Friday, November 23, 2012

When A Number Isn't Just a Number

Dear Uncle,

As you know, brother Bill and I have been collaborating ( I use the word loosely) regarding our civil war boys. He going in depth and I assisting in research and making sure that the girls of the boys are not forgotten either.  That being said this evenings conversation with Bill had my stomach, at one point, turning into a knot.  We were looking at a PDF file that had documentation regarding the units that our boys were attached to. My reaction to the fact was so immediate, so painful that I literally clutched my stomach. What could possibly have caused such a visceral reaction?

As I have said before, I am so attached to these boys that hearing details about their time in service to the Union is heartbreaking to me and so when my brother said "see that number 1 in that column?" To which I replied "yes", he said "That's Merrill."  The pain was instantaneous.

A simple, single number 1 in a column showing killed in action on a particular date, in a particular battle, for a particular company.  1.  A number.  But you see, it's not a number, that number has a name and it's Merrill C. Beal.  A young man serving for the Union who was the only one of his company killed that day, at that battle.  Merrill, your nephew, another Uncle who belongs to ME.  But that was not all.

Bill then says "Scroll down til you see the next page.  See the date?  See the battle?  See that number 1?   That's George."  Again I felt the punch in the gut.  Two boys. My boys. A number.  Well, by God, not in my lifetime. George W. Beal , brother of Merrill, sons of Calvin and Sally are not numbers.

Page 73 of 119 of the PDF, Second Regiment, Company "M", Casualties By Engagement, 1864, Oct. 19, Cedar Creek, VA.  14th column from the left. That "1" is Merrill C. Beals.

Page 74 of 119 of the PDF, Third Regiment, Company "H", Casualites By Engagement, 1864, May 15 - 18, Yellow Bayou (Bayou de Glaize, LA), 14th column from the left.  That "1" is George W. Beal.

That's who the number "1" is. They stood about 5' 5", had dark hair, blue eyes, were of medium build and had ruddy complexions.  Merrill, 29, a single man, was a meat butcher, George,38, husband to Julia and father to son Lewis age 9, was a photographer. MY boys, MY uncles, YOUR nephews.  Two of THE Beal Boys.

As Ever,
Your Devoted Niece
PS Should you be so disposed just look at this book, this is the link I got from google:

  • [PDF] 

    t Camp Meigs,
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
    Camp Meigs or the Camp at Readville

  • Should the link not work:
    Reservations and Historic Sites
    Camp Meigs Playground and Fowler Reservation, Vol. I & II
    Preliminary Data Compilation, Cultural Resource Managment Program
    Metropolitan District Commission, Boston, MA , April 1990
    Specifically: Mass Volunteers pages 161 and 163


    1. Great job. Once again you beat me to it. I knew I should have paid more attention to Mrs. Ingram my 10th grade writing and lit teacher. She would always say "Now William stop procrastinating and start writing." Ok Mrs. Ingram, where ever you are, you were right.

      Again Cheri, great job. You expressed the emotional feelings perfectly.

    2. Well, you KNOW how fired up I was. Read your blog and the academic explanation of the charts and then when it dawned on you who that number represented...we both realized that numbers are fine..until they belong to you and yours. Once again Bill, nicely done.