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"Adopt" a Civil War Veteran!

How much one can learn from taking the time to visit a National Cemetery as well as other cemeteries and research the military and personal life of a veteran buried there.

Case in point, on a recent walk through the Nashville National Cemetery, I was looking for a particular soldier of the 105th Ill. Inf., whose grave I did find. In close proximity to his grave, I photographed some additional veterans' graves and spent just a few moments to learn more about them.

Within just feet of each other is the telling of the Union experience in the Western Campaigns. Men from Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky eternally blanket this cemetery.

One of the first 'melting pots' of America was the combination of troops from all over the country in pursuit of the Union, in the case of Federal troops. Recent immigrants themselves, men who had not been in this country so very long found themselves at final rest in Nashville, Tennessee, in this particular example.

  • What can we learn about them?
  • Where could it lead us?
  • How can exploring their stories, their experiences in the war, and perhaps their mysteries enlighten us so long after the war?

These and many other questions and speculations can be in large part addressed by contacting the National Archives & Records Administration for NATF Form 80 and requesting service records and/or pension records.

The American Civil War Research Database (Historical Data Systems, Inc.) was used to gather much of the information in the examples below. Their fully searchable database of Civil War soldiers and events is a subscription service that I have found helpful as a subscriber. Note: Except as a subscriber of their service, I am not affiliated with this organization in any way.

John Frakes enlisted as a Sergeant in Company F of the 85th Indiana Infantry in July 1862. He lived in Prairie Creek, IN (Vigo County, on the western border by Illinois). He died on April 10, 1864 in Nashville, TN of some disease.

Just months before smallpox was rampant in Nashville, but from a quick examination his cause of death cannot be determined.

For a community of about 1,300, Prairie Creek's estimated 62 fighting men were fortunate in surviving their military experiences, yet a dozen or more died to disease.

For what it's worth, Sgt. Frakes was Prairie Creek's most senior ranking enlisted man among those who died to disease. How old was he? Was he married? Did he have children? Was he a farmer? Was some sweetheart writing him love letters even as he wasted away in Nashville that Spring? What campaigns did he miss along with his comrades? Would he have been a hero in the Atlanta Campaign?

John Frakes
Private Anthony Brazelle was 30 years old when he enlisted in Company K of the 149th NY Infantry. He enlisted in August 1862 at Syracuse, New York. His regiment saw brutal duty - they participated in battles at Chancellorsville, the defense of Culp's Hill at Gettysburg, and their dwindling number was sent to Lookout Mountain to fight under Gen. Joe Hooker.

Assuming Private Brazelle was not sick and participated in all these battles, it took the battle of Golgotha, GA in June 1864 to lay him low with wounds. He died a few weeks later in July and was just one more New Yorker buried in Nashville National Cemetery. At his age, he may have had a family. He may have put affairs of business in the hands of others until he returned. What changed in Syracuse for all time because Anthony Brazelle would not return?
Corporal Christopher Early left his home in Bradford, Wisconsin (Rock County) just before Christmas in 1861. He joined the 76 other men from Bradford (a town of roughly 1,200) and enlisted in Company K of the 13th Wisconsin Infantry.

The regiment covered extraordinary territory during its service, from the Southwestern expedition into New Mexico, back to Forts Henry and Donelson, and then pursued CSA Gen. Forrest into Alabama. By 1865 they had moved to Texas and during a forced march in 100 degree weather many men collapsed. Is this what happened to Corp. Early? He died of disease on May 16, 1865 in Nashville but without further research we cannot know how he came to die so near the end of the war. While 6 other soldiers from Bradford also died of disease during the war, Corp. Early was the earliest enlistment noted.
Christopher Early
Bugler Gottlieb Hugg [or Hug] was 21 years old when he joined Company E of the 10th Ohio Cavalry in January 1864. We can't know (yet) why he enlisted this late but when he did it was just in time for the onset of the Atlanta Campaign in which the 10th OH Cav. participated heavily under Gen. Kilpatrick.

Perhaps if he had joined earlier, he might have toughened earlier and been better prepared to face Atlanta. While he died in Nashville on August 17, just 7 months later, we cannot detect (yet) if his death was from being wounded or disease. Yet, his story may be quite interesting and a mother or wife's dependent pension claim could hold many insights to his unsettling and short tenure as a soldier.