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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 Six

Maj. Gen. Slocum and staff and army of Georgia passing in review by Mathew Brady

Maj. Gen. Slocum and staff and Army of Georgia passing in review
by Mathew Brady

So what happened to the four brothers serving in the 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company G, after Missionary Ridge? Greer Croy labored in the 36th under Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. Nathan and Calvin, in the 148th, protected the Capital. (see previous post)

Under Sherman, the 92nd would move south. Sherman, promoted by Grant, took command of a “Division of the Mississippi” and, in turn, promoted Major General George H. Thomas, who had distinguished himself in the Chattanooga campaign, to lead the Army of the Cumberland. The taking of Atlanta became their first mission.

Assigned to Thomas, the 92nd moved against Johnston and Hood in the drive to take Atlanta, Georgia. Joining with the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Ohio, they took the center. Later Grant referred to the battles and consequent siege of Atlanta as a “120 day continuous battle.”

During the day and night of September 1-2 of 1864, Hood evacuated Atlanta. He headed north, hoping to join up with Lee. Rather than follow in mass, Sherman divided up the forces of Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland. Half would go after Hood with Thomas. The rest would head south, supporting Sherman’s mission to cut the South’s supply route. The 92nd went south.

The 92nd OVI again acquired new leadership. They now served under Major General Jefferson Columbus Davis in the 14th Army Corp. They marched under General H.W. Slocum and would man the left wing of Sherman’s March to the Sea. But first they would decimate Atlanta’s infrastructure including railroads and manufacturing. They protected churches and hospitals from destruction.

On November 15, 1864, they headed for Savannah. Most records show that Slocum’s Army of Georgia, taking the left flank, saw little opposition and less fighting. As with so much of the boy’s Civil War service, the exactly role of Robert, William, Duncan, and David Croy in this controversial march remains unknown.

“They had enjoyed a fine march, having had but little resistance. The stories of the mock Legislature at the State capital, of the luxurious supplies enjoyed all along, and of the constant fun and pranks of “Sherman’s bummers,” rather belonged to that route than ours.” Major General of the Army of the Tennessee, Oliver O. Howard[i]
Sherman's Army removing ammunition from Fort McAllister in Savannah by Samuel A. Cooley

Sherman’s Army removing ammunition from Fort McAllister in Savannah by Samuel A. Cooley

On December 21, 1864, after an 11-day siege, Sherman’s army marched into Savannah. The troops again busied themselves either destroying or confiscating the city’s resources. Meanwhile, the ranks needed replenishing. New volunteers came south over a rough and circuitous route. One of the new members traveling to join up with 92nd, Company G was Calvin Croy.[ii]

Again taking the left flank, Slocum’s army moved north following Confederate General Johnston. At Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 19, 1864, the Confederate forces doubled back, surprising them. They fought through the night and nearly lost their position. In the end, Sherman sent reinforcements and Johnston retreated. They joined forces in Goldsboro and Sherman honored Slocum’s army with its official title, “Army of Georgia.”

On the way to Raleigh, on April 12, 1865, Sherman issued a major message. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox! Image the celebration of the five Croy brothers left in the war. Image the joy in Fairfield Township where their wives, children, parents, and brothers waited, one who was recovering from war wounds. The words of Major General Slocum, written some 20 years after the event, might capture the emotion.

“Thoughts of meeting wives, children, and friends from whom they had been so long separated by the bloody struggle, occupied the minds of all. A happier body of men never before surrounded their campfires than were to be found along the roads leading to Raleigh.”[iii]

Then another event required a second message from Sherman. On the way to negotiate the surrender of Johnston, he learned of the assassination of President Lincoln. Under this veil of sorrow, the troops marched to Washington, D.C., burying soldiers left from earlier battles on the way.

The five Croy brothers participated in the Grand Review on May 24, 1865, the last great event of the war. In Slocum’s words, it was not the cavalry or mounted generals that won the greatest applause, but the rank and file soldiers, lovingly called “bummers,” who earned the audience’s greatest admiration.

“At the review the men appeared “in their native ugliness” as they appeared on the march through Georgia and the Carolinas. Their pack- mules and horses, with rope bridles or halters, laden with supplies such as they had carried on the march, formed part of the column.” [iv]

Next post: The aftermath

Note: Excellent resource with many primary sources http://www.armyofgeorgia.com

[i] Howard, Oliver O., Major-General, United States Army, Shermans advance from Atlanta. In Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. 4, Century Magazine, New York: Thomas Yoseloff, Inc., 1887, 663-666. (quote from P 164)
http://www.armyofgeorgia.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/howard_shermans_advance.pdf
[ii] NARA. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (Ancestry.com) T288_105, also 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.)
[iii] Slocum, H. W., Major-General, United States Volunteers. Final operations of Shermans Army. In Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. 4, Century Magazine, New York: Thomas Yoseloff, Inc., 1887, 754-758. (quote from p 755) http://www.armyofgeorgia.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/slocum_final_operations.pdf
[iv] Ibid quote from p 758

Seven Brothers and the War of Rebellion: Part Three

Transport on the Tennessee River Taylor & Huntington

Transport on the Tennessee River
Taylor & Huntington

Imagine your 16-year-old son telling you that he is going to war. He can stand aside no longer, not while his brother fights in a war consuming the Nation. What do you say or do? If you are Jacob and Margaret Croy, it seems, you send your eldest son along to protect him. You are family. Duncan Croy, age 16, signed up for the war on the same day as his brother Robert, age 28. They volunteered for a three-year term in the 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company G, on August 5, 1862. Greer gave his age as 18. All death, census, and supporting data show his age to be sixteen at the time.[i] Robert, who would muster out as corporal, now had three children between the ages of six and two.

Now imagine these two are your brothers who are joining with another brother already serving in this historic conflict. Do you stay behind? You are young, idealistic, and you are family. William Croy, aged 25, enlisted with the same company in the 92nd only four days later, August 9, 1862. Like brothers Robert and Greer, he would muster out as a corporal. David Croy joined, at 20 years of age, on August 15, 1862. Within a ten-day period, they had all joined the war. Now only Calvin and Nathan stayed home to help their parents and watch after the families of William and Robert. [ii]

The 92nd proceeded to Gallipolis, Ohio for training with Austrian rifled muskets. By October they moved into the Kanawha Valley and into the brigade of General George Crook. With him was Greer Croy, serving in the 36th OVI.

Now the story of five brothers joins, briefly and dramatically. All five brothers now were serving in the war under the same General but in different regiments. They were dispatched by Ohio River transport to Nashville, Tennessee and then on to Carthage. In the two months spent in Carthage, they buried more than 90 men to disease.

In June they headed through endless rain to Big Springs, Tennessee. Here General John Turchin took command. A colorful and portly immigrant from Hungary, he would lead the brothers successfully through the next infamous campaign. First, though he would secure “green corn, blackberries, and fresh vegetables, speedily [eradicate] all traces of scurvy and disease contracted at Carthage…” [iii] His wife, Nadine, who followed him in battle, supported his efforts.

by Alfred Edwards Mathews

by Alfred Edwards Mathews

By September of 1863 the Army of the Cumberland had arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The battles along the Georgia/Tennessee line loomed before them, ones that would tip the scale of the war.

Note: Copyright free photos from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs www.loc.gov/pictures

Next: the 36th OVI and the 92nd OVI in the Battle of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.

[i] 1860 U.S. census, Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M653_1048; Page: 124 Image: 251; Family History Library Film: 805048 from NARA microfilm publication accessed through ancestry.com also 1850, 1870, 1880, 1900. 1910, and death cert.
[ii] 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 9 (Cincinnati: The Ohio Valley Pub. & Mfg. Co., 141 and 143 Race St., 1886) Books. Google.com
[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 692 https://openlibrary.org/books/OL6573096M
Includes interesting accounts of each Ohio regiments service from the perspective of the late 1800’s.