Wallace Rosa’s Last Chapter – A story in 3 parts

Part 2
Grant’s Spring campaign was about to begin in earnest. On the 16th of June the 9th corps marched 32 miles. Early on the morning of the 17th the brigade halted to make coffee and rest. After a two hour break the corps continued on, stopping 4 miles outside of Petersburg. By the end of this day Wallace Rosa would go from being a guard at a prison camp to being a prisoner of war. This change in status happened during the start of the Union’s assault on Petersburg, a battle that lasted from June 15-18 and was a major loss to the Union.4

The upper right area of the map shows the position of Wallace’s regiment  during the battle.

For the battle to come the Sharpshooters had been stationed in an open corn field with only small embankments for protection and with no shade. They suffered much from the heat of the sun. The first skirmish with the enemy was a chaotic mess, with bone-weary soldiers, lines not in place, confused orders, and charges made at the wrong time. But the Sharpshooters could be proud of their efforts at the end of it, as a look into the enemy fire pits showed they were filled with the rebel dead. But the battle was not done. 
It was heading towards evening, and there was little light. The next skirmish commenced. This time the Sharpshooters position placed them alone on the field. The other companies were further off. The first advance the Federals made that day had almost broken the back of the Confederates, but unfortunately, unknown to the Federal generals, the rebels had reinforcements arriving. The next and last battle of the day raged until about 11:00 that night. Firing commenced and at one point the Sharpshooters defending their position heard rebels cry out “We surrender don’t fire.” Some of the Sharpshooters were not sure what to do, others hurried to reload, and still others just held their fire. The rebels were arriving in such numbers that they brazenly began demanding the surrender of the Federal troops. But the Sharpshooters would have none of this. They shoved their rifles in the faces of the rebels and fired. Sheets of flame raged up and down the ridge of dirt between the two forces. They were so close together that clothes caught fire with no regard to philosophies. The flashes from the guns illuminated angry faces screaming obscenities. At this time the Sharpshooters had the advantage, since the rebels had just completed a hard march with a quick run at the end of it. As the enemy continued to came over the edge of the ditch, the Sharpshooters lunged at them with bayonets and clubbed them with empty rifles.  The two sides grappled in a vicious hand to hand fight. The Sharpshooters drove their bayonets into some of the rebels, others they forced to surrender. The short but bloody engagement came to an end. The Federals had driven the Rebels back but the fight had been devastating loss to the Sharpshooters as there were now only 100 left to man their exposed position. The worst was yet to come.

In the moonlight the Corps commander saw what appeared to be reinforcements arriving, but a second look showed that these were rebel reinforcements. He quickly ran back to his men who had already started firing at the Confederates heading their way. The 100 Sharpshooters could only repel the onslaught for a few minutes before they were overwhelmed. Those who could get away did. Unfortunately for Wallace he was not one of those men. He was quickly stripped of his weapons and accoutrements and hustled away with the other Federal prisoners. Their captors treated the Michigan charges with consideration. Some of the Sharpshooters were surprised as they had expected worse. It was explained that those men who fought in the front, were not the same as those who didn’t as they understood what each other had gone through and didn’t have the same animosity for the enemy as those who were safely away from the front lines. For three days they were confined in an old tobacco warehouse in the city of Petersburg. Then they boarded a train with hundreds of other captives taken in the battle. They were all headed to the prison camps.5, 6

4 While this first battle will be a loss for the Union, eventually the assault on Petersburg will be a win for the Federal Army and will last for several months.
5 Information on the First Michigan Sharpshooters was gleaned from the book These Men Have Seen Hard Service, The First Michigan Sharpshooters in the Civl War, by Raymond J. Herek; Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1998.

6 Source for battle details of Petersburg assault is from Footnote 4, source 87 – Cutcheon, 20th Michigan, 154; Richard J. Sommers, Richmond Re-deemed: The Siege at Petersburg (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1981), 183.


Wallace Rosa’s Last Chapter – A story in 3 parts


With Lincoln winning the election of 1860 the fears of the South finally came to fruition, an administration with Lincoln at the head was going to put a stop to their dream of the continued expansion of slavery into the newly won lands in the west.1 This threat was too much for many  Southerners and a few short months after the election was over, seven Southern states declared their succession from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. Of course the federal government and the majority of citizens of the United States regarded this as a rebellious act of treason.2

On 12 April 1861 the Confederate army decided to commence hostilities on its fellow citizens and fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Federal Government responded by calling on volunteers to put down this outrageous rebellion, an act that energized four other Southern states into joining in the succession. And so started the bloodiest war to ever occur on our own soil.
It was about a year and a half later, on 15 August 1862 at St. Joseph, Michigan, that Wallace Rosa (age 34), one of four Rosa brothers who enlisted, made the decision to join in the fight to preserve the Union. 

Sophia Smith Rosa

The 19th Michigan Infantry, Company I was Wallace’s first foray into enlistment. We say first because as his wife Sophia testified in her application for pension “he did not like the company there was so many ol cuntry people.” On 26 September 1862 while the company was at camp in Gravel Pit, Ohio Wallace was noted as ‘deserted’ on his military service record. According to Sophia he had been with the company for a few months (although his military record shows it was just over a month) and then suddenly showed up at home. That same evening soldiers came to take him back to his unit as he was AWOL. He went back to his regiment with out any trouble and was gone for maybe six months, after which he showed up at home again, only staying a few days. Sophia didn’t know whether he was on furlough or not and Wallace didn’t say one way or the other. Wallace did tell her that he wanted to join the same regiment his brothers were in and that he was never going back to Company I. After that conversation he disappeared. It is apparent that his family was worried about him because sometime in late 1863 to early 1864 his brother Abram, while back in Michigan on sick leave from his own regiment, decided to go searching for Wallace. Abram eventually “found him at Camp Douglas in Illinois answering to the name of Benjamin Freeman.” Wallace had re-enlisted 22 April 1863 in the 1st Regiment Michigan Sharpshooters, Company F which was now stationed there. After having finally found his brother, Abram asked him why he had changed his name and was informed by Wallace that “he heard they were after him to take him back to his regement; and thought it might not be well with him.” So he bought himself some hair dye and colored his hair and whiskers then headed to Kalamazoo to re-enlist.3  As he stayed with the regiment, he apparently had no quarrel with this bunch of boys.

Shortly after Wallace enlisted in the 1st, the regiment was ordered to pack up its gear and head for Dearborn, Michigan. Life for the regiment was mostly drilling and guarding. The only excitement the regiment saw was their engagement with Morgan’s troops of the infamous Morgan’s Raid, in July of 1863. About a month later on 16 August 1863 the Sharpshooters received orders to vacate the Dearborn arsenal and proceed immediately to Camp Douglas in Chicago. Addressing the companies before they departed Colonel DeLand admonished the men, “It is hoped that the hurtful and disgraceful practice of whiskey drinking will be discontinued, that the disgraceful scene of our former march [those who had been chasing Morgan through Indiana understood his reference] may be avoided.” The soldiers were then loaded into passenger cars on the train and headed to Camp Douglas. Most of the men were disappointed that they still weren’t heading to the front. Their duties at Camp Douglas were once again guard duty, but this time they were going to be guarding rebel prisoners. When they arrived on the 17th there were only 49 prisoners at the camp. Eventually it filled up to hold over 4000, nearly all of whom were Morgan’s men.
On St. Paddy’s Day, 17 March 1864 long awaited orders finally arrived. The Sharpshooters were to depart Camp Douglas for the front. None of the men in the regiment had any regrets about leaving after 7 months of boredom, guard duty and drilling. They happily boarded the train to Baltimore, then transferred to the ship that took them to Annapolis. They arrived about 7 in the evening on 21 March. The weather was rainy for a good two weeks after they arrived causing much illness in the camp, but they were now part of the 9th corps.
The Sharpshooters received their first order on April 22. They were to head out to join the Army of the Potomac that was 44 miles away. A nasty thunderstorm drenched the men on their march the night of the 24th. The next morning they walked ten miles over muddy roads and through a creek to Washington, DC. When they arrived they were told to make themselves presentable, for they were going to pass in review in front of the president. Crowds were lined up along the streets, apparently never tired of seeing soldiers marching  in review. The President stood on a balcony at the Willard hotel overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. During the march the men were energized with excitement. Various regiments sang martial tunes, cheered in unison, or quoted poems to the president as they went by. It was a celebration, and the excitement of it all helped the men forget, for a short time, the fatigue of the march the previous few days.

1 The Mexican–American War was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 that started when in 1845 the U.S. annexed Texas which Mexico considered part of its territory despite the 1836 Texas Revolution. American forces finally captured Mexico City and forced Mexico to agree to the cession of its northern territories to the U.S.

2 It will be noted that no other country in the world ever acknowledged the Confederacy at any time during its existence.

3 Sophia M. Curtis application for pension, widow of Wallace Rosa aka Benjamin Freeman; case number 387817; microfilm Can No.:1181; Bundle No.: 3, NARA, Washington, D.C.

Georgina Amundson, I have found you

Today I received an envelope in the mail from the Minnesota Historical Society. In it was a case file for Georgina Amundson who died 28 April 1907 at the Fergus Falls State Hospital. (If you have been paying attention to the Amundson family, you would know that this is the same facility that her daughter Amelia had been sent to in 1898.) The reason for Georgina’s commitment was dementia. Apparently her husband Amund couldn’t take care of her anymore as she had become a bit violent towards others, and was speaking incoherently and irrationally. She was committed by the court and arrived at Fergus Falls 21 February of 1907.

By the time of her commitment Georgina was 68 years old and she was only a resident for a short time when she died. Her symptoms has been around for six months to a year.

But thanks to this record of her commitment we  now know when and where Georgina died, and we have her parents names. Unfortunately I can’t read her father’s last name clearly it could be John Staneson, Stannson, Stanuson, or Stamson, but her mother’s name is clearly Carrie Johnson, and both were born in Norway. So when Jorgina was born she was most likely baptized as Jorginia Johnson (not Thonson as Kari would indicate in her Social Security form.)

Oh great more Norwegian records to go through. I have to admit my Norwegian is a bit rusty.

More DNA testing

FamilyTreeDNA, the company that has done all of our genetic testing in the past, had a holiday sale at the end of 2011. So I decided to upgrade a few of our samples that they have in their freezers.

Firstly, I upgraded Robert Cain’s sample to 67 markers. It had previously only been tested at 37 markers along with a specialized SNP test that is being used to help sort out the CAIN lines. That is probably all I will be able to do with his sample for a while, and I am crossing my fingers that we won’t need many more tests with his DNA, samples can go bad and with Robert having passed away, I am left without a source for this genetic line.

Secondly, I upgraded grandfather’s (William Shepard) sample. Grandfather’s maternal DNA was never tested, so I remedied that situation, and I added the FamilyFinder test. This is the one I had done, sometime in early 2011, to my DNA. The results help you to find cousins in their database (male or female, it doesn’t matter) and your ethnicity. Grandfather’s maternal DNA will give us genetic information on g-grandmother Dick’s maternal line back to Sarah Asher who married Thomas Headlee in Pennsylvania in the very early 1800s.

Results are expected sometime around February 20th. If we are lucky it might be a little earlier. But I imagine with the sale that they had, lots of folks have decided to jump on the upgrade bandwagon.

I will keep folks updated.

On the same note, I periodically receive updates from surname group administrators on the progress of the testing, the sorting out of the lines, and other news related to that surname. The most active group so far has been the CAIN line, and it has come to our attention that there is a particular marker that is showing up with our CAINs, that will be confirmed with the upcoming upgrade results, indicating a Briefne connection. Part of what this means is that our CAINs are descendants of original Irish/Celts, not one of the invaders who later integrated into the population. It also points to Martin Cain possibly coming from the Northern Ireland area, as I was beginning to speculate.

The future is looking very interesting.

NOTE: The Kingdom of Breifne or Bréifne (anglicized BreffnyBrefnie or Brenny) was the traditional territory for an early Irish tribal group known as the Uí Briúin Bréifne. The Bréifne territory included the modern Irish counties of Leitrim and Cavan, along with parts of County Sligo. [from Wikipedia]

I love surprises of the genealogical kind…

I have access to several excellent newspaper databases. Each one has it’s own strengths. As these databases are constantly being updated with new data, I regularly check them for random names in our genealogical database to see if anything new shows up.

Today I decided on Fred Hamm, his wife Carrie Amundson and Emil, his brother. I was looking in the Wisconsin or Minnesota papers as that is pretty much where they lived their whole lives.

Boy did I get a doozie.

 This article has so many goodies in it I am giddy with joy.

First it tells me that Fred was fired from his policeman’s job, we also can confirm that he is a bounder, for not supporting Carrie and Myrtle. Fred and Carrie had been separated for several months. Carrie’s son John was living with her parents for a while and that her mother died about two years earlier. Lastly it confirms that the couple has been married, although we can find no record of the marriage, yet.

I am energized into researching the matter further and maybe now I will be able to find Carrie’s mother Jorgina’s death record.

This article is from November of 1908, one of the local Duluth newspapers.

Civil War tidbits…

In 1865 Abram Rosa was put in front of a military court and charged with “Conduct prejudicial to good order and Military discipline”.

The result of which he ended up spending 3 months in a military prison in Florida. A true hellhole.

According to the charges he took offense at his superior officer, Major Thomas B. Weir’s treatment and punishment of a fellow soldier threatening and insulting him with, “No God damned Officer shall abuse that man, “Look here,” God damn you, you have churned that man enough, “ I’ll show you, by God. He also removed his coat and shook his fists in a threatening manner towards, Major Weir  still using insulting and threatening language. All this happened near Eagle Pass, Texas about September 7, 1865.

While I knew the story, and was of course appalled by the verdict and punishment (nothing like good old military justice). I was interested in learning more about the story, or at least by researching the officers involved in the case maybe I might find something else out about the incident.

Major Thomas B. Weir
Well something interesting did turn up when I googled Major Thomas B. Weir the officer whom Abram threatened. This Major Weir is famous, as he was the same Major Weir who was involved with Custer and the massive defeat at Little Bighorn. 

Major Weir commanded Company D of the 7th Cavalry under Custer, and joined him in the attack on a large Native American encampment on the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25, 1876. Weir disobeyed orders to remain on what is now Reno Hill, and instead, moved north to attempt to support Custer, who had led a detachment to attack the encampment from that direction. The effort was too late and Custer and his soldiers were slaughtered. Weir himself survived the assault, but died later the same year, 1876, having drank himself to death. It is believed over his inability to save Custer, whom he greatly respected.

I doubt that Abram would have shown any sadness at his passing, maybe he even did a little jig when he heard the news. It is interesting that Weir allows Abram to be sent to hard labor in a horrible prison for three months, when he was only trying to protect a fellow soldier from over-enthusiastic punishment. Yet, Weir disobeys orders from his superiors, hoping to protect Custer from a disasterous attack, fails, and wasn’t punished in any way by the military.

But justice comes in many forms.

Volunteering is good for the soul

I have done a bit of volunteering over the years, some I have quite enjoyed, some has been a bit of a chore, but all of it was a result of my girl scout years and my mother’s influence. I guess some of it stuck.

As a genealogist I have had many instances where someone who lives in another state has helped me find some wonderful genealogical record, or had photos that I had never seen, or volunteered to check out a cemetery for me to see if one of our ancestors was buried there. These are all acts of wonderful kindness. I have tried to reciprocate when I can, because I do believe in paying it forward.

There has been a lot of talk lately of several genealogical sites that have started big digital indexing projects and are looking for volunteers to help with the massive indexing that needs to be done, all from the convenience of your home. I was intrigued, but put it off for a while as I was a bit busy, but this last month I decided to dig a bit deeper.

At work we are currently assisting the Holocaust Museum in indexing it’s millions of records of victims for the general public, this is through Ancestry.com

I decided to try my hand at indexing for the Family History Library. So I downloaded the software and dug right in. I have found that it can become quite addicting. But, I am really enjoying the process and they make it pretty easy to do. There is also the satisfaction of knowing that many people will find these indexes of immense value in their own research.

Back to work — jen

Sad news for me today

I have been making the attempt to get out Christmas cards for friends and family this week, in the process I make a quick list to make sure I don’t miss anyone. Last year I had sent a card to Robert Cain, a cousin of ours whom I met through a very helpful librarian in Oconto (after making inquiries about our Cain ancestors at the local library), and hadn’t heard back from him.

Over the years I have stopped in to visit Bob with Dale, alone, and even with Mom and Dad on one trip. He was very helpful and generous with his time and information on our Cain relatives. Without his help it probably would have taken me much longer to break through the road block on this line.

With trepidation I decided to check the SSDI in an attempt to make sure he was still around to receive my Christmas card for this year. Sadly, I found his name listed in the updated database. He passed away September 30 of this year. I imagine that the reason he didn’t send a card last year was he was too ill. Now I am sorry that I wasn’t able to take the time to visit one last time this last year.

Robert S. Cain – I have included his graduation picture from the State Teachers College of Oshkosh, 1951
Here is his obituary edited by me. 
Born December 09, 1921 – Died September 30, 2011 

Robert Samuel Cain, a lifetime resident of Oconto died September 30, 2011. Robert was born December 9, 1921 in Oconto to the late James and Maude (Anderson) Cain. He attended Jefferson School and graduated from Oconto High School in 1940. He worked at the A&P Stores in Oconto, Green Bay and Marinette. Bob attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison until he joined the United States Army.  serving for three years and eight months in England and France as a Technical Sargent. Bob later attended Ripon College, and George William College in Chicago, finally graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Oshkosh State College. After teaching elementary school for five years, Bob attended a Benedictine Monastery for a time. Eventually, he moved back to Oconto to the house he had grown up in, next to his brother Harold and his family, and spent many years taking care of his mother. A few years ago he retired to Bay Shore Pines in Oconto as his health was declining. Bob enjoyed reading, playing piano, gardening, and spending time with his family.

I remember his kindness and generosity. He was also a bit old-fashioned. In conversations about technology he definitely was a bit of a luddite. One amusing bit I recall is that he loved inviting the religious groups that knock on your door in to discuss their philosophy and other religious issues. Not a thing most folks would do, but he loved the conversations.

I am sad that he has passed.

I’mmmm baaack…

I guess I misspoke in my earlier post. I didn’t really have a speck to time to keep folks updated on my progress during my research trip. The hours flew by, then exhaustion set in, then sleep. Next day do it all over again.

But now I am home and all I can say is, the trip was a bust. But only in the sense that I didn’t find a speck of evidence that Hartley Shepard is the child of Henry and Huldah Shepard. I checked court records, probate records, land deeds, tax rolls, pretty much every index I could find that they had at the Family History Library. So far, no joy.

So my next stop is going directly to the sources in Morgan and Washington counties of Ohio. I am sure there are records out there I haven’t even heard of yet.

I did find some interesting bits on our Massachusetts and Ohio relatives. Lots of local and county history books add to the tales about these people. And it is not just our Shepard line, we have Dewey, Noble, Warriner, and Ashley connections too, and they each have their own stories to tell.

I am looking forward to getting this all put together for everyone to read. Meanwhile the search for those elusive Hartley records goes on…now where did I put that magnifying glass…

On the road…

Well here it is, or close, September 24th, the day that I head out to Salt Lake City, Utah again to do some intense genealogical research.

The main focus of my trip this time is the SHEPARD line, and in preparation I have been boning up on the details of all the related lines these past few weeks. I am pretty sure that I am ready. Now I am just keeping my fingers crossed that I find something of genealogical value.

This trip Mary and I have decided that we will take a day off and do a little site seeing…”Here’s the big brown mountain, there’s the big brown hill, and over there is the big brown desert., and wait for it, look it’s the big salty lake.” Can’t wait.

But the weather will be 80s and sunny! I will keep folks updated on my progress as the week goes by. Later.

p.s. boy is my iPad going to get a work out next week!