Tuesday, February 5, 2013

James Price Becomes Ill, Recovers, and Talks of Getting Discharged

James wrote out the words to a favorite song "Weeping Sad and Lonely"
To hear a modern rendition of this song click here.
     James became truly ill with Typhoid Fever from November of 1862 through February of 1863, never going to the hospital but staying in a nearby home where he was nursed. He managed to send a few letters home during that time, mostly replying to Melissa’s letters and trying to help settle matters and attend to the requests of the family of his recently deceased friend, Robert Wilson.
     Finally, in March of 1863, James was well enough to return to his unit, and his thoughts immediately turned to finding a way to shorten his time of service. He has two methods in mind: he might volunteer to go out to the front because he has heard that men who do so can get discharged sooner. James also mentions that three different surgeons have promised him a medical discharge which he thinks he is certain to be granted.
     This is the final letter we have from James until September of 1863. In that time there will be many changes, many battles, some cause for pride, and enormous tragedy in James’ life.

Camp Halls Farm, VA 
March 5th ‘63 
Dear wife, 
Once more I am about to indulge in the pleasure of writing to you although I have received no letters from you for more than a month. I received one from Louisa and she said you had wrote that your letters have been miscarried. The last letter I received from you was dated January 26, 1863. 
Meliss I am thinking about going out to the front again. There is a detachment going out in a day or two and if I do not get worse than I now am I will go along and I presume I will receive all your letters that you sent when we join the regiment. Meliss I think I will get my discharge but it will be sometime yet before I get it. They do not do that kind of business here in a very great hurry. Meliss do not mention this to any of my brothers or sisters or anybody else for fear I do not succeed. The reason I am going to the front is because I think I can get my discharge sooner than if I stay here. There has been several cases of small-pox in this camp. Three died yesterday. Meliss I suppose Leon is pretty good company now, Louisa wrote me that he was running around. 
Meliss you may look for me home before many months for I have been promised a discharge by 3 different surgeons and I think I am sure of getting it. 
There are no war news of importance to write that I know of. I sent $20.00 to you a month ago and I never heard whether you had received them or not. You need not write until you hear from me again, Nothing more at present. I remain 
Your ever aff. Husband 
James F Price 
Friday March 6 
A cold windy morning, snowing, raining and sleeting. Oh how I feel the want of a comfortable home. Answer this as soon as it comes to hand. 
Meliss if you don’t get time to write be sure and send a letter. 
Hoping this many find you and Leon enjoying the blessing of health, I will draw to a close. 
Still your Aff. Husband 
James F Price

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Part Six: James Returns from Furlough

     Sometime after the traumatic events of the summer James was granted leave to go home. We know this from the next letter we have from James, in which he discusses his return to duty after spending some time at home. In the letter he writes that he wished he had remained with Melissa and Leon two or three days longer since the 1st Maryland was doing nothing more onerous than guard duty in Washington D.C.
     It is curious to read of James’ casual discussion about staying longer, since I had always assumed that the military was strict about furloughs and soldiers returning. My curiosity was aroused further when I saw his military record and the note that he was “absent without leave since September 25 ’62.” It appears that James was supposed to have returned a week earlier than he did, and yet he was not imprisoned, court-martialed, stripped of his newly-acquired rank, or disciplined in any way.
     Further research into furloughs and being AWOL showed me that, while the military had specific rules governing soldiers who were not accounted for, it was really a matter for the commanding officer to deal with. Some officers were strict and followed the letter of the law, others dealt with each situation on a case-by-case basis. In James’ situation, no doubt James’ loss of so many friends, as well as the loss of his mother, were taken into account.
     What we do know is that James does not appear to have been punished and he makes no mention of any discipline in his letter to Melissa.
     James also mentions visiting Melissa’s step-father, Henry Ernest, and tells her that Henry is healing but has a very crippled hand. Henry will be discharged later that fall on account of his injury. He will apply for and receive a medical pension for the rest of his life.
     Among the others items of his letter – his repeated desire to be home again, his mention of a wayward Elick or Alex, and more news passed on from other soldiers – is a single line that could easily be overlooked: I was very sick coming on the road but I feel better now. James was, indeed, very sick and would spend the rest of 1862 fighting for his life.

Halls Farm, Va 
Oct 2nd 1862 
Dear Wife, 
I arrived in Washington on Wednesday [October 1] evening and had to cross the river right away and had no chance to write to you. Maliss I wish I had stayed 2 or 3 days longer for we have not moved from Centreville. Maliss this does not seem like home to me any longer. 
I was down at Alexandria and seen Henry. His hand is crippled I was very sorry to see him have such a bad hand. Henry is very tired staying in the hospital he is heading home as soon as he gets out of the hospital. 
Maliss I wish I was coming home with him to stay. You must not be surprised if you see me walking in some of these days before long. Maliss I am going to try and do what I told you. If I had not bought my ticket I would have got off at the corner when I saw you & Leon. Maliss don’t you forget what I told you. 
I was very sick coming on the road but I feel better now. 
Maliss I saw one of the prisoners of the 46th Penna and he said he saw Harry Rollins laying dead on the field. The man that told me was Mat. Frazier. I seen all our men that were taken prisoners and they look very bad some has no shoes and some no shirts. They have very little respect for a solder. I think there will be a settlement before long. 
I seen Elick over in town the evening I came in. Maliss he is a pretty bad boy Maliss I don’t think he will ever do much good. Maliss don’t tell Maria that I told you anything about Elick. You can tell her if you see her that I saw him and that he is well. 
I wish I went out to Will’s with you and Leon and stayed 3 days longer. It costs so much traveling over the road that the next time I come I am going to stay and I don’t think that will be long. 
Good bye Maliss for this time. Write soon. Tell Leon he must quit biting or him and me will have a fight when I come home. Maliss tell Rach that I was very sorry that we had not time to go over together. 
My love to you and Leon. 
I remain your husband. 
James F Price

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Film Your Living Ancestors

[Note: The story of James F. Price of the 1st Maryland Cavalry will be continued tomorrow]

     One of my great joys is volunteering at a local retirement community where I offer monthly “genealogy” classes. To be honest, there isn’t a lot of teaching that happens in class. The ladies and gentlemen who participate mostly tell me stories about their lives and ask that I find things for them: father’s immigration records, a missing uncle who was rumored to have been in trouble with the law (he was – the feds were after him for bank fraud!), mother’s siblings, etc. 
     It gives them pleasure to hold a single document tying them to their past, and it gives me the opportunity to do a lot of “quick and dirty” genealogy: get in, get the document, and get out. They provide the story.      Late last fall I toted my trusty camera with me and filmed the members of my class telling their stories. The purpose was two-fold: to show my students how easy it is to be on camera, and to show their families how simple it is to record their living ancestors telling the stories of their lives. 
     One of the gentlemen who has faithfully attended with his daughter was Gil. He had a hard time hearing me, but he told me the best stories about his life, and he was secretly my favorite student. 
     The flu, my car accident, and Christmas intervened so that I was not able to get the DVD copies of the stories to my class but they know I am bringing them with me today. Sadly, Gil won’t be there to receive his. His daughter emailed me to let me know that Gil passed away a few weeks ago. So today I will hand his daughter a memory: one of the last times her father was healthy and happy and sharing his stories. 
     Over and over I preach to my clients (and to my readers and my friends) the importance of filming their living ancestors telling their stories. While intellectually we know that these loved ones won’t be here forever, we often put off recording them telling their stories until it is too late. 
     If you have older family members still alive let me suggest that you head off to visit them this weekend and film them telling your favorite stories. Trust me, you will treasure every minute of your recordings.

     Thank you Gil for sharing your life and your stories with me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Using the Historical Method to Cite Your Genealogical Sources

My reply to Mr. James Tanner's blog "What are sources and why should I care?" http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2013/01/what-are-sources-and-why-should-i-care.html

     Mr. Tanner, you said, “As genealogists we need to forge a new methodology with a new terminology based more on evaluation of evidence and seeking for historical truth or reality...” 
     I would ask you, “Why re-invent the wheel?”
     There is a perfectly good methodology for choosing, using, and citing sources which has been in place for hundreds of years: the methods employed by historians.
     As Bowdoin College explains:
“A citation is the part of your paper that tells your reader where your source information came from. This is one of the most important elements to your paper. In order to evaluate your argument, your reader must be able to consult the same sources you used. Proper citing is crucial to making a credible and persuasive argument, and to conforming to professional standards of proof.” http://www.bowdoin.edu/writing-guides/citing%20sources.htm 

     When, as a historian, I cite a source I am doing so in order to show you where I found the information so that if you wish, you may find the same book, record, or document and determine if it is, indeed applicable, appropriate, and accurate. This seems to me to be the whole point of citing genealogical sources. 
     If you tell me that Maud was the daughter of Francis and Herbert and I think her parents were Nellie and Albert, then I want to know where you got your information. If we are talking about the same Maud, then clearly one of us is wrong, and I want to make sure that I have the correct information in the family trees and histories which I produce for my clients.
     If, upon closer examination of the sources we both cite, I find that my source is family lore but your source is Maud’s birth certificate or her baptismal record or her obituary (or all three!) then clearly you have superior information to mine, and I can correct my error.
     But if I find that we are both relying on family lore, or that you are basing your information on someone else’s tree, then unless that family tree has a more reliable source attached to it, I can safely ignore your information – for now.
     You stated that genealogy is in search of Truth, with a capital “T.” That is also the goal of history: to discover and evaluate all documents and records available to determine the facts relevant to a specific person or event and arrive at the Truth regarding that person or event. Genealogy is a branch of history, and as such, should be using all of the tools and techniques available to the rest of the historical world. 
     There is no reason to spend time and effort creating some “genealogical” method for citing sources when the historical method is ideally suited to our task.