With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Elsa coming through my neighborhood this week, I’ve spent my days finishing up documentation for the Forgotten Ones project sponsored by the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The purpose is to identify those who served for the Union but have no descendants. Their stories are compiled and will be included on the organization’s website so that their service will not be forgotten.
In researching two individuals, I found perfect examples of why EXHAUSTIVE research is paramount. The first discovery I made was while researching Isaac Lofton (1835-1889), an Indiana native farm laborer who enlisted for the Union. My heart sunk after spending an hour acquiring documents when I discovered the picture above.
Notice why I was concerned? Check out the Notes section – “Deserted.”
If I had stopped there I would never have learned the true story of heroic Isaac.
Further research uncovered what happened 2 days BEFORE Isaac left the hospital, which was used as a convalescent center for not threatening gunshot wounds or disease:
I don’t know about you, but I think it was a wise move on Isaac’s part to take off from that hospital when he did.
It’s what he did next that impresses me the most…he could have returned to Indiana, kept his mouth shut and carried on with his life. He chose another path, however. Instead, Isaac went SOUTH, into the war, and re-enlisted with Company K, 1st Infantry, Mississippi Marine Brigade. I didn’t even know there was a Union regiment from Mississippi!
He served until the war ended as a Marine on the Mississippi River. Impressive for a man who had little experience with water growing up.
After the war, he married Lydia Harbaugh in 1868; the couple had no children.
I’m glad I continued researching to understand his story as finding one document does not mean it tells the whole truth.
That point can be further made by the next individual I selected to research, Julius Theodore C. Wilman. Julius (1838-1885) volunteered as a private in 1861 with the 3rd Regiment, Infantry in his native Maryland. I was impressed to discover he was promoted to Lieutenant:
He must have received notice of the charges as he sent a second letter stating he was “anxious” to learn if his resignation had been accepted and to correct the record. He claimed he was not AWOL but had permission from a physician because he was “sick.” Notice that he never mentioned being ill in his resignation letter? In reviewing his service file, however, on Fold3, I discovered his true character. Five charges were filed against him and he did not handle the situation well. Evidently, the commanding officer decided that no man could use his own guns and they were to be collected. Two privates did not want to part with their revolvers so they cut a deal with Julius; he promised to keep them safe and return them to the men. Except, Julius didn’t want to part with them when the privates asked for them back. They reported him to higher ups who confronted Julius. He denied he had the revolvers though they were found in his possession. When asked how that occurred, he spewed profanities and threats against the officer who had issued the command. Then, he went AWOL. He returned to his mother’s residence and submitted a resignation letter stating he was needed at home to take care of his elderly widowed mother, his invalid brother, and his sister-in-law with two small children whose husband, another of his brothers, had been killed at Gettysburg. He claimed to be the only one who could care for the family since one other surviving brother had important work to do in the government’s service.
In researching Julius’ claims about his need to be home, his story falls further apart. Although it was true his mother was a widow, she had raised 4 boys as a single mom since 1849. In the 1860 US Federal census, none of the adult “boys” can be found but mom had found work as a toll gatherer in Virginia. In 1870 and 1880, mom was living with one of Julius’ brothers. Julius certainly wasn’t concerned about her at her end of life when he relocated to Wisconsin. She outlived him by 4 months.
There is NO documentation to show that one of his brothers was an invalid. That brother, most likely Henry, was quite well when he completed his draft registration. Henry never was called up for service and married after the war.
There is NO documentation that brother Frederick Agustus worked for the government. He did complete a draft registration in July 1863; he was a miller in Fredericks County, Maryland throughout the war.
There is NO documentation Julius ever took care of his sister-in-law or nephews after his brother was killed at Gettysburg. In fact, his sister-in-law had married Julius’ brother John Lewis in 1857 but was found in the 1860 US Federal census as residing with her parents using her maiden name. She continued to live with them in 1870, along with her two children who had been born in 1861 and 1863. She eventually remarried and newspaper articles note the adult children returned to visit their step-dad. That implies the step-dad took on the parental role and not Julius.
There is also NO evidence that Julius had remorse for his actions regarding his poor judgement in taking the revolvers, lying about them being in his possession, his angry outburst and threats when confronted with the evidence and his failure to go through proper channels when he became “sick.”
The only truth discovered was the death of his brother, John Lewis. It is interesting to note Julius had been taken as a POW for a short time a few months before the revolver incident. He was traded quickly back to the Union. No mention of that was made in his resignation.
Julius had reason to be anxious and depressed; he possibly was suffering from PTSD. He later became a diabetic so he also may have had underlying medical issues at the time of the incident. His physical and mental state was stressed yet it disturbs me that he had no remorse for his actions.
I decided not to submit his story. Perhaps, there are two lessons learned here. The first, exhaustive research is a must. The second, sometimes it’s better to remain a Forgotten One.