It made sense for me to go to Gettysburg first. Having secured an opportunity to return to Tiffin, Ohio, the place where Company K of the 65th NY Volunteers was largely raised, and where several of the men of the regiment are buried, a way to break up the drive out to Ohio was needed. This time I was honored to do a talk about my book, No Flinching From Fire: The 65th NY Volunteers in the Civil War, at the Seneca County Museum, whose director, Theresa Sullivan, was doing yeoman work in restoring a place which had declined in previous years. Theresa had found Chasseur graves for me, even charting them on a cemetery map she sent to me, and she greeted me with her father at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Tiffin when I traveled there last year. Having purchased two copies of the book last year, she graciously invited me to return, this time to talk about the book for an audience at the museum. It was an offer I happily accepted, eager to get back to doing book talks after the long Pandemic layoff.
But driving to Tiffin, as I had learned last summer, is a long trip. So I broke up the trip even more than last year, staying one day in Gettysburg, a place I generally visit annually with my AP US History class but had missed for a Pandemic-induced two year hiatus. My plan was to stay right in town at the Brickhouse B & B, centrally located but also a short jog from East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. For the day’s visit I chose to tour parts of the battlefield which are not on the class tour I have done for nineteen years. So, a stop at the observation tower at Oak Ridge, a trip out to Barlow’s Knoll, a key spot from the first day of the battle but a place I had never visited, and a pause on East Cemetery Hill near the statue of 12th Corps commander David Slocum were in order for the day. A stop at the impressive New York state monument to its generals not honored elsewhere on the field was new for me. This is a place on Cemetery Ridge I had driven by countless times on the bus without noting its significance. I looked for and found the names of Generals Alexander Shaler and Joseph Hamblin, the Chasseurs’ brigade and regimental commanders, respectively. An evening walk behind Cemetery Ridge revealed a fantastic view of the monument to General Winfield Scott Hancock, a hero of the battle, along with the iconic gatehouse to the cemetery.
Of course a visit to the 65th NY regimental monument on Culp’s Hill, where my great-great grandfather Corporal Timothy Carroll had fought, was also in order. But this time I took the time to walk along the Union line to the right flank of the Chasseurs’ monument, and to admire the monuments to some of the other regiments on General Alexander Shaler’s 6th Corp brigade.
As I hoped on this trip to locate and honor with flags the graves of nineteen members of the 65th NY Volunteers, along with the grave of General Henry Terry, their division commander from the fall of 1863 until the Spring of 1864, I decided of course to pay a visit to another part of the Gettysburg battlefield which I normally visit with my classes, the national cemetery. Two Chasseurs are buried there, each already honored with flags as I visited on July 5th.
On the trip’s second day I began with a morning run up Culp’s Hill from my B & B in Gettysburg, the Brickhouse. Situated right in the middle of town, and yet only a minute’s jog to the battlefield on a quiet back road which headed up East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, the Brickhouse Inn was a perfect place for me. The fact that they served a slice of shoo fly pie AFTER the apple pancakes and bacon only added to its allure. It was a good thing I ran up Culp’s Hill past the 65th NY monument before breakfast!
Then it was time to get off to my night’s destination, a lovely AirBnB stay in Somerset, Ohio, where I had stayed on the last night in Ohio of last year’s trip there in search of Chasseur graves. The trip went smoothly, and I arrived in time to relax a bit, walk out to dinner at the Clay Haus, where I had eaten last year, and enjoy a nice repast of saurbraten.
Day Three of this trip would take me to the Tiffin environs. A chance to revisit the nice AirBnB log ranch north of Upper Sandusky where I had stayed last year, was a treat, and the fact that the Seneca County museum comped my two day stay was also appreciated. And staying in one place for two nights was also welcome after the long drive from Mamaroneck, NY to Upper Sandusky was completed. My plan was to rest up there the night before my book talk. But my daughter had found two new graves of Chasseurs since last year’s trip out which were on the way, one just down the road from the beautiful AirBnB house in Somerset where I stayed, in Lancaster, Ohio. The fact that this was also the site of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s childhood home made a stop in Lancaster doubly welcome. The home had been closed to tours last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, so I welcomed this second chance to get there.
I found Sergeant Standish O’Grady’s grave within ten minutes upon arrival at the Forest Rose Cemetery in Lancaster. Already bedecked with a flag, I added mine to thank O’Grady for his service. Then it was on to Sherman’s home. Probably my favorite item in the house was the set of chairs from Ulysses S. Grant’s home which was featured in the home, but the house as a whole was well worth the one hour tour. Then it was back on the road, with a stop in Kenton, Ohio’s Grove Cemetery, where the cemetery map made it very easy to find Private Elhanan Conant’s grave site.
Finally it was time to finish the day’s drive and make it to my unique AirBnB stay on the Hereford ranch north of Upper Sandusky. Some rainstorms made for a tricky drive on rural roads on the way to the ranch, but I soon recognized the entrance, pulled in, and I was glad to be back, and at the end of the day’s drive.
The next day, day #4 of the trip, was book talk day, and the lack of internet access at the ranch meant I traveled into the Seneca County museum to get some work done after finding two of the three Chasseur graves I was seeking; the third, Private Charles Lambertson in Tiffin’s Greenlawn Cemetery, proved elusive. Private James Shetenhelm’s grave in Green Springs I found quickly, with the aid of the grave location in Green Springs Cemeery, if not a photograph on Findagrave.com. I did also revisit two graves in Tiffin’s Egbert cemetery. Private Charley Crockett’s grave was a meaningful one for me. Killed at The Wilderness, his letters from early in the war were among my first sources as I began work on the book over ten years ago. Crockett’s grave was well bedecked with flags, so I spared him another, having left one there last summer, but Private Jackson Michael’s grave, which I had happened upon last summer when I stopped to look for Crockett’s grave, was without any flag so I left one there for him, even though it was my second visit and I had left a flag there last year which had since been removed. Lt. Colonel Leroy Crockett’s grave, in the beautiful little Lowell School Cemetery outside of Tiffin, was an easy find as I knew the cemetery from last year’s trip. Crockett, whose letters home were a nice source for me for 1861’s events, transferred to the 72nd Ohio and was promoted to Major and eventually Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. He died of disease outside Vickburg in 1863.
The book talk went well; the audience of about 30 people were warm and welcoming, and I managed to sign and sell several books as well. After a dinner out in Tiffin with the Seneca County Museum director Theresa Sullivan and her husband, I headed back to the ranch in Upper Sandusky for the night.
The fifth day of the trip started with a stop in Findlay, Ohio, to find the grave of Musician Jacob Gassman. He served two and a half years before mustering out in September 1864. Though the Maple Grove Cemetery was huge, I was armed with the plot of the grave, and a friendly and helpful worker there steered me towards the correct area. After walking a bit I found it, and planted the flag. Then it was on to Winameg, in rural Ohio west of Toledo. With my phone GPS not picking up a signal, I was glad I had written down directions. I still had to stop at a garage sale, where I bought a children’s book about Gettysburg for 25 cents in payment to the girl who gave me directions to the cemetery. Those directions were not quite right though, so it took another stop at a house where a husband and wife out in their yard working steered me to the beautiful little Aetna Cemetery in Winameg. “Oh is that what it is called?,” smiled the man as he gave me excellent direction with his wife’s help. I found Hummel quickly, placed a flag, and moved on back to Federal Route 20 west, heading towards Indiana.
A turn northward brought me, finally, into Michigan. The small roadside South Allen Cemetery in Allen, Michigan was where I found, with the help of my daughter Rachel who I reached by phone, the grave of Private Edgar Sparks, who served three years in the war. Rachel also helped me by phone as my service was limited in Kalamazoo. Looking at the picture on Findagrave.com of Private George Way’s stone, and searching for hints in the photograph’s background, Rachel helped me as I walked through the huge Riverside Cemetery after parking the car in an older section of the cemetery. With no grave site listed, I had to use Rachel’s keen eye for background detail, along with my own sense of where the early 20th century era graves were located. It was with great pleasure that I found the grave, a satisfaction which Rachel and I understand, especially when locating a veteran of the 65th NY in a very large cemetery with not much to go on as to its location.
With plenty of time left to try and locate Homer Stryker Field, where the Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team played in a college summer league, and where I had arranged to meet my old friend and college roommate Paul to watch a game, I left Riverside Cemetery and headed to the ballpark. Paul and I enjoyed the game from behind the plate in the grandstand, along with a buffet of hamburgers, hot dogs, and delicious local micro-brews. The quality of the pitching in the game we saw was just horrendous, but it is always nice to see a minor league ball game. After the game we headed up to Paul’s house outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I would stay two nights.
Day Six of the trip included a search, which Paul graciously agreed to not only join but drive us on, for four more Chasseurs buried in the area. We headed out first to Monterey Center, to the small and beautiful Poplar Hill Cemetery. Paul knew the area well, as it was on one of his cycling routes. He was impressed with how quickly we found Private Zopher Cornell’s grave site. Cornell, originally of the 67th NY, transferred into the 65th Ny with the rest of his regiment on September 1, 1864, and served out the war with the 65th. Then it was off to Orangeville, where we found Private Jason Collison of Company I in the Oakhill Cemetery. Again, it was a short search aided by a Findagrave.com photograph. Collison joined the war late in Auburn, NY in March 1865, and served a few months until the end of the war. Grand Rapids is where the Oakhill Cemetery is located, another Michigan cemetery named for the trees adorning the cemetery hill. I had a good picture of Lewis G. Dudley’s grave, and after a bit of driving around the large cemetery, I found Dudley’s grave, honored it with a flag, and had Paul take a picture of me there.
We were a relatively easy three for three today, in term of successful searches, and as we headed to Muskegon for our last grave of the day we were confident. Oakwood (again, the trees!) Cemetery was very large, however, and though the map in the cemetery had an explanation of how to translate the three numbers used to describe each grave site location, it took Paul, a math professor, to finally locate the area of Private Newell Brow’s grave after a long fruitless search around the entire cemetery by both of us. Ironically I had likely walked right by his grave over an hour earlier. But we finally found him, left a flag, and left Paul a bit more impressed with the potential for difficulty in this activity. Still, we had found our four graves for the day, and now we were off for Indian food at a Grand Rapids microbrewery. No complaints.
The trip’s Day #7, which began my drive eastward towards home, was the day of the Michigan mosquitoes. A rainy day had seemingly brought them out in force, and every single grave stop would include a battle with the pests as I walked around trying to locate the Chasseur grave sites. The day would start with me going in the wrong direction after mishearing Paul’s quite adequate directions, but once I got my bearings I was off to Lake Odessa, Michigan, for the first of five graves slated for the day’s search. Though I had two fine photographs of Hummel’s distinctive grave, and the Lakeside Cemetery was not that big, the mosquitoes swarmed around me a I left my car, a few forcing their way into it as I quickly retreated back to the car to try to find the grave by driving. With no luck in this endeavor, I realized Hummel was likely one of the stones in the back of the cemetery, where I would have to walk to find him. Meaning no disrespect, I grabbed a flag and proceeded to run along the back row of graves, where, indeed Private Hummel lay. Saying a quick thank you for his service and planting my flag in front of the stone, I swatted mosquitoes as I jogged back to the car, closed the door behind me, and killed the second mosquito today which had entered that sanctum.
After a very quick stop for lunch, I was off to Bath, near Lansing, Michigan, to visit a grave which had special meaning for me. Sergeant William Sleight, buried at the aptly and correctly named Pleasant Hill Cemetery, had written a brief memoir of his time in the war which was one of the best sources I used. His account of his serious wounding at 2nd Fredericksburg is gripping, and though he had recovered and then received a commission as an officer in an African American regiment, his time spent in the 65th NY, recorded in the memoir I had read and used in my book, gave me a special connection to him. Pleasant Hill’s older section was small, and the mosquitoes were not quite as bad, and I found Sleight’s small stone fairly quickly. Thanking him for his service and his memoir, planting a flag by his stone, I next headed South for Mason, where the grave of Private Frank Anson awaited me. Though Anson had only served from late March 1865 until war’s end in July 1865, I had at least an excellent photograph with some key landmarks in the background. I spotted his Maple Grove Cemetery grave fairly easily after a drive around the main road of the cemetery, but once again, upon exiting the car to plant my flag at his grave, the mosquitoes were menacing and plentiful. Needless to say, my stop before Anson’s grave was brief, but his grave now has two flags honoring it, not just the one that was there.
The next leg of the drive took me to the Detroit environs. Though Brigadier General Henry Terry was never a part of the 65th NY regiment, he did command their division during the underrated Battle of Rappahannock Station in November of 1863, and also commanded the division in the winter and early spring of 1864, when the Chasseurs’ division was sent to Johnson’s Island off Sandusky, Ohio, to guard a prison for Confederate officers. So, knowing I would not necessarily be in the Detroit area anytime soon, I made a point of visiting the Clinton Grove Cemetery to the northwest of Detroit. Again, my phone signal failed me so I could not look up the photograph of General Terry’s grave, but another call to Rachel helped to guide me, and also made me feel as if she was sharing in this search like she has done so many times before. Her directions from looking at the photograph’s background helped bring me to Terry’s grave within minutes. I left the car to plant the flag; again, mosquitoes swarmed. I was expecting this by now, but I did not linger too long, especially since it had already been a long day, I had one more grave to find today, and I had my AirBnB reserved in Toledo, Ohio for the night, so I had to get that far.
I had worried in planning the trip that this long day would be punctuated by bad traffic in the Detroit area; I was pleasantly surprised to find the traffic moved well as I drove through the fringes of the city towards Belleville. The latter was a small place; the grave of Maynard Babcock was in the most isolated area of the day, down a dirt road. Luckily my GPS actually worked here, and late in the day I pulled up to the Martinsville Cemetery, where Babcock, a late enlistee in the regiment, lay. Though the gate looked closed, a friendly woman across the road told me when I got out of the car and looked at it that it was open. It needed only a lifting of the gate bolt to get into the small cemetery; moments later the inevitable mosquitoes appeared. Again, I had a good photograph whose chain link fence in the background I now saw. Grabbing a flag, and jogging along the inside of the fence perimeter, I found Babcock’s grave in an overgrown corner, planted the flag, and retreated from the mosquito onslaught as quickly as I could. Happy to be back in the car, happier to have found all five graves I sought for today, I drove back up the dirt road, and, led by the working GPS, made my way towards Toledo as the rain picked up again.
Day #8 of the trip was a straight shot towards home. I had booked another AirBnB in Clarion, Pennsylvania, merely to break up the trip, but the initial plan at least did not have me searching for any graves or historic sites. It was time to go home. However, Theresa Sullivan, the Seneca County Museum Director, had already made the effort to find the grave of Private Charles Lambertson in Tiffin’s Greenlawn Cemetery, after I told her my own search for him the day of my book talk had been fruitless. She sent me a picture, along with a description of where his grave was located, and since Tiffin was on the way back from Toledo, with less than an hour expended to get out there and then back on track towards home, I took the exit south at Fremont from the interstate and took the by now familiar route 53 south back to Tiffin. Arriving at the Greenlawn Cemetery, my fourth time there in the last year or so, I parked my car, and headed up the hill near the back gate, where Theresa had told me that she found the grave and planted a flag there. After about a ten minute search, there was Lambertson’s grave, which was badly covered with lichens such that it was hard to make out his name, and it was a small nondescript gray stone as well. But there was Theresa’s flag. I planted my own, making this small gray stone as decorated as it had likely been in many years, thanked Private Lambertson for his service, and headed back to the car, happy that I had made it back to Greenlawn Cemetery one more time, as it had been the place where I had started this crazy idea of visiting the Ohio soldiers of the 65th NY, and it had led to this great connection to Tiffin and its lovely Seneca County Museum.
Now it was the long drive home in earnest. I had picked out an AirBnB in Clarion, Pennsylvania jut to break up the trip home, and it worked out well. The place was a nice room in a house with its own separate entrance, and it was walking distance into town. The latter fact was my favorite feature, given how much time I had been spending in the car all week. Clarion was a nice college town, featuring a most impressive courthouse and an imposing civil war monument directly across the street from it. I had a delicious steak dinner with a nice pilsner beer at the Clarion River Brewing Company. It was the best meal of the whole trip. I walked home and got to bed to rest up for the last leg of the trip. The drive home from Clarion to Mamaroneck was happily uneventful and with light traffic.
And at the end of the trip, I had visited a total of 159 graves of members of the regiment. Rachel has found over 300 graves around the country, so the quest will continue. With a few new ones discovered in Arlington National Cemetery of late, as well as in the Baltimore National Cemetery, it seems clear a trip back to Maryland and D.C. awaits. I hope this time Rachel will join me again. And seventeen Rhode Island graves which she found also need honoring with flags. It is a kooky activity, I readily admit, but placing flags at the graves of men who fought alongside my great-great grandfather Lt. Timothy Carroll helps connect with me to the regiment. And since some of their letters helped me in writing No Flinching From Fire, like those of Private Lafayette Burns and Sergeant William Sleight, I can make a connection to the physical presence of these men who went through so much. So I will keep doing these trips.