Tag Archives: Arthur Bull

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.

August 10, 1864: Morning Report of Sick and Wounded in the U.S. Army General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y. (footnoted in text below). Private Arthur T. Bull is one of seven soldiers listed as “furloughed” from the facility that day. Photo by Molly Charboneau

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 shown above1– 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.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A Hospital Directory clue

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

When I arrived at the New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division in April 2015 to research the Civil War medical history of my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull,  I ran into a genealogy colleague who was also researching the U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC) records. I sat at the desk next to her, where we could quietly compare notes.

USSC Hospital Directory archives, 1862-1866 – Vol. 57, Register 54 (footnoted in the text below). On page 72, I found my ancestor Arthur T. Bull listed as admitted on 1 July 1864 to the U.S. General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y. — a new discovery about his Civil War medical history. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When I told her I was hoping to find specific references to my great, great grandfather in the USSC Hospital Directory archives, she seemed concerned.

“Are you sure you want to start there?” she asked. “It’s such a huge collection.” She had a point. There were volumes and volumes of records to comb through — as detailed in the collection’s robust set of finding aids.

Still, I was optimistic. My ancestor’s record might be a needle in haystacks of research materials — but the odds would improve if I searched the right haystack.

The NYPL Manuscript and Archives Division staff was a tremendous help in narrowing down where I could begin — and having the materials ready when I arrived.

Hospital Directory archives

The Hospital Directory was set up by the USSC in 1862 to keep track of wounded and ill soldiers in U.S. General Hospitals — like the ones where my ancestor was treated — and in non-military health care facilities.

Families wanted to know about their loved ones, and the Union Army needed to keep track of its casualties — all of which generated registers, correspondence, checklists and other records where individual soldiers’ names were recorded. These records comprise the USSC Hospital Directory archives, 1862-1866.

Since my great, great grandfather was admitted to Mt. Pleasant Hospital in Washington, D.C., during June 1864, staff had pulled Register 43 (of Volume 46), which included New York regiments for that facility and month. I paged through the entire volume. Alas, no reference to Pvt. Arthur Bull — but there were still more records to check.

Next I searched Register 54 (of Volume 57) for my ancestor’s hospitalization at De Camp Hospital in New York State during July 1864. There were several pages with “6th Regiment New York” penned in cursive across the top, but no indication whether they listed infantry, cavalry or artillery casualties. So I searched them all — and that’s when I found Arthur on page 72, as shown above.2

“Here he is,” I whispered to my colleague, pointing to the page. “But he’s in a totally different hospital.” We stood over the massive book and studied the entry.

Sure enough, on line 19, Arthur T. Bull, a private in Heavy Artillery Col. L, was listed as admitted on 1 July 1864 — not to De Camp General Hospital, as I expected, but to the U.S. General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y.

“I can’t believe you found him,” my colleague whispered back.

And in truth I was surprised, too — first to have located him so quickly in only the second volume I looked through, and even more so to discover a new clue about his time away from the battlefields.

After photographing the record shown above,2which is now permitted, I continued searching through five more volumes of Hospital Directory records that the staff had pulled for me — but I found no additional entries in them for my ancestor.

The last records to search were part of a manuscript collection from the USSC Statistical Bureau — and that’s when I made my next new discovery about my great, great grandfather’s time recuperating from his war-related illness.

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Early days of Reconstruction

Muster rolls in my great, great grandfather Union Pvt. Arthur Bull’s pension file show he remained in Virginia with the 6th New York Heavy Artillery through the summer of 1865. Was he involved in the early days of Reconstruction? If so, what role might he have played? And where can I search for answers?

Lee surrenders to Grant, General Grant National Memorial, New York, NY (2015). My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty in Virginia for several months after the end of the U.S. Civil War during the very early days of Reconstruction. Photo by Molly Charboneau
May 2015: Lee surrenders to Grant, General Grant National Memorial, New York, NY. My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty in Virginia for several months after the end of the U.S. Civil War during the early days of Reconstruction. Photo by Molly Charboneau

While my ancestor was still in the service, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) was established by the U.S. War Dept. on 3 March 1865.

Background information about the Freedmen’s Bureau records on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website captures the broad scope of its mission.

[The Bureau] provided assistance to tens of thousands of former slaves and impoverished whites in the Southern States and the District of Columbia. The war had liberated nearly four million slaves and destroyed the region’s cities, towns and plantation-based economy. It left former slaves and many whites dislocated from their homes, facing starvation, and owning only the clothes they wore. The challenge of establishing a new social order, founded on freedom and racial equality, was enormous.

Until the Freedman’s Bureau was fully operational — beginning around June 1865 — it appears that Union Army soldiers like my ancestor, who remained in the South after the Civil War’s end, may have handled some relief work.

On 25 May 1865, in the Dept. of Virginia — where my ancestor was stationed with the 6th NYHA in Sub-District of the Roanoke, District of the Nottoway — the Army of the James issued  orders that directed the safeguarding of newly-free African Americans, which likely included relief efforts.

The commanders of districts and sub-districts are made superintendents of negro affairs within their respective limits.

Union troops also stood as a bulwark that protected the African American population from former slave owners, overseers and others who had directly or tacitly supported the brutal slave system. The Army of the James — which my ancestor’s unit was part of — was noteworthy for the large number of U.S. Colored Troops in its ranks, who were among the first Union troops to enter Richmond after it fell.

In a diary entry dated 26 May 1865, Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA gave a snapshot of the regiment’s tasks in a hostile environment.

[O]ur duties were to keep order and enforce the laws and sanitary regulations and to administer the oath of allegiance to the Citizens. We also issued the destitute rations nine tenths of the applicants were white and a more helpless set of people would be difficult to imagine they were perfectly destitute of all principle or honesty and would willingly take the oath every hour and violate it with every breath.

On 27 May 1865, Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of the 6th NYHA — a farmer in civilian life — described the desolate landscape in a letter to his wife from Lunenburg Court House, Va., underscoring the need for Union Army relief efforts.

This is a poor forsaken looking country and our boys say we are only 18 miles from where the sun sets.

With no correspondence from my ancestor to refer to, more research is needed to narrow down his specific duties in Virginia during the summer of 1865. NARA’s federal records on the Freedman’s Bureau and related military records may help me learn more.

But for now I am satisfied that my great, great grandfather Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was stationed at a time and place where he “kept order” and likely assisted with relief efforts in the early days of Reconstruction.

Next post: New information from the U.S. Sanitary Commission records on my Civil War ancestor’s time in hospital in July 1864.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Headquarters provost guard

On 22 May 1865, General Orders issued from Petersburg, Va., assigned the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull’s regiment — to Sub-Division of the Roanoke, District of the Nottoway in the Union Army of the James, Dept. of Virginia.

Petersburg, Virginia. Group of Provost Guard, headquarters, Army of the Potomac (Feb. 1865). My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull of 6th NYHA Co. L served provost guard duty in May 1865 at the headquarters of Brevet Major-General Ferrero in U.S. Sub-District of the Roanoake, District of the Nottoway, Army of the James, Dept. of Virginia. Image: Library of Congress

Major-General of Volunteers George L. Hartsuff, stationed at District of Nottoway Headquarters in Petersburg, directed that:

The organization known as Ferrero’s division is discontinued, and the following assignment of troops is made, viz: Sub-Division Roanoke, Sixth and Sixteenth Regiment New York Artillery and five companies of the Sixth Ohio Cavalry…All citizens having complaints to make or requiring counsel or assistance will apply to the commanding officer of the sub-district in which they live.

On 25 May, the Army of the James, Dept. of Virginia, issued follow-up orders that listed the Virginia counties between Petersburg and Appomattox where my great, great grandfather’s 6th NYHA would now serve — and broadened their mandate to include safeguarding the newly-free African American population.

The counites of Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Halifax will constitute the Sub-District of the Roanoake, under command of Brevet Major-General Ferrero…The commanders of districts and sub-districts are made superintendents of negro affairs within their respective limits.

The impact of these orders was felt immediately in the field. Sgt. William Thistleton, in a diary entry likely written after the events, outlined 6th NYHA company assignments — including my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull’s new duties with Co. L as BMG Ferrero’s headquarters provost guard.

May 26th the men put up their tents remained here until the 20th of June. Our regiment had been ordered to do Provost duty in three counties and were divided as follows viz. First Battalion Cos. ‘C.’ ‘D’ and ‘E’ to Nottoway Court house. Cos. G, K and A at Prince Edwards Court House Lieut. Col. Baker Provost Marshall. Cos. F, M and I to Lunenburg Court House Major E. G. Morris Provost Marshall. Co. L detailed as guard at Head Quarters of Brevet Major Gen. Ferraro. Cos. B and H Capt. Gilberts commanding at Burkeville Station.

My great, great grandfather would remain at his post as a provost guard in central Virginia until late June 1865 — helping to reestablish federal rule during the early period of Reconstruction in the South.

More in future posts as Arthur’s post-Civil-War saga continues.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Postwar 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 postwar 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 postwar march into history.

More in the next post.

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