Tag Archives: Union Army

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

Henry Butts’ Civil War Letter 3: Swamp Water Up To Our Nees

Camp near Goldsboro, N.C.

March the 23, 1865

Dear Wife,

Civil War swamp battlefield

Image from page 29 of “The soldier in our Civil War : a pictorial history of the conflict, 1861-1865, illustrating the valor of the soldier as displayed on the battle-field, from sketches drawn by Forbes, Waud, Taylor, Beard, Becker, Lovie, Schell, Crane, 1893

The third surviving letter from Henry Allen Butts to his wife Annie was written only a day after the 2nd letter.

In letter two, he had referred to a long march, and now he tells about it. First he repeats what he said in letter two–his joy at finally receiving letters from home and he explains:

“…it is now three months since we had a chance to write. wen we was on the raid we could not send eny letters for we had no comunication. You must not think that we can write a letter and go to the post office like we do at home. We must wait till we get to a place that we can send a letter.

The 43rd Ohio Volunteers, part of Sherman’s army, have joined the armies of other generals and a total of 90,000 men are camped near Goldsboro.

Pvt. Butts has been  fortunate, but has experienced some horrendous situations.

Now i will give you some history of our march through confidercy. We left beaufort on the 13 of January and we have bin marching ever since up to this time. About 75 miles this side of beaufort is wear Stull (Jerimiah Stahl) was killed. The fight comenced on the 2 of febuary. That is the day that Col. Swayne has his lague shot off. He was about fifty yards from me wen the canon ball hit him.

Civil War Officer

Lt. Col.Wager Swayne, who lost his leg at the Battle of Rivers Bridge

Col. Swayne is Lt. Col. Wager Swayne, a Yale graduate. By the end of the war, he had been advanced to Major General of Volunteers and Brevet Major General in the regular army. He won the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. for an earlier battle, Corinth, Mississippi. Quoting from the web site Lybarger’s Civil War:

“A lieutenant colonel in the 43rd OVI during the second Battle of Corinth that mortally wounded Col. Smith, Swayne became its colonel after Col. Smith died. On Feb. 3, 1865, Swayne was severely wounded while crossing the swampy Salkahatchie River in South Carolina. While helped to an ambulance wagon, he kept repeating, ‘The Lord sustains me.’ He was successfully evacuated to New York City, losing his leg but surviving.”

The battle was the Rivers Bridge part of  Campaign of the Carolinas , and General Sherman had divided his troops, 5000 strong, with those under Swayne circling through the swamp to flank the 3000 Confederate Troops who were trying to prevent the Union Army from crossing the Salkahatchie River. Besides a vivid and gruesome account of what it was like to be in this battle, Henry Allen returns to the subject of the death of Jerimiah Stull/Stahl.  Henry Allen’s mother was Esther Stahl Butts, so there is a strong possibility he was related.

We marched on the skirmish line and thear we had to stand in the swamp in water up to our nees till about 12 o’clock at night wen we was releved. The next day being the 3(rd) we was ordered to charge the battery.

We charged it about three o’clock in the evening. That is about the time Stull(Stahl) was killed.  We had to charge up a road through the swamp and thear was water on boath sides of the road. Stull was at the side of the road wen he was shot and he fell in the water.  The ball hit him in the side and went through him.

Wen he fell I was about 20 steps before him. Wen he fel all he said ‘help me out’. Thear was one of our co(mpany) boys by the name of Short close to him wen he fel. He helped him out. He was dead. He was bured on a hill. Him and five others was bured side and side. I did not see him after he was killed.  he is under the sods of South Carolina and I hope he is at rest. Tell Mrs. Stull (Stahl) he was bured as dessent as we could bury him. Tha made a box for him.

His brother William was not with us wen he was killed. He is at Hilton Head, S.C. in the hospital tending to the sick. I don’t no weather he herd of it or not.

An account I read of the battle said that soldiers tending to the wounded had to hold their heads up so they would not slip into the water and drown. It was a morass of blood and death. And Henry Allen, who had twice closely missed being shot, escaped at least one more time.

Obid Underwood was close beside me wen he had his arm shot off. He was sent back to Beaufort. I have not herd wether he is living or not.  I suppose you no more about it than I do my Dear.

We had a hard time since we left Beaufort. I seen more than I ever want to see agane. We have seen hard time. We marched five hundred miles. Some of was bare footed, others nearly naked. We was the hardest looking set of men you ever seen, but now we have plenty of clothing and plenty to eat.

He closes once again saying that he will write when he has a chance. They have been told that they will stay here for some time. The Army marched north to Richmond to join with Grant’s army at the beginning of April.

Obid Underwood is Obediah (Obed) Underwood who was in Henry Allen’s Company. He did survive the war after having his arm amputated at the shoulder.

Obidiah Underwood

Obediah Underwood with arm amputated. Photo provided by National Archives to South Carolina State Parks Service.

According to the web site Lybargers Civil War , there was a Grand Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Mt. Vernon, Ohio in 1897. Since that was very close to Henry Allen’s home, he very well might have been there. Lt. Col. Wager Swayne, who Henry Allen saw injured, was in attendance.

This year (2014) is the Sesquitennial of the North Carolina campaign, and North Carolina has a great website to mark the occasion.  You can get pictures, anecdotes and a detailed timeline at the North Carolina Civil War 150 website.

Henry Allen Butts Letter #2: After a Long March See Henry’s Letter #4: Henry Loses His temper, here.

52 Ancestors: #3 George Butts–Family History Mystery

George W. Butts, 1834-1863 (?)

When I wrote about my great-grandfather Henry Allen Butts last week and week before last, I was not sure that I had identified his twin brother George. Some  evidence says that he may be George W. Butts, and I at least know a little bit about his short life if he IS George W. Butts. On the other hand…..

George, George, George–who are you?


These are NOT the Butts brothers. These are twins from 1886 in a photo from the Green County Pennsylvania Photo Archive. Used with creative commons license.

Records abound for George Butts’.  Unfortunately, few of them match the known birthplace and dates of my great-uncle George, my great-grandfather’s twin brother. WARNING: Inside baseball ahead.  If your eyes glaze over at the details of tracking family history, you may want to skip to Henry Allen’s letter home.

Even though I have  not been able to find official baptism and birth records for a George OR a Henry Allen Butts born in Louden, Franklin County, PA, the Butts family Bible that lists “John Henry Augustus born 29th November 1834,” says, “George was born on same day five hours apart. Was baptized January 15, 1835 by Priest (He ? en.).”[As I mentioned in the article on Henry Allen, the family histories are all consistent in saying that John Henry Augustus became Henry Allen. Census reports confirm both boys born in 1834/35.]

The fact that there is no further record in the family Bible, while others in the family have spouses listed, and some have children listed as well, lends credence to the fact that he died young.

The 1850 Census taken in St. Thomas Township, Franklin County, PA shows the family as follows:

  • Jacob Butts, 25 (Miller)
  • Catherine Butts, 21
  • Frederick Butts, 20 (Laborer)
  • Thomas Butts, 17 (Laborer)
  • Henry Butts, 15 (Laborer)
  • George Butts, 15 (Laborer)
  • James Butts, 10
  • Ellen [Esther?], 52

This list of the family members and their ages is confirmed by other sources. Apparently their father died between 1840 and 1850 and all the boys except the youngest must work to support the family.  Their mother Esther, would have been 52 at that time.

Interestingly, in the same township census there is also a George Butts, 16 years old, born in 1834 [Census ages are frequently a year off because the census taker calculates from birth year rather than taking into account birth month]. This George Butts is living as a laborer with the Jacob Huber family.  I imagine it is quite possible that both families would list him with them, as laborers worked on a seasonal basis. So while he was literally with the Huber family at the time of the census, his own family considered him a permanent resident.

Great Uncle George, are you George W.??

Union Army Soldiers

Drawing of Union Army soldiers lining up for soup. Click for more information. Citation below.

There are several men named George Butts in the Civil War rolls of Pennsylvania. A distant cousin who shared her research with me ten years ago, believed that George W. Butts is buried in a Church yard in Franklin County PA. That man’s birth date is almost correct on the tombstone  the aforementioned cousin tied together that deat with the George W. Butts listed on Union Army rosters.

George W. enlisted in the 3-month volunteer 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment, Company C on April 20, 1861 and was mustered out with his company on July 26, 1861.   Later in 1861, a George Butts enlisted in the 77th, but he is not designated as George W. Butts. Unfortunately the Veteran’s Burial Card from National Archives found at Ancestry.com says that George W. Butts was born in 1841. (with the same death date that we have for George W.)

George W. Butts, Civil War soldier, is buried in a Lutheran Cemetery in St. Thomas, Pennsylvania, Plot #294.  The tombstone, according to the Butts cousin says he died May 21, 1863 at 28 years, 3 months and 22 days old.  That does not quite match up with either the Butts family Bible or the Veteran’s Burial Card, which says he died at 21 years old. Furthermore, we know the family was Catholic and he was baptized by a priest, so why would he be buried in a Lutheran Cemetery? That as well as the birth date shown with the death record casts  doubt on George W. being the correct George.

All of this points to the fact that I probably spent a couple of days pursuing the wrong George.

Uncle George, Are You George M??

The History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, lists a George M. who enlisted 9 October 1861 as a Corporal in Company F, 77th Infantry. Again, this is Henry Allen’s company, and it seems logical that the twins would enlist in the same company at the same time. However, the list includes no further information to help track George.

So there we are. Stuck. He was born a twin to Henry Allen Butts on a known date in a known place. I know his parents’ names and that he was working as a laborer at the age of 15 to help support his widowed mother and her large family. Everything else is speculation. Do you have more information on George Butts? Where do you suggest I go next?

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Mary (Mame) Isadore Butts Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Henry Allen Butts, who is the twin brother of
  • George Butts

Civil War Photo Citation: Forbes, Edwin (1839-1895). Life Studies of the Great Army. A historical work of art, in copper-plate etching, containing forty plates, illustrating the life of the Union Armies during the late Rebellion. New York, E. Forbes, 1876, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University

Research Notes

  •  Transcripts of a Butts Family Bible provided to me by Jane Butts Kilgore in 2003, owned at the time by James E. Butts. Other carefully researched information on the Butts family was also sent to me by Jane Butts Kilgore.
  • “A History of the Henry Allen Butts Family” by Rev. Homer Blubaugh, Saint Mary Church, Lancaster, Ohio.  This is a combination of documented and anecdotal information about the Butts family from Ohio. Some was gathered at family reunions. Some is downright wrong, but some is quite interesting. My copy was sent by Butts descendent Helen Findon in 2003. The document says Revised May 11, ’92 – Rev. Homer Blubaugh. Copies in the authors’ possession.
  • History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5; Prepared in Compliance with Acts of Legislature, by Samuel P. Bates, Harrisburg: B. Singerly, state printer, 1869-71.Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library, 2005
  • Birth and death records researched on Ancestry.com in this case yielded mostly dead ends.