Civil War Veteran – Private Ovington Harris, United States Colored Troops, 43rd Regiment, Company H

You can pick up a lot of tips by reading blog posts on Civil War veterans that genealogists researched. This one is particularly detailed with information about the sources where the information was found.

Cinziarosa's Descendants (c)

According to his Civil War pension file, Private Ovington Harris was born on December 12, 1844 in Havre de Grace, Maryland.  From census data, his parents were likely Robert Harris and Hannah born in Maryland.

The first record I found pertaining to Ovington was the 1850 Federal Census where he was living in Havre de Grace.  His father Robert was working as a ship caulker.  The Harrises were designated Mulatto.  In 1902, when Ovington filed for a veteran’s pension he stated that he was never a slave.

I spent some time tracing Ovington’s parents.  On the 1832 Census of Free Blacks of Harford County, there was a Robert Harris and a lady named Dinah listed by the Sheriff.  Dinah could be a mistake and might be Hannah.  Dinah could also be his first wife.  Or Robert and Dinah could be other people altogether.  However, since I found a Free Person…

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Search for Men in Your Ancestor’s Company

I found some great advice for anyone searching a Civil War ancestor. It was in the Genealogy Tip of the Day that I subscribe too. This free blog gives one genealogy research tip every day. I like that they are short and to the point.

The one today was particularly useful for our area of researching.

This tip is particularly useful for anyone searching for information on what happened to their Civil War ancestor.

This is why I search for regimental histories, diaries by men from the same regiment, and use Google search to find blogs or genealogy posts on other men in the same company as my ancestor.

In Michael John Neill’s tip, he requested the compiled military service records on the other men. Since I subscribe to Fold 3, I’d check there but haven’t had as much success as I’d like on that site.

Starting from a Photo

This is my 3rd great-uncle Elias Babcock. I’m trying to figure out which of the Elias Babcocks he is in the Civil War. There’s one in 107th Illinois Infantry and one in Company K of the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Can we figure out anything from his uniform?

I had him on my family tree on Ancestry and another descendant put on this photo of him (Thanks, Jatpainter1). Ancestry offered several hints relating to Civil War service by Elias Babcock but were they the same man or different ones. If different, which one was my Elias Babcock?

Look for Clues in the Photo

I shared the picture in a Civil War group and asked them if his uniform gave any clues for his kind of service. Here’s the help I received:

Steven Wiezbicki “The 107th Illinois Infantry is the only possibility. He is an infantryman because of his eagle breast plate, percussion cap box, cartridge box, and rifle-musket with bayonet.
Out of a collection I have of 100 photographs, sketches, drawings, and paintings of Union army artillerymen, only one, a modern painting entitled “Union Artillery at the Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1862″ by Chris Collingworth, depicts an artilleryman with an eagle breast plate.”

Finding Clues Beyond the Photo

By his location and age, I was able to find a record of his marriage and in the census find his children. When I looked at another Ancestry hint showing the index card for his widow’s pension, I saw that the widow’s name matched the marriage record and census records I’d found for my ancestor.

Elias Babcock’s pension record naming his widow and showing he was in the 107 Illinois Infantry and Company K, 1st Illinois Light Artillery.
Taking the DNA test through Ancestry and using their new ThruLines, I found a 4th cousin descended from Elias Babcock (for privacy reasons, I only show part of the chart). This requires a subscription to Ancestry to get all this information.

Next, I can contact this 4th cousin through Ancestry’s messaging capability. Perhaps they have memorabilia or family stories about their Civil War ancestor. I’d love to see other photos showing him at various times in his life.

Facebook Civil War Genealogy

One place to get help in finding genealogy information about your Civil War ancestor is Facebook. There are several groups devoted to this pursuit and members help each other with advice and even help with searching.

The Civil War Soldiers – Genealogy group will get you started. With almost 2,000 members, it is “For posting queries on Civil War Soldiers, and their Histories and Families.”

After joining a group, search the back postings using the little magnifying glass. Search by the last name of your ancestor or a battle or a regiment. You may hit it lucky that someone has already asked about that topic.

Example of a Query in the Civil War Soldiers – Genealogy Group

At first, I like to get acclimated in a group by liking and commenting on a few interesting things. Then you can put a question or share some information you have once they are used to seeing your face on the site. The more detail you provide in your query, the easier it is for people to help with some aspect of your search.

Be polite and show appreciation when others help you.

Civil War Roots is more of a blog style page on Facebook relating to Civil War ancestry. The posts are by an administrator and there are over 7,000 members. Members can comment on the posts but not post directly.

Sample Post on the Civil War Roots on Facebook

Case Study – The Drummer

We have a new case study to work on. Betsy Thal Gephart posed the question below to the Civil War Genealogy group.

Thomas C. Wilson – Drummer

Thomas C. Wilson, my husband’s ancestor, was a drummer in the 1st Ohio Infantry, 45th Ohio Infantry, and 15th Kansas Cavalry. The latter service he did under the name Benjamin Wilson. He was “ruptured” in service and claimed an invalid pension. A later claim of deafness, and then a full investigation into his legal widow – he had married four women! – provided me with a 500-page pension file! It’s a treasure!

List that includes Thomas C. Wilson – drummer

I am very interested in learning about two things in particular.

  1. First, the regimental bands. I have a book, “Bands and Drummer Boys of the Civil War,” which is helpful, but if anyone has more specific information, especially about Ohio or Kansas, that would be wonderful. In one place, the Kansas band is called the “Silver Band.”
  2. Also, about the Kansas unit. By the time he joined, in November of 1864, the regimental history has pretty much finished. They apparently served with the “Department of Kansas and Missouri.” Does anyone know of this, or where I might find more information?
Reunion of Civil War drummers

Suggestions for Research

Add Your Ideas in the Comments Section

Civil War Tips from The Handwritten Past

Civil War Archives The Handwritten Past

Blog posts from The Handwritten Past blog on Civil War genealogy.

You’ll want to read the blog postings about the Civil War from the site, The Handwritten Past. The bloggers are professional genealogists and cover a variety of topics.

Here are Civil War topics they’ve covered recently:

You can subscribe to that blog to get other useful genealogy tips.

Argosy Disaster and William Winesburg

Argosy No. 3  

Timeline & Disaster

by Lori Drawl

I have attempted to combine numerous newspaper reports and brief snippets from regimental histories, etc.  to come up with a semblance of understanding of the events surrounding this incident.

 

  • Items highlighted in blue are of special interest or represent contradictory information.
  • Items highlighted in red indicate a major problem, which will be addressed at length at the end.

 

The one-year-old Argosy No. 3 steamboat was enlisted into the Union war effort to help transport troops home during the demobilization effort, traveling from Cairo, Illinois, to Cincinnati, Ohio. Piloted by Capt. Lewis Vandegrift.

10 Aug 1865 Pvt. Wm. Winesburg (Indiana 93rd Inf, Co. A) officially mustered out in Memphis TN, but he is listed as “Absent; POA”. He is not with the other members of his regiment as they head home on this date.

14 Aug 1865 Under the command of Col. Henry L. Phillips, the 70th Ohio Infantry mustered out in Little Rock, AK. From there, the regiment of 300 troops took a river steamer to Magnolia TN and on to Memphis TN.  While in Memphis, they transferred to another steamer bound for Cairo, IL. They relaxed in Cairo for one day and one night before boarding the Argosy No. 3 for the trip to a port in Cincinnati. From there they would travel on to Columbus, Ohio, before reaching their final destination of their homes in Adams County, OH.

21 Aug 1865 Day of the Argosy Disaster

  • Transporting about 300 passengers to Cincinnati OH, comprised primarily of mustered out men of the 70th Ohio Infantry
  • At Oxbow Bend on the Ohio River, near Hatfield Landing, KY, a tornadic storm blew the ship onto rocks on the Indiana side of the Ohio River causing the mud drums to explode.
  • Reportedly, 30-50 men jumped overboard to avoid the steam as the Sultana disaster earlier that year was surely still very fresh in everyone’s mind. Eight of these individuals were never found and presumed drowned. I have been unable to locate information regarding the military or civilian status of the drowning victims.
  • The ship “Morning Star” happened by and was hailed to assist the wounded. The captain did not heed the plea, which may have been attributable to the weather/night not making the wreck visible.  

The Colonel of the OH 70th later laid the case before military authorities to investigate.

  • Ironically, the steamer Argosy (No. 1) was the next ship to come along. This boat then transported survivors to Cincinnati for medical care.

Casualties and Confusion

 

  • Severely Scalded

 

Most newspaper sources report anywhere from 12-18 individuals were scalded and transported to Louisville KY for medical care.  

The History of Adams County Ohio states that of the troops from the Ohio 70th,  twenty-three were scalded severely and nine drowned.

Severely scalded troops mentioned by name in almost every newspaper article are:

 

  • William Egelshoff (OH 70th, Co I)
  • Michael Murray (OH 70th, Co. D)
  • William Norton Shelby (OH 70th, Co. D)
  • Mr. Brosher/Brasbee/Brisbee/Brashee/Brisble/Busbee (OH 70th, Co. D)
  • Isaac Taylor (OH 70th)
  • One of these men died en route to Cincinnati and was left there for internment.
  • Another was expected to die before they reached Cincinnati or shortly thereafter.
  • Local historian, Bert Fenn, reported that two of the injured are thought to be buried in Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville, KY.
  • Fenn also mentions speculation that the Unknown Soldier may be one of the injured who died in Louisville and was subsequently buried with the others in the mass grave near Rono, IN.

 

 

  • Deceased and Memorialized in Magnet, IN

 

Local Farmers collect bodies and prepared a mass burial at the accident site near the Town of Rono IN,  (later renamed Magnet, IN). A historical marker was erected in 1865.

#1-8 From the Ohio 70thnine drowning victims” (History of Adams Co. OH)

 

  1. John Herman Behren (OH 70th, Co. F)
  2. John Robuck (OH 70th, Co. G)
  3. Amos Rose (OH 70th, Co. C)
  4. Alfred Rader (OH 70th)
  5. John/Joseph McDaniel/McDonald (OH 70th, Co. F)
  6. Hugh Taylor (OH 70th, Co. K)
  7. Aaron Fiscus (Oh 70th, Co. K) ”only drowning victim recovered”
  8. George W. McKinnley (OH 70th)

 

 

#9-10 Immediately Scalded to death

 

9. Martin Van Buren Long (OH 70th, Co. K)

10. Unknown Soldier discharged from the 39th Indiana Infantry

 

“We Have a Problem”

PROBLEM #1: Who was left in Louisville KY for internment, and are they buried at Cave Hill Cemetery?

 

  • One of these men died en route to Cincinnati and was left there for internment.

 

  • Another was expected to die before they reached Cincinnati or shortly thereafter. (can apply to Problem #1 or #2)

 

  • Local historian, Bert Fenn, reported that two of the injured are thought to be buried in Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville, KY.

 

SOLUTION (and you aren’t going to like it):

Source: Civil War Roll of Honor (Vol. 17) Union soldiers buried in Cave Hill National Cemetery (05), Louisville KY

  1. Martin Long – Ohio 70th, Company K   died Aug 22, 1865.  Buried Section D, Range 4, Grave 10 National Cemetery Internment Control Record: Stone #3539
  2. Aaron Fiscus  – Ohio 70th, Company K died Aug 21, 1865. Buried Section D, Range 2, Grave 11 National Cemetery Internment Control Record: Stone #3314

NEW PROBLEM: If they are buried in Cave Hill, who is buried at Magnet, IN?

 

  • I have NEVER seen mention of anyone being reinterred to Magnet. If someone was going to go to the bother of reinterring Long & Fiscus, why not just take them home to Ohio?

 

  • I have NEVER seen mention that the tombstones at Magnet are only symbolic memorials for those who died and their bodies are elsewhere.

Winesburg Theory graves

Aaron Fiscus at Cave Hill, Aaron Fiscus gravestone at Magnet, Martin Long gravestone at Magnet.

I could not obtain an online photo of Martin Long’s tombstone at Cave Hill, but I have requested one.

PROBLEM #2: “Unknown Soldier”

 

  • Fenn also mentions speculation that the Unknown Soldier may be one of the injured who died in Louisville and was subsequently buried with the others in the mass grave near Rono, IN.
  • Another was expected to die before they reached Cincinnati or shortly thereafter (could apply to Problem #1 or #2)
  • Unknown Soldier discharged from the 39th Indiana

POTENTIAL SOLUTION: William Winesburg

  • Every source consistently states that the unknown soldier was discharged from an INDIANA infantry. Some sources mention the 39th and some don’t state any regiment number.
  • The 39th Indiana Infantry ceased to exist on October 15, 1863, when its designation was changed to 8th Indiana Cavalry.  There hadn’t been a 39th Indiana Infantry for almost two years before the Argosy disaster, so this regiment designation for the unknown soldier seems highly unlikely.
  • My theory is that it could be William Winesburg of the 93rd Indiana (a clerical transposition of 39th or incorrect information given to reporters). He would not have been traveling with his regiment due to his POW status, which would explain the inability to identify him accurately.
  • The oral history and all regimental documentation available from the National Archives seem to be in agreement.  Fortunately, I have yet to find any information that negates this theory. Unfortunately, I may never be able to prove the theory beyond a reasonable doubt…but I am still looking for evidence!

POTENTIAL SOLUTION: Michael Manning  (Hold onto your hat!)

  • Source: Cairo Evening Times (Cairo IL) Wed, Sep 6, 1865

“Michael Manning, Co. D. 36th Illinois Infantry, was scalded and died on the Steamer Argosy, and was buried six miles above the head of Flint Island in the Lower Ohio. Captain Vandegriff left his discharge and a small amount of money with Cunningham & Bennet, of this city, for his relatives.”

[Cunningham & Bennett was a transportation company contracted by the military to assist with the war effort. The description of his burial site matches the location of Magnet, IN]

  • For Manning to be the Unknown Soldier, the “discharged 39th Indiana” soldier would have to be an inaccurate reporting of a soldier from the “36th Illinois”.
  • If Manning is the Unknown Soldier, why is he “unknown”?    Vandegrift, the steamship captain, knew his identity (presumably from some sort of documentation he was carrying).
  • Source: Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles 

Michael Manning enlisted in Company I, Illinois 36th Infantry Regiment on 15 Dec 1861. Captured 9/20/1863 and sent to (and survived) Andersonville.  Captured again 8/26/1864; prison not listed . Mustered out 7 Mar 1865. Remarks: Known to be discharged, no official notice recd.  He is listed as being in two Companies: I and D.

Would he not have been traveling with his regiment during the muster out process due to his POW status? His name is only found in ONE newspaper article, which may indicate that he was traveling without his regiment and why nobody mentioned his name to the newspapers.

I am struggling to find additional accurate information on this individual, in part because there are numerous soldiers with the name “Michael Manning” in Illinois (two in the 36th Illinois regiment alone).

  • My theory: Michael Manning is buried at Magnet IN.  We now know that Aaron Fiscus and Martin Long are NOT BURIED there! So, if ten bodies are in the mass grave, Michael Manning and William Winesburg could both be there in an “unknown soldier” status….and one more left to be identified.

Newspaper Sources:

  1. Cincinnati Enquirer; 24 Aug 1865, 26 Aug 1865
  2. New York Times; 25 Aug 1865
  3. Janesville Gazette, Wisconsin;  25 Aug 1865
  4. Daily Empire (Dayton OH);  24 Aug 1865
  5. Indianapolis Star; 24 Aug 1865
  6. Argosy Disaster Remembered, Perry County News; 31 Aug 2015
  7. Waterways Journal Weekly;  2 Apr 2018
  8. Cairo Evening Times; Sept 5, 1865
  9. The Gazette & Comet (Baton Rouge LA), Sept. 7, 1865
  10. The Herald (Jasper IN) Feb 26, 1971
  11. Buffalo Courier (Buffalo NY) Aug 25, 1865
  12. Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling WV) Aug 25, 1865
  13. Pittsburgh Gazette (Pittsburgh PA) Aug 24, 1865