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 – 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.

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

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