Tracking Down a Marine Fifer

Tracking Down a Marine Fifer

I recently had the fun of running down information about a US Marine who had been assigned to the USNA in 1860. Or to be more precise, a marine who had been attached to the USS Plymouth, the naval academy’s school ship for their cruise the summer of that pivotal year. It was a convoluted task, that commenced with only the slimmest of leads.

My jumping off point was the US census for Annapolis for that year. I was scrolling down through the names of the superintendent, the professors and officers, and the midshipmen – and sandwiched between those midshipmen and some US sailors was a short list of seventeen names. All listed as ‘US Marines.’ And all with places of birth listed as ‘Unknown.’ I used their names as the springboard for my online searches.

So, I went through four names –

1- John Rossman age 25

2 – George Rymes age 30

3 – A. E. Clark age 40

4 – R. Hamilton age 37

– before I got a hit with number 5:

5 – L Reinburg age 34

I was using Ancestry.com which has an excellent database of scanned military documents.  My meagre ‘L Reinburg’ search returned a couple pages worth of US Marine muster rolls.

(I like the US Marine muster rolls. With them I have been able to trace the entire service career, month by month, of one of the midshipmen I have been researching – he had switched from the Navy to that branch).

Four of these records outlined Reinburg’s presence on the USS Plymouth, June through September of 1860. And gave me his first name – Louis. I input this new information and the year 1826 (calculated from his age in the census), a mistake as it later turned out.

Two different ‘Louis Reinburgs’ popped up. One born in Saxony, Germany seemed to be the one for whom I was looking. But he was a good deal older, having been born around 1819. The other had been born in Philadelphia, but twenty years younger than he should have been if the 1860 census was correct. It was obvious that they were father and son with the same names. But which was my marine?

I was leaning towards the older Louis until I found naval lists with this native of Saxony listed as a landsman, a naval rank. Since there were marine records for the second Louis in the same years as this navy man, I switched my hunch to the younger Louis.

But how was I to resolve the “age” issue?

A Google search did point to a Louis C. Reinburg who died in 1903, and had a career in the marines. But he had switched to the navy sometime in 1864. This was starting to get more confusing.

The Marine muster rolls proved to hold the key.

I compared all four muster rolls for the USS Plymouth. The names were the same on each one. I then compared them to the names in the census. They were all the same. Or almost all the same. (The census taker as you will see had some issues).

The first five for the USS Plymouth:

John Bauman – Orderly Sergeant, enlisted March 30, 1857 (not Rossman, whoever wrote out the name did not close the bottom of the “B,” wrote an “a” that looked like an “o” and the peaks of his “u’ looked like a double “s.”)

George Byrnes – Corporal, re-enlisted May 20, 1858 (not Rymes, the same issue with the “B”, plus an “r” and an “n” that looked like an “m.”)

Elisha A Clarke – Corporal, re-enlisted June 6, 1858 (not A. E. – perhaps dyslexic?)

Robert Hamilton – Musician, enlisted Feb 23, 1860

Louis Reinburg – Musician, enlisted Aug 29, 1856

The rest of the names on the muster lists are all privates, and match, in order, and almost exactly (save one), the names on the census. Tracing Reinburg back to his enlistment I found him on a muster roll for August 1856 at the Marine Barracks in Washington DC.  But his rank was delineated as “Boy.” (His comrade Robert Hamilton is on the same roll with the same rank).

I had to look up this rank to see what light it might shed on my marine. And I came up with this quote:

“’Boys,’ the lowest rung on the rating and pay scales and one
traditionally reserved for young men under the age of eighteen.”

     This Louis Reinburg was born in 1846, so he was the ripe old age of ten when he enlisted in the marines. Following forward he became a fifer in 1857, and was serving as such on the Plymouth. His fellow marine, Robert Hamilton, was a drummer.

     The two had served together in the same capacities on a cruise in the USS Jamestown between 1858 and 1860, just before their time on the Plymouth. So no doubt they were a team.

     Reinburg took his honorable discharge from the marines in 1864, and then enlisted in the Navy as an Acting Master in the Volunteer Navy. He served the rest of the war and beyond, taking his honorable discharge from that service in 1868 at the age of 22, having given twelve years of his life in service to his country. A service that he continued as a clerk in the Pension Office of the United States.

The Costive Case of Gilman D Gove

The Costive Case of Gilman D Gove

I was entering data on Acting Midshipman Gilman D. Gove for his stay at the US Naval Academy hospital from December eleventh through fourteenth in 1855, and there it was, another term that I needed to look up. Though I had a sense what it might mean from a root word with which I was familiar, I was puzzled as to what medical connotation it might carry. The word was “costiveness.” Its root word “costive” had conveyed a sense to me that something was being held back, as in that someone who was costive, was not speaking, was holding back his opinion.

I was surprised to learn that its first meaning was the medical condition – constipation, and the secondary meanings were what I thought were its first. (And it also shed some new light on my original understanding). The word constipation had been used in every case up to this one, and why the records keeper for the case of Midshipman Gove chose to use the word “costiveness” remains a mystery to me. Perhaps it was a different record keeper than whoever kept the former entries and it was his vocabulary of choice.

There are some unsettled facts about Gilman. I found a birth record from the state of New Hampshire that states he was born on May 12, 1837 in Kensington (the town in which his grandparents lived and from which there are many Goves). Yet the naval academy records, the 1870 and 1880 Federal censuses, and the government hospitals in which he was a patient, all list Louisiana as his birth state. Indeed, they were transplants to that area from New England. His father, Asa Dearborn Gove had moved the family from his wife’s home in Boston, Massachusetts to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1832. In Boston he had been in the fruit business with his brother Amos. He continued in that line in their new home, trading in fruit around the Caribbean. So, though Louisiana would seem the most likely birthplace for him, Kensington can not be ruled out.

Some time in the 1850s his father moved the family and business to New York, and it is from that state that Gilman was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1852. Gilman graduated from the academy in 1856 and served only two years before resigning in 1858.  I do not know the reason for his resignation. His father passed away in 1860, so he might have resigned to help an ailing parent. Asa had sold the business in New York and bought a farm in Windsor, Illinois. Gilman’s name does appear on the 1860 probate papers as administrator.

With the coming of the Civil War, Gilman entered the navy once again. He traveled to the nearby town of Neoga, Illinois in March 1862 and enlisted in the volunteer navy. He served as an Acting Ensign in the Mississippi Squadron, on at least two gunboats, the USS Black-Hawk and the USS Benton. He was serving on the later when he again resigned in February 1863. Again I do not know the reason for the resignation.

He most likely returned to Illinois. The IRS records for 1865 list him with his brother Howard in Charleston, Illinois, which put them close to their mother in Windsor. The 1870 census places their mother in Kansas City, Missouri, living with her daughter’s family.  The boys are also listed in this residence and working as clerks for their brother-in-law. Their sister’s husband, William Beecher Stone owned an agricultural warehouse which dealt in farm implements. The next census (1880) indicates that Gilman and Howard followed  Mr. Stone to Galena, Kansas. A huge lead strike was discovered in Galena in 1877, setting off a rush, and Stone got in on the ground floor. Gilman is listed as a clerk in the district court, and living with Howard’s family. Howard was working in Stone’s lead mining company, and within a few years Gilman was also.

In December 1891, Gilman was diagnosed with nervous prostration, and admitted to the Government hospital in Leavenworth Kansas on 5/5/1892. He was discharged after a four year stay, but only to be transferred to the Government Insane Asylum in D. C., where he died two months later; the cause – general paralysis and insane with dementia. Was lead responsible? Another unanswered question.

So, this is my summation of the life of Gilman D. Gove, full of facts and connections but with some dangling questions, big and small. Nowhere in all these records did I find his middle name recorded. Two family names are possible candidates: Dearborn (his father’s middle name) or Donnell (his mother’s middle name).

As they say, “The answer is out there.” Somewhere in the costive universe there are answers to all these little questions about Gilman D. Gove.