More Yankees in the wood pile


For those who might be interested SWMBO (my genealogist) continues to add to my Northern ancestors in WBS.  Thus far:

  1. First Sergeant Sanford Erastus Bills – great grandfather – 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment (the BloodyFifth)
  2. Private Ira Bills (his brother) 30th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment
  3. Private John Fay (close collateral to the Langs.  He came from Ireland with them in 1827) 9th New York Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.  He was in the Army of the Potomac Cavalry Corps (Sheridan's command)  He was in the massed mounted cavalry flank attacks at 3rd Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek.  Oddly, Claude Devereux, the protagonist of  STT, (my trilogy of novels) was depicted by me as having been in the charge at Cedar Creek.  He was my great grandmother Lizzie Fay's uncle.  John Fay was five foot, five inches tall.  Perhaps that is why he ended up in the cavalry.
  4. Several Langs who were contract infantry regiment teamsters with the Army of the Cumberland. They were at Shiloh and ultimately in the March to the Sea.  They were all drivers for the same regiment.



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36 Responses to More Yankees in the wood pile

  1. Friendo says:

    Typically a lurker cause I have nothing important to add in general, but you may enjoy David Kincaid’s rendition of Irish-themed Civil War songs. The Dreadful Engagement is really good and they’re on Youtube.

  2. RHT447 says:

    My compliments on your efforts. I just managed to find a copy of my maternal grandfather’s Discharge Certificate from the Air Service at Camp Dix, February 23, 1919. I was discharged at Ft. Dix, February 16, 1977. I have it from family members that he was a flight instructor in France. The only thing my uncle remembers for sure is that “He flew Spad’s”. Have been searching for more info online, but so far no joy.

  3. turcopolier says:

    Thanks. The Bills were English in descent. pl

  4. pl,
    I’m envious of your genealogist’s ability to dig this stuff up. Being able to trace my ancestors this far back (and much further) and with such detail would be a joy. Unfortunately, Lithuanian records took a beating over the centuries. I did find an interesting Facebook group that may offer some help to myself and any other Lithuanians out there. I’, sure there are groups like this for most nationalities.

  5. John Minnerath says:

    Trying to track down ancestors 200 years can be a daunting task.
    The Wisconsin connection during the WBS is interesting. Prior to the war it was a huge Territory and seems to have been a destination for many northern Europeans.
    A GGGF settled in Wisconsin Territory about 1846 having brought his family from the Eifel.
    A number of ancestors served in the Union Army.
    One, who’s last name was Hoven had retired from the Prussian Cavalry and even though must have been fairly old served as a Captain in one of the volunteer Wisconsin cavalry units.
    I think I have some info about that period somewhere, but my dusty old brain cells have forgotten where it all is.

  6. Degringolade says:

    My mothers side is well documented. All came over from a small town in the Alto Adige and we have solid records back to 1585. My father’s patrilineal heritage is pretty well documented back to Athlone in the old sod. The Yankee star in this was a grandfather who won the medal at the Third Battle of Petersburg (Private Charles Ennis). Paternal Grandma’s family is a mystery, German Jews from Mecklenburg.

  7. turcopolier says:

    That’s great! I take no credit whatever for my wife’s diligent work. She has driven the story of my ancestry back a long way. pl

  8. Eliot says:

    I find family history quite a bit of fun. Things quickly become real, rather than theoretical, and the distance seems to evaporate. 1864 quickly becomes yesterday.
    The Welsh side of the family was full of scoundrels and thieves. The patriarch had the choice of prison or America, and he chose America – bringing his wayward ways with him.
    They loved drinking, and singing, (and stealing), but they had little taste for war. Thomas for example, he fled in the midst of First Manassas, running all the way back home to the Valley.
    A conscription officer found him there a week later, hiding in a pile of hay.
    The Germans were stouter. They fought at the Battle of Kappel, they were there when Zwingli fell, and they rescued the standard, leading the retreat back to Zurich. They were stern warriors of god, and brought their martial ways with them to America.
    Michael served in the 63rd Virginia Infantry. He was conscripted in 62 and fought the duration of the war. He was listed on the Confederate Roll of Honor for valor at Chickamauga. What he did, I do not know.

  9. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    A few months ago when I was poking around at the Minnesota History Center I finally learned how my grandfather was fortunate enough to survive the carnage the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment suffered on July 2 in the Battle of Gettysburg. In the official unit history book that I found there I learned that he was in Company C, and that unit had been detached early that day to perform security duties at the division HQ. What very little about him that was passed down to my generation came via my mom, his daughter-in-law. She majored in History at the U of MN (Class of 1921 IIRC) conversed with him about his service, but said she didn’t get much out of him. It was her understanding that he didn’t like to talk much about it and what little my dad told me about him had nothing to do with the war.

  10. No living person can be faulted for their ancestors, but I’m obscurely proud I don’t have any who fought for the South.
    Wish the same was true for the Revolution – though the females of the family qualify for the DAR more than a dozen ways, there were also an awful lot of folks on the side of the Brits. The only recorded slave-owner was a Revolutionary soldier.
    Oddly enough, nobody was in WW1, and there are yet no records of anybody involved in the 1812 war.

  11. Eric Newhill says:

    Mother’s family came here from England in the 1600s. Eventually produced George Washington and others who fought in the revolution. Then a few who fought in Lee’s army. We even have a museum in Virginia with all of our geneneology (Mary Ball) as well as various documents and items of interest. So that side of the family is all squared away.
    Father’s side? Who knows? Armenian survivors of lineages wiped out by Turks. They began anew in America. The past was sad and gone. Genetic test suggests fairly pure Armenian and Semitic line since the beginning of recorded history.

  12. turcopolier says:

    Eric Newhill
    Both sides of my family started arriving in N. America in the early 17th Century, 1617 at Quebec and 1620 at Plymouth five on THE BOAT, three signed the Mayflower Compact. The real floodgates opened in the planned colonization at Massachusetts Bay, just dozens of those folk, a lot of them puritan “divines.” Many had Norman blood which leads to a lot of other things in Europe. pl

  13. turcopolier says:

    Zachary Smith
    We seem to be neighbors. Is that true? You live in Alexandria, Virginia? You are “obscurely proud…?” Are you a New Alexandrian? IOW are you Northern in origin? Perhaps another way to ask the same question is to ask if you would like to have “Appomattox” (the statue) moved? So far, my genealogist wife has not found anyone in my family who was Southern. You don’t respect the Confederate Army? Perhaps you don’t know enough about them to really have formed an opinion. This wa a citizen army that fought outnumbered, under-equipped, under-supplied and often won and you don’t respect them? This must be political, the slavery thing, the supposed treason thing. Your attitude toward the other side is still extant north and south. I don’t know how strong it is in the South because Southerners generally are reticent in such matters. As Walker Percy wrote in “Thanatos,” “part of Southern culture lies in knowing what not to talk about to outsiders.” pl

  14. LeaNder says:

    What small town would that be in Alto Adige? I think Napoleon introduced “Alto Adige”. River Adige. I am wondering when her family arrived in the States. Or the Irish side? …
    May I? – association: Mecklenburg, Jewish
    Grandma touches on something on a character that fascinated me. The Rabbi of the State of Mecklenburg. A Reform Rabbi. He got in troubles with both the Orthodox and a protestant professor of theology, expert in Hebrew and the “old Testament”. The clash of two scholars fascinated me. He is a very, very stern man in writer. … Anyway, this affair seems to have led to his decision to immigrate to the US. … later he had to flee from Baltimore again, equally stern abolitionist.
    Grandma’s family is a mystery, German Jews from Mecklenburg.
    You know when her family/she arrived in the States and where they moved? Family name?
    …here is a snippet of what triggered the controversy in Mecklenburg
    traces the struggle with Delitzsch, the prof of protestant theology, he also was an activist, a missionary. A real clash of characters:
    Yes: I wonder now if some followed him from Mecklenburg. Never thought about that. In any case he must have had large German-Jewish congregation. His early texts were still in German. He published a periodical in German too, which people must have read.
    Here is his prayer book still in German. Baltimore, 1862:

  15. LeaNder says:

    Hoven had retired from the Prussian Cavalry
    Yes, that fits, in the early 18th century the Prussians took over the Rhineland, and thus the Eifel.
    Babbling a bit:
    The Cologne people managed to finally finish their Cathedral/ Dom under Prussian rule. Finally add century long missing “turrets/little towers as we call them privately.
    For me the immigrant this made sense: for centuries the pilgrims didn’t really bother if existed or not, they came for the Three Kings after all.
    A friend of mine could always see them from the Eifel in clear weather, by the way.

  16. This site isn’t the easiest for me to log-in-to, so I use the Opera browser with VPN (virtual private network) enabled. This “reports” my location as some mighty strange places; sometimes even Europe. For the record I’m in Indiana.
    For most of my life I couldn’t understand the ordinary white soldiers in the South – why did they fight and die for an institution so directly opposed to their own interests? Only after reading What This Cruel War Was Over did the motives of the Southern Soldier finally become clear to me. The reason they fought so long and so hard was to protect themselves and most especially their loved ones from the barbaric slaves. Generations of indoctrination had ground that fear into their very marrow.
    But now I realized I had no explanation for why the North stayed in the desperate fight and took so many losses. It has taken a lot of reading and digestion of what I’ve read to reach my current conclusion the North fought for the exact same reason – to protect themselves and their loved ones – from the institution of slavery.
    Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Dred Scott fame had a larger agenda, and at the outbreak of the Civil War was on the verge of voiding all Northern laws against slavery. This was well reported at the time, and people in the North knew they couldn’t possibly compete against slave blacksmiths, factory workers, or any other skilled or unskilled professions. So they were determined to destroy the institution of slavery.
    Never mind that the Northern folks were at least as racist as the Southerners – they demonstrated that after the War when they threw the freed blacks to the wolves. Nor were they any more virtuous in other ways – I was shocked to learn that Southern POWs in the North were treated as badly as the captured Union troops had been in the South.
    As for the Southern Elites pulling a “Pearl Harbor” at Ft. Sumter, that was a bit of stupidity at least as bad as Japan tackling the US in WW2. Both the Slavers and the Japanese thought themselves to be ten feet tall and their opponents a bunch of sniveling p****** who would quickly beg for terms. When you deliberately stick your hand into a meat grinder, you can’t complain a whole hell of a lot when it gets mangled.

  17. confusedponderer says:

    In the last Rece I went to, my roomate was very polite and friendly and a descendant of von Stromberg prussian officers and generals. I read diaries of some of his ancestors about WW-I during my high school exam preparations for history class.
    It was quite interesting, and they wrote good, even though some of the stuff they noted was rough. When I mentioned that to my roommate he added that his family not only had numerous prussian army generals and officers but that he also had three navy officer ancestors during WW-I (two of whom fell).
    In my new Reha I have a patient colleague, another polite and pleasant guy, whose surname is … Montgomery. I asked him if he was perhaps related to the british general Montgomery. He said that he was canadian and THUS CANNOT be related to the british general … äahh, ok.

  18. turcopolier says:

    Zachary Smith
    Indiana? Have you ever lived in the South? What I get from you is that you found a book that told you that the poor, ignorant Confederate soldiers fought the Union Army for four years from fear of a servile revolt. IMO this is a bit like “priest shopping.” In the RC church this is the business of going from priest to priest until you find one who tells you what you want to hear. Well, in your theory the soldiers must have been damned ignorant. I remember the narrative of the surgeon of the Army of the
    Potomac (Union) who wrote that by 1864 you could look out across a day or two old battlefield and tell which were the Confederate dead because they did not swell. They had too little fat in their bodies to swell, but still they fought on. They must have been really afraid of those slaves. pl

  19. John Minnerath says:

    My Grandfather, who was 74 when I was born, always made a point of insisting the family came from Lorraine. I do know there was a branch of my Dad’s family in Normandy.
    Some distant cousins got interested in the genealogy and passed what they found to me. Copies of old documents I have show many ancestors from 1600’s to 1700’s being from an area around the town of Hillesheim.

  20. Eric Newhill says:

    That is a most impressive background.
    I always wondered why the puritans selected the NE, with it’s harsh weather and poor soil, instead of the more pleasant climate of the South, like my non-puritan ancestors.
    A touch of masochism in the religious attitude?

  21. turcopolier says:

    Eric Newhill
    The Pilgrims at Plymouth were supposed to go to Virginia but they sailed too late in the year and N. Atlantic weather caused them to end their journey in New England. A lot of them died during their winter spent on the Mayflower and they all would have died IMO if they had not had the help of friendly Indians who had experience of Europeans from working for English cod fisherman on the now Maine coast. They spoke English and one had been to Europe. I don’t know why the planned Puritan colony went to Massachusetts Bay ten years later. Perhaps it wa because they know that the Pilgrims had survived. pl

  22. RHT447 says:

    I have a copy of U.S. Grant’s memoirs. When the U.S. Army went into Mexico in 1846, he was assigned a quartermaster. The OIC of the engineers was Captain Robert E. Lee. It is both fascinating and heartbreaking to read how so many in the Civil War previously served together wearing Union blue.
    Lee was offered command of the Union Army. It seems to me what most tipped the scales for him and so many others in U.S. uniform was the thought of riding into their home states and towns as invaders. On the lighter side, here is a bit from Grant’s memoirs–
    “When Camargo was reached, we found a city of tents outside the Mexican hamlet. I was detailed to act as quartermaster and commissary to the regiment. The teams that had proven abundantly sufficient to transport all supplies from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande over the level prairies of Texas, were entirely inadequate to the needs of the reinforced army in a mountainous country. to obviate the deficiency, pack mules were hired, with Mexicans to pack and drive them. I had charge of the few wagons allotted to the 4th infantry and of the pack train to supplement them. There were not men enough in the army to manage that train without the help of Mexicans who had learned how. As it was the difficulty was great enough. The troops would take up their march at an early hour each day. After they had started, the tents and cooking utensils had to be made into packages, so that they could be lashed to the backs of the mules. Sheet-iron kettles, tent-poles, and the mess chests were inconvenient articles to transport in that way. It took several hours to get ready to start each morning, and by the time we were ready some of the mules first loaded would be tired of standing so long with their loads on their backs. Sometimes one would start to run, bowing his back and kicking up until he scattered his load; others would lie down and try to disarrange their loads by attempting to get on the top of them by rolling on them; others with tent-poles for part of their loads would manage to run a tent-pole on one side of a sapling while they would take the other. I am not aware of ever having used a profane explicative in my life; but I would have the charity to excuse those who may have done so, if they were in charge of a train of Mexican pack mules at the time.”
    2Lt U.S. Grant Camargo, Mexico
    August, 1846
    Excerpt from Ulysses S. Grant—Memoirs and Selected Letters
    ISBN 978-0-94045058-5

  23. turcopolier says:

    Lt. Grant was quartermaster officer of the 4th US Infantry Regiment. Captain RE Lee was the staff engineer for Winfield Scott, not OIC of “the engineers.” This was a senior staff position in which Lee was responsible for all route reconnaissance for the army, planning of encampments, etc. I believe that Lt. McClellan worked for Lee in Mexico. When Grant asked at Appomattox if Lee remembered him from Mexico Lee said that he regretted that he did not. Lee Resigned from the US Army when Lincoln called for volunteers to suppress rebellion in the seceded states. He said that he could not raise his hand against his relatives and friends. He went home and then Governor Letcher asked if he would command Virginia’s forces, Virginia not then having joined the confederacy. pl

  24. RHT447 says:

    Thanks for filling the correct details. I was pressed for time and doing my best from memory. I guess my main point was just how it has always struck me how many served together and then wound up on opposite sides.

  25. LeaNder says:

    Hillesheim, is of course further south. That’s Vulkaneifel (Vulkan=vulkano) The Southern part of the Eifel that’s Rhineland-Palatinate. Images:
    Definitively too far to see the little towers on the horizon. 😉
    Ok, Normandy and Lorraine. I stop babbling.

  26. turcopolier says:

    There was a lot of that. The pre-war army had been quite small. At 1st Cold Harbor the captured soldiers of the 5th US Cavalry Regiment gathered around BG Fitzhugh Lee CSA to tell him how much they missed him in the regiment. He had been a Lt. there. pl

  27. John Minnerath says:

    Interesting looking countryside. An old volcanic region? A lot of those lakes look like water filled craters.
    I wonder if my Dad knew of the connection, we lived near Stuttgart in the mid 50’s, 7th Army Headquarters, but I don’t remember ever going to that area.

  28. Degringolade says:

    Kind of you to take interest:
    Mom;s family come over from a little Trentino town named Cloz. Rumor has it that mom was concieved in Italy and delivered in Wyoming (coal miners) but I always thought that the numbers didn’t pencil out.
    The Irish family (if you want to call the unrepentent Orangemen “Irish” cam over in around 1685 or so, right after the glorious revolution.
    I really don’t know about the Mecklenberg side, I knew they were Jewish, but no particulars, apparently Grandma was nuttier than a fruitcake and a bit of an outcast due to marrying an American hick.

  29. “Have you ever lived in the South?”
    Born and partly raised in the upper south. Never met a negro nor even saw one closer that 100 yards away. Was told that they stunk and were generally scary creatures.
    When a person uncovers some unexplained history, he does indeed go “shopping” for an explanation. (I understand they do something like that in the field of science too..) I found such an explanation in a book which you pretty obviously have never read and probably had never heard of.
    “Well, in your theory the soldiers must have been damned ignorant.”
    The explanation I’ve personally adopted does indeed have the white southerners “damned ignorant”. Their literacy rates would have been low, but a much larger problem was that they lived in a police state where the mail was monitored and strangers watched. Being caught with the wrong book in their pockets got a number of people strung up by a lynch mob.
    Despite starting a war where it was at a great disadvantage, the South could have won, and even at a relatively late date.
    The link is to a long letter General Patrick Cleburne wrote at the beginning of 1864 to his commanding officer proposing discarding slavery in order to win independence for the South. Here is another modern link:
    I’ve read that this effort destroyed any chance Cleburne had of higher command, and the man was essentially murdered by Hood at the battle of Franklin.
    Abolish slavery, and all of a sudden the southern negro has a cause for which he will be both willing and trustworthy to fight for. Britain and other nations would no longer be repelled by the stench of slavery and would have supported the South because the Brits had always hated the United States and wanted to destroy this growing competitor.
    But going down in defeat WITH slavery was preferred by the power elites in the south to winning WITHOUT it.
    May I suggest you consult your local library about Chandra Manning’s What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War and actually read it before continuing to sneer at her work. When you’ve done that, I’d welcome hearing about any holes you can punch in her scholarship.

  30. walter says:

    Private Fay may have fought on my farm near Charles Town, WV, under Sheridan at the Battle of Cameron’s Depot (also called Battle of Summit Point) on August 21, 1864. Bullets are still turn up regularly. Five ancestors on my father’s side died for the Southern cause. Another served the entire war in the 6th Virginia Cavalry, twice wounded, including being shot through the chest at Trevillion Station. My mother’s ancestors were Philadelphia Quakers, including one who aided the Underground Railroad.

  31. turcopolier says:

    Zachary Smith
    “The explanation I’ve personally adopted does indeed have the white southerners “damned ignorant”. Their literacy rates would have been low, but a much larger problem was that they lived in a police state where the mail was monitored and strangers watched. Being caught with the wrong book in their pockets got a number of people strung up by a lynch mob.” Do you know that their literacy rates were low? How do you know that? White Southerners were lynched for owning the wrong books? They lived in a police state? I think you are a troll, either that or hopelessly bigoted. pl

  32. “I think you are a troll, either that or hopelessly bigoted. pl”
    My mistake: I thought this was a discussion about actual events of the Civil War era. I have documentation to all the claims which trouble you – most from books/journals/newspapers of the period – but clearly those make the situation even worse.
    Now that I understand the glorious Lost Cause cannot be disputed here, I shall delete the bookmark to this site and trouble you no more in the future.

  33. LeaNder says:

    Yes, old volcanic region. But not active anymore. The only thing left are they shape of the lakes.

  34. turcopolier says:

    Zachary Smith
    No! No! Don’t give up! I am looking forward to seeing your citations for the oppression under which white Southerners lived ante-bellum. I have spent a lot of time over the last decades researching The War and the nature of the two societies before and after and have never seen your assertions before. I do think that mention of the “Lost Cause” meme is a bit much. This is simply a denigration by Northern partisans of the efforts of Southerners to defend their own history. pl

  35. LeaNder says:

    Cloz, as tiny as it is, seems to be quite interesting. Not quite as “loaded”, if may, as Athlone. But interesting nevertheless. … History passed it by but it left traces. Shift to the Italian version. And if you aren’t familiar with Italian use Google Chrome, it has an integrated translation tool.
    Family anecdotes related to Alto Adige/South Tyrol concern my niece. She had picked up Italian from my sister, who had started to learn it, since she was highly attracted to the ’emotionalisms’ of her Italian neighbor. Now my niece used to travel a lot with my parents. Those had planned a stop in the region. My niece was utterly frustrated. Still too much German around. She was eager to practice the little she had learned.
    My own more emotional response to the region, never mind its great landscape, are apples. It always felt when I am there in the early harvest time, I never before ate an apple that tasted as good as that one.

  36. RHT447 says:

    Here is a small bit to add to your above mentioned research. I am only aware of it because of it’s connection to me. Anton Roessler was my maternal grandmother’s grandfather.
    He is also the cartographer of this map (Go to number 7, scroll down to click full size)—

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