Letter F: Sixth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!
During the U.S. Civil War, Fort Monroe near Hampton, Virginia, became known as the “Freedom Fort” for providing refuge to African Americans liberating themselves from slavery.
The fort is also part of my family history because — 151 years ago this month — my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull recuperated there from war related illness.
The following major historical events occurred while my great, great grandfather Arthur was laid up in hospital at Fort Monroe — far from his family and the federal comrades-in-arms he had fought with:
Place provides a rich framework for people in the history of a family, and Fort Monroe is one such place for me. Huge and imposing, yes — yet during the U.S Civil War it was also a safe haven for those fleeing the brutal slave system and a welcome resting place where my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull could heal from the rigors of war.
Are there places of importance in your family history? Read more about them to learn about your ancestors’ lives.
Another important place in my family is Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., as you will read in the next post.
When I learned that my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty until August 1865, I was disappointed that he did not get to march in the May 1865 Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D.C., marking the end of the U.S. Civil War.
But it’s possible that my great, great grandfather’s homecoming was greeted in a more personal and spontaneous way than allowed for by the pomp of the huge, official Grand Review in the U.S. capitol.
Sgt. William Thistleton, of my ancestor’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment, wrote about his homecoming in his diary — and the stir created by returning soldiers as they marched through New York City to the armory where they were temporarily housed.
July 2nd …arrived at Pier (one) north river at 6 P.M. disembarked and marched up Broadway in “Column” by company to Grand Street down Grand to Center market and halted, we created quite an excitement on the march up from the Boat crowds congregating at different corners and cheering us vociferously our shell and shot torn colors were sufficient evidence that we had seen service and elicited hearty cheers at every step.
Sgt. Thistleton mustered out near Petersburg, Virginia, and was headed home to Eastchester, Westchester Co., N.Y. — just north of New York City. My ancestor mustered out near Washington, D.C., and may have taken a different route to his upstate home in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. But I am sure his homecoming was no less grandly received.
Broome County sent many young men into the Union Army. Though I have not yet found a notice about my great, great grandfather, the names of discharged soldiers were often published in the local newspaper to let loved ones, friends and neighbors know they were due home.
Sgt. Thistleton chronicled the final steps in mustering out — a process that took him just over two weeks to complete.
July 10th Company reported and tuned in arms and equipment at 11 a.m. July 12th reported again this afternoon and were engaged in running around. July 13th Discharged from the Service of the United States and Paid in full to date and this closses [sic] the record of Company “I” 6th New York Heavy Artillery.
My great, great grandfather mustered out on 24 August 1865, so he likely arrived home around 9 September 1865. Whether there were cheering crowds in the streets of Conklin or in the larger, nearby city of Binghamton, Broome Co., N.Y., I cannot say without further research.
But I am sure he was warmly welcomed home by the group that mattered most — my great, great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull and their children Emma, Carrie and Milo.
More on Arthur Bull’s return to civilian life in the next post.
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.
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 above1Morning Report of Sick and Wounded in the U.S. Army General Hospital at Elmira, N.Y., 10 August 1864. Arthur T. Bull, 6 N.Y. H. Arty Co. L. is listed fourth of the names of seven furloughed. Morning reports of hospitals. United States Sanitary Commission records. Statistical Bureau archives. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.– 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.