Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Private Foster Caseman, Company D, 23rd Kentucky Volunteer Infantry

Photo from findagravecom, memorial 66529335

Private Foster Caseman was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, perhaps in Cincinnati, in 1841.

In 1860, he resided in the area of Tibbatt’s Cross Roads, in southern Campbell County, Kentucky, which lies just across the Ohio River from the Buckeye State. 

He enlisted in company D of the 23rd Kentucky Infantry at Camp King, in Covington, Kentucky, on December 4, 1861. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. He worked as a farmer. 

His time in the unit may not have been easy, as the 23rd saw a lot of action in major battles and campaigns. Foster must not have liked his military experiences, and deserted from the regiment on August 2, 1862. He did, however, return on March 30, 1863, after President Abraham Lincoln had issued a proclamation of amnesty for deserters who returned to their units by April 1, 1863.

About six months after his return, he lost his life on September 19, 1863, at the Battle of Chickamauga in northern Georgia. This was the second bloodiest battle of the entire war (behind Gettysburg) per the American Battlefield Trust. Foster was just one of 16,170 Union men who were killed, wounded, or missing during and after that fight, which also included 18,454 Confederate casualties.  It was “by far the deadliest battle fought in the west.” 

Private Caseman was buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery. 

The accompanying photograph came from Nothing  indicates when the photo was taken, but it shows a very young-looking man, though it does not seem to show a “dark” complexion that his paperwork claimed.

This is, perhaps, how he appeared when he met his demise, one of so many young men cut down by the long, bloody war.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

More Thoughts on My Continuing Project

 I'm not really sure what to title this  post, but it is, again, just an update on the book project that has been my focus for the  last couple of years now. 

A few weeks ago, I had a copy of my "all combined" file printed. This file was a combination of all my completed stories in one large Word document. I  just really wanted to see what it looked like in "real life" and not just on a screen.

It ended up being 199 pages (including  front and back) and about 95,000 words, and looked terrific!

It was pretty cool to see and hold, I must admit. 

It's also cool to be able to hand it to other people to look at and give me feedback. It has been positive commentary so far. 

We've also uncovered a few typos ("there" instead of "three" "city" instead of "century" and two stories in reverse alphabetical order by mistake) but I had not tried to proofread every word of every story yet. This is a work in progress, and I'm sure other such issues remain in it but having something so tangible and "real" is a good feeling. It's good to see and hold it and see the information I have assembled.  I hope this isn’t a case of “pride goes before the fall,” but I am happy with what I have created thus far.

I did submit a brief questionnaire to one publisher. The only response I received so far was a question  if the book was only about the profiles or about the home front of Campbell County during the war. I replied and have not heard back yet, but I presume my subject did not totally interest him at first, but that is fine. It still is fascinating  me, both in what I am learning and how enjoyable it has been, even if my idea is rejected. 

Also, I must admit that a look at the county's home front during the war is another idea that intrigues  me. I put together a quick list of ideas that could apply to such a topic. That approach strikes me at first as much more complicated and requiring more detailed research, but it's also a topic that has not been explored in this region, and I do have some thoughts on how to approach it. Some of the stories I've uncovered in my current research could fit into that topic.

I'm still working on this first project as I had planned, but  maybe the home front during the war is an idea for the future. I'll keep an eye out for appropriate material as I continue to research the individual soldiers and sailors. 

And I have not necessarily given up hope on having my work published as a book. Other options are available and I am actually glad to have received that suggestion and comment in reply to  my  initial inquiry. This project is a big one and I will keep plugging away at it especially as I continue to find interesting stuff.

In the last week or so, I found a local man who was a victim of the Sultana disaster. That was a great surprise and certainly a story I must tell. 

I also was looking up a soldier’s name and found a man who had been arrested for cutting down an American flag. It was almost certainly a civilian with the exact same name and does not fit the scope of my book, but I thought it was a neat find too. I’ll find a way to share that with others (besides the blog’s Facebook page.) it’s at least one possible story of the war’s home front in Campbell County. 

I also found out that the last Civil War veteran living in Campbell County was Cornelius Green Cannon, an African-American who served as an under cook in the 23rd Missouri Infantry. He died in 1944 and I’ll certainly add his story to my project. 

Hopefully the discoveries keep on coming. It’s really fun to uncover stuff like the man on the Sultana or names of other Campbell County men who served. Whatever sports in thffuture,mi have learned a lot snd had quite a bit of fun so far. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

80, 000+ words

Still working on this little project of mine, and I became curious about how many words I was stringing together across these profiles.

I first created an Excel spreadsheet and listed all my nearly finished stories with their word counts and let the auto-sum feature add them all up.

This  showed well over 70,000, words at the time, but as I kept adding more, I wanted more information, so I copied and pasted all the ready stories in a single Word document.

This not only shows about 80,000 words total at this point, but it’s also more than 150 full sized 8.5 by 11 pages.


I guess that is not much compared to other works, or to what experienced authors have done,  but it seems like a lot to me, especially since I am not yet completely finished. I suspect that I have completed most of the stories, but that some good ones still remain to be found and written.

This process of putting g all the stories together has also helped me in the organization of the stories. I found two instances where I had one story for one man and a second story for his brother(s), but discovered that  they worked better  when combined together. This meant I have fewer stories/chapters, but about the same number of words, and a more sensible arrangement.

On one of these, I even found a genealogical mistake in one because two people in the distant family had the exact same name and I had used the wrong one as a Civil War soldier. It was actually the younger man who served, and this process let me see and correct that. Fortune was on my side for sure. 

I still have no idea how long this will be when  I do finish it, but to think it will be beyond the 80, 000 word count still  strikes me as pretty cool as does the continued progress.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Local Families in the Civil War

 A lot of people have seen or heard the Civil War referred to as a "brother's war" because of the instances of family members fighting on opposite sides (Mary Lincoln's Confederate brothers and Kentucky's Crittenden family are two famous examples) but there were also many cases of family members fighting on the same side, a point that I am learning more and more through my research into Campbell County soldiers and sailors. 

When I started this project, I knew of the Seither brothers - three fought for the Union, but a fourth had moved to New Orleans in the years before the war and became a Confederate soldier - but did not know of any other Campbell County families that had fought in the war. I was obviously foolish, and perhaps naive, but I now have confirmed at least 30 (thirty!) instances of brothers, fathers/sons, and cousins from Campbell County fighting for the Union cause. I certainly never expected to find so many. I've even found some where three or four brothers joined the war effort. Four brothers in the war were grandsons of a Revolutionary War soldier whom the Daughters of the American Revolution are going to honor later this year. That was pretty cool to find. 

Even a couple of weeks ago, when I realized I had found a few examples and decided to look into it more closely to figure out just how many I had uncovered, I did not think it was such a high number.  I'm still surprised, but I do realize that there are probably even more out there that I haven't found (especially cousins or uncles/nephews - the set of cousins I know of only came to my attention because they were distant ancestors of mine.) 

This whole research adventure has been quite fun and educational to me, with the presence of so many families having multiple members fight in the war being the latest example. I have started a separate document to try to track them, and I have a few more names listed to research as possibilities, but who knows what else might pop up to attract my attention and time.

I still need to decide eventually what to do with all this information. A book would be ideal, but is it realistic? I want it to be, but I wonder if anybody else wants to read all this or if my work is good enough to be published. Oh well, I'm enjoying what I'm finding and will make other decisions as I need to, but I thought this was a good excuse to publish another blog post.

Hopefully I will have other interesting finds and observations to share as this process continues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Making Progress on Book (or Am I?)

I’m still working on what I hope turns out to be a book on Civil War Soldiers and Sailors from Campbell County, Kentucky, and have made some good progress recently, though if this progress creates more work is it truly progress?

I think so, at least in terms of the quality of this work.

I was working on the finishing touches of an interesting but brief story of a local soldier who had been executed while running from soldiers sent to capture him and return him to the regiment. I thought I just needed to confirm one tidbit, then do some quick proofreading and it would be finished, but, instead, I found out much more information about his family, including two of his older brothers who were arrested by Union officials for harboring him while he was AWOL.

One signed the Oath of Allegiance, a copy of which remains in his file. It is the first copy of an oath that I have found associated with any of these men. Maybe I’ll find more when I work more in the Confederate side, but this really excited me.

The other brother of the executed soldier actually ended up joining a Union cavalry regiment about fifteen months after his brother’s death. A local genealogy site includes an unsourced article claiming this brother suffered a couple major wounds in his time in the service. I need to look further into that as nothing about it was on Fold3 at first glance. The idea that he joined the Union army after one brother was executed for desertion and after he and his other brother were arrested truly blows my mind, even baffles me. It’s just a fascinating turn of events. This is now one of my favorite stories.

I will, of course, double check this latest information to make sure I did not miss something or am not overreacting, but this is the kind of find that makes research interesting, even dare I say fun, at times. 

This will allow me to add genealogical information to my original story idea, but I’m now wondering if I should keep my original story and add all this information to it or limit my story to the basics I originally found and then add a second story with more family details on it, including the oath and the oldest brother’s service.

Decisions, decisions.

Even though this might slow me down, I actually am very happy to find this additional knowledge. I’ll figure out soon enough how to handle it, but I’m glad that’s an option. This story is now even more intriguing to me.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Book Review: Murder on the Ohio Belle Murder on the Ohio Belle eBook : Sanders, Stuart W.: Kindle  Store
Stuart W. Sanders 
Copyright 2020
University Press of Kentucky

Murder on the Ohio Belle is not a Civil War book, but covers the war era including the generation of people who brought on and fought the war, thus making it a worthwhile read for those focused on the fighting years. Mid-nineteenth century culture is the main theme of this work, as seen through the experiences of one steamboat, its crew and passengers.
As its title implies, Murder tells the story about a killing (actually two) that took place on the steamboat Ohio Belle, but it goes well beyond that, serving as sort of a biography of mid-nineteenth century steamboat and American culture, or at least many aspects thereof.

This book starts with a strong introduction. Many works use such a start to explain the author’s goals for the book, but few are as straight-forward and effective as the this one.

The hope of this book is to “help us better understand nineteenth century riverine culture.” (page 2) It explores the relationship northern owned boats and their crews had with slavery and slave culture along the Ohio River.The phrase “fluid border” between free states and slave states was literally true, since the waters of the Ohio formed much of that border. The author shows that these boats profited from, and thus supported, slavery with the business they conducted in the south.

Sanders further pledges to explore“how Americans contended with violence” (page 3) such as murder, lynching, and warfare, and argues “the history of the Ohio Belle also presents a portrait of how western antebellum society embraced retribution.” (page 4)

This work considers a variety of period cultural issues, such as “interpersonal violence, slavery, honor culture, and retribution.” (page 4)

The introduction comes to a definitive conclusion: “A single event…can illuminate a more important, broader narrative about our past.” The plan is to show readers “important themes from the nineteenth century that are still relevant today” (page 5), such as vigilantes, injustices, and others.

“History, including the tale of a murder on a steamboat, still matters” is an apt final sentence to this introduction.

The book lives up to the promises and goals listed in its beginning. It does so mostly in a chronological fashion, but does jump ahead and back at appropriate times to tell the story fully. 

This is not a long book. It has an introduction, eight chapters and a conclusion which combine to take up 111 pages, including the acknowledgements, but does also feature 30 pages of notes, some of which include information beyond the citations. This length, and the writing style of the author, make it a quick and easy read, so anyone worried about finding enough time to read an entire book should still consider this one.

Besides the telling of the story of the actual murders, and how it parallels mid-nineteenth century American behavior, this book also details the career of John Sebastian, the captain of the Ohio Belle, and how he dealt with those issues on his boat.

Another interesting aspect of this work is the story of Margaret Garner. Many people have heard or read  of her escape from slavery in Boone County, Kentucky, across the Ohio River to Cincinnati, where she killed her young daughter instead of letting slave catchers capture her. This book details more of her story after that incident, as she was sent downriver aboard a steamboat.This part of her story is not as famous as her attempted escape, but does include more heartbreak. Her tale was an unexpected but valuable addition to the study of the region's culture at the time. Few stories illustrate the nature of slave-state Kentucky’s proximity to the free state of Ohio as clearly as hers does.

Violence, revenge, honor, and the definition of a “gentleman” (and expectations of such a man’s behavior and interactions with others) are concepts that appear throughout the book, and are familiar to Civil War students. The use of alcohol, mixed with gambling and traits like pride, honor, and the tradition of carrying concealed weapons was a common contributor to problems, including occasional mob violence. This behavior on “the Ohio Belle, and other vessels was simply a reflection of behavior on land during this period.” (pages 58-9) This book provides examples of this, including in the river city of Louisville.

Class distinctions – particularly between wealthy planters and “lower” economic classes, but also between races – were ever present in how people behaved on land and water.

Of course, the defining event during the steamboat era of the mid-nineteenth century was the Civil War, and chapter seven dives into it, how it affected the Ohio Belle  (captured by the Confederacy) and John Sebastian (he lost his left arm during the conflict.) It was the ultimate example of violence during the era, but these years also continued to demonstrate the dangerous desire and search for vengeance, much like during peace time.
Overall, this is a fine book for anybody who enjoys history, but it also covers topics that should interest those focused on the Civil War, river history or social/cultural history in mid-1800s America. This book is a pleasure to read. I happily recommend it.

Friday, May 27, 2022

I'm Still Here, Still Researching, Still Blogging

 I know that blogs are now a thing mostly of the past as podcasts (even via video) and live streaming have come into vogue and are the major tools of social media and communication, as well as new apps and, honestly, probably some things of which I have not heard yet, but I'm still here, as is this blog. 

I know my activity here has slowed down considerably. I mostly regret that. Last year just was not a productive year for me from a  research or writing perspective, but things have improved in 2022. I have resumed doing research for my book (or website)  project, and have started writing more. Now, that will include this blog. It may not be a daily thing, but I do hope and intend to write much more frequently. 

Many of my entries will probably focus on my current research, mentioning interesting stories I find, roadblocks that confound me and other  issues that come to mind, including my attempt to figure out what the final product will be and  if there is any end  in sight.,

Anyway, I have found more good information for my Campbell County Civil War Soldiers project. I even found a few new names in the last week or so, and have determined to write many more individual stories than I originally anticipated. These men deserve to be remembered for their service.

Recently, I created a document for the 23rd Kentucky Infantry regiment. I have over 120 names for it. My current plan, always subject to change, is to write several stories on many of these men, but also to  have a separate story just on the regiment. I know of no regimental history for this group, so this will be a challenge, but I should be able to put together at least a few  hundred words of a high-level look at the experiences of this unit. I think that will help me, and hopefully others, to understand better what the individuals went through during the war.At least that is the goal.

I may do something for the 53rd Kentucky as well, especially company F, another unit with many Campbell County men in it. This unit formed late in the war, but were involved in the Second Saltville Raid in late 1864, and I've found several names of men who were killed, captured, or wounded during that expedition.

Another recent addition to my  project is to take a closer look at the sailors whose names I've found. I assembled a list of ship names I've found associated with these sailors and surprisingly came up with more than 50 ships. Several of these men served on multiple vessels, but I do see at least one of them was a "receiving ship" for new sailors, a concept new to me. This part of the project will probably be quite educational to  me as I look into the navy and these individual ships. It will certainly be a challenge even to do a high-level, not-too-detailed study like this, but I think it has potential to be interesting to me and to improve my understanding of  the war. 

Several of the ships I've found were either built in Cincinnati, or the  navy purchased them there, so I like the regional nature of that. It should fit in well with the scope of my book since Cincinnati is right across the river from Campbell County (though I believe Cincinnati's ship-building area was a bit further west than where Campbell County is.)

At one glance, this seems to me more like a county history than a war book and perhaps that is accurate and maybe even desirable, but it has already changed how I  look at the war and study it. I may never be an expert in military tactics, strategies, and operations.

This project still comes down to studying the individual men who fought the war and who lived in my home county before, during, and/or after the war, including their lives inside and outside of their military years. There is a lot of good information that I believe is worth finding and sharing and I'm hoping this little project of mine can contribute to the understanding of Campbell County history, the Civil War, and/or the men who fought it and the people who lived through it. If I advance the understanding or knowledge of even one piece of these areas, it will be a good thing.

I'm going to go ahead and just post this now, on a Friday afternoon, without thorough proofreading or checking it on for a couple of days before I post it. Enough with such delays (though I do have another family-history post related to the war that has been in "draft" mode for a while. I'll have to complete it soon, but I do plan to come back and post more about what my research finds and where my plans and goals head in the future. This has research has been a very positive experience for me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

William Orlando Tarvin, Co. F 53rd Kentucky Infantry

An unexpected aspect of my quest to identify as many Campbell County Civil War Soldiers and  Sailors was the discovery of more of my distant relatives who served in the war. The first one of these soldiers who I realized was related to me was William Orlando Tarvin.

Orlando, as he went by, was born on May 11, 1841 in Campbell County, probably Carthage. He was the son of Thomas Floyd and Winifred Gholson Kercheval. William’s great-grandfather was Reverend George Tarvin, my sixth-great-grandfather, making us second cousins, five times removed, a distant relationship, but still a relationship.

The 1860 census listed him as Orlando Tarvin and reported that he lived with his parents and eight siblings. He had no occupation listed at the time.

 Orlando joined company F of the 53rd Kentucky Infantry, signing up in December 1864 in Newport, along with many other Campbell County men. He joined as a private and eventually was promoted to sergeant.
 The 53rd Kentucky had formed late in the war and missed out on the most famous battles and campaigns but it did help guard the Kentucky Central Railroad which ran south from Covington and through Lexington. It also protected areas in Kentucky against guerilla attacks. Its most noteworthy service was as part of the Saltville Raid into southwestern Virginia in December of 1864 when it helped destroy Confederate salt  works and several of the unit's men were wounded, killed or captured. 
One early 1865 story in the Cincinnati Enquirer listed Orlando among a group thought to have been captured by the Confederates during that campaign, but it was a  mistaken report regarding him, though others on the list did become prisoners of war.

After the war ended, Orlando, who was listed as 5 feet 7 inches tall, with blue eyes, sandy hair, and a florid complexion when he enlisted, transitioned back to civilian life. In 1870 he lived with his parents and three sisters while working as a cooper. He then married Sarah Lee Nelson on November 29, 1876 in Carthage, with Reverend James Jolly officiating the ceremony.

Four years later, the 1880 census listed Orlando as a farmer living with his wife and two daughters and, according to a family history report one of his descendants assembled, became a busy citizen in Campbell County. He served multiple terms as postmaster at the Flagg Spring Post Office, from 1890 to 1895 and from January of 1900 until that office closed in 1906.

On July 19, 1897, Governor William Bradley gave Orlando another responsibility, appointing him Justice of the Peace for the Sixth Congressional District of Kentucky. 

In 1900, the census listed his name as Orlando W Tarvin, and showed that he lived with his wife, five children and his wife’s aunt, quite a large household. He was still a farmer.

On September 9, 1907, Orlando’s life came to an end. The Kentucky Post reported that Orlando, who was also a Mason, had just attended the Alexandria Fair before his wife discovered him dead in his bed that fateful morning. His funeral was “the largest ever witnessed in that section of the county” and he was buried in Grandview Cemetery in Mentor.

On of his direct descendants forwarded me some of these details and I thank her for the assistance. Before then, I knew he was on the list, but her email made me realize he was probably related to me and from that point on, I uncovered the same about his cousins - more Civil War ancestors for me!

A future post may explore the careers and lives of his brothers and their five second-cousins who served in the Civil War  

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