Tuesday, August 28, 2012

a dearth of cousins ...

… in the current paternal generations. My father was an only child as was his father, Arthur Stanton Adams. Arthur’s father was one of six children (half and whole). His whole brother George never married or had issue. George lived most of his adult life with his brother Charles and after Charles died in 1950, lived in his own small set of rooms. He was one of my favorite relatives and taught me how to play cribbage. He died in 1967.

Charles’ half-sister Lucy died as a child, not yet nine years old, of dysentery and his half-brother Warren at the age of six. His half-brother Frederick lived well in to adulthood but, like George, never married or had issue. Only his half-brother William married. William and his wife, Mary Jane Evans had 2 children, my first cousins twice removed.

I never really pursued tracing William’s children before, mostly I suppose because when I first started on this it was in the early 70’s without the current access online. So poking around I have discovered that William and Mary Jane had two children, William Everett Adams born 22 May 1894 and Margaret Porter Adams, born 19 July 1899.

From my great grandfather’s notes, I originally had William’s name as William Evans Adams but his birth record and draft registrations (both WW1 and WW2) give it as William Everett Adams. About 1920, he married Annie Dickson and they had two children, William and Priscilla, both of whom seem to have married and had children. Those children would be my third cousins, where ever they may be.

On the other hand, William’s sister Margaret seems to disappear after the 1930 census. In 1920, she is listed in Arlington, Massachusetts, with her parents as a 20 year old cashier at Electric Light. In 1930, now age 30, she is still there, living with her parents in Arlington, and is listed as a bookkeeper at Electric Light. Her father dies the following year and so far I have found no trace of her or her mother, Mary Jane.

My father’s maternal side is no better. His mother, Dorothy Anderson, was the youngest of three children. Her older sister Edith died at the age of three and a half of dysentery. Her older brother, Lesley, graduated from the Naval Academy and soon became engaged to a vaudeville actress but the marriage never happened. A few years later he married Beatrice Hawley and died in 1933, without issue.

Dorothy’s mother was also one of three children with an older sister who died of croup at not yet two and a half. Her much younger brother Stuart never married or had issue. Dorothy’s father, Frank Carroll Anderson, was one of four children and here we do a bit better for potential cousins. His sister Elizabeth died at the age of 29, probably of pulmonary tuberculosis, but both his brothers, Charles and Edward, married. Charles had one daughter, Edna, born about 1905, who disappears after the 1920 census. Edward had two daughters, Florence and Hester. Florence died in 1974 in Philadelphia, unmarried, without issue. Hester married and had three sons, Lewis, Edward and John. All three grew to adulthood and married. Their children, if they had any, would be my third cousins.

What all this rambling amounts to is, on my father’s side, the closest I’ve got is some unknown third cousins which explains why growing up all I ever knew on my dad's side were my grandparents and my "uncle" George.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

who were they ...

… what price did they pay? What tickles the brain and sneaks into my heart is wondering how different these lives might have been without the war and Gettysburg … better or perhaps worse?

In the fall of 1861, Alonzo Ulmer was a 20 year old man with few ties in life. His father, brother and sister had all died when he was just a child and then when he was just 13, his mother married her sister’s widower and he was taken from the coasts and sea of Maine to the flat grasslands of western Illinois. He did not get along with his stepfather and most of the rest of the family, probably as much his fault as theirs, so when war broke out he returned to his home town of Thomaston, Maine, and enlisted with others and went off to join his friends, relatives and neighbors in Company B of the 4th Maine.

Not quite a year later, Chalkley Sears enlisted in Philadelphia in Company F of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was a 30 year old married man, a hatter in nearby Phoenixville in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Mary had had two daughters but the older, Julia, had died the past April, not long after the birth of the second daughter, Mary. Whatever his motives for enlisting, he is credited with raising an entire company there at Phoenixville which accounts for his being Lieutenant of the company.

Later that same month, Jacob Weller mustered in to the 1st New York Light Artillery right after his eighteenth birthday. Jacob was the next to youngest child of immigrants from Wuerttemberg, Germany, who had arrived in 1832 and made a life for themselves in Buffalo, New York. Three of their children had been born in Germany, one was born at sea on the voyage to America and they had eight more children after settling here.

Chalkley was probably the least seasoned of the three when July and Gettysburg came. The 150th had been assigned to guard duty in Washington, D.C. and although sent to Chancellorsville in May they had been held back and not participated in that battle. Jacob on the other hand was at Chancellorsville that May of 1863 his unit having 4 men killed and 10 wounded, being compelled to leave two of the guns on that field, all the horses of one gun being shot, and nearly all the men on the other wounded. Alonzo was becoming a seasoned veteran with nearly two years of marching, fighting, and making camp in all sorts of weather including at Chancellorsville.

In June of 1863, these three men joined thousands more headed for Gettysburg. On July 1st, Chalkley in the 150th Pennsylvania was at McPherson’s Farm on the Ridge of the same name, Jacob was with the guns of the 1st New York Light Artillery, taking a position on East Cemetery Ridge and Alonzo and the 4th Maine were headed for Devils Den at Little Round Top, sometimes referred to as the Valley of Death.

On that first day, Chalkley and his men fought, trying to hold the line at McPherson’s through the day. By afternoon they were in the farmyard, at the barn and the farmhouse. Chalkley was shot in the left hand, not quite a crippling shot but enough to leave the field if he wished. He stayed with his men during the retreat through the streets of Gettysburg in which many more were killed, wounded or captured. During the retreat they helped hold off the enemy long enough for an artillery unit to fix their guns for retreat. The unit is believed to be one of the 1st New York’s batteries although not Jacob’s which was further east.

On the 2nd of July, the 1st New York batteries were still holding Cemetery Hill. That evening there was an artillery assault from the Confederates and Jacob, the youngest of our three, was hit by a piece of a shell, smashing his right elbow causing his arm to be removed a few inches below his shoulder on July 3rd.

On the 3rd, the final day of battle, Alonzo and Company F of the 4th Maine were far out on the left flank of Little Round Top in the boulder strewn area known as Devils Den in Plum Run Valley. It was here Alonzo was shot in the side, with the ball piercing through, leaving entrance and exit wounds. He was among 40 or more of his fellows captured by the Confederates but probably fortunately he was abandoned in a Rebel field hospital when they retreated.

All three of these men recovered from their wounds but it is unlikely their lives were unaffected. Chalkley returned to duty in late August but in October was hospitalized with “intermittent fever” and discharged due to disability in December. He returned to his family, settling in Philadelphia with them and returned to his occupation as a hatter. He and his wife had no more children until 1881 when they had a son, Stuart, who never married. Only their daughter Mary had children, including my grandmother Dorothy.

Jacob, the worst wounded of the three, spent some months in the hospital and then was transferred to the Invalid Corps to finish out his term of service. After his discharge and return to Buffalo, he filed for and received a pension finding some work for a while as a letter carrier and a laborer. By 1880, he is living with his brother, my great great grandfather, Alexander Weller and in 1883 he dies, leaving no wife or children.

Alonzo recovered and was transferred to the 19th Maine to complete his term of service. Perhaps because he had no other life to turn to, he then enlists in the 9th US Volunteers for a year. After that he returns to Maine where he marries but in November of 1869 he tries returning to the Army but deserts from Fort Gratiot in Michigan in May of the following year. He seems to have wandered for the next couple of decades, visiting his mother, sister to my 3rd great grandmother, sometimes, perhaps spending time in the gold fields of Idaho Territory. Eventually, in 1898, he marries in Illinois and has a daughter, Virginia, named after his long deceased little sister. Beginning in 1903 he bounces in and out of the nearest soldiers home, eventually dying there in 1912. His daughter marries at least twice and leaves “no known family survivors” when she dies in 1989.

Much of the information above comes from the three pension files and may not precisely line up with battle accounts. Jacob may have been injured on the 3rd and Alonzo may have been wounded and captured on the 2nd but those differences are unimportant.

Friday, August 3, 2012

brother against brother ...

… cousin against cousin, father against son, Kentucky started out trying to be a neutral in the Civil War but finally officially fell in the Union camp, not that this changed the feelings of the people in the mountain counties, including Harlan. Composed mostly of mountains, Harlan had a long border with the Confederacy, marching a long way with Virginia and reaching along Tennessee to include the Cumberland Gap.

One hears little or nothing about Harlan County and its trials and tribulations during the Civil War except for the various battles at Cumberland Gap. After the war even that small fame was lost when the western part of Harlan that included the Gap was combined with a portion of eastern Knox County to form Bell County.

Throughout the war Harlan County and its surroundings were a battleground of sorts with Union and Confederate troops, partisans, bushwhackers and outright outlaws passing to and from foraging as they went, constantly skirmishing with whoever they found. Death, robbery, rape, starvation were rampant and fear must have been everyone’s companion.

The county supplied troops to both sides, Unionists principally from Martins Fork, Catrons Creek, and Wallins Creek areas and Confederates from Clover Fork and Poor Fork and the ground was ripe for personal feuds and grudges but presumably many thought that with the end of the war would come the end of this violence but this was not so.

In the May of 1865, Leonard Farmer wrote the Inspector General of Kentucky regarding the situation in Harlan County:

"We have not had a Circuit Court here in this county for three years, the court house has been burnt by Gurillas the Jail destroyed and bad men has controlled the county or near so. The Gurillas has nearly laid waste to the county by pilaging Plundering & Robbing who are now in small squads say from ten to twenty together who when times are suitable raids through the County and takes what suits their wicked purposes. these Gurillas are all well armed and men of the worst character and the Civil Authorities cannot apprehend them. The Sheriff are unable to serve process or arrest the Gurillas and cannot in a greater portion of the county collect the State Revenue. Harlan County is mountainous bordering some ninety miles on to the Virginia line and can be raided by bands of men from Lee County, Va. at any time they choose. When these robbers make raids they take arms, clothing, bacon & and where they find a man that bitterly opposes them they burn their house furniture and leaves the women and children without clothing or beds to sleep upon. The hardship that we have endured has been great, old men thats gray headed takes their blankets and lays in the mountain to avoid assassinated by these bands of robbers."

Attached to the letter was a list of 45 men willing to serve as a local militia. Many of the listed men were related to Farmer and most if not all were Unionists but then it is unlikely the Governor would have approved any Confederates for a militia at that point in time.

This makes interesting reading perhaps but take a minute now and imagine living with the constant fear that anyone coming down the lane to your home could be death or capture for you or yours. That men would come and simply take your food, your fuel, your husband and sons and perhaps assault or rape you and your daughters ...  this is I think especially important for those of us like myself who come from northern roots who may have had loved ones in battle but did not live it so directly themselves. Even those of the farther south did not live in so much danger for so long as those of the border counties and the mountainous counties suffered the most simply because geography made it possible.