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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Freeman Hunt: Civil War Stories - Battle of Petersburg

As related to my last post on my trip to Richmond, VA - one of my main reasons for this trip was to stop by the Petersburg National Battlefield.

Freeman J. Hunt
About 1884
Back in early 2016 I ran into a treasure trove of information about my 3rd great-grandfather, Freeman Hunt when I visited the Fenton History Center in Jamestown, NY.  You can read that post here.  And one of the things I learned was that he was at Petersburg.

If you have any ancestors who fought in the Civil War, if you haven't checked out the National Parks website database of Civil War Soldiers I recommend it because it can give you information about the unit(s) they were with and then you can click on further links to find out where those units fought.

Detail from NPS Civil War Soldier Database for Freeman Hunt

With this information, you can order the full service records which are housed at the National Archives (I ordered mine a few days ago).  Another excellent use of this information is to have a chat with the excellent rangers at these battlefield parks.

At the Petersburg Battlefield Park, they had notebooks of information about where in the park various regiments were, what battles they took part in (Petersburg lasted several months so there was a lot going on there).  Sometimes they might not know the exact locations but can give you a general idea of where they probably were.  Which is exciting if you like following in your ancestors footsteps.
From Petersburg Battlefield Notebook
Red text notes are my personal notation.
From the information I found from my Jamestown, NY research trip, I knew that Freeman Hunt mustered out on June 20, 1864 so he actually wasn't in Petersburg for very long so he wasn't at Jerusalem Plank Road or Peebles Farm.  And from June 15-18, they pretty much were just hanging out as reserves and building earthworks since most were mustering out in a few days and were VERY motivated to stay alive.  The photo below is from the National Archives, I don't know what group but I'm sure it would have been a familiar situation for my ancestor.
Soldiers at rest after drill, Petersburg, Va., 1864. The soldiers are seated reading letters and papers and playing cards.
111-B-220. National Archives Identifier: 524639 [1]

I am also lucky that there is a book written, The 72nd New York Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Rick Barram, which if you have any ancestors who fought with this group, I recommend because it has a lot of info (which I should have referenced more before my Richmond trip - but more on that later).  The author describes their experiences at Petersburg:
With enlistments in the 72nd expiring, it was probably a miracle Leonard and the other officers could get the boys to load a rifle, let along fight, as most were going home in just a few days and no one wanted to be wounded or killed this late in the game.  All were filthy and spent. Perhaps a few dozen men in the whole army had gotten to bathe back at the North Anna, but chances were it was none of these boys. They wore the same clothes as when they had stepped off from Brandy Station seven weeks earlier. But there was some consolation: by the 18th, the supply situation had been resolved and the men finally enjoyed fresh rations.  Skirmishing proceeded all day on the 19th and 20th.... On the evening of the 20th, the 72nd was pulled out of the line and replaced by elements of the IX Corps. The New Yorkers marched nearly the entire next day, going into line of battle near the Weldon Railroad. Nothing came of the 72nd's move to the Weldon Railroad, and as it would turn out, this was the last time the 72nd would go into line. With its term of service expired, the regiment was relieved from the front on the morning of the 22nd, going to the rear to be mustered out.[2]
When I visited the battlefield, the ranger directed me to an area, currently across from a small picnic spot which he thought was probably the area where the 72nd was during these few days in June.  We aren't certain, but it is a decent guess - and a better guess than I could have made on my own.  I snapped a photo - the tree growth is all newer since most trees that were there at the time had been used for building materials (if you notice the photo above, while I don't think is this area, has very few trees for reference).

Photo taken on September 4, 2017
I'll go more into the details of Freeman's Civil War stories.  It's kind of odd that I'm starting his stories at the end of his service, but that's where I am starting myself.  He was in a lot of important battles of the Civil War and his Company B returned with only a small portion of the men who had left three years before.

I am uncertain what newspaper this clipping is from, it is from the Company B Scrapbook
in the Archives at the Fenton History Center.

[1] “Soldiers at rest after drill, Petersburg, Va., 1864.” 111-B-220. National Archives Identifier: 524639, Pictures of the Civil War: Select Audiovisual Records at the National Archives, National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD,, accessed September 12, 2017.

[2] Rick Barram, The 72nd New York Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014), 309, accessed September 12, 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Trip to Richmond, VA

Enjoying the VA Museum of Fine Arts
Painting: Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna
and Child and St. Michael, 1557-60
Giovanni Battista Moroni, Italian
Over the Labor Day weekend I took a short trip up to the Richmond, VA area partly to do some genealogical research and partly because I’ve driven through Richmond about a hundred times and had never actually stopped to see anything there.

I’m probably going to get a few posts out of this trip because I have a bit to share, plus since I got back into records I hadn't been in a while, I noticed info I hadn’t documented properly which led me to find more ancestors – Yay!

But, I’ll start at the beginning with a word of advice:  

If you are planning on going to a library or archive, double-check the calendar or give a call to make sure that they are open their normal hours.  
I had planned to go to the Library of Virginia, which is normally open on Saturdays; however, as I discovered late the night before I was going to go, they were closed all Labor Day weekend.  I figured they were going to be closed on Monday but they were also closed Saturday.  Sadness! 
At least I did figure it out before showing up, but it was a bit of a bummer since I was geared up to do some research.  I do think my husband breathed a large sigh of relief that he wasn’t going to be tethered to a library for several hours however.  

Dapper Dan - I'm fairly certain I had one of these
So, instead of the library, we went to the Virginia Historical Society which had some lovely exhibits about VA history and helped to answer some of the questions I had about some of my ancestors who migrated from VA to OH (via what is now WV) in the late 1700s.  They had some interesting interactive displays including one for Civil War battles that showed how many losses were had on what sides and then showed a graphic on where in the US those troops were from which was really fascinating to visualize.
Trolls - some of my Mom's favorites!

They also have a temporary exhibit currently on Toys from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s which was a lot of fun – my husband turned into a 7-year-old in that exhibit, it was adorable.

We also visited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  My favorite exhibits were the Art Nouveau jewelry and furniture as well as the Fabergé eggs.
Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg, 1915
Fabergé Firm
The Sorcerers Necklace, 1900

Buckle, ca. 1900
Buckle, ca. 1899

Fabergé Firm, Lilies of the Valley
19th-20th century
We stopped by the Edgar Allan Poe museum which was interesting and I learned a bit more about the author than I had known and I now need to go read some of his other works that weren’t part of my normal high school readings.

After that, we hopped over to the American Civil War Museum (Museum of the Confederacy) in Richmond.  We didn’t tour the Confederate White House because that involved a lot of stairs and my feet/ankles were already complaining loudly about all the walking we had been doing.  This museum focused a lot on the Confederate side of the war and how it was viewed from Richmond's point of view. 

View of the James River from
Hollywood Cemetery
We also did a self-driving tour through Hollywood Cemetery which is probably one of the prettiest cemeteries I have visited as it is right on the James River.  As far as I know, I don’t have any ancestors buried there but there are some Presidential gravesites: Tyler & Monroe.  It is definitely worth a drive around.

And on the last day of the trip since it was on the way back home again, we stopped at the Richmond Battlefield visitors center.  I discovered later (should have done a bit more research before coming) that the ancestor I was focusing on this trip was involved in a lot of the battles in the Richmond area.  I’ll need to come back another time to really spend time at these because there are several battle locations around the Richmond area – the National Park Service suggests 4 hours for the driving tour around the various battlefields.  But, I got an overview of these battles at the visitor’s center.

Hollywood Cemetery
Richmond, VA
Then we moved on to the Petersburg National Battlefield.  I knew that my ancestor, Freeman Hunt had been at Petersburg and that he had mustered out at that point.  The rangers at the National Park visitor center were super helpful in giving me information about where my ancestor might have fought/stationed at the battlefield.  Since I knew what group he was with they were able to show me maps of battle movements, etc.  If you make any stops to any of the national battlefield parks, make sure you take that info with you because the rangers there are very knowledgeable and might be able to give you even more information about what your ancestor was actually involved in at the battle.

I’m going to stop there for today.  I’ll have another post about much more detail about what I discovered about my ancestor, Freeman Hunt’s civil war stories and more in-depth genealogy wise.

But, if you have a chance to visit Richmond, VA, I certainly recommend it.  There is a lot of history there, the Library of Virginia houses a lot of the state archives, and some great places to visit.