Our family’s veterans from the Civil War and the Revolution

In the previous entry I wrote about members of our family who had served in the two world wars. We also have veterans who served in wars going at least as far back as the Revolution. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some of our ancestors also served in the French and Indian War as well, since the Cogswells and Seavers were already well established in Massachusetts by that time, but I haven’t come across any records of that yet.

danmaryaliceRindgeBefore I started my research, of course, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that we’d even have had Civil War veterans in our past, since I assumed I was only a generation or two removed from Ireland in relation to all my ancestors. The person who changed that was Mom’s paternal grandmother, Mary Alice (Smith) Dunn. She’s the woman sitting in front of the home she and husband Daniel shared in Rindge, New Hampshire, where Daniel was the local blacksmith. Mary Alice’s father was Leonard O. Smith, born in Foster, Rhode Island, descended from the Smith and Shippee families that had been prominent in that state from its beginning. Her mother was Lydia (Cogswell) Smith. The Cogswells had come to New England in 1637. Lydia’s mother was Lucy (Seaver) Cogswell, whose ancestors arrived in Boston in 1635.

So thanks to Mary Alice, we’ve had ancestors in New England from the earliest years of European settlement.

Mary Alice’s paternal grandmother was Ruth (Shippey) Smith. Ruth’s father, Solomon Shippey was the first of our ancestors I found to have been a Revolutionary War veteran. Ruth’s name appears on a pension record as the recipient of the final payment due on Solomon’s military pension after his death in 1842. Solomon was 94 when he died, an amazing age in those days. If he hadn’t lived to a ripe old age, he might never have seen anything of his pension- he had only begun receiving payments from the government in 1831, when he was 83! It had taken Congress that long to get around to passing legislation providing for the federal government to take on the pension obligations of the individual states.

The passage of legislation didn’t mean that Solomon would start automatically receiving checks in the mail. There were, of course, no databases in those days- nor even filing cabinets full of military records. In order to prove he was eligible for a pension, a veteran had to make a sworn statement, attested to by others, describing his service, with dates and places- and that is why we know that Solomon was one of the men from Rhode Island who responded to “the alarm of the battle at Lexington” in 1775, marching off to Cambridge. Here is how his account begins:

I was born in said Foster on the 9th of May 1749. I have no record of my age. I have always lived in said Foster.

In April 1775 I volunteered in Capt. Jeremiah Davis Company R.I. militia upon the alarm of the battle at Lexington. I marched to Cambridge Mass. where I remained about one month.

When I returned home when I enlisted in May 1775 in Capt. Stephen Kimballs Company, Col. Hitchcocks regiment R.I. troops. I marched through Roxbury to Cambridge Mass. We were stationed on Prospect Hill. We were there when the Bunker Hill battle was fought in June 1775- we stayed at Prospect Hill until January 1776 when my 8 months being out I was discharged.

There were three regiments of R.I. troops near Boston commanded by Cols. Church Hitchcock and Varnum. Ezekiel Cornell was our Lieut. Col. Israel Angell Major, Gen. Washington Col. Putnam. Gen. Lee Gen. Greene were officers with the troops at Cambridge.

Solomon goes on to describe subsequent service in various locations in Rhode Island. His statements were attested to by several witnesses, and his pension was approved.

As I’ve written previously in this blog, it’s also possible that another of Mary Alice’s great grandfathers, the elder Stephen Cogswell, also fought in the Revolution. “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution”, an index published in 1898, has this:

Cogswell, Stephen. Private, Capt. Joshua Whitney’s co., Col. Josiah Whitney’s regt.; service from July 31, 1778, to Sept. 14, 1778, 1 mo. 15 days, at Rhode Island. Roll dated Worcester.

Stephen would have been 19 at the time, probably living with his parents in Paxton. If this is our Stephen Cogswell, it would mean that he served in the unsuccessful attempt to push the British off Aquidneck (Rhode) Island, which became known as the Battle of Rhode Island. The battle concluded on August 29, 1778, with the British still in control of Newport, which might explain the brevity of Stephen’s service.

I don’t know of any veterans of the War of 1812 or the Mexican War in our tree- but that’s not too surprising, since neither war was very popular in New England.

The Civil War was a different matter. Although I can’t find any direct ancestors who fought in the war, there are at least two Civil War veterans on close branches of our family tree, who had very different experiences.

The Civil War monument in Dublin NH

The Civil War monument in Dublin NH

Rufus Cogswell was the brother of Lydia Cogswell, Mary Alice’s mother. He was born, like Lydia, in Rutland Massachusetts. And also like Lydia, Rufus’s spouse came from Northeastern Connecticut. In 1846, two years before Lydia married Leonard Smith in Killingly, Rufus married Lucy Blackmore in Thompson. The couple lived in Foster, Rhode Island, before moving, by October 1850, to Worcester. They had one child, a girl named Lucy, born in the summer of 1850 in Connecticut, according to that year’s census.

What happened next is still a mystery to me. In 1854 Rufus and Lydia’s parents, Stephen and Lucy Cogswell, moved to Dublin New Hampshire. Lydia and her husband Leonard Smith moved to Dublin in the same year, as did Rufus. As far as I know, however, Rufus moved without his wife and daughter. I haven’t been able to find death records for either of them in the Massachusetts Vital Records- it’s possible, of course, that they may have died in Connecticut. All we know is that by 1860, Rufus had married Elmira Moore, a widow who was five years older than him, and had three children. Rufus and Elmira had two sons of their own, Nathan and Milton. In 1862, the year Milton was born, Rufus enlisted in the New Hampshire 10th Infantry Regiment. He joined the regiment on September 12 1862. Less than two weeks later, having only gotten as far south as Washington DC, he was dead. I don’t know for sure how Rufus died, but it’s very likely he was the casualty described in this excerpt from the regimental history: “September 22 the regiment embarked by rail and arrived at Washington on the 25th; en route one man was killed and several injured by a collision of trains near Baltimore.” Rufus was buried in the cemetery at the Old Soldiers Home in Washington, which was the first national cemetery in the US. Pension arrangements were a bit more prompt than they had been after the revolution, and Elmira was able to continue living in the family home in Dublin. Rufus and Elmira’s son Nathan, who eventually became a farmer in Swanzey, was the last of our Cogswells in New Hampshire. He was still alive as of the 1930 census, but had no children.

Elisha Smith's grave in Killingly

Elisha Smith’s grave in Killingly

Our other Civil War veteran was Mary Alice’s uncle, Elisha Smith. Elisha was born in about 1811, which means he was 52 years old, when, on December 3, 1863, he enlisted in the 18th Connecticut Infantry Regiment, and headed off to war. In May of 1864 the regiment was involved in the Battle of New Market in Virginia. Things did not go well for the Union troops that day, and 51 members of Elisha’s regiment died. Elisha survived, but was taken prisoner by the Confederate troops, and eventually was sent to the infamous Andersonville prison. He somehow managed to survive the horrible conditions, and returned home to Killingly. He’s buried in the Adams-Smith cemetery just up the road from the Smith homestead in the Ballouville section of Killingly.

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