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Richer Still: 4 (or 5) Reasons You Need Your Ancestor’s Civil War Records

Nathan sign williams sign Duncan signPreviously I examined the wonders found in Civil War Pension Records. Well, I just received the next and, for now, the last batch of records for the seven brothers I am documenting. My application to honor them through the Ohio Genealogical Society is in the mail. So with that monumental task complete, I want to review the reasons for anyone interested in family history to get those records right away!

Again, they proved to be a genealogy detective’s Mecca. Oh, you’ll fine the dates and some essential records like marriage and death certificates. In fact, I recommend getting pension records first. It might save a lot of unnecessary time and research. But the glory comes from the details, bringing these people to life: their appearance, their health, their service, and their struggles and temperaments. All good reasons to obtain your ancestor’s Civil War Pension Records; let’s look at these four aspects from the perspective of my own family.

  1. Appearance: Not only does a detail regarding the appearance of an ancestor allow you to picture him, (in this case, all ‘hims’) it also gives a little genetic insight. I know that William, Duncan, Robert, Calvin, and David all were at least six foot tall (well above average height for the time) with light hair and blue eyes. Greer was shortest at 5’8” with brown hair and blue eyes, while Nathan had grey eyes, light hair, and stood 5’10”. I witness these same traits popping up in my own family.
  2. Health: Medical information can also provide individual and genetic insights. William, Nathan, Robert, and Calvin all suffered from heart disease. And while it is difficult to separate out their service related ailments from those of old age, rheumatism (and lumbago, what a lovely old word) was a malady common to all the brothers. Service illnesses were also documented in the files. William had typhoid in April of 1863. Duncan suffered from Malaria for most of 1863. Contracted “near the Cumberland River in Tenn.”, the symptoms would plagued him his whole life, debilitating him by 56.
  3. Service: Details of their service experience, when they were sick or detached from their regiment, can help determine in which battles they participated. I provided some sense of four of the brothers’ service in my last blog. Now I know that William’s illnesses did not impact any battle dates but he was “absent detached with Div. train since May 20, 1864”. What does that mean, ‘with division training’ or ‘with division train’? I am not sure, so if you know please respond! I do know it means he likely did not participate in Sherman’s March to the Sea.
  4. Struggles and Temperaments: The government wanted to know whether any habits contributed to claimants’ conditions so documentation was required and sometimes family squabbles erupted in the claims. I know that Nathan had “no evidence of vicious habits,” that William was “a duly sober man of very temperate habits,” and that Duncan “never drank, used tobacco, and had only the best habits”. Then there is the huge argument that played out on the claims pages between Robert Croy and his second wife, Mary E. Atkins Nelson Croy. Robert left Mary twice claiming that she allowed her daughter (his step-daughter) to entertain men in an inappropriate fashion in their home. Both his brother William and sister Francis testified on his behalf, claiming she was unusually cruel to him because he couldn’t work, being deaf and lame. Mary claimed he tried to farm and failed, that they then packed up and moved so he could work as a wagon maker and failed at that, stole things from her when he left so he could sell them, and was one of the “most contrary and disagreeable Persons I know of.” Without resources, because Mary claimed half of his pension, he had his attorney write her begging her to let him “come back to live with you.” She never responded, and Robert died at the home of his sister Francis. A regular soap opera!

I haven’t even mentioned how following post office boxes for each claim found in the records (they were required to reapply often through the years) gives you a very good idea of where that ancestor lived over time. So I have given you FIVE reasons to get those pension records. Can anyone share some more?

All information from Soldier’s Certificates # 928135 (Calvin Croy), #695593 (William P. Croy), #679496 (Robert Croy), #200993 (David Croy), #825314 (Nathan Croy)#779773 (Duncan Croy), and #237291 (Greer Croy)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, 1861-1934; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs. National Archives, Washington, DC

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

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

The Aftermath of Researching the Civil War

Wood Engraving from: Harper's weekly, v. 7, no. 337 (1863 June 13), p. 381.

Wood Engraving from: Harper’s weekly, v. 7, no. 337 (1863 June 13), p. 381.


Is it the way of things that we discover the easier path at the end of a journey rather than the beginning? As in life, also true in research. For the previous six blogs, I searched the net mining the depths of individual records, local written histories, civil war society sites, and records of individual battles. Then, while wrapping things up for this post, I found two sites I wish I had discovered in the beginning.

The first site by the National Archives explains available records and gives an overview of how to proceed with searches, including important disclaimers. I advise you start here. I quote from them here, using it as my own disclaimer for previous Civil War posts and pretty much anything you do in genealogy!

“Do not assume that a particular individual participated in a battle if (1) his unit was at the battle and (2) the person appears likely to have been with that unit. In the War Department’s view, and from a strict adherence to objective information in existing evidence, such an assumption cannot ordinarily be made… military careers are crafted both upon evidence and upon assumptions, with no guarantee that the assumptions are correct.”

Another valuable site from the National Parks Service provides a very user-friendly portal for following regimental movements through the length of the Civil War. You search by your ancestor’s name and up pops information that unfolds detail by detail, and it comes right from the National Archives! The site’s interactive nature saves you the time and energy of reinventing the war.

I say I wish I knew then what I know now (and probably had known and ignored like most humans who begin anything, including life,) but do I? My world is richer for the serendipitous details I discovered on the way. True in research, and infinitely true in life.


As Sherman said, “War is hell.” The aftermath goes to the living. Amazingly, all seven brothers lived, though some not for long. Below find what I know so far from census, find-a-grave, and other documentation. I list the brothers by order of birth and give a brief description of their lives after the war. For a complete family sheet, including the three sisters, check here: Ohio family sheets 1-17-2015

Robert Croy came home to his wife, Emily Gassage Croy, and family in Marietta, Ohio. Within five years of his return Emily died. Less than a year later he married Mary Atkins. Between them they had a son, Arthur. Four years later his oldest son, Stanton died. Robert continued to live in Marietta working as a carpenter and wagon maker like his father. Late in life, he bounced from his daughter Josie’s home in Kansas to the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. He suffered from heart disease and chronic arthritis. He died in 1908 at the age of 76 in the home of his sister, Fannie Croy Schoonover, in Marietta.[i]

William Croy came home to his wife, Rebecca Hasten Croy and son Anderson. He farmed the land in Decatur Township until nearly 80 and, according to newspaper articles, he and Robert attended Civil War reunions regularly.[ii]

Greer Croy returned to Marietta and married Malona Basim in 1867. They had three sons. Greer named his first child Sheridan after the General who led decisively at Cedar Creek where he was last wounded. His youngest son died of consumption in March of 1872. Six months later Greer died. He was only thirty-four.[iii]

David Croy came back to Washington County and worked as a laborer. He married Mary Moore in 1867. They had no children and, in March of 1877 at age 35, he was dead.[iv]

After his short 100-day service, Nathan returned to work the land of his parents. When he was thirty-one he married nineteen-year-old Ida J. Nelson. They had to children and cared for Mother, Margaret, for twelve years after his father died. Nathan outlived his wife by 27 years and died in 1919 at 73. [v]

Duncan Croy tried his hand at farming for a while after returning from the war, but soon found milling and selling lumber more to his liking. He married Elizabeth Mayhew and had ten children. After moved down river to Pomeroy for a time he returned to Marietta where he died in 1914 at 68.[vi]

After the Grand Review in Washington D.C., Calvin Croy, my great grandfather, spent a brief period of time in Louisville, Kentucky with the 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. After his returned he worked as a farm laborer for a while and then headed back to his birthplace in Coshocton County, Ohio. He worked with his uncle, David, who owned a sawmill for a while. He was soon introduced to the coal industry and Sarah Angeline Payne Smith. (I will delve into her family heritage after a little holiday hiatus.)[vii]


The story leaves many questions unanswered, especially how and why Greer and David died so soon. Some indirect information indicates that their father Jacob Croy died of consumption, as did Greer’s four-month-old son. Was tuberculosis passed around in the family? Did the brothers bring it back from the war? Or were they compromised by their war injuries? I hope to find the time and money to get the boys’ pension records from the National Archives. Then, perhaps, the answers to these questions and more may be unlocked.

No matter how complete, these outlines cannot fill in the haunt of memories. We cannot color in who these soldiers became from an outline of incidents. “Strict adherence to objective information” ignores the heart of the matter. But the heart of the matter impacts the fathers, mothers, wives, and descendants down through time.

[i] 1860 census Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; M653_1048; pg: 124 and 1870 census Decatur, Washington, Ohio: M593_1278; pg: 85A and 1880 census: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; roll 1075 pg 79A and 1900 census Franklin, Jackson, Kansas; Roll: 483; pg 6A and find-a-grave for Decatur Prsbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, OH Emily Croy and U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Records of Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives
[ii] 1870; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 97A; and 1880; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1075; Page: 77B; and 1900; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1330; Page: 3B; and 1910; Census Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: T624_1237; Page: 3B; and find-a-grave Centennial Cemetery, Washington County Ohio for William P (J) Croy and Rebecca
[iii] 1870 census; Place: Decatur, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 96B and find-a-grave Decatur Presbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio
[iv] 1870 census; Place: Barlow, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593-1278; Pg: 34B; and find-a-grave Decatur Presbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio
[v] 1870; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 116A and 1880; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1075; Family History Film: 1255075; Page: 100B and 1900; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1330; Page: 4A and 1910; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: T624_1237; Page: 3B and find-a-grave Decatur Presbyterian Cemetery, Washington County, Ohio
[vi] 1870; Census Place: Belpre, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 75B and 1880; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: 1075; Page: 99D and 1900; Census Place: Pomeroy, Meigs, Ohio; Roll: 1303; Page: 6B and 1910; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: T624_1237; Page: 6A and National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
[vii]  NARA. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 ( T288_105 and 1870; Census Place: Fairfield, Washington, Ohio; Roll: M593_1278; Page: 116A and 1880; Census Place: Keene, Coshocton, Ohio; Roll: 1003; Page: 115C and Jordan Dodd, Liahona Research. Ohio, Marriages, 1803-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2001.