Tag Archives: US Sanitary Commission

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.

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USSC Hospital Directory archives, 1862-1866 – Vol. 57, Register 54. 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 1
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.

“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, which 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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Footnotes

  1. Admission of H. Arty. Pvt. Arthur T. Bull to U.S. General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y. Line 19, page 72, register 54. United States Sanitary Commission records. Hospital Directory archives. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

An Elmira Hospital stay

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.

http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/12400/12404/elmirahos_12404.htm
U.S. General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y. (Frank Leslie – 1896). U.S. Sanitary Commission records showed my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was transferred here on 1 July 1864 — a new discovery about his Civil War medical treatment. Image: ClipArt Etc./Florida Center for Instructional Technology

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.

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