Category Archives: Union
This was previously published in the Going In-Depth October issue. You can find the entire issue here.
Has this happened to you? After a little bit of research have you found an ancestor that didn’t quite live up to your expectations? It happened to me. You may have heard my story before but let me give you a little background. Like any self respecting family historian or genealogist I spend a good deal of time in cemeteries. I’m really fortunate enough to live in the same area my ancestors lived. I’m the seventh generation in one line of my family tree to live in this area so that translates into many ancestors buried close enough for me to visit. My sister and I joke about one small cemetery, Rockport Methodist in Allen County Ohio, where we believe we’re related to at least half the people buried there.
It was on one of my excursions to Rockport a couple years back that I came across a Civil War soldier with the same surname as my 2x great grandmother. He was barely 21 years old when he died during the war. I hated to think that he probably didn’t leave a wife or children and that without descendants his memory was lost soon after his death. I knew he was a collateral ancestor but that didn’t matter. I was going to research James R Vanmeter and tell his story. He didn’t serve his country at its most crucial time to be lost to history. Right? So I took up the task of remembering James R. Vanmeter.
As I began my research I was sure James had succumbed to wounds while in battle. He died during the war on February 18, 1864. I was swept away by my own thoughts of his youthful courage and patriotism. I diligently searched the Soldiers and Sailors database, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. I soon found he served with Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC). I found a couple amazing books outlining the history of the 4th OVC. The first was The Invincibles – The Story of the Fourth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry 1861 – 1865 by Nancy Pape-Findley. The other I found online in Google Books. It was while reading the The Story of the 4th Regiment Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry by Lucien Wulsin I had my first inkling James wasn’t who I’d built him up to be in my mind.
I found the 4th OVC was on furlough when James died. He had reenlisted in January 1864 and was able to go home with a return date of March 7, 1864 to Camp Dennison. Okay so he didn’t die on a battle field riddled with bullets. He died at home. Still his death had to be valiant, right? Due to some kind of injury due to enemy fire.
I took a shot and researched James in the Civil War veteran’s pensions. I didn’t expect a thing since he was not married yet found a card on him. Rachel Milliken had filed for a pension on James’ service. His mom’s first name was Rachel but last name was Vanmeter not Milliken or so I thought.
This tidbit that some person had filed for a pension on James’ military service led me to request his pension file from the National Archives. I waited anxiously. What was I thinking? I still wasn’t exactly sure how James and I were related. Shouldn’t I be spending money on my own direct ancestors instead of chasing someone else’s?
When all 64 pages of James Vanmeter’s pension file came I couldn’t wait to get into it and what I read made it worth every cent I spent. It contained blockbuster information. Drunkenness, divorce, illness, death. Lots and lots of letters from James’ mom to the pension board as she pled her case for a pension, even two letters she had received written by James while with the 4th! I was ecstatic!
Do you remember a post I did a little while back called Checking a Goal Off My To-Do List? I was researching a Civil War soldier who’s surname was one of my family lines. Not only did I fill in the blanks on the soldier I was researching (James Vanmeter) I found he had a brother who also served in the Civil War. George Vanmeter’s story is even more compelling than James!
George S. Vanmeter born in 1841 was the third of seven children of parents John and Rachel Stevenson Vanmeter. John and Rachel had deep roots in Putnam County, Ohio. Both were born there, they married there and started their family there nestled in a prosperous farming community.
Certainly George’s closest friend and playmate growing up was his brother James. Only 22 months younger, James and George were close. Their reliance on each other was strengthened when the family left their home, grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins to live in Lucas County, Ohio. Quite a distance from their relatives and friends the family farmed in their new location. The close ties to each other that would develop in Lucas County came to a screeching halt when John the family patriarch died in 1851.
George was only 10 years old when his father died. Along with his siblings he brought his father’s body back to Putnam County to be buried. Laid to rest among family members John Vanmeter’s death rocked this family to its very core.
This past summer before the great flood (which I wrote about here) we went on vacation. Our trip was to visit one of my daughters and son-in-law in central Florida. It’s quite a drive from Ohio so we figured it would be best to break it up into a couple days. When I checked out a map an eight hour drive put us somewhere in northern Georgia.
I couldn’t believe it when I realized we’d be very near the Chickamauga Battlefield. I had to stop there! I’ve done some research on this battle since so many soldiers from my area fought there.
My husband’s a good guy and it didn’t take much to sell him on it. My daughter was a slightly different story. I had to remind my 13 year old we were heading to Disney World and one day humoring her mother wouldn’t kill her.
So off went heading south to Florida with a stop in Georgia along the way.
A little background on the Battle of Chickamauga. In September 1863, the Army of the Cumberland led by Union Maj. William Rosecrans moved through Tennessee. Union forces took the city of Chattanooga considered the gateway to the south and gained control of the rail lines there. On the defense was Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg leading the Army of Tennessee. Bragg with his men camped just 25 miles south of Chattanooga would attempt to position his troops between the Union army and the city. Both armies would clash near a small creek in Georgia called Chickamauga.
On September 19 and 20, 1863 these two armies fought in the bloodiest battle of the war second only to Gettysburg. Union forces numbered nearly 65,000 men and the Confederate army bolstered with reinforcements topped 66,000 men. The brutal fighting lasted two days many times resulting in hand to hand combat.
Did you happen to catch the July issue of Going In-Depth? If not you’re missing out! It’s jammed full of genealogy help and information. Better yet it’s free every month!
You can take a look at it here. While you’re at it flip to page 19. That’s my article on the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). I learned so much researching that article. The little known resources I found locally on Civil War veterans is killer.
Today I’m following up on the Personal Sketches album I referred to in the article. Here’s one page of that fabulous book written in the veteran’s own hand! We get a glimpse into what the war was like for him. What events and people he’ll never forget. It’s his story.
**I did correct the spelling when transcribing this page hoping to make it easier to read. I didn’t change punctuation.**
W. Francis Maltbie
born December 24, 1836 in Centerville, Montgomery County, Ohio
I first entered the service April 20, 1861 at Lima, Ohio. Entered as a private Co. F 20th Regiment OVI and was a private at the close of the war. I was first discharged August 18, 1861 at Columbus Ohio by reason of expiration of term of service. Reenlisted on the 30 day of August 1861was transferred from Co. B 81st OVI to Co. D 81st OVI in December 1864 and was discharged July 13, 1865 Louisville, KY by reason of expiration of term of service.
Record of Service
My first battle was Pittsburg Landing, Tenn – 2nd Corinth Miss in May and June 1862 commonly -??- the Siege of Corinth. 3d battle was the battle at Corinth October 3 and 4th 1862 – 4th Resaca Ga 5th OstaNaula – 6th Lays (Fery) Ferry – 7th Rome Cross Roads. 8Th Dallas. 9Th Kenesaw Mountain. . . 10th Atlanta July 22nd to the 27th the Siege of Atlanta 11th Jonesborrow August 31st 1864. 12th Savannah – 13 Bentonville North Carolina
Record of escapes
I was slightly bruised from a spent shell at Corinth Miss Oct 3d 1862 and another time at the Siege of Atlanta Ga I never was in a hospital and was never taking prisoner
Sumner T Mason, Gidion Ditto, J W Tellier, Thomas A Maltbie, G W Miller, J M Nantshurr, A Fulmer, G W Dirtson
Noted Events (Battle of Pittsburg Landing, Atlanta Campaign. Shermans March
of importance (to the Sea, and through the Carolinas, and Grand Review Washington
Maltbie took the time to record his Civil War service in his GAR post’s book. It was that important to him! Only about a quarter of the members did.
I read an online article recently from the Washington Post. It cited how the Manassas National Battlefield Park was trying to keep the level of public interest high after having already commemorated the 150th anniversary of both Civil War battles at Manassas. Their new approach is summed up in the article’s title “Manassas events focus on the human face of the Civil War”.
The human side of the Civil War. That’s exactly what clicks with me when I research this period in history. I am particularly interested in the men, the privates, the grunts that carried out all the orders. They endured excessive hardships, witnessed extensive human suffering and looked death in the face at every battle. They carried out commands they knew would certainly result in their demise yet followed those orders anyway. Civil War soldiers are the grandfathers and great grandfathers of today’s “Greatest Generation.” I believe in looking at Civil War veterans we can see that their bravery and loyalty was instilled in their descendants who fought in both World Wars.
Then there is the human side of the Civil War at home. Young wives with babies trying to maintain their household. Farms and businesses to be run without the help of sturdy young men and wise fathers. Families receiving telegraphed death notices, the shortages, hunger and fear especially in southern homes. So many stories and life events that need to be told.