Chasing Relatives

18 04 2012

8th PA Reserves Monument Antietam NB

A while back I received a book, Your Affectionate Son: Letters from a Civil War Soldier, from its author, Milann Ruff Daugherty. I wrote about it here. As you read (if you followed the hyperlinked “here”), at about the same time I received some news from my friend Mike regarding some relatives about whom I was unaware. That’s the normal relationship between my ancient relatives and me, by the way, unawareness. Of particular interest was Pvt. James Gates, 8th PA Reserves, mortally wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, died a month later at Smoketown Hospital just north of the battlefield, buried in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg. He served in the same company as the letter writer in Ms. Daugherty’s book. As some of you may be aware, I’m a board member and vice-president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, so my interest in the battle and battlefield is more than passing.

Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, MD

Upon learning of this more tangible relationship with the event, I felt compelled to take a drive down to Maryland (by way of Gettysburg, of course) over the President’s Day holiday back in February. I first drove out to the portion of the field where the 8th PA Reserves saw action. Then I met up with friend Craig Swain and his aide-de-camp Cade Swain and visited my great-great-uncle (how come there’s no “grand” for uncles and aunts?) in the cemetery and took in the million-dollar view of the battlefield from the back of that place. After lunch I drove over to chief historian Ted Alexander’s office near the Pry House. Ted graciously came in on his day off and so I could rummage through the park’s file on the 8th PA Reserves. It was pretty thin, but contained a series of newspaper articles from the turn-of-the-20th century, memoirs of a member of the 8th PA Reserves. In several of those articles, my g-g-uncle played a role, and from the perspective of the history of the battle and battlefield, it was a pretty high-profile role. After making copies (though I’m sure I missed some good stuff and will have to go back), Ted drove me out to the site of the Smoketown hospitals where James died. 

The long and short of it is that I took some good photos and got some great info, but I still want to do some more digging before I present my findings to you, dear readers. I hope that when I do post the piece here you all won’t mind the slight diversion from Bull Run.





My Wife Calls This a “God Wink”

11 12 2011

I prefer to use the words of the Zen philosopher Leon Spinks: “Freaky Deaky.”

This is a little convoluted, so bear with me.

A few years ago I learned (from a total stranger via a gen group for the Smeltzer line) that my great-grandfather, John B. Smeltzer, served in the 205th PA Infantry and was wounded during the Petersburg breakthrough in 1865. You see, most of my family, if we’re interested in genealogy at all, have always focused on my mother’s side of the family, I think because her father was from Ireland and we have always identified ourselves as “Irish”. We went to the Irish school and the Irish church (as opposed to the German, Polish, Italian, Croatian, or Greek churches and schools in our little town). Yes, with a name like mine that has required a lot of explanation over the years, but my dad was in fact president of our local AOH, and I have the throne from the now defunct group in my garage right now to prove it.

Given my interest in the Civil War, this was pretty cool news to me. I haven’t done much other than get his pension file from NARA (for some reason I forgot to order his service record) and locate his grave in Vicksburg Cemetery in Roaring Springs, PA – though I have yet to visit it (UPDATE – good thing I didn’t visit, as he is actually buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery in Hopewell, PA, Bedford County.) I learned from the gen group that John was born in 1846, his father’s name was Joseph and his mother was Susan. He had, IIRC, four siblings. It looks like he signed up when he turned 18. Later in life, he suffered from pretty much the same physical maladies as do I. Weird how that works.

OK, fast forward a few years and here’s where it gets freaky.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Milann Ruff Daugherty. She had found a collection of her great-great-uncle’s letters and published them, and wanted to know if I’d be so kind as to review the book here. I informed her, as I inform everyone, that if it was a novel I was not interested, but if it was truly non-fiction and Civil War focused I’d be happy to take a look, and at worst I’d give it a preview. Not long after, Your Affectionate Son: Letters from a Civil War Soldier arrived in the mailbox. I glanced through it and noticed that, while the letters had some good stuff, the letters that have the really good stuff, written before, during, or just after big engagements, were missing (or, less likely, had never been written: really, how affectionate could a son be if he didn’t write home after a battle, if only to let his folks know he was OK?). So I put it aside with the intent of writing said preview when I had the time.

Jump forward about a week. I received an unrelated email from my good buddy and battlefield stomping pard Mike Pellegrini:

Hope all is well with you and your family. Found something on Ancestry.com that might interest you, see attachments for JB Smetlzer. On another note, why haven’t you mentioned your other CW ancestors, one being buried at Antietam NMP Cemetery?

Huh? I too subscribe to Ancestry.com, but simply haven’t had the time to use it much other than to trace down various individuals about whom I write. Really haven’t done anything much with my own family. So I responded to Mike that the reason I never told him was that I never knew. I got this in return:

John Smeltzer’s wife Hannah Virginia Gates had a few brothers: James Gates Co F, 8 PA reserves aka 37th PA died of wounds 16 Oct. 1862 at Smoketown or he died during the battle depending which web site you want to believe and is buried in the Nat Cemetery.

I know a little about Antietam (since I’m on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation I better know a little), and recognize Smoketown as a place where many Union wounded were sent after the battle to recover. Or, as in the sad case of James Gates, to not recover. A quick web search turned up this photo of his headstone, for the above use of which I thank Sharon Murray.

My great-great-uncle James Gates is buried in grave #3717 in Antietam National Cemetery. When I saw this photo I was immediately reminded of something my father said on occasion. His father, John’s son, was named Harry Gates Smeltzer. My father’s mother’s maiden name was Dorr. So my dad quipped, “My father was a Gates, my mother was a Dorr, and I was the Grand Slam.” OK, you had to be there.

Mike hepped me to a little more info on my Gates ancestors:

The Gates family goes way back. I saw a Rev war soldier and it looks like the town of Gatesburg was named for them: it’s out by State College [PA].

Damn, can you imagine me as an SAR? Or my sisters walking into a DAR meeting? I’d PAY to see that! I mean, I suspect that I was perhaps descended from a Rev War soldier, but always thought it most likely would have been from one of the Hessians who stayed here after the war (yes, a couple of them were Smeltzers).

The last little tidbit is even better. I asked Mike if any of my great-grandfather Smeltzer siblings were in the war:

JBS did not have any soldier siblings, but there appears to be a step brother KIA at South Mountain, William Harker Co. E 8th PA Reserves.

[Hmmm...there's that regiment again. Maybe this explains how John B. met Hannah! Wait a minute - step brother?]

When I started looking for siblings I found JBS living with a Miller family in the 1850 & 60 census, so I thought maybe he was orphaned. Next I tried looking at some existing family trees that were posted and here’s what I found: Joseph Smeltzer [my great-great grandfather] married Susan Barley and they had 5 children before she passed about 1850 (then i saw the Joe S and  2 kids living with the Strayer family & JBS with the Miller’s on the same 1850 census page)   I guess splitting up the kids with different families was common when the mother of young children passed so the father could still go to work, that happened in my family when one of my great grandmothers died.  Joe then married Mary Ann Harker (who had 4 kids of her own). Joe & Mary went on to have 6 more kids. It was like the Brady Bunch on steroids!  So it looks like you have hundreds of relatives.

Wow. I’m really indebted to Mike for all this info.

So, I think so far you’ll agree this has been freaky, right?

But I also promised you deaky.

Something about the 8th PA Reserves struck me as familiar, and I looked down to my right as I was typing away during these exchanges and saw Your Affectionate Son. And wouldn’t you know, Millan Ruff Daugherty’s great-great uncle James Cleaver was a lieutenant in the 8th PA reserves (AKA 37th PA Volunteer Infantry, but the Reserves were a proud bunch and liked to go by their Reserves unit number – add 29 to the Reserves number and you get the PAVI number). Not only that, he was in Company F, my great-great uncle’s company. James’s name appears in a roster in the back of the book.

Now, that’s deaky, which makes this whole thing Freaky Deaky.

Stay tuned – more to follow. Your Affectionate Son will be getting a closer look than I at first thought.





From the Archives

2 02 2011

I apologize for the lack of posts the past few days.  I had my Collateral Damage column to finish for Civil War Times (completed in time and under word limit for the first time ever!), and now I’m trying to get caught up on work before I start a long essay for America’s Civil War that I hope will appear in an upcoming issue.

In the meantime, some of my newer readers might want to check out this series of posts on the descendants of a notorious Civil War personality, Maj. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.  Remember they are listed newest to oldest, so start at the bottom and work your way up.  Enjoy!





Bull Run Dead at Cenantua’s Blog

23 11 2010

Robert Moore has this recent post which concerns the family ties of a Confederate soldier of the 2nd VA killed at Bull Run.  Check it out – good stuff!  Once you read that, you can read a little about this fellow and his regiment here and here.





Hunton’s Lieutenant

10 05 2010

This weekend I received the following from a reader:

I was just playing with Google tonight and missing my Dad at the same time.  He died in 1999.  He grew up in the Leesburg, VA area, born in 1910, the youngest of 6 children and 5th boy to Dr. Eppa Hunton Heaton, a country doctor.
 
I typed my Dad’s name: Eppa Hunton Heaton into Google to see what might come up.  And for a while I read some articles about Eppa Hunton who I already knew was a Colonel in the Civil War in VA. 
 
Somehow I ended up on your page: “#101a-Col. Philip St. George Cocke” .  I was scanning down through the long article and Lieutenant Heaton caught my eye as did Colonel Hunton.
 
The story in my Dad’s family is that at some point, and I’m assuming that this Lieutenant Heaton is my great-grandfather, he asked Colonel Hunton for leave so he could get married.  He promised the Colonel that he would name his first son after him.  And my grandfather was the lucky recipient of Eppa Hunton Heaton.  Even though my Dad had four older brothers, none of them got this wonderful name until my Dad was born.  His real name was Eppa Hunton Heaton, Jr. but he was called Willy as a boy and Bill as an adult.
 
His oldest sibling, Medora (“Dora”) was 16 years older than he was and the only girl.  He called her “Sis” so all of his children called her “Aunt Sis”.  She was married and living in Detroit in 1940 and Bill came up north to see her and stayed.  He soon was enjoying the party circuit of Detroit’s finest families.  My maternal grandfather was a friend of Henry Ford’s and a third generation Detroiter.  Anyway, the poor country boy fell in love with the wealthy city girl and the rest is history.  He was 30 and she was 19 when they married in January of 1941. He served as a Lieutenant in the Navy during the war.
 
Anyway, thought I’d pass this family story on to you.  I’m assuming you don’t know about it.
 
Leslie Heaton Evans

Cumberland, RI

Lieutenant Heaton in this case is Henry Heaton, who commanded a section of Capt. Arthur Rogers’ Loudon (Leesburg) Artillery at Bull Run.  According to this book, Henry Heaton was born ( also the a son of a doctor) on 3/18/1844 at Woodgrove, the family homestead, and died on 5/17/1890.  He was a state senator from Loudon and Fauquier counties.  He also had a brother, Capt. N. R. Heaton, a sister, and seven other siblings.  Further correspondence with Leslie established that her great-grandfather was in fact Henry’s brother Nathaniel, who was in command of Co. A of Col. Hunton’s 8th Virginia Regiment at Bull Run.  Both Nathaniel and Hunton would still have their respective commands two years later as part of Garnett’s brigade of Pickett’s division at Gettysburg.   It appears that Nathaniel later became superintendent of the Bates County government nitre works, where he also commanded troops thrown together to oppose Union General David Hunter in the summer of 1864.  According to Findagrave, Nathaniel Rounceville Heaton was born 1/11/1824, died 2/3/1893, and is buried in Katoctin Baptist Church Cemetery in Purcellville, Loudon County.

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Bull Run Thread Trivia #1 – Winner

6 05 2010

Phil LeDuc identified the link between Bull Run and the U. S. Open Tennis Championship:

Seems to me we’re talking the Slocum connection here -

Henry W. Slocum commanded the 27th NY at 1st Bull Run, and his son Henry Jr. twice won the U.S. Tennis Championship.

That’s right, Phil.  Henry Warner Slocum, Jr, like Evonne Goolagong Cawley, reached the finals of the championship in four consecutive years (1887-1890), and won it twice, in 1888 and 1889.  He was also a doubles finalist in 1885, 1887, and 1889, winning in 1889.  These were all when the tournament was held at the casino in Newport, RI, and when a champion automatically qualified for the following year’s title match.  As a student  at Yale he also played football, which helps explain that physique. He authored Lawn Tennis in Our Own Country in 1890, was president of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association in 1892-1893, and became a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame (in Newport’s casino; I’ve been there – very cool) in 1955.   And you thought the General’s only famous namesake was an unfortunate boat.

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Family Ties – Kilpatrick Part VII

26 08 2009

I received the following this evening, from Anne Mather Fowler McCammon:

I found your article on the Family Ties-Kilpatrick Part II very interesting. You are talking about my family and I enjoyed it very much. Philip Hickey Morgan – and by the way it is Hicky – after Philip Hicky (my great, great, grandfather); his wife (my great great grandmother Anne Mather Hicky) is my namesake. My great grandfather is Henry Waller Fowler, his Bowie knife is in the Alamo. Now I’ve bragged enough. I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed the article.

Thanks ,

Anne

Thanks for the note, Anne.  I’ve corrected my misspelling of Hicky.  For the whole Kilpatrick Family Ties series, see here.





Family Ties – Kilpatrick Part VI

19 03 2009

I received a couple of notes today from a reader who is a living Kirkpatrick family tie.  She’s also descended from a Bull Run participant, among others (reader SusanSweet take note).  I’ve received a few other notes from descendants of participants, and I’m going to see if I can get permission to post them here.  The following is stitched from a couple of notes.

Hello,

I just found your bull runnings website, and really enjoyed reading the history, some of which I was already aware, in connection with Philip Hicky Morgan, and his descendants (Harry Hays, Consuelo, Thelma and Gloria, etc.).

I dabble in genealogy.  I am a descendant of Philips’ father, Judge Thomas Gibbes Morgan of Baton Rouge, which is why I enjoyed your web site.  Judge Morgan had 8 more children after he married his second wife, Sarah Fowler Morgan.  Their first born child was Lavinia Marie Morgan, born 1832.  Lavinia was my great-great grandmother.  Lavinia is not as well known as her youngest sister, Sarah, the civil war diarist, or her youngest brother, James Morris Morgan.  But Lavinia’s influence may have been one of the reasons why she and her husband, General Richard Coulter Drum, spent the civil war years at the Presidio in San Francisco, keeping the peace in California, since the state had strong Confederate sympathizers.  A cousin of mine told me that Lavinia reportedly told her husband’s superiors, “I don’t want mah husband killin’ my relatives.”

Sincerely,

Robyn L. Hunt

Desert Hot Springs, California

(originally from Washington, D.C. – Bethesda, Maryland)

P.S.:  Another great-great grandfather of mine was General Henry Jackson Hunt, Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac

———–

Unfortunately, my family does not have any letters or papers of Lavinia’s or Gen. Drum’s.  Most of their belongings and possessions were destroyed when their home in Chevy Chase, Maryland burned in February 1901.  All I have are a few photos of Lavinia and Gen. Drum with their two grandsons, circa 1886), and one of their only daughter, Henrietta Drum, who everyone referred to as “Blossom.”  I also have one piece of furniture that belonged to Blossom.  It is a small mahogany table that opens up to store silverware.  Even though I don’t know for sure, I believe that this table may have been a wedding gift from President Chester Arthur to Blossom when she married Henry J. Hunt, Jr. in Washington in 1882.  (President Arthur was a personal friend of General Drum.)  I know for a fact that Pres. Arthur attended the wedding.  The table was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Also in 1881 or 1882, Pres. Arthur did not like the existing antiques in the White House, so he got rid of much of the old furniture and commissioned Louis Tiffany to redecorate the public rooms of the White House.  Louis Tiffany’s company designed and made furniture several years before he became famous for his beautiful stained glass work.

I know some of the folks at the Drum Barracks museum also – Kathy Ralston and Susan Ogle, the Director.  Its location is only about a 2 hour drive from my home. 

Thank goodness for the people who wanted to preserve it and not let it be torn down in the 1960s, and also thank goodness for the City of Los Angeles for maintaining it.

Robyn





That’s Montgomery Clift, Honey!

29 01 2009

I received the following comment on this post from my friend Sam Elliott.  Sam is the author of a fine biography of A. P. Stewart, Soldier of Tennessee.

Harry, Montgomery Clift was also the descendant of Col. William Clift, a famous (or notorious, depending on which way you shot) Southeast Tennessee Unionist who had sons serving on both sides. A. P. Stewart, who, as an old man lived in Chattanooga in accordance with his duties relative to Chickamauga Chattanooga NMP, lived with one of Clift’s sons after his wife died.

Pretty cool!  I’ve always felt a little sorry for Clift, such a tragic figure, physically broken and internally conflicted.  But all this time I thought his only claim to fame other than the movies was on The Clash album London Calling.  The song is The Right Profile.





A Few Washington, DC Civil War Sites

28 01 2009

A couple weeks ago my son received an invite to tour the White House, so on the spur of the moment we headed on down that way (see here).  We didn’t have any time to visit with any friends, but we did manage to squeeze in some sightseeing.  Click smaller images for great big giant ones.   First up was the Blair House, across Pennsylvania Ave from the White House:

dscn0077

This was the home of publisher Francis Preston Blair, Sr., adviser to Presidents back to Andrew Jackson, and father of Montgomery (Lincoln’s Postmaster General) and Frank Jr. (Union Major General who commanded a corps under Sherman during the March to the Sea and Beyond).  Frank Sr. was also the great-great-great grandfather of actor Montgomery Clift, who served in the Union Army in Raintree County:

raintree1

The Clift-Blair relationship is murky – Clift’s mother claimed to be the illegitimate child of Montgomery’s son Woodbury, but it was never proven beyond a shadow.  Photos show a strong resemblance between an older, beat-up Clift and Great-Grandpa Montgomery Blair.  At least, I think so:

clift blair 

It was here in the Blair House that Colonel Robert E. Lee, prior to his resignation from the United States Army, was “felt out” for command of a Union army (not “the” army, as is commonly said, but as Lee himself said, the army that was to take the field – probably either Patterson’s or McDowell’s army) by Frank Sr.

Today, the complex of houses (four, I think) makes up the President’s guest house, used by visiting heads of state.

After that we took a walk around the White House…

white-house

…via the Treasury Building, behind which is this monument to Uncle Billy:

sherman

We took a long walk to the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, which was the one place other than the White House my son wanted to see (there’s a good boy):

lincoln

I’m always better for visiting the memorial.  This time I had a nice conversation with the ranger on duty, while my wife and son were in the gift shop. 

We returned to the White House via 17th St., and stopped briefly at F to take a picture of The Winder Building.  Today the building serves as the headquarters of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).  When it was built in 1848, at five stories it was the city’s first skyscraper.  In 1854, it was purchased by the Federal government, and during the war served as the headquarters of Winfield Scott, Henry Halleck, the Quartermaster General, the Army Ordnance Department, and the Bureau of Military Justice.  This is where the President lamented that “the bottom is out of the tub”, and where JAG Holt conducted the investigation into Lincoln’s assassination.

winder1

The Winder building plays a prominent role in the often used account of First Bull Run written fifty years after the battle by Peter Conover Hains, whose 30 pdr Parrott opened the fight.  At the beginning of the Cosmopolitan Magazine article Hains recounted that his June, 1861 West Point class mustered into Federal service “in the old Wilder [sic] Building, opposite the war department” on June 25th, 1861.  He wrote that there President Lincoln shook hands with each member of the class.  I’ve been annotating the article – very, very slowly – and have found a number of problems with it, including this otherwise innoccuous episode.  More on that later, but keep in mind that Cosmo published much of the writings of one Sally “LaSalle” Pickett.  The army also had its central signal station on the roof of the building:

signal

I’m hoping to get down to Washington in the spring or summer, and hope to have a few days to spend sightseeing and visiting friends and e-quaintances.  So much to see, so little time.








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