I love lists. I make lists for everything. Whether it’s a to-do list, errand list or a grocery list, I’ve got one in hand. While making out one of my many lists I started thinking about the things I'd like to see and do. A sort of a “Bucket List,” I guess. Then I thought about all the things I've made a mental note of seeing or doing since I began researching the Civil War. After thinking about it, and realizing there were so many I decided I should get those thoughts down and that’s how the top eight on my Civil War bucket list was born.
Call it my Civil War To-Do list or my Civil War Bucket list but it’s a checklist of things I'd like to see and do sometime, some day, all pertaining to my Civil War research. I’ll bet you have a few in the back of your mind too. Here are some of the Civil War related things I’d like to do, in no particular order. They don't necessarily have to do with my ancestors, although some are, generally it’s just Civil War things I’d like to see and do.
So here’s my list:
I’d love to visit Shiloh National Military Park. The first soldier from my area to perish in the Civil War was Mart Armstrong and he died at the battle of Shiloh. Armstrong was a dashing, young attorney with strong political aspirations but he set his future aside and followed his heart, enlisting in the first regiment raised in my area. I’ve researched Armstrong, visited his gravesite in my hometown and even presented a couple programs in my area about him. So Shiloh holds special meaning for me. I’d like to see where Mart Armstrong fell.
Another big check list item is to visit Ford's Theater in Washington DC. and the Petersen Boarding house across the street where the dying President Lincoln was taken. We’ve all read about that fateful night and the early morning when Abraham Lincoln died. I really want that experience. I can only imagine how meaningful it is to be there in person.
I’d love to tour Carnton Plantation near the Battle of Franklin and see the blood stained floors where doctors worked feverishly on injured Confederate soldiers. I want to walk on the back porch and see where several Confederate General’s bodies lay after the battle. I want to visit the nearby cemetery and pay my respects to the 1,500 Confederate soldiers who were tenderly buried and looked after by Carrie McGavock, the mistress of Carnton plantation. I’d visit the battlefield less than a mile away and only imagine the pain and suffering the battle brought to both sides.
Now this next item on my list is very personal. I’d like to find out what happened to the body of my cousin George S. Vanmeter. George was a corporal, shot and killed on picket duty April 13, 1864 outside of Florence, Alabama. He was with Co. G 9th OVC. He was one of three soldiers that died that day when Co. G 9th OVC was captured. Was he buried randomly nearby or tossed into the river? Wherever George’s remains are buried I'd like to go there and honor him.
Another thing I’d like to do is research a little more in-depth about Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, then I'd travel the 1,000 miles he made famous during Morgan's raid from Tennessee to Kentucky, across Indiana and Ohio before being captured. Morgan was a thorn in the side of the Union army in the western theater. Called a marauder, a bushwacker, a guerrilla leader, Morgan was a brave, brash, rogue, reckless and in my mind, the epitome of a swashbuckling (land) pirate. I need to know more about John Hunt Morgan.
Probably the most important item on my checklist and the least likely to happen is finding a photo of my Civil War ancestor, my great-great-grandfather George W. Lowery. He was a private and fought with Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. My family has absolutely nothing handed down from him. Nothing. Through research I’ve put together a couple war stories but I’d love a photo. Just one photo of him in uniform or even later in life, it doesn't matter. I'd just like to have a photo of my great-great grandfather, the Civil War veteran.Another place I’ve never been to is Appomattox Courthouse. Don’t we all want to go there? I want to walk in the footsteps of both General Lee and Grant and see the parlor where peace was finally reached. I want to stand on the porch of the McLean home and see in my mind the soldiers, both Yankee and Confederate that filled the countryside. Men who sacrificed so much for what they believed in. I need to see the place where our embroiled country found peace again.
Probably near the very top of my list would be a visit to the National Archives. I’d like to slip behind the scenes and look at the shelves and shelves and shelves of stored Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Pension files. Medical Cards, etc. Then I’d dive right in, first holding in my own two hands, my great great grandfather’s pension records. Then after that I’d search each individual file from every family member I know that was in the war! Holding those papers, knowing these veterans or family members labored over them would be a dream come true.
That's the condensed version of my Civil War To Do or Bucket List. My entire list goes on and on. I’ve even added a couple more things as I was writing this list! I haven’t mentioned Stonewall Jackson’s gravesite, the Surratt Boardinghouse, Arlington National Cemetery or anything about George Armstrong Custer! So what's on your list? I'd love to know what you'd like to see and do when it comes to your Civil War research. Give me a shout out at The In-Depth Genealogist Facebook page Who knows I may just add a couple of your ideas to my own list!
O’Sullivan, Timothy H, photographer. McLean’s House, Appomattox, Va., scene of General Lee’s surrender. [Photographed 1865, April, printed between 1880 and1889] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2014646169/. (Accessed January 01, 2017.) ↩