Soldiers bid farewell

At the end of June 1865, the Union Army’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery — my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull’s regiment — was reorganized as some of his Civil War compatriots mustered out and began returning home.
Petersburg, Va. Row of stacked Federal rifles; houses beyond (4 April 1865). Some soldiers from my ancestor’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment mustered out in late June 1865. Before departing for home, they presented a set of veteran colors to those who remained on duty. Photo: Library of Congress

In his diary, Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA traced the regiment’s journey  from central Virginia back to Petersburg as part of this post-war troop pulldown.

June 20th Packed up in readiness to move. June 21st started at 4 a.m. and marched to Burksville (sic.) station we were releaved (sic) by the 16th NY.H. Artillery at Burksville took the cars for Petersburg arrived 7 p.m. left the cars and crossed the Appomattox to Pocahontas heights and pitched our tents.

While they were camped, my great, great grandfather’s regiment was divided up — with some soldiers he had fought with for more than a year bidding a military farewell as they returned to their civilian lives. Sgt. William Thistleton was one of them, and he described the scene.

June 22nd the regiment were divided this morning the original members who enlisted in 1862 and the one years men who enlisted in 1864 are to be sent home and mustered out and the three years men who enlisted in 1863 were consolidated with a similar detachment of the 10th N.Y. Artillery and designated the second Battalion 6th N.Y.H. Artillery and were detailed to do provost guard duty at Petersburg. Before we departed we presented them with a set of veteran colors.

My ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull enlisted in 1863 and was a three-year man, so he remained on duty. According to a Company Muster Roll in his pension file, Arthur transferred from Co. L into “Co. E, Consolidated Battalion 6 and 10 N.Y.H. Artillery,” which was formed on 27 June 1865.

Sgt. William Thistleton mustered out the same day, and here we bid him a fond farewell. His diary has been invaluable in helping me piece together my great, great grandfather’s Civil War experience — from his earliest battles in May 1864 through the end of the war in 1865.

As I have inherited no journal or correspondence from my ancestor, I will be forever grateful that Sgt. Thistleton took the time to chronicle his experience — and that of the 6th NYHA regiment –for the benefit of future generations.

More on my ancestor’s final army days in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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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Growing family trees one leaf at a time