Tag Archives: Arthur Bull

Saunders Field

Early this morning, I drove south from Fredericksburg, Va., with my friend Jane toward Spotsylvania Courthouse to witness the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Saunders Field — the opening engagement in the larger Battle of the Wilderness that raged from 5-6 May 1864 during the U.S. Civil War.

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3 May 2014: Union army advances, at rear, during Battle of Saunders Field reenactment. Photo by Molly Charboneau

The Wilderness confrontation marked the first time the Union Army, now under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, did not retreat; the first time the 23rd Infantry Regiment, U.S.  Colored Troops moved out as part of the Army of the Potomac; and the first time my great, great grandfather U.S. Pvt. Arthur Bull entered the fight. Today, I attended my first reenactment of this pivotal battle.

On Courthouse Road near the battlefield, traffic thinned. We seemed to be alone on the highway when suddenly, there they were.  White canvas tents pitched across the countryside north and south of the road, smoke rising from campfires and Union soldiers everywhere readying to move into battle. And just like that it was 1864 again, made tangible by thousands of reenactors paying homage to those long-gone soldiers who changed the march of history.

Later, we sat under trees beside a stream and watched the Battle of Saunders Field unfold — Union and Confederate regiments advancing and retreating, cavalry galloping to and fro, cannon batteries booming, gun smoke everywhere.

But for me, it was that first breathtaking moment seeing the Union Army bivouacked by the road that brought everything back to life — including my ancestor across the field on duty with the Union artillery.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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.