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Civil War Pension Files: A Priceless Significance

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With so much else, come those wonderful signatures!

With so much else, come those wonderful signatures!

I retreated like a green recruit from the prospect of spending $80 on the Civil War Pension files of my ancestors. It seemed an exorbitant cost, particularly since I faced a line of seven brothers, the sons of my great, great, great-grandparents, all members of two Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiments. But I charged ahead. Well, I didn’t charge but rather crawled forward, ordering four records. And, in the end, I found the sacrifice small. Through them I discovered far more than the surface reward of some genealogical win. I found humanity, and a cost paid out that far exceeded any charge to my account.

Their words, and those of friends, relatives, comrades, and doctors, revealed a landscape strewn with individual fortitude, pain, and heartbreak, one laid bare in the aftermath of war. Like an armchair traveler, I slipped each CD into my computer and travelled back, beyond birth and death dates, into the lives of Robert, David, Greer, and Calvin Croy.

Robert served with Company G of the 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) beginning on the 5th of August 1862, but it was in Georgia at the Battle of Chickamauga that he encountered his life long disability, as he stated in his own hand in the Claimant’s Affidavit (transcribed in own words with punctuation added for clarity).Robert's signature

“…on or about the 20th of September 1863 at the Battle of Chicamanga [Tennessee] I had my hearing of Both Ears affected which at the time was alright[.] Was not treated for it at the time … or Since By a Physician[.] the only treatment I have had was self treatment[.] I had not the means to Enploy Physicians. at the Present time my Right Ear is total deaf and the left Partial.”

A comrade, George L Camp of Seattle, Washington, provided the most vivid account of how Robert lost his hearing.

“At Chickamauga we lay about 50 feet to the right of our Brig[ade] Battery-which were 12 pound pieces[,] and they were double charged most of the time for the entire day of Sunday the 20th of Sept. 1863-and the concussion would nearly raise us from the ground…”

As for his feelings when he filed in August of 1897, he ended one of his affidavits this way.

“the Evidence Called fer July 16, 1891 I cannot furnish for while in Service I never Complained as Some did to get Excused But always tried to do my duty. It would have been Better for me if I had[,] for then I Could of furnished the testimony Called fer”

Arthritis and deterioration of knees, feet, and back were common pension complaints for those of the 92nd who marched on foot from Chickamauga to Atlanta and then up through the Carolinas to Washington DC. The regiment, with the rest of Sherman’s troops, marched approximately 1,500 miles and averaged 15 miles a day through swamps and rough terrain, performing heavy manual labor along the way. Often, even with evidence of hospital stays, the Bureau of Pensions deemed many of these applications invalid. The toll of these decisions impacted whole families.

Calvin joined the 92nd late, at Savannah, to march through the Carolinas at the beginning of 1865.  Still, he entered the field hospital for rheumatism from April 17th to April 30th of 1865. Standing tall at six feet one inch and 156 pounds, he filed for a pension in 1880 and finally earned it commencing in 1890 , not for rheumatism but for a ruptured hernia. This comment by J.B. Sands provides insight into the family’s burden.calvin sig

“He is a coal miner and incapacitated for that kind of work. I know personally that he keeps his boys out of school to help earn a support for his family.”

Tuberculosis, or consumption as people called it at the time, percolated freely in the confined environments where soldiers shared all. The lethal bacteria could lie hidden for years and early symptoms often mimicked other diseases. The close quarters, so new to young men use to open country, provided a perfect incubator.

David, also a part of Company G of the 92nd OVI, filed for a pension on June 27, 1877. The six-foot tall, light-haired, blue-eyed 36 year-old declared that he:david mark

“took cold from exposure on the Steamer being transported with the Reg[iment] from Nashville to Carthage, Tenn. Which settled in his throat and lungs giving him Consumption of the lungs and totally disabling him at the time.”

This statement by N.B. Sisson (?) of Porter, Ohio pleads for understanding of the conditions when determining eligibility.

“At Carthage Tenn, winter 62 & 63, Spring 63. The 92 Ohio Vols passed through a severe crisis of grave diseases-Measles, Scurvy, Typhoid fever, and dysentery and diarrhea; at which time for several months the sen[ior] & jun[ior] Surgeons were absent. The jun[ior surgeon] resigning, and so severe were the duties in caring for the sick of the Reg[iment] I am not certain I kept a record of every case of Even severe disease…Defective supplies of vegetables on that frontier caused much disease…These remarks are to enable the department to some Extent understand & appreciate the difficulty; Now of doing (?) justice to the suffering & their widows & orphans.”

Again falling ill and possibly missing action at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, David moved in and out of the field hospital from May of 1863 through January of 1864 with “catarrh, diarrhea, sore feet, typhoid fever, debility, and dysentery.”

David died March 10, 1878, aged 34, never receiving the pension for which he applied. His wife Mary received a Widow’s Pension instead.

David’s brother Greer also suffered from consumption but his story was more complicated and brief. Blue-eyed and brown-haired, at just under 5’8” and four inches shorter than David or Calvin, he volunteered for duty first of the seven brothers, joining F Company of the 36th OVI and serving until:greer sign

“On the 19th day of October 1864 at [the] Battle of Cedar Creek he was shot through the right hip with a minnie ball, from this point was taken to Camden hospital Baltimore & from there discharged.” Writing in strict medical terms, at the time of his discharge, George O. Heldreth, Examining Surgeon, noted[:] The ball entered the right groin and passed out immediately behind the neck of the femur fracturing the margin of the acetabulum, anchylosis of the hip has resulted. The leg is shortened, and in walking the heel does not touch the ground.”

But his brother William tells the larger tale, one infused with a level distress and awe.

“Said Greer Croy was wounded three times. I have seen all of the wounds. It is stated that he was wounded in [the] foot at south mountain which rendered him unable for Duty at the time of the wound. 2nd wounded in the Head at Chicamuga which I understood caused partial Insanity. 3rd Place at Cedar Creek by Gun Shot wounded in hip which made him a cripple for life[.] said Claimant frequently complained of suffering from cough which I fully believe originated in the United States service as I never knew him to be sick or cough Prior to his enlistment. I am an elder Brother of Deceased and know the facts as set forth above. Said Greer Croy was very ambitious & I suppose he thought circumstances compelled him to work[,] & frequently did work more or less at some kinds of Labor[,] when I am satisfied he ought not to have worked.”

Greer died October 28, 1872 of consumption, aged 34, a little over eight years after his injury at Cedar Creek.

Eighty dollars for some pension files? A small price to pay by comparison and invaluable for their insights into human cost of war, of far greater worth than an accounting of dates. I will update you when I receive the last three records of the seven brothers. I anticipate being richer still when I receive them.

My Seven Part Civil War Blog and National Archive Citations

https://croywright.wordpress.com/?s=part+one

https://croywright.wordpress.com/?s=part+two

https://croywright.wordpress.com/?s=part+three

https://croywright.wordpress.com/?s=part+four

https://croywright.wordpress.com/?s=part+five

https://croywright.wordpress.com/?s=part+six

https://croywright.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/the-aftermath-of-researching-the-civil-war/

Soldier’s Certificate No. 679496, Robert Croy, Corporal, Company G, 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension applications of Veternans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates), 1861-1934; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Archives, Washington, DC
Soldier’s Certificate No. 928135, Calvin Croy, Private, Company G, 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates), 1861-1934; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Archives, Washington, DC
Soldier’s Certificate No. 679496, David Croy, Corporal, Company G, 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates), 1861-1934; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Archives, Washington, DC
Soldier’s Certificate No. 237291, Greer Croy, Corporal, Company F, 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates), 1861-1934; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Archives, Washington, DC

Seven Brothers and the War of Rebellion: Part Two

Greer Croy in the 36th OVI during 1861 through 1862 image: by Google earth: landmarks placed by author

Greer Croy in the 36th OVI during 1861 through 1862
image: by Google earth: landmarks placed by author

Margaret kissed her first soldier boy, Greer Croy, good-bye in August of 1861.[i]Jacob surely approved. He prided himself in love of country and service to his fellowman. Greer headed for Parkersville where the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) was already training. They drilled with ancient muskets that, in a rare practice session, the soldiers discovered were nearly useless. They considered the leadership useless as well. They moved to Summersville, West Virginia in October of 1861 where they endured diseases including typhus and pneumonia that killed over forty men.They also picked up Enfield rifles, the leadership of Colonel George Crook, and the confidence he and his drilling infused. From October of 1861 through the early part of 1862, they fought a guerilla war with the “bushwackers” who hid in the “bushes” of the Virginias. The men hated it.[ii]

Finally, following a plan formulated by Major General John Fremont, they engaged in their first major battle at Lewisburg, Virginia in May of 1862. They surprised the rebels. In the rout the 36th lost 7 men and the rebels, 60. “…the wounded who were straggling back were ill treated; one shot dead by a citizens.”[iii]

One can imagine Greer Croy being among those greatly upset by these snipers. Colonel Crook managed to temper talk of burning Summersville to ashes and limited the angry retaliation to three homes. The savages of war unleashed, the 36th move on to two significant battles of the war, the Second Bull Run and Antietam.[iv]

At the end of August, 1862 came the Second Battle of Bull Run. Greer’s regiment positioned itself to guard General Pope’s headquarters and rear line. Their orders were to prevent the mass desertions and retreats that occurred in the first Bull Run. In this severe defeat, the 36th saw no combat but worked “arresting stragglers and fugitives from the battle.” [v]

The Battle of Groveton or Second Bull Run by Edwin Forbes

The Battle of Groveton or Second Bull Run by Edwin Forbes

At the famous battle of Antietam, the 36th served under Major General Ambrose Burnside who was charged with taking and holding what came to be known as “Burnside’s Bridge.” The epitaph was disparaging. Due to delays, some say procrastination or indecision, huge casualties occurred there. Crook himself made a major error and arrived with the 36th late and not at, but above, the bridge. Because of this, the 36th was less effective but suffered fewer casualties. One of the wounded was Greer Croy. As part of the color guard, he was particularly vulnerable. With the rest of his comrades, he waited and listened to the overnight cries of the other wounded. Antietum proved one of the costliest battles of the war. Neither side could convincingly claim victory. Meanwhile, to be covered in the next post, brothers Robert, William, David, and Duncan had just joined the Union cause.

Union soldier examining graves at "Burnside's Bridge"

Union soldier examining graves at “Burnside’s Bridge” by Alexander Gardner September 21, 1862

Note #1: Drawing and photograph come from the Library of Congress digital collection: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/civwar
Note #2: Because of copyright issues, I cannot show the flags carried by Greer Croy or the ones that flew above the 92nd OVI. This excellent site shows them all.http://www.ohiocivilwar150.org/omeka/ Also, for additional Ohio Civil War information, this site by Larry Stevens: http://www.ohiocivilwar.com
[i] Each of the Croy brother’s documentation cross-referenced with information found in National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (database accessed through Fold.com) T288 roll 105
[ii] Kenneth P. Werrell, Crook’s Regulars: the 36th Ohio in the War of Rebellion (Christianburg, Virginia, KPW, 2012) Note: Most of the detail of the 36th comes from this excellent, self-published book.
[iii] Martin R. Andrews, edited and compiled, History of Marietta and Washington county, Ohio and representative citizens, Vol. 1 (Biographical Pub. Co., Chicago, 1902) pg 755-756 https://openlibrary.org/books/OL6573096M Includes interesting accounts of each Ohio regiments service from the perspective of the late 1800’s.
[iv] Roster Commission by authority of General Assembly, Official roster of the soldiers of the state of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Volume 3 (Cincinnati: The Ohio Valley Pub. & Mfg. Co., 141 and 143 Race St., 1886) p. 669 https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7041537M Note: Volumes include list of battles participated in by the regiment and brief account of each soldier’s enlistment date, age at enlistment, length of enlistment, and discharge date, rank, and circumstances.
[v] Werrell, Crook’s Regulars, pg 53

 

Seven Brothers and the War of Rebellion: Part One

The Marietta Register, Thurs., June 20, 1872, pg. 3, col. 4

The Marietta Register, Thurs., June 20, 1872, pg. 3, col. 4

Today I begin the tale of my family in the Civil War. I consider it dangerous territory. Many historians, both amateur and professional, have devoted years to understanding even a single battle. Information abounds regarding the Civil War and I claim no expertise in its history. With that disclaimer, I begin a story of seven brothers. All served, as Jacob’s obituary shown above states, in the Civil War at one time. In point of fact, they all served together for only 100 days from May 2, 1864 to September 14, 1864. The story is no less amazing. And it begins with what the family seemed to do regularly. It begins with a move.

By 1860 Jacob Croy, wagon maker, and Margaret Pugh Croy, my great, great grandparents, had moved from Coshocton County, Ohio to Fairfield Township, Washington County, Ohio. They settled not far from Marietta, a booming port on the Ohio River. Seven sons and 3 daughters traveled with them. Sons Robert and William brought families. Robert and wife, Emily, had two children, Stanton, age 4, and Joseanna, age 2. William and his wife, Rebecca, had a 5-year-old son, Anderson. The three families lived side-by-side working a farm in Fairfield Township.[i]

It was a turbulent time. Lincoln narrowly won the presidency within months of the 1860 census. One by one, southern states seceded from the Union. At 4 am, April 12, 1861 cannon shots erupted over Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the Civil War began. Marietta became a major staging site to protect the important supply line of the Ohio River, its canals and railways, and for recruitment of Ohio Volunteers. On July 21, 1861, the Union Army suffered a devastating loss at The Battle of Bull Run, and President Lincoln, facing the reality of that loss, called for a half million volunteers.

On October 12, 1861, young Greer (Grier/Grear) Croy volunteered for a three-year term. Single and 23 years old,[ii]  he joined the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment that would fight on both the western and eastern fronts of the war and participate in many of its major battles. He would be wounded three times while carrying the colors of his regiment and the Nation, reaching the rank of “color” corporal.[iii]

 [i] 1860 Census: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio: Roll: M653_1048; Page: 124; Image: 251; Family History Library Film: 805048 Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census: http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1860usfedcenancestry&h=42575018
[ii] Note: no birth certificate as yet found and date of birth fluctuates from 1842 grave marker, 1836 approx. date given at enlistment, and 1839 dates for census of 1850, 1860, and 1840 date from census of 1870
[iii] Martin R. Andrews, edited and compiled, History of Marietta and Washington county, Ohio and representative citizens, Vol. 1 (Biographical Pub. Co., Chicago, 1902) Pgs 755-756 https://openlibrary.org/books/OL6573096M Includes interesting accounts of each Ohio regiments service from the perspective of the late 1800’s.