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 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 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, 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

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 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., 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, 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 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

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.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Soldier Profile: Foster Sellers, Part 1, Civilian Life

When I read the book The Battle Rages Higher about the 15th Kentucky Infantry, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that several of the regiment's soldiers were from  my home of Campbell County, Kentucky, but then an intriguing part section at the end of the book surprised me even more - a collection of mini-biographies of the regiment's soldiers. Except for a few about the commanding officers and staff, these generally short paragraphs with some basic facts of the  men's lives and/or military careers. This was not something I had seen in many books and it quickly intrigued me, as reading through it helped  me find the names of several of the men from Campbell County, including those born  here and others who lived here, died here or are buried here.

Since the purpose of the blog includes finding and studying information and sources from  my home region (northern Kentucky is not exactly Gettysburg or Virginia when it comes to Civil War culture), I decided to search for more information on these me and maybe turn this information into some posts for this blog. I can always use new material and this struck me as a good idea.

I soon found  out  there were a lot more Civil War soldiers here (pre- and post-war) than I had realized and that some of these men had stories worth sharing.  This has also given me an idea for a bigger and more long-term project to attempt, though perhaps that may be a pie-in-the-sky dream. Time will tell.

I began my research with Foster Sellers, whose story in that book.indicated he may have lived near some of my ancestors, and I found more than I expected.  This post will examine his non-military years before and after the Civil War and a follow-up post will detail  his military service before a third post discusses his twin brother Israel. Israel was not in the 15th Kentucky, but did serve in the war and this was the first pair of  twins I had uncovered, so I figured that posting about both would be appropriate.

Foster and Israel Sellers were born in early January 1837 in Bracken County, Kentucky, another county in the northern part of the state, perhaps best known as the location of the town of Augusta, where George Clooney attended high school, and which Basil Duke and his men attacked in September of 1862.

Foster's death certificate lists his birth date as January 3, 1837, but Israel's headstone indicates that January 8 was their birth date. (Census records, family trees and genealogy reports confirm that they were twins.) Foster's headstone, meanwhile, lists his death date as April 3, 1920 at age "83 years, 2 months and 25 days." An online date calculator processes his date of birth to be January 9, 1837, 1 day different than what his brother's monument shows. Given how similarly “3" and "8" can appear on written records at time and the likelihood of a mathematical error on the calculation on Foster's headstone, January 8 seems like the probable date, but "early January" is an easy way to put it.

According to the Campbell County Genweb site, Foster and Israel were the sons of Phillip and Kaziah (Green) Sellers. Phillip was a native of Pennsylvania while Kaziah had been born in Ohio. Foster and Israel had two older sisters, a younger brother and a younger sister.

By 1850, the family lived in Covington, in Kenton County, another county in northern Kentucky, on the border of Campbell County.

In 1860, most of the family had moved to Campbell County, but Foster had returned to Bracken County, near the Augusta Post Office, where he worked as a farm laborer with the Richard Gregston family.

In April of the next year, Confederate forces fired on the American troops at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and the Civil War began. Six months later, in October, Foster enlisted in Company H of the 15th Kentucky Infantry, beginning his three-year adventure in the army, as a future post will describe.

Once Foster had survived the war, though with a wound suffered in combat, and was out of the army in early 1865, he returned to civilian life. He married 16-year-old Sarah E.DeMoss, a native of Pendleton County, on February 2, 1865, while the war was still ongoing. (Sarah was apparently a sister of Nancy DeMoss and Mary Carter DeMoss, the first two of his brother Israel's wives.)

The region was largely rural at the time (much of it still is) and Foster took up farming as his occupation.

By 1870 he lived in the Grant's Lick precinct of Campbell County, along with his wife and their two sons,Walter and Franklin.

Ten years later, the census appears to show him as "Joster Sellers," but a public family tree on helped me greatly in finding him.  He still farmed, now in the Gubser's Mill precinct and lived with Sarah, their sons and a niece.

Per the Campbell County Genweb site, an 1883 book of pensioners lists him in Flagg Springs, an area next to Gubser's Mill, while reporting that he had suffered a "wound in back,"which helped him receive a pension of $8 per month.

An 1888 road tax assessment list recorded that he owned 21 acres of land, valued at $400, and $150 worth of stock.

One year later, the same amount of land was worth $300 and his stock $100, but in 1890 his name appeared on a list of tx delinquents, still in the Gubser's Mill area.

In 1890, his name was included on a Schedule of War Veterans, the closest thing to an 1890 existing for most areas. It gave his rank and unit and noted that he had been discharged due to a "wound in back & leg," beginning some confusion over the exact nature of his wartime injury or injuries.

The road assessment book of 1891 indicated he still owned 21 acres, worth $350, plus $65 of stock.This is the last tax information available on the Genweb site.

1891 became a sad year for the Sellers family as son Franklin passed away on  December 6, at just 25 years of age. He was buried in Persimmon Grove Cemetery.

By the time of the 1900 census, Foster still farmed in the Gubser's Mill area, living with with Sarah, while the 1910 census list shows him in the same area, living on Persimmon Grove road. (All of these small communities are very familiar to me, especially from my childhood.)  His occupation now was "own income," which  may mean that he had now retired, being 73 years old, with a war wound.

Foster's final appearance on census records came in 1920, when the enumeration showed him living in the Carthage precinct, on Carthage Road. On the same census page also appears Oscar McCormick, my great-great grandfather, and his family, including my then 7-year old grandfather, all just a few houses away from the Sellers family. This makes it conceivable that my ancestors knew this old Civil War veteran, which I admit intrigues me greatly.

Foster Sellers passed away on April 3, 1920, 83 years old, and was buried in Persimmon Grove Cemetery, the same place his son  was buried (and where my grandfather would be buried in 1993.)  Unfortunately, his last name was somehow misspelled as "Sellars" on his headstone (but one form on and some records for his  parents and brother on the genweb site used that same spelling.)

author’s photo

Sarah DeMoss Sellers died on January 29, 1929 and was also laid to rest in Persimmon Grove Cemetery, though apparently without a headstone. 

Please watch for the next post, which will examine Foster Seller's Civil War career, and another which will examine his twin brother's life and Civil War service.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Father Remembers His Son

I just came across this sad account in the Cincinnati Enquirer of November 19, 1862 and thought that Father’s Day was a good a time to post it, but I got distracted and here it is one day late. 

Mr. Daly obviously had read or heard reports about the Battle Richmond, one of the most decisive Confederate victories of the war.


Departed this life, on the 13th of September, 1862, at the house of Mr. Moore, in Garrard County, Kentucky, occasioned  by wounds received in the battle between Federal and rebel forces, near Richmond in that State, on the 30th of August last, my son, Robert Emmett Daly, First Sergeant Company E, Sixty-ninth Regiment Indiana volunteers

The deceased was born on the 2d day of November, 1835, a short distance from Eaton, Preble. County, Ohio, whence he was removed by his parents to Randolph County, Indiana on the 30th of September 1843. Here he volunteered on the 26th of July last. His career was short but brilliant. He lost his own life in trying to save that if his comrades, and in defense of that flag and that Constitution which I taught him from his infancy to revere. Like the hero I named him after, “For his country he lived, for his country he died.”  (See this linkUnlike the Irish patriot, however, who fell a victim to British treachery and tyranny, through the instrumentality of the blood-stained Norbury, my son fell a victim to the worse than imbecility of his superiors, who led an undisciplined army to contend with veterans vastly their superior in point of numbers.

Farewell, Robert! farewell, my much-loved child! I taught you how to live, I taught you how to die. You have faithfully fulfilled my last injunction to you; you have not swerved from the path of duty; you did not desert your flag in the time of danger. Farewell! a long, a sad farewell, my noble boy! till we meet again in the regions of eternal beatitude, which shortly, very shortly,  perhaps, will be the case. In the mean time, Requiescat in pace. Amen



Wednesday, June 10, 2020

“I am Fighting to Put Down Rebellion”

I found these stories in the Cincinnati Enquirer of January 26, 1862 and felt this perspective was worth sharing. 

It is not unusual to read of a Union soldier or group of soldiers opposed to the abolition of slavery as a war aim, so seeing anti-abolition sentiments in this letter from a soldier in the first few months of the war is not a shock. I do find myself wondering what this private felt about the Emancipation Proclamation, preliminarily issued about 8 months later, if he survived that long. 

This story further interests me because the 44th Ohio was one of the units in the northern Kentucky area around or just after the Siege of Cincinnati, a topic this blog has mentioned several times. It is kind of a local angle to this story. 

Also note that both this newspaper and the individual who wrote the letter were from Ohio, a “free state” in the North, yet both still expressed anti-abolitionist attitudes. That is not surprising from Cincinnati, which had many ties to the South, and is pretty typical of the Enquirer’s attitudes.

Abolition Tracts Among the Volunteers
Camp Piatt, January 12, 1862

To the Editors of the Enquirer:

SIR: Inclosed you will find a cursed Abolition document - it will speak for itself - which the negro worshippers are distributing among the soldiers in large quantities. Comment, if it is worth comment - and of course it is - I leave you to make. If I had time, I would write a long article on the subject, but I have not, as I’m but a private - and that is the reason I got the document. Privates are supposed to have no sense, or just sense enough to be made to believe and do anything; but the paper got into the wrong hands this time. And, further, I will say, or ask, if such papers are allowed to be distributed among the soldiers so profusely, when will this war end? This much I would like to say to them: I am not fighting to free negroes; and if they want them freed, let them do the fighting themselves. I will not. I would as soon shoot a real Abolitionist as a Secesh. I consider that they are as much the instigators of this war as any man in the South, and even more so; yet they claim to be Union men. Such Union men ought to be in purgatory. They now boldly declare their purpose, and are distributing their infernal trash among the ignorant soldiers, as they suppose; But there are some of them sharp enough to see what they are driving at. 

I am a native of Ohio, but not an Abolitionist, by any means; and I am fighting to put down rebellion, not to free negroes.

A Soldier,
Forty-fourth Ohio Regiment


Here is how the editor reacted to this letter. In the first paragraph, I added the emphasis in bold because that is a line I’ve often seen or heard in discussions of slavery, but it is the first time I remember seeing it so explicitly stated in a period newspaper.

Cincinnati Enquirer January 26, 1862   


We publish elsewhere a letter from a volunteer in the Forty-fourth Ohio Regiment  in relation to the distribution among the troops of Abolition documents. Accompanying the letter was a tract Entitled “CATECHISM FOR WORKINGMEN.”  It purports you have been  published by the “American Reform and Tract and Book Society of Cincinnati, Ohio.”  We have before noticed Abolition tracts issued from this manufactory, and designed for circulation among the troops. The one before us is filled with the usual Abolition sophistries, that slavery produced the war and ought to be destroyed. Purporting to be written “by the son of a blacksmith,” it makes an appeal to workingmen to aid in wiping slavery from off the face of the land. Every intelligent workingman knows that liberating four million slaves, to be the competitors in the field of voluntary labor with laboring whites, is not going to elevate but rather degrade the whites. The laboring whites at the South, though poor, know that they are not on a level with the blacks, as this tract asserts they are, but are a superior race. It is that knowledge that makes them take the interest they do in thwarting the schemes of the Abolitionists. The tract before us aims to induce the white laboring man and woman to aid in putting themselves on a level with the blacks. 

“A SOLDIER” sees through the game, and tells the intermeddlers, who are the primary cause of the war, that he regards them in the same light he does the rebels, that he is fighting to put down the rebellion, not to free the slaves, and that he can not be made their tool. That is plain talk, and we rejoice to hear it from such a source. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Decoration Day

Here are a few images of antique Decoration Day postcards. There are many more out there but I feel these few from my collection represent and express the reasons for Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Sketch of Rebel Hospitals

This was in the Cincinnati  Enquirer June 2 1863. The full title seems a bit inaccurate, or at least the final line does, but it is a good description of one young patient. 

A Sketch of Rebel Hospitals - The Wounded Artillerymen - What I Saw In a Hospital - Reformation of the System

From the Knoxville (Tenn.)  Whig May 11

On three long rows of narrow cots, on either side of the great hall, are sick and wounded soldiers. On that nearest cot is a mere boy. How listlessly and wearily he gazes through the open window. His hand, lying (ILLEGIBLE, perhaps “outside”) the soiled and stained coverlid, is white as a snow-flake. He raises his pale face from the pillow of straw, and his eyes grow bright when a soft voice pronounces words of sympathy and love. He can move with the utmost difficulty, since his leg, that was crushed by a cannon-ball, was amputated. He does not complain when he shows you the bandaged stump that is left, but his deep sunken eyes and little wrists so thin, with the blue veins so clearly marked, and the dropping fingers tell, with touching eloquence, what the poor soldier boy has suffered. Twice has that sunken limb been subjected to the Surgeon’s knife. It was taken off first at the ankle, just after the battle. The Surgeon hoped to save the rest of the leg, but afterward they found it must be taken off higher up, just above the knee, and the patient sufferer wen through with the agony over again. It would make a woman weep to think over it; but men become accustomed to such incidents, and the fountain of our sympathies have been exhausted by the demands made upon them since this horrible and unnatural war began. 

The Surgeon says he will get well slowly, but he is so listless and pale, and wears a look of such unutterable weariness, that life itself seems burdensome to the wounded soldier. He says he is so tired looking at the long rows of cots with a groaning sick person in each; at the rows of windows, too, down the long hall; he grows weary moving his wasted fingers round and round the figures on the coarse bed-quilt; he wearied of looking at the withered stump of a limb, and wondering how he shall learn to walk with only one leg, and he wearies lying in one position hour after hour and day after day, without turning over. I thought as I watched the pale wan sufferer, that I would like to hang some pictures on the bare wall for the poor boy to look at and think about as he lies without one word of sympathy from any human being. Now gladly would he receive a fresh bunch of flowers from a sister’s or a mother’s hand! He would smile then, and the blood would flow from his heart with something of its wonted vigor. How sad to think that, instead of this, he must lie there through all these bright days of spring-time, and sick and nervous and weak, he must see the patient in the next bed die, he must listen to his ceaseless groans, and witness the horrible agonies and writings of the wretched sufferer. He must see him struggle awhile in the grasp of death, and then borne away to the grave by rude attendants who have become as heartless as familiarity with human woes can make them. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Why not hang every Dutchman captured?

This commentary is from the Cincinnati Enquirer of June 25, 1863, reprinted from a Tennessee newspaper, and likely refers to the failed Streight’s Raid. 

Southern News 
From the Knoxville Register June 12


Of late, in all the battles, and in all the recent incursions made by Federal cavalry, we have found the great mass of Northern soldiers to consist of Dutchmen. The plundering thieves captured by Forrest, who stole half the jewelry and watches in a dozen counties of Alabama, were immaculate Dutchmen. The national order (EDITOR’S NOTE:  perhaps the author meant “odor” but the story clearly said “order.”) of Dutchmen, as distinctive of the race as that which, constantly ascending to heaven, has distended the nostrils of the negro, is as unmistakable as that particular to a pole cat, an old pipe, or a lager-beer saloon. Crimes, thefts, and insults to the women of the South, invariably mark the course of these stinking bodies of animated sour kraut. Rosecrans himself is an unmixed Dutchman, an accursed race which has overrun the vast districts of the country of the North-west. 

It happens that we entertain a greater degree of respect for an Ethiopian in the ranks of the Northern armies then for an odiferous Dutchman, who can have no possible interest in this revolution. 

Why not hang every Dutchman captured? We will hereafter hang, or shoot, or imprison for life, all white men taken in command of negroes, and enslave the negroes themselves. This is not too harsh. No human being will assert the contrary. Why, then, should we not hang a Dutchman, who deserves infinitely less of our sympathy than Sambo. The live masses of beer, kraut, tobacco, and rotten cheese, which, on two legs and four, on foot and mounted, go prowling through the South, should be used to manure the sandy plains and barren hillsides of Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

Whenever a Dutch regiment adorn(s) the limbs of a Southern forest, daring cavalry raids into the South shall cease.

President Davis need not be specially consulted, and if an accident of this sort should occur to a plundering band like that captured by Forrest, we are not inclined to believe that our President would be greatly disgruntled. 


This may be the most remarkable Civil War newspaper article I have found. I keep thinking “wow!” every time I re-read it. I certainly know that anti-immigrant sentiment existed during the Civil War, just a few years after the Know Nothing/American Party/Nativist movement in the 1850s, but the harsh language, repeated insults, and non-stop stereotypes in this story somewhat shocked me when I first saw it. Maybe I have not studied this subject enough - I have seen immigrant soldiers in the Union Army referred to as “Lincoln’s hirelings” and, of course, ridicule of the performance of some foreign soldiers, such as at Chancellorsville, but I have not found a story quite like this. Especially noteworthy, in my view, are the comparisons to African-Americans, who certainly were not respected in the South. Could this writer have considered anything a worse insult than those comparisons? 

also wonder if any German-language newspapers reprinted this or similar articles.

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