Tag Archives: Civil War

John Henry Smith: Oldest Brother Goes to War

John Henry Smith 1823-1864

The Young Boy

The oldest brother of my great-grandmother Ann Marie Smith (Butts) had reached twelve years old when my great-grandmother Ann was born.  Being the oldest child of Isaac and Mary Maria Krigbaum Smith, John Henry Smith came to Knox County, Ohio from Maryland with the family when at nine or ten years old.

By the time they moved to Ohio, the Smith family had grown to include five children.  The community they moved to had been settled by fellow Maryland Catholics and in the 1830s, you had to be adventurous to move to Ohio.  While most of the immigrants from the East coast into the Northwest Territory got busy felling trees and clearing thick growth so they could turn the fertile land into farms, father Isaac Smith set up his cobbler’s bench. He served an immediate every day need of the community.  I do not doubt that young John Henry Smith, practically considered a   grown up at ten, would have been helping his father. He might deliver shoes, help to soften leather, and stoke fires.

As the years passed, the family grew. Four more children arrived by 1845, although two died before they were one year old. The youngest boy, George Washington Smith, who had made the trip from Maryland as a baby, died at seven years old. In the years between his eleventh and fifteenth birthday, John saw three siblings die. (See a summary of the Isaac Smith family here).

John Henry Smith Starts a Family

John Henry Smith wedding

Marriage license from the Justice of the Peace in Mt. Vernon, Knox County.

Soon after he came of age, Henry, as he was probably called, married Rebecca Jane Draper in  Mt. Vernon, the county seat. They chose a wedding before a Justice of the Peace rather than a Catholic ceremony. Rebecca and Henry married in March and in November of the same year, Henry’s oldest sister, Mary Jane, married Cyrus Stephens. 

John Henry Smith started a very small farm in Knox County, and his first son, Jeremiah Warden Smith was born in 1847.  Late the year before, Henry’s mother had given birth to a girl who died five months later. That meant that Jeremiah, the family’s first grandson, must have been particularly welcomed.

The good luck/bad luck persisted, as Henry’s wife Rebecca gave birth in March 1848 to a daughter, Lillis Jane, but in January of the following year, Henry’s brother Jeremiah died at twenty-two.

The 1850 farm schedule shows that Henry is farming a very small farm in Union Township, Knox County, Ohio. The farm –35 improved acres and 50 unimproved– looks poor compared to others in the area. He owns only one horse and one cow and 15 pigs and his largest crop, which is not very large, is corn.

I wonder if his father Isaac gave him the land he had purchased in 1835 from the Ohio River Survey.  That land was listed as in Morrow County, but Morrow was created in the 1840s  from part of other counties, including Knox. Most of the men I track from this period build up a farm and add acreage so that they can give land to their sons. However, Isaac may have let his land lie fallow, since he made his living by shoemaking.

The census report of 1850 when he lives on a farm in Union Township (the township where his father lives in Danville) makes me think that Henry and his wife might have been struggling to care for their family.

Henry and his wife named their third daughter, Victoria for the popular English Queen, who had by then (1856), ruled nearly thirty years.

The Union Army Calls

In 1860, the family lives in the township just north of Danville, Jefferson Township. Now he is listed as a farm laborer rather than an owner.  Another sign that things are not going well as the country goes to war with itself.

Henry, now forty-years old, fills out the registration form required of men by the Civil War.  All around him the pressure is building for men to join the army with parades and rallies and exhortations in newspapers  Perhaps he figures that despite his advanced age, he can’t be worse off than he is struggling at farm work, and on the 26th of February, 1864, John Henry Smith enlists in the Union Army.

The Battles of the 121st

The army assigns him to Company K in the Ohio 121st Infantry Regiment as a Private.  His Regiment find themselves pressed into service soon after their training as reinforcements for the battle in the South, with the objective of winning Atlanta. After training and travel south, he fought at Kenesaw Mountain Georgia. It was quite an initiation. He probably spent most of the time on Kenesaw digging ditches and building fortifications. Of the battle itself,  Major General William T. Sherman later called it “the hardest fight of the campaign up to that date.”

June 28 through July 19th they join the battle at Peach Tree Georgia.

August 6 and again August 20 and August 28, the Ohio soldiers will be fighting in the battles of Atlanta.

September 1 finds them at Jonesboro for the final battle of the Atlanta campaign. After four months, the Union forces finally defeated the South.  That long siege, the most critical in Sherman’s mind, had continued until Sheridan torched Atlanta and the South surrendered Atlanta on September 2.

John Henry Smith had survived one of the most critical battles of the war.  From here on out, it was mop up operations.  The Union soldiers were reduced to foraging and living off the land, since at the beginning Sherman’s March to the Sea, they were cut off from supply lines.

Annie’s Husband Also Goes to War

On October 24, John Henry Smith’s brother-in-law, enlisted for a 2nd tour of duty in the Union Army and joined Sherman’s troops. That was my great-grandfather, Henry Allen Butts.

November 3 the Ohio 121st had moved on to fight at Louisville Georgia. By November 21 they fought at Milledgeville, Georgia. Sherman now split his troops and turned one half toward the Atlantic on the march across Georgia (with Henry Allen Butts). He sent the other half to Nashville (with John Henry Smith), to chase down Confederate General Hood. Hood had surrendered Atlanta and wanted revenge.

On December 18, Henry Allen Butts wrote a letter home to John Henry Smith’s sister, Annie in which he said, “ you stated in your letter that henry had been home. I was glad to hear he got home to see his littel ones.” Earlier in the same letter, he explained that the reason he had not written earlier is that they had been on the march since mid November. Given the slow pace of mail, I’m guessing that Henry Smith’s visit home came after his training and before he marched to Kennesaw.

Henry’s Last Battle

On December 15 the south attacked Union forces at Nashville, Tennessee. I have not discovered the details, but John Henry Smith probably suffered a wound in that battle. He died on December 17 and fellow soldiers buried him at what became the Nashville National Cemetery.

The government needed the cemetery because of the 6000 Confederate and 3600 Union casualties suffered in the area.

John Henry Smith gravestone

John Henry Smith gravestone at the Nashville National Monument. Photo by KBlums from Find a Grave.

Henry Smith left behind a wife and three children, Victoria, 8, Lillis, 16 and Jeremiah, 17 years old. His wife, unlike many widows of the day, did not immediately remarry.  When his two daughters reached marrying age, they married brothers from the Blubaugh family who lived just 4 houses down the road.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher)  is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, the son of
  • Mary Isadore (Mame) Butts (Kaser), the daughter of
  • Ann Marie Smith (Butts), the sister of
  • John Henry Butts.

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census, 1860,  Jefferson, Knox, Ohio

United States Federal Census Non-Population Schedule, Agriculture, 1850, Union, Knox, Ohio;1860,  Jefferson, Knox, Ohio

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, Knox, Ohio, USA, 30 Mar 1845, Film #002243649, Ancestry.com

U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865, United States Park Service, John H. Smith, Ohio Reg 121, film record M552, roll 101

U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006, National Cemetery Administration, Nashville National Cemetery, J. Henry Smith

U.S., American Civil War Regiments, 1861-1866, Historical Data Systems,121st Infantry Regiment, Ohio, Ancestry.com

U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865, Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio Roll of Honor of Ohio Soldiers, J Henry Smith, Historical Data Systems.

U. S. Find a Grave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/3201726, John Henry Smith

Smith Family Bible, transcriptions from Mary Martha VonVille

Willliam McCabe Anderson Home From War

William McCabe Anderson

William McCabe Anderson

William McCabe Anderson, born in Pennsylvania, knew Ohio as his home from the time he was a toddler. He probably expected nothing more from life than to grow crops and livestock and build a legacy for his own children as his father had done. Travel and adventure came to other people.

William Becomes a Soldier

But he  became a soldier fighting for the Union at the age of twenty when he joined the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  As I wrote earlier, (follow the link for the story) Will was luckier than so many of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War. As a soldier, he saw more of the country and had more adventures than he could have dreamed of. But mostly, he was lucky because he survived.

The young man, no doubt hardy from working on his father’s Ohio farm, toughened up even more as his company marched for weeks and fought in two disastrous battles. His luck seemed to give out at the Battle of Chickasaw when he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for nearly a year.

His mother, Isabella McCabe Anderson named him for her brother William McCabe. Perhaps he inherited the toughness of his Scots-Irish McCabe forebears, along with the middle name of William McCabe Anderson. For whatever reason, Will survived when many of his fellow prisoners died from the harsh conditions in their unique prison in an old covered bridge.

The Soldier Comes Home

In November 1864, he returned to his mother and father, John and Isabella McCabe Anderson in Monroe Township, Holmes County Ohio. It would have been a joyful reunion, tinged with sadness. Will’s oldest half-brother, Erasmus, did not survive the war, and his oldest brother, John, who may have joined on the same day as Will, if so, had not yet have returned, per Ohio Soldier Grave Registration. (I have a research mystery here because of a conflict between the Grave Registration information and other reference materials. And then there are the many John Andersons from Ohio in the Union Army)

Those waiting to greet Pvt. William McCabe Anderson, besides his parents John and Isabella Anderson, included his older sister Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell, and Margaret Anderson Lisle, both now married and living nearby. Younger sisters Amy and Caroline, close as two peas in a pod, were still living at home on the farm, as were young brothers 16-year-old Joseph (to become my 2x great-grandfather) and 12-year-old Frank.

Three and a half years later, Will married Eliza Armstrong (Elizabeth J.) who lived on a neighboring farm. Her father came from Ireland, as did William’s ancestors the Andersons and the McCabes.

William the Farmer

The Agriculture non-Population schedule of the 1870 Census of Monroe Township in Holmes County Ohio shows that Will wasted no time in establishing one of the outstanding farms of the area.  By that year, he and Eliza had two children, one-year-old Effie and two month old Olive.  William was farming a 117-acre farm, with more than half of that in “improved” fields.  The value of his farm stood at $3500.

It is clear from the schedule that he cultivated sheep rather than dairy cows, although he owned nine head of cattle and six “swine” (probably for family use).  He grew corn and winter wheat and some oats, but he sheared his sheep and sold 200 pounds of wool.  Forty bushels of potatoes and three tons of hay completed the output of the farm with an estimated value of sold products $703.

Ten years later (1880), the agricultural schedule asks slightly different questions, but we see that he estimates that his total value of the farm has risen by $2000, and total acreage reported decreased slightly, due to the loss of 27 acres of woodland and gaining ten acres of tilled land. Unlike 1870, when he appeared to do the work by himself, he now hired people over an eight week period at a cost of $100.  Will values total products sold at $400.

On the farm, he has added 100 pounds of butter to products sold, and his sheep birthed 40 lambs. He sold ten sheep and slaughtered one.  The sheep yield more than twice as much weight of wool as in 1870, and his herd of swine increased from six to twenty-one.  Poultry was not counted in 1870, but in 1880, he has 56, and has gathered 200 eggs.  His production of corn stays steady with ten acres being devoted to corn, six acres to oats, with the harvest increasing form 40 to 225 bushels and twelve acres to wheat.

Potatoes harvest stays about the same, and fruit, which wasn’t asked on the previous census seems to be an important crop. 100 apple trees and 25 peach trees take up five acres.

During this decade when farming takes most his time, life events occupy his attention as well. In 1972, his brother John, just 36 years old, dies from a fall from an apple tree on his nearby farm.

William Loses Family Members

The following year, Will and Eliza had a son, Gilmore. Son John Edward (called Edward) came in 1873. Another son, William,  born in April 1875, died five months later.  Then in February 1877, William’s wife, Eliza, died.

Eliza, just thirty-two when she died, left William with four young children from five to ten years old.  His mother Isabella, now a widow, moved in with him to help with the house and the children, and is listed as the housekeeper in the census taken on June 5, 1880. However Will is ready to have a second wife, and on June 24 he married Mary Jane Cox (called Jane).

Another terrible blow came to the family in 1881 when Will’s oldest daughter, Effie died at eleven.

In 1883, his brother Joseph (my  great grandfather, died (as the result of injuries suffered in a fall from a tree–like his older brother John). Despite the tragedies that struck the family, and despite his war-weakened health and hard work on the farm, William found time for civic duty. He  served both as a Township Trustee and as Treasurer of Monroe Township.

In 1890, the census Veteran’s report identified Will. (The 5th line down)  William Anderson; Private; Company B; Name of Regiment 166 [16th] O [Ohio] Inf [Infantry]; Date of Enrollment 12 Dec 1861; Date of Discharge 13 Oct 1864 Length of service 3 years 1 month and 19 days.

1890 Census Veteran's Schedule.

1890 Veteran’s Schedule of the Federal Census for Monroe Township, Holmes County, Ohio.

Honored at the End of Life

Will and Jane had been married for twenty-two years when he died at the age of sixty-one.  He had survived the Civil War and his time as a Prisoner of War to become a respected member of the community. The county newspaper, The Holmes County Farmer, published his obituary on June 26, 1902 on page one.

William McCabe Anderson obituary

Holmes County Farmer, June 26, 1902. Front page obituary for William McCabe Anderson.

In 1985, the editor of a history of Holmes County wrote about the effect of William McCabe Anderson’s wartime experience.

“Being housed in a damp barn so weakened his lungs that he was affected the remainder of his life, a contributing factor towards his death…..His widow collected $91 monthly in a government pension stemming from his Civil War service.”

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Leonard Guy Anderson, who is the son of
  • Joseph Anderson, who is the son of
  • John Anderson and Isabelle McCabe Anderson, the parents  of
  • William McCabe Anderson

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township.

United States Federal Census Non-Population – Agriculture Schedule, 1870 and 1880, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township. Census Place: Monroe, Holmes, Ohio; Archive Collection Number: T1159

(1870)Roll: 38; Line: 25; Schedule Type: Agriculture.

(1880)Roll: 67; Line: 1; Schedule Type: Agriculture.  Both accessed at Ancestry.com

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, 1867 Marriage License of William  Anderson and Eliza J. Armstrong, Holmes County, Ohio. Image from Family History Library film number 000477145. Accessed at Ancestry.

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, 1880 Marriage License of William Anderson and Martha J. Cox, Holmes County, Ohio. Image from Family History Library film number 000477146. Accessed at Ancestry.

Obituary of William M Anderson: (Picture used came  from Margaret Anderson Lisle’s scrapbook containing family information.) Newspaper: Holmes County Farmer, Newspaper Date: 26 Jun 1902, Newspaper Page: 1 Column: ; Repository: WAYNE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY (WOOSTER, Ohio)

Find a Grave.com, William M. Anderson

United States Federal Census Non-Population – Veterans Schedule, 1890, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Number: M123; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Record Group Number: 15 Accessed at Ancestry.

Holmes County (Ohio) Republican, series entitled Camp & Field, by Capt. Theodore David Wolbach. Published Feb 24, 1881 to August 17, 1882.  Accessed at the website dedicated to the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 

Holmes County Ohio to 1985, Holmes County History Book Committee, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1985, Millersburg, Ohio.  page 7 William Anderson  Out of print.  (Accessed partial article from a family tree on Ancestry.)

Prisoner of War: Capture and Release

William McCabe Anderson, 1841-1902

William McCabe Anderson

William Mc Cabe Anderson, former prisoner of war.


Today I talk about the contrasting experience of two brothers, one who died and one who was captured and spent a year as a prisoner of war, but returned to live out his life at home.

Erasmus Anderson was the son of my 3x great-grandfather, John Anderson and his first wife, Emma Allison. William was the son of  John Anderson and his second wife, Isabella McCabe Anderson, my 3x great-grandmother.  When her first son was born, Isabella honored her family name by using McCabe for William’s middle name.


Two Brothers Go to War

Civil War Regimental Flag

Civil War 16th OVI Regimental Flag

You may have read the letters of Erasmus Anderson, my great-great uncle who served on the Union side in the Civil War and died at Vicksburg.  In his letters, he sometimes refers to his younger half- brother Will (William McCabe Anderson), who was also a soldier. For a time the two served side by side as their respective companies marched together as part of the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. William’s obituary hints that he was imprisoned at the infamous Andersonville, and I wanted to get at the actual story of his service and his time as a prisoner of war.

Will enlisted in the army one year earlier than his brother, Erasmus. He was twenty years old and unmarried when Union patriots in Ohio began staging giant rallies to encourage enlistment.  Young Will, who was listed on the census of 1860 as a farm worker on his family farm, did not have any specific plans for his life, and no doubt the war sounded like a great adventure. On September 12, 1861, Will signed up in the same regiment that his brother would later join–16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (16th OVI). William was in Company B, made up entirely of men and boys from Monroe Township of Holmes County.

After gathering at Camp Tiffin in Wooster, Ohio during September and October, the new recruits were loaded onto trains and traveled by rail to Cincinnati’s Camp Dennison. (Follow the link to see two pictures from Camp Dennison.)

I have no letters from William, so have to depend on the newspaper report of the OVI 16.  Captain Theodore D. Wolbach wrote about the Regiment twenty years after the fact.  These wonderfully detailed accounts, published in the Holmes County Republican newspaper under the banner “From the Field” covered every movement of the regiment from 1861 until the surviving soldiers mustered out in 1864.

Not only does Wolbach fill in the details of the battles, but he also gives us sometimes hilarious and sometimes devastating descriptions of the everyday life of the Union Soldiers.  We are fortunate to have those articles, accompanied by additional battle maps, photographs and reams of information on OVI 16 at the website maintained by Michael Wood. I used that website for extensive research while I was writing about Erasmus Anderson, and will not repeat all of the information here.

The Making of a Soldier

In mid December the recruits traveled by boat , railroad and foot to Lexington Kentucky, where they stayed until mid January 1862. ( The beginning of many ‘hurry up and wait’ orders for this regiment.)

During the last half of January, the new recruits were broken in with daily marches of varying lengths, and Wolbach reports several days that they marched all day in the rain. When they arrived at Camp Duncan in Pulaski County, Kentucky (the area called The Wilderness), they spent ten days waiting. After all that marching, this break probably was quite welcome.

More marching through February, until they engaged in their first big battle–the campaign to secure Cumberland Gap.  Will had now been in the army five and a half months, and the regiment saw its first casualty at the end of April, two more months into his life as a soldier. The Cumberland Gap operation took time, and was not firmly in Union hands until June 18, 1862. However, the Rebels did not give up and the Union army found themselves under siege at Cumberland Gap in August until by September 8 and 10, the commander’s order them to withdraw from a hopeless battle.

Brothers Reunite

The now battle-hardened soldiers cheered the arrival of new recruits in October.  It is wonderful to imagine the enthusiasm with which the hardened, muddy, bedraggled Will Anderson welcomed his brother Erasmus, who had recently joined up. They had not seen each other for a year, and there must have been much catching up to do as the younger brother, now having gained the respect due to the tested troops, talked with his older brother whose feet were just beginning to toughen up from the long marches. Not only was this a family reunion, but the companies they belonged to were packed with men from Holmes County–men they knew well–had gone to church and school with–had harvested each others crops–and now were called upon to protect each other’s lives.

The day after Christmas, a steamboat took the troops to the Johnson plantation beside the Chickasaw Bayou. The battle that started the next day, the opening of the campaign against Vicksburg Mississippi,  was hopelessly difficult.  The 16th Regiment’s beloved Col. DeCourcey an Englishman who had volunteered service with the Union, did not believe his troops should have been given orders to make a suicidal attack on a bluff on December 29. The Southerners had brought in reinforcements and commanded the high ground  But General William Tecumseh Sherman was reported to have said, “We are going to lose 5000 at Vicksburg. We might as well lose them now.”

A Disaster for the Union

Sherman’s later report on the battle still rankled twenty years later when Wolbach wrote in the Holmes County Republican that he must correct the record.  It was not true that the men of the 16th were not up to the job and refused to follow orders to attack. Rather, they did everything they were called upon to do until they were pinned down by such devastating fire that they could not move.

By January 2, 1863 Sherman had decided further attempts were useless, and he ordered the troops to withdraw.

208 Union men were killed, 1005 wounded and 563 captured or missing. The South lost 63 dead, 104 wounded and 10 dead. It was a devastating defeat for the Union, and a warning that Grant’s plan to capture Vicksburg was not going to be easy.

William is a Prisoner of War

On January 5, 1863, Erasmus wrote home that he hoped that William was taken prisoner (rather than being killed.) He had no idea of the fate of his brother, who had been captured on December 29 and held in Pearl River Bridge camp, near Jackson Mississippi, where he was held as a prisoner of war until November the following year. The camp was built in and around a covered bridge. The prisoners of war were not allowed blankets. They could not build fires for warmth or cooking, or light candles because of fear of fire. Although that camp caused much illness and many deaths–probably including a lingering lung ailment for William,–the camp at Jackson was nowhere near the horror of Andersonville (Fort Sumpter).  See a sketch of the unusual setting here.

Sad News Greets His Release a Year Later

On November 10, 1863, the men who had been captured were released to join their comrades in Algiers, Louisiana  There, Wolbach reports, the men had a good time catching oysters and clams in the bays. Perhaps William survived because he was young and used to hard living.

Surely Will would have written to his family, and learned from them that his brother Erasmus had died at Vicksburg May 22, 1863, five months after Will’s capture. Sad news to follow the joy of his own release from the prisoner of war camp.

I lose track of Will’s wartime path at this point, although I know that some of the men who had been held as a prisoner of war were given a furlough and rested at home for some months before returning to their regiments.  I do know that Will continued to serve until the OVI 16 was dismissed on November 4, 1864.

Did he see further battles after being held as a prisoner of war? Did he join the enormous march in Washington D.C. to celebrate the end of the war? That I do not know.

I will write more later about Will and his life before and after the war.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Leonard Guy Anderson, who is the son of
  • Joseph Anderson, who is the son of
  • John Anderson and Isabelle McCabe Anderson, the parents  of
  • William McCabe Anderson

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census, 1860, Ohio, Holmes County, Monroe Township.

United States Federal Census , Veteran’s  Schedule, Ohio, Holmes County Monroe Township The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Number: M123; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Record Group Number: 15; Census Year: 1890

Holmes County (Ohio) Republican, series entitled Camp & Field, by Capt. Theodore David Wolbach. Published Feb 24, 1881 to August 17, 1882.  Accessed at the website dedicated to the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 

Letters from Erasmus Anderson, from copies provided by a relative, published at Ancestors in Aprons.