E T and Company J

ET and Company J

 I used the roster from the history of the 23rd MVI to create a database covering all its members. I did the data entry for it during my lunch breaks at work.

As I was involved in this task I considered how to go about digging up the same info for the 8th MVM.
Somehow I stumbled across a list of Civil War regiments online referenced with names and e-mails of their researchers. I contacted the individual, Carol Botteron, who managed the list and happened to have an interest in the 8th MVM.  She replied to me with a list of books written about various aspects of the regiment. She also asked if my ancestor was a recipient of the Minuteman of 1861 medal issued by the State of Massachusetts years after the war. It was awarded to all of the soldiers that answered Lincoln’s call out of the state militias after Fort Sumter was fired upon. I replied that I did not know and that perhaps it was in the hands of other family members.
She said that I could find a photo of one in the volume History of the Minutemen of 1861.  So a check with the library led to another order with ILL.
The volume had an entire chapter devoted to Company J. It laid out in sketch form the history of the unit, relating some highly interesting and startling revelations.
As an aside, about a decade later I had a round of e-mail exchanges with a researcher in New Hampshire who adamantly insisted that there was no such designation as Company J in the US Army. He explained that this was to obviate any confusion between the letters “I” and “J,” and had the further pariah status of being a “jinx.” Looking at this assertion and his cited authorities (all of a later date than mine), I chalked it up to a bureaucratic standardization after the fact, or a state versus federal understanding.  Whenever the members themselves wrote about the unit later it was always called Company J, and even the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s official report for the year 1861 called the unit by the designation “J.”
So E T was proud member of an historic unit. He was also that rarity in the Civil War, a Zouave.

E T was a cordwainer

E T was a cordwainer

There it was on the list of abbreviations in the book. “Cordr” meant “cordwainer.” It was an occupation of some sort, but what exactly? I thought that maybe it could be broken down by the syllables and take the sense of the root words.  The “cord” part seemed obvious, but what was a “wainer”? Perhaps it was an occupation connected with the place he enlisted from – Salem, a seaport. Sailors were from seaports, and sailors worked with ropes and cordage. Maybe a cordwainer made ropes?

According to the dictionary, a cordwainer was a worker in leather, in particular, the types of leather made in Cordoba Spain.  In short, a shoemaker (or bootmaker).
(Just as a sidebar, along the way I learned another important distinction. A cobbler was not a shoemaker, but rather one who repaired shoes.  The cordwainer made the brand new ones.)
Knowing he was a shoemaker was helpful in identifying him in the 1860 census. I found him in Danvers, a town that is just over from Salem, (in fact it used to be called Salem Village).  He was a young man of 20, and living with Lewis Cann, a shoemaker and his family. So he may have been serving an apprenticeship to him.
Next – I will look into the other clue, the company into which he enlisted earlier in 1861.

E T Sighting

E T Sighting


I had found George A Thompson. His unit, company H was a part of the Fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (or MVM for short). Company H was also known as the Salem Guard.
According to his roster, George had enlisted 4/19/1861, a week after Sumter had been fired upon, and was mustered in on May 1 (more things to look up for understanding). And was listed as a casualty 7/21, the Battle of Bull Run (or First Bull Run, so as not to be confused with Second Bull Run).
But there was no Edward T Osgood. Not in company H, nor in any other companies of the Massachusetts Fifth regiment.
Another search finally turned up ET in the 23rd Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (MVI). On their roster he was listed as the fourth sergeant in Company A. But nowhere does it mention that the 23rd was at First Bull Run, in fact the date of his enlistment was given as August 21, 1861, a month after that battle. So, again there seemed to be no connection to Thompson.
As a first step, I looked up a listing for a regimental history of the 23rd, found it, and as my local library did not have a copy, I ordered it from the InterLibraryLoan department.
And waited.
Meanwhile I could wonder about some of the other clues from this roster entry.
Like exactly what was a “Cordr”?

The Second Clue

Second clue Salem paper 1960

North and South. Union and Confederate. Slavery and free.  I knew about these as concepts.
I didn’t know much about the Civil War when it came to the details involved.  Sure I knew about the individuals – Lincoln and Davis, Grant and Lee, etc.; and some of the battles.  But when it came to regiments, brigades and other units with state names and ordinal designations, I was in the dark.
And to discover how E. T. fit into all this, I would need to educate myself.  But where to begin?
I thought I had something when I found an old newspaper clipping in one of my grandfather’s volumes. It was from a Salem MA newspaper, I think from the 1960s. The writer of the article was describing a picture with something to do about the first casualty from Salem in the Civil War.  It gave his name as George A Thompson of Company H.  And he died in the first Battle of Bull Run.  It stated further that our mutual ancestor (Herbert is a distant cousin of mine) served with George and was a prisoner of war.
When I was first looking at this it was 1996 or 1997, so there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff on the Internet.  I had dial up at home, but no graphic interface (I went to the library for that).
So, it appeared that ET was in Company H and a POW.
Where to from here?
Stay tuned.

Searching for E. T. – The Beginning

Civil War montage

I had first heard rumors about a relative who was a soldier in the American Civil War, when I was growing up in Salem Massachusetts in the sixties. However, I was more interested at the time in what my Classics Illustrated comics had to say about the conflict. Such titles as the Red Badge of Courage and The Crisis claimed my attention, and in particular the CI giant the War Between the States which became quite worn with use. And if it wasn’t the comics it was my Civil War News bubblegum/trading cards.  The ones with the often gory details.
Thirty years later and on the opposite coast, I remembered that rumor and decided to look into it. I had some books that were my grandfather’s and and as it turned out were his grandfather’s before him.  There was “Sword and Pen” about a cavalryman; another titled “Life in Rebel Prisons”; and a third called simply “A Daring Voyage” by Captain William Andrews.
In the last I found the following inscription:
Searching for ET
“To an intrepid comrade during the dark uncertain years of the Rebellion and ‘misty long ago.'”
(To) Serg’t Edward T Osgood
From Wm. Andrews,
  Boat “Nautilus”
And thus began my search for E. T.