As Memorial Day rapidly approaches, we think of the men and women who have sacrificed so much in service to this country. We honor their service.
In 2002, we launched Green-Wood’s Civil War Project. We wanted to identify and locate the graves of Civil War veterans who are interred at Green-Wood.
The Civil War Infantryman at Green-Wood.
And, over the years, as hundreds and hundreds of volunteers have worked on this, we have made remarkable discovery after remarkable discovery. First, we started out hoping to identify 500 Civil War veterans. But, we have gone past 5,000 now–including 75 Confederates and women who served as nurses, as well as abolitionists, equipment manufacturers, and more. And, we are amazed at how many of these men–2000 of the 5000–a full 40%– were in completely unmarked graves. They had nothing marking their final resting place–their name was nowhere to be found!
So, that’s where the Veterans Administration came in. For more than a century, the United States government has run a program to mark the unmarked graves of our veterans. But, something went very wrong recently. A year ago, the VA started enforcing an ill-conceived regulation that limited those who could apply for a marker, on behalf of a long dead veteran lying in an unmarked grave, to a direct descendant. No longer could a historian or researcher right the wrong of an unmarked grave of a forgotten veteran. If you served your country, but had no children, too bad. If you served your country in the Revolutionary War, had children, but your line of descent died out after 200 years, too bad.
These graves of Civil War veterans were marked with VA-supplied gravestones.
Just a week ago, we launched “Mark Their Graves,”an online petition drive to reverse this awful rule. This is part of a broader plan to get this regulation changed: legislation just has been introduced in Congress to reverse this regulation. Please join us in this effort to right this wrong. Read the stories of the men who served and sacrificed–and who lie in unmarked graves. Their graves should be marked. Their service should be honored. Please help. Contact your representative and senators. And get others to sign our petition. Spread the word!
Mark Their Graves!
We have a new Historic Fund volunteer–Patty. She was interested in doing something, and, it turned out, she is quite the genealogical researcher. Once I learned that, I suggested that she might do follow-up research on the biographies of some of our Civil War veterans, looking for census entries, obituaries, and more, to improve their biographies. She was game, so I sent her research tips from Sue Ramsay, who has been doing great work on these biographies. And, because our biographical dictionary is broken up into eight parts (it is too big to e-mail as a single document), I gave Patty the end of the alphabet to work on: V-Z.
Well, it turns out, Patty is quite the researcher. As she began work on the Vs, one of the very first biographies she came upon was that of Max Van Bosch (1836-1889), a first lieutenant in the 15th New York Heavy Artillery. Patty really hit pay dirt in her research–she sent me 4 different e-mails, each with attachments, with documents she had found that told his story.
But here’s where it gets strange. I had been in touch with Dennis, a great Civil War buff in New Jersey, just a few weeks earlier. Dennis is a Civil War collector and a battlefield expert. He had just gotten back from the 150th anniversary ceremonies of the Battle of Bull Run on July 21. It turns out that Dennis’s wife is related by marriage to the two Joachims–Conrad (1815-1862) and Charles (1843-1863)–who are interred side-by-side in the Civil War Soldiers’ Lot at Green-Wood. Conrad was a doctor and assistant surgeon; his son a second lieutenant–who both served with the 15th New York Heavy Artillery and both died during the Civil War.
I knew the Joachims story. In fact, Glenn Collins had interviewed me and had written it up in The New York Times on Memorial Day, 2007. You can find it here. And, as a result of his article, a delegation of Joachims, after reading that story, had come to pay their respects to their ancestors. Here’s a photograph of their visit they.
The Joachims, in 2007, at Green-Wood, paying their respects to their ancestors who died during the Civil War. That's Lori Joachim at left in the back row; I have put her in touch with Dennis and his family, and they already have compared notes about their Joachim research.
We reported on their visit in the Fall 2007 issue of The Arch. Here is that report.
Just off the Soldiers’ Lot, in the same row as her husband and son, is the gravestone for Eliza, “Widow of Dr. Joachim.” Dennis, at the very same time that Patty had sent me all of that information she had dug up about Max Van Bosch, had apparently been doing some digging of his own. He had gone out to Eliza’s gravestone, and, with a sharp eye, noticed that there appeared to be an inscription at the bottom of the gravestone, where the soil started. So Dennis did some gentle digging, and, lo and behold, uncovered an inscription to none other than–yes, it’s true– Max Van Bosch! It turns out that Dennis and Patty both independently had discovered that Max Van Bosch had married a Joachim.
The gravestone for the Widow Joachim. Note the inscription for Max Van Bosch--it was covered with soil until Dennis dug it out.
Now, I admit that probability theory, which I studied for a few weeks in high school so many years ago, is quite a distant memory. Therefore, if I get this wrong, please excuse me. But, here goes. If we have 4,600 biographies (which we do), the probability of Patty working on any one of those biographies is 1 in 4,600. And, the likelihood of Dennis working on any of the veterans is likewise 1 in 4,600. Now here’s where it gets good. The likelihood of both of them, by chance, working on the same individual at the same time is one in just over 21 million! Those are some pretty long odds!!
Finally, here’s the new and improved biography of Max Van Bosch, including Patty’s research and the writing of Susan Rudin (our Civil War Projects great editor). It really demonstrates the tremendous work that our volunteers are doing researching and writing these biographies:
VAN BOSCH (or VAN BOOSH, VAN BOSH), MAX (or MARCUS) (1836-1889). First lieutenant, 15th New York Heavy Artillery, Companies A and C. Born in Germany, Van Bosch enlisted at New York City as a sergeant on August 23, 1861, and mustered into Company A of the 15th Heavy Artillery, 3rd Battalion, on September 23. On January 2, 1862, he was promoted to second lieutenant and was transferred into Company C that day. After his promotion to first lieutenant on September 2, 1863, he returned to Company A. His pension record and the muster roll indicate that he served as a quartermaster in the Field and Staff of the 15th Heavy Artillery. During part of his time as quartermaster from December 15, 1861, through January 1, 1863, he was accused of improprieties. He was investigated by Levi C. Turner and Lafayette C. Baker beginning in May 1863 for selling clothing and other contraband to officers of the regiment in July- August 1862 at Fort Ethan Allen. It was rumored that he accepted a gold watch and $50 as a bribe for allowing merchandise to pass the guard without examination. Van Bosch stated that he took a felt hat, appropriated pepper and leather to the men for resoling their shoes and returned the liquor that came in the shipment under question. He mustered out on August 22, 1865, at Washington, D.C. Van Bosch became a naturalized citizen on October 27, 1865. His name, listed as Max Van Bosh, appears on a list of Jewish veterans of the Civil War. According to the census of 1880, he was employed as a merchant; the Brooklyn Directory of 1888-1890 lists him as an agent. In addition, he was a Mason. His last residence was on 233 Hooper Street in Brooklyn. In 1890, his wife, Louise Van Bosch, who is interred with him, applied for a widow’s pension, certificate 335,434. Section 115, lot 11193, grave 214.
UPDATE: Dennis sent me this photograph of his wife, Nancy (at right) and her sister, Kathryn, both Joachim descendants, at the graves of Conrad and Charles Joachim.
Nancy (Dennis's wife) and her sister Kathryn are both Joachim descendants. They were photographed at the graves of Conrad and Charles Joachim.
On December 23, 2010, I blogged about a painting I had just purchased on behalf of the Green-Wood Historic Fund that memorialized the Civil War career of Major Edward Marrenner.
This painting is now on exhibit in Green-Wood's Historic Chapel, through July 24.
I explained how happy I was to have acquired it and that I had never seen anything like it.
Well, now we know quite a bit more about it. Just last week, Jim Lambert, an Historic Fund volunteer who has been doing a great job cataloguing our books, was working on organizing our old issues of American Heritage Magazine. As he worked with the October 1965 issue, he noticed this image on the back cover:
Here's the caption from American Heritage Magazine: "A Civil War service record, painted on a window shade."
Text elsewhere in the issue described this piece as follows:
A painted escutcheon epitomizes graphically the war record of a Civil War soldier. The painter, J. P. Reynolds, came from Boston, rose to corporal in the 8th Massachusetts Volunteers Militia, and later to captain (two bars) in the 19th. After the war he seems to have earned his living making similar lively mementoes for other surviving warriors.
Doing some research online, I discovered that the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center owns the President Hayes’s escutcheon which was painted by the J.P. Reynolds & Company, and that the Center also now owns the Reynolds Company’s records.
Here’s the company history on that website:
In 1868 John P. Reynolds of Salem, Massachusetts, patented a system of displaying a veteran’s service record as a work of art called an escutcheon. The general design of these escutcheons was a shield with portions designated to the veterans’ ranks, positions, units, and the battles in which they participated. These lithographs and paintings ranged in price from $5 to as much as $125 or more. By 1875 Reynolds had taken on Walter C. Strickler as a partner, a relationship that would end after 1878. Strickler’s role was traveling around the country selling escutcheons. In addition to contacting individual veterans, he also made presentations at local G.A.R. posts and set up a display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. In an effort to attract new business, the company displayed the escutcheons of several well-known leaders including Generals U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan at the Philadelphia exposition. They also solicited written testimonials from other prominent veterans such as Ambrose Burnside, Rutherford B. Hayes, Joshua Chamberlain, and John F. Hartranft.
It is unclear from the incomplete business records how long Reynolds & Co. continued to produce escutcheons, but by 1888, Strickler had formed a competing company (Army and Navy Escutcheon Company) and had been discharged by the board of directors for poor management. The new company was sold to F. H. Dyer of Detroit, Michigan.
And here is John P. Reynolds’s patent application, dated 1868, for “an Army and Naval emblem.” Reynolds noted, “My invention relates to the production of a design for an escutcheon for commemorating the successive stages of army service.”
In The Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 14, published in 1901, this was reported:
Mr. Goodell called attention to the new and peculiarly American system of what may properly be deemed heraldic emblems, devised by Captain John P. Reynolds, of Salem. By this system the display on a quartered shield of the stars, shoulder-straps, chevrons, etc., indicative of rank, and of the bugle, crossed cannon, and sabres, indicating infantry, artillery, and cavalry, together with the army badges denoting the several army corps, divisions, brigades, and regiments, all blazoned with the coats-of-arms of the Republic and of the respective States of the Union, — and, in a parallel series, of similar badges appropriate to the navy, —
Detail of the Marrenner escutcheon, showing some of the symbols that Reynolds often included.
he is able to produce for every officer and private in the military and naval service of the Union a perfect record by intelligible symbols; which, together with the date of enlistment and mustering out, and of every battle in which the subject was engaged, and of his death if that occurred while he was in the service, furnishes a full and exact account of his military career readable at a glance, and not only valuable for present reference, but, as it is easy to foresee, of inestimable service to the future biographer and historian, as well as a source of pride to the descendants of the hero whose fame it perpetuates.
Mr. Goodell has obtained from Captain Reynolds a cut of the captain’s own military record displayed according to the system above described. This Mr. Goodell offers as worthy of being preserved in our printed Proceedings, inasmuch as many thousands of these symbolic shields are scattered throughout the country, and, sooner or later, must become a subject of considerably greater interest than they are at present.
With respect to our Marrenner escutcheon, I had surmised that “[i]t appears to date from the late 1880s; the brackets holding what appears to be the original frame together are dated 1886. That seems to fit well within the J.P. Reynolds’s company history.
It is, of course, always good to learn more about what you own. And that is even more the case when, like the Green-Wood Historic Fund, its collections are held in order to help educate the public.
The great eagle, by J.P. Reynolds, that sits atop the Marrrenner escutcheon.