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One of my paternal great grandfathers was James R. Jones.   I had never heard of the man until I began researching my family's history. 

 

James has turned out to be a bit of mystery for me.  The only document that I've been able to find related to him is the 1860 federal census.  Even that I had to check and recheck to make certain that the individual listed was my James R. Jones.  The census tells me that in 1860, James was about 30 years old, having been born in Ireland about 1830.  His is living in Ritchie County, Virginia with his wife Catherine Clarke Jones and his four children. He works as a railroader and lives in an area populated by other Irish immigrants who are either farmers or fellow railroaders.  I was able to determine that James must have lived for a while in New York and perhaps met his wife and married there since the census reports his oldest child was born in New York. That is the extent of what I knew about James until last year.

 

My mother uncovered some yellowed and fragile documents ....correspondence between my great uncle William J. Heitert and various government officials.  Most of these are dated 1915.  I have been able to determine that at some point Catherine Clarke Jones' Civil War Widows' Pension benefits were abruptly suspended.  There is no indication of exactly when this event occurred.  In one letter, a government representative writes that James R. Jones did not perish in any way related to the war.  Rather he collapsed and died from apoplexy while being held in the stockade awaiting for court martial. 

 

My uncles repsonse states that there must be some mistake because his grandfather died as a "high-ranking officer" and was buried with many honors (I don't even know where he is buried yet).  When I initially read Will Heitert's response, it occurred to me that his grandmother Catherine might have simply told the family a story she wanted them to believe.  Who would want to claim a relative who was about to be tried for war-time crime of some sort. 

 

At any rate, I began digging and first found the receipt for Catherine J.Jones' Widows' Pension application.  That document told me that her application was filed in 1864 on December 29th and that her file # was 77442.  Recently on Footnote.com I located two file cards for the application for benefits of James R. Jones. 

 

The first card lists Jones, James R.

                                Late Rank:  Private Company E, 3 Reg't  W Va Infantry

                                Date of Filing:  1864, Dec. 29

                                Widow's Application No.  77442

                                 Additional Services:  Company F  3 Reg't W Va Infantry

 

The second lists Jones, James R.

                             Late Rank:  2 Lt.  Company F, 3 Reg't W VA Infantry

                             Date of Filing:  1864, Dec. 29

                             Widow's Application No:  77442

                             Additional Services:  Company E  3 Reg't  W Va Infantry

 

After some historical research I was able to determine that Companies E and F were combined.  My great uncle left no clue as to whether or not he was able to solve the problem.  He probably didn't know about the existence of two cards with identical file numbers on them.

 

I have requested the widow's application file from NARA but have not yet received any kind of response.  Does anyone with genuine knowledge of Civil War records have any recommendations for me? 

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Replies to This Discussion

Are there any other numbers on the cards you found? Like a C or XC number?
Sorry, Jim ..... no other numbers .....in fact, not even a date of death or a location. Nothing else.
There is a young man named Jonathan Deis who works at the National Archives and will do work for individuals like copying pension files. He charges per hour. If you think you might be interested I can give you contact information. He could check to see if it has been done already.There is also the possibility that there were two individuals with the same name in the same company and regiment. I found that with my research. Also one might have served awhile for the other and the "other" showed up to finish the term of enlistment in which case they might have been given the same number. I think you will have to have the pension file to try to clarify it. There might not be anything in the file which will clarify or there might be. A number of individuals also went in as privates and ended up as officers like 2nd Lts. And as for the court martial thing that might amount to nothing at all.There were rules on drinking and gambling (considered court martial offenses) and he might have simply had a wild night to relieve tensions of war. I think it was probably the same individual who went from private to lt. and was going to be court martialed (probably for a trivial offense) and might have gotten off if it had gone ahead. Hope this helps a little. I did quite a bit of research on Tennessee groups when we lived near there. If I am able to go back anytime soon to continue my research I would be happy to look into it for you. You can contact me at culleoka4gen@charter.net Nancy
Nancy ...you are so kind and generous to offer help and connections. Fortunately, I think I've figured out the issue of the duplicate cards. The widow refiled her claim after hearing from the government that she had omitted some important information. What's curious to me is that they knew enough to give the claim the identical file number to the first. They could easily have made a notation that one card represented the refiling. Their failure to do so caused considerable confusion not only for my ggg grandmother, but also for the gov.'t over the coming years. The actual petitioning went on from 1863 until 1915. After talking to someone at the Archives, I was able to get a copy of the file; it clearly reflects all the frustration and confusion on both sides. There was also some indication that the widow may not initially have known about the court martial. On the other hand, perhaps she simply could not bring herself to accept the fact. Guess we'll never know.

I have a request in for a copy of the court martial file and am eagerly awaiting its delivery.

Still no information on where James R. Jones was buried. I've searched the websites w/ Civil War burial databases with no success. Once I've determined exactly in which county in WV he died, I'll be able to request a death certificate that may provide some help.

Again ....thank you for your kindness.
I'll be surprised if the court martial concerns anything serious or even reveals more information. Those guys were given a court martial for going missing in action if they could not get back to their regiments due to being cut off from the enemy. One guy had a court martial entry on his record because he went to a house where a party was going on. He said he went for the food and not to drink but those drinking made too much noise and it was too close to the house the general was using and the noise disturbed him.So they attempted to court martial him because drinking was not allowed. Once the label was given it could not be taken out of his record even if nothing really happened. I got the court martial of one man and it had less information than the pension file provided. Anyway good luck. I have no doubt you'll get it figured out. You sound a most competent researcher. Nancy
Oh, Nancy ......you flatter me too much. There are lots of days when I wonder what I'm doing. Why during war time, would the army court martial men for such inconsequential things? I do know that my ggg grandfather was discharged from the army ...that was his sentence. Did the Union have so many soldiers and officers that they could afford to dismiss men for these things?

This is my first foray into Civil War genealogy. I was surprised to find that I had any ancestors in this country early enough to be involved in the conflict.

Katie
Initially the army when organizing was very disorganized. They suffered battle losses while in the Cumberland Mts. Men were seperated and scattered and cut off from their commands. It took some of them months to work through Rebel occupied territory and rejoin their command especially when that command had to evacuate Cumberland Gap and retreat to Gallipolis, Ohio. When men didn"t show up to answer roll call (they were hiding out in caves in the mts and making their way at night when they could) then they would be charged as deserters. Some applied for pension in the early 1900s and found they had been charged with desertion and were unable for pensions for that fact. When they proved they had been cut off and had rejoined and fought for another 3 - 3 1/2 years the charge was dropped and they received pensions. The fact the charge had been brought could never be dropped but the charge itself was. Control of those mountains was hotly contested with both sides winning and loosing. There was a rule against going to the bathroom unless at the "sinks", no drinking or gambling (wanted to keep them in fighting shape at all times). All of the men got chronic diarrhea from the impure water and poor food (sometimes horse corn) and could not make it from their tents to the sinks and if they were caught going between the tents, especially the officers quarters, they would be arrested. Keep in mind the US govt expected many a thousand or so men to flock to the enlistment points in Ky. What they got was hundreds of thousands. They were overwhelmed. Not enough food, no tents or housing of any kind, no hospitals. The few doctors had little to no medicine (like quinine) and epidemics of chickenpox, smallpox, measles, mumps broke out as men came into the camps to enlist and had that at the time. It spread like wildfire. When "hospitals" were available they were houses or shacks commendered wherever they could be found or tents. Sometimes just rough branches spread over each other tent fashion. Not enough blankets. Not enough anything. One man put on a uniform and go on picket duty, come back, take it off and the next man would put it on. Disease control was nonexistent. The army was constantly on the march and moved sometimes for days or on end, stop for a day and be off the next back the way they came. Overwhelmed enlistment points, diseases, constant fighting and men who were farmers one day trying to learn to fight and be soldiers the next. Only way I know anything about CW is the fact we lived outside of Washington, D.C. for 8 years. I was raised "Confederate" with a flag in one hand and singing Dixie because William Lindsey Renfro was a Confederate from Texas (my mother swore this all the way to her grave). I went to the Nat. Archives one day to look him up. A year later I swallowed my pride and checked the Union Index. There he was Union from East Tennessee in the 6th Tn. Vol. Inft. Turns out he had a Confed. brother from Arkansas and did live in Texas (after 1880). Now all this while I had an original photo of him in his uniform hanging on my wall. There was no standard uniform at that point and I rationalized that the gun he was holding and blocking part of his belt buckle only made it look like it said U.S. I decided to look up one more ancestor, James Graves of the 3rd Tn. Then I thought I would look up just a few comrades pension files to verify fights and battles. When I fought the first few personal stories about battle experiences etc. I was hooked worse than any soap opera fan. Then I decided I would do the lst, 2nd, 3rd and 6th Tn. since I had people in all. Guess I've written up about 5,000 pages total. Natch we moved before I completed any one regiment but have carded medical records and compiled service records for two of them and will, so help me, get back long enough to finish at least the 2nd. Turned out to be a lot bigger job than I thought but absolutely absorbing and totally satisfying. I can go by a soldier's grave now and know, sometimes what he looked like, if he had a family and what he did to try to support them since his health would be so broken he could no longer farm. One Special Examiner (sent to take statements and verify claims for pensions) went on a 3 day journey into the mountains. While he was taking this man's statement another man, a vagrant in holey clothes, stopped by for a handout. Turned out he had also been a Union soldier, had been taken prisoner of war, mistreated and imprisoned with the Great Train Robbery guys. The Examiner had brought a book to read at night written by the leader of these Union soldiers and civilians, and this vagrant soldier was in it. The Examiner was so moved by the man's condition and plight he got the pension process started that got a pension for him. The man had had his forehead cut open with an ax, during a fight, prior to the CW and reported asked witnesses to fry the brains that came out for his supper. He had epileptic fits and had lot part of a hand falling in a fire. Now I defy anyone not to look for more stories like that.Now I can stand by a grave and know about someone and the sacrifices they made and be able to silently appreciate all they did to preserve our freedom. Well here I am rambling again but the CW is such a wonderful source of human interest stories. Keep going on your ancestors. Look at all the pension files they have and as many of their company and regiment as you can. If you find a card with a notation on the bottom have the Special Services room at the Archives look it up. Sometimes that can lead to another story. Maybe I'll have added another CW "addict". Our history should be remembered and where better than through the words of those who made it. Happy researching. Nancy
Need to edit before I hit reply buy trust you get the jest of it. Nancy
Nancy .... the first time the CW came alive for me occurred when I read the novel Killer Angels. It pales, though, next to details you've shared here. So true ... no writer or movie maker could conjur up tales like these. I've often looked at some of the grisly photographers of dead soldiers sprawled in meadows and fields, thinking to myself, "They're so young." "These are some woman's sons or husbands." Not unlike seeing the photographs of all the young people stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm especially moved by your ability to see the faces and to reflect on the stories of the men whose graves you visit. It pains me to know how many men's stories - or even their names - go unrecognized. My ggg grandfather James R. Jones served the Union with the West Virginia 3rd Infantry. I was amazed to find that I had any ancestors who served during the war; to my knowledge James is the only one. He and his wife Catherine Connelly married in County Leitrim, Ireland, not long before coming to America in 1850. I've theorized that they were at the tail end of the wave of immigrants leaving Ireland following the Great Hunger of the 1840s, but I've yet to locate documentation of the entry. The 1860 census identified James as a railroader, as were most of those who lived in his area of Ritchie County, WV. His first two children were born in New York. I'm trying to find information to support the idea that he likely followed the progress of the railroad construction as it moved west. By 1862, he and his wife had six children. By 1863, he had died while being held in a military prison. The remainder of the early family members on my paternal side did not arrive in the US until the late 1860s through the 1880s from Germany, all settling in St. Louis. My maternal ancestors came from County Mayo, Ireland, beginning in the 1880s up until my grandmother's immigration in 1914. So I'm only a 2nd generation American on that side. My maternal grandfather has presented challenges all his own. Since he was killed when my mother was only 9 years old, I knew him only through stories handed down through the years. The stories never rang true to me ....I always wanted to know the real facts. In fact, he served as my inspiration for beginning to research my family three years ago. My greatest thrill was being able to prove that he was an Orphan Train rider, left by his birth mother in the vestibule of the New York Foundling Hospital in 1892. At the age of three, he rode a train from Manhattan, New York, all the way to southwestern Missouri, where he was fostered by an older, childless Irish couple. The records the Foundling had were scant ... to say the least, but they listed his birth name as Joseph Dernier. Unless a miracle happens and a DNA match pops up, I will likely never know about that line of my family. That makes me sad.

So there you are. I'm also a rambler and love to exchange stories with others who are passionate about their work. I've learned so much from you, Nancy, and will certainly follow the advice you've shared. Thank you, thank you.

Best wishes .......Katie
Congrats on the Orphan Train trackdown. That took some detective work! My husband's family did not arrive till the 1900s so he does not have that American background.From the number of people he's told about my CW people and my ancestors who go back to the Amer. Rev. on 8 lines I think he's adopted them as his. When I first started the original Graves to come here had at least 12-18 children. He named his 2nd son Boston Sebastian. All of his sons named sons Boston and all around the same time. I went crazy for awhile trying to sort people out and figure out if they belonged to me. I lucked out and found a lady in Tenn. who is also descended from that line and she had books and books and books on them. The story of how I found her is kinda neat. 20 years ago I went to Dallas, Texas to visit grown children. Decided to go downtown to their library (has a good geneology section). I spent a week going through the McKinney Gazette (Texas). I knew my mother and her sisters had been born there. the last day and the last 30 min. I found a reference in one of them that was over 20 years old. It referred to William Hickle Graves my greatgrandfather. The woman said her husband had tried to track down what had happened to him as he was related. I called the number listed and wonder of wonders she still lived there. She referred me to the relative in Tennessee with whom I made contact and am very close to now. She has books and books and books and books of research on all the family lines. I fell into geneology heaven. Rambling again but it is so much fun to find someone as passionate and dedicated as I try to be. Have a great week. Nancy
What remarkable serendipity, Nancy. I know what you mean about similar names being confusing. On my paternal side, there must be dozens of permutations of William. I learned that in Germany, inidividuals have a series of names besides their family surname. One is called the Given Name and the next the Called Name. Unless the researcher knows both, it can be mind boggling to separate all the people over the different generations.

My other great gift was a cache of letters left by my grandmother (who lived with us). She maintained an incredible correspondence with a wide range of Irish cousins who had also come to America and friends she had made as worked in the households of the wealthy in St. Louis. It was apparent as I went through her papers that she didn't keep everything, but those that she did proved invaluable, allowing me to piece together cousin relationships .. a little here, a little there. I almost felt that she must have intended me to have the letters. My mother discarded nothing after my grandmother's death in the 70s, yet when I started digging three years ago, there they were. As a result I've been able to establish contact with living relatives who are descendants of her Irish Uncle Mike who came to America in 1855.

I'm so glad our paths have crossed.

Katie

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