Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Reaction to Lincoln's Proposal of Compensated Emancipation 1862

I'm still working on my book project and will hopefully publish another update on it soon, but had previously found this article and thought it was worth sharing here as well. I'll keep looking for stuff like this occasionally even as I work on my project. 


This editorial came from the Cincinnati Enquirer of March 8, 1862 and is in reference to President Lincoln's March 6, 1862 Message to Congress supporting compensation to states willing to emancipate all slaves inside its borders.


The Message of President Lincoln - Slave Emancipation

It is to be deeply regretted that President Lincoln has so far yielded to the radicals in his party as to send in a message recommending that the United Stated afford pecuniary aid to such States as are willing to abolish slavery. It will have an unfortunate effect in the South, as indicating a meddlesome disposition upon the part of the General Government to interfere with their domestic institutions and to bias their State Legislatures by its influence. It will be time enough for the General Government to talk about affording aid to abolish slavery when the Southern States, or any of them, ask it at its hands. At the present time, when the country is loaded down with debt and taxation in order to carry out the war, it is simply impossible for it to make an investment of some hundreds of millions dollars in negroes. If the scheme was ever, or will be ever practicable, it is not now.

Strange caprice and infatuation, in view of the uniform failure of negro emancipation in the British and French West Indies, to effect any result except ruin to the countries that embark in it, to recommend it in this Union! What reasonable man can desire to enlarge our population of free negroes? The President's own State of Illinois prohibits a free negro from coming into it; and in all the free States, as well as slave, they are regarded as a most undesirable population, yet the President would have the whites of the North exhaust their pecuniary resources and to be beggared by taxes in order to set free millions of African slaves!

The suggestion springs from that uneasy, restless, insane spirit of fanaticism that has already been of such immense mischief to the country, and which every man should frown down. Leave negro slavery alone, where the Constitution leaves it, to work out its own destiny. Leave it to time. We of the North are not called upon to interfere with it in any form or shape, and can not do it except at our great injury and disadvantage. Better by far appropriate, as a measure of humanity, hundreds of millions of dollars to alleviate the distresses of poverty in the North, among the whites, than to invest the sum in creating free negroes. We much mistake the temper of the Northern people if they ever consent to it. We doubt whether a single Congressional district out of New England and the Ohio Western Reserve would vote, if it had the opportunity, in favor of the President's scheme.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

United Daughters of the Confederacy Meeting Minutes Book

 As I continue to plug along on my book project, a new, shorter-term but still intriguing idea has caught my attention.

At my local historical society, I found an old notebook of meeting minutes from the Henrietta Hunt Morgan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. This chapter was in Newport and Covington, Kentucky, and this book covers late 1936 to the early 1940s. 

I am transcribing these minutes of the meetings which usually occurred  monthly, though some were cancelled. Once done, I may do some research on some of the ladies whose names are in the book, perhaps to figure out which of their ancestors were Confederate soldiers. This research may even turn up new names of local soldiers for my book or posts for this blog.

The minutes are generally unremarkable, filled with details of when and where the meeting was and how the meeting opened and proceeded. Most of this is pretty similar to other meeting minutes even from  today, but I might have a post or two with observations about some of the traditions they followed to open their meetings.

A few of the entries make mention of topics still of note today, such as contributions to fundraising efforts for statues of Jefferson Davis and even one about donating southern literature to a local high school library, perhaps part of the "Creating a Confederate Kentucky" phenomenon that happened in the post-war decades. (Thanks to Anne Marshall's wonderful book for the title that describes this period so well.)  I may go into further details on those topics and perhaps others once I have finished transcribed the entire book. I am about halfway through and am going through about one entry every day or two, so I probably still have a few weeks left before this will be finished. 

 I have also seen a couple of mentions of soldiers' names, one who had passed away in a neighboring county and another who was supposed to go to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Those names may deserve more investigation also. 

I am still working on my book, but this is a nice distraction and hopefully I can continue to work on both and make progress. This notebook is something different than anything I have done before and even the minutia of meeting details and the various motions made is intriguing to me. I started this post thinking I would say there was not much worth discussing in those minutes, but as I write this and describe what I’ve seen, the more I write, the more I believe will come from this. It won't be any groundbreaking  news on the Civil War era but may add to the (or at least my) understanding of this region in the post-war years and decades. This is something I will continue to pursue and see where it leads me. 

This book also includes a couple of loose papers and a newspaper clipping. The loose forms include two applications (each marked "duplicate")  to join a different chapter of the U.D.C. and correspondence about opening a new grave in the Confederate section of a local cemetery.

Here are a couple photos of the book.

 

 



Thursday, October 8, 2020

Injured at Perryville: Benjamin York,15th Kentucky Infantry

Today, the anniversary of the Battle of Perryville, seems like an appropriate day to share this story, thst of a common private soldier whose life changed on those Kentucky hills.


Another Campbell Countian whose Civil War service came to my attention thanks to the book The Battle Rages Higher is Benjamin F. York. The son of Joshua and Sarah (Moore) York, he was born in Alexandria, Ky., in July of 1844.


Location of Alexandria, Ky, courtesy bestplaces.net

By 1860, the family, including Benjamin and his four younger siblings, still resided in Alexandria, but life quickly changed later that year when Republican Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency in the 1860 election. Several Southern states soon announced their secession from the United States and, in April 1861, the Civil War began. Six months later, in October, Benjamin enlisted for a 3-year term in Company H of the 15th Kentucky Infantry regiment, joining at Camp Webster, Kentucky. Paperwork in his file indicates he was 18 years old when he joined, though he may have actually been 17. That was under the minimum age to join the military, but it was not unusual for young men to lie about their age in order to become a soldier or sailor and officials did not always make thorough efforts to verify the ages of potential recruits.

As previous posts have discussed, the 15th Kentucky was a busy regiment and fought in some of the more famous battles and campaigns in the Western Theater of the war, including Perryville, Stone’s River, the Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and the Atlanta Campaign. 

Benjamin York was with the 15th for many of these, but he was wounded at Perryville - called “Chaplin Hills” in his file - and was in a hospital in Louisville for several months before returning to his command in April of 1863. He remained with the regiment for several weeks, but by around September or October had taken a role as a company cook, and, on December 10, 1863, was discharged from the army due to disability, as his wound at Perryville had cost him his hearing. 

Unfortunately, the certificate of disability for discharge in his file is difficult to read, but it still does provide some additional details. It confirms his inability to perform his duties was due to “Deafness, caused by gun shot wound received in line (illegible) at the Battle of Chaplin Hills,” and states that the bullet had entered near the “ramus of the inferior maxillary bone,” before causing damage as it exited through his neck. 

It further states that he was “sent to General Hospital, rejoined his command at Murfreesboro on April 6, 1863, at which time he was deaf and has continued to be up to the present time, in consequence of which he is totally unfit for the service. He is also unfit for the Invalid Corps.”

This injury ended his fighting days, but he managed to lead a long, productive post-war life, one of tens of thousands (or more) of American men carrying life-long wounds caused by the war. 

Benjamin married Nancy Cherry on October 6, 1865 in Alexandria and received a Civil War pension starting in February of 1869, according to a family history account. The couple had three children, all daughters - Mary Ann, Emma, and Cora.

Benjamin does not appear to be on the 1870 census, but by 1880 lived in Clermont County, Ohio, with his mother, a sister, and his three daughters. He worked as a flat boatman, likely on the nearby Ohio River. 

Unfortunately, Nancy had died in 1879, but Benjamin married Dulcena Perry in 1881, and they had two daughters, Bessie and Ella.

(Dulcena’s younger brother, Alexander, also served in the war, in Company F of the 192nd Ohio Infantry.) 

By the time of the 1890 Veterans’ schedule, Benjamin had returned to Alexandria. Ten years later, he remained in that same town, where he lived on a farm with his wife and two daughters.

Benjamin York passed away on March 19, 1910 in Covington, Kentucky at sixty-five years of age, and was buried in Linden Grove Cemetery.

Rest in peace, soldier.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Working on my project

Work on my book project has been a bit spotty this week due to various appointments and other tasks, but I’m still making progress confirming Campbell County Civil War soldiers and even some more birth/death dates and burial places. I’ve even found one whose cause of death was ‘suicide by hanging.” It happened in 1888, but I wonder if that soldier suffered from what we today call PTSD. Whether it was or was not, it still is a sad story.

I have also started writing a draft of an introduction for the book, or at least getting some basic comments on it in full sentences and paragraphs instead of just notes. Work on it has just begun, but it is nice to have it started with some organization and development of  how I want that section to read.

Furthermore, I  created a list of soldiers and sailor names whose stories I want to share. For some of these, I have even started dome basic writing and note-taking, based on previous stories I have written or sources I know I want to use. There will be more of these than I had expected, but they will likely be the heart of the book. The list of names will hopefully be useful to researchers and maybe genealogists, but I suspect the individual stories will determine how much interest people might have in this book, so I want these to be interesting, and, of course, well-written. 

Like with the introduction, I’m glad to have this part at least started, giving me a sign of come progress and helping me start to see how much writing lies ahead. Many details await, such as if I want to divide these into chapters based on certain topics like casualties of war or just list them alphabetically.

It is not much, but it is progress, and I am still enjoying it.

I also must say that going through so many individual records is a different way of learning about the war than just reading books about battles or famous personalities. I wish I had started research like this much earlier. It is a fascinating experience, at least so far. 


Monday, September 7, 2020

A New, Big, (Crazy?) Project

Something I have thought about for a while but never could commit to was to write a book - an actual and real non-fiction book, with my name as author. The thought lived in the back of my mind for several years, but I never could figure out the right topic that would catch my interest enough to convince me to do all the work that such a project takes. I never was going to just put some words on paper just to say I had authored a book - I needed a topic that captured my passion and my interest and that would not be a fleeting idea that would bore me after a few weeks or so. If I was going to make such a goal, I was going to go all-in on it. 

I think I have finally found the right topic - Campbell County, Kentucky Civil War Soldiers, Sailors and Their Stories. That is the working title, subject to change, of the project I have started pursuing. It still is in the early stages of research and I realize that it will take possibly 1-2 more years to research and write (perhaps even longer, if my research is successful) but the general idea is to identify as many Civil War Soldiers who had some connection to Campbell County as I can find. By "connection," I currently mean "born in, lived in, died in or are buried in" my home county, but I have found a few names that might lead me to expand that. I have found a few names of men who served in this county - probably at the Newport Barracks - but did not meet the criteria I had established, and even more men whose widows lived here some time after their husbands had passed away. I have seen a couple of names of men who enlisted in this county but had no other ties to it, while some men were Confederate supporters or public sympathizers, but not actual soldiers. Some of these men had interesting stories,  so do I expand my definition of "connection" to this county and include them? Maybe I can create a separate chapter or section for such people. That is a tough decision I will need to make, though probably just one of many.

After identifying as many of these soldiers and sailors (both Yankees and Rebels) as I can, I will then compile some stories about their lives and careers. I already have a couple dozen ideas for possible stories - some I have published here on this blog in the past - and will likely find more. 

The first part of the proposed book would include these stories, combining Civil War history with some local history and maybe a few bits of genealogy sprinkled in along the way. My hope is that these stories, both military and human-interest ones, would interest readers and provide both information and entertainment. I have found stories of soldiers who were wounded, killed and/or captured in battles both famous and obscure, and others who had interesting civilian lives. A few of these tales might be fairly short and others longer, as I try to focus on the more interesting pieces of their lives snd not detailed genealogy or more mundane tidbits. Some of these men had fascinating lives both in and out of the military. 

After a section of these stories, the last part of the book would be a list of all the names I found, with the men's names, unit, company and rank included. Ideally, I would also add as much birth, death and burial information as I can find, but I do not know how much space that will require. My first thought is that these lists would be in a spreadsheet format, but maybe I could write out this information in mini-paragraphs for each soldier, though that would require many more words and, perhaps, pages. That is another decision I will need to finalize in the future as I would like this work to be both an enjoyable read and a benefit to researchers. Can I  make both those ends meet in one book? 

I have created a virtual cemetery on findagrave to keep track of the men whose final resting placesI have found. It currently has just over 500 graves on it, but I have more names for which I am still searching burial places, so hopefully that number increases. 

Of the ones I've already included, there may be a couple that are not 100% proven to be Civil War veterans. If they had the same name as a soldier I have confirmed and are in a logically located cemetery, I may have included them already, especially if the record showed birth and/or death dates that fit the right timeframe but I still have a some of these for which I want to go back and confirm burial places. Hopefully the ones like that included here are few and far between, but if anybody finds any errors, please let me know by email or in the comments section.

Of course, what to do when I have gathered, organized and put this information in a book format is the big question. First are the formatting questions. Do I need to be prepared to do endnotes or footnotes instead of just typing up one big story? Will I need to index it? I know that's a difficult task that even well-known and frequent authors consider to be a challenge. I also have found several photos on findagrave and other websites, but my current preference is for the book to be text only so that I do not have to determine who owns those photos snd then get permission to use them. Perhaps I could use my own photos of headstones or even sites associated with these men. 

Then, will anybody want to publish this? Do I just send letters to publishers to gauge interest?  Will I need to pay to self-publish it?  Will it end up as a digital format, such as a webpage?  I am sure there are more issues I will face at that time (and while I am still researching this) but I am convinced that I am willing to face those when the time comes. I began my research several weeks ago, have found a lot of information so far, and am enjoying it. It remains a labor of love for me and I am more confident that I will see this through to the end. That is why I have not mentioned this previously, but am ready to post this now.  

The research - both in confirming names that meet my (evolving?) criteria and in finding stories that I think are worth sharing - has been enjoyable and I have remained motivated to continue it. I am optimistic that I will maintain those feelings and that attitude.

Of course, as I throw myself into such a long, labor-intensive project, I realize my time for researching and writing this blog may decrease, but maybe I can use this blog to "test-write" some of the information I find. For instance, the recent posts I made about Foster and Israel Sellers are among the ideas I would like to include in the book.

I can also utilize this site to post updates on my progress or maybe express frustration or just to get some thoughts off my chest from time-to-time. I do not know how exactly this project will affect this blog, but I do not intend to close this blog, even if I post less often. Shutting this down is not an option.



                                                                                                         


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

1854 Commentary on Abolitionists

I know this is a short post without much research, but I found it to be an interesting take and another reminder that even a newspaper in a "free state" like Ohio could oppose abolition

This is from the Cincinnati Enquirer of June 1, 1854

If Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Abby Folsom  Mrs. Rose  Horace Greeley, Fred. Douglass and company, male and female, with all their disorganizing and seditious newspaper organs will only join in this Abolition exodus to Kansas Territory, we shall promptly contribute a thousand dollars to the emigrating fund, in order to remove these nuisances west of the Mississippi River; for on our side, or east of the Mississippi, their loss would be the public gain. — New York Herald


What sin has been committed by the virgin soil of Nebraska, that it should be cursed with such a gang of pestilential, social sores! 


Friday, July 24, 2020

Soldier Profile: Israel Sellers, Company F, 53rd Ky

This is the conclusion to my series on the Sellers brothers, also published as one story on 
western theatercivilwar.com. See my previous entries on this blog,  here for part one and here for part two.


————

As of September 28, 1864, Israel Sellers stood 5’7” tall, with light complexion, black eyes (other paperwork stated his eyes were blue) and light hair. He was a farmer who had just enlisted for a one-year term in company F of the 53rd Kentucky Infantry Regiment in Newport, Ky. His enlistment was credited to Campbell County, part of the state’s 6th Congressional District. 

Even though Israel’s enlistment form listed Campbell County as his birthplace, this was a mistake. Along with his twin brother Foster, Israel Sellers was born in Bracken County, Kentucky in early January of 1837. Records do not match on the exact dates - January 3, 8 or 9 - but they were clearly born in the first part of the first month of that year.  

Per the 1850 census, Israel’s family lived in ward 1 of Covington, Kenton County, but by 1860 Israel lived with his parents and a younger sister in Carthage, Campbell County. 

One year later, on July 25, 1861, Israel married 18-year-old Nancy DeMoss in nearby Pendleton County. 

The Sellers lived in a rural area and likely spent the next few years farming and hearing about the ongoing Civil War. Israel’s brother Foster enlisted in the war in late 1861, and the couple may have known other local soldiers. Word-of-mouth likely kept them informed of the events of the war.

————

Israel Sellers officially mustered into Company F of the 53rd Kentucky as a private on October 24, 1864.

The enlistment form which he signed (actually, “made his mark”) included the following oath:

I, Israel Sellers, born in Campbell Co., in the State of Kentucky, aged Twenty Six years, and by occupation a Farmer, DO HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE to have volunteered this Twenty Eighth day of September 1864 to serve as a soldier in the ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, for the period of ONE YEAR, unless sooner discharged by proper authority; Do also agree to accept such bounty, pay, rations, and clothing as are, or may be, established by law for volunteers. And I, Israel Sellers, do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever, and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War. 

Others had to sign declarations on the form too. The first was under the oath: I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have carefully examined the above named Volunteer, agreeably to the General Regulations of the Army, and that, in my opinion, he is free from all bodily defects and mental infirmity, which would in any way disqualify him from performing the duties of a soldier.  (The signature of the examining surgeon is illegible.)

The final statement read: I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have minutely inspected the Volunteer, Israel Sellers, previously to his enlistment, and that he was entirely sober when enlisted; that to the best of my judgment and belief, he is of lawful age; and, that in accepting him as as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able-bodied soldier, I have strictly observed the Regulations which govern the recruiting service. This section was signed by Jeremy H. Lennin, the captain of the company Israel joined.

I cannot determine the name of the Lieutenant from the 2nd U.S. Infantry who was the mustering officer who signed the form.




Because he enlisted so late in the war and in the western theater, Israel did not participate in a lot of famous battles, but his unit, the 53rd Kentucky, did help guard the Kentucky Central Railroad between Cincinnati and Lexington, protected the region against guerrillas, and also attacked salt works in Saltville, Virginia, as part of a raid into Virginia led by George Stoneman.


George Stoneman,  courtesy Wikipedia 

Israel’s paperwork on Fold3.com lists him as present from November 1864 through February 1865, but then the March and April records list him as absent, stating he was in a hospital at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, though it adds “since April 20, 1865,” so he was apparently present until then. No details of his illness are given.

He then appears on a detachment muster-out roll, dated May 25, 1865 in Lexington. He had last been paid to February 28 of that year, and had been advanced $62.28 in clothing and/or money, but was still owed $66.66 in bounty money. His paperwork specifies that his clothing account had never been settled as he mustered out under provisions of general order number 27 from the headquarters of the Department of Kentucky.

A  company muster-out form confirmed this information, adding he was at the General Hospital in Lexington. 

Some of the forms mistakenly indicate he was born in Campbell County but he and his brother were born in Bracken County. There are also discrepancies in his age (e.g. saying 26 instead of 27) , but that is not unusual on such paperwork. 
 
Once out of the army, Israel Sellers resumed civilian life. At some point, his first wife, Nancy DeMoss Sellers, probably passed away, though I have not found what happened or when. (One guess would be that depression over her death may have motivated him to finally volunteer to join the army three years after his twin brother had done so.)

His first known post-war activity is his second marriage, to Mary Carter DeMoss. The bond was dated December 31, 1868 in Alexandria. (Mary may have been a sister to Israel’s first wife Nancy, according to one family tree on ancestry.com, but I have not confirmed that as other records and other trees do not show the same information. That same site indicates that Mary - and, thus, perhaps Nancy - were apparently half-sisters to Sarah DeMoss, the wife of Israel’s twin brother Foster. Additionally, one of the DeMoss brothers, John Fletcher DeMoss, joined Israel in Company F of the 53rd Kentucky, under the name “Fletcher.” Fletcher also married Lydia Sellers, the oldest sister of Israel and Foster. (Here is some DeMoss family history. These DeMoss individuals were children of John and Elizabeth Power DeMoss.)


Two years later, in 1870, Israel was a farm laborer, living in the Grant’s Lick precinct with wife Mary and son John. That year’s census reports that Israel could neither read nor write.  

A membership list of the Persimmon Grove Baptist Church shows that Israel was baptized on January 19, 1879, but that the church dropped him off its rolls on September 16, 1882.  


Persimmon Grove Baptist Church & cemetery, author’s photo

Mary was also a church member.  (These records spelled their last name “Sellars.”) 

The 1880 census lists Israel as a farmer in the Gubser’s Mill precinct, living with Mary and children John, Gertrude, Charles, and Elizabeth. This arrangement soon changed, unfortunately, as Mary died on October 31 of that year and was buried in Persimmon Grove cemetery.

Israel married for a third and final time on June 16, 1887, when he wed 44-year-old Melvina Orcutt. 

Some road assessment lists and other records provide adictionary details about Israel’s life. An 1888 tax record lists him as having 53 acres of land worth $800 and $150 of stock, leaving him with $950 in property, then by 1892, his 53 acres had a value of $700, the only information available for that year.

Between the compilation of those two tax lists, the 1890 Veterans’ Schedule confirmed his military rank and unit and reported his home as the Brayville area of Grant’s Lick. The remarks section includes comments in the “disability incurred” column, but the writing is not clear.  The first word is “piles,” a term for hemorrhoids, but the other word is nearly illegible. It could be “bronchitis,” but the lack of “and” or a comma is puzzling, though maybe just laziness on the recorder’s part. 

By 1900, Israel still resided in Grant’s Lick and worked as a farmer. He could not read or write, but could speak English. Wife Melvina lived with him. 

Israel Sellers passed away on September 6, 1904, at age 67. He was buried in Persimmon Grove Cemetery. His wife Melvina lived until July 28, 1923. 


Photo from findagrave.com

Below are my pictures of his headstone in its current condition. I was by myself with nobody to hold it for a better angle.




Inscription on headstone’s base


Friday, July 10, 2020

Soldier Profile: Private Foster Sellers, part 2: Military Life

My most recent post explored Foster Sellers’ civilian life, but what had first brought him to my attention and sparked my interest in his story was his service in the Civil War, which is, of course, the main reason he’s a topic for this website.

In October of 1861,at the age of 24, Foster enlisted in Company H of the 15th Kentucky Infantry . Records on Fold3.com state he enlisted at either Camp Webster or Jamestown, Kentucky on October 19 or 21, though I cannot find any reference to Camp Webster other than on the service records of Sellers and other men I’m researching in this unit.

Ancestry.com, on the other hand, provides information from the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky showing that Foster enlisted on October 2 at Camp Pope, the same camp mentioned in a book I had recently read, The Battle Rages Higher

At the time of his enlistment, Foster was 5 feet, 7 3/4 inches tall and had a light complexion, light hair and blue eyes. He joined for a standard 3-year term. Bracken County was his birthplace and farmer his occupation.

He officially mustered into the army on December 14, 1861 at New Haven, again matching what the book reported.

The first few muster roll cards in his Fold3 file listed him as present with the regiment, which in its early days in service found itself visiting several places as the National Park Service (NPS)
shows that the regiment organized at New Haven, Ky., went to Bowling Green Ky., then moved to Tennessee, where the regiment headed towards Murfreesboro and Nashville, before arriving in northern Alabama. (The link includes more details.) The men then took part in the Union army’s pursuit of Braxton Bragg’s Confederates in Kentucky, ending with a fierce fight at Perryville, the largest battle of the war in the unit's home state.

The Battle Rages Higher describes their fight near the Bottom House at Perryville, including this brief section which mentions Forest’s captain, Joshua Prather. (page 72)
The Fifteenth formed two lines across the top of the hill, feeling the full force of a storm of bullets whizzing past them, and delivered their first volley into the Confederate lines. A horse near the center of the Fifteenth’s line screamed, barely audible over the controlled chaos of the fight...Major Campbell was directly behind Company H, shouting orders left and right when he fell from his saddle. A ball had passed through Campbell’s right arm and lodged in his side. Major Campbell was carried off the field by Capt. Joshua Prather of Company H and Capt. James Allen of Company I.
Something different - and totally unexpected to me - then appeared in Foster’s file, on forms such as a “detachment roll.” These papers listed him as “absent, detached on Pioneer Corps” for August 31, 1862 through February of 1863.

(This new unit did not exist until early November 1862, so the paperwork was probably inexact, trying to cover five months on one form, meaning it is likely that Foster was with the 15th Kentucky until at least early November, including at Perryville. Additionally, an “appears on returns” form for the 15th Kentucky in the file is very faded but seems to show that Foster served as company cook in November then “absent, on detachment” for December.)

When I saw the reference to the Pioneer Corps, I figured it was a small selection of men detached from the regiment to improve roads and build bridges for the army, but, though those were among the unit’s duties, the Pioneer Corps was a bigger, more specifically organized group than I had realized, as it was special unit of the Army of the Cumberland. Foster was in Company A of the 1st Battalion of this group.

I found two sources that describe the Pioneer Corps. The first source,  
https://www.libertyrifles.org/research/regiments/pioneer-brigade is a good read, including this excerpt about how and why the unit came into being:
In the western theater these problems were especially obvious. There the army’s supply lines often stretched hundreds of miles and the challenging terrain only served to exacerbate the problems. But in the fall of 1862, Maj.Gen.William S. Rosecrans took command of the Army of the Cumberland.He was well versed in military engineering and not only served in the Corps of Engineers after graduation from West Point, but returned to the Academy in 1843 to spend two years teaching engineering. With a solid engineering foundation, Rosecrans envisioned a solution to the problems facing his army. There were not enough engineering officers or enlisted soldiers in the regular army to solve the problem. The solution would have to come from the troops he already had at hand. He imagined a larger and more systematic approach. So, on November 3, 1862, he issued General Orders No. 3.
(The general orders gave the specifics of the brigade’s organization. Please read the rest at the above link.)

It provides general overview of the unit’s duties:
George W. Morris of the 81st Indiana describes his observations on General Oder No. 3: “In the latter part of 1862 while the army lay at Edgefield, Tennessee, there was an order issued by General Rosecrans to form what was called the Pioneer Corps...Their work was to build bridges, railroads, cut roads through the cedars for the ambulances, and everything else that the army had to do. A number of times they were fighting like the balance of the army.“
While Foster was in this brigade, the  men of the 15th remained in Kentucky and Tennessee, with stops including Bacon Creek and near Munfordsville, Ky, before advancing to Murfreesboro, Tn., where they were in another of the western theater’s most famous contests, the Battle of Stone’s River. They remained near Murfreesboro until June 1863.

A blog entry from Craig Swain at  https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/rosecrans-pioneer-brigade/ provides more details. This post is not as long as the previous story, but still adds good perspective about this unit, including description of some of the work these men did at Stones River.

Foster’s paperwork shows he did not remain with the pioneers very long, indicating that he was “ordered back to regiment” by special field order number 67 on March 11, 1863 while at Murfreesboro. No reason is given for this order, though the first link reports:
But for all their success, the Pioneer Brigade had its problems. Because of their detached status, soldiers were often still in their original unit rosters. This created complications with pay and equipment issues. In contrast to their laudable work in the field, the brigade created a reputation that was less than positive. Shaman writes, “While the Pioneers performed well enough when concentrated for engineer work under Morton’s watchful eye, they did particularly badly when scattered on pioneer duty with the army.
Few details about his time immediately after he left the Pioneer Corps are available, but records show he had a new assignment by November and December of 1863 - part of the regiment’s provost guard.

According to the American Battlefields Trust, Veteran or disabled soldiers frequently served as a "provost guard" that would enforce discipline in the armies.

When Foster rejoined the 15th Kentucky, it was of course in the same area as the pioneers, but became busier over the next few months. Some of their movements included being part of the Tullahoma Campaign, along with the Battle of Chickamauga, another tough, bloody battle. They also joined in the campaign leading to and through the Siege of Chattanooga; these men were in reserve during the Battle of Missionary Ridge, as they served as the Chattanooga garrison force, processing prisoners and deserters  as two of their duties, as well as acting as city police force. This assignment - courtesy of their former commander Lovell Rousseau, according to the book - was less dangerous than marching and fighting. The 15th Kentucky remained in Chattanooga until April 1864.

As the new year began, Foster apparently did not ring it in happily, as a card for January and February 1864 lists him as “sick in quarters,” though without further detail.

Some of his 1864 paperwork is missing, but his regiment remained busy during this year. Some of the regiment’s service in this crucial year included serving in reserve at Chattanooga, then participating in the battles of William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, including the “Siege of Atlanta” from July 23 through August 25 and operations against John Bell Hood's Confederates.

During the Siege of Atlanta, Foster became a casualty of war. One document reports him as absent, wounded near Atlanta, Ga, Aug 7, 1864, in Hospital, Chattanooga, Tn., while a “hospital muster roll of No. 2 U.S.A. General Hospital Nashville, TN” reports that in July and August 1864, he was attached to the hospital as a patient, remarking pay is due me for the mos. of July & Aug.

His injury happened at the Battle of Utoy Creek. That link includes these words that provide an interesting example of perspective on a battle: 

Even the Fourteenth Corps...finally got into action, incurring nearly 200 casualties in sallies against the Rebel works. (Major General William T.) Sherman termed the whole day's proceeding "a noisy but not a bloody battle.")

I added the emphasis as I wonder if those 200 men, including Foster Sellers, agreed with Sherman’s description.

The Battle Rages Higher also briefly mentions this fight. Here is part of that description: 
As the remainder of Carlin’s brigade came up to entrench along the pits, the lead storm from the Confederate works a few hundred yards away - both musket fire and artillery, shell and canister - continued unabated. The men held on through the rest of the day under what Lt. Col. William Halpin called “trying circumstances,” with six men from the Fifteenth Kentucky wounded during the long afternoon as the men stayed low and waited for nightfall. (page 236)

The Battle of Utoy Creek by Marc Stewart
Find it on his website

Here is an informative blog post about the battle, including information about the above painting and its artist.

All of this was during one of the smaller battles this unit, including Foster Sellers, fought, but questions remain about the exact nature of his injury. One form says G.S.W. back, indicating a gunshot wound in his back. A hospital form, not the easiest to read, appears to indicate a gunshot wound in his back and left knee joint at Atlanta on August 7, due to a conical ball.

Per one document, he returned to duty October 3, 1864, which seems to be a quick comeback. It also contradicts other paperwork, but maybe he tried to rejoin the regiment only to find out he physically could not yet handle it. This form was stamped Jeffersonville General Hospital and indicated that he resided in Kenton County and that his nearest relative was his sister Martha Sellers, who lived in Covington.

A casualty sheet in his file states wounded, rt. leg fractured though other writing on the form is difficult to read.

A pension card - again the writing is not perfectly clear and is partially scratched out - appears to mention a gun shot wound in the back and perhaps gun shot wound of left thigh and “dis” (disease?) of eyes.

The Campbell County Genweb site that is such a great local genealogy tool includes a transcription of 1883 pensioners information which mentioned he had a wound in back.

I suppose this is another case for which I should try to acquire a copy of any pension paperwork the National Archives has for him to see if it provides resolution to this uncertainty, but my bigger question is how he suffered the apparent back injury. Soldiers during the Civil War did not want to be seen as cowards or as running away from battle, and one book I read years ago told of a soldier requesting comrades that, if he died, to tell his family he died "with my face to the enemy," not running from the opponent. Did Forest turn his back to escape the Confederates, or did they just move to an angle where that shot was possible? Or did a bullet come through his leg and then his back? Does that really matter now? Surely no current citizen can question his bravery even with a back injury.

Other forms in his file also mentioned his injury and the follow-ups it required. A muster roll form for September and October reports his wound again, but this time he was “in hospital, Jeffersonville, Ind.,” which was Jeffersonville General Hospital.

He was apparently a pawn in a game of musical hospitals, as he is marked present on a November and December 1864 hospital muster roll for the Seminary General Hospital in Covington, Ky.

Covington is now the largest city in Northern Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, so I searched for more information about this hospital. I knew some buildings in Covington had been used as hospitals or prisons during the war, but I found some specific information that was new to me.

The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky describes the Seminary Hospital, one of five Civil War hospitals in the city:

The second in size in Covington was the 218-bed Seminary U.S. General Hospital, on 11th St. near Madison Ave., in a building once part of the Western Baptist Theological Institute; it began in September 1862 and closed in late April 1865. In 1867 that site became St. Elizabeth Medical Center.
St. Elizabeth, aka “St. E’s,” retains a major medical presence in the region.
According to the website of the Kenton County Public Library:
There were three buildings that constituted the Western Baptist Theological Institute. The largest structure was the classroom and dormitory building...The cornerstone of the building was set into place on August 3, 1840.

During the Civil War, the hospital was utilized as a convalescent hospital for wounded Union soldiers. In 1867, the building was purchased by the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis. The sisters relocated their St. Elizabeth Hospital to the site. St. Elizabeth Hospital occupied the building until 1914 when the current hospital was completed. In 1916, the main building of the Western Baptist Theological Institute was razed.
Here is an image of the Seminary building, again from kentonlibrary.org.


After his tour of the hospitals, Foster did not remain in the army much longer, though one form creates some confusion that no other paperwork definitively clarifies.

An undated “descriptive list of deserters, no. 19 USA general hospital, Nashville” gives his physical description while noting that he “deserted Nov 11 1864,” and “furlough expd Nov 10, 64.”

Nothing else in his file refers to either a desertion from or a return to the army, but since a different form shows that he was in a hospital in Covington during November and December, this was likely a case of so much bureaucracy and paperwork struggling to keep up with so many movements of so many men.

Another sign that he did not desert is a muster out roll from January 14, 
1865, completed in Louisville. It notes his wound again, and states he was last paid to December 31, 1863, with an amount advanced for clothing of $35.35, further noting “stop for transportation from Nashville to Louisville $3.80.” It seems unlikely he would have been allowed to appear on a muster-out roll if he had deserted (though it is conceivable that he would have been forgiven if he returned almost immediately.) 

Battle Rages indicates that on December 1, 1864, the regiment had been ordered to Louisville to report to the Superintendent of the recruiting service of the state to be mustered out of service. (page 251)

It also states that 969 men served in the 15th Kentucky throughout the war; of these, 134 were killed and 240 wounded. (page 254)

Private Foster Sellers was wounded in battle, but survived three hard years of war and returned to what became a long civilian life in Campbell County, Kentucky, where he married, raised two sons and farmed. He passed away one hundred years ago, in 1920, at age 83.

Rest In Peace, Soldier.

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