Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Became of George?

Not that George. That George made it to Texas and is probably barbecuing or roping a horse or something. No, this isn't a political rant.

This George was born around 1825. One of his sons (another George) was my paternal great-grandfather. This George was a soldier. And while some of his regiment made it to Texas (Hempstead) where they mustered out, I'm not sure if my George did.

One thing I can do -- while resting and trying to keep my mind off the fact that I still gurgle when I breathe, when I can breathe -- is to pick up some of the genealogy trails I've let go cold during most of the past year.

And earlier tonight, I got some info that creates yet another question: Did my great-great-grandfather die in the Civil War? It certainly seems possible. I have his "muster" record, courtesy of the Illinois State Archives. He certainly did join up in the summer of 1862 as all able-bodied men were compelled to do at the time.

George, a 37-year-old farmer who was light-haired, short (5'7), and had blue eyes, went off to war -- but did he ever come home? I don't know. And after reading the history of his regiment, it's a more than fair question. The history says that more than 800 men from a four-county area comprised this infantry unit. But late in 1865, barely half of them came back home. While they saw very little enemy fire (there was some and that did claim some lives), this group of largely farmers was plagued by disease and the elements.

According to a history of the regiment, before they were officially called into service, they were kept in a camp for a couple of months -- without tents, uniforms or guns. And in the late fall (this is Illinois, so it's um, cold,) with no tents, an outbreak of measles claimed at least 100 of the troops, killing quite a few of them. Was this George's fate? Or, a year later, when the group was sent south and the rainy season caught them while they were deep in the swamps -- killing quite a few more soldiers -- was this where George's life ended? Or, despite a lack of discharge information, did he actually come home from the military and die perhaps of injuries or illness he contracted during the war?

It's bugging me. There's no one to ask and I can't seem to find a casualty list. All I do know is that when George's father drew up a will in September 1867, just a few months before his own death, George was already dead.

I'm learning lots about this line of my family, but this is one of those gnawing missing pieces. I've been lucky in the past to have my ancestors all but lead me to them. (It's funny how that happens sometimes -- like they want to be found.) Maybe this will be another one of those instances.

George, what happened to you?


Karen Anne said...

I share your frustration. A let's get rid of clutter relative tossed out a whole bunch of photos of people older than my grandparents. The sound you hear is me snuffling :-(

Jayne said...

I was going to suggest looking for his obituary in newspaper archives from his hometown, but since most of them aren't indexed, that might be more tedious than fruitful. So I have another suggestion: Have you tried the National Archives? Several years ago I sent them a request by mail about my Civil War great-great-grandfather and received some information about him.

NV said...

Karen Anne -- Oh, I so feel for you! On my father's side, I have nothing beyond my grandparents. And even that is slim.
On my mother's side, we have a whole generation, maybe more, of photos that appear to be mixed with Wife No. 2's (of my great-grandfather's) and inextricably mixed with her family's stuff.

Jayne -- That may be a future option. I may have to rejoin or maybe one day I can get one of my newly discovered distant relatives to go to southern Illinois with me on a genealogical scavenger hunt!

Liz said...

I'm not sure if this will work for you, but I used to help people with genealogical research when I was working at a local historical society a few years ago. If our resources couldn't help people find relatives who had fought in a war, I would direct them to the county veteran's service office. They had amazing records of the vets from the county who had served and/or died in just about every war. I'm not sure if all counties offer this. You'll have to pay a fee, but it should be reasonable. Otherwise, if you can't make the trek to the historical societies in Illinois, you can try writing them and asking them to check their records for you for a fee. Good luck!

Mama Martha said...

If you can't get any relative to go digging around in S. Illinois with you, I will. They have lots of great wineries we can visit too! Sounds like a renegade road trip is in order.

NV said...

Liz -- Thanks! Very good advice.

MM -- Seriously?! I think that would be a riot. I really do have to go down that way one of these days. It's in Pope County (wherever the hell that is.)