Breaking winter camp

April 1864: Brandy Station, Va. General view of 6th New York Artillery encampment. Source: Library of Congress
April 1864: Brandy Station, Va. General view of 6th New York Artillery encampment. Source: Library of Congress

In April 1864, the Army of the Potomac broke winter camp at Brandy Station, Va., ahead of its final, victorious push south. Leaving their neatly arranged tents the 6th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery — including my great, great grandfather Pvt. Arthur Bull — prepared to march into history.

Over the next months, Arthur would survive some of the most intense, hard-fought battles of the U.S. Civil War. Yet what do I really know about him?

Census and military records and a printed history tell me Arthur was a tanner in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y., when his military service began. Married to Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee), he was also the father of two daughters Emma, 6, and Carrie, 5, and a son Milo, 2. Five foot eight, with hazel eyes, black hair and a fair complexion, he enlisted in 1863 and reported for duty on 4 January 1864.

Histories have recorded details of his Overland Campaign battles — the heavy loss of life, the relentless movements of the Union Army south, south, south. But I have inherited no direct record from Arthur. Did he write home? Pose in uniform for a photo? What was the war like for him? How did he survive when so many perished?

On April 19, 1864, Arthur’s brigade and the entire Artillery Reserve were reviewed by Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant — one last exercise before the serious fighting began. This week, as the weather warms and the trees leaf out, I think of Arthur and his comrades breaking camp at Brandy Station.

Soon I will also head south, with my friend and author Jane LaTour, for reenactments of Arthur’s battles, where I hope to find some answers and learn more about his life.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The little check mark

One of my paternal great, great grandfathers, Arthur Bull, served in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. My dad and I made this discovery on a 1995 road trip from Syracuse to Binghamton, New York, in search of information on our Bull ancestors.

“My mother always told me we had family in Binghamton,” Dad said. “I never figured I’d be going back to look for them.” He was in a good mood that day, which was a plus. All I had in hand was a copy of a card from a wedding index file indicating Arthur was married near Conklin, New York. If we didn’t find anything more after the long drive, Dad would not be pleased.

At the public library we scrolled through microfilm of the 1865 NYS Census for Broome County and in the Town of Conklin found Arthur, age 29. There was a check mark in the column headed “Now in army.” I was relieved we had found something — and quite something, at that. Dad, a WWII Navy veteran, was thrilled.

That little check mark led to discovery of Arthur’s military pension file and a record of his service with the 6th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery in the Army of the Potomac from 1864-1865 — the final years of the U.S. Civil War.

That little check mark is also why I will be in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, on 3-4 May 2014 for reenactments of some of the battles my great, great grandfather fought in 150 years ago. Stay tuned for reports from the front.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved. 

 

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time