Walk in the Footsteps of Your Civil War Ancestor

If you know that your Civil War ancestor participated in a specific battle, visit that site to learn all you can about his experience there. Just standing on the ground where he endured fire from the enemy lets you picture what he went through.

Most battlefields provide information on plaques that you can walk or drive to. Often there is a visitor’s center with a documentary film and exhibits to further inform the visitor. Check for a webpage for information on what can be seen there and for the hours.

Recently, I traveled to Mississippi to the location of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. There was much to learn about the location, the conditions and the placement of the troops.


Information display at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. (photo by Virginia Allain)

I looked at the rolling hills with clumps of trees and could imagine the panic in the Union troops trapped by the flooded river, unable to cross to safety. The bridge, blocked by a turned-over wagon doomed hundreds to capture and imprisonment.

In the case of my ancestor, Abraham Bates Tower of the 93rd Indiana Infantry, this battle was a major turning point in his life. He went to Andersonville Prison with the other captured soldiers and emerged six months later as a wreck of a man. Starvation and illness there almost killed him, and according to his medical records he suffered for years trying to recover from that.

Andersonville is well worth a visit if your Union ancestor was a prisoner there or if a Confederate soldier, he might possibly have been a guard there.

from Pat Ruble's website:   http://geocities.com/fcruble/towerpictures.html

Abraham Bates Tower – A researcher in our family, Pat Ruble, provided this photo of him shortly after the war.

Many of the sites are under the care of the National Parks (list of Civil War related parks) but some are maintained on the state or local level. Just search the name of a battle online to see what museum or park is preserved for it. Then you can start working that into your vacation plans for this summer.


Sort Out Your Questions about Your Ancestor

It seems like for every genealogy discovery I make, I uncover another riddle or puzzle to keep me working. When I find several versions of a name, I wonder is it a misspelling? Which is the correct one and how can I find out? The same problem happens with birth dates, death dates and marriage dates.

Then there are the questions that can’t be answered by the facts listed in a census. I wonder about the way my ancestors lived, why they moved from one state to another. What happened to some family members that don’t show up in later census records? Who are the children with different names that are living with the family?

Unfortunately many of these family history questions will remain unanswered. I’m listing my puzzles here and cross my fingers. Maybe someone will stumble across them in working on their own family history. Maybe they will even have some of the answers for me. Miracles do happen.

???  Why was his 7th child, Ezakins Zacheus Tower (1875) born in Indiana when the family was living in Tyro, Kansas in 1873? Did the infant die in childbirth? I’m not finding further information about him.

??? The 8th child, Rueben Theodore Tower was born May 13, 1876 in Boone County, Arkansas. What was the family doing in Arkansas, when the previous year they were in Indiana?
UPDATE: I found online Rueben Tower’s grandson’s essay about the family. He says Civil War veterans were offered free land in Arkansas. I need to find out more about that.

??? Abraham’s 9th child, Malissa Angeline Tower was born in Arkansas in 1879, but the 10th child Emma Lillian Tower born in 1881 was in Indiana. Were they visiting in Indiana or living there again? I’ve also seen Malissa listed as Melissa which would be a more ordinary spelling.

??? Which of Nancy Angeline Tower’s sisters was living in Missouri? The family story is that she went to Missouri to stay with the sister when she thought Abraham was dead after the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.

??? Prisoners were allowed to send letters to their family while in Andersonville. Abraham did not. It wasn’t due to illiteracy, as he kept a pocket diary after the war. Perhaps he did not have any money for stamps? Perhaps he sent a letter but it went astray due to wartime conditions. Possibly that wasn’t allowed any longer by the time he entered the prison. (I need to find out when the mail was stopped at Andersonville)

??? Prisoners were formed into groups upon arrival for purposes of roll call and food distribution. Was Abraham with other Company G comrades at this time or did they get separated as the influx of prisoners arrived?
(Strategy: make a list of Company G, 93rd Infantry soldiers in Andersonville, date of capture or arrival, died or survived)

I think I’ll get this to help me work out these questions. The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Individual Problem Analysis: A Strategic Plan (Quicksheet)

It looks very helpful in asking the right questions, looking for the right information, and so on. It’s great to have a checklist by you when taking on the big task of genealogy! Make sure you don’t miss anything important, and you know what you’re looking for!

Hiram’s Honor – Recommended Reading

I have a web page where I’m collecting my research about Andersonville Prison. My great-great grandfather spent six months there during the Civil War.

It’s well worth putting your findings online as it often attracts comments from others that open new doors for you. In this case, an author named Max Terman put a comment on my page. He mentioned his book, Hiram’s Honor: Reliving Private Terman’s Civil War. I bought the book for my Kindle immediately and found it a great read.

The fictional book follows his ancestor through various Civil War battles and prisons. It fascinated me to see how he presented Hiram’s experience at Andersonville and his parole. Those are areas I’ve been reading quite a bit about. Here’s my booklist on Andersonville in case you want to read some of them.

An area that’s been difficult finding information on is what happens to the prisoners when released from Andersonville. I’m fairly sure my ancestor was taken by the steamship, New York, up to Camp Parole in Maryland. Interestingly, that’s the same thing that happened with Hiram.  I’m going to contact the author to find what sources he found. They may help me with my questions. You can read more about Abraham Tower leaving Andersonville on my page.