Sunday, April 15, 2018

O Captain, My Captain

I do not read much poetry, but I do re-read this poem every year

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills; 10
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

An Interesting Project That Needs Some Help

I just found this project linked on twitter and think it sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. It might be nice to make a contribution to something important like this.

I’ve looked at compiled service records for soldiers on several posts for this blog and other writing projects, so I know the writing can be tough to read, but they often include a lot of interesting information on them and who knows what kind of stories I might stumble across while working on this? Even if I do not find any stories to write about, helping compile this information about African-American soldiers appeals to me. 

 I have signed up for it and started working on it. It is a bit tough to do on my tablet, but I have gotten a few done, and will try to do more on my laptop. I think it will be fun and it will feel good to help with this. This is a good Civil War project, so why not try to help it? 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Civil War Park Day

Saturday April 7 - two weeks from today -  is the date for this year's Civil War Trust Park Day, a day for volunteers to help local Civil War sites do some spring cleaning. It is a great idea, one I am proud to have helped with at the Ramage Museum in recent years.  I will be there again this year, though the unfortunate thing is that its Park Day work is taking place at the same time as the work by the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation work in Cynthiana. Unfortunately, I can be at only one place at a time, as I would like to help both sites out, since both mean so much to me.

The Friends of Perryville will be working on that beautiful battlefield the same day and the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table will be helping at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati. All of these are wonderful opportunities for people to help pick up litter, pull weeds, or do other general cleaning and beautification projects at these wonderful sites.

The link in the first line will help you find participating locations close to you and I hope some readers of this will take advantage of this opportunity to help. Find a location near you and ask them how you can help. Many sites rely on volunteers, even ones that are state parks or historic sites, and this type of help and work is very valuable.

Money is not always readily available these days, so for people who cannot make monetary donations, giving time and a little bit of work can be a good way to contribute to a local historic Civil War site. The people at those sites will truly appreciate your assistance and even if the general public does not see you doing the work, the cleanliness and attractiveness of the location will be visible throughout the year. Your work will be noticed and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you contributed to a good, worthy cause.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Thoughts on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and Gettysburg Address

I still cannot decide if I prefer the Gettysburg address or the Second Inaugural as Lincoln’s superior work, though I have thought and written about it often before. I really like the Second Inaugural, published below, and the various styles of writing and phrasing Lincoln used in it, but the Gettysburg Address has similar qualities and has reached a legendary status even (or especially?) among non-Civil War students. Should that fame affect how I view that speech? I just do not know. Fame does not change the quality of the writing or Lincoln’s ability to make his points so succinctly, but fame does attract more people to learn about Lincoln, Gettysburg, the Civil War and its meaning. I think it is important for people to understand at least some basic facts about the war and the Gettysburg Address may encourage some students to do so. The Second Inaugural is wonderful, but lacks the popular appeal of the other address and likely does not lead as many people to become interested in the Civil War. Does popularity affect which one is better or should I only focus on the actual speeches, their words and meanings? That is another good question I am trying to answer for myself.

Perhaps this whole issue is not utterly important, but it is something I like to ponder, especially on days like today, the anniversary of the Second Inaugural. Just the process of re-reading each speech and thinking about their meaning may be good for me. I’m sure it is something I shall continue to do. Maybe it is the journey of contemplating this question that is more important than the destination/answer after all. Perhaps, though, I need to explore this some more. Another post on this may be coming soon if I can get my thoughts organized as I want.

Fellow-countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully.
The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” 
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Advertising Card for “First Class Artificial Limbs”

This advertising card is one of my favorite pieces of war-related (even if distantly) ephemera. It absolutely fascinates me that someone thought to use this picture of a sweet, innocent young girl to sell artificial limbs, though a google search found two other similarly strange subjects on cards from the same company. (I tried to save the pictures to use here, but they were blurry and not worth using.) Perhaps mine is not as different as I at first thought, but I still like it.


It does mention “U.S. Soldiers” can get a limb and transportation to the office for free, so apparently that excluded Confederate veterans, which does make sense since it apparently was a U.S. government program. I wonder if any ex-Confederates ever tried to benefit from this offer. 

Google books has this information about the company. Mr. Evans had moved from St. Louis to Cincinnati, taking over business from a Dr. Bly, and had previously worked in New Orleans. According to this link (see image below), he moved to the address on this card in 1884, almost 20 years after the Civil War had ended.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dave Mowery on Morgan’s Great Raid

Yesterday, I heard David Mowery talk at an event for the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation about John Hunt Morgan and his Great Raid  of 1863. It was an enjoyable and informative talk and it made me wonder if I had reviewed his book. I remembered reading it, but not reviewing it.

I searched here and found this blurb in a post that included several such brief reviews of  books I read in 2014. I wish I had done a more thorough review of it, but I do remember it as a good book. It is not terribly long, but I definitely recommend it, especially to people interested in Morgan and his career. 

Copyright 2013, The History Press
This is not a long look at the details of every confrontation during this 1863 raid, but is a good overview of the entire raid and provides a nice look at how much ground Morgan, his men and his pursuers covered during these weeks. Mowery's writing is easy to follow and I enjoyed how he described the challenges that those in and against the raid faced. 

Dave is also a fine speaker. He is obviously comfortable giving talks and extremely knowledgeable about Morgan and his career. His presentation moves at a good pace and he does a terrific job of answering questions. (Of course, it helps when the crowd is attentive and asks good questions, like at yesterday’s event.) He is friendly and easy to approach, and his obvious enthusiasm for the subject only makes his presentation even better. 

Dave is a member of the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table as well as the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Association, and probably other groups as well. He says he has been to over 600 Civil War battle sites, many not on maps.  If you have the chance to see him speak, take advantage of it. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

I Appeal to Your Humanity: Lieutenant Gilbert W. Ely’s Civil War

Many soldiers who fought in and survived the Civil War brought home with them physical and emotional scars, with stories of battles fought, marches made, colleagues killed, captured or wounded, and tales of many horrible events they had experienced or witnessed. It was an unforgettable time for these men, who never again would live through such a terrible conflict.

Other men, however, had less extreme wartime experiences, without the famous battles and charges and minus any military glory or honor. Among this latter group was 2nd Lieutenant Gilbert W. Ely, whose Civil War career was brief and obscure, but still challenging enough to make for the intriguing story that follows.

Gilbert was born in Monmouth, New Jersey in 1828, the son of Allison and Lydia Ely according to, though the 1850 census lists his father’s name as “Elitlue.” If this is the correct family, Gilbert’s ancestors had lived in New Jersey since the 1680s, according to family trees on, but Gilbert and his family would end that long tradition during his youth. 

In 1840 the 8-member family lived in Montgomery County, Ohio, probably in Dayton, where they resided in 1850, when their family included Gilbert, his 5 siblings and their parents. At this time, Gilbert and his father both worked as laborers. In 1860, the three remaining Elys (Gilbert not among them) were running a boarding house in the same city. (Gilbert does not show up on this census.)

He apparently enjoyed the privilege of a good education, as signed documents in his file on (I found them through are well-written in terms of legibility, grammar, spelling and the clarity of his thoughts. His education may have helped him gain a commission as an officer.

His military adventures began on May 10, 1861, when he joined company G of the 1st Kentucky Infantry at Camp Clay in Cincinnati, Ohio. Camp Clay was one of the camps that Ohio's governor William Dennison had ordered to be created to speed up enrollment of the state's military volunteers during the weeks after the firing upon Fort Sumter. It had been named in honor of Henry Clay and was located in the small Cincinnati neighborhood of Pendleton. (This neighborhood is currently the location of the modern "Jack Cincinnati” Casino.) It existed only in 1861. 

At this time, Kentucky was still trying to remain neutral in the young war, so some early Kentucky regiments were organized in neighboring states and enrolled men from various states. The 1st Kentucky began service under the command of Colonel James Guthrie, who had recruited and organized it, though he resigned before year’s end.

Gilbert joined this unit while it was still a three-month unit, and he held the rank of 1st Lieutenant. When this regiment was officially accepted into Federal service for a three-year term on June 4 (mustered in by Major Sidney Burbank), Gilbert was mustered back in as a 2nd Lieutenant for the longer term.

His new military life would prove to be less than glamorous, but would also serve as an example of some of the more common day-to-day activities in such a large army. These happenings may seem like minutiae today, in the big picture of the famous battles and legendary leaders of the war, but must have been of the greatest importance to Gilbert and other “common soldiers” like him. Some of the details of Gilbert’s career remain unknown, but enough evidence remains for the telling of his story.

This is Gilbert Ely’s Civil War. 

Soon after joining the army, Gilbert found time to pose for a portrait at a photographer's office in Cincinnati. Fortunately, he signed the back of the picture and even included "Newport, Kentucky" in his signature. Newport is a town across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Perhaps he was living there or maybe was temporarily assigned to the Newport Barracksbut, whatever the reason for him signing it that way, his signature is a valuable source, as without it his picture would likely be another anonymous image in somebody's collection, if even still in existence. Thanks to this signature, this stained portrait was the inspiration for the discovery of Gilbert’s story.

From author’s collection 

The 1st Kentucky organized as a 3-year unit in June 1861 and soon moved to the Kanawha River Valley in western Virginia (now in West Virginia), under the command of Brigadier General Jacob Cox, who led the brigade, and then Brigadier General William Rosecrans, in charge of the region. They were involved in several small engagements in the region, including one at Gauley Bridge.

One of their camps in the area was  Camp Gauley, but the record of Gilbert’s troubles begins on September 9, when he sent a letter to General Cox from Camp Enyart.

One of the 1st Ky encampments, Camp Enyart, W.Va., courtesy It presumably was named for Colonel David Enyart. The drawing was made Sept. 20, 1861, shortly after Gilbert's troubles began. 

 He wrote that he had received a letter from his mother about the approaching death of his wife. He requested a 10-day furlough to visit his home in Dayton. “I appeal to your humanity to grant me the privilege of seeing my wife before she dies.”

Letter asking for leave 

On the back of an unsigned and undated page in the file appears the following line: "I have permission from Lieut. Col. Enyart. I await with impatience your answer." From the wording and handwriting, it appears Gilbert added this to the back of his request, as sort of a postscript, though I do not claim any expertise in handwriting analysis.

General Cox' response, written on the same date from Gauley Bridge (Headquarters, Kinahwa Brigade) follows: "I regret to be obliged to inform you that no furloughs can now be granted by me to officers without first submitting the supplication to Gen. Rosecrans. To do so by mail is a tedious operation. I hope to have a quicker (illegible - perhaps “word”?) in a few days."

"I assure you of my heartfelt sympathy about your family and fervently hope you will hear better news shortly. If I have an opportunity of getting Gen. Rosecrans' assent to giving you leave of absence within a few days, I will certainly do so."

After waiting a few days and not getting further response, Gilbert was not happy. He wrote another letter, this time directly to Brigader General Rosecrans from Camp Gauley on October 3. His message (misspelling the general’s name as “Rosencrans”) stated: 

"I hereby tender my resignation as 2nd Lieutenant in Company G, First Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers."

"My reasons are: 1st I have been in the service for five months and have not yet received my commission. 2nd The palpable favoritism shown to some of the officers of the regiment to the injury of others, myself among the latter named."

He concluded by asking the general for his earliest attention to this request, but followed up two days later with a letter of further explanation.

He began this second letter by describing his attempt to get a furlough to visit his wife "about a month ago." He forwarded General Cox' response "since when I have heard no more of the matter." He claimed that "favorite officers can obtain furloughs for thirty and sixty days," before logging his next complaint, which hints at another chapter of his story.

"While performing my duty as Officer of the Guard on the third of this month, I was intolerably interfered with by a sergeant of company E of this regiment. His insolence caused me to act a little hasty toward him and that is now seized as a means of persecution towards me." 

He then asks the general to give his resignation "immediate attention."

Nothing in his file indicates exactly what happened next, though the “interfering” sergeant probably reported the incident to his superiors, with Gilbert likely being arrested and held for a court martial. There is no mention of an arrest or trial, but his actions were not ignored, as the file includes a list of charges and specifications against him as well as one interesting piece of correspondence regarding his case.

After his apparent arrest, Gilbert faced four charges:

Charge the first: "conduct unbecoming an officer." The specifications were: "...was while in the performance of duties of 'Officer of the Guard' in a state of intoxification rendering him entirely unfit to perform said duty in a proper manner" at Camp Gauley on October 3.

Charge the second: "Using language unbecoming an officer and a gentleman while on duty" with the specifics just being that he used such language while serving as "Officer of the Guard" on the same day and location.

Charge the third: "striking a non-commissioned officer." The specifics involved: "struck with his hand or fist 2nd Sergent Daniel W. Glassie of Company E...on the head and face twice," again at the same time and place. (Note: the soldiers and sailors website only lists this additional name in a Kentucky artillery unit, but a pension record on mentions the 1st Kentucky Infantry and one page in his file, documenting his artillery service, says he was mustered out of service and back in to accept a promotion on October 31, 1861. It gave no more specifics, but that date indicates it might be the same guy. Here is a bit of history on Glassie’s artillery unit.)

Charge the fourth: listed with the previous specification, as the writer apparently wanted to use only one sheet of paper. "Did (illegible word) draw and cock his revolver and threaten to shoot."

Charges against Gilbert Ely 

Exactly what happened regarding these charges is unclear, but on October 23, then Lieutenant-Colonel Enyart (who had replaced Colonel Guthrie in charge of the unit) wrote to the Judge Advocate from Camp Gauley:

Sir - 

The bearer of this, Lieut. Ely Co, "G" 1st Ky. Regiment, reports himself to you in reference to some charges which the party with him desires to withdraw. I hope after hearing Lieut. Ely's statement that you will disregard the matter, as we are short of efficient officers. Lieut. Ely is a good officer (and) promises to hereafter most faithfully attend to all his duties. If the charges are allowed to be withdrawn, I think it will be satisfactory to all parties. 

David Enyart, courtesy

Neither this letter, nor anything else in the file completely confirms if charges were dropped or pursued. An 1881 "special order" in Gilbert's file shows that his record was considered complete with an honorable discharge, due to his tender of resignation, effective January 22, 1862. This resignation officially ended his time with the 1st Kentucky. 

This document creates as many questions as answers. Why did they need such an order so long after the war? Did someone forget to note his formal resignation/discharge at the time it happened? If so, how did they realize it was missing? Maybe it came up while researching his pension application. (One tidbit which might be interesting only to me is that all documents in his file were handwritten except for this later form, which was typed. This is a sign of the spread of typewriting technology in the post-war years. Technology did not stop advancing after the war.)

Perhaps this eventual honorable discharge indicates charges were not pursued, or at least he was not convicted and drummed out of the service. Why his resignation was not effective until January 22 is another curiosity and raises more questions. Was he trying to get the charges dropped? Were his superiors trying to resolve the issue and retain his services? Was it typical bureaucratic red-tape slowness? Did he physically remain with the regiment from October through January? 

The intriguing part of that letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Enyart is that the judge advocate who received it was Maj. R.B. Hays (sic), who was future President Rutherford B. Hayes. Finding a future President associated with this obscure story was certainly unexpected. It is fascinating that a story about an unknown Lieutenant can connect to a future President of the United States. 

Rutherford B. Hayes, as Major-General, courtesy

Despite these rather unpleasant experiences in the 1st Kentucky, Gilbert’s patriotism had, remarkably, not yet evaporated. In 1864, he joined company K of the 131st Ohio Infantry, a 100-day (National Guard) regiment which mustered in at Camp Chase in May. It immediately traveled east, arrived in Baltimore and served on garrison duty at various forts in the area, presumably allowing the troops normally in those defenses to head to the front lines, likely in U.S. Grant's Overland Campaign. This unit, including Gilbert, served its time and mustered out at Camp Chase in August.


Not as much is clear about the rest of Gilbert’s life. His wife Frances survived the early-war scare, but still passed away early, dying in 1865 per

The 1890 Veterans' Census shows he lived at the National Soldiers' Home in Dayton at that time. Records on show that he entered the home July 25, 1889. He apparently had remarried as paperwork for the Soldiers’ Home listed his closest relative as his wife Harriet, and also shows he was living in Cincinnati. His occupation was “molder,” he was a Protestant, and paperwork shows he could not read or write at this time. The 1890 census showed he had no disability when he initially entered the home, but military home paperwork shows he had suffered “war bronchitis.” As he entered the home, he stood 5'9" tall, with a fair complexion, gray hair and gray eyes. He was discharged from the home on June 18, 1891. The writing on one form explaining why is, unfortunately, mostly illegible, but appears to say "G.H. for insane.” Might that mean “government home” for the insane? 

Apparently it does, as he moved back into the home on February 1, 1893, and a second form shows he came from the central branch of the government insane asylum. His mental health issues may have been why he apparently was now illiterate. He was later discharged again, this time on January 1, 1898. Again, the writing (on the first form) is mostly illegible, but it may say "improved." If so, any improvement may not have been substantial, as he passed away on April 9, 1898. He is buried at Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton.

Courtesy, with “T” as his middle initial

Rest in peace, Lieutenant Gilbert W. Ely.