Monday, September 15, 2014

End of the the book begins

Chicago, IL
As I am riding in the truck sitting in rush hour in Chicago, I figured I should turn my computer on and catch up on my blog.

Last Friday we went back to Bull Run, after studying the battle maps more closely, and took photos from the areas where my great-great-grandfather, George W Ordner actually engaged with the Rebels and fought.

While in Grafton, WV a week ago, I had found a copy of Fabricius A Cather's diary, one of the leaders of GWO's regiment, 2nd West Virgina Infantry. In the diary I discovered that George was wounded on August 30, 1862 on the last day of the battle. This information makes it most likely that George was wounded while defending Henry Hill between 4:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon of August 30. Milroy's brigade (the 2nd WV was in Milroy's Independent brigade) was fighting along the Sudley/Manassas road at the bottom of Henry Hill. The Union was severely defeated at several battles during the previous two days, taking many thousands of casualties. This was their last stand and chance to stop the armies of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E Lee from taking the hill. It was a vicious and bloody fight finally ending in a draw with the coming of night fall. The Union army was able to maintain possession of Henry Hill, thus ensuring they could safely withdraw to Centreville via the stone bridge and turnpike.
Stone Bridge. This was destroyed during the first battle of
Bull Run. Union Troops built a wooden ramp between the two
remaining stone supports during the second battle.
The wounded were taken care of at several of the farm houses after the battle and on the field. George was wounded in the right shoulder (according to the 1890 Veteran's Census), so could probable still walk. Most likely he was bandaged on the field, or if a bullet had to be removed was operated on in the Stone House or in Henry Hill's house.

Stone House on the battle field of Bull Run. This house is almost
all the original frame and foundation that was standing during both battles.
It was originally a Tavern in 1860.
Notice the cannonball to the right of the front door facing
Henry Hill which is across the street.

It was incredible to be able to pin point the times and retrace all the places my grandfather walked and fought during the three days of battle. And the battlefield is similar to what it would have looked like 150 years ago.

Bull Run Winery
After the battlefield trek, we had to stop at the Bull Run Winery which was right next door across the stone bridge. Apparently the "mansion" that was originally on the current winery grounds (now in ruins) was also used as a hospital to treat both confederate and union soldiers. The winery's tasting room actually had glass showcases containing artifacts found on the property which was part of the original battlefield. Really interesting to see the buttons, tools, gun parts, bullets, belt buckles and other items that 20,000 troops left on the battlegrounds.

Gettysburg, PA
We checked out of our campsite and headed north to spend a few days with family in Harrisburg, PA. They live about 30 minutes from the Gettysburg battlefield. Of course, my grandfather never fought there, but it was on our 'must see' list while out East. We drove through the battle field, I was amazed there were so many HUGE stones and boulders scattered across the fields. All these rocks would have made fighting on these fields very different from the other battlefields we visited. We didn't spend too much time, we had to make it to Dirty Billy's Hats - a maker of museum quality period reproduction headwear before they closed. Jeff for a few years has wanted to order a Mexican War 1839 forage cap to wear to our reenactments. Very cool place! They didn't have one on hand that fit Jeff, so he had to order it. It should be done sometime in November. So next year.

Heading home...
After two plus weeks on the road, we are currently on our way home - just to head out again Wednesday to our last rendezvous of the year!

I will keep updating this blog, weekly though, as I write my book and keep you updated on what additional information I find...I am still looking for more and have my new friends helping me research....

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interesting find at Harpers Ferry today!

Winter Camp
I hear that it was 45 degrees back home in Minnesota today. It was 88 here and humid! So to honor our Minnesota friends and family, we started the day checking out the Civil War exhibit right in the campground - Winter Camp. It was really awesome to see how the Union soldiers would have set up their quarters for camp during the winter.

They would have placed logs or most likely fence posts, to build up a 2 foot wall to fit the bottom of their "wedge tent" an then dug out the ground inside a foot or two deep. They would have made stairs out of boxes to get inside, lined the floor with straw, and added a rock or brick fireplace on one end to keep warm. Jeff was inspired. We might end up with one of these at deer camp!

There was no door, the floor was dug about 2 feet deep and there were
 steps on the inside to climb down into the tent. Really cool!
Union soldiers were better outfitted than the Confederates,
they would have likely had the tents to create their quarters.
Harper's Ferry, WV
Even though my g-g-grandfather, George W Ordner was not in Harpers Ferry during the Civil War, we knew it was an interesting place and were so close so we wanted to visit. Harpers Ferry was founded in 1734 along the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. In 1796 the US government purchased a part of it and constructed an armory and arsenal that produced small arms for the US army. In 1804 William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) outfitted their group at Harpers Ferry, including purchasing a Harpers Ferry rifle. During the Civil War it was passed back and forth between the Federals and Confederates several times until the Arsenal was finally destroyed in 1861.

When we arrived at the visitor center, we were very surprised to learn that there were 21 original buildings and museums to visit in the town! So we tried to see them all.
Inside of White Hall Tavern that existed in 1859...way cool!!! Total favorite!

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an attempt by the white abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt in 1859 by seizing a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry. On Sunday night, October 16 in 1859, John Brown along with 20 men seized hostages in the town, stopped a B&O Railroad train and ended up with the hostages in the Engine building near the Arsenal, at a stand off with the town. (There is lots of information online about the details of the raid.)

George had a cousin, Charles E Ways, (born August 13, 1838 died January 2, 1914), from over in the town of Frederick, MD (where his mother and father were both born). This cousin had started working as a telegraph operator for the B&O Railroad when he was 13 years old and was offered a position at Frederick Junction when he was 15 years old. From there he went to Martinsburg where he was working in 1859. Here is what was recalled by Charles E. Ways later, that we found in the Maryland Genealogical and Memorial Encyclopedia of the State of Maryland, Volume 1 in his own words!

John Brown's Fort - the Engine House at Harpers Ferry.
"I was operator at Martinsburg, West Virginia, at the time John Brown captured the Government armory at Harper's Ferry. Having nothing to do after the wires were cut I went with the Martinsburg militia to the scene of action. The second day after the arrival there, I was instructed to open an office, which I did in a one-story brick building located alongside the Winchester Branch track and directly facing the engine house, or fort as it is called, in which Brown and his men were barricaded.

"My selection of a location for the instrument table was in the middle of the room and the door being open all the time, I had a full view of the Brown fort, and it appears he had a full view of me and my instruments, for it was not more than twenty minutes later I had gotten wot work before two Sharp's rifle balls in quick succession passed within six inched of my head and buried themselves in the wall back of me. I can recall very vividly the whistle of the balls as they passed my head, and it did not take me very long to move my instruments to a safe place. Brown had portholes on all sides of the building and his men shot anything that came in sight.

"It was this recklessness that caused the death of old Mr. Beckham, the [B&O railroad] agent at Harpers Ferry at this time. He walked out of this office up the platform and put his head out to look a the fort when a Sharps rifle ball put an end to his life in a moment. He was a well loved old gentleman and his death caused much greater ill-feeling toward Brown and his men. From a point on the platform near where Mr. Beckham was killed I witnessed the storming of the fort by the United States troops commanded by General Robert E. Lee, then a colonel, and the capture of Brown after he and his men had fired a half a dozen volleys through the doors of the fort into the troops, only one of them was killed, as I recall it, though I was several fall wounded and carried away. The old man looked the picture of misery as he was dragged out to a spot under the Star-Spangled Banner which floated from a pole in the middle of the armory yard..." - Charles E. Ways

WOW. First hand witness of the event from a family member. There was more in his account that went on to recall the Confederate troops in Harpers Ferry and witnessing Nathaniel Banks and his troops retreating over the Potomac back to Maryland later during the Civil War. Mr. Ways also set up the first railroad telegraph office in Washington during the inauguration of Mr. Abraham Lincoln.

What a great family historical find! Do you suppose, since he was only a few years older than GWO, that Charlie told him all about his witnessing this event? Perhaps...fascinating to ponder. Maybe this event spurred George to be passionate enough for the Union to enlist?

Then on to Frederick, MD
After Harpers Ferry, we headed back to Frederick, MD to check out the Historical Society records for family genealogy information and to visit the Civil War Medical Museum. I wanted to learn all about how the wounded were cared for during the war...what they used, what it was like in the field hospitals, where George with his wound after Bull Run would have been tended.

Life-size diorama at the Civil War Medical Museum in Frederick, MD
showing how soldiers had bullets removed and limbs amputated right
on the field. Chloroform was used 95% of the time, good to know!
The museum was really interesting and we saw lots of items that were used on the battle field to tend the wounded. They also had an exhibit that showed the items they had specifically for amputees in the hospitals - knife/fork utensils, small pots with spouts for drinking soup and coffee, etc.

They were getting ready to close the museum right when we finished going through the exhibits. I asked the museum director if they happened to have any books specifically about the medicines soldiers would have had access to or used during the Civil War. They didn't. However I did find a used book on the sale shelf that I am excited to read: Field Medical Services at the Battles of Manassas (Bull Run) by Horace H. Cunningham. Didn't expect to find one so specific to precisely what I was looking to understand in order to write about George's experience being wounded on the battlefield.

All in all it was a really great day full of really awesome finds!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2nd Battle of Bull Run - largest battle - ultimate defeat

Manassas Battlefield - August 28, 29 & 30, 1862 - 2nd Battle of Bull Run

Most history lessons we all learned in school talk about the Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. However, most historians and textbooks teach about the first battle, practically ignoring the second battle the following year on the same grounds.

From what we learned today on the battlefield, the second battle was 5 times the size of the first battle and covered many more miles of ground. The devastation and casualties were unimaginable to everyone. There were over 22,000 dead and wounded soldiers - about 14,000 Union and 8,000 Confederate. The dead and dying were laying over miles of the battle field, some units found wounded and dead soldiers the next day when they traveled some of the same routes during the second day of battle. Every house and barn in the area housed the wounded, waiting for wagons to cart them 7 miles away to the Fairfax Train Station where they were tended by surgeons and then moved on the train to Washington.

Once again, George's regiment experienced total defeat by Stonewall Jackson and Robert E Lee's troops. This battle was the deciding battle that reinforced the Confederates belief they would win the war and made Jackson a legend and household name.

Jeff and I received some invaluable information and suggestions from the Ranger on site at the museum. He was able to point out to us precisely where George W. Ordner's regiment was during the days of battle. Then we were able to follow the paths and be in approximately the same places he walked and ferociously fought.
George's Regiment fought in brutal hand-to-hand combat along the
Unfinished Railroad (blue boxes); on the road across  from Dogan's Ridge along the
Groveton Road and in the very center of the decisive battle on Henry Hill.
(Map from theBattlefield marker, I added the Blue markers to my photograph)
We didn't get many photos of the area today, (we had to visit the Apple store to get Jeff's phone fixed before they closed) but plan on walking the areas and getting more photos before we leave in a few days. We did manage to purchase several exceptional books by Jim Hennesey, the premiere historian about this battle. From these books, I will be able to recreate George's movements hour by hour during these days of battle. All from first hand accounts, or primary resources. Will take a lot of time, but invaluable for writing his story.

We know from official documents that George was wounded during this battle. It is no wonder, the fighting that he saw and participated in was some of the fiercest on the fields. I believe this is where he was shot in his right shoulder, it most likely was either during the fight along the railroad embankments or the top of Henry Hill. We probably will never know for sure where, but if wounded on Henry Hill he may have been tended in either the Hill house, the Robinson house or the Stone house on the corner.

There were thousands of soldiers who lost their lives on these grounds...we truly were walking on "hallowed ground" today. I am grateful for the preservation of this battlefield almost exactly what it would have looked like 150 years ago so that Jeff and I could walk in my great-great-grandfather's footsteps and attempt to experience the battle from his perspective.

350 miles, three battlefields...the Union was defeated at each one.

Yesterday early in the morning, as I walked to the bath house at our campground, I came around the corner and startled three deer. They gracefully trotted across the road and peered at me from under the cover of the trees for a few seconds. So quiet. So peaceful. So gentle...

We headed out again for a major drive covering 350 miles and three battlefields. The first was the Battle of McDowell.

Battle of McDowell - May 8, 1862

After the cold, miserable winter of 1861-62 when George was stationed at Beverly and at Cheat Mountain; on April 5th his regiment under General Robert Milroy advanced on Staunton, Virginia to control the roads.
GWO's regiment, the 2nd VA Infantry at the time, was positioned
precisely where I am standing taking this photo. Behind the church and
looking towards Sitlington Hill. Their job was to protect the artillery
and the town from being taken by the Confederates.
Photo Laurie Southerton
They were in the town of Monterey on April 12. As the Union troops moved toward McDowell, they camped in the fields south of McDowell from April 17 through the day of the battle May 8, 1862.

According to the battle marker; "They deployed artillery, including two twelve pounders [that] were planted on the plateau in the rear of [the church] so as to cover the bridge" over the Bullpasture River. After the battle, wounded of both armies were cared for in the church and the dead were buried in the cemetery.

The 6,000 confederates were stationed at the top of Sitlington's hill (1.5 miles straight up the mountain!) overlooking the town of McDowell, where 6,500 Union troops were positioned. As the afternoon grew late, the Federals crossed the swollen Bullpasture River using the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike bridge and advanced against the confederates. The Federals gained some success until "Stonewall" Jackson's brigade arrived en route from Staunton. The federrals launched a furious assault, but the Confederate center held. As darkness fell fierce volleys continued to claim heavy casualties on both sides. Around 9:00 pm, the Federals broke off, burned their camps and retreated toward the town of Franklin.

Battle of Cross Keys

One month later, June 8 1862, George's regiment again faced Jackson's Confederate army at Cross Keys. the Union forces numbered 11,500 (with 684 dead and wounded) against the Confederate forces of 5,800 (with 288 dead and wounded). Despite being outnumbered, it was a Confederate Victory, once again with Federal Troops retreating. George Ordner was wounded here. I believe he was wounded in the wrist, but am looking for documentation. Not sure if I will find it. George's unit was directly in the line of fire in close combat with Confederate forces.

GWO's unit was along the road and crossed the cornfield to meet
the Confederate artillery. (In the read box) It was a fierce battle
and George was wounded here.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Cedar Mountain - August 9, 1862

The third battle site we visited took place a month later, on August 9, 1862 near Culpeper, Virginia. George's unit, under Brigadier General, Franz Sigel was ordered to meet up with Major General John Nathaniel Bank's forces seven miles south of the town of Culpepper. The temperatures were in the 100's on the field. The Federals set up their artillery blocking the road near Cedar Run where the tired Confederates encountered them. There was a prolonged artillery duel between the opposing armies, that resulted in Brig. Gen. Charles Winder, Stonewall Jackson's military leader, taking a northern shell in the side and dying several hours later. The Confederates outnumbered the Federal forces almost two to one, but the Federals gave a ferocious charge and engaged in a fierce, bloody hand to hand combat nearly defeating the Confederates.

General Jackson, brandished his sword still rusted in its scabbard to rouse his flagging troops during this battle. It was the only time he did this throughout the war. The Confederates did a final push as darkness fell that swept Bank's army from the field. The Union army had 2,500 casualties.

Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, was also helping the wounded soldiers after "one of the ugliest battles of the war". This was one of the first battles where she volunteered her nursing services.
Sign near the battlefield of Cedar Mountain also referred
to as Slaughter Mountain.
Photo Laurie Southerton
It was amazing that these three battles that George participated in before heading to the Second Battle of Manassas were Union defeats. What was the morale of the Federal troops at this time? Hot, exhausted, poor conditions, wounded, many casualties of friends and brothers... a bloody thought to a day that began very peacefully.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Proof of GWO's war record and found his war companion's records too!

Washington, DC - National Archives

Today we headed into the crazy busy city of our nation's capital, Washington DC. The plan was to visit the National Archives to look up his civil war record and those of his friends that joined and fought by his side.

I was also hoping to discover if his last job in Cumberland "Clerk for the B&O Railroad" was the role of railway postal clerk. If he had this role, he would have ridden the trains and sorted the mail. After spending time going through a security scan, watching a research training presentation and getting a photo research ID, we were finally able to actually look at the microfilm that listed all Railway Postal Clerks and Routes from 1886 thru 1902. Alas, George W Ordner was NOT on the list.

My theory that he was a railway postal clerk did not pan out. I know he was a "clerk" for the railroad. Now I just have to do more research to figure out what type of clerk he might have been in Cumberland. Perhaps a "Freight Clerk"? maybe....

Next we looked up several civil war records. Luck was with us this time, I discovered 21 pages of information on my g-g-grandfather. I also discovered that he was promoted to Corporal on May 20, 1862 on the year anniversary of his signing up with the company. Thus, proof, that he was actually with the Grafton Guards at the time that Bailey Brown was killed the evening of May 22, 1861. Wow.

Remarks: Promoted from private May 20, 1862.
Joined for duty and enrolled May 20, 1861.
We also discovered that George was assigned to Brigade Headquarters in January 1964 until he mustered out in June. In his diary he describes that he sat as a clerk on several Court Martial's.

The last page in his diary also contained a poem written by a Tom Cartwright. Searching on the soldier's database prior to coming to the National Archives did not turn up a Cartwright in his regiment. Well today, we found the records of a Thomas W Cartwright, who was in Company B of the 5th WV Calvary, later transferring to Company K. He was a teamster for the company--driving the wagons, most likely supplies and gear.

Poem in George W Ordner's Diary (in a different handwriting)

Too Late we meet--too soon we part, 
yes thou art to my soul and then some 
whose love has grown with years, 
smiled with my smile, and
wept with my tears. 
Farewell [______]
absent thou shant seem. The 
vision of some heavenly dreams.
Too bright a child of earth;
to devout; it must be so--
so friend, farewell! George.
- Tom Cartwright

Poetry was very common with those who could read and write and soldiers often sat together reading and sharing poems from their letters. Another poet that my Grandfather often read, was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. I have his poetry book that GWO signed his name in and it is well worn.

George was also somewhat of a poet. When his son, Charlie was graduating grade school, George signed the following in his autograph album:

To consciously maintain and seek out art and poetry amidst the horrors of battle is amazing. He seems to have been a very thoughtful and wise man...

Tomorrow we head out on a road trip to visit several more of the battle fields and places George was during the War of the Rebellion.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Upgrade!!! Car, Campsite and Clues!

Bull Run Campground, Manassas, Virginia

Today we left Cumberland and headed out east towards Washington D.C. We traded in the car and rented a new one in Frederick, MD. Way upgrade! This new car is a Toyota Corolla (not much; but better than the Prius, errr...Nissan Versa; and its NOT baby blue!) This car at least has power locks and windows, a clock and will play music straight from our iPhones. Can you say UPGRADE?!!

Then we headed to a new campsite...right next to the Bull Run Battlefield (and guess what? there is also a Bull Run Winery next door! I'm sure we'll be visiting!)

New campsite for the week, new car too. There's me writing this
blog and having a glass of wine! Loving life!
After we checked in to the campsite and set up, we decided to head over to the battlefield to check it out. The gal at the camp office gave us directions. Right next to the winery, we saw the sign to Manassas Battlefield and turned in to park. There were no maps in the park sign, so we decided to follow the people heading down the trail hoping to see some battlefield signs and descriptions. After 5 miles of hiking in the brutal sun (really only about 2) we came to the stone bridge.

The original bridge was built in 1825 across the Bull Run river. It was destroyed by the confederates during the first battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. During the second battle at Bull Run, on August 28-30, 1862 the "Union army under the cover of darkness, withdrew across the hastily rebuilt bridge towards Centreville and the Washington defenses beyond." Manassas National Battlefield Park Brochure
Stone Bridge, Manassas National Battlefield Park
Photo Laurie Southerton
We finally figured out how to find the visitor's office, 5 minutes before closing. The helpful park volunteer gave us a map and described that when we come back, if we know the name of our relative and their regiment, they can look up their path, mark it on the map for us to follow. My g-g-grandfather, George W. Ordner, was with the 2nd West Virginia Infantry at this battle and was wounded in the right shoulder.

We plan on coming back Wednesday to do research and follow his trail. Tomorrow, we are headed into Washington, DC to visit the National Archives. Stay tuned for what we uncover there!

P.S. Here is the awesome antique store purchase from yesterday...a new backseat rider across country to home for all my BEADS!!!

54 drawer antique oak hardware cabinet.
Drawers are tin inside. Now in the backseat of Jeff's truck.
the WHOLE back seat.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

SUCCESS!!! Check out what the Berlin, PA Historical Society had....

Berlin, PA - Berlin Area Historical Society

Remember a few days ago when we met the last Postmaster of the Fairhope Post Office, Bob Platt? Well, he had suggested that we go to the town of Berlin, PA and visit the historical society there on Saturday.

So at 9:30 am this morning we saw Bob walking down Main street in Berlin and headed to the Berlin Area Historical Society main office.

OMG - I was so excited to discover that the office had the ORIGINAL Post Office DOOR and the Post Office WINDOW with the mailboxes from my great-great-grandfather, George W. Ordner's Post Office and Store in Fairhope PA.

WOW! It was so cool to be able to touch the very wood, open the money drawer and unlock the package window that existed 150 years ago in his store. He touched it every day!

The U.S. Postal Service donated the pieces to the Berlin Area Historical Society in 1996. These had been moved from GWO's post office at the time that the new post office was built across the tracks. When they remodeled the post office in 1996, these moved to Berlin.

Here I am, opening the package door to accept
packages from postal customers. The counter top
was full of carved writings...mostly illegible.
Courtesy of the Berlin Area Historical Society, Berlin PA.

This is the mail boxes where customers would have
checked for mail to pick up, placed their letters to mail
and purchased stamps.
Courtesy of the Berlin Area Historical Society, Berlin PA

The painted U.S. Post Office shield. John McLane was a furniture
maker who started making cabinets for the Postal Service in 1876.
George, likely purchased these mailboxes and the door around that time
to create the Post Office in his store.
Courtesy of the Berlin Area Historical Society, Berlin PA
Behind the mail boxes. There were doors to close  the Post Office
and a drawer to hold the money and stamps. The post boxes had wires
across the bottoms and brass numbers on each.
Courtesy of the Berlin Area Historical Society, Berlin PA
The gentlemen at the office, President James (Jim) Suder and Treasurer, Stewart Saylor were extremely helpful in answering my questions and helping to look for information. We discovered some additional photos of the Fairhope area and the nearby Glencoe area where GWO's Uncle George E. Ways was the postmaster.

Bob Platt also later emailed me a more recent photo of the Fairhope Post Office than the ones I had found previously. In this photo, the upper porch was gone and awnings were in its place. Not sure the date that this was taken, but it was attributed to Joseph Lowry, who was the general store owner and postmaster in 1908.

Fairhope Post Office.
Photo courtesy of Robert G. Platt,
current Postmaster in Fairhope, 2014.
After this unbelievable find in Berlin, PA, Jeff and I headed to Somerset to get a bite to eat. We stopped at a few antique stores and I found a great item to take home - a 54 drawer oak chest. (I'd post a photo, but when we made it back to the campsite it was pouring rain so we left it in the car. No photos yet!)

Today was a great day and I am excited to see what else we might uncover on our travels! Tomorrow, Sunday, we are heading out of the Rocky Gap Campground and to Bull Run Campground in Manassas, VA to be our home spot for next week. The plan for next week is:

  • to visit the National Archives and the Postal Museum in DC
  • Visit more battle sites - 2 where GWO was wounded, one rather severely
  • Visit Harper's Ferry - GWO's cousin played a major role in the history there in 1859
  • And visit the Civil War Medical Museum in Frederick
  • Then finally to see friends in Pennsylvania and visit Gettysburg.
Going to be a great week! Keep checking back...

Friday, September 5, 2014

500 miles, 5 battlefields, and places George was 150 years ago.

We returned to the campground at 11:00 pm last night, too late and tired to write about all we did. So I am capturing it today!

Grafton, WV
We started driving to Grafton, WV. This is where George Ordner rode the train on May 21 or 22, 1861 with his cousin, John W. Moore and perhaps friend, James Callaghan from Cumberland, MD. The ride on the train was approximately 6 hours or so. When they stopped in Grafton, George and the boys almost certainly heard that there was a company forming and needed recruits. So, I imagine, George found Captain George Latham or Daniel Wilson to sign up with the "Grafton Guards".
Grafton Hotel in 1857. This is where George most likely
disembarked the train and signed up with the Grafton Guards.
Photo from the book Taylor County
of the Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society
According to accounts we found in the local Grafton library, about 9:00 pm on the night of May 22, Daniel Wilson and one of the leaders of the company, Bailey Brown, apparently were a little drunk and headed towards Fetterman on the railroad east of Grafton. The confederate pickets were guarding the bridge and challenged Brown and Wilson. Things got heated and Bailey Brown drew his pistol and fired on the guard, nicking his ear. The guard, Daniel W. S. Knight, returned fire with is smooth-bore flintlock musket loaded with a buck and ball cartridge and hit Brown in the left chest. Wilson retreated and caught the other guard, George Glenn's, load in the heel of his foot.

Bailey Brown was the first official soldier who died in the Civil War...and George was likely there that night.
Bailey Brown's memorial in the Grafton National Cemetery.
See how close the tracks are? He was actually shot about
150 yards or so from where he is buried today.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Philippi, WV
We left Grafton, and headed south to Philippi. This was the site of the first land battle of the Civil War. On June 3, 1861, the First Virginia Volunteers, under Benjamin Kelley (George's company was in this, his first marching to war) marched 20 miles through a drenching rain all night from Grafton to Philippi to route the Confederates stationed there. The Union army surprised the confederates and routed them out of town. There were 15 rebels killed, and "the gallant Colonel Kelley, of the First Virginia Volunteers, I fear, is mortally wounded. No other important casualties on our side." according to the Report of Major General George B. McClellan to Headquarters.

There is a covered bridge in town that the Union army used as barracks during the battle. The bridge still exists.
Covered bridge in Philippi, WV. Site of the first Civil War land battle.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Belington, WV
We were headed to Beverly from Philippi, and decided to stop at Belington along the way. This town is where we believe, that on April 25, 1863 (so a few years later than the first battle he was in..) he was back in this direction and purchased something worth $35 on credit from John L. Hilkey, Postmaster and store owner in Bealington, WV. I have a copy of the receipt, and payment of the item 10 years later in 1873. What could a young man have purchased for this much money (would be about $400 dollars in today's money)? I believe it was a Henry automatic rifle. Several of his company were issued the new repeating rifle, and I believe, George convinced a merchant to provide him credit to purchase one of his own.

Hilkey was appointed postmaster in Belington, Barbour County, on January 31, 1861. His son, John S. Hilkey took over on June 30, 1866. In the 1870 Barbour County Census, John L. Hilkey is listed as a farmer.

Receipt for $35 purchase - perhaps a Henry rifle -
by George W. Ordner (in his own handwriting) on
April 25, 1863 in Bealington, Va.
Photo Laurie  Southerton

Beverly, WV
Our next stop on this 500 mile odyssey, was in Beverly. There was a battle on Rich Mountain, of which George's regiment fought on July 11, 1861. There was a museum in the town that described the battle. Next door was an antique store (of course we had to visit that!) that was used as a hospital after the battle. There was graffiti still on the walls of the soldiers who were wounded and cared for in the hospital. Right across the street was the Bosworth's store, built in 1826, and was a commissary for the soldiers who were stationed on Rich Mountain after the battle.
Inside of Bosworth Store Museum. This store was used as a
commissary for the soldiers stationed in Beverly in 1861 after the
Battle on Rich Mountain.
Photo Laurie Southerton Courtesy of the
Randolph County Historical Society and Museum.

In the store was an actual water cooler that was in the store in 1861. If George purchased items in that store, he most likely refreshed himself with a drink from the crockery water cooler!
Original crockery water cooler in the
Bosworth Store in Beverly, WV
Photo Laurie Southerton courtesy of the
Randolph County Historical Society and Museum
We headed 5 miles up the mountain to the battle field. The drive was beautiful! According to the signs on the battle field:
"The battle was fought in this pass along the Stanton-Parkersburg Turnpike. Union forces led by General William S. Rosencrans stormed down the hill behind you. Confederates on guard here took cover behind log breastworks, farm buildings and large rocks in the stable yard across the road. Federal soldiers were held back by fire from infantry and a single cannon. After three hours of fighting, the larger Federal force charged and captured the cannon, scattering Confederate defenders through the woods."
Rich Mountain battlefield. Left is where the stable and cannon were.
Near the telephone pole about 150 yds away, was the Hart House where the
Federal soldiers were held back out of range of the cannon.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Cheat Summit Fort, WV
About 20 miles south of Rich Mountain, General McClellan had Union troops build a fort to watch the turnpike and the B&O Railroad below. George Ordner and his regiment, would have spend the winter in this camp and helped build this fort. The weather was unseasonable cold that winter, snowing on August 13! Conditions were horrible, rations limited and nothing but mud and cold.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Site where the fort was build. In the forefront you can still
see the breastworks that surrounded the fort.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Driving down from the mountain, the GPS took us apparently on a very low-maintenance road. Better for 4 wheelers, not our Nissan Versa! We rode over foot high rocky drops, through deep mud puddles and finally across a single lane old bridge over the creek before we came back out on the road! Should have had our Jeep!
Old bridge on the low-maintenance road coming
down from Cheat Summit Fort!
Photo Laurie Southerton
Hillsboro, WV - Droop Mountain Battlefield
From Cheat Mountain it was an hour south to the Droop Mountain Battlefield in Hillsboro, WV. It was already 5:30 pm, and we were 4 hours south from our campground, but we had to visit. George was here fighting and took a flesh wound in his arm here. George Ordner wrote about this battle in his diary:
Nov 6th, Friday - Fighting today 10 P.M. The enemy in full retreat, we pursuing. Camped for the night. We have taken number of prisoners. Our Regt. as far as Battle of Droop Mountain heard from lost 8, killed [?] 12 wounded. St. Weaver [Arthur J. Weaver] was killed toDay. Flesh wound in arm. Boys in high spirits. [?] victory at loop. 
We started at the top of the mountain at the lookout where the Confederates were positioned with their artillery.

Lookout tower and view from top of Droop Mountain.
You can see the town of Hillsboro 2 miles to the south (left).
Confederates held this top and Union troops
stormed them and routed them out.
Photos Laurie Southerton
Traveling down from the loop to the museum, there were signs that marked the position of the Union Troops as they positioned themselves to take the mountain top. This sign was next to the unbelievably deep raving that George and his regiment crawled up while artillery was raining down on them. They fought hand-to-hand and finally forced the Confederates back towards the turnpike. The regiment started with 200 men, nine were killed and fifteen wounded (George was one, although not officially listed on his record). Of the fifteen wounded, 5 eventually died of their wounds.
Droop Mountain Battlefield ravine where the 2nd WV
Mounted Infantry (George's regiment) stormed the mountain top.
Photo Jeff Southerton
When visiting the museum, there were several battle maps that showed the position of the troops.
The 2nd WV was in a deep ravine right above
the arrow at the bottom right.
Map of battle in Droop Mountain Battlefield Museum
It was an AMAZING day! Traveling and touching the very areas my grandfather walked and fought was absolutely incredible. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

To the top of Big Savage Mountain where Will's creek begins...Fairhope, PA

Fairhope, PA

We began this morning heading to the Meyersdale Public Library to meet up with Carolyn McKinney, author of the book "Hunting for Dead People." (Intriguing title, very helpful gal!) Carolyn, along with Cynthia Mason, the head genealogist, were very helpful in my search for information on my grandfather.

Carolyn had several books already sitting on a table for us to look through. Two of the books were written by local authors,Southampton Township, PA Volumes I and II by Roger and Mona Huffman, and contained over a hundred pages each of photos and images of Southampton Township people and places and the surrounding areas which included Fairhope.

To our great surprise, there were two photos of the original Post Office and General Store that George W. Ordner had built and stocked a general store with inventory on a $500 loan from his uncle, George E. Ways, in 1871. This is also the house where his son, Charles W. Ordner, was born in 1874.

Post Office and General Store in Fairhope, PA, George Ordner
built in 1871. The store and Post Office were on the first level,
the family lived above the store. George, Dena, baby Charlie
and George's mother, Isabella Ways.
(photo from Huffman's book, reprinted courtesy of
Somerset Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.)

The B&O train passing the Fairhope Post Office. The train was
close because it dropped off and picked up the mail from a hook
extending towards the tracks.
(photo from Huffman's book, reprinted courtesy of
Somerset Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.)
Photo taken September 3, 2014 on the site where the Post Office once stood.
The little white roof across the tracks is the current Post Office.
 We were very excited! Cynthia also found the original land maps of the counties from 1876 which had G. Ordner listed as the PO and Store in Fairhope and G. Ways listed down the tracks in Larimar. I knew that George and Dena lived with his Uncle George in 1870.

We visited the current Fairhope Post Office (I had to mail my dad a postcard to wish him Happy Birthday. Hope it was fun today, Dad!) The Post Master was there, Robert G Platt. He was very helpful and suggested we head to the town of Berlin on Saturday morning. He would be at the genealogical center where we should be able to find out all kinds of information on Fairhope. He also told us that we knew the very first postmaster and now the very LAST Postmaster of Fairhope. How sad to see it close this year! The list of all postmasters is online at the USPS web site.

Cancellation stamp from the Fairhope PO.
We also uncovered more information on George's war history. There is a researcher, Keith Petenbrink, who has been searching local Civil War soldier's history for the past ten years for the Meyersdale Public Library.
Good information...I will write more about it as we trace his war travels. Starting tomorrow we are heading to his first battle site...check back later!

Steaks are cooking on the fire and its time for me to put the salad together!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

100 degrees, cemeteries, and lightening!

Back to Cumberland, MD today to see what we could find in the Allegany County Special Collection at the Maryland College. We headed to the library around 10:00 after a breakfast of yogurt, blueberries and coffee (too hot and muggy to cook anything!)

The librarian was very helpful, pointing us to books and information in their special library room. However, the main genealogy librarian is apparently only there on Mondays. I was hoping to find the following today:

  • Copies of death certificates of several family members who died in Cumberland in the late 1800s or early 1900's 
    • Nope, nothing. Was told I have to go to the Maryland vital statistics office and each certificate is $25. (Sorry, Sis, can't look at the George Banks one, have to purchase it to see it.)
  • Find out where I might look up the coroner's report on George W. Ordner's death in 1904 
    • They had never had that request before. No clue where to even start....
  • Find out where the Cumberland Evening Times newspapers are and possibly look up the newspapers from March 1903 and June 1904 for obituaries
    • Nope, no clue where newspapers would be or even if they would exist, except online I could look. (Already did this from Minnesota, no luck!)
So, not much help at the library and the Genealogical Society of Cumberland. I will try and call the researcher next Monday and see if she can help me.

Next step was to find the graves in the two local cemeteries - Rose Hill and St. Patrick's. We headed to Rose Hill around 12:30 and it was 100 degrees outside and extremely humid. Perfect day for crawling around a cemetery! Not.

The groundskeeper was very helpful in pointing us to the two family graves in the cemetery - George and Mary Banks (parents of George Ordner's daughter-in-law, Charlotte, my great-grandmother) and Samuel D. Ways - Brother of George's mother, Isabella and confectioner in Cumberland. He made candy, baked goods and chocolates and sold them in a store. He was known in Cumberland as "Sugar" Ways, so family history says. After the first failure in finding the graves, we went back to the grounds-keepers office and he gave us a map. (He forgot the first time!) So we went again. If any of you have ever searched for grave sites in a cemetery before, you know what I am talking about. The maps they show you are nice and evenly laid out rows and numbered sections to find the sites. When graves are made over a period of 100 years or more, there is no such thing as rows and the numbers are only on the map! Took a while, but we successfully found both grave sites at Rose Hill.
George and Mary Banks - Charlie Ordner's In-Laws.
Someone had recently put flowers on the grave.

After Rose Hill, we decided to head to St. Patrick's Church to see if we could find George W. Ordner's grave. has his grave listed at St. Patrick's. We talked to a wonderful, helpful lady at the pastor's office. She showed us the map to the cemetery and looked up the Ordner's and Ways families who were buried there. No Ordner's showed up in her cemetery card file at all, nor on the map on the wall that had listed names since 1873. There were three plots that contained several of the Way's family (George's mother's family and his grandmother, Cecelia Ways, was buried there also.) As we headed up to the cemetery, the sky turned really dark and started lightening. Not only were we boiling hot, now we were going to get wet!

Again, we had a hard time finding the plots where the graves were located. We did manage to find all three plots - but only a few had actual headstones that were legible. One was his uncle George E. Ways (I had to actually dig out the sod above the stone to see it.)

George E Ways
Born in Frederick, MD
Born March 13, 1826  Died June 15, 1881
Catherine E. McCaughan Ways
Born in Parish of Caulfaughtrin
County Antrim, Ireland
August 26, 1832  Died February 19, 1878
 George Ordner and his wife, Dena, lived with his uncle and family in 1870 right after they were married  and before moving to Fairhope, PA. George and Dena moved to Fairhope sometime in 1870-71 and opened a general store and post office there. George was appointed the Postmaster in 1871. (I have a copy of his appointment certificate.)

We ended the hot, humid day in a wonderful restaurant east of the city  - Puccini's - Italian pasta and good wine. The restaurant was on the site of a civil war battle, Folck's Mill on August 1, 1864 in Cumberland. It was scary for the Cumberland residents to know that 2800 confederates were coming to burn the town if the town didn't pay ransom. George had already mustered out of the Union army and was probably already home in Mt. Savage. The story says hundreds of civilians formed companies to fight to protect the city along with General Benjamin Kelley's Army of the Potomac, which was brand new, untested in battle recruits. Since General Kelley was the general of George's regiment in his very first battle in 1861 in Phillippi, I can imagine that George actually was one of the civilians who armed to protect Cumberland, since many of his family were living there at the time. Pretty great finish to the day!

Tomorrow Jeff and I are headed to Fairhope, PA to learn more about George as the Postmaster there and what life was like for his son Charlie as a boy...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Up Savage Mountain...a parade, a cemetery, a furnace and more

Mt. Savage, MD

Today we got our rental car (darn near a Prius, a Nissan Versa), checked out of the hotel in Cumberland and headed 7 miles up the mountain, through the narrows to Mt. Savage...where George Washington Ordner was born.

We rolled into the tightly packed, quaint little town a little after noon. Just in time to park, get a cold water and a Lime snow cone, find a grassy spot to sit and wait for the Labor Day parade to start. We sat across from the fire hall and watched the locals begin to line up the kids along the parade route with their plastic grocery bags to collect candy. I think there were as many people in the parade as there were watching. Looked about even.

Sitting there for the 30 minute parade we watched about 15 fire trucks go by, a dozen restored tractors, a marching band, a mini-locomotive with barrel cars and a caboose, several political candidates came shaking hands and even a hairdresser passing out business cards - great advertising!

After the parade, we met up with Dennis Lashley (he was the one driving the mini locomotive!), to learn more about Mt. Savage. We walked over to his jeep, hopped in and drove about a block and a half to the ruins of one of the blasting furnaces that was one of three in the 1850's. It was part of the Mt. Savage Iron Works, a foundry that took iron ore from the mountains and smelted it and rolled it into rails for the train tracks.
One of three blast furnaces of the Mt. Savage Iron Works.
Inside this enormous cavern would have been
a large boiler to blast air into the furnace to melt the iron ore.
As we walked to the furnace, Dennis said that this is precisely the ground that my grandfather would have walked while working here and probably the furnace he actually worked in every day when he was 16,17 and 18 years old. His occupation was listed as a "steel smelter" on his enlistment papers for the civil war. He likely worked directly with the blast furnaces, either skimming the slag from the top or poking the hole in the middle to allow the molten steel to pour out into the sand molds called "pigs". When cooled these iron bars would have been transported to the foundry where they were remelted, poured into sheets and sent to the "rolling mill". The iron sheets would have been rolled 5 times through the mills to bend them into the correct shape of the rails for the train tracks. This was the only rolling mill making rails in the US at the time. You can learn more about it on the Mt. Savage Historical Society website.

From the furnace, we drove another block across a small creek to where the single remaining "row house" exists. There were 22 of these houses lined up across the creek from the furnaces. This is where the workers lived. They were duplexes, three stories high. The lowest floor contained the kitchen, the middle and top floors the rooms where the workers slept. In the bachelor quarters (probably where my grandfather lived) they sometimes housed 8-10 young men! across the street near the creek, each house had gardens. At the end of the row, next to the first house there was a spring that was piped and every house carried their water from the pipe. The water was still flowing cold and clear today!

Row house that the iron workers lived in with their families.

After going through the row house, Dennis took us a few miles up the hill to where St. Ignatius Catholic Church once stood. It stood on the hillside above Mt. Savage and the view was spectacular! Behind the church is the cemetery, where George's father, John Charles Ordner, is buried. He died in 1858 when George was 15 years old. I have copies of the receipts in 1858 from John Ordner's estate papers that paid for his grave ($4) at St. Ignatius and the coffin, hearse and horses ($30) for his funeral. We tried to find his grave, but the gravestone probably doesn't exist anymore. There are very old ones there, the church was built in 1793, but many were so eroded that they were illegible. We'll check with the church records and see if they and the graves laid out so we can identify where it would be.

Broken, single grave with the year 1858. Couldn't read the name.
In the field below the cemetery was where the church stood.
I also wanted to see if we could pinpoint where their store existed in 1858. George's father and mother had come to Mt. Savage in 1841 to open a dry goods store on the National Road on the way to the west. In his probate papers I have the inventory of the contents of his store. Family stories I found, stated the store was located about a mile past the C&P R R Depot (used to stand near the baseball diamond in the park where we had parked to watch the parade) on the road to Frostburg. When we clocked the mile, it would likely have been between town and the church. Once again, beautiful views overlooking the town and the mountains. We will never know exactly where it stood, but it was fun to imagine the sights they saw. The store burned to the ground after John Ordner died, which is probably why George ended up working for the Iron Works at 16 years old.

Lots of history in this little town of 1200 residents. In George's day, there were 4,000 people living there. Plus Dennis said workers would have ridden the train from Cumberland every day too. Dennis then took us to a museum back in town where he showed us a lithograph from 1844 of the town. Fascinating to see how the town was laid out, no trees, lots of buildings. I can imagine the noise, the smoke and the smells from all the coal burning furnaces in town along with the railroads.

1844 lithograph of Mt. Savage - row houses are on the right,
three smoke stacks are the blast furnaces. St. Ignatius Church
is on top of the hill on the right above the houses.
Thank you Dennis for spending all afternoon with us showing off Mt. Savage!

We headed to Rocky Gap State Park where we will be camping the rest of this week. During the day we plan on heading out to do more research...tomorrow we are going to try and find more gravesites and hopefully see the inside of the Walsh house!