Hartwick Family Civil War Stories

Below are family stories shared by members of the Hartwick community as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Celebration: Diverse Voices and Faces of the Civil War, 2011-12 Civil War Symposium. The stories are documented with images of documents and family portraits in our slideshow, Hartwick: Diverse Voices and Faces of the Civil War.

Hartwick students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends are invited to submit items or documents to be added to this collection. The USCTI is offering research assistance to those seeking to confirm the authenticity of documents or collectibles. Items of particular interest include genealogical and military pension records, property deeds, obituaries, military muster reports, grave-site documents, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Contact Harry Bradshaw Matthews, matthewsh@hartwick.edu.

Familes Included:

Pettie-Bentley Family (Aramark Facilities Services' Brett Bentley and Associate Registrar Kathleen Amatucci Bentley '85, Jayme '14, Jessica '14, and Sierra Bentley)
Brett Bentley of Aramark Facilities Services and Hartwick's Associate Registrar Kathleen Amatucci Bentley '85, and their daughters, Jayme '14, Jessica '14, and Sierra, of Westford, Otsego County, NY, have several ancestors who served in the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the American Civil War. The Bentley and Pettie family ties date back to Aaron Pettie, whose family settled in Cherry Valley, Otsego County, NY. Aaron married Betsey Bentley, daughter of Rufus Bentley of Westford, Otsego County, NY. The couple raised their family on their Westford farm until the "Rebellion."

Before the Civil War broke out, some of the Pettie children and Betsey moved to Minnesota. Later, Aaron sold the Westford farm and joined the family in Minnesota. Upon his arrival "west," his sons had enlisted and gone to the front. The military service of Pettie family includes:

Andrew Pettie, father of Aaron: Revolutionary War

Aaron Pettie, great-great-great-grandfather of Brett Bentley: War of 1812

Andrew Jackson Pettie, great-great-uncle of Brett Bentley; oldest son of Aaron and Betsey (Bentley) Pettie: enlisted in Co. C 1st. Minnesota Heavy Artillery, Sept. 26, 1864, discharged June 20, 1865

George Clinton Pettie: Great, great-uncle of Brett Bentley: enlisted Co. A. 10th. Minnesota Infantry, Aug. 12, 1862; died in hospital at Jeffersonville, Indiana, Jan. 19, 1865

C.B. Pettie, great-great-uncle of Brett Bentley: enlisted Co. A. 10th Minnesota Infantry, Aug. 12, 1862; discharged for disability Jun 13, 1865

David T. Pettie, great-great-uncle of Brett Bentley: enlisted Co. Y, 3rd Minnesota Infantry, Oct. 31, 1861; re-enlist Dec. 20, 1863; mustered out Sept. 2, 1865

Rufus B. Pettie, great-great-uncle of Brett Bentley: enlisted in 51st, NY Infantry, Sept. 25, 1861; was wounded in the head at the Battle of Newbern, NC, Mar. 14, 1862; died from effects of a wound at Fredericksburg, VA, Nov. 22, 1862

Harrison Pettie, great-great-uncle of Brett Bentley: enlisted Co. H. 76th NY Infantry, Oct. 1, 1861; discharged Sept. 20, 1863

Irvine C. Pettie, great-great-uncle of Brett Bentley: the youngest son was rejected for service because of deafness, Oct. 1, 1861

The Bentley family continues to live in Westford, Otsego County, NY, as descendants of Thomas Bentley, date of birth around 1744. Thomas was the father of eight children, including Rufus, who was the father of Betsey, who married Aaron Pettie. William Bentley was a brother to Rufus. William's son, William H. Bentley, was father to Harold J. Bentley, who married Emma S. Roseboom. Their son, Granville C. Bentley, married Winifred Bailey. Granville and Winifred are the parents of Brett Bentley. Brett and Kathleen's children are Jayme '14, Jessica '14, and Sierra Bentley. For more about the Pettie-Bentley family, view our slideshow.

George Hovey Cadman (Marian Cadman Wemple '56)
George Hovey Cadman, the great-grandfather of Marian Cadman Wemple '56, was born in London, England, July 18, 1823, and emigrated in 1857, followed a year later by his wife and two sons. August 9, 1862, he enrolled as a private in Company B, 39th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered into U.S. service. June 18, 1863, he was appointed corporal. His literate status meant two important things. First, he often did clerking work for his commanding officer. Second, and most significant for us, he wrote frequent, detailed, descriptive letters home to his family. His letters are part of the Southern Historical Colletion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The letters paint intimate pictures of the Civil War through the eyes of an ordinary Union soldier.

He variously referred to the opposing soldiers as Sesech, Johnnies, Rebels, or Rebs. Squirmingly, to our modern sensibilities, he called Blacks, whether enslaved or free, by a term, which today, we find derogatory*.

His unit moved from Mississippi to Tennessee to Georgia, ultimately reaching Marietta, as part of Gen. Sherman's Atlanta campaign. Here are just a few glimpses of the war through his eyes:

Near Corinth, MS, Sept. 14, 1862

"It would have your heart bleed...to have seen the poor *black people (replaced term, which today, we find derogatory) come pouring in from Alabama....I have seen them come in 4 or 500 at a time and some of the slaves were whiter than I am. It is bad enough to hold Black slaves, but to hold young women and raise children from them and then sell their own flesh and blood, for the worse purpose a woman can be put to is devilish....As long as I live I shall be an Abolitionist....

Camp near Waterford, MS, Dec. 3, 1862

"We passed through Holly Springs. This is the prettiest town I ever saw in my life. We marched through playing Yankee Doodle....

Grand Junction, TN, Jan. 5, 1863

"We heard of the surrender of Holly Springs by Col. Murphy. On Mon. we were on the road again and saw the remains of Holly Springs....It is changed from one of the prettiest places I ever saw to a heap of ruins....Our Commissary was destroyed and our provisions entirely cut off by the Railroad being destroyed....

Corinth, MS, March 21, 1863

"How would you have liked to do as I have had to do...after marching all day in the snow, roll yourself up in a Blanket & lie in it all night with the sky for a roof?...

Camp, Ohio City, Corinth, MS, April 4, 1863

"It is now Spring in all its glory...and everything seems at peace but Man. How much longer will this fratricidal war last?...

Memphis, TN, June 12, 1863

"I think it very foolish of you to be scared so easily [about me.] I told you long ago, the lead was not dug, that will kill me. Besides, you know the man that is born to be hung will never be drowned....

Memphis, TN, Aug. 19, 1863

"I am very glad that I left England when I did for we have never been in want here, and there is no knowing what might have taken place had we stopped in that country....

Camp near Eastport, MS, Nov. 11, 1863

"Some of the women in the country we have marched through lately have never seen any Yanks till now. One of them exclaimed...What, are you all Yankees? Why I thought they was all covered with hair like wild men. Why yourn just like our men....

Kennesaw Mts., GA, June 24, 1864

"We have to wear our Cartridge Boxes both day and night, eating, drinking & sleeping, and as to taking off shoes, that's not to be dreamed of....

On picket near Tallahootchee River, GA, July 8, 1864

"I would liked you to have seen me eating my dinner yesterday, I had apples and buckberries, crackers & sowbelly all stewed together, and though it didn't look very good, I can assure you that after hard tack, it went first rate. I eat a two quart bucket full....

Field near Rosswell, Chattahoochee River, GA, July 16, 1864

"In the dreadful storm...yesterday, I hear there were sixteen men killed by the lightening in our division, besides a great many injured. Some of the poor fellows are being buried while I write these lines....

Field near Atlanta, GA, July 28, 1864

"We had desperate fighting on the right of us for about three hours....There were some large fires in Atlanta last night, but whether caused by our shells, or the Rebels burning their stores I don't know...."

At times George suffered from illness of various sorts-dropsy, "dumb ague," chills & fever, brain problems, sunstroke. After his descriptions of marching for hours, sleeping out of doors with or without a blanket in rain, puddles, snow & frost, insects, & intermittent food supplies, that doesn't seem surprising. In August, 1864, he was hospitalized in St. James Episcopal Church, Marietta, one of 5 or 6 churches there commandeered as hospitals for the thousands of sick and wounded. He describes occupying "the last pew on the right...I have got a board level with the seat & it makes a first rate bunk. True it is not very soft, but then it is better than the trenches." The "Sanitary Society" furnished what fruit it could find, but rations sounded very short.

As a local re-enactment group was preparing for a ceremony at the church one hundred years later, it burned to the ground. A replacement was promptly built, and it is an active congregation today. Sept 2, 1864, was his last, unfinished, letter, and he died Sept.17. His record states he died at age 41 from combat wounds, but that does not match his narrative. He called his ailment sunstroke, while the family has since speculated that he may well have died of malaria, or perhaps tick fever, because of the intermittent headache, fever and "agues" he described. In any case, the title later chosen for his accumulated letters was, appropriately, A Cockney's Gift to America. Form more about George Hovey Cadman, view our slideshow.

Maurice Henry Cody (Professor of English David Cody)
According to family history compiled during the 1930s, Maurice was one of four brothers, tenant-farmers on an estate (Moorehill) in Tallow, County Waterford, Ireland, who emigrated to Salem, MA, in 1850. Later, he shipped on a whaling vessel from New Bedford, MA.

Many years later, Patrick Cody recalled that in 1857, Maurice, just back from a whaling voyage, visited his (Patrick's) family's house in Peabody, MA, then South Danvers, bringing with him a black trunk containing his whaling gear.

Before the Civil War, Maurice enlisted in the 4th U.S. Calvalry and was sent to Oklahoma, where the cavalry was confronting Plains Indian tribes attempting to hold on to their ancestral lands. He had a photograph of himself in uniform taken while stationed at Fort Arbuckle in Oklahoma. Conditions at the fort were deplorable, and a number of Irish soldiers (including Maurice) attempted to desert, in some cases forcibly resisting arrest. There were no lasting consequences, however, and when the Civil War began, Maurice was sent to fight under General Rosecrans. He served in many engagements, including the battle of Shiloh, and was wounded.

When his five-year enlistment was up, he was honorably discharged (Dec. 5, 1862, at Nashville, TN) and later received a pension. He returned to Peabody and worked for George Upton, glue making. He married Johanna Callahan, had a large family, and died in 1897.

Jacob Lester (Nancy Lester Richardson '56)
Jacob Lester is the great uncle of alumna Nancy Lester Richardson. He shared memories of his Civil War service for the family record in 1931.  He died in Port Dickinson, N.Y. in 1947 at 100 years and 4 days of age. A summary of his complete memoir follows:

"The secession from the Union of S. Carolina was followed by Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida Louisiana, and Texas. Many officers of the U.S. Army resigned and joined their native states which left the Union. Robert E. Lee was one of them.

No act of war had been declared yet, But on April 12, 1861, the supply ship, "Star of the West" was fired upon by forts and soon fort Sumter was bombarded. Thus began the hostilities of the Civil War.

President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. Men flocked to recruiting stations in cities and towns, eager to enlist to "go lick the rebels". In Binghamton, N.Y., the New York Infantry was raised and later the 89th, called the "Dickinson Guards" was recruited. I was crazy to go myself, but was less than 14 years old. Lincoln called for 300,000 more volunteers. In 1862, the 16th battery, the 109th and 137th infantry were raised in Binghamton.

On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves. Most slaves had to wait to the end of the war to actually get their freedom.

July 1,2,3 1863 the great battle of Gettysburg, PA. was fought, with Union losses of 22,000 men and more than 33,000 for the enemy. This was the turning point for the war. By 1863 I was 16 years old and I enlisted in Comstock's Company. My parents objected fiercely, but I enlisted and finally got their consent. My brother Charley was just 14 years old. The girls in my family were 8, 6, 3, and 1. I was a great uncouth, uneducated, selfish, bashful boy and large for my age, weighing 160 pounds. I had nothing with me but the clothes on my back and not a cent of money. I had never worn underwear and didn't know anybody who did. I had never rode a train before. The train took us to Watkins, at the foot of Seneca Lake. Our regiment started off as the 17th New York Cavalry but the name was later changed to the First New York Veteran Cavalry.

When I put on Uncle Sam's clothing, I felt like a well-dressed man instead of a green country boy. We were loaded onto a long train of freight boxcars and sent to Washington. We were marched a few miles to Camp Stoneman, overlooking the Potomac River. After drilling tactics, we were given arms, a cavalry saber, a haversack, a horse, saddle, bridle, and saddle blanket. We were there until December. We mounted our horses and marched past the Capitol and up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. President Lincoln came out on the porch and bowed to us and spoke a few words before we marched away. It was the only time I saw Abraham Lincoln, and I have always been glad that I had that privilege.

The third day of our march we saw Harper's Ferry where John Brown began his effort to free the slaves. We went on six more miles to a village named Halltown where John Brown was tried and hanged for insurrection. We stayed the winter at that post. Our captain was killed and Captain Comstock was promoted to Major. H.K. Redway became the captain of our company.

We marched through Charleston and sang "John Brown's Body". We passed through Berryville and settled in Winchester. There was a huge fight that night and the city was devastated. In Halltown, we received our first pay of $300 and I sent $100 to my mother.

Spring came and we marched to the Shenandoah Valley. We encountered the enemy and chased them for 10 miles and they swam their horses across the Shenandoah River and disappeared. My horse gave out and there was an abandoned horse on the road. I transferred my saddle to his back and found him to be a good horse. At our next camp, we were attacked again with another chase. This time my horse gave out and died. I was left alone as the others had galloped on ahead. I found an old mare in a farmer's field. The farmer begged me not to take his mare, but I told him my story and found my way back to my camp. The farmer never came to pick up his horse.

We reached Newmarket about noon the next day. There was some fierce fighting and some of our men got wounded. We were ordered to "draw sabers" to charge the oncoming line of rebel infantry. One shot killed three men right in front of me. We were licked and in full retreat. Our losses were 120 killed, 560 wounded and 240 missing.

A great fire of fence rails was burning in a field. I was exhausted and tied my old mare to a post and fell asleep by the warming fire. An officer woke me and I ran to get my mare but she was gone and I never saw her again. I lost my saddle bags and everything in them, including letters from home. We marched for over an hour with some confederate prisoners. I stole away and lay down to sleep. I awoke at daylight and started out alone, glad that the enemy had not followed us. I finally found my company after crossing a river on a timber.

There was no more fighting for three weeks. We stopped at Newmarket for a week, where we buried our dead. Near Harrisburg, we encountered another chase. On June 4, 1864, we felt the enemy was near. We heard cannons firing and saw more dead rebel bodies lying along the road. On a hill opposite us was a line of rebel infantry and our 28th Ohio Infantry, whose enlistment expired that day. Many were killed on their last day of service. We won the battle of Newmarket and had our revenge for the defeat of the May 15th battle here.

Thus ended the second good sized battle that I had a part in and I was not yet 17 years old. This battle took place near Staunton, VA. All arms and equipment were piled in heaps and set on fire. As we left, the guns began popping off as in a parting salute. The prisoners were put into a large enclosure where slaves used to be kept.

The First Veteran Cavalry and the 28th Ohio Infantry were detached from the Army at Staunton and sent over the Allegheny Mountains to Beverly, W.V. with the 1500 prisoners. When we camped along the way, the men would check each other for body lice. We would bathe in the river, which would help some. Later we were ordered back to the Shenandoah Valley. The two months we were gone seemed more like a year. When we got back there we had a lot of mail that had piled up. We also got paid again.

By July 3, 1864, we fell back until we crossed the Potomac at Shepardstown. We crossed through the Antietam battlefield and Antietam Bridge and went on to Sharpsburg, on our way to Harper's Ferry. One shell came right over my head. If I had not scrunched down behind my horse, it would have taken my head off. Some in our camp were injured, but not badly. The rebels usually stripped our dead and wore their clothing in place of their own gray rags: a sign that the confederacy was getting hard up for clothes.

We stopped at Crampton's pass where the rebels were playing "Dixie". But we saw the rebels cross the Potomac and head back into Virginia. The battle of Kernstown and Winchester cost us 1200 men killed and wounded. General Duffie commanded us to draw saber and then told us to "give ‘em hell, boys". This was the most thrilling of all my war experiences.

My last battle of the war was August 21st and 22nd 1864 in Charleston. Thus ended the campaign for the First New York Veteran Cavalry. Those of us who still had horses made a long journey to some point on the Ohio River where we rode a steamboat down the river. We settled in a camp near Charleston, W.V. and here we were attacked by typhoid fever. I spent five weeks in a hospital there and thought I was going to die. By the time I got out, I was like a skeleton and my hair had fallen out. When it came back in it was not red any more. We spent the winter at Kelly's Creek and I was promoted to corporal and was not yet 18 years old.

Deserters from the rebel army kept coming and surrendering to us. So we knew the war was nearing the end. On April 9th, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomatox and on April 14th, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln. There was great mourning.

In June 1865, thousands of troops began mustering out of the service. In July, our turn came. We turned over our horses and equipment. I turned in everything except my saber. The First New York Cavalry was put on a boat on the Big Kanawha River which flowed into the Ohio River. I fell asleep and was joggled to the edge of the boat and fell into the Ohio River, and the boat was already quite a distance from me. I swam to shore with all my clothes on and was exhausted by the time I reached shore. I walked through a farmer's field and he took me in, dried out my clothes and allowed me to sleep the night. In the morning, a nice lady fed me breakfast. The man took me to the river where I got a boat to Wheeling, W.V. From there I took a train to Cleveland. Then it was on to Buffalo and finally Rochester, N.Y. There I caught up with some in my regiment, who thought I had drowned in the Ohio River. My brother, Haviland was there to see about my body. We telegraphed my family to tell them I was alive.

At this time, my mother was coming down with typhoid fever. Soon we were paid and received our discharges. My brother and I took a train to Syracuse, and finally to Binghamton. We hitched a ride the next morning up to the country where our family lived out Pierce Creek Road. Homecoming was more tragic than the war. My mother was very sick with typhoid, and my sister Louisa was burning up with the fever. My father was not down with the fever but was not right in his mind. The whole house was like a hospital the month of August. The neighbors brought food and did washings for us. Charley came home from the Navy and soon came down with the fever too. I was immune since I had already had it. On September 5th, my father died. My sister Louisa died September 23rd. Little sister Ola died on the 25th and my mother on the 27th. I had seen death while in the Army, but nothing compared to this as my family members died one after the other. The others came through and recovered. In the spring, the farm and the household goods were all sold. At the final settlement, each of the eight remaining children received an inheritance of $335.

Charley went into the Army, serving from 1866 to 1869. In 1868, I became of age and cast my first vote for General U.S. Grant for President of the United States. I moved to Wisconsin, and re-enlisted in the Army on October 4, 1870."

Postscript: (told by Nancy Lester Richardson '56)
Charley Lester married and he and his wife had Clair Lester, my father in 1881. I was born in 1934, the last baby of my father's marriage to my mother, Evalyn. For more about Jacob and Charley Lester, view our slideshow.

Andrew and Partick Sweeney (Learning Loft/Tutor Coordinator Jason Stanton)
Great-great-great-grandfather of Jason Stanton, Andrew Sweeney was born in Ireland in 1825 and settled in Kingston, NY. He was married to Mary, who was born in Ireland in 1840. Andrew served as a private during the Civil War in the 80th Infantry Regiment, Company F of the "Ulster Guard," which was formed by the reorganization of the 20th Militia.

He enlisted in 1861, was wounded in the Battle of Manassas. He returned to Kingston, NY, until he mustered in again on February 10, 1864. He died on February 12, 1865, in City Point, VA. His son, Charles Sweeney, was born November 1864. Andrew never returned home to meet him.

According to family history, Patrick Sweeney, Andrew's brother, also enlisted at Kingston, NY, to serve three years as a private in Company K, September 27, 1861. Partick was killed in action, August 30, 1862, at Manassas, VA.

Truman Stanton (Learning Loft/Tutor Coordinator Jason Stanton)
Great, great, great grandfather of Jason Stanton, Truman Stanton was from Laurens/West Oneonta, NY. Although he did not fight in the Civil War, he registered for the draft in 1863. He was 33 years old.

John Sinclair Burns (Lisa Burns Stanton, wife of Learning Loft/Tutor Coordinator Jason Stanton)
The Burns family settled in Bovina in 1802. John Sinclair Burns is the great-great-great-uncle of Lisa Burns Stanton. John Sinclair enlisted in 1862 into Company E of the 144th Infantry NY. He died of typhoid fever on April 4, 1863, in a Virginia hospital. Alexander Burns was the brother of John Sinclair. Both men were the sons of John Burns Sr. For more about the Sweeney, Stanton, and Burns families, view our slideshow.