Monday, June 28, 2010

Scipio Hitchcocks in the Civil War, Part 3: Battlefield Letter

James Hitchcock wrote a letter home from the battlefield a few short months before the 44th NY mustered out. It is a letter from a literate man to his aunt and uncle. The fatigue and battle weariness is evident. I have always chosen to believe that the “English Lady” is the woman James married a few years later in 1869, my great-grandmother Caroline Batten. Here is that letter:

1st. Div. 5th Corps A of P (For Army of the Potomac – sg)
Hancock Station VA Sept. 17th/1864

My Dear Aunt,
Your welcome letter was gladly received on the 15th inst. I was glad to receive an answer promptly and I was agreeably surprised to find your letter contained a “Picture of an English Lady” of my acquaintance. I recognize her and am really glad to see her looking so well. Why Aunt it seems to me that she is growing younger every year. It is an excellent likeness. I shall be happy to have an introduction. It will be very agreeable to me at least, and I hope it may be the same to her; please speak a good word for me.
I am very sorry to learn that Mary Ann has been sick and as she promised to write me and did not I presume that is the reason she did not. Give my love to her, and tell her I hope to see her soon and then she will have to give an account of her delay in writing me.
We have been moving around considerable lately. Grant is continually maneuvering and although we have not a very large tract of land to travel upon still the Army does a great deal of walking.
Dear Aunt as the time to return home draws nigh the members of this Reg’t. begin to indulge in very bright anticipation; not least among these is your Nephew James. I promise myself a grand good time and after being from home 3 years all the time engaged in active Campaigning, do you not think that I am entitled to a little enjoyment?
Dear Uncle you too have my warmest thanks for the kind and cheering words you have expressed in my behalf. I hope I may meet you all soon and find you enjoying all the blessings of this world and resting in the calm assurance of joys to come. The condition of our Country seems brightening. Mobile and Atlanta are just now glorious words; not only do they announce the greatest Military and Naval successes of the time but they are the Handwriting on the Wall announcing in most emphatic tones the doom the very death throes of the Chicago nominees.
McLellan and Pendelton stock is not worth one cent on the dollar; in the Army it is in very truth a “dead letter.” The ides of November next will usher in their funeral on the same day that Fremont and Cochrane are buried. Abraham Lincoln and Andy Johnson will guide the ship of state and with the volunteers now coming to him Grant and Sherman will establish to our distracted country peace founded on a sound basis.
With much love I remain in haste your Nephew James.

Sunday, June 27, 2010



Links to a great article and photo in the Citizen. I have not tried this before, so I will see if this works!

Scipio Hitchcocks in the Civil War, Part Two: Brothers

In 2001 and largely due to the Internet, Hitchcock descendants who now live all across America began a correspondence. Through their efforts Richard’s vandalized gravestone was replaced with a military marker on Flag Day, 2003 in a moving ceremony, attended by several descendants of Richard and of his brothers from as far away as California and as close as Scipio.
Two of those brothers had also served their adopted country in the American Civil War. Fred Hitchcock, later a furniture maker with a shop in Aurora, NY who is buried in Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, enlisted in April of 1861 at the age of 22 in the 19th NY as a substitute for John H. Osborne, and was subsequently “veteranized” into the 3rd NY Artillery, and mustered out in July of 1865. The 19th, as the 75th, was mainly composed of Cayuga County men. Fred’s wartime injuries were minor although he did spend some time in a hospital during the War.
James Hitchcock enlisted in the 44th NY Volunteers, also known as “Ellsworth’s Avengers” in October of 1861 when he was 20 years old. Wounded in battle at Hanover Courthouse, and again more seriously in July of 1862 at Malvern Hill when a minie ball struck him in the chest and another broke his leg, James’ gallantry on the field is described and his picture shown in the book “History of the 44th” by Eugene Nash. James received promotions and eventually served the 44th as their Quartermaster Sergeant, participating in holding Little Round Top at Gettysburg among many other battles. He was mustered out with his regiment in 1864, and returned to live out his remaining years in Scipio as a farmer, also holding the post of Justice of the Peace for 25 years. James died at the age of 89 in 1930 and is buried in Ledyard’s Evergreen Cemetery. James was my great-grandfather.
This band of 3 brothers, living in this country and this county just a bit over 10 years, chose to follow their convictions and make the personal sacrifices that enlistment could require and gave years of their lives for their new country. All three spent time convalescing at some point during the War; none of the 3 were the same man who left Cayuga County when they returned.
Their sacrifices helped to shape our values and our country.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Scipio in the Civil War; the 75th NY Volunteers and Hitchcock Family

It has been almost 150 years since the American Civil War began. Its origins, its battles and its outcome continue to be a source of strong feeling, endless discussion and fascination for Americans today. Books are still being written and films being made that speak to this War, relating to each author’s perception of a different facet of this fiercely contested action on American soil.
To me it seems the American Civil War is a story of families; families in conflict or in agreement; families pulled closer or torn apart but in every case, families changed forever.
Men showed their convictions by quite literally stepping out of their ordinary lives and into battle. Gone for months, years, or all too often forever, they sacrificed much in order to do what they perceived as their duty.
Men were not the only ones to sacrifice. The rest of the family had to live with the consequences of their decision to go off to war. Left behind to cope were the children, the women and the elderly; the weak and the infirm. There was no public safety net to help them in 1861. People either took care of themselves and their neighbors or they did not survive. Lacking in many cases the knowledge, skill and abilities necessary for daily life, the continuing existence of those left behind depended on them learning how to survive on their own. They struggled; they managed and made do with less, some with the war right on their doorstep and some forever when their soldier did not return.
The soldier I want to tell you about today is part of such a family. He is one of three brothers who stepped for a time out of Scipio and into the harsh reality of what it meant to be a soldier in the American Civil War. You have heard of the brave men of the 75th and the battles they participated in; I want to tell you the story of just one of those soldiers and his family.
Richard Hitchcock was the second oldest of six brothers, all born in England. In 1850 when Richard was 13 years old, the family boarded the Philena Bath in Liverpool, England, and set out for America. Members of the serving class, his parents came here to give themselves and their children the opportunity for a better life.
In 1855 when Richard was 18, he married Elizabeth Van Ommen of Auburn, who was born in Holland. Four of their seven children – Alice, Frances, George and Katherine – were born before September 25, 1861, when Richard enlisted in Company A of the 75th NY Volunteers as a Private. Twenty-four years old, Richard was with the 75th until June of 1862 when he was discharged for disability in Pensacola, Florida. A letter written by his brother James in 1901 states that Richard was discharged due to blindness. That appears to have been a temporary, for a year and a half later in December of 1863, Richard reenlisted in Company M of the 22nd NY Cavalry, shortly after transferring over into Company I. Either that or the Union Army felt the horse could see well enough for both of them!
Richard Hitchcock was mustered out as a Corporal on August 1, 1865 with his Company at Winchester, Virginia. He returned to Cayuga County and his family, which now included a fifth child, Elizabeth, born shortly after he had reenlisted in the 22nd Cavalry. The family eventually settled in Auburn, where Richard was principally an Express or Delivery Man. He and his wife Elizabeth had two more children, Mary, born in 1869 and Frederick, born in 1878.
In the winter of 1881, Richard, by now 44 years old, was driving his Express Sleigh down Clark Street in Auburn when he was struck from his left side by a pair of runaway horses, linked together only by a neck yoke. He was thrown over the dashboard of his sleigh with such force that he broke through it, falling in the shafts of his own sleigh nearly under his horses’ heels.
His injuries were extensive according to the newspaper coverage. His recovery was slow and probably never complete. Just a few years later in 1885, Richard’s wife Elizabeth contracted Cholera and she did not survive the disease. Their youngest child, Frederick, was six and still remained at home as did their adult daughter Katherine who had some serious medical problems. Elizabeth’s obituary tells us that Richard was afflicted with Consumption, or as we know it today, Tuberculosis.
Less than 2 years later and a month shy of his 50th birthday, this Civil War Veteran passed away. Katherine was sent to an institution; Richard’s brother James became legal guardian to Frederick. The Salvation Army, less than 10 years in operation in the United States, took responsibility for the funeral and Richard was buried in Auburn’s North Street Cemetery. All that the family has left from that day is a brief obituary and a remembrance card.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Genealogy Trip

I have a list of places I want to visit in my lifetime. I think it will come as no surprise that several destinations are genealogy-related. This summer I am crossing a big one off my list.
I will finally be heading to the Fort Wayne/Allen County Indiana Genealogy Library! This has been on my list for several years, and I look forward to spending some quality time there in August.
I have spent some time recently getting my family history notebooks updated, and I am making a list of what I specifically hope to accomplish when I go. The Library has a great online catalogue, and their website has a map of the layout of this facility that will help me plan my search efforts.
It will be interesting to compare it to say the NYS Library, or other genealogy resources such as historical societies that I have visited. You can check them out at

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Vacations

School is almost over for this year, and many of us are planning some kind of family trip for the summer. Near or far, we are packing up and heading out.
I have some great memories of family trips, and some stories too. In fact, I'm not sure we ever did tell dad who left their bubblegum on the car seat that he sat in one a memorable trip to Florida.
Last year I packed up the grand kids and their parents, and we spent nine hours together in the car to reach our destination. By the time we returned a week later, we were all a little worse for wear. But I bet in a few years, they will have as much fun remembering the trip as I do my childhood vacations - including that u-turn we took in Virginia for an ice cream cone!
Three generations in one car for a few hours sure sounds like a chance to share some family history to me. Why don't you think about spending a special day or weekend with your family, and share some stories of your own summer vacations?