I see the soldiers, do you?

DUVCW Ohio Dept Convention - Sally in center

DUVCW Ohio Dept Convention – Sally in center

Many of you know that I belong to the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 (DUVCW). Our members are direct descendants of honorably discharged Union soldiers. Our goal is to “keep green the memory” of our Civil War ancestors.

Now I’ve been a member of the DUVCW for 18 years. I’ve been fairly active in my local group, called a tent, for the last 10 years.

All tents in our state meet yearly for a State or Department convention. The Ohio Dept. convention this year was lucky enough to have the DUVCW National Senior Vice President join us. Sally, was a lot of fun and we enjoyed her participation in the convention.

I had the good fortune to speak with Sally several times over the three day convention. Sally is a former history teacher and very knowledgeable about the Civil War.

One of our conversations will forever be etched in my mind. Sally had heard me give a brief description about my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided, to the members. I credited a visit to Gettysburg as the turning point in my life when I became committed to Civil War research. Specifically I talked about standing on Seminary Ridge and actually feeling the devotion to “the cause” that brought those soldiers there.

When Sally and I talked later she said she understood how I felt that day seven years ago in Gettysburg. Her father was a Civil War buff and when she was a child he took the family on many vacations to different battlefields. On every visit her dad would gaze out across the battlefield and say to her, “Sally can you see the soldiers?”

Of course at the time she was too young and didn’t understand what he was saying. But she looked me in the eye that day and said, “I see them today and I know you do too.”

Her comment nearly brought tears to my eyes. I see the soldiers. I see them when I go to Gettysburg, Chickamauga or follow my great great grandfather’s footsteps across Virginia just like his regiment did as they pursued Lee the final week of the war.

I see the smoky haze from continual artillery fire. I can feel the soldiers, their loyalty to their flag and their determination to fight for it. I do see the soldiers.

Something clicked with me during Sally’s comment as I realized that I see the soldiers. It sounds silly but the light bulb went off in my head. I knew right then I’m supposed to remember these soldiers and tell their story. My job is to make sure they are not lost to the pages of history.

So recharged and energized I want to remember our Civil War ancestors, research them, write about their lives and experiences and never forget that we stand on their shoulders today. I’m working on some ideas to do just that. I’m hoping that maybe you’ll give me a hand. Until then . . . .

I see the soldiers, do you?

 

Heroic Civil War Veteran and Post War Scoundrel

Jefferson Hill is an interesting Civil War veteran. He was a member of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC) with a life that was anything but average. Jefferson was born in November 1838 in Maineville, Warren County, Ohio to John and Anna Hill. He came from a large family being one of seven children. Jefferson grew up farming and gave that as his occupation when he enlisted with the 4th OVC.

By the summer of 1858, a few months shy of 20 years old, Jefferson married Abigail Eliza Carr on August 30th in Clermont County, Ohio. It’s interesting to note that Abigail was six years and in some records even eight years older than Jefferson. They had been married five years and had two children when Hill enlisted with the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

He served with Co. I, had an enlistment date of December 17, 1863 and was to serve for a three year period. It was recorded that Jefferson had brown hair, hazel eyes and a clear complexion. Like all enlisted men he started out as a private but rose to the rank of corporal less than a year later on November 1, 1864.

Like his fellow cavalrymen, Hill experienced some ferocious fighting and participated in several other minor skirmishes. He saw the hard fought Atlanta Campaign to lesser known Sandtown and also Wilson’s Raid. While the 4th was engaged in a monumental battle against Nathan Bedford Forest and Confederate forces at Selma, Alabama Jefferson Hill was wounded. April 2, 1865, the day he was injured changed his life forever. Shot in the upper right back, the minne ball tore through into his right shoulder. This grueling injury plagued him for life. He would spend the rest of his enlistment in the hospital and was eventually discharged August 15, 1865 in Cincinnati.

Jefferson found it very difficult to work after the war. He suffered a great deal of pain and experienced a lack of arm movement and even arm use from this war injury and filed for a pension.

The physician who examined Hill in June 1886 as he applied for his pension noted, “. . . as result of the wound . . . is atrophy of right arm” also “right arm cannot be extended in the low horizontal way in any direction. Grasping powers of right hand is very weak.”

When Jefferson was examined again in June 1891 for his pension the doctor wrote . . . “right arm wound had atrophy . . . shoulder is very much stiffened and painful in motion . . . arm can be elevated only to right eye. The other motions are limited or dim.”

Hill was granted a pension for his Civil War injury and presumably lived off of that pension for the rest of his life. A notation on a public family tree on Ancestry.com said Hill was not able to work again after the war.

Even though Jefferson was not able to join the workforce once back home he didn’t lack in social activity. He seemed to have a lively love life.

Another public family tree on Ancestry.com has this note – “Hill was running around on (his first) wife and joined the army to escape the consequences. He never returned. There was no divorce, so his subsequent marriages were not legal in the strict sense.”

Those marriages mentioned in that Ancestry.com note:

In the 1870 U.S. Federal Census Jefferson is married to Elmira and has two children.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census Hill is married to Mary and has four children.

It would be very interesting to see who Jefferson was married to in the 1890 U.S. Federal Census if it were available.

There are no divorce records for any of the marriages of Jefferson Hill. Presumably Jefferson fathered at least eight children with three different women. The Sharonville Historical Society notes a fourth wife listed in Hill’s pension file.

Jefferson Hill's original headstone

Jefferson Hill’s original headstone

Jefferson Hill's incorrect headstone

Jefferson Hill’s incorrect headstone

The extent of Hill’s love life was fully revealed after his death. At least a couple of his wives filed for a widow’s pension after his demise. The pension office had a heck of a time sorting out this marital mess. But without any divorce records Hill’s first wife Eliza was recognized as his widow and granted a widow’s pension. The rest of his marriages were null and the children from those marriages were considered illegitimate.

Jefferson Hill died January 13, 1899. He is buried in Coleman Presbyterian Cemetery, Sharonville Ohio.

Ironically Jefferson Hill’s controversial lifestyle didn’t end with his death. A typical white marble Union military headstone was placed on his grave but it had become worn and deteriorated over the years. A Boy Scout project aimed at getting him a new headstone somehow went wrong. Instead of getting a new Union headstone Hill ended up with a pointed obviously Confederate headstone. The Sharonville Ohio Historical society is working on remedying this error.

Certainly Frank Sinatra could have been singing about Jefferson Hill when he crooned. “I did it my way.”

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

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.

Civil War Saturday – He Enlisted with Men Half His Age

Civil War Reenactors  Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Civil War Reenactors
Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Some people are born to make a mark on the world they live in. They reach down deep within to draw on courage, endurance and stamina. With those qualities they leave their imprint on the world around them. Michael Leatherman is one of those people. He lived a life of adventure and some adversity while contributing greatly to his surroundings.

Michael’s story starts on January 16, 1799 in Washington County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Michael Sr. and Catherine Palmer Leatherman and one of their eleven children. Early on Michael’s teacher and parents realized how intelligent he was. He easily mastered every subject he studied in school. Even though education was not stressed in a young man’s life, Michael’s teacher provided him with plenty of material to continue learning. Michael devoured whatever books he could find and was especially fond of great works of literature. His self education was so extensive Michael eventually took over as the area teacher and his knowledge was known by all well beyond the county.

Yet Michael loved farming and longed to get back to that heritage. His parents owned farmland but of course with so many children there wasn’t enough land to distribute to them all. Michael saved his hard earned salary to purchase his own land yet it wasn’t land near his parents that he had hopes of owning. He had his eye on western Ohio. The part of Ohio that was still an untouched area, heavily timbered and with few inhabitants.

On December 25, 1820 Michael married Hannah Ohler in Washington County, Pennsylvania. He and Hannah had quite a number of children themselves, raising a family of ten. Even while welcoming many new additions Michael pocketed enough money to secure his land in Allen County, Ohio and the provisions he’d need for his family.

He moved Hannah and the brood to Jackson township in Allen County and began the work of hewing out a life on their farm. In fact the area the Leatherman clan moved to was so densely populated with trees Michael had to cut a road to his own property on their arrival.

Once settled in Ohio, Michael was well respected in the area for his superior education and hard work. Many of his peers felt he was just the man needed in their fledgling government. So Michael accepted the call and was voted in as a township trustee. His next position was serving as Justice of the Peace. Then for 12 years he served as joint surveyor for both Allen and Auglaize counties. All through this time Leatherman continued farming, adding to his holdings and was managing a bustling 400 acre farm.

Perhaps the highlight of Michael’s political career came next when he was elected the state representative from Allen County and served a term in Ohio’s government. Yet he wasn’t done. Leatherman spent six more years as a probate judge in Allen County.

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