Returning home

When I learned that my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty until August 1865, I was disappointed that he did not get to march in the May 1865 Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D.C., marking the end of the U.S. Civil War.

But it’s possible that my great, great grandfather’s homecoming was greeted in a more personal and spontaneous way than allowed for by the pomp of the huge, official Grand Review in the U.S. capitol.

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Home from the war (1863). My ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull mustered out on 24 Aug. 1865 and returned home to Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. in early September. Image: Library of Congress

Sgt. William Thistleton, of my ancestor’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment, wrote about his homecoming in his diary — and the stir created by returning soldiers as they marched through New York City to the armory where they were temporarily housed.

July 2nd …arrived at Pier (one) north river at 6 P.M. disembarked and marched up Broadway in “Column” by company to Grand Street down Grand to Center market and halted, we created quite an excitement on the march up from the Boat crowds congregating at different corners and cheering us vociferously our shell and shot torn colors were sufficient evidence that we had seen service and elicited hearty cheers at every step.

Sgt. Thistleton mustered out near Petersburg, Virginia, and was headed home to Eastchester, Westchester Co., N.Y. — just north of New York City. My ancestor mustered out near Washington, D.C., and may have taken a different route to his upstate home in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. But I am sure his homecoming was no less grandly received.

Broome County sent many young men into the Union Army. Though I have not yet found a notice about my great, great grandfather, the names of discharged soldiers were often published in the local newspaper to let loved ones, friends and neighbors know they were due home.

Sgt. Thistleton chronicled the final steps in mustering out — a process that took him just over two weeks to complete.

July 10th Company reported and tuned in arms and equipment at 11 a.m. July 12th reported again this afternoon and were engaged in running around. July 13th Discharged from the Service of the United States and Paid in full to date and this closses [sic] the record of Company “I” 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

My great, great grandfather mustered out on 24 August 1865, so he likely arrived home around 9 September 1865. Whether there were cheering crowds in the streets of Conklin or in the larger, nearby city of Binghamton, Broome Co., N.Y., I cannot say without further research.

But I am sure he was warmly welcomed home by the group that mattered most — my great, great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull and their children Emma, Carrie and Milo.

More on Arthur Bull’s return to civilian life in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Aug. 1865: Mustering out

My great, great grandfather Pvt. Arthur Bull mustered out of the Union Army’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment near Washington, D.C., on 24 August 1865.

According to records in his pension file, he had transferred into Co. F on 20 July 1865 — and that’s the company he mustered out with on his final day of service.

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Sailors relax on the deck of the U.S.S. Miami warship (1861-1865).  U.S. Navy crews were integrated during the U.S. Civil War — a potent symbol of the fight to end inequality and defeat the brutal slave system , and a signal of a new day to come in post-war civilian life. Photo: Library of Congress

During his 18 months on duty, Arthur had fought in historic battles, endured grueling marches and been hospitalized for wartime illness — all while doing his part, like millions of others, to end the brutal slave system and preserve the Union.

Now my ancestor would leave behind the rifle and the big guns and return to civilian life, to a united country where slavery had been abolished, where women were fighting for the right to vote, where new industries supplanted the old and attracted fresh waves of immigrant workers — a country transformed in so many ways and set on a new path by the dramatic upheaval of the U.S. Civil War.

The route back home

Before he could return home, Arthur had to complete the process of mustering out, which could take several weeks. Sgt. William Thistleton, also  of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery, mustered out before my ancestor — on  27 June 1865 — and wrote about his experience.

June 27th Mustered out of the United States service today at 5 P.M. by Capt. Krauth. June 28th and 29th occupied both days getting our discharges signed and in preparing to go home.

According to Sgt. Thistleton’s diary entries, he and the Union troops who mustered out with him retraced the path they had taken months before as they headed into battle at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. Now they were going home on a journey like the one my ancestor took in August 1865.

June 30th Broke camp and off at 7 a.m. recrossed the Appomattox and marched to the south side depot entered the train awaiting us and were taken to City Point arriving at 9 a.m. at 11 a.m. embarked on the steamer Northern…proceeded down the James River arriving at Fortress Monroe at dark received a new pilot and sailed up the Chesapeake.

On 1 July, Sgt. Thistleton and his fellow soldiers arrived in Baltimore, home of my Dempsey ancestors, and marched to the President Street Depot — through the streets where Northern troops had fought off an attack by a pro-slavery mob at the start of the Civil War.

Then they traveled by train to Philadelphia and — after cleaning up at a Union Volunteers facility — resumed the trip back to New York, where they received a heroes welcome from the civilian population.

I imagine my great, great grandfather had a similar experience at the end of his Civil War service. More in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Final duty in Petersburg, Va.

On 27 June 1865, my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull joined Co. E of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — a consolidated battalion that was created at the end of the Civil War when 10th NYHA soldiers were transferred in to replace 6th NYHA soldiers who were returning home.

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U.S. Bvt. Major General E. Ferrero and staff (1861-1865). Like the soldiers at the lower right, my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull served as a provost guard at BMG Ferrero’s headquarters, and later in Petersburg, Va., from June – August 1865. Photo: Library of Congress

The reorganized 6th NYHA was assigned to provost guard duty in Petersburg, Va. from June – August 1865. This assignment speaks highly of the integrity of the men — among them my great, great grandfather.

They were tasked with keeping order in support of the Union Army’s political, economic and social service functions in a severely damaged city that lacked a civilian government at war’s end.

Sometimes this included serving as headquarters guard for Union officers — a duty my ancestor carried out at the headquarters of U.S. Brevet Major General Ferrero — or coming to the aid of the civilian population.

At war’s end, the Union Army also relied on the provost guards to keep order during the earliest stages of Reconstruction as it set about assisting and protecting the newly free African American population now that the brutal system of slavery had at last been eliminated.

Alas, my ancestor’s pension file contains little information about this period of his military service.  But in a letter to his wife, one of his fellow soldiers — Pvt. Orson Reynolds of the 6th NYHA — wrote a humorous passage indicating that the dangers of battle appeared to be over.

Petersburg, Va. June 29, 1865: All is quiet within our lines and no great battles have been fought within the last few days of late in this vicinity except it be with mosquitoes and fleas which are somewhat troublesome [in] this warm weather.

As Pvt. Reynolds, my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull and their compatriots carried out their duties, they likely did so while longing for home now that the fighting was over — especially as they bid farewell to fellow soldiers who were being mustered out ahead of them. Again, from Pvt. Reynolds’ letter:

I read in the papers that great preparations are being made to celebrate the 4th in our State [New York]. Some time ago I hoped to be with you on that day but it was a vain hope and not to be realized…John O’Connor left Petersburgh (sic) for home some time ago and no doubt has reached it ere this.

And here I pause to express my gratitude to 6th NYHA Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of Bombay, Franklin Co., N.Y., for his detailed, heartfelt letters home — the last of which is quoted above — and to his family members, who saved his letters and generously shared them by allowing them to be transcribed.

My great, great grandfather’s story would have been that much harder to tell had it not been for Pvt. Reynolds’ correspondence — written between September 1864 and June 1865 during a time when he shared by ancestor’s Civil War experience.

My great, great grandfather Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty in Petersburg, Va.,  through the summer of 1865, until he was mustered out with his company in August. More on this in the next post.

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Soldiers bid farewell

At the end of June 1865, the Union Army’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery — my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull’s regiment — was reorganized as some of his Civil War compatriots mustered out and began returning home.

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Petersburg, Va. Row of stacked Federal rifles; houses beyond (4 April 1865). Some soldiers from my ancestor’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment mustered out in late June 1865. Before departing for home, they presented a set of veteran colors to those who remained on duty. Photo: Library of Congress

In his diary, Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA traced the regiment’s journey  from central Virginia back to Petersburg as part of this post-war troop pulldown.

June 20th Packed up in readiness to move. June 21st started at 4 a.m. and marched to Burksville (sic.) station we were releaved (sic) by the 16th NY.H. Artillery at Burksville took the cars for Petersburg arrived 7 p.m. left the cars and crossed the Appomattox to Pocahontas heights and pitched our tents.

While they were camped, my great, great grandfather’s regiment was divided up — with some soldiers he had fought with for more than a year bidding a military farewell as they returned to their civilian lives. Sgt. William Thistleton was one of them, and he described the scene.

June 22nd the regiment were divided this morning the original members who enlisted in 1862 and the one years men who enlisted in 1864 are to be sent home and mustered out and the three years men who enlisted in 1863 were consolidated with a similar detachment of the 10th N.Y. Artillery and designated the second Battalion 6th N.Y.H. Artillery and were detailed to do provost guard duty at Petersburg. Before we departed we presented them with a set of veteran colors.

My ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull enlisted in 1863 and was a three-year man, so he remained on duty. According to a Company Muster Roll in his pension file, Arthur transferred from Co. L into “Co. E, Consolidated Battalion 6 and 10 N.Y.H. Artillery,” which was formed on 27 June 1865.

Sgt. William Thistleton mustered out the same day, and here we bid him a fond farewell. His diary has been invaluable in helping me piece together my great, great grandfather’s Civil War experience — from his earliest battles in May 1864 through the end of the war in 1865.

As I have inherited no journal or correspondence from my ancestor, I will be forever grateful that Sgt. Thistleton took the time to chronicle his experience — and that of the 6th NYHA regiment –for the benefit of future generations.

More on my ancestor’s final army days in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A fortuitous furlough

Last of three posts on researching my Union Army ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull in the U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC) records

At the end of my first day researching my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull of the 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery in the U.S. Sanitary Commission records, a staff member placed before me a blue archival box containing manuscripts from the USSC Statistical Bureau archives 1861-1869.

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August 10, 1864: Morning Report of Sick and Wounded in the U.S. Army General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y. Private Arthur T. Bull is one of seven soldiers listed as “furloughed” from the facility that day. Photo by Molly Charboneau 1
It was the last material for me to go through, and I wasn’t quite sure what the statistics collection would reveal about my Civil War ancestor. Where might my great, great grandfather’s name appear amidst so vast a collection of data?

Still, the skilled staff at the New York Public Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division had already helped me find his entry in a Hospital Directory register — and they had pulled these records as well — so I hopefully opened Box 44 and began examining the folders inside.

This particular box was the first of 16 comprising the Statistical Bureau’s Hospital Reports 1863 Sep-1864 Nov, covering some of the months my ancestor was in hospital. It contained morning reports from hospitals for March-August 1864 in folders arranged alphabetically by location and hospital name.

Folder 5, with reports from Albany to Ft. Columbus in New York State, looked promising since my ancestor had spent time in De Camp and Elmira General Hospitals. So I pulled it out and began carefully leafing through the manuscripts one hospital at a time.

Alas, there was no listing for my great, great grandfather among the De Camp Hospital morning reports. But when I started to examine the reports for Elmira Hospital, there he was!

On a Morning Report of Sick and Wounded in the U.S. Army General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y. – a single page dated 10 August 1864 – Private Arthur T. Bull was one of seven soldiers listed as “furloughed” from the facility.

What a gratifying discovery.

My great, great grandfather was a family man – married with three young children – when he enlisted in the Union Army. Being far from family while fighting in some of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles – and during his recovery from wartime illness – cannot have been easy for him.

So I was relieved to learn from the USSC records that Arthur was transported to Elmira General Hospital, near his home – and that he was furloughed while there and could visit his family.

Finding him twice in this tremendous collection has inspired me to continue researching my Civil War ancestor in the USSC records — where I hope to learn more about his later hospitalizations and treatment near the Virginia battlefields.

More on this in future posts. For now, we return to my ancestor’s time on provost duty in Virginia during June 1865.

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Footnotes

  1. Morning Report of Sick and Wounded in the U.S. Army General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y., 10 August 1864. Arthur T. Bull, 6 N.Y. H. Arty Co. L. is listed fourth of the names of seven furloughed. Morning reports of hospitals. United States Sanitary Commission records. Statistical Bureau archives. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.