Sunday, June 22, 2014

Introduction

Air Castles

19th Century Military History of the Elgin Area

Elgin, Illinois Civil War Soldiers
compiled by
Kenneth L. Gough

Have you ever looked across a plot of simple dome shaped grave markers of Civil War Soldiers and wondered what was behind the criptic information engraved on them.  If so this work is dedicated to you.  When I started this study all I was looking for was the military records of Elgin's Civil War dead.  However once I started adding the civilian information, both before and after the war, these men's stories seemed to come back to life.  Private John Doe wasn't simply a soldier in a nameless war machine.  He might be a student, watch maker, or farmer.  But most important of all he was the member of a family who was proud of him, worried for him, and in too many cases mourned his loss.
This work is being presented to help future families and students with locating people who served during the Civil war who lived in, or claimed to have lived in, or been buried in the township of Elgin, Illinois.  After 150 years it is impossible to assemble a completely accurate document of this sort.  I accept responsibility for any mistakes contained herein.
When using this database please keep in mind that ALL the information contained here was taken from hand written documents.  Even information taken from newspapers of the period started with longhand notes.  Many longhand letters are similar (W, M, & H), (J, G, & Z) and (i, r, & e) for example.  Some of my information came from letters and journals that the information may have been corrupted even before you factor in the interpretation of the handwriting itself.
Bear in mind that just because a soldier listed Elgin as his home of record didn't make it so.  In the heat of the moment many men listed Elgin just because they were enlisting there, or because they wanted to be associated with the town of their friends.  Others would list Elgin in hopes of securing the signing bounty (a minimum of $60) so they could desert and try it again in the next town.  These men were called Bounty Jumpers and when caught received harsh punishments.
In many cases I've run across names that were similar and in most cases I've combined them with the differences noted.  If I've not been able to resolve the difference in my own mind I've let them stand apart.  When doing your own search try and use as many versions of the name and search each one.  I've only been able to use primary documents for a small portion of my information and had to trust to the interpretation by others for the rest.
I have not included my sources with each entry as that would expand this work three fold.  Below is a list of the major sources that I have used.

Visit us on our other sites.
A look at the number of soldiers in the early history of this area told me that without including them in a similar work would be a disservice.   Please visit our other sites;
ElginAreaWarof1812Soldiers.Blogspot.com
ElginAreaMexicaWarSoldiers.Blogspot.com
ElginAreaSpanAmWarSoldiers.Blogspot.com
ElginArea1916Soldiers.Blogspot.com

Pardon Our Dust!
When this project was started it was ment to be in a book form.   Now that I've done this same type of project in other time frames, using only this blog as a mediam I find the original work sadly laking as for as the way information is presented.   I've started reworking the posts to correct this.   It will take time, I can only ask that you return from time to time to see the improvements.   I'm sure that you will be pleased with the results.

Elgin Area Historical Society
In their collection I found many Photos, Letters, and Newspapers of the period. In their collection are many accounts of the men from Elgin.

Elgin Genealogical Society
The information published in their newsletter was most useful.  Most important was their research into the militia for Dundee and Hampshire.

Gail Borden Public Library
Over the past seven years the staff here has shown me the most in forebearence with my marathon Micofilm readings.  I only hope that this work in some way pays back their kindness.

Report of the Adjutant General
At the close of the war each company was sent a Muster Out Sheet.  On it the officers were to write out a history of their company along with a complete roster.  In some cases this was done four years after the formation of their organization by officers who may not even been present at the time.  Even given their best efforts this work is rife with mistakes and missing information.  That said this work, noted as AGR throughout this database, is one that I've relied on as the best available source.
In many cases the missing information is responsible for soldiers apearing to muster in but not out, or the reverse.  In these instances I've not been able to offer a complete battle record as I have no way to confirm their presence with the regiment at that time.  In some cases I've been able to use obits and family records to determine their involvement in certain actions.  This may not be as reliable as military records but I've let it stand on its own merits.

City Directories
These give much useful information both pre and post war.  In many cases both the location, rarely with an address as we know it, and occupation.

Soldiers and Sailors System
This is a database compiled by the National Park Service and has extensive information taken from cemeteries at the battlefields.

State of Illinois Militia Rolls.
The Active Militia covered in this study would include those men involved with either the Washington Continental Artillery or the Old Continentals.  This document is missing but I've noted those men that would qualify.
The Reserved Militia rolls were to be taken in July 1861 and July 1862.  As the clerk was paid per signature I've found some duplicate signatures.  Also when compared to the 1860 Census there are quite a few names missing.
The Reserve Militia Roll was to be used in the event a draft was called for.  As Elgin always managed to fill its quota of volunteers a draft was never required.
The rolls were entered into record by the clerk when filled.  I've indicated this as the date when signed or entered into the roll.
The original Reserved Militia rolls are in the collection of the Elgin Area Hist. Soc.  The information on Dundee and Hampshire was transcribed by members of the Elgin Genealogy Soc. and I've trusted to their interpretation.

Out of State Soldiers
I've done my best to get as complete a record of all the soldiers contained here.  Many states have not maintained and published the records of their Civil War Soldiers as well as Illinois.  I've done my best but in many cases I've only been able to locate minimal post war records of these men through obits or GAR records.

Newspapers
The Elgin Weekly Gazette was the main paper in Elgin at the time.  Some others are referenced as they pertain to units drawn mostly from their locals.
During the war it was common for people who received letters from loved ones in the army to have these letters printed.  This information is a wealth of information.  In many cases casualty lists that the military records don't include are contained in these letters home.
Many papers were used post war up into the 1940's for obits and stories of veterans reunions.  I've used this information even though it relies on the aging memories of soldiers who may or may not embellish stories of their exploits.

GAR Rolls
The Grand Army of the Republic was the Civil War soldiers post war national organization.  There were three GAR Posts in Elgin.  The Sam G. Ward Post #18 later renumbered #11, Veteran's Post #49, and Post #260.  Most of this information is taken from newspapers with the problems already noted about interpretation of handwriting.
Many of the entries are from the rolls of the GAR.  Most included only a proper name with no rank, company, or regiment.
This also includes entries in the Post #49 'Black Book' of rejected applications.  However the reasons for rejections are not listed in that book.

Department of the Interior, Pension Records
The National Archives has most soldiers records including pension records.
In 1883 a survey was published of all soldiers and/or dependents receiving pensions from service in the Civil War.  This information although taken before many veterans filed for pensions was very useful.

Census Reports
I've used the Federal Census records for Elgin Township extending to and including Dundee out to Hampshire, over to Burlington and back.  Also used was the 1870 Illinois State Census useful in tracking veterans after the war.  In some cases the information is slightly off, this could be a matter of recording by the census taker or interpretation.
Also used was the 1855 Illinois State Census for this same area.  This information is not as complete as it only listed the head of the household.  However it also listed if members of the household were enrolled in the militia.  Sadly the militia units themselves were not named.
Using the Census Rolls is my weak link in research.  I've only included entries that I feel have the greatest chance to be true.  Changes in residence, census takers making phonically based guesses, and the  interpretation of these documents over 150 years later leave much to be desired.  In the case of transcribed rolls I've included the identification numbers to make it easier for you to look up the entries that I used here.
In the case of more common names there are so many multiple listings that I've elected to leave off many names.  To use any of them would just be guess work at best.
I've taken the liberty to include spouses names here, however not the children.   There comes a point were the entries start to loose the focus, the soldier himself.

Roll of Honor
State of Illinois
Kane County
This was a list put together in 1956 recording all soldiers buried in Kane County & Elgin Township up to this date.  Again, the information was put together from information mostly provided by the soldiers family after his death.  Combined with the handwriting problems noted makes a good deal of this information suspect.  When possible I've tried to back up this information but in many cases I've let it stand on its own merits.

Elgin Academy Roll of Honor
The Academy published a list of all students who served in the war.  However the units they served with were not included thus some entries only include the name of the student.  Also, as students lived at the school I've included them as residents of Elgin even though their home of record might be elsewhere.

Elgin High School Roll of Honor
Like the Academy, Elgin High published a list of students who served.  Also like the Academy the units weren't included with the same problems.

Sexton's Records
Public Cemeteries kept records in the charge of a Sexton.  When possible I've made use of them when stones are unreadable, missing, sunken, or destroyed.  The Elgin Sexton's Ledger is on microfilm that is not in good condition.  Interpretation is as best as I can do it.  The medical terms seem to vary with the person filling in the ledger and I've kept true to their spelling when possible.
Along with this is information from Funeral Homes and painstaking field trips to the cemetery's themselves.
Like the Census, the Sexton's report has many names in duplicate and when I've not been able to resolve the difference I've elected to pass on entering the information rather than guess.

Soldier's Aid Society
Every town started a S.A.S. to provide comforts to the men.  Unlike more formal organizations the S.A.S. kept no membership list that I could locate.  Instead they advertised the meeting place and times and everyone was welcome.  There seemed to be a core of women who organized the activities and when possible I've identified them.  Know that for each member that I've found there were likely ten who's names I've been unable to find.