Monday, April 23, 2012

Military Monday - William J. Miller

I have at least three direct ancestors that served in the Civil War (all Union), and my wife has at least two that fought for the Union and one that fought for the Confederacy.  A few weeks ago, I relayed the story of Isaac Edward Wentz, laid low by poor sanitation conditions in a Confederate POW facility and the runs.  Today, I continue the tales of ancestral military woe with William J. Miller.

Willam J. Miller is my third great grandfather, on my paternal grandmother's maternal line. He was born 12 September 1826 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania and died 24 January 1901 in Blair County, Pennsylvania.  He married Mary Jane Sneath on 10 July 1850 in Blair County.

In early March of 1865, he enrolled and mustered in to the Pennsylvania, B - 6 Cavalry, and in the few short months before the end of the war, he was transferred to Company F and the Pennsylvania Provisional Cavalry.  He saw action in this time, as he suffered injuries that compromised both his health and his hearing.  And in July 1865 after the end of the war, he went home, back to Blair County to be with his family, where he lived until January of 1901.

In November 1911, his widow filed for a Widow's Pension under the terms of the 1908 Act, and filed the following Declaration:

Here's a link to a copy of the document you can enlarge.

In December of that year, Mary Jane Miller received a reply

 According to the Army, William was a deserter as of 14 July, 1865, and as such, neither he nor his spouse were eligible for a pension.

This prompted some back and forth between the Millers and the Pension's Division, including this letter from the Millers.

It does not appear anywhere in the record that the charge of desertion was ever removed or that Mary Jane ever received a pension. 

I'm sure that there are countless other soldiers who suffered the same fate, who simply went home when they thought the war was over and never received a proper discharge and were then denied an invalid's or widow's pension.  I sometimes wonder if there is any action I could take to clear the charge of desertion from William Miller's record, or if anyone other than me would even care.  For what it's worth, I don't think of William as some sort of criminal or scoundrel, just a man broken by the war and, when hearing it was over, just wanted to go home.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Christopher and Rosanna McNally

I've got a pair of tombstones to share today - Christopher McNally, who has been discussed at length, and his wife Rosanna (Pearson) McNally.



I don't have a picture of them together - poor planning on my part, as it would have taken an extra fifteen seconds to line up the shot.

These photographs were taken in October of 2011, during a very brief trip to Altoona last fall.  Their graves are at the St. Patrick's Catholic cemetery in Newry, Blair County, Pennsylvania.

In looking at the markers, it appears that Rosanna's marker is original, and in pretty good shape for its age and material, whereas it appears that Christopher's marker is newer and looks like it might be a replacement.  I've thought this for years (I first found the graves about ten years ago), but have never bothered to investigate.  Perhaps I'll contact the church and find out who would have those records.

Here's a little about what I know about Rosanna.  She was born Rosanna Pearson, on 13 February 1831, daughter of Edward and Maria Pearson.  The Liebgott Collection (I believe that is spelled correctly, please correct me if it is not) at the Martinsburg Public Library has Edward's wife as one Margaret Bookhammer.  I have not confirmed or refuted that name at this time.  Rosanna and Christopher married on 6 February, 1861, with Rosanna converting to the Catholic Church for the marriage.  She and Christopher raised their six children in a house on Ore Hill Road and were known in the community for their generosity and kindness.  As she aged, she lost her hearing, and on 25 March, 1896, while walking along a rail line, she was struck and killed by an ore car from the Duncan mines. 

I know that this is just a brief sketch, and expect to see more about the Pearson family in the future.