Sunday, December 22, 2013

Strange Paths to the American Civil War

The search for our relatives can take us to places that are strange and unusual, places that we never thought we would go.  I have embarked on such a journey trying to find the brother of my paternal ggg grandfather.

Samuel Halls Senior seemed normal enough at first.  His greatest mystery was that of who his wife was, and when they married.  Nothing out of the usual for someone who married about160 years ago.  But in my search for who his wife was I also started looking for wills and obituaries, for both him and his brothers.  I found the wills of his brothers, but I still have not found Sam's will.  I found the obituary of Sam's brothers, and I found the obituary of Sam too.

Finding the obituary solved one mystery, maybe, the maiden name of his wife, which was Godbolt.  Sadly, it opened the door to still greater mysteries about Sam.  In his obituary there was a line, During the Civil War, in the United States, he went there and reported the incidents to the British Government.

This was a revelation.  There was nothing to indicate that Sam had ever been involved with the military in any way, or with the government, either in Canada or in England.  The only connection that I could find between Sam and the military was that his nephew's wife's brother (Henry Borbridge) was a Captain in the 6th Hussars down in St Thomas, in Elgin county, Ontario.  Sam and his nephew (Samuel Pollard Halls) both lived in Elimville at the time of the Civil War.

Regardless of what I could, or can, find about Sam' connection to the military, where else could I look?  So began my search for British observers of the American Civil War, and it quickly became apparent that it could be a long search.

Brtish Officers posed for photo, summer 1862
So what have I found? Many pictures of observers from various countries, including the British Empire.  This one, taken by James F. Gibson during the Peninsular Campaign in 1862.  It is titled Yorktown, Va., vicinity. English Officers at Camp Winfield Scott.

Only three of the individuals have been identified.  Charles Fletcher,seated on the far right, and Edward Neville, seated third from the right.  S.L. Arny is standing on the far right.  You can find it at the Library of Congress.

Fletcher, Neville, and Arny, among others, can also be see in the following picture.  This one is titled Prince De Joinville and Friends, at Camp Winfield Scott, Near Yorktown, May 1862.

A group of foreign observers with Union General van Vliet
Edward Neville is standing with his hand on Edward Fletcher's shoulder.  Who are the others?
The names given with the photo information are on the Library of Congress website.  Hopefully I have everyone on the right place.

The order appears to be, from left to right, standing, T. Anderson Esq., Lt Col Neville, Major A.J. Pearson, Comte de Paris (Philippe d'Orleans), G. Sheffield.

Seated on camp stools, left to right, are Lt Col Fletcher, Prince de Joinville (Francois d'Orleans), Gen Stewart van Vliet.

Seated on the ground, left to right S.L. Arny, Duc de Chartres (Robert d'Orleans)

So where does this leave me?  Reading to increase my knowledge of the Civil War, both modern analyses and source materials written at the time. Looking up pictures of General McClellan's staff, among others.  Eventually visiting the Library and Archives of Canada to see what they might have.

And who knows.  Maybe the writer of the obit got it wrong, and Sam was was a soldier.  Or maybe Sam was never there.