Tuesday, April 30, 2013

family in the late great unpleasantness ...

... as many referred to the Civil War afterwards. My roots both maternal and paternal mostly go deep into New York and New England and into the eastern Pennsylvania-New Jersey area. One line veers off to northern Virginia but was gone from there into Ohio decades before the war. Aside from one line that went from New York to Kansas and there post-war, joining with the one in Ohio, my direct ancestors were all still in New York and Massachusetts.

Therefore none of them were living in war torn areas. Maternal ancestor Edward Payson Willson and his future brother-in-law Tiffin Sinks served in a short term militia organized when there was a short term threat by elements of the Rebels to Leavenworth, Kansas. Tiffin's family was in southern Ohio but perhaps when that area was threatened went further north to Columbus to stay with sister Ann Sinks Deshler and her husband William Green Deshler.

On the paternal side, closest to the war were the Sears and Anderson families in the Philadelphia area. These probably saw many of the wounded brought to Philadelphia hospitals and at times were probably aware of war not far away. The rest of the family lines were well removed physically from the actual war so certainly their lives were not affected as closely and deeply as southerners were but all had close family and friends serving some where and this was perhaps the most difficult as communication was unreliable and slow.

Imagine Dorothea, widow of Christopher Weller, living in Buffalo, New York ... her older sons were thankfully not serving directly although they were busy supplying the Union forces with wagons and carriages. Her youngest son William was still at home but Jacob had enlisted with the 1st New York Light Artillery in August of 1862, serving in battle-torn areas. At the beginning of July he was at Gettysburg ... did his mother and siblings know he was there when they first heard about the battle? How long was it before they heard he had been wounded, losing his arm to an artillery shell?

Imagine several greats grandmother Mary Cook, wife of Chalkley Sears, waiting in Philadelphia. Being much closer she may have known he was also at Gettysburg .. what did she think when she first heard he was wounded that first day? How long was it before she knew how badly he was hurt? How relieved she must have been when she learned it was a relatively small wound in his hand.

Third great grandmother was in Maine but what she knew or heard about her nephew Alonzo Ulmer is unknown but she would have eventually heard from her sister Zoa, Alonzo's mother, in Illinois, that Alonzo had been at Gettysburg also, wounded in the side and that Zoa was soon going to Philadelphia to see him in the hospital.

These three were the closest relatives fighting in the war but many many first and second cousins were in various units coming from the East as well as Michigan, Wisconsin and other frontiers to fight for the Union. Nowadays we hear often within hours of deaths halfway around the world but then it was days often weeks before one heard, sometimes longer and sometimes never hearing what happened to them.

When I was born, my father was in the Pacific in WW2 and I wonder how it was for my mother and for his parents worrying when the phone rang or dreading getting a telegram ... I at least was too young to know ... to worry.