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

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    The "Great " Ladies of the Beal Family - Sentimental Sunday

    Dear Uncle,

    I'm sure you are aware of the chatting going on between my brother and I regarding his latest finds of our Civil War boys.  His blog is fascinating.  His latest find came in the delivery of documents  (78 pages) from NARA regarding the Widows pensions for Lucinda Barteaux Beals.

    Lucinda was the bride of Jesse N. Beals, one of our group of Civil War boys from the same Beal family. Lucinda was born in Nova Scotia, 23 March 1837, the daughter of George Barteaux and Eliza Williams.

    Lucinda and Jesse had not been married long when he was drafted into the Union Army.  Jesse came home a very, very ill man.  The pension files have many depostions as to Jesse's condition both during his enlistment and after his return home.  I mention this because it is of no doubt to me that Lucinda was a woman of strength and character who cared for her debilitated husband until his passing.  What is remarkable to me is that like other women of the time whose husbands did not return from war they were courted and won by those men who were available for matrimony

    Many of those men, older, widowed, established, had a field of young bereaved, vulnerable women from which to pick as wife number 2 or 3. Our Lucinda was chosen by a widowed,well established, well placed, politican  who in the end treated her shamelessly and because his actions were so callous, and the neighbors had witnessed and came to her rescue, this heinous individual gave her money to go away and keep the details out of court (and the public). Heaven forbid a scandal should taint this  man.  It was three years before a divorce was filed and granted.  The plaintiff being the degenerate husband, the cause being desertion by Lucinda!  It all seems very clear cut until in her deposition she states that she was advised by her family and close friends not to file a cross complaint because of the nature of her husband and the possible or probable repercussions.

    How many other stories similar to our Lucindas have not been told?

    Julia Russell was born about 1826 in Meridith, New Hamsphire, the daughter of Phineas Russell and Mary Leavitt. She was the wife of George W. Beal. They had been married about 10 years when George was called to duty.  His time with the army was a short 5 months as he was killed in action at Yellow Bayou, Louisiana.  Julia and her young son stayed in Natick.  Julia remained a war widow who ran a boarding house on Central Street.  I would imagine that there were more than a few "eligible" men who would have attempted to court the Widow Beal. That she never remarried is not so much a mystery as perhaps she was being prudent in hanging on to what was hers for the benefit of her son.

    Abby Fellows was born 1830 in Chesterville, Maine.  The daughter of Jonothan and Betsey Leavitt.  She was the wife of Eleazar Carpenter Beal who served in the Civil War for three years.  When Eleazar went to war Abby was at home in Natick tending to her children Abigail age 10 and Wallace age 3.  Abby was a lucky woman, her husband came home from war and together they lived to old age.

    It would appear that the women would be close, if not by affection for each other certainly geographically. They all lived in Natick. Would it be too much to assume that these women would bolster each other daily as news came from the war? Would they not have attempted to comfort each other when tragedy struck their families?  Would they not have held each other standing at the gravesite in Dell Park? Would they not have cried with one another when the news came home but their loved ones remains would be forever lost and an empty grave with a name on a headstone was the only record that they were once loved?  Did they visit one another? Attend church together? Did they ever laugh together?

    I think that these women of that time in our history who suffered so much loss not only from war but from childbirth and disease have gone unrecognized as heroines in their own right.  In the genealogical line they are referred to as "great", in my heart I refer to them as GREAT.

    Uncle, if you happen to see them please let them know that I admire their courage and strength.  Bless them all.

    As always,
    Your devoted niece