Civil War Quick Tip for your New Jersey Ancestor

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

This site, New Jersey State Archives, is a one stop shop with lots of help for researching your ancestor. Everything from Civil War Service Records to Civil War Vouchers. If your Civil War ancestor served in a New Jersey 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!

Civil War Saturday – video style

I’ve written several times about my Civil War ancestor James R. Van Meter. There are posts about him here and here.

James battled disease off and on throughout the three years he served and died 150 years ago February 18, 1864. I waded through snow, wind and cold last week to place a wreath on James headstone to commemorate this significant anniversary.

If you’d take a moment to watch this short video and remember James I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

If It Weren’t For Bad Luck . . . Three Times a Prisoner

The events Theodore Lindsey, a private with Co. H 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, experienced during the Civil War are worthy of a movie script. Filled with drama and danger Ted participated in some harrowing episodes during the war but before we get to those let’s set the stage.

Born in Franklin County November 1, 1844, Ted was the middle of five children born to Wilson and Rebecca Lindsey. He had a brother and a sister older than him and two sisters younger. The family lived in Franklin County for a few years then moved to Cambridge, Ohio for a few more but by 1855 they traveled across the state and settled into a new life in Dayton.

Once in Dayton Ted put the farmer’s life behind him and worked for the Dayton Journal learning a new trade as a printer. This new vocation was short-lived. The Confederate firing on Ft. Sumter and the secession of the southern states from the Union hurtled the United States into a war against itself.

Civil War research, genealogy, Regular army

Photo credit: the swedish from sxc.com

Along with many of his friends Ted answered President Lincoln’s call for troops and enlisted with the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry on September 11, 1861 serving with Co. H. The chance to serve his country and his president was uppermost in his mind. His new occupation would have to wait. He was needed to protect and preserve the Union. Quite a mature decision to make since Ted was only 17 years old.

With the strength of youth behind him Ted went off to war. If the viciousness of battle wasn’t enough for a soldier there was always the fear of being taken prisoner as Ted soon experienced. In September of 1862 he was taken prisoner near Huntsville, Alabama and sent to a Confederate prison in Macon Georgia known as Camp Oglethorpe. There Ted remained for six to eight weeks before being moved to Libby prison in Richmond. He spent three to four weeks at Libby. Early enough in the war to be part of a prisoner exchange, Ted was finally released and able to rejoin the 4th in Nashville.

He participated in the grueling and deadly three day struggle at Stone’s River from December 31, 1862 until January 3, 1863. He witnessed the carnage and death of his comrades that totaled more than 1,600 Union soldiers. Bloody and battered the Army of the Cumberland did prevail.

Ted was also involved in the horrendous fighting at Chickamauga in mid September 1863. With a Confederate victory the Union troops were beaten in a hellish battle and the highest number of casualties in the Western theater were recorded there at Chickamauga. Continue reading

What Do You Do When Your Civil War Ancestor Isn’t Quite the Hero You Thought He Was?

This was previously published in the Going In-Depth October issue. You can find the entire issue here.

Gettysburg National Battlefield

Gettysburg National Battlefield Photo credit: Cindy Freed

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.

James R Van Meter Co. A 4th OVC

James R Van Meter Co. F 4th OVC Photo redit: Cindy Freed

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.

Civil War, Genealogy Research

James R Van Meter letter to mother. Image in author’s collection

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! Continue reading

He Couldn’t Stay Away – A Civil War Soldier’s Story

Honoring 4th OVC members George S and James R Van Meter

Honoring 4th OVC members George S and James R Van Meter

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. Continue reading