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From the Archives: Union troops vote for Lincoln

Sepia Saturday 546. For Veterans Day 2020, here is an updated post from the archives about Union Army troops voting at the front in the pivotal 1864 presidential election — a timely offering in this presidential election year. 

On 23 Aug. 1864 — before the Union victories at Atlanta and Cedar Creek, Va., where my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was stationed — Pres. Abraham Lincoln asked members of his cabinet to sign a folded note. Then he tucked it away in his a desk drawer. It said this:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probabl[e] that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.

Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union Army of the James cast their ballots.
Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union’s Army of the James vote in the presidential election.  My ancestor’s state, New York, allowed Union troops to vote in the field and mail their ballots to their home county for tabulation. Photo: Library of Congress.

A wartime election

The pivotal 1864 election took place during the U.S. Civil War. There was war weariness in the North. Tremendous loss of life in the Union Army’s spring campaigns, which sent my great-great grandfather to the hospital, had not yielded victories. And in July 1864, the Confederates marched down the Shenandoah Valley and attacked Washington.

This was also the first wartime ballot since 1812. No president had won a second term since 1832. Yet the outcome of the U.S. Civil War, and the country’s future, hung in the balance — since Lincoln’s opponent, Union Gen. George B. McClellan, called for abandoning the fight to eliminate the brutal slavery system.

Allowing the troops to vote

Then the tide turned on the battlefield. Union forces took Atlanta in September 1864 and defeated the Confederates at Cedar Creek in October 1864 — and a new offensive began at the ballot box.

Here, too, Union combatants played a vital role — among them my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery.

Arthur’s home state of New York adopted a law allowing soldiers to vote in the field — the result of a political struggle described in the Smithsonian Magazine article “The Debate Over Mail-In Voting Dates Back to the Civil War.”

Once the law passed, New York faced the daunting tactical challenge of delivering ballots to nearly 400,000 New York State combatants stationed throughout the South.

But delivered they were — giving my ancestor the amazing opportunity to vote for President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and mail his ballot back to Broome County, N.Y., where he lived.

Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011. If possible, citations should also include the URL for the NHGIS site: http://www.nhgis.org"
Votes by county in the 1864 U.S. presidential election. Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y., my ancestor Arthur’s home county, and received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes overall. In two close states, New York and Connecticut, it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory. Map: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

How did Arthur vote?

How did my great-great grandfather vote? I have no way of knowing for sure. Yet circumstantial evidence suggests that Arthur probably cast his ballot for “Old Abe,” as Union combatants affectionately called the president.

On 27 Oct, 1864, one of Arthur’s compatriots — Sgt. William Thistleton of 6th NY Heavy Artillery Co. I — wrote this in his diary:

Soldiers were busy sending off their votes. McClellan and Seymore are evidently not favorites with the soldiers.

Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y. (my ancestor’s home), and he received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes overall. In two close states — New York and Connecticut — it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00650938/
President Abraham Lincoln delivering his inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1865. Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to end the brutal slavery system and preserve the union. Photo: Library of Congress

Lincoln defeats McClellan

In the end, Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to eliminate the brutal slavery system and preserve the union.

I couldn’t be prouder that my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was a participant — at the front and at the ballot box — in that historic moment.

Up next: Resuming the series on my dad’s Uncle Albert, who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other participants in this week’s Sepia Saturday — and in this month’s Genealogy Blog Party honoring veteran and military ancestors.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Vacations and Visiting Relatives #AtoZChallenge

V is for Vacations and Visiting Relatives. Twenty-second of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Holidays and summertime still evoke memories of vacations and visiting relatives during my elementary years. My family often took to the road in our Pontiac station wagon — and I well remember our seating arrangement inside the car.

https://pixabay.com/photos/dunes-sand-dunes-sunset-boat-352593/
Beach and dunes on Cape Cod. For two weeks every summer General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. Photo: Pixabay

My dad was a road warrior and generally in the driver’s seat. On long trips, my mom sat in the back seat behind him. Why? So she could be in reach of all of us kids if we needed something — or if we got out of line and required a firm hand. Also, she could tap Dad’s head as a wake-up call if he  seemed to be nodding off.

Up front, I rode shotgun with my brother Mark in the middle, Jeff and Amy were in back next to Mom — and Carol, alas, had to sit in a cleared spot in the station wagon’s trunk. And thus we traveled from Endwell, N.Y. to our various destinations.

Vacations

General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down for two weeks every summer — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. We rented a family-friendly wood-frame house withing walking distance to the beach — and it became our home away from home for a fortnight.

https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/capobject/?refd=MS028.01.012.019
Cape Cod souvenir matches. During college, my mom broke up with my dad before her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod. Then she thought it over and sent Dad some souvenir matches — and that’s how they got back together. Talk about serendipity! Photo: historicnewengland.org

I associate Cape Cod with my childhood — but later learned of an important family history connection, too. Mom told me she used to go there with her parents (aka Boom and Gramps) — and during college before one of those vacations she had broken up with Dad, who she was dating at the time.

“But while I was at the cape, I thought it over and sent your father a box of Cape Cod souvenir matches,” she said. “And that’s how we got back together. Can you believe it?” Wow, talk about serendipity!

The cape was a great place to vacation as a child: hot, salty days on the beach and cool, foggy sweatshirt nights; weekly auctions of little trinkets outside the camp rental office, followed by fireworks; eating fried clams at noisy Kream ‘N Kone — and one time even boiling a lobster for my sister Carol’s birthday.

Plus there were tons of other children — some also from hometown GE families — to hang out and play with. My siblings and I all still love Cape Cod based on our fun childhood vacations there.

Visiting relatives

Other trips — usually for weekends or holidays — involved visiting relatives and gave me a larger sense of family.

Family buggy ride (1956). A visit to my grandparents’ farm was always fun. Here, we ride in an antique carriage that my grandmother was likely planning to sell through her antique business. I am sporting ringlet curls my grandmother created with tied rags. Out of sight is my grandfather, who acted as the “horse” to pull us down the driveway. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

Visits to my maternal grandparents Tony and Liz (Stoutner) Laurence on the farm were always fun — and sometimes surprising, as illustrated by our brief carriage ride above.

We kids loved running around in the fields, splashing in the small nearby creeks, skipping stones on the pond and feeding grass to the cows next door. But there were family gatherings, too.

A summer gathering of my maternal Italian- and German-American relatives. Boom and Gramps, my maternal grandparents, often invited their families over from Gloversville, N.Y. for family picnics at their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

My grandmother was big on keeping family connected, so she would invite her German-American and my grandfather’s Italian-American family over from Gloversville, N.Y. for big family picnics on their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years.

Dad’s North Country family

On separate trips, we drove north of Utica, N.Y. to visit my dad’s family — his three brothers, their wives and children and the paternal family patriarch Grandpa Charboneau. And sometimes, in the summer, we visited their camps in the Adirondacks.

Dinner with Dad’s family in New York’s North Country (circa 1962). I’m on the left in a red blouse in this photo of a dinner with some of Dad’s brothers, their families and Grandpa Charboneau. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

That’s how — little by little, through these regular visits to faraway relatives — I became acquainted with my extended family during my elementary years.

Up next: W is for Weeping Willow: Our backyard tree. Please stop back! 

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Blakeslee Series Summary: Exploring why Hannah left Zebulon in 1858

Sepia Saturday 496: A recap of the series on why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee may have left her marriage in 1858.

In court records of my third great-grandparents’ 1866 divorce proceedings, no direct evidence was submitted by my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee to explain why she left her marriage — never to return.

In my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee’s divorce petition, he said Hannah left on 1 Nov. 1858 — just two-and-a-half weeks before their 30th wedding anniversary on 19 Nov. 1858. But what prompted her departure?

1882: Going into the World by Evert Jan Boks (1838-1914). Circumstantial evidence points to a possible reason why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee left her marriage in 1858. Image: mimimatthews.com

Having examined the court papers, reviewed a timeline of Hannah’s early and later married life, and chronicled what I know of her post-divorce years, I formed a theory of why she left Zebulon — and it flowed from her relationship with her daughters and grandchildren.

Here is a summary of the posts from this series (best read in order).

Thus ends my exploration of the separation and divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee, which were chronicled in earlier posts.

The winding path of genealogy research

When I began writing about my Blakeslee ancestors 10 months ago, in A bewildering Blakeslee saga, I knew little about them and expected to simply write a post or two with what sources I had.

Yet as their stories unfolded and I carefully re-examined my past research, I noticed previously overlooked evidence — and whole new avenues of exploration unfolded.

Within six months I was traveling to Montrose, Penna., to obtain the Blakeslees’ divorce, tax and land records along with newspaper notices about them — a trip I never would have imagined when I first sat down to write their stories.

Writers talk about being the vehicle for a story that seems to write itself, as if guided by an unseen hand. I don’t know about that.

What I do know is that giving voice to an ancestor’s history — sitting down to write about them in a focused way with whatever sources you have — spurs further research that can dramatically move your family’s history forward. And I have my Blakeslee ancestors to thank for that discovery.

Up next: A fall break for Molly’s Canopy to relax and recharge. Please stop back when blogging resumes after the holiday season.  Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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