First of three posts on researching my Union Army ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull in the U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC) records
In April 2015, I made an appointment to visit the New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division to search for information about my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull’s Civil War medical history in the U.S. Sanitary Commission records.
I knew from records in his pension file that in June 1864 he spent time in Mt. Pleasant General Hospital in Washington, D.C., after “falling out” on the march near Cold Harbor, Va., during the Overland Campaign.
From there, he was transferred to De Camp General Hospital on Davids Island off the coast of New Rochelle, Westchester Co., N.Y. — where I assumed he spent the summer of 1864 before returning to duty in September.
I also knew his unit, the 6th New York Heavy Artillery, was part of the Army of the Potomac when he fell ill, and I had documents that helped me narrow down his hospitalization dates — certainly enough evidence to start a search of the USSC records.
Registering and researching
The online finding aid to the Sanitary Commission records confirmed that there could be records for the dates I was interested in, so I registered online to request access.
On the web form, I outlined what I was looking for and asked Divison staff to suggest where I should begin my search through the monumental collection. They emailed me a list of registers and other records that I could start with, and had their recommended items ready when I arrived.
As I began paging through the fragile 150-year-old bound volumes and manuscripts one by one, I thought of my late Dad. He would have been amazed that the little check mark we discovered in the 1865 New York State Census — which told us we had a Civil War ancestor — could lead to such a seemingly endless trail of information.
Turning page after page, I was expecting that whatever I found in the USSC records — if I found anything at all — would simply reinforce and add some detail to what I already knew about my ancestor’s medical treatment.
So imagine my surprise when I found my great, great grandfather’s name in the second register I looked through — and discovered new evidence that he was transferred on 1 July 1864 to the U.S. General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y., not far from his home and family in Conklin, Broome County, N.Y.
To be continued.
© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.