Civil War Roots and a Historic Birthday

Many of you may remember that I was attempting to put together a Civil War book for my oldest son’s birthday.  Well…his birthday came and went.  Summer was not the time for me to take on such a project.  Especially because I was trying to do it in secret and the kids were constantly hovering around.  I had all of the information—I just needed to put it to paper.  After talking it over with my husband, as well as some historian friends, I’m taking their advice and turning it into a family project.  My son loves history so much that if I give him a solid foundation then we can work together to fill in the details. A cop-out on my end? Maybe, but heck, I know he will have fun doing it.

For his birthday he wanted to go to a Civil War battlefield.  We agreed, but told him it had to be a day trip, not an overnight one.  On a beautiful Saturday in September, we all piled into the truck for a two hour drive to Sharpsburg, Md.—the site of Antietam Battlefield. Without even realizing it, we had arrived during the 150th anniversary commemoration of the battle.  We couldn’t have planned it any better if we’d tried.  There were re-enactors, displays, talks, tour buses and loads of people.

After watching the National Park Service’s movie on the battle (Narrated by James Earl Jones, a.k.a. Simba’s father, Mufasa) we took time to look through the museum before heading out for a walking and driving tour.  It was hard to imagine all the carnage that occurred during that single day of fighting.  Members of my family potentially fought at Antietam, and we took extra time to look over the areas that they where they might have been.

On my father’s side, my 3rd Great-grand uncle Charles Combs (who I have written about before) fought in Company C, 70th Indiana Infantry.  The Kelley brothers (Lemuel, James, William and John) are my 2nd Great-grand uncles on my mother’s side.  They all fought in the 14th Indiana Infantry, along with several other men I strongly suspect to be cousins on that side.  Lemuel is not a common name and there were two serving in the 14th Regiment.  I have copies of the pension records for Charles and Lemuel, and I intend to go back and get copies for the others as well.  The 70th and 14th Indiana Infantry Regiments fought at Antietam, but I need copies of my uncles’ service records to confirm they were there.

If they were there, they would have seen the bloodiest parts of the battle.  The 70th fought in “The Bloody Cornfield” and the 14th fought along “The Bloody Lane.”  Casualties were high here, and the fighting intense.  I encourage you to read the history of these sites to understand the impact of this battle on the war.

From his pension record, I know that Lemuel Kelley only served in the army a few months.  He enlisted on Feb. 15, 1862 and was discharged on Dec. 11, 1862.  Those last few months were spent at a military hospital in Georgetown, Md.  He died Sept. 29, 1867 from consumption contracted while in the army at his father’s home in Martin County, Ind.  Charles served from March 19, 1826 to April 5, 1865 with Company C, 70th Indiana Infantry and Company B, 27th Indiana Infantry.  He died Jan. 2, 1869 at his home in Greene County, Ind., also from consumption he contracted while in the army.

Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.

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