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.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013647397/
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.

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