Ten Things To-Do for your Civil War ancestor

Civil War, 4th OVC, Noel Clayton, Civil War Saturday, genealogy researchSince you stopped by today chances are you love doing genealogy research. You’re a family historian who wants to learn all you can about the people that came before you.

In fact, seeing that you’re here, you’re probably doing some pretty serious research on your Civil War ancestor too. You’re like me. You’ve got to know about his military life. What did he do during the war? Was he injured? Was he a hero? How did it affect his family?

So to add a little spice to your research here’s a Civil War To-Do list. Just a few things you might take the time to do to help you better understand your Civil War ancestor. And it can be a lot of fun too!

Civil War Ancestor To-Do List

1. Research the uniform your ancestor wore. You can start here http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-uniforms or here http://www.memorialhall.mass.edu/activities/dressup/notflash/civil_war_soldier.html Google images for an idea of what your soldier wore. See the layers of clothing these men lived in and marched in. Take a look at the number and weight of items a regimental soldier carried on a daily basis.

Hardtack

2. Eat a little like he ate. Make their old stand-by: Hardtack or Johnnie cakes. Recipes below.

3. Spend some time looking at Civil War photographs, especially the newly colorized versions. Get a feel that these were real men who were lonely, hungry and scared, yet continued on with their duties. The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of Civil War era photos. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/

4. Find a book (check your library, Google) written specifically about a battle your ancestor fought in. Become really familiar with the movements of his regiment. Then:

5. Walk where he walked. Tour the battlefield(s) where your ancestor fought. Take a moment to imagine the sites and sounds he experienced there. The fear, the blood, the destruction. If you can’t do it physically do it virtually through Google maps.

6. Choose a Civil War era song and read the lyrics. Can you hear your ancestor humming it as he marched or set up camp? If he was a Confederate soldier it may have been Goober Peas, Bonnie Blue Flag or Dixie. If he was a Union man maybe it was Battle Hymn of the Republic, When Johnny Comes Marching Home or We Are Coming Father Abraham.

 

Civil War, 4th OVC, Jacob Seib, genealogy research

Civil War Reenactors – Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

 

7. Watch a Civil War movie. Even though movies aren’t exactly historically accurate and produced mainly for entertainment, there are scenes, costumes, firearms and battles portrayed that will help you identify with your Civil War ancestor. Try Glory, Gettysburg, Gone With the Wind or maybe North and South, Red Badge of Courage and most recently Lincoln.

8. Read a newspaper or two from the locale your ancestor was from that was published during the Civil War. Even though it was a week later, I was really surprised at how much coverage the battle at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) got in my own hometown newspaper. I should have known since a lot of men from the area fought there. It’s also neat to see the ads and events of the times. A great place to start your newspaper search is here. http://www.theancestorhunt.com/newspapers.html

9. Calculate the number of ancestors, direct and collateral, that fought in the Civil War. Did your family fight for both sides? You’ll be surprised at how the war affected your family with many members leaving home and joining the fight. Doing a little research on these extended family soldiers may produce some interesting and sought Pvt. George W Loweryafter family information.

10. Take a photo of yourself by your ancestor’s headstone or if that’s not possible take a photo of yourself at the nearest Civil War monument paying special attention to the inscription and who the memorial honors.

Now if you’ve done all or most of the items on this Civil War ancestor list there’s one last thing to-do. Write a short narrative about your Civil War ancestors military experience. You’ve “walked” in his steps, “tasted” his food, and “experienced” the sights and sounds of war. Whether you post it on your blog or slip it in his file, by documenting his story with your new awareness, you honor his service and that’s what the list is all about.

Let me know how you did working through the list or any suggestions you might have. Either way have fun with the Civil War Ancestor To-Do list!

 

 

 

Hardtack for the Union soldiers

2 cups of flour

1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat (bacon grease or lard was used in 1860s)

6 pinches of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the ingredients together into a stiff dough, knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of 1/4 inch on a non-greased cookie sheet.

Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut dough into 3-inch cracker squares. With a fork or skewer, punch four rows of holes, with about four holes per row, in each cracker.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn crackers over on the sheet and return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes or until every bit of moisture is gone.

 

Johnnie Cakes for the Confederate soldier

2 cups of cornmeal

2/3 cup of milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (bacon grease was used in 1860s)

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

Butter

Molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix ingredients into a stiff batter and form 8 biscuit-sized dodgers*. Bake on a lightly greased sheet for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Or you can spoon the batter into hot cooking oil in a frying pan over a low flame. Remove the corn dodgers and let cool on a paper towel, spread with a little butter or molasses. (If you were lucky enough to have butter or molasses.)

 

* Corn dodger – a cake of corn bread that is fried, baked, or boiled as a dumpling

Civil War Quick Tip – Union Draft Registration Records

FBGenCircleLogo1Did you know the first military draft enacted in this country was during the Civil War? As the months turned into years it was clear the war would not be ending anytime soon. Add to that the drop off in Union enlistments presented President Lincoln with a big problem.

By mid-1863 the president instituted the very first draft. All men from 20 to 45 years old were eligible to be drafted. There were two classes of men:

Class I included men 20 to 35 years old and all unmarried men 36 to 45 years old.
Class II were married men 36 to 45 years old.

Men who fit the above categories had to go to their local Provost Marshal’s office to sign up.

Today known as the Civil War Draft Registration Records they can be researched at Ancestry. A thorough explanation of the records can be found at FamilySearch.

Consider these records as an “off year” census to use in documenting where your northern male ancestors were living during the Civil War. Not only will you get their place of residence, also their age, marital status, occupation and if he had already served there may be a notation about that.

Good Luck as you continue researching your Civil War ancestor.

 

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If you’re interested in researching your Civil War ancestor’s story check out Ancestors In A Nation Divided – available in Kindle and also in paperback. Great research help as you seek your veteran’s place in our country’s history.

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 – 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.

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!