you may find on the cards: the injury or illness the soldier suffered, the kind of treatment he received, where he recuperated like a field hospital or a barracks. There’s also the results of his injury or illness such as a surgeons certificate of discharge, return to regiment, or died. There can be a list of the soldiers personal belongings, and even information on the soldiers family or next of kin.

Civil War Medical Cards are available for you to research at the National Archives if you happen to be going there. But even better than that, copies of the files are free upon request.

Let me tell you about my experience.

I went to the National Archives site and emailed, – If you scroll down on this link there is an email form further down on the page titled:
I have a question about research and records at NARA” with a text box to fill in your request. I asked for a copy of three of my ancestors Civil War Medical Cards. I included their name, rank, regiment and company in my request.

Pvt. George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Pvt. James R Vanmeter Co F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
Cpl. George S Vanmeter Co F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

and then further down on the page was a form for your name, address, etc.

It only took two weeks and I received copies of the Medical Cards of my three ancestors by snail mail. Now their medical cards didn’t contain all the details listed above but I did learn new information on two of the soldiers.

For example my great-great-grandfather, George W Lowery, was wounded in the right chest at the Battle of Cumberland Church on April 7, 1865. That’s all the information I had.

Through his Medical Card I found that his gunshot wound to the right breast received a simple dressing after battle. He went to a field hospital on April 8th in City Point, Virginia. Then on April 15th he was transported on the U.S.A. Hospital Steamer Connecticut to Carver Hospital in Washington DC. He was discharged from the hospital June 7, 1865 and mustered out of the army.

New bits of information on our ancestors is always exciting and this was no exception. I have new leads to follow up.

If your Union Civil War ancestor was ill or injured during the war contact the National Archives for his Medical Cards. This free research information may be just the info you need to tear into a brick wall.

Happy Researching!

I’d put my “I voted today” sticker on her headstone if I lived nearby

So last week I’m scrolling through Facebook minding my own business, watching videos

Susan B. Anthony Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Susan B. Anthony Photo Credit: Wikipedia

of babies and puppies and liking pics from old high school classmates when I come to a complete stop. Posted among the silly and senseless on Facebook was a photo of Susan B. Anthony’s headstone with several “I voted today” stickers on it and a small bouquet of flowers laying at the base.

It was incredibly moving. Tears came to my eyes. It’s very rare that anything on Facebook resonates with me to that extent but this – several women paying their respects on election day to this courageous woman who fought for women’s right to vote was extraordinary.

So I did a little research. I’m ashamed to say I only had a general idea when the suffrage movement occurred and was hazy on which amendment gave women the right to vote and when it passed. The 19th Amendment ratified on August 18, 1920 gave all women who were U.S. citizens the right to vote. In fact the movement started in the mid-1800s and most women who marched, wrote and lobbied for this cause didn’t live to see the passage of this amendment.

Next I took a look at my own family tree. How did the 19th amendment affect my female ancestors? On my maternal side I had a great grandmother, Sudie L. Barron Lowery, (my maternal grandfather’s mother) who was 46 years old in 1920 and my maternal grandmother, Gladys Marshall Lowery, who was 28 years old in 1920. Her mother had already passed by 1920 and my mom was born in 1919.

On my father’s side my paternal female ancestors found a great grandmother, Josephine Geullbert Frueh, (my paternal grandfather’s mother) who was 71 years old in 1920 and the other, Irene Waller Nantz, (my paternal grandmother’s mother) was 48 years old. My paternal grandmother, Flora A. Nantz Frueh was 32 years old in 1920. (I didn’t realize until this moment that my great grandmother was 16 years old when she gave birth to my grandmother. I will double check those dates.)

So what does that mean? My great grandmothers that were alive in 1920 were well into middle age even elderly by the time they got the right to vote. I wonder if it mattered to them? I wonder how they felt about finally being able to express their opinions through voting? Was it a wonderful reality or insignificant? In their view was voting best left to men anyway?

Both my grandmothers were young vital, women at 28 and 32 years old. Were they excited? Almost giddy at the prospect of finally being counted when it came time to elect officials, determine taxes and add laws to our state constitution? Women’s right to vote was a hotly contested topic their entire lifetime. How I wish I knew how they felt when they finally received the right to vote!

Susan B Anthony headstone Photo Credit:  Sarah Jane McPike

Susan B Anthony headstone Photo Credit: Sarah Jane McPike

My final thought here is that there is only one female generation that precedes me who has always been able to vote. Only my mother grew up knowing she could vote when she came of age. Just ONE generation before me!

I am astounded and deeply grateful for the women who came before and worked and lobbied and suffered untold disgrace and hardship to gain for me the right to vote. Thank you Susan B. Anthony and all the suffragettes. I would most certainly put my “I voted today” sticker on your headstone if I lived nearby but better yet maybe I should investigate who the women in my area were that championed women’s right to vote. Then by the time the next election rolls around I’ll be able to thank those who lived near me for such a valuable privilege. Maybe you’ll do the same.

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.

George Washington Lowery #52 Ancestors

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Infantry

This week’s 52 Ancestors post holds a very special place in my genealogy heart. I’m writing about my 2x great grandfather George Washington Lowery. He is the only direct ancestor I can prove fought in the Civil War. He was born 10 January 1828 in Martin, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately I don’t know (yet) who George’s parents are or about any of his siblings. I do know he married Barbara Ann Lowe 7 July 1853 in Waynesboro, Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

The part of George’s life my sister and I have concentrated on researching is his Civil War service. He was drafted July 19, 1864 at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He was assigned to Co. A, 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry for three years. George was a 37-year-old laborer. At 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a fair complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair, he was an average guy, his description was not uncommon for the time.

Serving during the latter part of the war he was a draftee. I suspect my grandfather left his wife and six children a bit reluctantly to answer the call of his country.

After a brief two-month training to make him and the rest of the recruits into soldiers, my great grandfather and his fellow comrades were sent to join their regiment. The 81st Pennsylvania had been mired with the rest of the Second Corps at Petersburg, Virginia, which had been under siege for months which lasted from late 1864 into spring 1865. Continue reading