In April 1864, the Army of the Potomac broke winter camp at Brandy Station, Va., ahead of its final, victorious push south. Leaving their neatly arranged tents the 6th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery — including my great, great grandfather Pvt. Arthur Bull — prepared to march into history.
Over the next months, Arthur would survive some of the most intense, hard-fought battles of the U.S. Civil War. Yet what do I really know about him?
Census and military records and a printed history tell me Arthur was a tanner in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y., when his military service began. Married to Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee), he was also the father of two daughters Emma, 6, and Carrie, 5, and a son Milo, 2. Five foot eight, with hazel eyes, black hair and a fair complexion, he enlisted in 1863 and reported for duty on 4 January 1864.
Histories have recorded details of his Overland Campaign battles — the heavy loss of life, the relentless movements of the Union Army south, south, south. But I have inherited no direct record from Arthur. Did he write home? Pose in uniform for a photo? What was the war like for him? How did he survive when so many perished?
On April 19, 1864, Arthur’s brigade and the entire Artillery Reserve were reviewed by Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant — one last exercise before the serious fighting began. This week, as the weather warms and the trees leaf out, I think of Arthur and his comrades breaking camp at Brandy Station.
Soon I will also head south, with my friend and author Jane LaTour, for reenactments of Arthur’s battles, where I hope to find some answers and learn more about his life.
© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.