Posted tagged ‘4th NY Heavy Artillery’

Illuminations

January 20, 2010

Thank you to everyone who attended my Illuminated History:  The Civil War Soldiers of Perinton presentation last night at the Fairport Library.  I was overwhelmed by the positive response, and the genuine interest in my Civil War boys and our Civil War nurse, Mary Jewett Telford.

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

It was a pleasure speaking with so many of you before and after the presentation:  Brian Burkhart, who is diligently tracking the men of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry;  Herb Swingle, who created quite a stir with his connection of John Wilkes Booth to the Rochester area;  Gary Maybee, who shared with me the story of his own Civil War treasures; and Melissa Talma, who took the time to write me an eloquent email expressing her enthusiasm for my project and for learning more about our Civil War heroes.

The heroes illuminated last night included:

George B. Wiltsie, courtesy Jason Puckett

George B. Wiltsie (1837-1865), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Died of typhoid fever contracted as a result of starvation at Salisbury Prison.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Kingsley Brownell (1845-1924), 21st New York Cavalry.  Seriously wounded outside Martinsburg, WV and forced to ride 9 miles as a POW before being paroled 8 months later.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Major Harvey E. Light (1834-1921), 10th Michigan Cavalry.  Major Harvey survived the war and became a prominent citizen in the Pittsford community.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Mary Jewett Telford (1839-1906), Civil War nurse.  Served at Hospital No. 8 in Nashville, TN.  Nurse, author, suffragette, editor and charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps.  Buried at South Perinton Cemetery.

Other Civil War soldiers mentioned during the presentation were:

William B. Lyke (1839-1904), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Captured, along with George B. Wiltsie, at Reams Station.  Died in 1904, age 65.

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Albert E. Lyke (1841-1933), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Shot through the jaw at Spotsylvania.  Took his first plane ride in 1928, at age 87.  Died at age 92.

Edward H. Lyke (c 1843-1864), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Brother of William B. and Albert E. Lyke.  Mortally wounded at Petersburg.

Henry Root (c 1845-1899), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Drummer boy.  Drowned in 1899 after suffering a seizure and falling into the water while fishing.

Jerome Brownell (1843-1921), 108th New York Volunteer Infantry.  Brother of Kingsley Brownell.  Wounded at Gettysburg.

Jacob Telford (1833-1905), 15th Indiana Infantry.  Husband of Mary Jewett Telford.  Wounded at Murfreesboro, TN.

John H. Thurmon (1843-1919), 2nd Missouri Cavalry.  The only Confederate soldier buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Special thanks to descendants Martha Jewett, Evan Marshall, Clay Feeter, Floris A. Lent, Jason Puckett, Mark A. Lannan and Doug Light for supplying me with photos and information about their heroic ancestors.  I very much appreciate the services of Laurie T. Hall who taped the presentation, Charles Profitt as tech guy, Margaret Pilaroscia of the Fairport Library and Alan Keukelaar of the Perinton Historical Society.

There are many more illuminations to come!  Please check my “Cemetery Tours and Presentations” page for information about upcoming events.

Hero Highlight – Nathan Mulford Cook, 6th Co., 1st Battalion Sharpshooters

October 28, 2009
Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta, Ella, Nathan & William Cook

Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta, Ella, Nathan & William Cook

As evening fell, the last light of the day illuminated the yellow leaves covering the ground like a shroud.  It was particularly fitting, as I had stopped by Pittsford Cemetery to pay my respects to Nathan Mulford Cook on the 147th anniversary of his death.

Nathan was born in April of 1842.  He was the fourth child, and third boy, in the Cook family.  It seems his parents, Wiliam Henry and Phebe Rose Terbell Cook, came to Pittsford, New York from Suffolk County, New York sometime before 1840.  The 1840 census shows William working as a carpenter in Pittsford, but by 1850 he was a nurseryman. 

 The Cooks had lost four children between the years of 1845 and 1859.  How concerned William and Phebe must have been when two of their three surviving sons, William Jr. and Nathan, came to them with the news that they wished to join the Union forces.  William Jr. decided to enlist in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Nathan would have been happy with that, until the Sharpshooter scouts came to call.  Nathan was one of only a handful of men who qualified for the Sharpshooters.  He had the skill to shoot ten consecutive shots into a ten inch circle from 200 hundred yards away.  Only two Pittsford men had that ability.  The other, George P. Walters, was mustered into the Sharpshooters on the same day as Nathan.  William and Nathan enlisted within days of each other in August, 1862.  Sadly, they would die within weeks of each other in October of the same year.

I always picture Nathan as a good-natured, gangly boy who loved animals and the outdoors.  His military service record states that he stood 5′ 9″ tall, with a light complexion, dark hair and black eyes.  Unfortunately, the record gives little more information than that.  We know that Nathan died in Pittsford.  Did he even leave home before becoming ill?  Did William, who had shipped out with the 4th NY Heavy Artillery, know that Nathan was sick before he himself became ill with and died from typhoid fever on October 3, 1862?

Upon Nathan’s death on October 28, 1862, he was laid to rest in Pittsford Cemetery at his brother William’s side.  Their four young siblings – Mary Augusta (1844-1845), Charles Terbell (1849-1858), Hannah Terbell (1851-1852) and Ella Frances (1859-1859) – lie beside them.  An older sister, named Phebe Elizabeth but known to the family as “Libby”, married Julian Way Geare and bore him two children, William and Minnie.  Phebe died in 1872 at age 35, followed several months later by her infant daughter Minnie.  Her son, William, passed away just four years later.  Mary Star Cook, younger sister to Nathan and William, lived a long life.  She went on to marry Don Quincy Alvord of Perinton, NY.  They moved to Camden, NY where they raised four sons.  Mary passed away at age 85, living well into the 20th century.  She and her husband are buried at Pittsford Cemetery, as are Phebe and her children.

Brother Edward P. Cook is a mystery to me.  Born in 1840, he was two years older than Nathan, and two years younger than William.  The 1860 census lists Edward’s occupation as a teacher.  Subsequent census records do not give me enough information to undeniably confirm Edward’s identity.  I will continue to gather clues in the hopes that someday I will be able to track Edward.

The fates of Nathan and William Cook haunt me.  Two young men, who should have been enjoying the beginnings of their adult lives, were instead lying in the ground.  Illness took them before they could prove themselves on the battlefield.  The Cook family suffered more than their fair share of early deaths.

Hero Highlight – William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

October 3, 2009
William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

I stopped by his grave on this crisp, sunny October day.   Tears fell as I remembered him on the anniversary of his death, for it was on this day, 147 years ago, that William Cook died.

William Henry Cook, Jr., was the second child of William Henry and Phebe Rose Terbell Cook.  They must have been so proud the day he was born.  Already parents to a beautiful little girl, Phebe Elizabeth, William was another wonderful addition to their family.  Little did they know that nearly 24 years later William would be taken from them forever, a victim of typhoid fever contracted just a few months after his enlistment in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.

After the birth of William in October 1838, another 7 children would be born to the Cook family within a 21 year span.  William was followed by brother Edward, then Nathan, Mary Augusta, Mary Star, Charles, Hannah and Ella.  Sadly, four of these children died in infancy.  Maps of the time show the Cook land south of today’s Monroe Avenue near the intersection of current-day Sutherland Street.  Father William worked as a nurseryman and by 1860, William and brother Nathan were working as farm laborers. 

The Civil War must have seemed exciting to two young men who had probably not traveled very far from Pittsford.  Did William discuss his decision to join the Union Army with anyone?  How long did it take him to enlist once his mind was set to go?  We will probably never know the answer to these questions.  What we do know is that William enlisted in Battery C of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery on August 14, 1862.  Brother Nathan, four years younger than William, was selected to join the 1st Battalion of Sharpshooters after his enlistment on August 21.  And with kisses and tears from their family, the boys set off on their journeys.

William is mentioned in George Wiltsie’s wartime diary.  William and George were both in Battery C, but were asked to transfer to Battery H just one month after enlistment.  This they did, but the transition was barely completed before both young men fell ill with typhoid fever soon after arriving at Fort Pennsylvania.  George B. Wiltsie recovered, but William Cook died of the disease at Fort Ethan Allen on October 3, 1862.  If he had lived just one more week, William would have celebrated his 24th birthday.

I stopped by his grave on this crisp, sunny October day.  A beautiful day to remember a soldier who is forever young.

George Wiltsie’s Wartime World

June 11, 2009
George B. Wiltsie, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

George B. Wiltsie, 4th NY Heavy Artillery, standing second from left

In April I received an incredible gift in the mail, courtesy of Bill Keeler of the Perinton Historical Society and Fairport Museum.  Bill has spent much time transcribing the Civil War diary of George B. Wiltsie which came into the possession of the Fairport Museum last year.  The disk I received contained the transcription, and soon I was transported back in time, into George Wiltsie’s wartime world.

George B. Wiltsie was born on May 16, 1837, the seventh child of Thomas Wiltsie and his wife Rachel Brownell Wiltsie.  The Wiltsie family homestead was located in Duanesburg, New York until the spring of 1834, when the entire Wiltsie family traveled by packet boat on the Erie Canal toward their new home.  Maps of the time show that the Wiltsies settled on land west of the Erie Canal in Perinton, New York, right about where Route 31 passes over the canal between Mill and Kreag Roads.  It was here that George Wiltsie’s story began.

Little is known of George’s early life in Perinton.  We can imagine that life must have been hectic in a household that eventually grew to include 11 children.  Thomas Wiltsie was a farmer, and George followed in his father’s footsteps until August 12, 1862.  That was the day that George enlisted in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery.

George’s first journal entry is written one week later, and expresses his reasons for joining the fight:  “August 19, 1862 …I bid adieu to friends and old associates, feeling it a duty to [fight] for home and its comforts, to assist in the rescue of a Government in peril.”  The next few entries in the journal tell of traveling with the Army, and of the poor food and filthy conditions.  It occurred to me that through most of the diary, George was very optimistic and upbeat.  He mentioned having leave and seeing the Smithsonian and the Liberty Bell.  He commented on the beautiful architecture that he saw on his travels with the Army.  Soon after arriving at Fort Pennsylvania, George came down with typhoid fever.  He managed to pull through and rejoin his unit.  However William Cook, who was a comrade in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery and a fellow Monroe County resident, became sick at the same time as George and died within one week from the disease.  William Cook is another of my Pittsford boys who will be mentioned in upcoming posts. 

George’s happy frame of mind continued even through August of 1864 when, on the 25th, George matter-of-factly mentioned that “…the Rebels advanced on us and the battle commenced which ended with our defeat and capture of a large number of prisoners myself among the number.”  I can’t even imagine the terror I would feel at being captured by the enemy.  However, George took his imprisonment in stride and even managed to joke about his new surroundings, “Paid adieu to Libby [Prison] this morning and went to the famous resort of Uncle Sam’s boys for three days better known by them as Bell Island.”  Ultimately ending up in Salisbury Prison, George’s journal chronicles the boredom, crime and lack of proper shelter at Salisbury but still sounds optimistic.

As the days turned into months of imprisonment, George’s optimism began to fade.  The entry for November 8, 1864 noted that it was Election Day and George wished he could vote for Abraham Lincoln.  The last journal entry was made on December 9, 1864.  He may have already been ill with the typhoid fever that would take his life in Annapolis, Maryland on March 21, 1865.  His body was returned home and buried at Pittsford Cemetery beside his sisters Antoinette and Eliza and his brother Frank.  The man who remarked on the beauty of architecture and who took joy in historical monuments was dead at the young age of 28.

I have seen a photo of George B. Wiltsie.  It is in the personal collection of Jason Puckett, a Wiltsie family descendant.  Unbelievably, Jason bought the photo on eBay.  It was labeled with the names of the four soldiers pictured – William B. Lyke, George Wiltsie, Henry Root and Albert E. Lyke.  The Lyke boys are mentioned several times in George’s journal.  George is standing second from left sporting a bushy black beard.  Military service records provided by the New York State Archives show that George had brown eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion, and that he stood 5′ 4 1/2″ tall.

After sharing his photo of George Wiltsie, Jason shared something with me that meant even more.  In an email, Jason wrote to me, “You have taken it upon yourself to remember my ancestors and acknowledge their existence when others might just think of them as headstones in the cemetery. I honestly doubt that there is anyone that goes to visit George’s grave anymore out of remembrance of his life. You still do that, and I thank you for that respect for my family.  I really just want to say thank you because it is an honor to me and my family that someone cares enough to remember. Your passion for the Civil War and the men who chose to serve inspires me.  Thank you so much for taking your time to remember my family and the other men who were willing to give their lives to defend my family.”  Jason’s eloquence moved me to tears. 

The goal of my Civil War project, cemetery tours, speaking engagements and my Illuminated History blog is to remember these men who took time out of their lives to serve our country during a period of division and strife.  It honors the memories of our hometown heroes because their stories deserve to be told.   Every time I place a flag by a Civil War soldier’s grave, I speak their name and promise aloud that they will not be forgotten.


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