Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Was your ancestor in the military? You might want to be careful to follow the right ancestor

Utah, Veterans with Federal Service Buried in Utah, Territorial to 1966 - John Morgan
The need for genealogists to be aware of the history surrounding their ancestors is no where more evident than the importance of military records. But even if you have made a search for records usually associated with military service, you should also be aware that there are many other types of associated records. The record shown above purports to be for my Great-Grandfather, John Morgan, is an excellent example. The record would not normally be considered a "military" record but it could be an excellent way to identify the pertinent records and also provides additional valuable personal information. This particular collection of over 18,000 records is described as follows in the Research Wiki:
This collection is a card file consisting of thousands of cards arranged by county, then by city, and then by the veteran’s name. Only in Salt Lake City were the records filed by cemetery and then by veteran’s name. The records cover the time period from the earliest territorial time to 1966. 
These records were compiled by the Military Records Section of the Utah State Historical Society. Form letters were sent to the next of kin of deceased veterans and the information returned was transcribed onto printed cards. This process began about 1957 and continued until 1970. Beginning in 1969 the information returned was entered directly into a database and the transcribing of information onto cards was abandoned the following year. The database continued to grow and information formerly on cards was entered into the database until 1986. In 1990 the existing cards (and some form letters) were microfilmed and subsequently destroyed. The collection published here is derived from microfilming completed in 1966 and therefore excludes any of the subsequent additions to the collection. The records identify thousands of men buried in Utah who had served in the United States military. 
These records were compiled to track veteran burial locations to assist veterans’ families in obtaining grave markers and help veterans’ organizations to place flags on graves on Decoration Day (later designated Memorial Day). The records are fairly reliable considering that they were compiled from responses to a form letter.
In this particular case, locating John Morgan's actual military record could be relatively difficult because his name is quite common. Without specific information, such as that given in this record, you might not be sure you had found the right person. But the real question is whether or not the information in the record is correct. In this case, as you will see, it is not. You might take notice of the explanation of these records as "fairly reliable."

Using the unit designation above, that is coupled with the additional personal information about John Morgan such as birth date and the place he enlisted, I go directly to the description of the records for the 123rd Regiment of the Indiana Infantry also contained in the Research Wiki. The first record website I find from the Research Wiki is the The Civil War Archive for Union Regimental Histories for Indiana. It is likely that the record for a Private, such as my Great-Grandfather, is not going to be extensive, so a history of the Regiment that he served in will be a great assistance in discovering and verifying what he did during the U.S. War between the States or Civil War. The website gives a timeline of the movements of the Regiment and the casualties. It appears from the service dates of John Morgan, that he may have served during the entire existence of the 123rd Regiment.

From this point, it could be possible to do further research on each of the battles and get an excellent idea of what happened to my ancestor during the War. In addition, there is a reference on this one website to a collection of thirty-four letters written by a Private John Miller of Company F, that might have provided additional insight into the history experienced by my own ancestor. The letters are transcribed on this same website. This is particularly true since my original record showed my ancestor served in Company E and the letter writer served in Company F.

Back to the Research Wiki, I find a list of the Companies and links to each Company's roster. Here is where the real research begins. I find that the published roster for Company E of the 123rd Infantry does not contain the name of my ancestor. There is a John Morgan but he is John F. Morgan and my ancestor is John H. Morgan. Also the place of muster is not the same as listed on the first record from Utah shown above. Here is a screenshot of the muster record:

Well, back to the drawing board. I have some nice Civil War background information about an Indiana Regiment, but it turns out to be the wrong one for my particular John Morgan ancestor.

So much for the reliability of the form letter sent out in Utah. Fortunately, my own ancestor shows up in Wikipedia. I do a simple Google Search for "John Hamilton Morgan" Civil War Record and find the Wikipedia article. The confusion of the Utah record is cleared up when I find that he served in the 123rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment not Indiana. Back to the Research Wiki and I find links to further records. I go to the National Park Service website for The Civil War. With the correct unit information, I find his listing:

I also find a summary of the unit's history:
123rd Regiment, Illinois InfantryOVERVIEW:Organized at Mattoon, Ill., and mustered in September 6, 1862. Left State for Louisville, Ky., September 19, 1862. Attached to 33rd Brigade, 10th Division, Army of the Ohio, to October, 1862. 33rd Brigade, 10th Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Ohio, to November, 1862. 1st Brigade, 5th Division, Centre 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to January, 1863. 1st Brigade, 5th Division, 14th Army Corps, to June, 1863. 1st Brigade, 4th Division, 14th Army Corps, to October, 1863. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to November, 1864, and Military Division Mississippi, to June, 1865.

SERVICE:Duty at Louisville, Ky., till October 1, 1862. Pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky October 1-12. Battle of Perryville, Ky., October 8. March to Munfordsville October 12-18, and duty there till November 30. Expedition to Cave City October 31-November 26. Moved to Bledsoe Creek November 30. Pursuit of Morgan to Bear Wallow December 26, 1862, to January 2, 1863. March to Nashville, thence to Murfreesboro, Tenn., January 3-10, 1863. Duty at Murfreesboro till June. Action at Woodbury January 24. Expedition to Auburn, Liberty and Alexandria February 3-5. Cainsville February 15. Expedition to Woodbury March 3-8. Breed's Hill March 4. Vaught's Hill, near Milton, March 20. Expedition to Lebanon, Carthage and Liberty April 1-8. Expedition to McMinnville April 20-30. Regiment mounted and armed with Spencer carbines May 6. Attached to Wilder's Mounted Brigade, Smithville, June 5. Middle Tennessee (or Tullahoma) Campaign June 24-July 7. Big Spring Branch June 24. Hoover's Gap June 24-26. Occupation of Manchester June 27. Estill Springs July 2. Occupation of Middle Tennessee till August 16. Expedition to Columbia and Centreville July. Expedition from Decherd, Tenn., August 5-9. Passage of the Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River and Chickamauga (Ga.) Campaign August 16-September 22. Ringgold, Ga., September 11. Lee and Gordon's Mills September 11-13. Leet's Tan Yard (or Rock Springs) September 12-13. Alexander and Reed's Bridges September 18. Pea Vine Creek September 18. Crawfish Springs and Dyer's Ford September 18. Battle of Chickamauga September 19-21. Operations against Wheeler and Roddy September 30-October 17. Hill's Gap, Thompson's Cove, near Beersheeba, October 3. Murfreesboro Road October 4. Near McMinnville October 4-5. Farmington October 7. Sim's Farm, near Shelbyville, October 7. Camp at Maysville, Ala., October 19-December 21. Moved to Pulaski December 21, thence to Mooresville, Ala., January 12, 1864, and guard Tennessee River till April. Moved to Columbia, Tenn., thence to join army near Dalton, Ga., reporting May 11. Atlanta (Ga.) Campaign May 11-September 8. Battle of Resaca May 13-15. Near Dallas May 24. Operations on Pumpkin Vine Creek and battles about Dallas, New Hope Church and Allatoona Hills May 25-June 5. Near Big Shanty June 9. Operations about Marietta and against Kenesaw Mountain June 10-July 2. Noonday Creek June 19. Powder Springs, Lattimer's Mills, Noonday Creek, June 20. Noonday Creek and assault on Kenesaw June 27. Nickajack Creek July 2-5. Rottenwood Creek July 4. Chattahoochie River June 5-17. Stone Mountain Station July 19. Garrard's Raid to Oxford and Covington July 22-24. Garrard's Raid to South River July 27-31. Snapfinger Creek July 27. Flat Rock Bridge July 28. Siege of Atlanta August 1-13. Operations about Chattahoochie River Bridge, Pace's and Turner's Ferries August 26-September 2. Occupation of Atlanta September 2. Operations against Hood in North Georgia and North Alabama September 29-November 3. Near Lost Mountain October 4-7. New Hope Church October 7. Dallas October 7. Rome October 10-11. Narrows October 11. Coosaville Road, near Rome, October 13. Near Summerville October 18. Little River October 20. Leesburg, Blue Pond, October 21. Ladiga, Terrapin Creek, October 28. Dismounted November 1, and ordered to Louisville, Ky. Refitting at Louisville till December 28. Moved to Gravelly Springs, Ala., December 28, 1864-January 20, 1865. Wilson's Raid on Selma, Ala., and Macon, Ga., March 22-April 24. Selma April 2. Montgomery April 12. Columbus, Ga., April 16. Macon, Ga., April 20. Moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., May 23; thence to Nashville and duty there till June 27. Mustered out June 27 and discharged at Springfield, Ill., July 11, 1865. 
Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 82 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 133 Enlisted men by disease. Total 219.
I now have a huge amount of information as the basis for further research on each of these battles. Of course, from my own ancestors, I have led you on a wild goose chase for the purpose of showing some of the records that may be available. In my case, I have a biography of John Morgan, that relates some of his military history. The book is as follows:

Richardson, Arthur M., and Nicholas G. Morgan. The Life and Ministry of John Morgan: For a Wise and Glorious Purpose. [Place of publication not identified]: N.G. Morgan, 1965. 

A few more searches and I find a reference to John Morgan's

John Morgan did indeed serve during almost the entire Civil War. But, in this case, as in all others involving military records, you must be absolutely sure you are following the right person. As a closing, I might suggest the Cornell University Library, Making of America, Civil War documents. I might also suggest the following book that contains an extensive listing of sources for John Morgan:

Slap, Andrew L. Reconstructing Appalachia The Civil War's Aftermath. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. .

In my case, a copy of this book is in the Brigham Young University Library, where I am presently teaching at the Family History Library. There are reasons for living in Provo, Utah.

1 comment:

  1. That territorial record is a problem. Here's a collection of posts about John Morgan's Civil War service:

    150 Years: The Battle of Fort Sumter and the Start of the Civil War

    I don't know if it's clear from any of the family materials that he was a member of the elite Wilder's Lightning Brigade.