The Civil War means different things to different people. Some obsess about the battles and famous generals and strategy. Others, like me want to document their ancestor’s experience and learn what it was like for him. Some buffs like to wear the uniforms and attire of the war era and act out the events.
If you have a Civil War buff on your gift list, you might wonder what they would love for Christmas. What would make their eyes light up as they remove the ribbons and wrapping paper?
Recently I had an email from a great-uncle. I’d told him about my research on my civil war ancestor. He asked if I knew about the diary from Andersonville. My heart skipped a beat…
I have a very worn pocket diary that belonged to Abraham Bates Tower, but it starts at the time of his mustering out. In it, he recorded the names of the men in his company and later added family births, marriages and deaths. I’d always wondered if there were earlier diaries. I assumed that if there was one that it was lost as he became desperately ill in that horrible stockade.
Now I had a clue and was ecstatic at the idea that such a diary might exist. The email gave a name of a lady in Oklahoma and said he would try to find her contact information for me. Impatient for that, I started casting about on the Internet. The lady proved elusive. I’m still working on it.
Did the ancestor you’re researching die during the Civil War or after the war? If you have the pension records, it will tell you when the person died. That makes it easier to check for an obituary in a newspaper in the area where they died. Luckily my mother had a copy of the newspaper clipping from her Aunt Vina.
You can also search for cemetery records. Find-A-Grave may give you additional details about the person’s life such as who their spouse was. In the case of my great-great grandfather, the information on Find-A-Grave contained a mistaken birth year. The gravestone shows the same error.
The photo of the gravestone wasn’t as clear as I would like, so last fall I traveled to Tyro, KS to get my photo. I found out that my effort wasn’t any better than the volunteer’s who posted it to the web site. A tree-shaded the grave and mildew or lichen contributed to the difficulty in getting a clear photo.
The large cemetery seemed rather daunting when we arrived, but knowing what the gravestone looked like facilitated our search. We looked in the oldest part of the cemetery first.
An older, much-weathered stone next to his was for his wife, Nancy Angeline (Long) Tower who died 21 years before him. Also buried next to him was one of his daughters, Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee who died 34 years after her father.
I recently joined a group called The Organized Genealogist. Seeing what the other researchers are doing inspires me to organize my findings. I’m notorious for piles of papers and need to learn to “file, not pile.”
So… I’ve made file folders with categories like early life, 93rd Indiana, Andersonville, Civil War background information, Tyro, old age. Since I’m also researching the 100 men that were in Company G with my great-great grandfather, I need a folder just for them. Also I need a folder for his descendants as I find details about the lives of his children and grandchildren.
A treasure that our family possesses is the well-worn pocket diary that belonged to our Civil War ancestor. He must have bought it right before being mustered out. At the top of the first page, he wrote August the 4 1865.
The first few pages list the men in Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Probably he wanted to note all their names so he would remember them. After three years together, I imagine they all felt very close. The first name in the list is Jerome Spilman, Capt.
The names fill the first twelve pages of the diary. He breaks it down into officers, enlisted men, those that died, those that were discharged, ones that were transferred and ones that deserted.
I sure wish the diary included details from all the years he was in the Union Army. Maybe he had an earlier one but it was lost while he was in Andersonville Prison. You can read more about Andersonville here.
The diary that Abraham Tower recorded the names of the men he served with in the Civil War
Through stories passed down through generations, you get leads to Civil War veterans that you might miss otherwise. Sometimes the stories get embroidered or a bit garbled over the years, but at least it gives you a starting place.
I found in my mother’s papers, the Civil War records for Elias Babcock. It says he was in Company E of the 107 Illinois Volunteer Regiment. He was mustered in as a private on September 5, 1862. Later he transferred to Battery K of an artillery unit. According to his muster roll it was the 1st Regiment Illinois Light Artillery.
It shows him in the hospital from June 30 through December 1864, first in Knoxville and later in Louisville, KY.
I need to look through my family tree and figure out how he fits in there and why she had his records. I’m guessing the Ezra B. Babcock, who gave his sworn account after Elias’ death, is the actual ancestor.
After the war, Elias and his wife Keziah moved to Wilson County, Kansas in 1865.
It looks like it has everything I’d been wanting. There are descriptions and photos of clothing, equipment and weapons of the infantryman plus details about their rations. It’s based on first-hand accounts from diaries and letters both Union and Confederate during the Civil War.
This will help me picture the daily life of my Civil War ancestor as I track the movement of his regiment.