Golden Thread 75 Years are gone, but Old Men will Remember

NH Civil War Gal

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My paternal grandmother took care of two bachelor brother CW soldiers in NH. My father remembered them very well as a boy and teen-ager. The brothers had a small, neighboring farm here in NH and as they became very infirm, they helped them. My father and grandmother were with one when he died in his own home, and they brought the other one to their much bigger farm a mile up the road and he stayed with them several years before he died. My father remembered them with honor. I only know one story they told my father. They served together and were in Penn. on some sort of guard duty (no fighting at that time) and they were on a hill guarding a wagon that had barrels on it. I think there was beer in one of the barrels - certainly something liquid. Maybe a more knowledgeable member will know what it could be. Anyway, the soldiers at the bottom of the hill wanted it and were begging for it (not dying of thirst by any means), and suddenly, one of the brothers knocked a barrel off and it rolled down the hill to the enjoyment of the men. Of course, they told the officer in charge, they had no idea how that barrel rolled off......

Oh, how I wish I could talk to them!
 

WJC

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I found these happy old vets absolutely irresistible, would love to have been there:
I bought the photo on eBay, where it was properly described as a new print from an old negative. And, I didn’t feel that the $8 price for a quality 8x10 glossy was too unreasonable -- particularly since I couldn’t find a copy anywhere else online.

At 91, the gent with the long mustache (apparently humming along!) is the youngster of the group.

The caption is from the Charleston News and Courier of June 30, 1938. The AP wire photo printed over it, and in other newspapers across the country about the same date, was a slightly different shot taken apparently just moments before or after.
Thanks for posting! That's probably the best Civil War reunion photo I've seen!
 

WJC

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One of the few Civil war veterans attending the 1938 Gettysburg Reunion who had actually fought on that field in July 1863, was William D. Welch, shown here in a well-known Signal Corps photo (No.109174), being embraced by 9 year old “Annie Laurie of Atlanta, Ga.”
Bill Welch was born in Quaker City, Pa. “during Old Hickory's first term.” The exact year is somewhat in dispute. At the 1945 G.A.R. annual reunion, he claimed he was, at 113, the oldest living member – some of his former comrades insisted he was only 105, and “Capt. Billy” was quite prepared to defend his honor, and his age, with his fists, if need be. His 1865 discharge papers list his age then as 33 -- which would tend to support his claim.

He had enlisted on August 25, 1862, in Co. I, 140th Penn. Volunteer Infantry. Barely six weeks later, at Antietam, he was wounded. He returned to fight at Chancellorsville, and then Gettysburg. As part of Zook's Brigade, Caldwell's Division, of Hancock's II Corps, the 140th Pa. Fought in the Wheatfield on July 2nd (taking heavy casualties), and the next day stood at the “Bloody Angle” to face Picket's oncoming Confederates. Private Welch went on to participate in the Mine Run, Wilderness, and Petersburg campaigns, and on to the war's end. He witnessed Lee's surrender at Appomattox. He mustered out with his regiment at Washington D.C., on May 31, 1865.

After the war, William D. Welch returned to Pennsylvania, and his life as a boatman on the Monongahelia, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers. His occupation was towboating, operating the powerful little tows that pulled strings of rafts or barges, laden with coal, or iron ore, or crockery, or furniture – anything that didn't have to move in a hurry. “I know every lock, dam, shoal and snag between Pittsburgh and New Orleans,” he claimed, “They got pieces of my boats on all of them.” A few weeks before his death, the Saturday Evening Post published a profile of “Capt. Billy,” entitled “The Old Man and the River” (Sept. 13, 1945). There, Mark Murphy describes the hard life of the riverman:
And young ones there were: 24 children by three wives.

William D Welch died of influenza on December 15, 1945, at the home of his daughter in Eugenia, Ohio. He is buried in Belle Vernon Cemetery, Westmoreland County, Pa. His Find-a-Grave page contains very little information.

There is much, much more to read about the eventful life of William D. Welch, in Patricia Carlson's Literature and Lore of the Sea (1988), which quotes extensively from the Saturday Evening Post article, and also at: http://www.davidmaloney.com/gar/TheFourthBattalion1987-1990/1987-90_Vol2No5.pdf
View attachment 107452
You could write a book about this gentleman.​
Thanks for posting! What a great story!
 

WJC

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Over the next few days, I am going to be telling a little something about each of these six veterans. They all have interesting stories to tell.

The caption above, it seems, has the men a bit out of order. The gentleman, third from the left, is not Charles Barothy, but Homer S Woodworth. And quite the individual he was:
View attachment 104299
[Omaha World Herald, 6 Oct. 1935]
View attachment 104301
[San Diego Union, 29 Dec. 1940]​
Homer S. Woodworth died on May 12, 1942, age 98.
Thanks for posting. The 'magician' article appears to gloss over his experience as a casualy at Vicksburg, almost buried for dead.
Oh, what these fellows could tell us....
 

KansasFreestater

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Several posts refer to a "debate" at the time as to whether to fly the Confederate flag at the 1938 reunion. Does anyone here know more about this? I did a quick google search, but couldn't find the answer to my question: Did Confederate veterans actually march under their colors at some point during the weekend??

I did find this article, from which I gathered, perhaps mistakenly (someone please correct me if I'm wrong!) that individual groups/tents might choose to display their flag. Still no answer to whether they were allowed to march with it.

Would appreciate any leads from anyone here who may have studied the 1938 reunion in more detail.
 
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KansasFreestater

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Of Pvt. Jeremiah Wilhelm, Omaha.com says:

“Born in Baltimore in 1844, he was a drummer boy with the 3rd Maryland Infantry Regiment and once shook hands with President Lincoln when a company from the unit was assigned as his bodyguard. He and three brothers fought at Gettysburg, and served in the Atlanta and Appomattox campaigns near the end of the war.

“Wilhelm moved to a farm near Dorchester, Nebraska in 1879, and worked for John Deere for more than 30 years before retiring in 1916. In his later years, he served as postmaster for the Nebraska State Senate. He attended the 75th anniversary observance of the Gettysburg battle. He died in 1942, at age 97, and is buried in Dorchester.”

He had enlisted at Baltimore on March 1st, 1862 in Company E, 3rd Maryland Volunteers. He himself was not with his regiment at Gettysburg, as he had been sick in Central Park Hospital in New York since early June, and would not rejoin the unit until October. His MSR reports him "present" at all other times. Pvt Wilhelm and his comrades mustered out at the termination of their enlistment on July 31, 1865.

Jeremiah Wilhelm kept up with his drumming after the war, and local Omaha newspaper coverage frequently mention him as drumming at reunions and public holiday celebrations. The last of which was just days before his death. We see him in the Grand Island Independent, of June 1, 1942:

The caption reads: “Jeremiah Wilhelm, 98 year old Civil War veteran and drummer at the Battle of Gettysburg, brought his drum out Saturday and played a drum solo during Memorial Day ceremonies at the Soldiers’ Home. ‘Jerry’ as he is affectionately known by members of the home, was brought out in a wheelchair because he isn’t as spry as he used to be, but he didn’t show any signs of slowing up when it comes to beating the drums. Posing with him are two members of the Harry Norton junior drum and bugle corps."

The drum he carried through the last years of the Civil War is now in Omaha's Durham Museum. He passed away on June 11, 1942, at the age of 98.
Question for someone who knows more than I do:
Could someone who fought at Gettysburg and in the Appomattox campaign -- i.e., in the Army of the Potomac -- also have fought in the Atlanta campaign -- i.e., in one of the western armies? I knew that regiments could get moved around a lot during the war, but did they get moved around from one army to another like that?
 

1stMN

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I found these happy old vets absolutely irresistible, would love to have been there:
I bought the photo on eBay, where it was properly described as a new print from an old negative. And, I didn’t feel that the $8 price for a quality 8x10 glossy was too unreasonable -- particularly since I couldn’t find a copy anywhere else online.

At 91, the gent with the long mustache (apparently humming along!) is the youngster of the group.

The caption is from the Charleston News and Courier of June 30, 1938. The AP wire photo printed over it, and in other newspapers across the country about the same date, was a slightly different shot taken apparently just moments before or after.

Love this picture. Some epic facial hair going on there too!
 

John Hartwell

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Several posts refer to a "debate" at the time as to whether to fly the Confederate flag. Does anyone here know more about this? I did a quick google search, but couldn't find the answer to my question: Did Confederate veterans actually march under their colors at some point during the weekend??

I did find this article, from which I gathered, perhaps mistakenly (someone please correct me if I'm wrong!) that individual groups/tents might choose to display their flag. Still no answer to whether they were allowed to march with it.

Would appreciate any leads from anyone here who may have studied the 1938 reunion in more detail.
I've posted about that somewhere, I'll see if I can find it.
There was still hard feelings in some quarters. Some vets wrote letters objecting to allowing the Confederate flag, most notably a past GAR Commander-in-Chief. But in general, the GAR was willing to "let them have their flag," and so it was decided.
The "debate" was much stronger before the 1913 reunion -- but it was allowed then, too.
cbf4.png
[Springfield Republican (Mass.), 25 May 1938]​

cbf2.png
[Richmond Times-Dispatch, 26 May 1938]​
Only 46 Virginians attended, but so did grouchy old Ned Foster, and doubtless had a grand time.
 
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John Hartwell

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Question for someone who knows more than I do:
Could someone who fought at Gettysburg and in the Appomattox campaign -- i.e., in the Army of the Potomac -- also have fought in the Atlanta campaign -- i.e., in one of the western armies? I knew that regiments could get moved around a lot during the war, but did they get moved around from one army to another like that?
It was possible. The 2nd Mass., for instance, had as battle honors: "Jackson, Front Royal, Winchester, Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Raleigh, Averysborough." In their case they had been part of the XI Corps, which was moved to Tennessee after Gettysburg. Then, in April 1864, 2 of its Divisions were transferred to the newly formed XX Corps, which Sherman took into Georgia and beyond..
 

John Hartwell

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Wow! I'm glad I resurrected this thread -- apparently many missed it last year. It's garnered something over "likes" in the past 24 hours!

I'll plan to add more over the coming weeks. Problem is that while there are hundreds of great photos, most of them don't identify the vets by name.

I do like stories!
 
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Chattahooch33

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Question for someone who knows more than I do:
Could someone who fought at Gettysburg and in the Appomattox campaign -- i.e., in the Army of the Potomac -- also have fought in the Atlanta campaign -- i.e., in one of the western armies? I knew that regiments could get moved around a lot during the war, but did they get moved around from one army to another like that?


Certainly. The Federal XX Corps under Fightin Joe Hooker was transferred south after Gettysburg to join up with Grant in Chattanooga. When Grant left Sherman in command the corps became part of the Army of the Cumberland under General Thomas and they participated in some of the heaviest fighting of the Atlanta Campaign followed by the March to the Sea.

I do remember reading that they caught hell from the western federals who called them "paper collar soldiers" due to their clean and well dressed appearance.
 
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Wow! I'm glad I resurrected this thread -- apparently many missed it last year. It's garnered about 75 "likes" in the past 12 hours or so.
I'll plan to add more over the coming weeks. Problem is that while there are hundreds of great photos, most of them don't identify the vets by name.

I'm very glad you resurrected it! These photos and stories are priceless. Thank you @John Hartwell!
 

Kip124thNY

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The Reader's Digest used to have an article entitled "My Most Unforgettable Character". These old soldiers and their stories would have definitely been great to read. The pictures were awesome. I would like to know if there is or was a Lower Turkey Foot Township in Somerset County PA? Thanks for posting.
 

KansasFreestater

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I've posted about that somewhere, I'll see if I can find it.
There was still hard feelings in some quarters. Some vets wrote letters objecting to allowing the Confederate flag, most notably a past GAR Commander-in-Chief. But in general, the GAR was willing to "let them have their flag," and so it was decided.
The "debate" was much stronger before the 1913 reunion -- but it was allowed then, too.
View attachment 150597
[Springfield Republican (Mass.), 25 May 1938]​

View attachment 150595
[Richmond Times-Dispatch, 26 May 1938]​
Only 46 Virginians attended, but so did grouchy old Ned Foster, and doubtless had a grand time.
I would have sided with Ned Foster. I'm disappointed that the G.A.R. caved. White unity purchased at the expense of black Americans, seems to me. See Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Artificial Ni**er."
 

WJC

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Several posts refer to a "debate" at the time as to whether to fly the Confederate flag at the 1938 reunion. Does anyone here know more about this? I did a quick google search, but couldn't find the answer to my question: Did Confederate veterans actually march under their colors at some point during the weekend??

I did find this article, from which I gathered, perhaps mistakenly (someone please correct me if I'm wrong!) that individual groups/tents might choose to display their flag. Still no answer to whether they were allowed to march with it.

Would appreciate any leads from anyone here who may have studied the 1938 reunion in more detail.
I haven't seen anything about a flage debate in 1938, but there was a brief spat about displaying Confederate flags and wearing Confederate uniforms in the lead up to the 1913 reunion. Pennsylvania's Governor, John Tener, diffused the situation, saying "whether the uniform be blue or gray, the wearer will be heartily welcome."< Carrol Reardon, Pickett's Charge in History and Memory. (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 184.>
 

WJC

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I would have sided with Ned Foster. I'm disappointed that the G.A.R. caved. White unity purchased at the expense of black Americans, seems to me. See Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Artificial Ni**er."
That's one of the complaints about the joint US/Confederate reunions. They promoted harmony among former white enemies while contributing to the general apathy our country had for our Black citizens. "All is forgotten" including why the war came about and what it was about....
 

John Hartwell

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Gbg381.jpg
That’s Pennsylvania Governor George Earle (wearing his uniform as a WWI Navy veteran) between two wheelchair bound veterans of an earlier conflict, at the 1938 "Reunion of the Blue and Gray." On the left is Cornelius Welsh of Brunswick, N.J., formerly a trooper of Co. F, 2nd New Jersey Cavalry. And on the right, Eli Kelley, Co. F, 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry.

A December 13, 1939 interview printed in the Bridgewater (N.J.) Courier-News, tells Cornelius Welsh's story;

“He boasts such clear vision that he needs no glasses and is able to spend long hours at what probably is his greatest hobby reading. ‘Second eyesight’ is what he terms it, for Mr. Welsh holds that he needed glasses until only a few years ago. He abandoned his glasses and today he says he can see as well as when he was a youth. The bright, clear sparkle in his blue gray eyes substantiate that statement. Western stories, the movement of swift horses and the rapid firing of rough-riding cowpuncher heroes are his delight. Why shouldn't they be? It was in the saddle of some of the finest cavalry mounts in the Union Army that he saw action in the war between the North and the South.

“In September 1864, at 17, he ran away from his home in Middlebush along with two companions, Nicholas Cornell and Joseph Van Allen, both about his own age, to join the Union Army at a recruiting station in Elizabeth, Mr. Welsh was assigned to the Second New Jersey Cavalry Regiment, Company F. which left for the Southwest in the Mobile Bay sector. In his company's only skirmish with the enemy, the Battle of Egypt Station in Mississippi, Mr. Welsh was shot several times but bullets only pierced his uniform, he hastens to add. Men on both sides of him were shot from their mounts, he relates, his own sergeant being one of the first to fall as the Northern regiment rode on a column of Southern infantry. Nine hundred Confederates were taken prisoners, he asserts. In Midst of Battle Mr. Welsh himself was mounted on the back of a husky brown charger captured from the enemy.

“His horse was so well broken for cavalry duty, he declares, that he could place his carbine between, the ears of the mount and fire without the horse varying even a little from the direction in which it was being driven. While dismounted at one point in the campaign, the soldier once again narrowly missed being wounded or killed when a cannon ball fired at close range by the Confederate artillery rebounded in a tuft of field grass inches from where he was standing. Following the peace treaty in 1865, he was mustered out of service along with others of his regiment in Vicksburg, Miss. The cavalry was taken to New Orleans and boarded a ship for New York City. Discharges were granted in Trenton.

"Mr. Welsh was presented with a state medal, one of his proudest possessions, on which is inscribed the phrase, 'Ready to Die for the Honor of Our Country.' A Union soldier, rifle In hand, is shown against a background of cannon and flags. He returned to Middlebush, to his family and farming. The family had engaged in farming after leaving Jersey City, where Mr. Welsh was born. Following his marriage to the former Miss Margaret Conover several years after his return from the war, Mr. Welsh moved to East Millstone to become a market gardener. He survived his wife who bore him five children, and was married again when he was about 48 years old. The second Mrs. Welsh died several years ago. Mrs. John Corey, daughter by his second marriage, resides in Camden. Mr. Welsh has three grandchildren and one great grandchild, all living in Camden. …

nj medal.jpg
[The Pennsylvania War Medal]
“Besides farming and market gardening, the veteran also served as a furniture store manager in New ark about 30 years ago. Although his ideas are 'as modern as the next one,' the old soldier says he does not get ‘excited’ over the radio or over riding in autos unless he is going somewhere. Autos for the ride alone ‘don't phase me,’ he says. He admits he likes the amateur hour on the air and thinks the radio barn dance has it all over Benny Goodman. In the dead of winter, he says, he likes to sit by his ‘friend,’ the radiator. He resides in Wortman St. with his nephew. William H. Welsh, overseer of the poor of the borough.”


Eli Kelly had quite a different story to tell. The war started just a few days before his twelfth birthday. Far too young to enlist, he nonetheless longed for a uniform, a musket, for drums and parades, flying flags, and the glorious excitement of facing the rebel foe. His parents, of course, would hear nothing of it. He was too young, and would stay at home where he belonged. But, Eli never gave up hoping.

A year passed ... then two. Again he begged his father to let him enlist. But, his parents were adamant. Eli began to seriously consider running away to sign up in some distant location where no one knew him when he lied about his age. "But Eli Kelley was a good boy," says a ragged, undated and unattributed newspaper clipping, "and he took to heart the Commandment, 'Honor thy father and thy mother.' Besides his mother’s health was delicate, and he feared the effect his disappearance might have on her." He was disconsolate as he watched friends, even some his own age go off, with parents' blessing, to achieve, he was sure, immortal glory.

Then it was 1865 … and everybody knew the war was winding down ... it could end at any moment. Eli grew desperate, begged, pleaded with his parents to let him go, but in vain. April came. Petersburg had fallen. Then, Appomattox, and just days later, the dreadful news of the assassination in Washington. In tears he begged again … pleaded yet more … his life would be ruined if he was not a part of this … he would always consider himself a coward and a failure, could never face his neighbors. And finally, miracle of miracles, they relented! In a few days, Eli Kelley would reach his sixteenth birthday, and his father would sign for him to enlist.

Word had come that eight new companies were being raised for a one year enlistment to fill the depleted ranks of the 103rd Regiment. Eli Kelley enlisted at Pittsburgh, with his father’s permission, on April 25th. Within days he was aboard a transport bound for North Carolina. He had his uniform at last. As soon as he reached the South, he was told, he would be given his gun, and begin training -- training to be a real soldier. They landed on Roanoke Island, where the 103rd was posted as garrison. Eli doubtless gloried in the next few days of learning the ways of the soldier, learning to march, learning to shoot. But, it was all too brief. The war was, in fact, already over.

The regimental history of the 103rd Pennsylvania, includes the roster of those eight companies of recruits among whom Eli Kelley is numbered, but of them says only this: "They came to the Regiment a short time before the Confederacy collapsed, to fill up its depleted ranks, the war ended and they were mustered out with the Regiment at New Berne, N.C., June 25, 1865, and received their final discharge at Harrisburg, Pa., July 13, 1865." Eli's "military career" had amounted to just ten weeks.

He was disappointed, no doubt, but Eli would go home in uniform, proof that, though he saw no action, he had shown himself ready and willing to put his life on the line had he been called upon to do so. He could hold his head up in any company. After all, many men served for years without ever seeing combat. He could march in parades on patriotic holidays. Later the would join the GAR, and eventually draw a soldier's pension. And, on those five days in the summer of 1938, he came together at Gettysburg with hundreds of other bent old men, to remember the old days, when he, like they, went forth to save the Union.
 
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