Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Of China and History

My husband's family history was lovingly documented and illustrated in an album created by his mother, Audrey. Photos, snippets of written history, letters, newspaper clippings, poetry, and more trace his heritage through Quaker roots, to a very great (eleven times over) grandfather, William who was born in England about 1595. Mom Audrey held her ancestors in high regard and taught her sons life lessons by retelling stories of generations gone before. Additionally, she shared valued mementos --- tidbits and pieces of heritage in the form of old quilts, scraps of lace, photographs, and lovely china. These mementos were frequently shared with her sons and her daughters by marriage at birthday's or Christmas celebrations. I was the fortunate recipient of two beautiful bowls which were owned by my husband's Great-great Grandfather and Grandmother, Albert and Ellen Mary. These great-great grandparents were farmers, known in family history as the grandparents who lived during the Civil War. Grandmother Ellen Mary spent four years (1861 - 1865) tending the farm alone while Grandfather Albert was a soldier in the war. Recently Aunt Marcella found transcripts of some letters written by Grandfather Albert to his darling wife, Grandmother Ellen Mary. Tales of camp life, injury and illness, battles, and instructions for the farm are all outlined by him and he shares details of his life with his wife. They remind of a country divided, and again united in purpose and goal, brotherhood with freedom and liberty for all.

Here's a letter written by Albert to his wife, Ellen Mary. In it he describes the Battle of Fort Stedman which took place on the morning of March 25, 1865. In it, the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Gordon, attempted to carry out a carefully planned and what at first promised to be a successful effort to break the Union lines and reach the military railroad and base of supplies at Mead Station.

Camp in front of Petersburg near Fort Hell
March 26, 1865

My Dear Wife,

These few lines leave me tollable well and hoping they may find you the same. Well, Ell, I saw the Elephant yesterday, as I have heard them tell about. The Rebs charged on one of our forts yesterday morning before day brake, took our men on surprise, took the fort and nearly all the men that was in it. We wase encamped about one mile away. We hurd the frachis and were soon up and out in line of battle on double quick. We were under heavy fire from Rebs forts nearly all the way from ear up to the battle ground. We took down a run; there was high banks put up from each side which sheltered us from the heavy fire. When we got nearly opposite the fort, we charged up over the bank and through an open field over one line of breast works and through to the fort on a kean runn with thunderous yells and into the fort we went. It was full of Rebs. They surrendered at once. All that I see were waving there handkerchiefs and hats and hollering: "We give up, don't shute." The loss and of our Regiment was five killed and forty wounded. The two hundredeth Regt. had charged another fort twice but were repulsed each time, but when the 207 came up it was fun to see the Johnnies fly to the cathole. I have only mentioned in the above the one fort, but there was two forts that the Rebs had taken from us and we retook both of them. The one that our Regt. took was Ft. Stedman. The other was a small Ft. near by. After the firing had seased, we found over 1000 ded Rebs around and in the one ft. The other I know nothing about. Their loss was ten. In our one, prisners and those that came in and give them selves up, amounted to six thousand. The Nauvoo boys came out all right. Many of our men had a heavy fight up on the left. We took three or four lines of works and some railroad. I don't know how much all more at present. Best respects to all.


[General Gordon initally succeeded in capturing a part of the picket lines, Fort Stedman, and several batteries and was advancing on the Union lines when they encountered a part of Hartranft's Division. The 200th and 209th Pa. lay in the rear of Fort Stedman, and they succeeded in stopping the advance of the Confederates and held them at bay until the other four regiments of the division --- the 205th, 207th, 208th, and 211th Pa. --- encamped some distance away, were brought up. Under the personal direction of General Hartranft, we charged upon the Confederates and recaptured the ground they had taken, together with 1,945 prisoners. The Confederates also lost heavily in killed and wounded, as they retreated under heavy fire. Written by Rev. H. Whitaker, Corporal, Co. C, 205th Pa. Lancaster City, Pa.]


  1. What a wonderful family history and so well preserved. A reminder for us to do the same for future generation. I am so grateful for every bit of documented history in our family, but need to write down what I know about the last two generations

  2. Thanks for sharing this, it was very interesting. I am a genealogist and love the stories and photos passed down. I am getting a digital slr soon and one of the first things I want to do is start documenting the china and things handed down to me and make a scrapbook showing where they came from so that my children will know. You have inspired me!


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