I asked a question at the end of yesterday’s post . . . .

George & Mary Ellen Williams Marshall Farm

George & Mary Ellen Williams Marshall on their Farm

Did you read my post yesterday, I see the soldiers – do you? If not I’d really appreciate it if you would take a minute to read it. That way today’s post will make more sense. Just scroll down to the previous post or click here.

OK now that you’ve read it and you’re back, let me tell you what I was thinking. After realizing that I do see the Civil War soldiers when I visit different battlefields I realized it’s only a very short step to our own family research.

As genealogists or family historians we see, we feel, we experience our ancestors. That’s why we research them, because we can “see” our ancestors. It’s incredibly similar to seeing the soldiers. Not only do we see our family members with our mind’s eye, we want to know more about them and their lives. They aren’t just names and dates, they were living, loving, imperfect people who passed across the face of this earth. It’s their lives that resulted in our own.

Because we are the ones who see our ancestors we know we are charged with the task of making sure they are not forgotten to history. We’re the ones whose job it is to learn and tell their story, to preserve their memory for future generations.

Because of this insight we’ve been given the responsibility of remembering our ancestors, researching them and writing about their lives and experiences. Actually it’s pretty exciting that we are given that mission.

So to all of us who spend time in city directories, researching obscure occupations, staring endlessly at photos and federal censuses, then writing about those finds – keep on! Persevere! You’re doing a great job researching your family and they are pleased.

I asked a question at the end of yesterday’s post but I know I don’t have to ask today. I already know, “You see your ancestors.”

I see the soldiers, do you?

DUVCW Ohio Dept Convention - Sally in center

DUVCW Ohio Dept Convention – Sally in center

Many of you know that I belong to the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 (DUVCW). Our members are direct descendants of honorably discharged Union soldiers. Our goal is to “keep green the memory” of our Civil War ancestors.

Now I’ve been a member of the DUVCW for 18 years. I’ve been fairly active in my local group, called a tent, for the last 10 years.

All tents in our state meet yearly for a State or Department convention. The Ohio Dept. convention this year was lucky enough to have the DUVCW National Senior Vice President join us. Sally, was a lot of fun and we enjoyed her participation in the convention.

I had the good fortune to speak with Sally several times over the three day convention. Sally is a former history teacher and very knowledgeable about the Civil War.

One of our conversations will forever be etched in my mind. Sally had heard me give a brief description about my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided, to the members. I credited a visit to Gettysburg as the turning point in my life when I became committed to Civil War research. Specifically I talked about standing on Seminary Ridge and actually feeling the devotion to “the cause” that brought those soldiers there.

When Sally and I talked later she said she understood how I felt that day seven years ago in Gettysburg. Her father was a Civil War buff and when she was a child he took the family on many vacations to different battlefields. On every visit her dad would gaze out across the battlefield and say to her, “Sally can you see the soldiers?”

Of course at the time she was too young and didn’t understand what he was saying. But she looked me in the eye that day and said, “I see them today and I know you do too.”

Her comment nearly brought tears to my eyes. I see the soldiers. I see them when I go to Gettysburg, Chickamauga or follow my great great grandfather’s footsteps across Virginia just like his regiment did as they pursued Lee the final week of the war.

I see the smoky haze from continual artillery fire. I can feel the soldiers, their loyalty to their flag and their determination to fight for it. I do see the soldiers.

Something clicked with me during Sally’s comment as I realized that I see the soldiers. It sounds silly but the light bulb went off in my head. I knew right then I’m supposed to remember these soldiers and tell their story. My job is to make sure they are not lost to the pages of history.

So recharged and energized I want to remember our Civil War ancestors, research them, write about their lives and experiences and never forget that we stand on their shoulders today. I’m working on some ideas to do just that. I’m hoping that maybe you’ll give me a hand. Until then . . . .

I see the soldiers, do you?


Today on Civil War Saturday: This soldier fought in major battles and experienced war’s greatest tragedies

Today I have a guest family historian, Norman Pugh, sharing the story of his Civil War ancestor. I know you’ll enjoy reading about this Civil War veteran as we remember him on Civil War Saturday.


Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles fought with Co C 42nd Virginia CSA

Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles fought with Co C 42nd Virginia CSA

If you would allow me a minute of your time, I would like to tell you about a Civil War hero. My great great grand father Mr. Charles Robert Franklin was born 7-6-1841 into a family of eight. He was the third child of a family of farmers who lived in Lisbon (now Bedford) Virginia.

Charles decided to enlist in the CSA on 5-18-1861 with his older brother Henry Thomas who was 24 years old at the time. Charles was 20. They were in the Buford Grays company, and were members of Company C, 42nd Virginia Infantry. When the CSA organized the 42nd, they took men from the counties of Bedford, Campbell, Floyd, Roanoke, Patrick, and Franklin. The field officers were Colonels Jessie S. Burks, Andrew J. Deyerle, John E. Peen, and R.W. Withers. There were around 1,000 men who enlisted to fight in the war for money to raise there families or just for what they thought was the right thing to do. There were 10 companies and they were in many battles including First Kernstown, Cold Harbor, Seven Days Battle, Appomattox, Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Antietam along with other small battles.

On 1-15-1863 in a small battle on Payne’s farm in Virginia, Charles watched his brother Henry, hit and killed when a shell hit a wooden fence and sent splinters flying everywhere. Charles buried Henry there that day, about 10 months later Henry’s body was exhumed by Charles and other family members and taken back home where he rests today in Bedford.


Henry Thomas Franklin

Pvt Henry Thomas Franklin – Co C 42 Virginia Infantry

I have found records where Charles was wounded three times including the lose of his left thumb that was shot off at Antietam. He was shot in the right shoulder at Gettysburg, and wounded at Chancellorsville. We also found records where he suffered from chronic rheumatism his whole life. He was captured in Spotsylvania by the Union army on 5-12-1864 and sent to Elmira NY as a pow. This pow camp was one of the worst and had the highest death rate (one in four died) from starvation, bad weather, or some other hellish thing. At some point Charles was later liberated, used in a prisoner exchange. He then returned home to Bedford where he was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor.


Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles wearing his Southern Cross.

Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles wearing his Southern Cross.

After the war he married a cousin named Harriet Anna Franklin. They lived on the mountain all their long life. They had 10 children, two died at an early age. These two were buried on the mountain. The Franklins owned around 200 acres of timber, of which they cleared 4 or 5 acres and built a home to raise their children, and grow food to live from. This I’m sure was a very laborious feat, with all the rock and tree stumps to be removed by hand. I believe the land was payment for his service in the war. The old home place still stands proud up there today.
When Charles got home he filed for disability and got it, because he could not use an axe properly to chop wood. This says a lot about my great great grandmother because she had to take up what Charles could not do.

He lived on the farm in Bedford until he died on 8-3-1910 from heart dropsy. He is resting beside his wife and brother Henry and other family on top of the mountain. Just two years ago I had new marble head stones placed beside the original stones. To honor my heroes in the Franklin line.


Pvt Charles Franklin final resting place

Pvt Charles Robert Franklin’s final resting place

Even with all that was put on him in the war and after, I look at Charles as a very hard, sturdy man and a giant in my eyes. Even though he was a small man physically, the heart and soul of this man was something that is not found much today. I would like to thank my cousins Rodney Franklin and Teresa Shiflett who helped me a whole lot with researching our family. May God forgive all who have died in wars. THANK YOU NORMAN L. PUGH


Thank you Norman for sharing your Civil War ancestor and his life here on Civil War Saturday. Charles Franklin fought in many of the war’s major battles, buried his brother on the battlefield and endured life in a prison camp. May we always remember these men and their stories.

Heroic Civil War Veteran and Post War Scoundrel

Jefferson Hill is an interesting Civil War veteran. He was a member of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC) with a life that was anything but average. Jefferson was born in November 1838 in Maineville, Warren County, Ohio to John and Anna Hill. He came from a large family being one of seven children. Jefferson grew up farming and gave that as his occupation when he enlisted with the 4th OVC.

By the summer of 1858, a few months shy of 20 years old, Jefferson married Abigail Eliza Carr on August 30th in Clermont County, Ohio. It’s interesting to note that Abigail was six years and in some records even eight years older than Jefferson. They had been married five years and had two children when Hill enlisted with the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

He served with Co. I, had an enlistment date of December 17, 1863 and was to serve for a three year period. It was recorded that Jefferson had brown hair, hazel eyes and a clear complexion. Like all enlisted men he started out as a private but rose to the rank of corporal less than a year later on November 1, 1864.

Like his fellow cavalrymen, Hill experienced some ferocious fighting and participated in several other minor skirmishes. He saw the hard fought Atlanta Campaign to lesser known Sandtown and also Wilson’s Raid. While the 4th was engaged in a monumental battle against Nathan Bedford Forest and Confederate forces at Selma, Alabama Jefferson Hill was wounded. April 2, 1865, the day he was injured changed his life forever. Shot in the upper right back, the minne ball tore through into his right shoulder. This grueling injury plagued him for life. He would spend the rest of his enlistment in the hospital and was eventually discharged August 15, 1865 in Cincinnati.

Jefferson found it very difficult to work after the war. He suffered a great deal of pain and experienced a lack of arm movement and even arm use from this war injury and filed for a pension.

The physician who examined Hill in June 1886 as he applied for his pension noted, “. . . as result of the wound . . . is atrophy of right arm” also “right arm cannot be extended in the low horizontal way in any direction. Grasping powers of right hand is very weak.”

When Jefferson was examined again in June 1891 for his pension the doctor wrote . . . “right arm wound had atrophy . . . shoulder is very much stiffened and painful in motion . . . arm can be elevated only to right eye. The other motions are limited or dim.”

Hill was granted a pension for his Civil War injury and presumably lived off of that pension for the rest of his life. A notation on a public family tree on Ancestry.com said Hill was not able to work again after the war.

Even though Jefferson was not able to join the workforce once back home he didn’t lack in social activity. He seemed to have a lively love life.

Another public family tree on Ancestry.com has this note – “Hill was running around on (his first) wife and joined the army to escape the consequences. He never returned. There was no divorce, so his subsequent marriages were not legal in the strict sense.”

Those marriages mentioned in that Ancestry.com note:

In the 1870 U.S. Federal Census Jefferson is married to Elmira and has two children.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census Hill is married to Mary and has four children.

It would be very interesting to see who Jefferson was married to in the 1890 U.S. Federal Census if it were available.

There are no divorce records for any of the marriages of Jefferson Hill. Presumably Jefferson fathered at least eight children with three different women. The Sharonville Historical Society notes a fourth wife listed in Hill’s pension file.

Jefferson Hill's original headstone

Jefferson Hill’s original headstone

Jefferson Hill's incorrect headstone

Jefferson Hill’s incorrect headstone

The extent of Hill’s love life was fully revealed after his death. At least a couple of his wives filed for a widow’s pension after his demise. The pension office had a heck of a time sorting out this marital mess. But without any divorce records Hill’s first wife Eliza was recognized as his widow and granted a widow’s pension. The rest of his marriages were null and the children from those marriages were considered illegitimate.

Jefferson Hill died January 13, 1899. He is buried in Coleman Presbyterian Cemetery, Sharonville Ohio.

Ironically Jefferson Hill’s controversial lifestyle didn’t end with his death. A typical white marble Union military headstone was placed on his grave but it had become worn and deteriorated over the years. A Boy Scout project aimed at getting him a new headstone somehow went wrong. Instead of getting a new Union headstone Hill ended up with a pointed obviously Confederate headstone. The Sharonville Ohio Historical society is working on remedying this error.

Certainly Frank Sinatra could have been singing about Jefferson Hill when he crooned. “I did it my way.”

Sultana: An Unimaginable Tragedy Claimed as many Casualties as any Battle

Photograph shows the overloaded steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River the day before her boilers exploded and she sank on April 27th. No known restrictions on publication. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Photograph shows the overloaded steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River the day before her boilers exploded and she sank on April 27th. No known restrictions on publication. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

By April 1865 citizens had grown accustomed to big news events but this month was filled with even more outstanding headlines than usual.

On April 9th, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, signaling the first step in the end of the Civil War.

Shocking the nation, President Abraham Lincoln was shot April 14th and died April 15th from the assassin’s bullet. His murderer John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed on April 26th.

April 27th saw Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrender his army to Gen. William T. Sherman and his Union troops in North Carolina. Yet buried in the backs of most newspapers would be one of the single most tragic events of the Civil War. The explosion of the riverboat Sultana.

For a little background, the Sultana was built in Cincinnati in 1863. She ran in the most southern part of the Mississippi River, used mainly for transporting cotton but she was also known to carry U.S. Army officers and soldiers between ports along the river.

On April 21, 1865 the Sultana was docked in New Orleans. She was being loaded with sugar and livestock. There were a few passengers boarded in the 100 cabins of the steamer. By law the Sultana could carry 376 persons which included the crew. Leaving New Orleans on April 24th the Sultana headed for Vicksburg, Mississippi which was a regular stop on her route. While docked in Vicksburg the ship’s captain discovered the Sultana’s boilers were leaking. The repair normally should have taken three to four days yet was completed in a single day. The rush to finish the repair was easy to figure out. In a single word – money.

Ship lines were paid five dollars a head by the government to transport Union soldiers back north. The men about to aboard the Sultana we’re headed to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio where they would be mustered out of the army. If the Sultana stayed in dock a couple extra days soldiers anxious to make the trip home would find other ships to make the journey. The repair crew rushed to fix the Sultana’s boilers to get the ship back en route and not lose out on this easy cash.

It’s estimated that 2,300 people were aboard the Sultana when it left Vicksburg. This was six times the number of people it was supposed to carry. In fact crew members had to bolster the second floor deck to keep it from caving in from the weight of so many people.

Recently released Union prisoners of war comprised most of the passengers. Liberated from Cahaba, Alabama and Andersonville, Georgia prisons they were being housed at Union Camp Fisk outside of Vicksburg. From there they would board ships heading north on the Mississippi River. Finally these POWs, recently released from their hellish prison experience would be headed home. After enduring so much in prison camps, being overcrowded on a steamer going home didn’t seem so bad. Many of the men were weakened, ill and in such bad shape their only thought was to get home.

The exact number of soldiers on the Sultana was never known. The ship was so crammed with passengers that it was decided not to make out muster rolls in advance. Roll would be taken once the ship was underway.

Once the Sultana left Vicksburg she made her way north on the Mississippi River, stopping at several smaller ports unloading cargo. The river was high for this time of year with a fast moving current. There had been a lot of rain recently. The steamer, with the extraordinary number of passengers strained to get through the churning waters.

It was late afternoon on April 26th when the Sultana docked at Memphis. Here some of the soldiers, went ashore to get off the overcrowded ship and do some sightseeing. The recently repaired boilers started leaking again and were quickly patched once more so the steamer could get underway. Some of the soldiers who got off the ship did not get back in time and missed boarding the Sultana as it pulled out of Memphis around 7 pm. These men would soon learn that being late probably saved their lives.

It was about 2 am April 27, 1865. The Sultana was just a few miles north of Memphis, straining against the powerful river currents with hastily repaired boilers when the unthinkable happened. The boilers, stretched to their limit, with the extra weight and churning waters, burst. With unbelievable force the explosion, escaping steam and fire tore the mid section out of the ship. The blast was so loud and flames shot so high in the sky it was seen and heard back in Memphis.


First appeared in the magazine Harpers Weekly, May 20, 1865.

Sultana in flames – First appeared in the Harpers Weekly magazine, May 20, 1865.

Soldiers, presumably sleeping at that early morning hour, were blasted into the air, then plummeted into the cold April waters of the Mississippi. Some were scalded by the boilers hot steam, others burned by fiery debris. Still others clung to the ship’s remnants or were trapped aboard as the disaster continued to unfold. They too were forced to jump into the river as fire consumed the part of ship they clung to. The Mississippi was littered with the bobbing heads of passengers as they desperately tried to stay afloat. These soldiers were weak from their POW experience. The effort it took to swim, if they knew how or to hang on to whatever they could find floating was too much for most. Battered, burned and scalded they slipped beneath the water’s surface drowning in the Mississippi River. Tragically they were only a few days from reaching home.

By morning, ships of all sizes had arrived at the scene from Memphis, pulling survivors from the river and picking up those who made it to shore. It was estimated that somewhere between 500 and 600 men were taken to Memphis hospitals. About 200 of those survivors died soon afterward either from their injuries, exposure or their weakened condition. It really isn’t known how many people died in the explosion since their wasn’t an accurate list of passengers but it’s generally accepted 1,700 perished although some published accounts put the number at 1,800. To put this horrible incident into perspective 1,754 Union soldiers died at Shiloh.

The Sultana, alarmingly overcrowded with passengers, struggling against unusually high waters, with hastily repaired boilers, exploded and caught fire in the worst maritime tragedy of our country’s history. More passengers died in the Sultana explosion than the sinking of the Titanic. Making it even more heartbreaking is the fact that most of the dead were Union prisoners of war. Men who had survived Andersonville and Cahaba prisons and were finally headed home to their families. May they always be remembered and rest in peace.