If you’re curious about your Civil War ancestors and where their last name originated, there are a variety of sources to help you track it down.
I read about someone finding their Civil War ancestor’s letters in a trunk in their attic. Sigh, I wish that would happen to me. Unfortunately, I have no attic with dusty trunks waiting to be opened.
Letter by Abraham Lincoln (in the museum in Baltimore, MD)
I have some World War I letters from my grandfather and a great-uncle. They were treasured and kept carefully by my mother, our family historian. If you have someone in your family, who serves in that role, check with them.
Some historical societies have letters donated by local residents. These are not always digitized or displayed. They may be cataloged and stored away. Ask about Civil War letters and diaries in historical societies in the area where your ancestor lived.
Even if what they have is not your ancestor, it is possible that your ancestor was mentioned by another soldier. Reading about other soldiers in the same unit as your ancestor will give you details about their Civil War experience.
Check eBay, as Civil War letters sometimes show up on there. You can place a watch on keywords or a topic and eBay will inform you when something shows up at auction.
Many letters from that era have been published in books. Search for Civil War letters on Amazon under the book category. Some books focus on letters by an individual but others are collections of letters by various soldiers or a military unit or a region.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
My Review of the Book
Over 150 years ago the United States erupted in a civil war. There is much to learn about that time and this is just the book for anyone fascinated by Civil War history and all the details that go with that time period. If you are searching for a Civil War ancestor, you need to learn about all aspects of the war so you can put their life in perspective of the events of that time.
This weighty book would make a good doorstop, that is if you could tear yourself away from it long enough to use it in that way. What I’m saying is, there is a lot of history packed into this book. Great for dipping into and browsing, but it has an index for returning to information that you found earlier.
The American Civil War 365 Days is a book that Civil War buffs and those with a casual interest will enjoy soaking up historical facts. It was great for that, but when I checked the index for a specific topic, it sometimes wasn’t there. You can only cram so much into one book, even one as large as this one is. It would not be my #1 source for reference on the Civil War.
Battle of Chancellorsville Mouse Pad by libertybell
Reviews by Others
What other reviewers have to say about the book:
“I added this to my classroom civil war collection as soon as I saw finished reading it. Recommended. ” (review by Evan McMillan)
“Excellent information and photos.” (review by G.J. Durst)
“The division of the book into topics helped me analyze different general aspects of conflict and concern at the time, and the phenomenal selection of photos, maps, drawings, cartoons humanized the time period and the war itself and made it very real. I borrowed the book from the library, couldn’t put it down, rushed right out and bought it.” (review by nsx12 on Amazon)
Take a look at a video of the author talking about the book. You can buy the book, The American Civil War 365 Days, new or used in hardback on Amazon. Just click on the book below to see more reviews or to buy a copy.
It’s interesting to see the old recruitment posters for the American Civil War. I’ve seen them in museums at Gettysburg and Richmond.
Photo of a Civil War recruitment poster (taken at a museum).
Usually, the amount of the bounty (bonus) in the 1860s is a few hundred dollars. Sometimes there are multiple bounties to entice recruits. In some cases, the money was paid up front or some held back to be paid at the end of the enlistment.
Having the money at the sign-up time would be good. Then you could leave some for the wife and children to live on while you are away fighting in battles.
Photo of a Civil War recruitment poster (taken at a museum).
With the monthly pay for a soldier being just $16, you get an idea of the value of money at that time. $1000 is a considerable sum.
I met one genealogist who found that his ancestor changed his name and fought in a different regiment. It made me wonder if he did that to collect more than one bounty. That would certainly complicate your search for that ancestor.
Would $1000 convince you to join the army and march away to war? Search online for recruitment posters for the state and county where your ancestor lived.
What are the chances that your Civil War ancestor might be mentioned in a book about the Civil War? Probably slim, unless he was a general or other high-ranking officer. It is always possible, since more primary source material like diaries and letters are getting published plus an abundance of new research. Your ancestor may turn up in print some day.
That’s why when I see a book on Amazon about the war or a history topic, I look for the names of my ancestors. Not all books have the LOOK-INSIDE-THE-BOOK feature, but it only takes a minute to search when you find one that does have it.
The preview feature usually shows the table of contents and a few pages from the first chapter. See the screenshot below to see how the search function can turn up valuable information. In some cases, it shows the index. You’ll want to scan that for events and names that are important to you.
Put the Amazon Search Inside a Book to work for you.
For this book, I put in the name Walsh and the search brought up 5 page links. By clicking on each link, you can see the whole page with that name highlighted on it.
It’s a little bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, since there are 284,298 books under the topic “Civil War.” More are being added all the time. I look for books relating to areas of the war where I know my ancestor might be (Andersonville, Vicksburg, Brice’s Crossroads). I also use this search for books on Indiana and Kansas history where I might find Abraham Tower before or after the war.
Although the 1890 census was almost totally destroyed, there was a Veteran’s Schedule done at the same time. It’s possible your Civil War ancestor will show up on this. It documented around 75,000 Civil War Union veterans or their widows.
According to the census office, this is the information collected, “name, rank, company, regiment or vessel, date of enlistment, date of discharge, and length of service. It also included the post office address, any disability incurred in the service, and general remarks.” Some of the census takers ended up recording Confederate veterans and veterans of other wars. Read more about the Veterans Census on the National Archives site.
To get something looked up in this Veteran’s Schedule, there’s a special angel out there willing to search for free. Just one search request per person, per day. Allow a week for the look up. The site is called Ancestral Findings and here is the form to submit your request.
I’ve just submitted mine for Abraham Bates Tower. Can’t wait to see if anything turns up for the searcher. Wish me luck.
UPDATE March 6, 2015: Had a reply on my inquiry on the 1890 Veterans Schedule and no luck. Sigh.