On this Memorial Day weekend when we honor those who served in our nation's wars, I recall my ancestors (both near relations and more distant) who fought during the American Civil War. The predecessor to Memorial Day was Decoration Day, with origins claimed by both North and South and even by the African American community in war-ravaged Charleston, SC. I include in this roster the Confederates in the family as well as those who wore the Federal Blue and fought to preserve the Union (or for personal reasons of their own).
Nathaniel B. Abbott: Drummer, Company K, 133rd New York Volunteer Inf. (2nd Metropolitans) 1862-1863; Company A, 10th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps (V.R.C.) 1863-1865. (He was left behind sick with Typhoid at Fortress Monroe when his regiment sailed to join Banks in Louisiana and was discharged 1/3 disabled in February, 1863. He reenlisted in the V.R.C in June, 1863 and served until November, 1865. Family tradition has him beating the long roll at Lincoln's funeral)
[He was my Gr-great Grandfather on the Abbott side.]
Theodore F. Abbott: Private, Company A, 9th New York Volunteer Inf. (Hawkin's Zouaves) 1861-1863 (He was wounded at Roanoke Island, 1862)
[ He was my Gr-gr-great Uncle on the Abbott side, the brother of Nathaniel Abbott]
Samuel Barker, Jr.: Private, Company G, 37th Wisconsin Volunteer Inf. 1865 (He enlisted underage in March 1865).
[ He was my Gr-great grandfather on the Barker side.]
Charles G. Johnson: Wagoner, Company B, 5th New York Volunteer Inf. (Duryea's Zouaves) 1861-1863; Wagoner, Company G., 146th New York Volunteer Inf. (Garrard's Tigers) 1863, 1864; Wagon master; 1st Division (Griffin's), Vth Corps, Army of the Potomac 1864 (Enlisted for 3 years, served 2 years with 5th New York from Big Bethel to Chancellorsville, transferred with 3 years men to 146th New York and served with this unit from Gettysburg to North Anna)
[ He was my step Great-great Grandfather on the Livingston side.]
Jesse M. Jones: Hospital Steward, U.S.S. "Monitor" 1862. (Served during the epic battle of the Ironclads at Hampton Roads, VA, discharged in October 1862 before the "Monitor" was lost off Cape Hatteras, NC)
William N. Olmsted: Private, 7th New York State Militia 1861 (Served 30 days in the defense of Washington, D.C. at the outbreak of hostilities.)
[ He was my Gr-great grandfather on the Olmsted side.]
William Taylor: Trooper, company A, 1st New York Volunteer Cav. (Lincoln Cavalry) 1861 (fell from horse during training in October 1861 and discharged disabled, died of complications from injury in 1864).
[ He was my Gr-gr-great Grandfather on the Livingston side.]
Archibald Gracie, Jr.: Captain, Washington Infantry of Mobile 1860-1861; Captain, 3rd Alabama Volunteer Inf. C.S.A.; Major, 11th Alabama Volunteer Inf. C.S.A. 1861-1862; Colonel, 43rd Alabama Volunteer Inf. C.S.A. 1862; Brigadier General, Gracie's Brigade 1862-1864. (Wounded at Beans Station, TN 1863, KIA Petersburg December 2, 1864)
[He was my Gr-gr-great Uncle, brother of Esther Gracie on the Ogden side.]
Charles H. Olmstead: Major, Lt. Colonel and Colonel, 1st South Carolina Volunteers, C.s.A. 1861-1865 (He commanded Fort Pulaski and reinforced Fort Wagner during the first assault.)
[He was 2nd cousin to my Gr-gr-great grandfather Edward Olmsted, so my 2nd cousin 5th times removed on the Olmsted side.]
Modern words do not adequately express what these me thought and did, why they fought and what the sacrificed. I honor in them what I do not fully comprehend, knowing that all was not as it appears in rose-tinted memory. Better to let the words of Abraham Lincoln speak for themselves:
"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war...testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated...can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate...we cannot consecrate...we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who fought here have consecrated it, far better than our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be here dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...and that the government of the people, by the people...for the people...shall not perish from the Earth."