Grand Review of the Armies

When the Grand Review of the Armies took place in Washington, D.C. — a mammoth procession and celebration held 23-24 May 1865 at the close of the U.S. Civil War — my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was still on duty in Virginia with the 6th New York Heavy Artillery and en route to a new location.
U.S. Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops at the Grand Review of the Armies, Washington, D.C. (24 May 1865). Shown is the 20th Army Corps., Army of the Georgia, passing in review as seen from the the Treasury Bldgs. looking up Pennsylvania Ave. My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was still on duty in Virginia during the Grand Review and en route to a new assignment. Photo: Library of Congress

As members of the Union Armies of the Potomac, Shenandoah, Georgia and Tennessee marched down Pennsylvania Avenue 150 years ago this week — before cheering crowds and past the presidential reviewing stand — Sgt. William Thistleton chronicled the 6th NYHA’s movements near Petersburg, Va., where my ancestor had been stationed since 2 May 1865.

May 23rd at 7 we left our quarters for a little march to the canal basin about 1 ½ miles the other side of the city [of Petersburg] camped all night in the freight house.

May 24th took the cars at the South Side Railroad went to Burkeville station arrived at 1 P.M. rested until 4 P.M. then we marched about 5 miles halted for the night.

May 25th at 5 a.m. on the march again marched 16 ½ miles to Lunenburg Court House arrived at 1 P.M. weather very warm.

My great, great grandfather entered the service in January 1864, and he was scheduled to serve for three years. Now that the Civil War was officially over, Arthur and others in his regiment likely hoped for an early release to return home.

So they may have been surprised by this new assignment, as reflected in 6th NYHA Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds’ letters to his wife.

Petersburg, Va., May 7th, 1865: Another week has rolled around and we still remain at Petersburg…We will probably stay here until the State government gets into operation and no longer…I have a much easier time here than I probably should were I at home. Yet I long to be with my wife and children.

Lunenburg Court House, Va., May 27, 1865: I am some seventy miles south west from Petersburgh (sic) & of course so much farther from home. Our Regiment took the cars last Wednesday for Burksville Junction and were marched from thence to this place arriving Thursday noon…I am told our prospects remain good for our remaining here for the remainder of our term of service.

Arthur’s 6th NYHA regiment was now attached to the Union Army of the James in Sub-District of Roanoke, District of the Nottoway in the Dept. of Virgnia.

More on his regiment’s new duties in the next post.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Post-war Petersburg

When my Union Army ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull returned to active service with his 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery regiment on 2 May 1865, he reported to Blandford, Virginia, near Petersburg — a new location which brought new post-war duties.

By: Internet Archive Book Images
Civil War map of Petersburg, Va. My ancestor Arthur Bull was stationed in Blandford, Va., (upper right) in early May 1865 when Union Armies passed through en route to the post-war Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D,C. Image: Internet Archive Book Images

On 3 May 1865  — the day after my ancestor’s return — Pvt. Orson Reynolds of the 6th NYHA sent an assessment of the situation to his wife.

The people of Virginia have had enough of war. I am told that there are some 12,000 poor white people who are daily fed by our government. The City has been very quiet and orderly since we came here and the inhabitants are getting quite sociable and friendly…The prospects now are that we shall stay here as long as troops are needed. In military matters all is uncertain.

Union troops that remained in the south after the Civil War’s end were tasked with restoring order, assisting the civilian population and holding the areas where they were stationed — duties my great, great grandfather would now perform.

Bur first Arthur would be on hand to witness the northward march of victorious Union Army units headed to Washington, D.C. for the final Grand Review of the Armies on 23-24 May. Again from Pvt. Orson Reynolds in Petersburg, Va.:

May 3rd, 1865: Sheridan’s Cavalry are now passing through the City on their way to Alexandria [Va.]. Three army corps have also passed for the same place and we will soon be the only remaining troops.

May 7th, 1865: I understand General Sherman’s army is but a short distance from the city and will probably pass through tomorrow on their way to Washington to be mustered out of the service.

My ancestor did not take part in the Grand Review — he remained on duty in Virginia until mustering out in August 1865. But I imagine he was amazed and proud to see the vast army of Union soldiers — including his fellow combatants from the Armies of the Potomac and Shenandoah — trekking north toward the U.S. capital, where they would be cheered by civilian crowds.

Of particular note would have been U.S. Gen. William Tecumsah Sherman’s 65,000-strong Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia — rough and ready Union soldiers accompanied by masses of newly-free African Americans. This diverse contingent personified the heart and soul of the successful struggle to end the brutal slave system — and would march for six hours during the Grand Review.

No doubt Arthur and his comrades gave them a hearty reception as they passed by the 6th NYHA camp en route to their final, glorious post-war march into history.

More in the next post.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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May 1865: Return to duty

By: David
Walls and moat around Fort Monroe, Va. My ancestor Arthur Bull was treated at the U.S. General Hospital at Fort Monroe from 15 March 1865 — returning to his artillery regiment on 2 May. Photo: David

On 2 May 1865, my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull returned to duty with his 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment after a seven-week stay at the 1,800-bed U.S. General Hospital at Fort Monroe.

In a 27 Jan. 1884 report in Arthur’s pension file, the U.S. War Dept., Surgeon General’s Office, Record and Pension Division states:

Priv. Arthur T. Bull, Col. L, 6′ N.Y.H.A was admitted to G.H. Fort Monroe, Va. March 15, ’65 with functional disease of the heart, and returned to duty May 2, 1865.

During his absence, my ancestor’s unit played a role in some of the Civil War’s last confrontations in the east — contributing to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

In early April, according the diary of Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA, portions of the regiment took part in live-fire probing actions, involving infantry and artillery, to test the Confederates’ strength — which were carried out along a broad Union front near Petersburg, Va. They also engaged in a bit of battlefront subterfuge.

April 2nd: at 5 P.M. were turned out and marched in sight of the enemy to make them believe we were reinforcements.

By 4 April, nearby Confederate troops had evacuated Petersburg and were moving west.  Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of the 6th NYHA penned a letter to his wife on 9 April from Petersburg.

It is now a certainty that the back bone of the Confederacy is broken beyond recovery. No doubt there has been great rejoicing in the North for several days past.

The African American population “as a body our our friends and rejoiced at our occupation of the City,” wrote Pvt. Reynolds. And in a 14 April letter, he captured the exuberance and troop movements at the war’s end.

Last night there was a salute of 100 guns fired in Richmond on the surrender of Gen’l Johnson & his army and it is reported that Jeff Davis is with him. We have moved so often of late we don’t expect to stay here long.

Sgt. Thistleton noted in his diary that the 6th NYHA camped in Petersburg’s Poplar Lawn Park (today called Central Park), pulled guard duty on the rail line to City Point (“called Grant’s Road”) and settled in a new camp at the end of the month.

April 22: moved our camp nearer to the City of Petersburg quartered in a large saw mill at a place called Blanford (sic) a small place just out of the City doing guard duty at the Depot until the 23rd of May.

That’s were the 6th NYHA was stationed when my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull rejoined them on 2 May 1865. More in the next post.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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The Civil War’s end: A new beginning

During the final days of the U.S. Civil War my great, great grandfather Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was a patient  in the U.S. General Hospital at Fortress Monroe, Virginia — where he was admitted for treatment on 15 March 1865.
The fall of Richmond, Va. on the night of 2 April 1865. While my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was in the U.S. General Hospital at Fortress Monroe, Va., momentous events turned the tide decisively toward a Union victory in the U.S. Civil War. Image: Library of Congress

The first three weeks of Arthur’s stay saw momentous events that turned the tide decisively toward a Union victory — which must have buoyed the spirits of Union Army convalescents throughout the huge 1,800-bed facility.

Union troops under U.S. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman — marching north to meet up with the Army of the Potomac — confronted Confederate forces in mid-March at the Battle of Bentonville and drove them out of Raleigh, N.C.

On 25 March at Fort Stedman,  Union forces foiled the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s last attempt to break the Siege of Petersburg, Va. Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of my ancestor’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery unit heard the fighting and wrote about it in a 26  March letter to his wife:

This morning or about 9 o’clock there was heavy firing on our right and we could hear the volleys of musketry very plain. There were various reports in camp in regard to the firing, one that Sheridan came through and took some two thousand prisoners, another that the Johnnies charged on one of our forts and were repulsed with some loss.

Six days later, on 2 April, Confederate forces abandoned their capitol at Richmond, Va. — burning it in their wake. The next day Union forces, including U.S. Colored Troops, marched into the city.

Pvt. Reynolds wrote of seeing the fires on 30 March from where he was stationed and his hopes for peace.

Heavy fires have been burning this afternoon over the Rebel lines and a story or rumor has been through our camp that the Rebs were evacuating Richmond, arising no doubt from the fires…I am strong in the faith that the day is not far distant when peace shall be heralded throughout or land. Oh will that not be a day of rejoicing and will there not be many glad hearts

On 9 April — outmaneuvered and outgunned by the Union Army and by the sweep of history away from slavery and toward freedom  — Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.

Five days after that — amid relief and celebration at the war’s end –glad hearts were saddened when Pres. Abraham Lincoln was shot by a pro-slavery assassin.

I wonder if it was difficult for my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull — who had served with the Union’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment for most of the previous year — to be laid up in bed far from his comrades-in-arms when the Civil War drew to a close, and when he learned of Pres. Lincoln’s death.

My ancestor likely felt many emotions at once — relief at the war’s end, longing to return to home and family, satisfaction for his contribution to the Union cause, anger and grief over Lincoln’s assassination. It’s hard to know since I have inherited no journals or letters from him.

But this I do know from his pension records: Arthur remained in hospital until May 1865, then returned to duty with his regiment.

Although the official battles were over, the Union Army — which had fought to end slavery and to maintain the Union — was still needed to assure that the Civil War’s end meant a new beginning.

My great, great grandfather Arthur Bull would be part of that work. More on his return to duty in the next post.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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First Blogiversary: A one-gun salute

Today is the First Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy — the family history blog that I launched on 24 April 2014 to begin sharing the stories of my ancestors and the roads I traveled to find them.

August 2014: Union artillery reenactors. Consider this a one-gun salute on the First Blogiversary of Molly's Canopy -- 24 April 2015. Photo: Molly Charboneau
August 2014: Union artillery reenactors on Governors Island, N.Y. Consider this a one-gun salute on the First Blogiversary of my family history blog Molly’s Canopy. Photo: Molly Charboneau

In weekly posts for the past year, I have primarily chronicled the Civil War experience of my paternal great, great, grandfather Union Pvt. Arthur Bull of the 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery.

So it seems fitting to celebrate the First Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy with a one-gun salute by Union artillery reenactors.

This blog came to life amid the boom of cannon at my first Civil War reenactment — the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Saunders Field where my ancestor fought.

And out of that illuminating cloud of gun smoke marched ancestors who have waited patiently for years in my research files — advancing, at last, to tell their stories.

First came my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull who — despite war-related illness — was on duty for key battles of the U.S. Civil War during the 1864 Overland and Shenandoah Valley campaigns.

Soon, others joined him. Arthur’s wife, my great, great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, their children and extended family. His 6th N.Y.H.A. commanding officer Bvt. Brig. Gen. J. Howard Kitching and fellow artillerists Capt. John Gedney, Sgt. William Thistleton and Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds — whose writings helped animate Arthur’s wartime experience.

Then my late dad Norm Charboneau, a WWII Navy veteran, who traveled with me on many genealogy research trips and helped me discover Arthur’s story — along with numerous valuable clues about our other mutual ancestors.

Next was my Uncle Fred, dad’s youngest brother, whose letters home from his WW II Army assignment give insights into their family life — and Aunt Gig who gave his letters to Dad.

And most recently, my paternal Irish great, great grandparents Katherine and William Patrick Dempsey and family during their years in Civil War Baltimore, Md.

For the past year this blog has taken me on an incredible, almost magical, journey back through time — as I connected my ancestors to the places and circumstances in which they lived,  the great historic events that shaped their lives, and their unique position in the evolution of my family.

Writing my ancestors’ stories also reconnected me in ways I would not have imagined with my decades of genealogy research. The process helped me identify and evaluate unexamined details in my family history files — and pointed me toward new avenues of research and discovery.

Today, as I celebrate the First Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy and the beloved ancestors who made it possible, I am so grateful that I went looking  for them all those years ago. They have taught me a lot during the past year — and the journey is far from over.

Tomorrow begins year two, during which new ancestors will make themselves known. My heartfelt thanks to readers of Molly’s Canopy who have hung in with me this past year. And a warm welcome to new readers — I hope you will subscribe and join me on the journey.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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