Saturday, May 17, 2014

Libbie and George - things known and unknown

George Remington Beach has always been one of my family's heroes. Civil War soldier, businessman, living to a ripe old age of 92, etc. His wife Libbie has been in the background. We have a photo of Libbie, and her father Charles left a big footprint, but Libbie herself has been a bit of a mystery. Unfortunately, that is often the case with women ancestors.

My last blog was dedicated to George and his Civil War experience. Fitting, because Memorial Day is just around the corner. But in my family, we remember all of our dead on Memorial Day. So this blog is dedicated to Libbie and George, just two of the many people I've grown to know and love since I started "digging up my dead relatives."

Elizabeth Sunderlin Hause Beach


My great grandmother Elizabeth (Libbie) Sunderlin Hause (1847-1917) was the second child and first daughter of Charles Hause (1817–1900) and Ann Maria Disbrow Hause (1823–1860). Charles and Ann were married in Tyrone, New York on 7 May 1845. Libbie was born two and a half years later, on 17 Dec 1847. Libbie was probably named after her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Betsy) Sunderlin Disbrow (1788-1862), who lived nearby. In 1850, Charles and family were living in the same general Finger Lakes NY area, in the Town of Starkey. Libbie was then two years old. Her father Charles was a farmer, and their land was valued at $4,900. Ten years later they remain in Starkey (Dundee post office), but by now the farm land was valued at $9,920 and personal property was valued at $5,800, and Libbie and her older brother were both in school.

Libbie’s mother Ann Maria Hause died later that year (4 Sep1860) at the age of 37, leaving 43 year-old widower Charles and three children: Lodowic (14), Libbie (13), and Charles (5). Less than eight months later, on 16 Apr 1861, Charles Hause was in Boston marrying a second wife named Martha A. Barnard.

Seven years later, Charles moved his family from New York's Finger Lakes to a farm in Dakota County, Minnesota. Dakota County is just south of both Minneapolis and St. Paul (see 1864 MN County Map, excerpt left). The farm was so large the transaction was described by the St. Paul press. An article listed the sales price ($13,000), stated the sum was paid in cash, and concluded, “We are glad to see such men coming into our State, and Dakota county will welcome him - we know.” (St. Paul Pioneer, Thursday, Nov. 26 1868).

By the time of the 1870 census, my great grandmother Libbie Hause was 22, living "At Home" with her farmer father, step-mother and siblings in “Egan Town,” Dakota County, MN. The farm was valued at $20,000; personal property was valued at $1,200. In addition to the family, the farmstead housed a Bohemia-born domestic servant and three farm laborers, two of whom had been born in Ireland. 

In 1959, when I was a kindergartner, my family moved from one Minneapolis suburb, Bloomington, to another, Burnsville. I remember vividly waiting for the drawbridge across the Minnesota River to close and allow us passage to our new home. That drawbridge (soon replaced by the 35W Bridge, infamous for its 2007 collapse) took us from Hennepin County, where I was born, into Dakota County, which was then my home until I left for college.

Charles Hause is at far right.
At the time I had no idea Dakota County held a piece of my family’s history. It wasn’t until years later that my father located the Hause farmstead. My father’s middle name was Hause, and I remember as an adult driving with him to see the land where his namesake had lived when he first brought his family to Minnesota. Today I don’t know exactly where it is, but I know how to find it and when I have time I will. Meanwhile, I have a photo that I believe is of the family farm, taken when Libbie’s father Charles was an older man. This is where my great grandmother spent her teenage and early adult years. Until, on 30 Aug 1873, 25 year old Elizabeth Sunderlin Hause married 34 year old Civil War Veteran George Remington Beach in Nicols, Ramsey County, Minnesota, and left Minnesota to live with her husband in Pontiac, IL.
George Remington Beach



We met George Remington Beach earlier this month, when I wrote of his Civil War service. George was born in Beachville, Steuben Co., New York on 24 Apr 1838, the son of Robert Beach and Rhoda Douglass. His middle name—Remington—came no doubt from his maternal grandmother, Charity Remington Douglass. According to his personal papers, before George joined the Union Army, he was educated at a local common school and the Rogersville Union Seminary (Dansville, NY). At some time during his life he attended Bryant & Stratton’s “Cleveland Business College,” which even in the mid 19th century was a chain of 35 institutions throughout the United States. George was a "clerk" when he enlisted, and throughout his life he worked in retail sales.


While my father was investigating his family tree, he wrote a brief history, including this reference to George and Libbie:

“Sometime after the Civil War, George and his brother John went west to Iowa. After a couple of years they back-tracked to Illinois where they settled in the small town of Pontiac, opening up a department store, i.e., groceries, dry goods, millinery.

According to Aunt Row [Libbie and George’s daughter Rowena E. Beach Marnie], her father had been told of the Charles Hause family who also had left western New York State and had moved to Minnesota. Their farm is just easterly of Cedarvale on Highway 13 in Egan. On a trip to Minneapolis that he took he met the Hause family, including their daughter, Elizabeth, whom he later married.”

George and Libbie were married 20 Aug 1873 in Nicols, Ramsey Co, Minnesota. T.W. Powell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis, officiated. According to the marriage license, George was living in Iowa at the time. After their marriage, George and Libbie moved to Pontiac, Livingston Co., IL, where their seven children were born. Six lived to adult-hood.

Ann Maria Beach, 29 Jul 1876 – 16 Oct 1956
Buena Vista Beach, 1 Jan 1878 – 3 Nov 1951 (my grandmother)
Robert Hause Beach, 16 Feb 1879 – 10 May 1969
Ortha Beach, 17 Jul 1880 – 18 Aug 1885
George Remington Beach, Jr., 24 Aug 1882 – 22 Feb 1950 
Rowena E.  Beach, 27 Feb 1886 – 13 May 1983
Mary Joanna Beach, 16 Feb 1889 -- __ Feb 1969

Turn of the century postcard
I don’t know much yet about Pontiac, a small town about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, or about George and Libbie's family life there. But I know where to go to learn more, and will get to it when I can. What I do know is that in 1878 George was a taxpayer working at the Beach Brothers Dry Goods Store. In 1880 George was in the dry goods business (probably with his brother John), Libbie was “keeping house,” my grandmother Buena Vista was two years old, and a female servant from Norway lived with them.  

As of 1900, there was no live-in servant (the children are, after all, 10 years older!) and the family lives at 421 West Washington Street, three blocks from the Livingston County Courthouse (and now a parking lot). 

But, for some reason, in 1910, the 72 year-old George and 63 year-old Libbie are found living with their unmarried daughters (including my 32 year-old grandmother Buena) in Los Angeles, California.

Goodness. What were they doing in California?

My father used to share a story about his grandmother Libbie, who died the year before he was born. He said that she was an independent woman with independent wealth. When she wanted something she could afford, she simply got it. One day she announced to her family that she thought they should try this new form of transportation, the automobile. She wouldn’t listen to objections. Instead, she went out and later that day drove home in the first automobile purchased in the town. I believe (but don't know) that town was Pontiac.

During the last month I’ve been confused by George, Libbie, Los Angeles and cars. It has to do with what George did in California. I had never heard that George and Libbie lived in Los Angeles in 1910. The fact that the family lived there is clear from the census records. Unfortunately, George’s occupation is illegible! As I ventured further, looking at Los Angeles City Directories, I found a George Beach selling electric cars in California in the mid-1910s. Wow, my 75 year old grandfather sold electric cars in Los Angeles in the early days of the automobile!

But I also found George in Minneapolis City Directories. At first I thought, why not, they could have two residences. But when I looked more carefully I found a number of George Beaches in LA, including at least one other (much younger) George R. Beach. Perhaps these Georges were related. Perhaps George and Libbie went to Los Angeles because extended family was there. In any event, after spending a great deal of time learning about the early electric car industry, a reality check convinced me I was trying too hard to shove a square peg into a round hole. I put the electric car business aside, and was left with the question of why George and Libbie and family ventured from Pontiac, IL to Lost Angeles, California long enough to be caught in a census…. Then moved to Minneapolis, where they remained the rest of their lives. Someday I hope to find an explanation for their travels.

google street view
By 1912 George and his single adult daughters appear in the Minneapolis City Directory, residing at 2708 Colfax Ave. So. This home is called their homestead in Libbie’s will  dated 29 Jan 1917. Libbie died there at the age of 69 on 11 Sep 1917. The official cause of death was "chronic myocarditis with generalized arteriosclerosis and chronic diffuse nephritis." (Lupus? Could the family have gone to California for Libbie's health?) In 1920, George was living in the same home with unmarried daughters Rowena (my great aunt Row, whom I remember well) and her sister Mary (whom I don’t recall meeting). By then daughter Buena had married.

George lived long enough to remarry, at about 90 years of age. He married a younger woman: Effie Stites Barwise. On 16 Apr 1930 they are living at 3806 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis.  George is 91, living with 70 year old Effie and other members of her family, including the Census enumerator!

Lakewood Cemetery Chapel
George Remington Beach died 19 Mar 1931 at his home. He was 92. The official cause of death was "coronary sclerosis with chronic myocarditis." He is buried at Lakewood Cemetery, in Minneapolis, where both my parents’ ashes rest. Interestingly, his second wife Effie, married to him for a few short years before his death, is buried next to him, with other members of her family. Libbie, the mother of all of his children and his wife of almost 45 years, was buried years earlier in Illinois at the Pontiac City Cemetery (South Side Cemetery). At least one of my friends finds this an injustice and blames it on the “younger woman calling the shots when George died.”

When I was still living at home, and some times when I was visiting, on Memorial Day weekend we would travel to family grave sites. My father had a special knife he used to clean the sod that inevitably began to creep over the family grave markers, and a brush he would use to clean them. My sister continued this practice for a time after my father’s death, but neither of us has made a point to clean and/or maintain the graves of our dead relatives for some time. While my parents were living and we made these annual trips, we would have picnic lunches in the graveyards. Indeed, my parents carefully chose their own gravesite location at Lakewood Cemetery so that they would “have a view of the lake” and my sister and I could picnic there. We promised to bring liverwurst and crackers and have a fine time. We do visit their graves when we travel to Minneapolis, and have indeed picnicked there, complete with Nueske’s liverwurst. Perhaps we are all inspired by Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town! The next time I go to Lakewood, I will add George’s grave to my travels. And Aunt Row’s, and many other dead relatives buried in that famous Minneapolis cemetery. And when I do eventually travel to Pontiac, Illinois, I will visit my great grandmother Elizabeth Sunderlin Hause Beach and the other Beaches buried there. I will even have a picnic.

South Side Cemetery, Pontiac, IL
For now, I have several precious items that once belonged to George and Libbie. The first is a lovely silver serving spoon that was no doubt part of a set of silver divided among many descendants long ago. It has a J. Cook hallmark and is engraved “G. &. E. Beach.” I found the pattern once online and decided matching it would be cost-prohibitive, especially since I had already inherited my mother’s silver (yet another story for another day).

We also have George and Libbie’s family bible. (We actually have two such tomes—this one and the one belonging to George’s father Robert.) It was a gift to the newlyweds, and is inscribed “to George R. and Libbie Beach, For their Wedding Present, by Father and Mother, Dansville, August, 29th 1873, [signed] Robert Beach and [Robert’s second wife] Lydia B. Beach.” The early death of George and Libbie’s daughter Ortha is listed, as is the death of Libbie in 1917. The page listing births is missing. 

George and Libbie Beach were literate American Baptists, not surprising given their background. They were both born in western New York during the religious upheaval that occurred there in the first half of the 19th century. George’s father Robert’s written autobiography shows he had married a member of the “Methodist Episcopal Church,” discovered religion and became a tea-toddler. He believed in higher education, and was a trustee of the Rogersville Union Seminary, an (apparently non-denominational) institution of higher learning which was well-respected during its time. This is where George matriculated after attending Common School. Both Robert (as trustee) and George (as student) appear in the 1859 school catalogue. The seminary taught practical things but also focused on the classics.

I found no record of higher education for Libbie, but she was clearly a literate Baptist. Her father Charles was a well-read man who traveled the entire globe in the 1990s and sent letters home which were published in a local paper in New York’s Finger Lakes region. He was an early financial supporter of the University of Rochester, New York, which was founded by Baptists in 1850. Both family bibles in our possession are worn from not just age but use. And within George and Libbie’s bible is a pamphlet of “Bible Lessons” from July 1889, with my grandmother Buena Vista’s name hand-written above the title. She would have been 11 years old at the time.

Alfred E. Peterson
Libbie and George’s daughter Buena Vista Beach (1878-1951) married Alfred Emanuel Peterson (1873-1938). My grandfather Alfred was an American Baptist minister who was born and raised on a farm in Minnesota. His parents were Swedish Baptists who left Sweden in 1857 to avoid religious persecution. Part of the Dakota War of 1962 took place on their Minnesota farm. (It seems every one of my dead relatives has an interesting story to tell….) In 1914, when Alfred contemplated marriage to Buena Vista, he was a 41 year-old widower whose calling was the First Baptist Church of Fargo, North Dakota, and whose daughter from his first marriage (my aunt Miriam Peterson) had been living with one of his sisters for more than two years. Alfred called on George and Libbie and asked for their 36 year-old daughter’s hand in marriage. A few days later he wrote a long and passionate letter on church stationery. His letter begins: “I could not trust myself to say what I wanted to say the other evening or endeavor to express how much I appreciate the manner in which you both received the request I made of you. I believe I understand better than most just how much I am asking, and I can only express our earnest wish and prayer that it shall not mean only loss to you but gain as well.” George and Libbie cared enough about this marriage that they kept the letter, and I now have a copy yellowed with age in my files.

Buena, Judson, George, & Sidney
Alfred and Buena Vista were married in Minneapolis 15 Dec 1914. My uncle Sidney Beach Peterson was born in 1916 and my father Judson Hause Peterson was born in 1918. Thus Libbie Sunderlin Hause and George Remington Beach lived on in their grandsons’ names. Just as their grandparents had lived on so many years earlier when at birth George was given the middle name of Remington in honor of his maternal grandmother, and Libbie was given her maternal grandmother’s name “Elizabeth Sunderlin.”

We also have a beautiful writing desk that Libbie must have used—it is engraved with her initials and came to my father when his Aunt Row died at the age of 97 (1886-1983). I remember Aunt Row well. She spent every family holiday with us, and always brought mint candies with her, as well as jokes she cut out of the Reader's Digest. I remember some of her stories (for another day), but wish I had asked her about her sister Buena Vista, who died a few months after my sister’s birth in 1951, two years before I was born. I could also have asked her about her parents George and Libbie, but of course I wasn’t interested at the time. In my father’s papers he said he regretted not asking questions of some of his relatives. I have my own regrets, and some day my daughter will probably have hers as well. It is a fact of life, and of death.

I believe family history is not for the faint of heart. It is immensely time-consuming, and if one is remotely obsessive-compulsive, beware! Every time I learn something about one of my dead relatives, it leads to more questions. I have written above what I know about George and Libbie. Here’s what I wonder about now….

… How did Libbie’s father Charles Hause come to marry Martha Barnard in Boston a few short months after the death of his first wife? Who was this second wife? For awhile I thought she simply disappeared after 1880. But I recently found her grave site. She died in 1892 and is buried in Northampton, Massachusetts with her parents. Did Martha Hause travel with her husband as he roamed the world, or did she stay behind. Why is she not mentioned in his obituary or other biographical writings?
… Why are George and Libbie and the girls in California in 1910? George’s brother (and business partner) died in Pontiac in 1910. Did that prompt the move? If so, why? Were they just “visiting”? Were they searching for a different climate because of Libbie's health?
… Libbie is buried in Pontiac, while George is buried in Minneapolis. Why? Did George’s second wife Effie make the decision about George’s burial place, and what did his children think? Why didn’t I ever ask about this when we visited all those graves? By the way, George’s brother John Beach and his wife Emma are both buried in Pontiac, as is Libbie and George’s daughter Mary Joanna, who died in 1969. Curious.
… How did the Baptist pastor living in Fargo (Alfred) meet the spinster living in Minneapolis (Buena Vista), and what did George and Libbie really think -- prompting the letter from Alfred....?

I hope to get to Pontiac soon, where I am sure to find some answers in newspapers viewable on microfilm. Of course, those answers will probably leave me with other questions…. For now I rejoice in what I DO know about my great grandparents George and Libbie Beach. This one's for you.

Find George and Libbie's Google Map here.
Find my family tree (searchable by name) here.

George and Libbie's marriage license (30 Aug 1873)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

In Memory: George Remington Beach fighting for union 1862-1865

    O beautiful for heroes proved 
    In liberating strife. 
    Who more than self their country loved 
    And mercy more than life! 
    America! America! 
    May God thy gold refine 
    Till all success be nobleness 
    And every gain divine! 
               A verse of “America the Beautiful” (poem by Katherine Lee Bates 1895)

Memorial Day, a time of remembrance, fast approaches (26 May). This tradition of remembrance began soon after the close of America's Civil War, as a way to remember those who died in that war -- northerners and southerners alike.

Today on Memorial Day we honor those who sacrificed their lives for their country at any time in our nation’s history. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who gave their lives so this country might “long endure.”

To my knowledge, none of my ancestors lost their lives in any battle since America began. But they did serve their country.
The original "Old Glory"
We are now in the middle of the sesquicentennial of America's Civil War. Throughout all of the nation, north and south, we are remembering the war that pitted brother against brother. This spring, as in all other springs, thousands of school children participating in forensics competitions will choose to recite the famous Gettysburg address. Indeed, all of the living U.S. presidents recently participated in the "Gettysburg Address Mash Up," and we are encouraged to “learn the address” ourselves.

Another interesting thing happened this spring. On 14 April 2014 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a political party "Resolutions Committee voted in favor of a proposal that says the state party 'supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin's right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.'" [Update: on 3 May 2014 the resolution supporting possible secession was, in my opinion wisely, rejected at the state convention...thank you!]

Given that I live in Wisconsin and am writing a family history blog, it seems appropriate that in this posting I pause to ask myself what my great-grandfather George Remington Beach (1838-1931) was fighting for when he joined the 130th New York Volunteer Infantry in 1862 and spent the next three years fighting secessionists in Virginia. 

On 19 November 1863, President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg. His short speech began: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." By the time those words were spoken, George had been in the Union army for more than a year.

Beach was born 24 April 1838 in Beachville (a hamlet located in the Town of Dansville, in Steuben County, New York). He was the son of Robert Beach and Rhoda Douglass Beach. According to his father, George’s health was “very poor during a part of his boyhood,” but he grew to be a strong man. On 5 August 1862, after a call from President Lincoln for more men to fight, the twenty-four year old enlisted in the 130th New York Volunteer Infantry. The regiment was later converted to a cavalry unit known as the 1st New York Dragoons.

Battle of the Wilderness" (1887 lithograph)
The Dragoons were one of the 300 Union regiments that suffered the greatest casualties during the War. Of a total regimental enrollment of 1414 men, there were 461 casualties (killed in battle, death by wounds, death by disease or accident, and death in Confederate prisons). During the Battle of the Wilderness (5-7 May 1864 at Todd’s Tavern), the Dragoons suffered the heaviest loss of any Union cavalry regiment in any one action during the war. The regiment ranked high in the estimation of its various brigade and division generals, as a regiment of superior discipline and efficiency. See Fox, William, “Regimental Losses - The American Civil War 1861-1865” (Albany, New York 1889).

I have very little in writing left by George Beach. One writing he left reveals that he was at one time the Post Commander of the Pontiac, IL Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), a veterans’ fraternal organization. But he wrote very little of his Civil War service itself. 

Fortunately, however, in 1900 at the urging of comrades and in conjunction with regimental reunions, the Reverend James Riley Bowen, who served as the regiment’s chief musician, wrote “The Regimental History of the first New York Dragoons.” Bowen gathered information from military records and his fellow soldiers. He collected old letters (and had some of his own), reviewed maps, and read other accounts of the war. The result is a detailed and well-written first person account of the Dragoons. Bowen’s work is not a history of the war, nor is it a particularly objective account. It is, however, an excellent narration of incidents connected with the regiment, as seen by members of that regiment. To my knowledge George Beach did not contribute to the book or attend the reunions, but he was with these men in battle and shared many of their experiences. 

I do have a photograph of an older George, on horseback, wearing his Dragoon badge. And given that he commanded the Pontiac IL GAR post, he must have participated in at least one Memorial Day or 4th of July parade!

Our family also has George’s saber and carbine. They hang on a wall in my cousin’s home. My father (Judson Hause Peterson) and uncle (Sidney Beach Peterson) used to “play” with the saber, and indeed I grew up with a picture of a deer painted by my great grandmother (George’s wife Elizabeth (Libbie) Hause Beach), with a tear caused by that saber. I can only imagine what my grandmother—George and Libbie’s daughter Buena Vista Beach Peterson—had to say to her sons about that!

Back to the real war. The First New York Dragoons was fairly unique. Organized in 1862 in Portage, New York as a voluntary infantry regiment, in 1863 it was converted to the 19th N.Y. Volunteer Cavalry after the soldiers agreed to fund one-half of the necessary horses themselves. (Yes, they themselves paid for half of their horses!) It was thereafter known as the 1st N.Y. Dragoons, fitting for a regiment filled with men expected to fight on both horse and foot. Bowen writes (at 7): “After our transfer to the cavalry branch of service, we became not simply ‘mounted infantry,’ but full-fledged cavalrymen, having changed not only our regimental name, but exchanged everything pertaining to infantry—our Enfield rifles, together with all accouterments and clothing, for the carbine, saber, and revolver, as well as full cavalry uniform… [But] so far as the men were concerned, the One Hundred and thirtieth Infantry and the First Dragoons were the same.”

One of the Dragoons was “Beach, George R. Age, 24 years. Enlisted, Aug. 5, 1862, at North Dansville; mustered in as private. Co. K, Aug. 20, 1862; appointed sergeant, Sept 1, 1863; mustered out with company, June 30, 1865, at Clouds Mills, Va. [Now living in] Pontiac, Ill.” (Bowen at 333). Enlistment papers reveal that George was 6 feet tall and had dark eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion. He was a clerk residing in North Dansville when he enlisted.

George was a sergeant through most of the war—I imagine this tall, dark, and, I would say from later photos, handsome man must have looked quite dashing in his Union cavalry sergeant’s uniform. Here's a 1866 hand-colored photo I found of a Union cavalry sergeant in full dress uniform. This photo is from the collection of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum, Fort Lee, VA.

Frederick Phisterer’s “New York in the War of the Rebellion” (3rd ed. 1912) lists all of the regiment’s enemy confrontations with casualty lists. The Dragoons took part in more than 70 battles, raids, etc. From Fox’s data, we know that almost one-third of the regiment died during the War. George Beach was lucky. According to his father, George “passed through many battles and much severe service without either wounds or sickness.”

For three years Beach fought the “secesh” in Virginia. He was at the Siege of Suffolk. He was part of the Overland Campaign and Sheridan's Shenandoah campaign. He fought in the Battle of the Wilderness, at Totopotomoy Creek. At Cold Harbor. And Trevilian Station. The Third Battle of WinchesterFisher’s Hill, Tom’s Brook, and Cedar CreekFive Forks and the Fall of Petersburg. He was at Sailor’s Creek and Appomattox Station. Bowen's narrative serves as an eye-witness account of the horror of this war between brothers. 

My great-grandfather no doubt shot secessionists and cut them with his saber. He must have burned barns, destroyed bridges and dams, confiscated horses and livestock, and helped wreak general havoc throughout much of Virginia. Kill or be killed and scorch the earth behind you so the enemy cannot survive. War is not pleasant and these brothers were fighting against each other with all their might. The 1865 photo (left) is of African Americans collecting bones of soldiers killed at Battle of Cold Harbor (1864), which involved 167,000 men (including George) and resulted in 18,024 casualties. Read more here.

Surrender at Sailor's Creek
At Sailor’s Creek a Confederate soldier from the 16th Georgia Infantry named J.A. Reynolds was captured. His diary ended up in George Beach’s possession and is now in mine. When my sister and I were growing up, we envisioned that the diary was taken off the body of a dead Rebel, killed by our heroic great-grandfather, maybe with the saber my dad or his brother had used when he (accidentally) killed the deer in the picture his grandmother painted! The diary has brown spots, which we just knew were blood stains.

Records show that Reynolds lived through the war and surrendered at Sailor’s Creek, VA. Having now read Bowen’s accounting of the war, I wonder if Beach and Reynolds swapped diaries after the battle. Because at the same time the north and south were fighting one another, there were also many incidents of camaraderie between northern and southern soldiers. Until I read Bowen’s book, I didn’t know that in 1900 writers used the phrase “stranger than fiction,” but when he wrote of the enemy soldiers’ relationship he used that phrase. I think I like the “swapping diaries” story more than the “dead rebel” story. 

My father tried to return the diary to Reynolds’ family years and years ago when it came into his possession, but he didn’t know why his grandfather had the diary and could not trace Reynolds’ family. I haven’t been able to either, but perhaps some day this precious diary will go to Reynolds’ descendants or to a museum in Sailor’s Creek. For now it sits safely in my study.

Finally, George was at Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865 when Lee surrendered, the South’s hopes for secession took a fatal hit, and union preservation became inevitable. Bowen writes: “The blue and the gray sat side by side munching hardtack and pork from the same haversack, and drinking from the same canteen…. We [the Dragoons] all remember how like a dream it seemed to go into camp that Sabbath night, in sight of the rebel army, with no picket firing, and all hostilities ended.” (At 296-97).

One short week later (16 April), the Dragoons felt the “great mantle of sorrow and horror” when they learned that Lincoln had been assassinated. (Bowen at 298). The Regiment was in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. on 23 April, mustered out in late June, and boarded a rail car heading north, reaching Rochester, N.Y. 28 June, where they were paid off and discharged. (Bowen at 300). 

George Remington Beach lived a long life, surviving his wife Libbie (d. 1917) and marrying again at the age of 90. When George died in 1931 he had lived 92 years, 10 months and 25 days. My father was then 12. 

My father (far right in this photo, next to his brother Sidney) grew up with stories his grandfather told him. I wish I knew them now. But I do have in my possession a favorite photo of my great-grandfather Beach, sitting with his young grandsons at their summer cottage at Lake Koronis, Minnesota. At some point my father wrote on the photo: “Tell us another!” Did George tell his grandsons tales of the Civil War? I bet he did. The two boys went on to serve their country in the Navy in the Second World War, and then returned home after that service, just as George Remington Beach had done 80 years earlier.

If you can, take time to follow and read some of Bowen's narrative about the Dragoon’s Civil War experiences on this Google map. I am not Civil War buff, but found Bowen's accounting fascinating, and watched my Google map develop as the Dragoons road through Virginia brandishing their sabers and using their state of the art carbines. I had no idea this regiment had the reputation it did (not just through Bowen's self-serving account but from other sources as well), or suffered such great losses, or brought such destruction to Virginia. My arm chair adventure also revealed how difficult it was for soldiers from different parts of the “same country” to fight one another. They fought as soldiers, but they also shared stories, song and food across enemy lines. (Read more here.) Today this writer finds this fight among brothers – and the concept of secession from America -- unimaginable. 

Grandpa George, this posting is for you, from a descendant proud to call you one of my many “dead relatives” and glad to be an American. A descendant who lives in Wisconsin and is not at all interested in seceding from our United States, regardless how imperfect that union may seem from time to time. This Memorial Day, I plan to fondly remember someone who fought for union.
Winslow Homer sketch -- Wounded Soldier

Come back to this blog in mid-May, to learn the rest I know about George and his wife, Elizabeth Sunderlin Hause Beach (1847-1917), who was, I understand, quite an independent woman! Find George and Libby at my family tree (searchable by name). 

Want to learn more about the First New York Dragoons? This is how Fox describes them in his 1889 study of Union casualties (at 183): 

Organized at Portage, N. Y., as the One Hundred and Thirtieth Infantry, and served as such at Suffolk, Va., and in Keyes’s Peninsular campaign. On July 28, 1863, it was transferred to the mounted service under the designation of the First New York Dragoons. Colonel Gibbs, who belonged to the United States Cavalry service, drilled the men in their new duties, and on the night of October 17, 1863, the Dragoons made their first fight as such at Manassas Plains. The regiment started on Grant’s campaign of 1864 with about 400 carbines, and in the Wilderness (at Todd’s Tavern), having dismounted, made a desperate fight, sustaining the heaviest loss of any cavalry regiment in any one action during the war; its casualties in the Wilderness amounted to 20 killed, 36 wounded, and 35 missing. At Cold Harbor, the wearied troopers were sleeping on the ground, bridle-rein in hand, when they were awakened and ordered into the breastworks, which they gallantly defended while their band played gaily during the entire fight. At Trevilian Station, the remnant of the Dragoons were actively engaged, their casualties in that action amounting to 16 killed, 61 wounded, and 8 missing. After fighting under Sheridan in his famous Shenandoah campaign, and sharing the glories of the final scenes at Appomattox, the regiment was mustered out, June 30, 1865. The Dragoons ranked high in the estimation of its various brigade and division generals, as a regiment of superior discipline and efficiency. During all its mounted service the regiment was in the First Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac. 

Flag photo from the New York State Military Museum's website, which has a short summary of the 1st Regiment of Dragoons, plus links to newspaper clippings, books and diaries containing further information. As to the war in Virginia, take a look at Civil War Traveler: Virginia. It's a great website.