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War In The Western Theater: Soldier Stories (Three Civil War Captains)

When I was asked by a historian friend to help research Civil War veterans for his upcoming book detailing Civil War soldiers' stories, I was ecstatic. But, at the time, I was also very new to researching (had I been at Andersonville, I would have been considered a "fresh fish!"). Instead of shying away from the experience, however, I embraced it. I got a Fold3 account and immediately began researching--about a thousand Civil War veterans in total. What I found throughout my research surprised me...every soldier--including those in command--had a different, unique story, even if they served in the same regiment during the war. Here are three captains of the Civil War (who served in the same regiment!) that I've had the opportunity to research:

  • Joseph Fox was 27 years old when he enlisted Sept 15, 1861, for a period of 3 years. For December, 1861, Joseph had been paid $111.00. Mar-Apr, 1862, Joseph Fox was present, meaning he fought at the Battle of Shiloh on April 7, 1862, in General Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio. Jan-Feb, 1863, Joseph was “Commanding Co & responsible for arms, clothing, from Dec 31/62 to Feb 28/63.” May and June, 1863, Joseph was “Absent without leave.” I found an interesting letter dated December 6, 1862, to General Boyle. It reads: “Dear Sir: Hearing that a provost marshal had been appointed to asses damage done in Daviess Cy [County], and to make arrangements for reimbursing Union men, I began to hope that the citizens of Muhlenberg might be remunerated. John Morgan passed through Greenville the last of October, pressing horses all along the road, and confiscating wagons and carriages wherever he found them. Some of the Unionists were able to sustain their horses, but others, farmers in the country, depending for support upon this land, were thus rendered helpless and destitute. The houses of soldiers were in numerous instances robbed, their families insulted?, and left to meet the winter without bedding of any kind. The resident Secesh escaped, their property being always restored upon application. Many of the Union men would not ask for restitution but there are others who without it must suffer absolute privatism. Be it right while the authors and abettors of there robberies are living in luxury, their innocent victims should be needing bread? While widows and orphans of the army are shivering with cold, the friends of Morgan are wearing silks and cloth, traveling, and rejoicing. He?/We? do not expect to have all losses made good, but will be grateful if the needy are restored to comfort. I would suggest Capt. Joseph Fox of the 11 KY Reg, as he is now at home on Recruiting duty, as a suitable Provost Marshal: he would be both active and just. Yours Respectfully Cap Edward R. Weir Jr. Another document in Joseph Fox's records discusses his need to resign, due to,“difficulties which are of a most extraordinary nature, and which would require his personal attention beyond the limit of time allotted by law-it will not be understood that he is by any means relax in his effort or devotions to the restorations of the Union: he therefore hopes that his resignation will take immediate effect.” Joseph further states that he has turned over all of his government properties (papers, etc) to the proper authorities. Therefore, he was no longer indebted to the United States Government. Joseph Fox passed away January 18, 1890, and is buried at Sears Cemetery in Paradise, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

  • William F. Ward was a 1st Lieutenant and later a captain in Co. B of the 11th KY Infantry. He was 25 years old when he enlisted on Sept 16, 1861, at Muhlenberg County for a period of 3 years. William was present for the Battle of Shiloh along with many other Muhlenberg Countians in the 11th Kentucky Infantry. For Aug 18, 1862, William was “absent on leave by Genl Buell.” He was also listed as having been “Promoted to Capt Jan 9/63 Sworn in the commission Mch 2/63.” Another paper states “Appointed by Gov of KY 1 Lieu [Lieutenant] Nov 11/61 Promoted Captain Jan 9/63 vise Edward L Weir Jr. resigned. Recd commission Mch 2/63. Entered on duty as Capt Jan 9/63.” William was mustered out as a Lieutenant on Feb 28, 1863, so that he could be mustered in as a Captain on Mar 1, 1863. Captain Ward was listed as having been “Wounded and sent home Nov 15 1863.” Records further say that he was “Returned Feby 16 Ky from a leave of absence granted in consequence of being wounded.” William was listed as having been wounded severely at Stones River. A paper dated from the U.S. Army Hospital at Knoxville and dated Dec 7, 1863, reads: “Colonel I most respectfully ask a leave of absence for thirty days to go to Kentucky. I was wounded at near [sic] Knoxville on the 15th [possibly says 18th] of ???? or last and are unable for duty. I enclose a Surgeons Certificate. Most Respectfully Your Obt Servant W F Ward.” Another document, written by a surgeon, details that Captain Ward was suffering from a gun shot wounds in his left thigh, which left him unfit for any kind of military duty. In addition, the surgeon mentions that, if Ward isn't permitted to obtain a 30 day furlough in Kentucky, Ward may have permanent damage occur. A record to Colonel P. B. Hawkins states, “I have been in active service for the last eleven months as 1st Lieut Co B 11th Reg Ky Vol and am now in bad health and desire a leave of absence for thirty days to Return home in Kentucky for the purpose of regaining my health.” That paper was signed by Capt. Ward. The paper continues with a statement made by J.F. Kimbley, the regimental surgeon. It states: “Lieut Wm F Ward of Co. B 11th Reg Ky Vol having applied for certificate on which to ground an application for leave of absence. I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined said officer and find that he is laboring under Neuralgia affecting his hearing also his ???? and has rendered him unable for service for the last three weeks and that in consequence thereof he is [in] my opinion unfit for duty [.] I further declare my belief that he will not be able to resume his duty in a less period than thirty days.” Colonel P.B. Hawkins wrote “Genl I hope this officer will be permitted to go home his health is very bad—I think he will never be able to do such? as long as he stays here.” William F. Ward passed away March 21, 1891, and is buried at Hazel Creek Cemetery in Belton, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

  • Captain Edward Rumsey Weir Jr. was a captain in Company B of the 11th Kentucky Infantry. He enlisted at the age of 22 on September 12, 1861, at Muhlenberg County for a period of 3 years. On June 30, 1862, Edward was “Absent on leave of absence in Ky.” For Apr 30-Aug 31, 1862, Edward was “Absent at Bowling Green, KY with leave.” For Sept to Oct, 1862, Edward was “sent to hospital.” For Jan-Feb, 1863, Edward was listed as having “Resigned Jan 6/63.” A Medical Certificate written by H. Fletcher at Owensboro, KY, on Dec 9, 1862 says: “Edward R Weir, Jr. Capt of the 11th Regiment KY Vol Inf having applied for a certificate on which to ground an application for a leave of absence, I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined this officer, and find that he is suffering from diabetes & chronic diarrhea and that in consequence thereof, he is, in my opinion, unfit for duty. I further declare my belief that he will not be able to resume his duties in a less period than thirty days. I further declare my belief that a leave of absence is necessary to save life.” Another paper dated from Owensboro on Dec 10, 1862, and written by Weir says, “Dear Sir: On the 24 of November I obtained a leave of absence for twenty days: at this time I find myself unfit for duty, and believing that I will recover more rapidly while receiving the attention of my friends, I ask for an extension.” A letter written by Capt. Weir from Camp near Nashville, TN, on Dec 20, 1862, to Lt. Col Julius P. Garesché (his story is very interesting. Learn more here.) says: “Dear Sir Having been unfit for duty for the last 5 months & being still unfit for service and with no prospect of a recovery I hereby tender my resignation. I certify that I am not indebted to the United States, that I have no property of the Government in my possession, that I have not been absent without leave, that there is no charges against me which can affect my pay & that I have been paid up to August 31 1862 by Maj Martin.” Another paper says: “Capt E.R. Weir of the 11th Reg Ky Vol Inf having applied for a certificate upon which to ground his resignation I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined him and find him laboring under chronic Diarrhea of Eight months standing contracting in the Army a short time after the Battle of Shiloh he has been unable for duty five months[.] I further say it is my opinion that he will not get well in the field [signed] J.F. Kimbley.” Another paper states, “Capt ER Weir Jr Co B of this Regt. has been unable for duty for a period of five months or at least a few days after the Battle of Shiloh. Capt Weir while on duty proved himself a valuable and efficient officer and only for the certificate of disability do I propose? his resignation but knowing the above to be as Surgeon Kimbley states, I approve and forward it [signed] E L Motley.” Yet another record says “Capt Edward R Weir Jr (Co B) of the Eleventh Regiment of Kentucky Vol having applied for a certificate on which to ground an application for a leave of absence. I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined this officer, and find that he has chronic diarrhea, and general debility resulting from it. He has been suffering from its effects for more than four weeks, and that, in consequence thereof, he is, in my opinion, unfit for duty. I further declare my belief that he will not be able to resume his duties in a less period than 20? days. I think this officer would be benefited by leave of absence, to return home to recruit his health. Therefore I recommend that a leave of absence for thirty days to be granted him.” The above was written by Surgeon Simpson and dated June 3, 1862. A paper written by Edward from a camp in Corinth, MS, on June 3, 1862, says, “Dear Sir Being unable to perform any military duty as you will see from the above certificate of Surg Simpson, I ask and petition for a leave of absence for twenty five days in order that I may recruit my health, I am at this time entirely unfit for duty.” Colonel Hawkins wrote, “I approve the within petition of Capt Weir, from the fact that I know his health is such, that he will not be able to attend to his duties as an officer within less than thirty days. He has ever been one of my best & prompt officers~I hope therefore his request will be granted.” The brigade surgeon said that Edward’s diarrhea was due to the camp food. A very interesting document dated from Battle Creek, TN, on Aug 15, 1862, and written by Edward Weir himself reads: “Upon the 9th day of June last I obtained a leave of absence from your Head Quarters. I arrived at Home in Greenville Ky upon the 18th of the same month exhausted from my journey. On the 22nd of June I was compelled by Rebel partisan soldiers of Col Johnson to go to Bowling Green Ky. On the 30th I obtained a certificate from the surgeon in charge of the Bowling Green Hospital, which I forwarded to the Regiment. On the 4th of July, the 9 Pennsylvania Cavalry having taken possession of Madisonville in Hopkins County [Kentucky], I returned home still very much exhausted. I was confined to my bed until the 26th of July[.] The Federal soldiers having been withdrawn from Hopkins County Col Johnston (Rebel) having taken possession of Calhoun Ky—My Father upon the night of the 26th had me conveyed privately in a spring carriage to Russellville Ky upon the 27th I was conveyed to Louisville by Lt Col Love[.] I was confined to my bed for 6 days. Under the kind care of Lt Henry Miller I began to improve so that by the 10th of the present month I was able to report to Maj Granger for duty. I was detailed by him to assist in conveying 88 men to their Regiment in the Army of the Ohio, this number was ???? to 156 at Nashville.” After that letter written by Captain Weir, his records switch to the 35th Kentucky Infantry. His records associated with the 35th Kentucky Infantry follow. When Edward enlisted in the 35th KY Infantry on May 28, 1863, at Greenville for 1 year, he was 24 years old. Records state that Edward was “Appointed 2 Lieut for recruiting service for 35 KY Mounted Vols Now being organized.” Later Edward became a Lt. Col. For Oct 2-Oct 31, 1863, Edward was “Absent commanding at Henderson Ky.” For Mar-Apr, 1865, Edward was “On Court martial duty since April 26/64.” And for May-June, 1864, he was “In Court Martial Lexington Ky since April 21 By order Genl Burbridge.” Edward sent a telegraph through the Western Union Telegraph Company which was dated from Louisville on Apr 27, 1864, and says, “Returned yesterday Did not find order as expected will await them.” Another Western Union telegraph dated two days later (Apr 29) says, “Reported ten days ago Shall I await further orders.” The last paper available on Fold3 was dated from Lexington on Sept 5, 1864, and written by Edward. It reads: “I request to be relieved form duty as a member of the Gen Court Martial convened by special order 176 Hd Qr D [Head Quarter Department] of Ky – I make this request in order that I can rejoin my Regiment for purpose of reenlisting [in] it for one year as Cavalry – it is important that this effort should be made right away as part of my Regiment’s time expires on the 16th of this month & the remainder on the 2nd of October – I wish to be relieved on to day in order that I may reach Lebanon by Wednesday in time to go down to the command in Adair Co with a detachment that will leave Lebanon at that time.” Edward Rumsey Weir Jr. is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Greenville, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

Although all three Civil War captains--Fox, Ward, and Weir--resided in the same county, fought in the same regiment, and were even close in age (they were all in their twenties!), their times in service were unique and individualized...just like every Civil War soldier's "story." Are you interested in researching Civil War soldiers? Consider creating a Fold3 account to delve into soldiers' records!


About the Author: Kass Cobb is a genealogist, history enthusiast, and college sophomore who plans to double-major in history and military history. Kass first became obsessed with history in eighth grade through a unit on the American Civil War. She began researching her family's heritage and discovered that she is a direct descendant of ten Civil War veterans. Since then, Kass has desired to share the stories of United States veterans. One of the ways she does this is by obtaining grave markers for veterans. When Kass isn't busy planning historical events for her community, placing signs at cemeteries, or researching her family's past, you'll find her antique collecting, reading, singing, and enjoying nature with her many pets. 

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Darryl R. Smith
Darryl R. Smith
Aug 15, 2020

Enjoyed these stories. Brings more connection when we can read their words and understand their views and experiences during the war.

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