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

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!

He Did More for a Sick Young Soldier than any Medical Attention Ever Could #52Ancestors

James D and Mary E (Shriver) Van Meter

James D and Mary E (Shriver) Van Meter

As I sat down to start writing about this week’s #52 Ancestors I had intended to choose one of my grandmothers. I’ve written about both grandfathers the past two weeks so it was only natural to switch over to the women. Yet once I sat down it just didn’t feel like grandmothers day so I pulled up my fan chart to look over my list of ancestors and came to James Downing Van Meter. I realized right away he’s the one to write about this week so here’s his story.

James Downing Van Meter is my 3x great grandfather. He was born September 9, 1804 in Brooke County, Virginia but didn’t stay a Virginian long. Along with his parents and grandparents a young Jim settled in Ohio. I’ve blogged about his youth before here. It’s a great story about this small boy’s broken thigh and a Native American who healed him. I’d love it if you’d check it out but with this post I want to write about the man my research has found James D. Van Meter to be.

James married Mariah Elizabeth Shriver December 16, 1832. They were the parents of nine children. My 2x great grandmother Susannah being their oldest. The family farmed quite a number of acres in the northern part of Allen County, Ohio.

As I check the censuses through the years these Van Meters had no problem opening their doors to whoever needed a home. When James’ brother John passed away he and Mariah took in one of John’s sons James R. into their home. When their oldest daughter turns up pregnant without being married her son is added in the mix and that’s just a couple examples of their open door compassion and generosity.

Yet in my opinion the most telling characteristic of James D Van Meter comes in a passage written by nephew James R. (the one he took in after his father’s death) in a letter home. Continue reading