Tag Archives: Arthur T. Bull

From the Archives: In honor of Juneteenth 2021, our new federal holiday

Sepia Saturday 575. From the Archives: Between Jan. 1864 and Aug. 1865, my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull served in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery during the U.S. Civil War. On Juneteenth 1865, he was stationed in Virginia. In honor of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, here is an updated post from 2015 about Arthur’s final months in the Union Army during the fateful summer of 1865.

Muster rolls in my great, great grandfather Union Pvt. Arthur Bull’s pension file show he remained in Virginia with the 6th New York Heavy Artillery through the summer of 1865. Was he involved in the early days of Reconstruction? If so, what role might he have played? And where can I search for answers?

Lee surrenders to Grant, General Grant National Memorial, New York, NY (2015). My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty in Virginia for several months after the end of the U.S. Civil War during the very early days of Reconstruction. Photo by Molly Charboneau
Mural: Lee surrenders to Grant, General Grant National Memorial, New York, N.Y. (May 2015). My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty in Virginia for several months after the end of the U.S. Civil War — a period encompassing the first Juneteenth celebrations and the early days of Reconstruction. Photo by Molly Charboneau

While my ancestor was still in the service, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (a.k.a. the Freedmen’s Bureau) was established by the U.S. War Dept. on 3 March 1865.

Freedman’s bureau role and records

Documentation about the Freedmen’s Bureau is contained in its records, housed at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The broad scope of the Freedman’s Bureau is summarized on the website of the National Museum of African American History & Culture — which has collaborated on indexing names found in the bureau’s records.

The United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was created by Congress in 1865 to assist in the political and social reconstruction of post-war Southern states and to help formerly enslaved people make the transition from slavery to freedom and citizenship.

The Bureau provided food, clothing, medical care, and legal representation; promoted education; helped legalize marriages; and assisted African American soldiers and sailors in securing back pay, enlistment bounties, and pensions. In addition, the Bureau promoted a system of labor contracts to replace the slavery system and tried to settle freedmen and women on abandoned or confiscated land. The Bureau was also responsible for protecting freedmen and women from intimidation and assaults by Southern whites.

Union Army’s role

Until the Freedman’s Bureau was fully operational — beginning around June 1865 — it appears that Union Army soldiers like my ancestor, who remained in the South after the Civil War’s end, may have handled some of this relief work.

https://www.loc.gov/resource/cwp.4a39739/
Army of the James: African American soldiers resting near Aiken house, Aiken’s Landing, Va. (Nov. 1864-April 1865). The Army of the James, which my ancestor’s unit was part of, was noteworthy for the large number of Africa American troops in its ranks — and they were among the first Union troops to enter Richmond after it fell. Photo: Library of Congress

On 25 May 1865, in the Dept. of Virginia — where my ancestor was stationed with the 6th NYHA in Sub-District of the Roanoke, District of the Nottoway — the Army of the James issued orders that directed the safeguarding of formerly enslaved African Americans, which likely included relief efforts.

Union troops stood as a bulwark that protected the formerly enslaved African American population from deposed slave owners, overseers and others who had directly or tacitly supported the brutal system of slavery.

The Army of the James, which my ancestor’s unit was part of, was noteworthy for the large number of African American troops in its ranks — and they were among the first Union troops to enter Richmond after it fell.

https://www.loc.gov/resource/det.4a12513/
A celebration of Emancipation Day in Richmond, Virginia, c. 1905. Photo: Library of Congress

At war’s end: 6th NY Heavy Artillery’s duties

In a diary entry dated 26 May 1865, Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA gave a snapshot of the regiment’s tasks in a hostile environment.

[O]ur duties were to keep order and enforce the laws and sanitary regulations and to administer the oath of allegiance to the Citizens. We also issued the destitute rations nine tenths of the applicants were white and a more helpless set of people would be difficult to imagine they were perfectly destitute of all principle or honesty and would willingly take the oath every hour and violate it with every breath.

On 27 May 1865, Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of the 6th NYHA, a farmer in civilian life, described the desolate landscape in a letter to his wife from Lunenburg Court House, Va. — which underscored the need for Union Army relief efforts.

This is a poor forsaken looking country and our boys say we are only 18 miles from where the sun sets.

With no correspondence from my ancestor to refer to, more research is needed to narrow down his specific duties in Virginia during the fateful summer of 1865. NARA’s federal records on the Freedman’s Bureau and related military records may help me learn more.

But for now I am gratified that my great-great grandfather, Union Pvt. Arthur Bull, contributed to the fall of the brutal slavery system — and that he was stationed at a time and place where he “kept order” and possibly helped with relief efforts in the historic period that encompassed the first Juneteenth and other emancipation celebrations and the early days of Reconstruction.

Up next: More photos of my Italian immigrant great grandfather Peter Laurence [di Lorenzo]. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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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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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