Archive for the ‘Civil War’ category

Chester Hutchinson and the Mystery of Ira Ingerson

April 30, 2012

After my April 3rd post on Chester Hutchinson, several readers were interested in learning more about the poems written in celebration of his 80th and 85th birthdays.  Let me just say that I am not an expert on poetry.  However, I find the poems to be quite different in feeling and sentiment.

The first poem, by Ira Ingerson of Dewittville, New York in Chautauqua County, was written in honor of Chester’s 80th birthday.  It was published in the Monroe County (NY) Mail on July 28, 1921.   Here’s the mystery:  Who was Ira Ingerson, and why did he write a birthday poem for Chester Hutchinson? 

Research on Ira Ingerson began by searching newspaper archives.  Not much was found about him there.  Next, I tried  I was able to track Ira in census records from 1850 through 1930.  It appears Ira was born circa 1849 to Harry and Harriet Ingerson, and he lived the majority of his life in Chautauqua County, New York.  Ira and his wife, Elizabeth, had at least five sons together – George, Marion, Eugene, Leon and Llewellyn – who were born between 1869 and 1879. 

The mystery deepened as I found a 1910 census record showing Ira was married to a woman named Julia, and had been for three years.  It was listed as Ira’s second marriage.  However, a Find A Grave memorial for Ira’s first wife, Elizabeth, states that she died in 1926.  An family tree gives Elizabeth’s death date as 1932.  Are those sources both inaccurate and Elizabeth died prior to 1907, were there two different Ira Ingersons who were the same age living in the same town, or were Ira and Elizabeth divorced?

It occurred to me that Ira may have served in the Civil War with Chester Hutchinson, but I found no documentation to verify that idea. So, however it happened and whatever Ira’s relationship was to Chester, Ira Ingerson wrote the following poem in celebration of Chester Hutchinson’s 80th birthday.  We’ll follow up with the second poem, by Franc Fassett Pugsley, in our next post.

Eighty years of life I’ve lived,

Its pleasures, peace and strife:

Its end cannot be far away,

I’ll not complain, I’ve had my day.


I recollect long years ago,

My cheeks were red with youthful glow:

They now are pale, my hair is gray,

I’ll not complain, I’ve had my day.


In youthful days around me stood

So many friends, both true and good:

They now are gone, alone I stay,

I’ll not complain, I’ve had my day.


Yet not alone, ‘round me arrayed

Are later friends that I have made,

Both kind and true and good are they;

I’ll not complain, I’ve had my day.


What others feel of joys or woes,

For my own part, I do not know.

Have I had my share?  I cannot say.

I’ll not complain, I’ve had my day.


But there’s another, better clime,

Where years eternal ever shine.

Hope, only hope, sends a glorious ray,

I’ll not complain, I’ve had my day.


I’ve had my day, I’ll not complain:

In that blest land, no sorrow, no pain:

For the Master, Himself, will gently say,

I am the life, I am the way.

Oh, the thought how it thrills me,

When life’s trials will all be o’er,

I can wait, for at the longest,

It will be only a few years more.


Hero Highlight – Chester Hutchinson, Co. B, 108th NY Infantry

April 3, 2012

“Our marching and countermarching brought us on the 17th of September in front of Lee’s army.  We halted, piled up our haversacks, loaded our guns, and were ready for action…Our position was a hot one, and the air was alive with bullets, shells, shot and canister.”  Civil War veteran Chester Hutchinson’s recollection of being severely wounded at the battle of Antietam nearly thirty two years earlier.

Chester Hutchinson, the fifth of seven children born to Lewis and Betsey Palmer Hutchinson, was born in Penfield, New York, on July 12, 1841.  The Hutchinson family soon moved to Perinton, where Chester’s maternal grandparents, Ira & Sarah Beilby Palmer, were among the earliest settlers of the town.  Lewis Hutchinson supported his large family as a farm laborer and it was expected that Chester would also work the farm.  After the death of his mother in 1849, Chester moved to Pittsford, where he continued his schooling and raised vegetables to be sold in the markets in Rochester.  Ten years later, Chester moved to Fairport and apprenticed in the sash and blind trade run by his uncles, Seymour and John G. Palmer.

After three years at the sash and blind factory, the Civil War beckoned and Chester enlisted in Co. B, 108th NY Infantry on August 4, 1862.  He arrived in Washington, D.C. on a cattle car with other members of his regiment.  Rules were lax at the beginning of the war, and soldiers could sleep where they wished as long as they were present at roll call.  Years after the war, Chester recalled spending his first night in Washington, D.C. sleeping on the east stone steps of the White House.  Soon, Chester would have more to concern him than finding a good spot in which to catch some shuteye. 

One month after enlistment, the men of the 108th NY Infantry received a trial by fire.  On September 17, 1862, the regiment was led into battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland, on what would become the bloodiest single day of fighting of the entire war.  Over 23,000 Union and Confederate casualties occurred at this battle, which the Northerners called Antietam.  Chester Hutchinson was one such casualty.  The gunshot hit his right breast, “the ball glancing along the bone, coming out about four inches from where it entered and stopping” against his right arm.  It took Chester over one year to recover from this wound.  He was successful in his effort to return to his regiment in early 1864; however, Chester was once again quickly engaged in a fight for his life.  This time, it was at the battle of the Wilderness.

Struck in the left breast by a minie ball which passed through his lung, the doctor who dressed Chester’s wound after the battle of the Wilderness pronounced it fatal.  Death would come to Chester Hutchinson, but not in May, 1864.  After lying in pain for three weeks, Chester was transferred to Fredericksburg, Maryland, where he was located by Sergeant Chilson of Company B, 108th NY Infantry.  By the fall of 1864, Chester was sent to City Hospital in Rochester to recuperate, and he remained there until his regiment arrived home and he received his discharge. 

After the war, Chester Hutchinson wed Mary Grover.  For several years, the Hutchinsons made their home in West Bay City, Michigan, where Chester was employed at the Crump Manufacturing Company planing mill and box factory.  After Mary’s death in 1886, Chester and his four children returned home to New York, where they lived for many years at 6 Prospect Street in the village of Fairport.

Hattie Down Wiley became Chester’s second wife on January 1, 1891.  As the widow of another Fairport Civil War soldier, James B. Wiley of the 111th NY Infantry, Hattie brought six children to the marriage.  Chester and Hattie had one son together, Lynn, who died in 1896 at age two.  Hattie and Chester brought up their combined eleven children together and were married for over forty years.

In his later years, Chester was very active in the community.  As a charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) E.A. Slocum Post #211, an organization dedicated to aiding veterans of the Civil War, Chester served in various leadership positions throughout the years.  E.A. Slocum Post #211 was disbanded in 1937 due to the death of its last member, Horace Waddell.  Chester traveled each year to attend reunions of the 108th NY Infantry and, in 1899, he won first place in the reunion shooting contest.  He was also employed as a watchman at a bank, worked at the Dobbin & Moore Lumber Company, was very active in the Baptist Church, and was appointed as a tax collector.

In the 1920s, as the ranks of the Civil War soldiers were diminished by death, Chester Hutchinson became a prominent face in the news.  No fewer than two poems were written about him, which celebrated the milestones of Chester’s 80th and 85th birthdays.   The 85th birthday poem was written by Pittsford resident and elocutionist Franc Fassett Pugsley, a daughter of Chester’s comrade from the 108th NY Infantry, Jonathan J. Fassett.   Mrs. Pugsley managed to fit into her lengthy poem information about Chester’s birth, early life, war experiences and wounds, marriages and children before bestowing this wish upon Chester, “May the sun turn the evening skies to gold and love brighten all the way.” 

The death of Chester Hutchinson occurred on April 19, 1932 at age 90.  Not bad for a man who, 68 years earlier, had been told he wouldn’t survive his wounds.  Chester was buried at Greenvale Cemetery in Fairport beside his son, Lynn, and stepsons Mark & Frank Wiley.  Hattie, his wife of 41 years, joined him in 1940.  A newspaper article written one month after his death stated that, “Chester Hutchinson joined his comrades on the march into eternity, carrying with him the reverence and respect of the people in the community, a patriot and a loyal citizen.” 

This article was originally published in the Perinton Historical Society “Historigram”, Vol. XLIV, No. 7, April 2012.  Learn more about the Perinton Historical Society by visiting their website,

Dr. Andrew F. Sheldon, Originator of the Field Tent Hospital

March 7, 2012

If someone had told Ralph and Minerva Flint Sheldon that their son, Andrew, would grow up to become a renowned physician and a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln, they probably would have scoffed. 

In 1830, Andrew was born in the small town of Huron in Wayne County, New York.  As one of Ralph and Minerva Flint Sheldon’s five children, Andrew was expected to help them with the farm.  However, at some point, Andrew developed an interest in medicine.  At the age of 22, he graduated from the University of New York’s Medical Department.  He married Miss Lucetta Salsbury in 1857, and they began their married life together in Williamson, New York.  They then moved to Junius, New York, where Andrew practiced medicine until he was called upon to put his skills to the test for the Union army during the Civil War.

Seven months into the War, Dr. Sheldon was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon with the 7th New York Cavalry.  In April 1862, he was appointed as Assistant Surgeon with the 78th New York Infantry.  By October of 1862, Andrew had been commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Volunteers.  President Lincoln himself promoted Dr. Sheldon to Surgeon of the United States Volunteers in charge of Campbell Hospital in Washington, D.C. in April, 1863.  It was sometime during these early years of the war that Dr. Andrew Sheldon is credited in the War Department with creating the first field tent hospital.  According to the office of the Wayne County Historian, Andrew F. Sheldon financed the first tent hospitals with his own money after having been unable to obtain the funds elsewhere.  Tent hospitals are still in existence today throughout the world, and serve as an invaluable tool to obtaining immediate medical treatment before the sick and wounded are transported to conventional hospitals.

On April 14, 1865, just hours before his assassination by John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln presented Dr. Andrew F. Sheldon with a case of surgical instruments at Campbell Hospital.  The case, created by G. Tiemann & Company of New York, was made of mahogany with brass corner straps and lock, and the compartments are lined with blue velvet.  Many of the handles on the surgical instruments are of ivory.  That case was, for many years after Andrew’s death, in the collection of his son, Ralph Sheldon, M.D.  In 1948, it was displayed in the Lyons, New York, drugstore window of Bill Dobbins in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Wayne County.  Dr. Sheldon’s surgical case is now in the possession of the Wayne County Historical Society.  President Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Steward personally contributed toward the gift.  On the same date, Dr. Sheldon was presented with an ebony cane mounted with a gold cap and engraved, “Presented to A. F. Sheldon, surgeon U.S.V., by his friends at Campbell Hospital, Washington, D.C. April 14, 1865”.

After the war ended, Andrew resumed his practice.  He and Lucetta had six children together, three of whom died in infancy.  Daughter Nora Belle married Charles F. Powers and they had two sons, Whitney and Albert.  Despite his medical background, Andrew was unable to save the life of his daughter and she died at his home in Lyons at age 35 of gastric catarrh.  Son Ralph followed in his father’s footsteps and became a physician.  Both father and son practiced medicine for over 50 years.  Although Ralph was twice married, he had no children.  Younger son, Albert, became a manager of the International Silver Company based out of Lyons, New York.  He also served as Lyons Village Trustee.  Albert and his wife, Caroline Hersey Sheldon, had one daughter named Mary Elizabeth.

After spending the last 31 years of his life in Lyons, New York, Andrew F. Sheldon died in 1914 at the age of 83.  He and his family are buried in Wayne County, New York. 

Andrew F. Sheldon spent much of his life as a servant of the people.  Besides being a physician, he also spent many years as the Wayne County Treasurer, President of the Soldiers and Sailors Association of Wayne County, and was very active in the G.A.R., a patriotic organization dedicated to aiding veterans of the Civil War.  His greatest legacy, however, is as originator of the field tent hospital during the Civil War.

This article was originally published in the ‘Baker-Cederberg Notebook’, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall-Winter 2010, a semi-annual newsletter published by the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  To learn more about the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives, please visit their website at

Lyman’s Story by guest author Debra Root Howie

February 24, 2012

Introduction by Vicki Profitt, Illuminated History:

Five months ago, Debra Root Howie contacted me with a question pertaining to her Civil War ancestor, Lyman Root.  We sent many emails back and forth, and I invited Debra to share Lyman’s story.  What follows is a narrative of Lyman Root’s life written by his descendant, Debra Root Howie, in her own words.

Foreword by guest author Debra Root Howie:

In March this year (2012) my father would be gone for two (2) years now. As part of my grieving process I decided to continue the genealogy I started almost twenty five (25) years ago. “Lyman’s Story” was written because of all the stories Dad gave to me through my childhood and into my adult life.

Dad told me many stories, many of which, I have been able to prove true. He said to me one day, “There was a man in the family who fought in a famous war, but I don’t know his name and I don’t know which war.” I hung on that statement from him and I decided to prove him right, again. I started with basically nothing. I had interviewed my aunt twenty five (25) years ago, reviewed the taped interview from her and found  a few hints. The name Lu Lu came up as well as ‘someone’ heading out west. Well! A few more hints!

I decided to just dig in (no pun intended) and search. I knew my grandfather’s name but not anyone before him.  I found an application for marriage made out by my Dad’s father, Carl Castor Root. That is when I found and read for the first time, my great grandparents names, Lyman and Luevilla Root.  That was the first of many thrills in searching for Lyman.

My travel through time for Lyman has been absolutely amazing and thrilling. I have learned so much more about my Dad than I could have ever imagined. I learned about his many grandfathers’ through the early years of this country’s development and how loyal and dedicated they were to God, family and country. In one of Lyman’s medical reports from the Civil War during an illness, G. W. Hannah M.D. wrote that he was ‘anxious to get back to camp’. I thought it showed how dedicated he was to the war and the other soldiers he fought with. That is exactly how Dad would have felt. He said when he was in the service he ‘never asked someone to do something he would never do himself’. I feel the quality of fairness and loyalty was passed through the generations’ right to my father, through me and into my own children.

I thought it especially appropriate that I was discovering my great grandfather Pvt. Lyman Root Civil War Soldier, during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. He was trained right here in Rochester and served with the 140th Company H! I discovered he was captured and sent to Andersonville Prison in Georgia for 6 months. Andersonville was said to be the worst prison during the war. Now that proves what kind of determination he had for survival! Dad would have been so proud to have known what kind of grandfather he had.

I hope someday to make it to Little Falls, Minnesota to view Lyman’s stone. I am told it is worn and difficult to read, but to see it for myself would be an ending to Lyman’s story and really, an ending to one of Dad’s stories told to me through my years with the gift of having my dad as my Dad.

I can’t thank the people enough who directed me into a direction in which I ran, crazed with the idea of finding my ancestors and in the end, learning more about Dad, myself and the families from which I came.


Lyman was born in Victor, Monroe County, New York, USA. Victor was the centre of many converging roads. In 1798 the site of the village contained two log houses, owned and occupied by Captain A. Hawley, Sr and his son, James.  Toward the depot lived Peter Turner and Isaac Root who was Lyman’s great grandfather. Isaac owned a farm of 100 acres which he later sold and split between two people. He and his wife, Mary were two of the original members of the Presbyterian Church. He was also one of the deacons on July 10, 1812. Both Isaac and Mary’s lives were passed in the village. The Presbyterian church still stands today in the middle of the very busy and beautiful town. Behind the church is a very well kept cemetery where Isaac and Mary are interred.

Born to parents Harry and Henrietta (Reeves) Root, Lyman’s birth date was May 22, 1847. In 1850 he was four (4) years old and living in Victor. Lyman was the first of six (6) children born. His siblings names were Adna, William, Adella , James and Edmund. In the 1865 Federal Census he was listed as “Louisa”, a male, age fourteen (14). Obviously that was a mistake and should have been Lyman.  The 1860 Federal Census, the 1865 State Census as well as the 1870 Federal Census shows the family inMendon,New York. In the 1870 United States Federal Census Noah Root was living with the family. Noah was Lyman’s uncle on his father Harry’s side of the family. Harry Root, as shown in the 1870 United States Federal Census, was a carpenter and a constable. Henrietta was keeping house.

Between 1860 and 1865 there was quite a bit of activity going on in our country with lots of changes taking place. Abraham Lincoln was president. March 4, 1861, seven southern states declared their secession and joined together to form the Confederate States of America. That act was not taken lightly by the Northern States and even some of the Southern States. In 1861 the Civil War started by the Confederacy firing on Fort Sumter.

In early July of 1862, President Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each northern state to recapture federal property. The President asked for 300,000 three-year troops to bring the unnecessary civil war to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. Within one month in Rochester, an entire regiment of infantry had been raised, along with replacements for others already in the field, but before the 108th New York Regiment Infantry even left Rochester, there came another request for troops.

This call was also for 300,000 men who would serve as reserve militia in August. Recruiting stations were set up and war meetings were held. By Friday, August 22, it was reported that 677 men had already signed up with 260 enrolling on Thursday alone. The 260 were total recruits; of that number 175 men enlisted in what became the 140th.

In 1862 Lyman traveled from Mendon, N.Y., to Monroe County, Rochester N.Y.  On the 21st of August 1862 at the age of 18 Lyman enlisted into the 140th Infantry Unit Company H for the Union side. Records state his occupation was that of being a farmer. He was 5 ft. 6” high with black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion. On the American Civil War Soldier sources Lyman’s birth year was around 1844. In order to join the 140th he had to have lied about his age as several census records show Lyman was really only 15 years of age. If the ranks had found him out, Lyman would have been told to leave as did happen to men who lied about their ages. According to the U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles sourced by the ‘Report of the Adjutant-General’ ofNew York, Lyman Root entered at the rank as a Private.

Lyman was mustered in at Camp Fitz-John Porter on September 13, 1862.  This camp was authorized on July 15, 1862. The camp was named after General Fitz-John Porter.  Its location was along the Genesee River in Rochester across from what later became the River Campus of the Universityof Rochester.  The entrance was at Cottage St. near Magnolia St.  The 108th and 140th NY Infantry Regiments trained there.  Over 500 men were housed at the camp before they left.

The 140th left Rochester September 19, 1862 on the New York Central Railroad—24 cars long—about noon.  It was heading for Elmira, then on to Washington, Baltimore, and wherever else they were assigned.

Lyman’s entire schedule after he entered the battle fields is not known, but we do know that he fought in the battle at NorthAnna River.  He became a D.S. (?) Provost Guard of Brigade Headquarters from June 20, 1863 through February 1864.  He then appeared for duty with his regiment in March and April 1864.  He was captured on May 27, 1864 at Hanover Junction and confined at Richmond, VA, May 28, 1864.  He was sent to Andersonville, Georgia on May 31, 1864 and spent 6 months in Andersonville prison.  He was sent to Camp Lawton on November 20, 1864.  He was paroled at Savannah, Georgiaon November 21, 1864.  He became sick, and in December of 1864 he was sent home on furlough for 30 days. G. W. Hannah, M.D., was caring for Lyman. In one of his reports he mentioned how Lyman was very anxious to get back to camp. He returned from Rochester to Annapolis, Maryland on the Erie Railroad on February 20, 1865 and was in the 2nd Division Hospital in March and April of 1865.  He returned to his regiment in April of 1865.  He was mustered out on June 3, 1865 near Alexandria,Virginia after serving two years and nine months.

When Lyman came back to Mendon from the war, he lived with his parents until he married Luevilla (LuLu) Hunter around 1874. Luevilla was born ca. 1855 and died May 31, 1882 in childbirth at age 27 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Mendon Cemetery. At that time he and his wife, Luevilla, were living with his parents in Mendon.   By the year 1880, they were living in their own home with their children:  Thomas b. 1875, Claude b. 1876, Bessie b. 1877 and Carl b. 1880.  The 1880 Census listed Lyman as being a building mover and living in Mendon.

Luevilla died May 31, 1882 and was buried in the Mendon Cemetery.  Lyman was obviously in need of someone to care for his children (who were between the ages of seven and two) because he married Mary Leonard / Lenore on January 19, 1883.  Her family was from France and migrated to Canada. Mary’s birth date was about 1861. She had a daughter, Elizabeth, from a former marriage She traveled alone as a widow with her young child fromCanada to Minnesota and then to Mendon in 1882.  Elizabeth died before 1884.  Together, Lyman and Mary had four children in Mendon:  Della b. 1884, Francis (Frank) b. 1886, Lyman Jr. b. 1887, and Mary Ellen b. 1889.  Lyman applied to the US Government for an Invalid Pension in 1890.

Sometime toward the end of 1891 or early 1892, Lyman and his family moved to Minnesota.  It is not known the reason but possibly his wife Mary, had family there.   It is not known how they got there.  Pearl was born in September of 1892 in Minnesota. Lyman Jr. died one month before his father in July of 1893. Lyman died August 25, 1893 in Little Falls, Minnesota at the age of 47 after he was honored with medals from fighting with the 140th and Gettysburg. It is said he was so ill he could not accept his medals so Mary had to accept them in place of Lyman.  Lyman, his son Lyman Jr., Mary  were buried in Oakland Cemetery, Little Falls, Morrison County.  His headstone was provided by the Deceased Union Civil War Veterans organization in 1894.  His death notice from the Little Falls Daily Transcript indicated that he left a wife and several children in “reduced circumstances.”  On April 10, 1893 his wife, Mary, applied for a Widow’s Pension and never married again. She was listed on the 1920 United States Federal Census at the age of 59 but not found in the census for 1930.

Hero Highlight – Harvey E. Light, Co. E, 10th Michigan Cavalry

January 7, 2012

A visit to Major Harvey E. Light’s grave always draws a captive audience when Audrey Johnson and I give our annual Pittsford Cemetery tour in May.  However, this year we managed to elicit gasps from the crowd when it was announced that a descendant of Major Light was in our midst.  Doug Light, Harvey’s great-great grandson, had traveled from his home in Texas to attend the tour.  This was Doug’s first trip to Pittsford, where he had come to pay tribute to the man so many admired.

Harvey E. Light’s story began in 1834, when he was born at Fishkill-on-the-Hudson, the first child of blacksmith James Light and his wife, Maria Devine.  The family moved to Fairport when Harvey was an infant.  At a young age, Harvey left school to help support the family by working on the farm of Jesse Whitney, currently the location of the Fairport Baptist Home.  He also worked on the Webster farm in Pittsford.    Harvey may have met his future wife, Mary Helen Shepard, during this time.  Mary Helen’s father, Sylvester Shepard, was an early settler to Pittsford with his brother, William Shepard.

In 1852, James sold his land in Fairport to Daniel B. DeLand and moved the family, now consisting of nine children, to Greenville, Michigan.  Harvey followed the family to Michigan in the mid-1850s where he worked as a nurseryman.  Eventually, he bought his own farm and expanded his nursery business to include 300 acres of pine trees.  Harvey returned to New York in 1861 to wed Mary Helen Shepard at the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford.  Together, they traveled to Michigan where Harvey was elected Sheriff of Montcalm County.

Soon after the birth of his first child in July 1863, Harvey was given permission to raise a company to join in the war effort.  He hired a bugler, a snare drummer and a bass drummer to help “drum up” interest in the war enlistment meetings which were held throughout the area.  Company E, 10th Michigan Cavalry went off to war with the newly commissioned Captain Harvey E. Light at its helm.

Major Harvey E. Light, 10th Michigan Cavalry

Much of Harvey’s time with the 10th Michigan Cavalry was spent in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area.  After a time, Harvey was sent back to Michigan to recruit more men.  He must have been quite persuasive, for he managed to enlist his brother Dewitt to join Co. E.  Younger brothers Edward and George served in the 8th Michigan Infantry.  Amazingly, all four Light boys survived the war.  Harvey E. Light was promoted to Major before mustering out on November 11, 1865.

Four more sons and a daughter were born to the Lights in the years following the Civil War.  The family moved to Massachusetts in 1873, where Harvey had purchased a foundry, but returned to Pittsford several years later.  They lived on the Shepard family homestead on East Avenue, which has since been razed.  Harvey was very active in the community, serving throughout the years as an active member of the First Presbyterian church, a census taker, Grange member and Commander of the G.A.R. EJ Tyler Post #288, an organization composed of Civil War veterans.

Harvey continued to live on his farm after the death of his wife in 1902.  It was there that Major Harvey E. Light died on September 17, 1921.  He was buried at Pittsford Cemetery on his 87th birthday.  A newspaper article announcing Major Harvey E. Light’s death stated that “…in his character were to be found, in a large degree, the attributes of the gentlemen of the old school – courtesy, politeness, thoughtfulness for the welfare and successfulness of others, combined with sterling integrity…the example to be found in his life is one that might well be emulated by the young men of this generation.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of the Historic Pittsford newsletter.

Marching On

January 1, 2012

The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.  In such a momentous year, I was given the opportunity to discuss the lives of our local Civil War soldiers to audiences in schools, churches, historical societies and cemeteries.

The first ever serial, in which I told the tale of A Wicked Affair:  The Lives of John Jay White and Edward F. Clum, ran in July and August on Illuminated History.  The saga lent itself well to the serial format, and it is something I would like to explore again in the future.  Through the other months of this busy year, Illuminated History highlighted the secretive – and controversial – uses of Civil War quilts, spotlighted Civil War soldier James Austen and even heralded a visit to the Perinton Historical Society by President Ulysses S. Grant, as portrayed by historian Steve Trimm of Grant Cottage.

The joy I receive from researching these local heroes is expanded tenfold every time I hear from one of their descendants.  In 2011, I was fortunate to be in contact with no less than four descendants of Major Harvey E. Light – Doug, Crystal, Mary & Glenn.  Each descendant had different information about the Light family to share with me.  On May 21, 2011, I received a wonderful gift.  Major Harvey Light’s great-great grandson, Doug, flew from Texas to attend my Pittsford Cemetery tour.  This was Doug’s first trip to Pittsford, where he had come to pay tribute to the man so many admired.  A visit to Major Light’s grave during our tour always draws a captive audience, since he is the highest-ranking Civil War soldier buried at the cemetery and he lived an extraordinary life.  At the gravesite, I gave my usual talk about Major Light and his family.  However, I managed to elicit gasps from the crowd after the talk when I said that, for the first time ever, we had a descendant of the Major in our midst.  I then introduced Doug to the group.  One of the most touching moments of my career as a historian was watching Doug place the flag at his great-great grandfather’s grave.

My hope for 2012 is to find time to post more articles on Illuminated History, to continue to contribute updates to Illuminated History Facebook, to persevere in my quest to locate more information about these Civil War heroes and to share that research with anyone who will listen.  Thank you for your continued interest in the lives of the men whose sacrifices may have occurred one hundred and fifty years ago, but whose spirits march on.

Locating Family Photographs

September 28, 2011
Unknown Man from Civil War-era album, V. M. Profitt Collection

Through the years, I’ve had many people ask how they can locate photographs of their Civil War ancestors.  It can be a daunting task, but I went to someone I knew would have the answer to that question.  Ron Erwin has been collecting Civil War memorabilia for many years.  After putting some thought into it, Ron came up with the following checklist for locating family photographs:

First, you would need to know his name and regiment.  Without both, it is almost impossible as there may be more than one Civil War soldier with the same name.  Check state records for possible alternate spellings.

 1. Check with relatives, even distant cousins.

 2. Check on line. Google soldier’s name and regiment.  Try different spellings.  Post request on Civil War bulletin boards.

 3. Visit the local libraries. Ask for his regimental history, any scrapbooks that might have information, newspaper indexes for obits or any photos that might have been donated to local history department.   Look for County Histories and biographies of local people.

 4. Ask at local historical societies.  Most towns have a Town Historian.  Ask for him/her at the Town Hall of any towns of cities soldier lived in.

 5. Put an ad in the local newspapers asking for information on soldier and photo.

 6. Newspapers often have a reporter or columnist who specializes in historical articles and might be able to help.

 7. Ask at local history museums.

 8. The American Civil War Research Database ( has some photos.  It is a membership fee ($25.00) site but
has a free demo; perhaps a local historian has a membership.  U.S. Army Heritage Collections Online has a large collection of photographs at .

 9. Civil War Round Tables often have members who know collectors who have photographs of Civil War soldiers.

 10. Civil War re-enactors are sometimes collectors who have images of Civil War soldiers.   Check local regiments.  Ask at Civil War Re-enactments.

 11. Attend a Gun Show and ask dealers who specialize in Civil War items.

 12. As a last resort one could try calling people in the phone book with the soldiers last name and hope to find a relative with a photo.

Special thanks to Ron Erwin for this excellent checklist. 

Does anyone else have ideas on ways to locate family photographs?  If so, let’s hear them!



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