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...