Tag Archives: Arthur Bull

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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Arthur T. Bull’s GAR Descriptive Book

Sepia Saturday 502: Second in a series of posts based on recent research discoveries, starting with my U.S. Civil War ancestor Arthur T. Bull of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

Delegate badges worn at GAR conventions. Photo: Molly Charboneau

In the last post, I discussed my recent genealogy research trip to the New York State Archives and Library and one of the collections I looked at — the Grand Army of the Republic New York Dept. collection.

This week I want to share some of the remarkable documents and artifacts in this collection — several pertaining to my Union Army ancestor Arthur T. Bull of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

My ancestor’s GAR enrollment

First among these (shown below) is the Descriptive Book in which — on 21 July 1886 — my great-great grandfather Arthur was enrolled in GAR Nathan Crosby Post 550 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

Cover of the GAR Nathan Crosby Post 550 Descriptive Book. These post books with marbleized covers were standard issue. The New York State Archives has many of them in their collection from GAR posts statewide. Photo: Molly Charboneau
Number 30: My ancestor’s enrollment in the GAR. My great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull enrolled as “A.T. Bull.” He was not a founding member of Nathan Crosby Post 550. However, he joined in 1886 soon after moving to Salamanca, N.Y., from the Adirondacks region. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Digital images of the book and his listing are available online — but they were just no substitute for holding the actual Descriptive Book and knowing that my great-great grandfather directly provided his life and military details, which were entered by a fellow veteran.

I was doubly fortunate that a photographer documenting the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society trip happened by and photographed me as I was researching!

Viewing my ancestor’s GAR enrollment record. My great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull joined the GAR in 1886. Seeing his name in the post’s Descriptive Book was a high point of my Nov. 2019 genealogy research trip to the New York State Archives in Albany, N.Y. Photo: Jennifer Clunie, New York State Archives Partnership Trust

The GAR support network

The story of my ancestor Arthur T. Bull’s membership in the GAR is detailed in a previous post — along with a transcription of his record.

Arthur and his wife Mary benefited greatly from his GAR membership — and through it developed new friendships in an area that they moved to late in life.

The GAR provided a valuable support network to assist with pension issues. And after my great-great grandfather Arthur died, his fellow veterans helped my great-great grandmother Mary with probate.

So it was wonderful to view and photograph the embossed, folio-sized founding charter of the Nathan Crosby Post — a GAR chapter pulled together by a group of Union Army veterans who were there when my ancestors needed them.

Founding charter of my ancestor’s GAR NY Nathan Crosby Post 550. These folio-sized documents are impressive. The New York State Archives has a large collection of GAR charters from throughout the state. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Other items of interest

The GAR New York Department collection — with 99 boxes in 14 sub-series — is a significant source of statewide information about Union Army veterans.

Reunion, encampment and campaign badges from Grand Army of the Republic gatherings. Photo: Molly Charboneau

In addition to specific items pertaining to my ancestor Arthur T. Bull, I pulled several boxes of general interest — and I was amazed at the breadth of what was available.

The collection preserves badges, books, photographs, minutes and other documents from a pivotal time in U.S. history — yet remains very personal in its presentation.

One can almost imagine the veterans who — long after the U.S. Civil War — proudly wore, and carefully saved, their GAR pins and badges from conventions, encampments and reunions before fading from history’s stage.

This archival collection assures that New York’s Union Army veterans and their invaluable contributions are not forgotten.

Up next, more research discoveries in the New York State Archives. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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NYS Archives discoveries: Arthur T. Bull and the GAR collection

Sepia Saturday 501: Launching a new round of posts based on recent research discoveries, starting with my U.S. Civil War ancestor Arthur T. Bull of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

In Nov. 2019, I went on a group research trip to the New York State Archives and Library in Albany, N.Y. — two repositories I had long wanted to visit.

While I didn’t have any major genealogy “brick walls” that I was hoping to resolve on the trip, I looked forward to researching in the NYSA’s Grand Army of the Republic New York Department collection.

Researching at the NYS Archives & Library. I was gratified to discover new information about my paternal and maternal ancestors, which will inform future blogs on Molly’s Canopy.

In his later years, my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull — a U.S. Civil War veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — was a member of the GAR’s Nathan Crosby Post 550 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

I have seen a digital image of his post’s Descriptive Book showing his enrollment — but I wanted to see the actual book in the state archives. I also hoped to get a better feel for the GAR through the other records, photos and artifacts in the collection.

Finding aids point the way

The trip organizer from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society recommended reviewing the NYSA’s online finding aids before the trip — always a good idea when visiting a new repository.

GAR Records at the NYS Archives. These are the  boxes I reviewed from the extensive collection of Grand Army of the Republic New York Department records, photos and artifacts that are housed in the New York State Archives. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Using the extensive GAR finding aid, I made a list of which of the 99 boxes in 14 sub-series I wanted to look at while in Albany.

My list included records of my ancestor’s GAR post, history interviews with 6th New York Heavy Artillery veterans, attendance rolls from GAR artillery encampments, unidentified veteran photos, GAR medals and even circulars and war songs.

Advance preparation was worthwhile, because the staff was able to quickly pull the items I requested — and soon I was delving into boxes of GAR materials piled high on a rolling cart (shown above).

Documents and interviews tell a tale

Of particular interest were written interviews with veterans of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull’s unit — about their wartime experience and the battles they fought in. The GAR undertook these interviews in 1895 to contribute to a history of the U.S. Civil War while its veterans were still alive.

Example of a GAR member interview. To help compile a history of the U.S. Civil War, in 1895 the GAR conducted written interviews of its Union Army veteran members. In this archival document a veteran lists the battles of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery — the unit my ancestor Arthur T. Bull served in from 1864-65. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Alas, my great-great grandfather died in 1890 after suffering from lung and heart disease stemming from his military service. However, returns from surviving 6th NYHA veterans listing officers, battles fought in, and more were fascinating to read — and added to the wartime details I had already learned from my ancestor’s pension record.

Also impressive were the attendance records from GAR Artillery Encampments that took place in the decades following the end of the U.S. Civil War. I did not find my ancestor among these rosters — but I was moved by how consistently some of his fellow 6th NYHA veterans attended these national gatherings until their deaths sadly dwindled their numbers.

My ancestor’s GAR roster and more

Most moving of all was finally holding in my hands the Nathan Crosby Post 550 Descriptive Book listing my ancestor Arthur T. Bull’s enrollment in the GAR.

After researching for more than 25 years, I don’t often get emotional about new discoveries. Yet seeing my ancestor’s name in the roster of fellow Union Army veterans brought tears to my eyes — along with a feeling of deep satisfaction to have pursued my great-great grandfather’s history this far.

In the next post: Photos of the Descriptive Book and other GAR finds. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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