This project was begun in the fall of 2007, with an eye towards completion in April, 2011, in time for the sesqui-centennial of the beginning of the Civil War. As it happened, the final copy was not ready for publication until October, 2011. St Lawrence County, like most of the other counties in northern New York, is rich in history but poor in historical records. It was decided that, since no comprehensive list of Civil War soldiers for the county existed, it was high time that one be compiled.
As mentioned above, the historical records available are not very complete nor easily accessible. Photocopies of most records had to be used, and that often adds some uncertainty in transcription. However, by combining several sources, a fairly comprehensive list of soldiers was finally arrived at and is presented in the pages that follow.
There are several sources of error whenever a project like this is undertaken, and when all is said and done, we must live with the best efforts of the compilers and accept the fact that some men who deserve to be on this list were overlooked, while others who may not have been county residents were included by mistake. 19th century handwriting is no more legible than ours is today, and, as a result, some names are almost certainly not correct. It is hoped that people doing research on individual families will recognize a name even if it does not appear here in its correct spelling. Many of the French and Irish names were spelled phonetically in the records, and an attempt was made to at least standardize the transliteration of these names.
Note that this is not meant to be a list of all the Civil War soldiers who are buried in St Lawrence County, nor does this list contain the names of men who lived in St Lawrence County before the war and moved away. This list is intended to be only of men who lived in St Lawrence County during the time of their service. Ebenezer Bacon is an example of a man who was not included in this work. He was born in Ogdensburg in 1837 and by about 1859 had moved to Chicago where he worked as a bookkeeper. He enlisted into the 72nd Illinois Infantry in 1862 and rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He was the adjutant for his regiment and died of disease at Memphis, Tennessee January 16, 1863. Since he is not buried in Memphis National Cemetery, it is assumed that the stone in Ogdensburg Cemetery is his actual grave, and not just a memorial. So although he was born in Ogdensburg and is buried there, he was an Illinois resident and soldier and belongs on an Illinois list, not this one.
Altogether, there are about 6,700 men on this list, approximately 1,520 of whom died in service. It is estimated that 2.2 million men served in the Union armies, out of a population of 22 million or just about 10%. Extrapolating this to St Lawrence County which had a population of about 83,000 in 1860, we would expect about 8,300 men to have served, so there are probably quite a few men missing from this list.
Although many official records were used in the compilation of this list, it should in no way be considered an "official" list. It is merely one person's attempt to organize information about the soldiers from St Lawrence County and in doing so provide researchers with a quick reference guide.
The title of this book comes from the last line of George Rutherford's grave in Waddington:
’Tis all the brave can do
There were several main sources of information used in the compilation of this list. The letters in parentheses after each source indicate how those sources are abbreviated in the citation for each man.
New York State had conducted a census roughly every 10 years since 1825. Many of these early State censuses have been lost to fire or other mishap. The only surviving St Lawrence County census records for 1865 cover the towns of Madrid through Pierrepont, alphabetically and are found in a bound volume in the County Clerk's office in Canton. They have also been microfilmed by the LDS Church. The other Towns in the county also conducted the census, but the originals have long since been lost. However, while the originals still were extant, the information concerning military service was extracted and copied in a large book in Albany, which does still exist and which has been microfilmed.
The census takers in 1865 asked members of each household about any person who had seen military service during the war. The information was collected at the end of each election district section in the census and was divided into three categories: those men still in the service as of June 1, 1865, those who had been discharged by that date, and those who had died as a result of their service, whether directly (wounds) or indirectly (as in the case of accidents or disease)
This 1865 list of men formed the backbone of the list of county soldiers because it contained information from all the Towns forming the county at that time, whereas no other source has coverage that complete. The weakness of the 1865 census is that it IS just a census of families living in St Lawrence County in the summer of 1865. It obviously misses any men whose families moved away since the beginning of the war. It also under-reports the deaths of many single men who had no family left in the county who could report their loss or their service. Elon McKee of Canton is a perfect example of a Canton resident, boarding with a family in 1860 and not reported as having died in the service in the 1865 census.
The official names of the 1865 microfilms (these come from the actual headings in the 1865 census):
There were a total of 1,108 men listed in the 1865 census as having died in the service, with about 417 of those known to be buried in National Cemeteries. Several hundred also have gravestones in local cemeteries, and may be buried there. However, it should be noted that there is a difference between having a stone in a cemetery and actually being interred there. Many families would have wanted a memorial marker for their loved one, whether the body was actually there or not. A huge proportion of the Civil War dead are buried in graves marked "Unknown", so the fact that half of the soldiers on this list have no known burial place is not out of line with the Union soldiers as a whole.
Although taken from the military section of the 1865 New York State census, it appears that in some cases - eg DeKalb - the 1865 list was actually taken from the Town Clerk's records also of 1865. Some lists are definitely not very complete, eg Gouverneur.
These are the approximate numbers of men who died in service listed by Town. It is approximate because several men were listed in two separate towns, and a decision had to be made as to which town to assign them to, and the decision may not have been correct. The first number is according to the 1865 census, and the second number refers to the final count as used in the following list:
In 1865, the New York State Legislature ordered the Town Clerks of the state to compile records of the servicemen who had enlisted from their locales. Some of the clerks did a fine job searching out the men or their relatives, and others did not. As a result, the quality of information contained in these records varies tremendously from town to town. When completed correctly, these Town Clerk records are a gold mine of information, listing birthdate, place of birth, parents' names etc. However, most of the clerks did not fill out the forms very completely so some were not much help in compiling this list. It was, afterall, an unfunded mandate from the state, and the clerks probably bristled at the requirement to spend so much time compiling state records. Having said all that, some of the Town Clerk records are far from complete and do not necessarily contain men from that particular Town, but simply men who had been counted towards the Town quota or had merely enlisted in a certain Town. A case in point is Brasher. The TC records list 40 or so men who signed up for the 14th Heavy Artillery, but most (if not all) were from other counties and states. Every effort was made to try to verify that the men listed in the TC records were from the Town, or at least St Lawrence County Many men listed in TC records do not appear on the final list of county soldiers because their true residence at the time of the war could not be verified.
A glance at the table above listing men who had died in service brings out an unavoidable fact: many men who died were not listed in the 1865 census, but were listed in other records particularly the Town Clerk records. This means that for the four towns whose Town Clerk records do not exit (Hermon, Madrid, Massena, and Russell) the total number of men who served is likely to be vastly under-reported in the following list. Russell, especially, had always claimed to be the per-capita leader of men contributed to the war, but that claim could not be proven without the help of the Town Clerk records
One of the more interesting entries in The Town Clerk records comes from Fowler on page 10. Beneath the remarks concerning Thomas Rodan of the 92nd New York Infantry, it mentions that his wife Jane Rodan served as the laundress for the regiment until June 10, 1863 and was never paid. It also mentions she was born in Nova Scotia May 11, 1831. So although we have minute details of a non-soldier in one record, we are missing perhaps hundreds of soldiers from other records
Beginning in the mid-1890s, the New York State Adjutant General's Office began to sift through the muster and pay rolls of the Civil War units and published them in bound volumes over a period of about 10 years. Each volume lists the men in the unit along with basic information such as enlistment date, promotions, date of discharge etc. Not all men appear in their unit report, and some men have their names so garbled that they are difficult to identify. Still, these reports provide a good foundation for describing the basic facts of a man's service. Many men appear in the AG reports of more than one unit because of transfers and re-enlistments.
Much of the biographical information about each man, including hints about possible burial places was gleaned from the decennial censuses taken by the Federal government. Many of these census pages are found online and are searchable. They were also the prime source of information as to whether or not a man was actually a St Lawrence County resident.
General Newton Martin Curtis of Depeyster began to collect the rosters of his original regiment, the 16th New York Infantry, as part of his effort to write a history of that unit. Starting in the late 1880's, he attended GAR conventions and re-unions and put ads in local newspapers soliciting information about the whereabouts of all the men who served in the 16th New York Infantry. His final list appears as an addendum to his 1906 book "From Bull Run to Chancellorsville" and is an excellent source of biographical information for most of the men who served in that unit, including last known address and date of death for many
Nearly half of the Civil war combat dead were buried in graves marked "Unknown". When considering this fact, the total number of men with known burial places from St Lawrence County is not too bad: approximately 57% of all the men listed here have their burial site mentioned. There are many more that will be found in the future as more and more cemetery records become available on the internet. Some of the soldiers may be buried in St Lawrence County but may be "hiding in plain sight" for three reasons. Many soldier graves do not mention the fact of their service on the headstone, many men are buried using only their initials instead of a full name, and men with common names who are buried in a location far from the town they enlisted from may have been overlooked.
There are thousands of searchable newspaper pages available on the internet, and many of these were used to find details of a soldier's life and death. The most difficult part of using this resource is the fact that there are so many pages to sift through that there is often not enough time to make a thorough search. Men with the most common names are also the ones who tend not to be found in newspaper articles because it was not possible to identify WHICH man the paper was referring to.
Those veterans or widows still living in 1890 were recorded in a seperate section of the 1890 census and stored in a different place than the normal population schedules. As a result, they were not completely lost as was almost all the rest of the 1890 census because of a fire and subsequent mis-handling. The 1890 census often provides details of wounds, captivity etc that were not recorded anywhere else. However, like all sources used, it is not infallible. Case in point: Julia French in Norwood claimed to be the widow of Squire French of the 11th New York Cavalry, when in fact he had divorced her 16 years previously and was happily living with his second wife in Essex County, New York
If the word "data" appears after a soldier's remarks section, it means that at least some of the information listed came from one of several types of documents, often ones found through an internet search. Examples of such resources include but are not limited to state censuses, town histories, regimental histories, published genealogies, pension records and published vital records
Unfortunately, none of the sources used for this list was infallible. Men appear on one list and not another, or appear on several lists but with different information in each one. The spellings of surnames causes a certain amount of confusion, especially names of French origin. Also, as in the case of most 19th Century sources, handwriting was not always easy to read, and not all inks stood the test of time as far as microfilming is concerned. In many cases, the data for an individual soldier was drawn from several sources in an attempt to get most of it correct.
The case of Willard Crosier is a good example. The 1865 list of men who died in the service lists him as Willard Corsir of Pitcairn, unit unknown. The Pitcairn Town Clerk listed him as Willard Crozier of the 16th New York Infantry, and the 142nd New York Infantry. He does not appear in the AG report for the 16th New York, butislisted in the AG report for the 142nd. So his entry was put together with some information from each source.
It is interesting to note that some men died within a month of enlistment, others served 4 years or more without suffering any wound or disease. James Forbes of Lisbon served in the 39th New York Infantry without a scratch and was accidentally killed by a pistol round shot in celebration by his own brother when he was within rods of his home.
Note that the assignment of a town of residence is somewhat arbitrary. In general, men were listed wherever they lived in 1860 or in whichever town seemed to be their true residence. However, people moved around then just as they do now, and many men are listed in the Town Clerk's records of 2 or more towns. For instance, George Hogle lived in Louisville in 1860, Norfolk in 1865, Russell in 1870, Pierrepont in 1890, Canton in 1900 and is buried in Pierrepont.
Many men in the following list are labeled as deserters, and that is certainly true for some of them. However, the primitive record keeping of the time caused many men to bear this label unfairly. Julius Chapman of North Stockholm is a case in point. The AG report of the 106th states that he deserted some time after April 10, 1863 from a hospital in Washington DC and no further record after that. It does not state, as his pension application does, that he had been sick with typhoid fever in 1864 and given a 60 day furlough to return home. While there, his condition worsened and his local doctor wrote a letter to the effect that he was still too weak to travel. He voluntarily went back to Washington July 9, 1865 to clear his record. He was hospitalized while there, all charges dropped, and was later eligible to receive a $15 per month pension. Yet the records of his unit were never updated, so there he stands recorded forever labeled as a deserter.