Remembering His Ultimate Sacrifice

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend I thought I’d dedicate my posts to the Civil War veterans in my family. Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day was set aside to honor and remember Civil War soldiers. So in this post I want to remember my first cousin 4x removed who both fought and died in the Civil War George S. Van Meter.

George S. Vanmeter born in 1841 was the third of seven children to 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. (John’s brother James is my 3x great grandfather.)

George’s closest friend and playmate growing up may well have been his brother James. Only 22 months younger, I’ll bet James and George were close. Their reliance on each other may have been 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. Their close family ties came to a screeching halt when John the family patriarch died in 1851.

Cannon at Battle of Five Forks Virginia

Cannon at Battle of Five Forks Virginia
Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

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.

Mother Rachel could not support her seven children ranging in age from 13 years to baby John just over one year old. The children were sent to live with aunts and uncles in the area. Their family was broken apart.

George and James lived in different households for a few years. Living with extended family I think they were able to see each other at church and other gatherings. Yet those years separated didn’t diminish their brotherly love.

When politics became tumultuous in the early 1860’s and war became a reality the Vanmeter brother’s were quick to answer the president’s call for troops. Together both young men, George 20 years old and James now 18 joined Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in the village of Rockport. They enlisted on September 6, and mustered in November 12, 1861.

The boys enlisted to serve their president, their country and maybe even to make their late father proud. Although in the same company their time spent together soon ended as James was sick often with lung disease and spent much time in and out of the hospital. George went on serving gallantly with the 4th.

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

The next events of George’s life can only be stated as facts without a lot of details. He married Samantha Allison January 27, 1862 in Allen County, Ohio. Perhaps he had permission to leave his company long enough to go home to wed. Next George is listed in the hospital on May 14, 1862 in Murfreesboro, TN and then discharged with a surgeon’s certificate of disability on June 16, 1862. His service to the 4th OVC complete. Going back home to join his bride, George and Samantha become the proud parents of a daughter Louisa on April 24, 1863.

George’s story doesn’t end here following a long, happy life and a house full of children. Whether he missed the camaraderie of his cavalry mates, had an overwhelming urge to preserve the union or he was pursued by a persistent enlistment officer, George did reenlist. This time in Co. G 9th OVC. He was mustered in as a private on October 9, 1863 just 16 months after receiving his discharge from the 4th.

Spending a couple of months at Camp Dennison the newly formed unit joined the regiment and was assigned patrol duty along the Tennessee River at Athens and Florence Alabama. On April 12, 1864 Co. G was spending the night on a farmer’s property near the river. George Vanmeter and a couple other men were on picket duty. The 27th and 35th Alabama completely surprised the men of the 9th OVC killing the three soldiers on picket duty and capturing the larger part of Co. G along with their horses, mules and supplies.

In that instant Samantha Vanmeter became a widow and Louisa a few days from her first birthday was fatherless. George Vanmeter was another casualty in the War Between the States.

In a strange twist of fate George’s brother James died seven weeks earlier at home on furlough. He succumbed to the continued illness and lung disease that wracked his body during his military service.

It’s not known where George Vanmeter is buried. His death is listed as “near Florence Alabama”. Perhaps he’s in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery or his final resting place is close to where he fell. In any event George gave “his last full measure” to his country.

So as celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow I want to remember my 1st cousin 4x removed George S. Van Meter. A casualty of the Civil War. A hero in his own right.

Remembering Memorial Day Heroes

Pvt James R Van Meter

Pvt James R Van Meter

This weekend as we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday I’d like to dedicate today’s post to my first cousin 4 times removed James R Van Meter. He was a Civil War veteran that enlisted with his brother George. As recruiters came to these brother’s tiny hometown looking for men to join the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC), 18 year old James Vanmeter and his 21 year old brother George eagerly enlisted. Mustering in Sept. 6, 1861, both in Company F, the boys joined their regiment two months later on November 12 at Camp Dennison.

With the rest of their fellow cavalrymen the Vanmeters spent their initial days drilling, learning commands, caring for their horses and building stables. A soldier’s life was much different than a farmer’s and the regimented tasks and training were learning experiences for the young men. 

Orders soon came for the 4th to move to the battlefield and on December 6, 1861 the 4th OVC headed to the front. First it was to Louisville then on to Bowling Green (KY) to face the Confederate line there. The Vanmeter brothers had to be anxious! Finally they would realize their goal of fighting for their country.

George moved with the rest of the cavalry but James stayed behind. As with many men who served James was struck down by illness. He spent January through August of 1862 in and out of field hospitals with a diagnosis of lung fever, Febris Typhoides or typhoid fever. James does seem to accompany the regiment in May and June of 1862 while they were in Huntsville, Alabama but is reported sick at Breon Creek.

Throughout the war James writes home to his mother and sends her part if not most of his pay when drawn. His Uncle Jim visits him in the military hospital on a couple of occasions. James’ close ties with his family throughout the war is apparent.

James continues his fight with lung infections during most of the war. He’s present with his company from Sept. 1862 to April 1863 so he’s involved in the great battle at Stones River. Yet he’s sick May and June of 1863, present July and August and sick yet again September and October missing the deadly battle at Chickamauga. Back with the troops in November and through the new year James sees wicked fire at Winchester and Chattanooga to name a few. Even with the illness and harrowing battles James reenlists with the 4th OVC on January 4, 1864. 

His reenlistment papers state he is 21 years and ¾ months old, a 5′ 10” blue eyed, fair complexioned farmer who is very willing to serve his country for another three years.

James along with the rest of the reenlisted veterans received a one month furlough February 5 to March 5, 1864 then he was to report back to Camp Dennison. On furlough and traveling with Lt. Thomas McClure to his home in Rockport Ohio, James contracts pneumonia. 

He arrives in his hometown of Rockport, Ohio weak and very ill. The strain of war and sickness the past two and a half years are evident in the young man. Even with home visits from the family doctor James’ lungs cannot overcome one more infection. James Vanmeter passes from this life to the next February 18, 1864. 

The short epitaph on his tombstone says it all.

Soldier rest thy warfare is ore

James Vanmeter died in service to his country. He may not have succumbed to a battle injury but still gave his life to preserve the union for a future he would never know. To my first cousin four times removed – I remember and honor your memory James R. Van Meter – Civil War soldier and hero.

Civil War Saturday: My ancestor died on the battlefield. So where’s he buried?

Woodlawn Cemetery Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

You’ve been researching your Civil War ancestor. You’ve found his company and regiment. You know his enlistment dates and the battles he fought in. You know he died on the battlefield and you’re thinking his family didn’t have the funds to bring his body home. So where is he buried?

That’s the dilemma I found while researching a collateral Civil War ancestor of mine, George S. Vanmeter. George is my first cousin, four times removed. You may remember his brother James, who was a special research project of mine awhile back.

Briefly George‘s first enlistment in the Civil War was as a member of Co. F 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC). He was injured in May 1862 and discharged. He headed back home to Putnam County, Ohio. George was home just over a year. His wife had given birth to a baby girl. The infant was barely five months old when he reenlisted September 1863. This time with Co. G 9th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC).

In early April 1864, Co. G of the 9th OVC, was foraging in the area about 6 miles west of Florence, Alabama. By orders of General Sherman the men were living off the land. The company settled in for the night on the John (Jack) Peters plantation. The cavalry men of Co. G were sleeping in and around the main house and barn. George S. Vanmeter was on picket duty.

A small contingent of soldiers from the 27th and 35th Alabama were camped just across the Tennessee river from the Peters plantation. These were men who lived in the area and were well aware of the Yankees and how they had scoured the countryside for food, horses and provisions. About 100 Confederate soldiers crossed the river at Seven Mile Island in the wee hours of April 12th and totally surprised Company G. There was a brief but intense skirmish that left one Confederate and two Union soldiers dead. The rest of Co. G was captured by the men of the 27th and 35th Alabama and sent to Andersonville.

My cousin George S. Vanmeter didn’t go to Andersonville. He was one of the two Union soldiers who died in the fight. This was a small battlefield, a small skirmish. There weren’t Union soldiers left to take care of the aftermath. What happened to George’s body?

I’ve read George’s pension file. His widow and daughter applied for a pension on behalf of his military service. I’ve researched the Official Records regarding this incident, I’ve scoured regimental histories for the 9th OVC, but the one question I haven’t been able to answer is:

Where is George S. Vanmeter buried?

That’s the brick wall I’ve been working on lately. Do you have a Civil War ancestor that died in the war and you don’t know where he is buried? The next couple Civil War Saturdays I’ll outline my research. What steps I take, the records and online sources I’ve used. Maybe some of my resources will be of help to you in your research. Stop back here next week and we’ll see if I can find where George S. Vanmeter buried.

George S. Van Meter #52 Ancestors

#52 Ancestors in 52 WeeksWith Memorial Day only one week away I thought I’d dedicate my #52 Ancestors post to the Civil War veterans in my family. Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day was set aside to honor and remember Civil War soldiers. Today we remember all veterans who have served our country through the decades. Since I’ve already written about my direct ancestor George W. Lowery here my next couple #52 Ancestors posts will remember my first cousins 4x removed who both fought and died in the Civil War, James and George Van Meter.

George S. Vanmeter born in 1841 was the third of seven children to 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. (John’s brother James is my 3x great grandfather.)

George’s closest friend and playmate growing up may well have been his brother James. Only 22 months younger, I’ll bet James and George were close. Their reliance on each other may have been 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. Their close family ties came to a screeching halt when John the family patriarch died in 1851.

Cannon at Battle of Five Forks Virginia

Cannon at Battle of Five Forks Virginia
Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

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.

Mother Rachel could not support her seven children ranging in age from 13 years to baby John just over one year old. The children were sent to live with aunts and uncles in the area. Their family was broken apart.

George and James lived in different households for a few years. Living with extended family I think they were able to see each other at church and other gatherings. Yet those years separated didn’t diminish their brotherly love. Continue reading

A Woman of Mystery #52Ancestors

Susannah Van Meter

Susannah Van Meter

My ancestor this week is a mysterious woman to me. Her place in my family tree has question marks all over it. She’s my great great grandmother Susannah Van Meter. Every phase of Susannah’s life seems to have a twist.

Born in Allen County Ohio, 28 August 1833, Susannah was the oldest child of James D. and Mariah Shriver Van Meter. Her parents were among the new settlers to the area and along with the extended family that moved into this part of the state, Susannah had to be one of the first children born in the area.

As her parents worked hard and prospered on their farm Susannah most certainly helped care for the eight younger siblings as they were added to the family. I will never know the contributing circumstances in Susannah’s life but at 27 years old, still unmarried and living with her parents she gives birth to a son.

I can’t begin to imagine the scandal being an unwed mother provoked during this time. James and Mariah were pioneers settlers, pillars of the community, this couldn’t have been easy for anyone involved. Yet to their credit I don’t find they kicked anyone out of their lives.

In 1864 Susannah weds a local widower who has six children. James Hayes Marshall Jr was ten years Susannah’s senior and had lost his wife only nine months earlier. I’m thinking this marriage is one of convenience for both parties. James needs someone to keep house and raise his children. Susannah needs to rip the scarlet letter from her bodice. Continue reading