Regimental Flag of the 51st NY Volunteer Infantry
I have been doing ancestral research during my free time (which isn't a lot, due to my increasing professional, volunteer/public service and social commitments).
That said, I have had some time to research my 4th Great Uncle, Nathaniel King (1838-1908). Coming from an old Manhattan shoe-making/cobbling family with over 100 years of history on the island (his grandpa served in the American Revolution), on September 22nd, 1861 he was mustered into Company K of the 51st NY Volunteer Regiment.
Among the company's more illustrious feats was that it was one of only two units that successfully crossed the Rohrbach Bridge (now called Burnside Bridge) across Antietam Creek, pushing back the 20th and 2nd Georgia Regiments (who had the high ground) during the Battle of Antietam, on September 17th, 1862. With over 22,000 casualties, this battle represents the single bloodiest day in American history.
I have found Mr. King's muster and discharge documents, as well as documents from his time in the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic--a Union veterans organization, akin to the modern day VFW or American Legion), and his periodic stays in the the Bath/Steuben County, NY Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Apparently, my Great Uncle acquired chronic bronchitis during the Civil War, and was never able to overcome it. The bronchitis became so bad, with loud, horrendous, bloody and violent coughing that it rose to the level of what was considered a "disability" in the mid 19th century, and he was honorably discharged for it on January 8th, 1863 in Baltimore, MD.
I spent an hour or so on the internet the other day looking for written historical accounts of Company K/51st NY Volunteer Infantry. During this research I was surprised to learn that George Washington Whitman, the brother of the famous poet Walt Whitman, also served in Company K of the 51st NY Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, a company only had about 100 men, so its highly probable that George Washington Whitman knew my Great Uncle, Nathaniel King. This is even more likely, due to the fact that George Washington Whitman was the company's lieutenant. Later in life, George Washington Whitman lived with his brother, Walt, in Camden, NJ, which is not only in the same county I live in (Camden County, NJ), but also only 15 minutes away from my abode. After Walt died, George moved to Burlington, NJ, which is also rather close to where I live, albeit to the north. I have attended court many times in both locales.
Here's where the research gets tricky.
The Veterans Gravestone application lists my Great Uncle as only having been a private with company K of the 51st NY. This is corroborated by almost every other document I have reviewed. No problems there.
However, documents from the G.A.R. specifically list him as having attained the rank of Colonel in Company F of the 35th NY Infantry. These documents say that he re-mustered into the military after a leave of absence (during which time he was married), and joined a new regiment and company, which he served with until 1865. That said, the official muster rolls of the 35th NY Infantry don't mention him as having been a member. I know this is the same guy, though, because his address, occupation and birthday are identical with those used on his 51st NY/Company K documents.
As such, there's more research I need to do.
I am also realizing that the world is a much smaller place than we realize. Its like the old game, "Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon," only with an extra historical layer added.
Title: Battle of Antietam--Army of the Potomac: Gen. Geo. B. McClellan, comm., Sept. 17' 1862 ...Date Created/Published: c1888. Medium: 1 print : lithograph, color. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-01841 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-1768 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-15599 (b&w film copy neg.) Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Call Number: PGA - Kurz & Allison--Battle of Antietam ... (D size) [P&P] Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA Notes:27020T U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrighted 1888 by Kurz & Allison, Art Publishers, Chicago, U.S.A.