Soldiers Enlisting Under Fake Names

Joined
Apr 12, 2013
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#1
Hello, everyone!

I am looking into a soldier I have reason to believe enlisted under a fake name. I was wondering how common that was and how hard it is to trace. His name was Arthur Edward Bixby. He was born in 1843 in Massachusetts. He initially enlisted in 1861 in the 14th Massachusetts Infantry/1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. He deserted in May, 1862.

My five reasons for believing he enlisted under a fake name:

1. There is no listing of him in the 1865 Massachusetts Census, nor any other reasonable explanation for his whereabouts the rest of the war.

2. His mother would claim that she believed him to have died of wounds at Folly Island (alternately reported as Fort Monroe) while serving with the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry.

3. In 1870, while on trial for larceny, he claimed to have served in the Army three times. He served in 1861-62 in in the 14th and briefly served in the Regular Army in 1866.

4. He enlisted underage in the 14th and, because of that and the fact he had epilepsy, his mother attempted to get him an early discharge. He may have though enlisting in a different unit under a fake name would get him out from under his mother’s authority.

5. The 14th performed guard duty in Washington for much of Arthur’s time with them. It has been theorized by at least one Bixby family genealogist he enlisted in a different unit to see combat.

6. Arthur disappears from record after 1879. I believe it is possible he may have gone back to using his wartime alias to make it easier to receive a pension .


I believe it is quite likely he served in the 22nd (possibly 24th if at Folly Island, though) under an assumed name and was wondering how to find out for sure.
 

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Zella

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#3
One of my ancestors enlisted under an alias. I would never have known except his real name is also listed on his pension paperwork. I've not had the opportunity to investigate him yet (busy working with the other side of the family), but I have several theories for the fake name. Still, his circumstances are quite odd. He enlisted several states away, as well, and I have never been able to figure out how a kid from Baltimore ended up in St. Louis in the middle of the war.
 
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#4
There are 46 CW veterans buried in the cemetery where I volunteer and two of them enlisted under aliases. One did so because he was underage (lied) and didn't want his father to come find him and the other was because he only spoke French and none of the men who signed him up could speak French so what got entered on the books was sort of made up. Both men applied for a pension after the war and the aliases and the reasons for them are documented in their application files.

So, I'd say it was likely very common.
 

unicornforge

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#6
And how many were officials making mistakes or just being lazy or obstinate about correcting mistakes in records? After all Hiram Ulysses Grant ended up with a mistake in how he was named in official records and ended up with a different name when he registered at West Point.
 

Zella

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#7
It wouldn't surprise me if a large number were clerical errors. I have found a lot of my Confederate ancestors with misspelled names (mainly surnames) on Fold3, though it seems like the folks who originally transcribed the records caught on and made notations and corrections.

The ancestor I consider having enlisted under an assumed name didn't have that problem. His real name was Samuel Scharf, which he used, as far as I can tell, throughout his life. Except for during the Civil War, when he was John Gilmore. To me, it's definitely an alias, though I have no idea why he felt the need to use one.
 



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