Monday, May 31, 2010

Ancestors in the War of the Rebellion

I never had that much interest in learning about the Civil War. Whatever I did know about it came from watching Gone With the Wind a gazillion times. I was obsessed however, with the histories of WWII. That interest came about from watching The Guns of Navarone in Junior High. And, I had a grandfather that served in WWII so I felt more of a connection to that historical event than I did to the Civil war. I even made a journey with my mother to the beaches of Normandy and to the WWII museum in Caen, France. But, now I'm finding myself engrossed in stories about the Civil War. Now that I have found ancestors that participated I feel I owe it to them to find out just what happened and what they went through.

I have two Great Great Grandfathers that served in the Civil War, or the War of the Rebellion as it was called back then. Both served for the Union. Asbury S. Gaskill, on my paternal grandmother's side and Webster T. Roth, on my paternal grandfather's side. Both served for Iowa, Asbury with the 4th Iowa Calvary and Webster with the 26th Iowa Infantry. Both had very different experiences. Asbury, who lived in Mount Pleasant where the 4th Iowa Calvary was based, enlisted in October of 1861and only served until April 1862 when he was discharged by the camp surgeon and sent home in what was listed as "a dying condition". Measles had swept through the barracks and Asbury had contracted it which led to him having "disease of the chest" or more commonly known as pneumonia. When he entered the service, he was a strong lad of eighteen years, able-bodied and working on the family farm. When he left the service just a few months later, he was "broken-down" and near death with a "depression of the chest of a few inches" which would cause him great pain all throughout the rest of his life. I have no pictures of Asbury, save this single image of his grave marker, located at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas:
I also found this image of a fellow soldier who would have served with my great great grandfather Asbury as he also was in the Iowa 4th Calvary. His name was Hugh Ferguson and he too was from Mount Pleasant. I'm sure they knew each other and I feel like any connection I can find is another success in the Great Ancestral Hunt. :)

For my great great grandfather Webster Tyler Roth, the experience was quite different.  He enlisted in August, 1862 at the age of 19 in Clinton, Iowa.
Webster served the entire three years with the Iowa 26th Infantry, escaping death and disease many times over, participating in some of the biggest battles including Vicksburg, Arkansas Post and Chickasaw Bayou to name a few.  He was a drummer and would have carried a drum just like this:
Webster didn't get away from suffering injuries or getting sick.  He was nearly blinded when, making campfire atop a mountain near Chattanooga, the fire heated up the rock and small pieces began popping off, causing one to fly into Webster's eye causing permanent damage.  In his own handwriting, he tells about it on this History of Disability form:

"was on march to Chattanooga, halted to cook dinner. We built our fire upon rock and by the side of rock, necessarily so far we were in the mountains. The rock became intensely heated and small pieces burnt off one of which struck in my right eye."

I discovered a memoir written by Webster's fellow soldier who served with him in the 26th Infantry. Both of their companies fought side by side during most of the war. William Royal Oake's account of his time with the Iowa 26th gives me a unique insight to the day by day life of my great great grandfather during the Civil war. An insight to what he went through during his march through the South, what he endured and witnessed during the battles.

 It is quite exciting to be able recreate a life lived over 140 years ago. To shed new light and above all else, to remember.
My great great Grandfather, Webster Tyler Roth (middle row, second from the right) in a reunion photo with other band members of the 26th Iowa Infantry, probably taken 20-25 years after the end of the Civil War.

So today, I pay tribute to these two brave men and all those that have served and protected our country in the years following from the Great War to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We will never forget your service.