Episode 427 - “The Compact,” A Civil War Story You Will Want To Hear

podcast episode Jul 11, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with guest host David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins by talking about his newly found link to an accused witch of the late 1600s. Then, a top secret map used in the invasion of Normandy in World War 2 has been made public after a family donates it. Hear the story behind this remarkable document. Speaking of WW2, we have just lost our last Medal of Honor winner from the war. David has details. Then, Roman ruins have remarkably been unearthed in two different countries. Hear all about it.

Next, in two parts, Fisher visits with Jonathan Hill, a Civil War researcher from NEHGS. Jonathan came upon a published story from the War Between the States that so captured his interest that he decided to make a documentary out of it. You’ll want to hear all about “The Compact.”

David then returns for two rounds of Ask Us Anything, answering listener questions.

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 427

Fisher: And welcome America to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Hope you had a great 4th of July weekend last weekend. It was fantastic in my neck of the woods. And it gets me pretty excited about some of the things we can discover in history, in our family's history. And today by the way, we're going to talk to a guy named Jonathan Hill. He's a young researcher into the Civil War and he discovered through another guy a story called The Compact and it’s about these men who made an agreement while they were recuperating from wounds in a Civil War hospital. And you're going to want to hear the whole thing. He'll share it with us coming up here in two segments in just a little bit. And he's also taken it and turned it into a documentary that you can see. So, it’s a great story coming up with Jonathan in just a little bit. Hey, if you haven't signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, wish you would! We give you a blog each week plus links to past and present shows and links to shows you'll appreciate as a family historian. Right now, it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts speaking of Independence Day. That seems to be the center of a few things, it seems to me, David. It’s David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. How're you doing, bud?

David: Hey. I’m doing good post 4th of July and looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Fisher: Absolutely. You know, there was a story that was out your way that I heard you had a little connection that you discovered.

David: [Laughs] Yeah, I have a new cousin, but I can't visit her, because she died in 1747.

Fisher: Ah!

David: This is a young lady who, during the Salem Witchcraft hysteria was accused as many were. Her mother's name was Elizabeth Johnson. She was Elizabeth Johnson, so they were junior and senior. By 1957, Fish, all of them had been exonerated. Yeah, 1957, you know, for their role, the government kind of put the whole thing to rest. Except for a bunch of middle school students who realized that Elizabeth Jr. never was exonerated for her witchcraft role. I thought it may be fine to go out and see if I could find any living descendants. I figured that she married at some point in time. Now, she never married. She died in her early 70s unmarried and I determined that she's actually a shared cousin of mine. She is my second cousin nine times removed.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Through Edmond Ingalls, her great grandfather who died in 1648. But she's not just a cousin with me, Fish. She's a cousin with President James A. Garfield and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Fisher: Interesting! Yeah, that would make sense, of course. It is interesting to see how the people who make history in completely different times and places can still tie together like that. That's great. Good stuff.

David: Hey listen, I know what you found on eBay, but I can tell you that one piece of family ephemera didn't go on eBay and it’s going to the Library of Congress and that's Joe Vaghi's top secret map of Omaha Beach that he kept until the day he died not long ago.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And it's amazing.

Fisher: It's a great story, because he kept it with him on the beach, he led his men using the meticulous notes there, his clothes caught on fire after a shell landed near him and killed somebody who was at his side. I mean, it was amazing he got through. And he always told his family that it was this map and the details on it that kept him alive during the Invasion of Normandy. And now, it's being made available for everybody to see. What a great thing!

David: Ahh, it's great. I love the Library of Congress. You could spend a lifetime going through all of the things they have.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

David: And online too. Their collections online are phenomenal. Well, unfortunately with World War II, we are losing many of our veterans and now we've lost a chapter of the last Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Woody Williams who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by Harry S Truman for his role as a veteran in the US Marine Corps, and he has died at the age of 98.

Fisher: Wow! And you know, it is amazing, I was thinking Dave. I mean, we lost our last American veteran of World War I just 11 years ago. He was 110 years old.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: So, if you think about our World War II guys, if you just take the idea that maybe somebody lied about their age to get in, in 1945 and they were 16 years old, then they would have been born in 1929. We wouldn't lose our last World War II person until 2039. So, we've still got a few years with some of these guys, but they're all amazing.

David: It really is. And it’s as sad as out of all of the 473 Americans who got the Medal of Honor from World War II, he's now the last.

Fisher: The last one, yeah.

David: Well, you know, archeologists find things all over the place and I always like to fantasize one of these places had my ancestor there. And of course I'm Irish, so they found in Galway a Bronze Age Roman fortress about 3200 years old as they were out going through the typical work of a nature preserve. They found that this area wasn't just natural rock, it was manmade. So, and you know, these discoveries for the Romans are happening everywhere. Those roaming archeologists are finding Roman places like a sanctuary over in the Netherlands.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So, you just never know. I had to flip a coin on what I wanted to mention on that one.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, they're digging up the entire Roman empire for us now. This is great!

David: Exactly. Well, maybe they'll find a relative or two, DNA, you know.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Well, that's all I have from Beantown this week. I just wanted to give a shout out to those of you who have not visited AmericanAncestors.org. And if you like it, please think about joining and save $20 with the coupon code "Extreme" on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right, David. Are you doing any genealogical trips this summer by the way?

David: If going to Disney World counts, yes.

Fisher: [Laughs] No, I don't think that counts. But that sounds like a lot of fun. I'm going to be going back to the east coast this year and I'm really looking forward to seeing Revolutionary battlefields and visiting some archives there and looking up some documents that I've learnt about online, but haven't been able to see in person the last few years. So, it's kind of nice to be getting back it there once again, wouldn't you say?

David: I would definitely agree. And I'm going to Salt Lake City, Utah in November, so my genealogy will be worked on when I go out west!

Fisher: Absolutely. All right, thanks so much, Dave. We'll talk to you at the back end of the show when we come back for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to talk to Jonathan Hill. He is a Civil War buff, a young guy who came across a story called The Compact. It is absolutely fascinating. He's made a film documentary out of this thing and you're going to love it. It's an interview in two parts, coming up when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 427

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jonathan Hill

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and my next guest is a researcher at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. He is a Civil War buff in his spare time. His name is Jonathan Hill. And Jonathan, it’s great to have you on Extreme Genes.

Jonathan: Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Fisher: You know, it’s amazing to hear of Civil War buffs who are also film documentarians. And you’re only a young guy. You’re in your early 20s. And I’m really excited about this documentary you’ve come out with. It’s called “The Compact” and let’s talk about the storyline first because I know that took some effort even to find it. Tell us about how you came across this story.

Jonathan: Yes. Well, thank you so much. Well, so essentially I’ve always been interested in the Civil War ever since I’ve been a small, small child, like I don’t know, probably six or seven years old. The Civil War has been my main passion, my main interest and researching it and kind of finding the stories of people that lived, I wouldn’t say average lives, but not people you would read about in the history textbooks.

Fisher: Sure.

Jonathan: I’ve been so incredibly interested in their stories and their lives, and I find it just fascinating. So, as I got more into the genealogical world and the research world, I just became very interested in documenting through film the stories of these people, and that stories sometimes don’t get told. And so I was looking through Military Images Magazine, which is a big magazine for Civil War photos. And I was very interested in one particular story that was published by a man named Ron Coddington and it was the story of The Compact. And The Compact essentially was these 12 Civil War soldiers from all different parts of the country that were Union soldiers. Some of them were wounded in different battles, some of them had fallen ill from camp sicknesses, and they all met together in the York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania. And coming from different parts of the United States, they decided that they were going to get together and they were going to make a compact. And this compact said that in 20 years if they all survived the hospital and if they all survived the war, in 20 years they were going to meet at Niagara Falls and they were going to come together and have a conversation and see how they bettered their lives since the war and how they’ve tried to make the world a better place in the last 20 years. And so I became really interested in this story and did a lot of research and with the help of Ron Coddington as well, the author of the original documentary.

Fisher: Wow.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Fisher: That’s amazing. So, tell me about some of these guys. Were they of different ages?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Fisher: And what states were they from, what battles were they in, what is the background? Just give us a painting of some of these people.

Jonathan: Sure. Absolutely. So, the individual who was kind of the lead in organizing the 20 year reunion and won the second sign of The Compact, his name was Albert Orion Chaney and he was born in New Hampshire, so he’s a New Hampshire native. But as a young man he moves to New Jersey. He was a farmer originally but he kind of moved into a courtship and so he went out to New Jersey, and listing in the fifth New York infantry, which is later known as Duryée's Zouaves, so they’re Zouaves unit. And over the course of the war, he ends up becoming a hospital steward. So, he actually was not injured or was not wounded or had a camp disease, he was actually working in the hospital trying to save lives of the people that were there. And so, he becomes really, really well acquainted with a lot of the soldiers and these other 12 men. He’s one of the main characters in the story because he was the one after the war that ended up trying to get together and make sure that these men would meet up. 

Fisher: Wow.

Jonathan: But there are others involved too. There’s another man named Helim Thompson. Helim Thompson is a fantastic individual. He was in the 44th New York Inventory. He started as a school teacher and when the Civil War broke out, he ended up becoming a news runner, so he would run newspapers throughout town using his carriage. And he eventually enlisted in the 44th New York and was actually wounded at Gettysburg. And so after the battle at Gettysburg, he ends up getting sent to the hospital and meets the other 12 soldiers. From there, there’s some from Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, so on and so forth. They’re quite a diverse group of soldiers.

Fisher: Now you mentioned Gettysburg a few moments ago, were many of these guys in the battle of Gettysburg?

Jonathan: Yes, actually a surprising amount were at the battle of Gettysburg. And what’s really interested too is something that was covered within my documentary is the fact that Gettysburg was kind of near where York, Pennsylvania is. They decided that they were going to try to move the hospital across the Susquehanna River because they were worried about the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania. They were worried about the hospital falling into Confederate hands. So what ended up actually happening was three of The Compact signers became leaders of hospital regimental companies and they helped lead and move the soldiers across the river. And then also, a few of them were wounded at Gettysburg that hadn’t reached the hospital yet, and then they ended up coming into the hospital later and being a part of the group. But it’s a fascinating story.

Fisher: Yeah. I mean, this is one of the northern most outposts of the war in the history of the whole thing.

Jonathan: Right.

Fisher: And so these guys, now how long were they in the hospital following their wounds? I would imagine they were all released at different times, if they were released at all. Did any of them die in the hospital?

Jonathan: Yes. So, one of the soldiers did actually die during the war and April of 1865 he ended passing away at the age of 24 years old from one of the camp diseases that he caught during the war. The tragic part of his story was that he died a week after the end of the Civil War. So, technically he died after the war but he was still within the hospital at that point when he passed away. But we were able to find a lot of his letters actually that were held within his pension file, his letters to his mother.

Fisher: Incredible.

Jonathan: And so we were able to actually use some of those within the documentary as well. Kind of as a first-person so we’re able to understand his thoughts coming from him, which I thought was a really cool example of that because you don’t see that very often where you’re able to find records that are written by the people about the war during the time it’s happening.

Fisher: Sure. Did he make any reference in there to The Compact he had made with these other patients?

Jonathan: Unfortunately, no. There’s no reference to that in any of his letters that we were able to find. But I wish there was. It would be great if there was. But unfortunately there was not.

Fisher: Sure. So, as time went on, obviously the war ends, Lincoln is down, and these guys go their separate ways. Where did they go? What did they wind up doing?

Jonathan: A surprising about of The Compact signers actually became involved in the grocery business of all things.

Fisher: Really?

Jonathan: I believe four out of the 12 became grocers, and quite successful grocers in all different parts of the country, which was really fascinating because you know its just odd that a lot of them ended up going into the grocery business. And it’s actually most likely through the grocery business that they all end up connecting later. After the war, Albert Chaney who I mentioned earlier from New Hampshire, he ends up meeting up through business with George Martin who’s one of the other Compact signers whose engaged in the New York City grocery business. And George Martin has as one of his secretaries and clerks in his offices, one of the other Compact signers. So the three men meet up through business and they say, “Well, I think this would be a great opportunity to reconnect the group in 20 years at Niagara Falls like they had promised to do during the war. 

Fisher: Sure.

Jonathan: So it’s really interesting how this ends up happening and there’s a whole issue of tracking down everybody across the country in the 1880s and 1890s.

Fisher: So they didn’t stay in touch continuously through those 20 years then?

Jonathan: Well, it’s really hard to tell. We don’t know. It’s possible some of them kept in touch. We obviously know that Chaney and Martin and Hilles end up connecting and starting this process of getting everyone back together. But we don’t know who was keeping in touch with who. I imagine there were some that did keep in touch. But there were actually two members of The Compact that were unable to be reached so they were unable to join the reunion just because they weren’t able to figure out exactly where they were located and didn’t get a response back.  

Fisher: Sure. So, we’re talking one dead, two missing, so that left the other nine, and one of them were actually one of the hospital workers right?

Jonathan: Yes. A couple of The Compact signers were hospital workers but it was a mix between hospital workers and patients in the hospital but they were all within this hospital at this time. And unfortunately, one other member responded back that he was too ill to make it to the reunion, so only eight ended up actually making it to the reunion.

Fisher: Eight went to the reunion. And where did they hold it?

Jonathan: Right at Niagara Falls actually, on the anniversary of the opening of the battle of Gettysburg.

Fisher: As promised. Okay on the anniversary of Gettysburg. Wow! So we’re talking 1883 at Niagara Falls, which by that time was really quite a tourist destination as it is today.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Absolutely. The great part is, one of the signers of the Compact that ends up coming to the reunion, he’s very involved in the newspaper business at this point. So he’s able to get a lot, it’s most likely him, but someone through the group was able to get a lot of press coverage about this event, which is fantastic as a researcher because we’re able to find a lot of great first-hand accounts of the actual reunion and who was there. We actually have a listing of every single toast that was given at the reunion, which is fantastic.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

Jonathan: Who delivered the toast and what was said, and who was from where. So it’s great that there was this much coverage of this event. And it provided a great insight into what was going on at that point.

Fisher: Well, it had to help a lot first of all with the story in the military magazine, and then for you to make the movie. I mean it gives you incredible detail. That’s fantastic. 

Jonathan: Absolutely. And the man who published the original article within Military Images, Ron Coddington, had a lot of resources as well that he had within his personal collection and things that he had found. So his resources were also invaluable to this project and it would really be impossible to have done it without him. And he is credited as executive producer on this documentary. He is very involved in this project as well. And as well, we were able to get a fully composed soundtrack by a student at Berkley College of Music who was getting her master’s degree so she was able to use this for her master’s program as well. So, it was a really great collaboration with a lot of very talented people to make this happen. 

Fisher: Yeah. Absolutely. So, let’s talk about this reunion a little more. 20 years later, only two thirds of them were able to make it there, what kind of things did they discover that they had done to make their own lives better, and to make the world a better place?

Jonathan: Yeah absolutely. So, what we were able to find out was that one of the great things about this was that each one delivered a toast, which I had kind of mentioned earlier when we were chatting. But the toast is really interesting because we don’t know exactly what was said within the toast, but based on the titles we can make some kind of inferences about what was happening. For example, one of the soldiers who was working with the newspaper at this point, delivers an article called “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword” and that’s really interesting because he’s talking about like how the newspaper business…I don’t really know how exactly how to answer that question because there’s a lot going on and we don’t really know exactly how they made their lives better but we know that was the ultimate goal within the meeting.

Fisher: Sure. All right, let’s take a break here Jonathan. I’m talking to Jonathan Hill. He’s a researcher at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, a Civil War buff, a film documentarian. We’re talking about his latest effort called The Compact, and we’ll return with more in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 427

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jonathan Hill

Fisher: Hey, we’re back on Extreme Genes, America’s History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. My guest today is Jonathan Hill. He is a Civil War buff who happens to also be a researcher over at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And he’s also a film documentarian. He has made a movie “The Compact” which is about 45 minutes long. And Jonathan, this is an amazing thing, talking about these 12 men who wound up in a hospital in York, Pennsylvania, not long after the Battle of Gettysburg, all of them making a compact to get together 20 years later to see how they made their lives better and how they made the world better. And we were just talking about how you found this story and how incredible it is that you have. Let’s talk about making this movie. Where did you have to go to be able to do this? Did you get actors? How did this all come together?

Jonathan: Yeah. So, when I was starting the documentary, the part that I was incredibly interested in was Gettysburg. I thought going to Gettysburg would be very important for telling this story. I was living in Florida at this point and I said, I need to go to Gettysburg and go to the area where these things happened.

Fisher: Now I had just seen the movie Gettysburg recently.

Jonathan: Right.

Fisher: And it looked to me like a lot of the photos I’ve seen of Gettysburg. Is it well preserved there?

Jonathan: Oh my gosh, the battlefield is incredibly well preserved. It’s really a must-see for any big Civil War buff out there. It’s really an amazing place. The whole town was a battlefield and in the actual town itself was the outskirts, the farms, everything surrounding it. And a lot of that area has been really well persevered as it was in the 1860s. It’s really like stepping back in time when you go there. It’s an incredible experience and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Fisher: Little Round Top as well.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. That was where Helim Thompson, one of the soldiers in the documentary was engaged in fighting, at Little Round Top. An so, that was one of the reasons when I went there, I was like, “I’ve got to go to Little Round Top. I’ve got to get footage of the area around this, so that we can understand where they were going at this point and what was going on.” It was important and I’m glad that I did it.

Fisher: Yeah, I’ll bet.

Jonathan: I also made a stop in York to get a little bit of footage as well. I went to the spot where the hospital was, now it’s just a public park, but they have a little monument dedicated to where the hospital was located. York has changed a lot obviously since the 1860s. So it was a little harder getting footage around there because the area is very modern looking. So I spent a lot of my time getting footage in Gettysburg and I got a little bit in York when I could but it wasn’t as much as it was in Gettysburg.

Fisher: Sure. Now, did you get actors then to portray these characters? Did they have speaking parts, how did this work?

Jonathan: Well, I was thinking about that, but what I ended up doing ultimately deciding on was having to film almost the entirely narration based, which I really thought was the best way to tell this story. So, essentially, I narrated this documentary where it starts with the reading of the Compact so that people get an idea and we just slowly piece through the lives of each individual soldier and then have them all come together at the end. So, it was all cold through narration and footage that was shot throughout Gettysburg and Pennsylvania and other places. And then also, photographs that I could find within the Library of Congress’s public collection of the events and things that I’m talking about as well.

Fisher: hmm.

Jonathan: So, it’s a mix of narration. It’s a mix of modern footage of the places and also public domain records and photographs, and things like that.

Fisher: Sure. Where you able to find photographs of any of these 12?

Jonathan: Absolutely, and that was a big part of the documentary. As well as that Ron Coddington, the man who published the military images article and has been incredibly helpful, actually was able to find photographs of all 12 of the signers.

Fisher: Whoa!

Jonathan: As it appears, at some point during their stay in the hospital all of the men went to the same studio and had their photos taken sometime in early 1864. And so, those photos all ended up in the collection of Ron Coddington. I’m so grateful to him for allowing me to use them in my documentary. So, we’re able to actually see the faces of the men who signed the Compact and we’re talking about them we can see how they looked at the time. It’s just an incredible piece of history that survived.

Fisher: Yeah, but the thing is, as a genealogist and family historian, I’m sure a lot of people are sitting there and thinking, wait a minute, you mean, you were able to get these pictures, they were identified, they were all in one collection from one photographer and stored where, in an archive somewhere?

Jonathan: No, actually, surprisingly the photos that they have are carte de visite, pretty small images.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jonathan: They were placed in a giant framed photo with every single soldier’s image. They were placed inside a frame with the name of who they were underneath it. It appears some point after the Compact someone had saved all the photos and wrote that these men had signed the Compact, and placed all their photographs together in one picture frame. So, it was really fantastic to see that we had that available. We know okay, this soldier is Helim Thompson this soldier is… you know each individual one that signed the Compact, which is just unbelievable.

Fisher: Yeah, it is unbelievable, but it’s in a frame. So, who had the framed picture of all 12?

Jonathan: Well, so currently, Ron Coddington is the one I believe that has that in his collection. But, we don’t know where that came from or which soldier compiled that together. It’s unclear. The story of the actual document the Compact that they have signed, has actually survived as well and that’s held in a historical society in York. And what was really cool about that was that, that was actually picked up by an antique dealer in the 1970s and nobody knew really what it was. It was given to them to sell and the antique dealer said, “Oh my gosh, this is a really valuable document! This is not something that we should just sell.” And so, he donated it to this historical society and it was pretty much just kept there, not really widely reported on until Ron Coddington purchased this collection of all the photos and was curious what the compact was and more digging up who these men were and that’s kind of what led to it.

Fisher: Wow! Isn’t it amazing sometimes how these stories just creep through history and give us a glimpse back through time and they land in the right hands?

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Fisher: Obviously, Ron’s hands and then it comes to you and you have the knowledge and the ability to put this together. So, it’s 45 minutes long and you’ve covered from start to finish. What happened to the men ultimately after the 20 years?

Jonathan: The last soldier died I believe in 1922, if I’m remembering correctly. But most of them passed away in the 1890s, early 1900s. So, they didn’t live particularly long life spans but it seems like they did so much within that life span that I really wanted to cover, but most of them were in their 70s when they passed away unfortunately.

Fisher: Really?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Fisher: But they had at least reasonable life spans most of them.

Jonathan: Absolutely, except for the one soldier who died at the age of 24.

Fisher: Sure.

Jonathan: But everyone else lived well into their lives, which I found really exciting and happy that they were able to live such fulfilling lives.

Fisher: Absolutely. You’ve got to wonder what these people would think to know that their story went on, and on, and on, another 140 years later.

Jonathan: Right. It’s really interesting because within the compact that they actually signed, they had the line,” We hope that our meeting will be entitled to a place in history.”

Fisher: Cool.

Jonathan: And I found that to be a really interesting line as well because ultimately that is what ended up happening. We’re still talking about their story and their sacrifices that they made. It is entitled to a place in history. So, I’m glad that we were able to kind of shine a light on this story.

Fisher: Yeah. You have actually put it into history. The other thought in my mind is, have you found any descendents of these men?

Jonathan: I have not looked into it. I imagine there definitely are descendents out there, a great deal of them were married and had children, so, I’m not certain. There most likely is descendents, but that would be an interesting piece if any of them were to come forward, but I haven’t had the pleasure of speaking to any of them unfortunately.

Fisher: All right. Let’s talk about the movie. Where can people see it?

Jonathan: Yes, absolutely. So, it’s going to be available to stream on History Fix which is a new documentary streaming service for history documentaries. That is going to be available hopefully very soon on there. The website is HistoryFix.com. And it should be available on that particular service as well as some of the other history documentaries that I’ve made.

Fisher: And tell us about some of the other ones you’ve done, by the way. We still have a little time.

Jonathan: Okay, yeah. The previous one that I just finished before this one was the history of the 12th New Hampshire during the American Civil War. That was a really fascinating story because I discovered that the regimental history for the 12th New Hampshire was fundamentally different from any other regimental history I personally had ever seen because most regimental histories during the Civil War would talk about, okay, well, we went here. We did this. We did this and we did this. But this documentary is different because the author Asa Bartlett, of this book, decided instead of having it be a straightforward history. He was going to go to all the surviving members of the 12th New Hampshire and have them write down their personal memories and stories from the war. So, the book is not in the same way as any other regimental history. It’s first-hand accounts in memories of these soldiers who were aging at this point. And they decided that they wanted to make sure that their stories would be preserved through this book. So, I made a documentary compiling all of their stories and telling their stories in their words. So, the documentary was called, “In their Words” the story of the 12th New Hampshire.

Fisher: Wow. He’s Jonathan Hill. He’s a Civil War buff with the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Jonathan thanks so much for your time and thanks for sharing the story. We look forward to seeing “The Compact” on HistoryFix.com.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.

Fisher: And speaking of NEHGS, David Allen Lambert returns in moments as we go through your questions on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 4 Episode 427

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: Okay, back at it on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert is back from NEHGS with Ask Us Anything. And David, our first question comes from Pierre, South Dakota. It's from Pete, and he says, "David and Fisher, recently I found in my uncle’s effects an old document in his mother's handwriting, showing all the towns, cities and addresses my uncle and his family lived at from the time from the time of his birth. Fisher, you always talk about timelines, so this is great for that. I'm just afraid someday a grandchild or someone will throw this out. Any ideas on how to posthumously protect it?" [Laughs] You know, that is a problem, isn't it Dave? I mean, once you’re dead, there's not a whole lot you have to say about some of these things.

David: Yeah, it's really one of those things that you really have to find that genealogical heir now.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I lecture about this a lot. One thing is safety in numbers. Make copies of it.

Fisher: Yes

David: Send it in the holiday cards. Say, "Hey, listen, I don't want this to get lost, so I'm sending this to the following people." And even do it as an email if you have to. But better yet, print it off and mail it to them. More likely that it won't get thrown away.

Fisher: Absolutely. Well, when you scan it also and digitize it, then you can put it up with the page of somebody on Family Search, you could put it up on your Ancestry account, lots of places like that, so at least the document gets preserved. I have an old 1840s era series of bible pages, you know, births, deaths, marriages and I've always thought, well, what would happen to it? It’s pretty tattered to begin with. But I made copies of it, so if the house went up in flames and that went with it, at least the original document is preserved digitally. And that's one thing we can all do now, which is something that couldn't have been done really very easily even 15, 20 years ago.

David: Yeah. You know, with the digital age, with everything that we have personally, or even in your town level or county or state, if there was a fire, there's more likelihood it's going to make it into the next century, because there's going to be a digital copy.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And it isn't already fire. There's flood, there's theft, there's just regular neglect, like the listener mentioned. You know, who is going to keep this? Will someone throw this out? At least if it's digitally someplace, it will turn up for the next curious person. 

Fisher: Well, and I should mention, too, we had some things that came down from my mom that was these little badges. I think I've mentioned them on shows in the past. And they related to each year she was in the high school orchestra. And they actually won a national competition one year. And so, these little badges all just sat in a little box and there wasn't any explanation of them, what years they were from or anything like that, so I actually went and researched them with a magnifying glass, figured out what went where. And then, taking a photo of the orchestra and a close up of her playing her instrument, which was a clarinet at the time, I was able then to make a nice presentation piece. So, the original medals could actually survive. And it tells a story. If you can make this document tell a story, say, for instance you put this document up in a frame with UV glass to protect it from any damage from the sun, then you can maybe throw in their pictures of the houses that your relatives lived in at that time. And so, as a result, it makes it a lot more interesting. Somebody's more likely to keep it up. Because like we said, you know, once you get to the end, that's pretty much it. 

David: You know, and you can't take it with you.

Fisher: No.

David: So find someone who will take it for you. You know, talking about things that are lost, I mean, my grandmother always spoke of the time when the family moved and they put stuff into the storage in the 19 odds, and there was a fire. There was a picture of her from when she was a child that stood about three feet tall. It was very elongated, a portrait, family papers and photographs and it explains why there's a bit of a void in my family archive. Then I've had success stories of Peabody Essex Phillips Library up in Rowley. I went there to look at a document and I realized that they had all the family papers of my Revolutionary War soldier. So there's always treasures to be found.

Fisher: All right. Thanks so much, Pete. We appreciate the question. We've got another question coming up as we continue with Ask Us Anything when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 427

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're continuing on with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert. And David, our next question comes from Amy Lynn in Orchard Park, New York. And she says, "Guys, I always hear that there were records tied to the medical side of the military.  Do these exist and where could one find them? My ancestor was a doctor in the Civil War and his son was a doctor in the Spanish American War. Thanks, Amy Lynn."

David: Well, Amy Lynn, I am glad that Fish gave me this question last week, as it intrigued me when he initially asked me. So, I had to do a little digging. And digging I did in the National Archives in Washington DC, record group 112 are the records of the surgeon general. And you think about that for warnings on cigarettes.

Fisher: Right.

David: Well, this had to do with a lot more than just a current surgeon general. This is the office that includes records for the medical service corps, the army nurses corps, the dental corps, the medical corps and the veterinary corps and the army medical specialist corps!

Fisher: That's really interesting. I mean, we're talking about veterinarians, they're talking about the horses and the mules that pulled the caissons and the cannons, that's incredible.

David: Um hmm. And there is a plethora of records. Now, on the Civil War, there's a variety of different things. One of them is a report of examinations of candidates for the appointment of regular army surgeons, and these are in the 1860s to the 1880s. So that kind of fits into your time frame.

Fisher: Um hmm, yeah.

David: There's also service cards of retired or deceased medical officers, 1813 to 1914.

Fisher: Wow!  So we're getting early. How far back does this go, Dave?

David: It looks like it goes back as early as the Revolutionary War, because there's a list of officers in the medical department from 1775 to 1892.

Fisher: And this stuff has not become online digitally, it's not on Fold3 or anything like that yet, is it?

David: No, nothing of the complete collection. I mean, a lot of these are ledger books, so they're a little harder than the unfolding of a document like on Fold3.

Fisher: Sure.

David: But for the Civil War, there's a list of the medical officers who served in the Civil War army corps, 1861 to '65. And then jump to the Spanish American War, they have rosters of the regimental medical officers and the US volunteers during the Spanish American War, alphabetically arranged by the state and the military unit they were connected with. They also have people who were in the Philippine Islands during the Spanish American War, Philippine Insurrection. So, you've got that era too. And then there's just a lot. I mean, there are medical hospital records that exist. But for something like this, you also want to go to the personal level looking for that obituary that tells the person's story.

Fisher: Sure.

David: And since he's in Civil War and he's in the military, he could qualify for pension.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: The military pension would give you some details. It might talk about the hospitals that he was stationed at or the battles that he was actually at in the field hospitals. I mean, you could open up an entire family field trip trudging along where your ancestors in both the wars were. There are a lot of stories that are probably around. And do you know, the other thing is, maybe his papers exist or his papers donated to a college that he may have gone to. Another great place that's underutilized is the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. They have so many things in regard to the army, especially during the Civil War era. Hey, they might even have a photograph of him. And they have a large collection of what is from MOLLUS, which is the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

Fisher: Unbelievable stuff. Dave thanks so much. I never thought we'd get that much stuff out of that question. But, thank you, Amy Lynn for it. David, we'll talk to you again next week. You have a good one.

David: Until then, my friend. Have a nice summer as we continue on our genealogical adventures.

Fisher: All right. And thanks once again to Jonathan Hill for coming on and sharing his Civil War story. If you haven't heard the story, you want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast. Find us on AppleMedia, TuneIn Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, iHeart Radio, Spotify, we are all over the place. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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