Tag Archives: genealogy

Today in 1775: “…the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends…”

17 Jun

Today in 1775, British General William Howe lands troops on the Charlestown Penninsula and marches them up Breed’s Hill, just below Bunker Hill and fortified by the American militia, and what becomes known as the Battle of Bunker Hill begins. Though the Americans were outnumbered and eventually forced to retreat, the the British casualties were far, FAR higher than the American losses.

Abigail Adams wrote the following to her husband on June 18, 1775:

“The Day; perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends. my bursting Heart must find vent at my pen. I have just heard that our dear Friend Dr. Warren is no more but fell gloriously fighting for his Country-saying better to die honourably in the field than ignominiously hang upon the Gallows. great is our Loss. He has distinguished himself in every engagement, by his courage and fortitude, by animating the Soldiers & leading them on by his own example — a particular account of these dreadful, but I hope Glorious Days will be transmitted you, no doubt in the exactest manner.

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong — but the God of Israel is he that giveth strength & power unto his people. Trust in him at all times ye people pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us. –Charlstown is laid in ashes. The Battle began upon our intrenchments upon Bunkers Hill, a Saturday morning about 3 oclock & has not ceased yet & tis now 3 o’clock Sabbeth afternoon…” 

Dr. Joseph Warren, friend of the Adams’, was the influential leader of the cause of liberty in Boston. In fact, it was Warren who sent Paul Revere on his infamous Midnight Ride to warn of the British approach to Lexington and Concord. His death was a major blow to the Americans. You can read more about Warren here.

Of personal note, one of my Patriot ancestors, Reuben Woolworth, was there. He was 22 at the time.

Reuben was one of twelve* brothers born to Timothy and Mercy Woolworth of Suffield, Connecticut. He was one of five Woolworth children to serve in the Revolutionary War; he also was at the Battle of Lexington and the Siege of New York.

*And that’s just the boys, yall. The Woolworths had two daughters, Mercy and Lucy. That’s fourteen kids. Phew.


Adventures in Genealogy: Letters

11 Jun

On June 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln was nominated by the Republican party to seek a second term as president.  News spread across the country at a moderate pace, and by June 11, 1864, it reached the ears of the men of the 115th Ohio Infantry Regiment stationed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Among them was my three-times great-grandfather, Edward Ellis.

Edward was born in Pennsylvania on April 5, 1835, to Thomas and Mary Ellis who emigrated to America from Wales. He married Elizabeth Ellen Evans, also from Wales, on April 12, 1855. I haven’t really been able to figure out how they ended up in Ohio, but Edward and Elizabeth lived in Summit County with their two children, Charles and Nettie, who is my two-times great-grandmother.

Edward was 30 when he enlisted in the Union Army (the 115th Ohio Infantry) on August 14, 1862; he was taken as a prisoner of war in December of 1864 and held at Andersonville prison camp. Miraculously, he survived Andersonville, but died in the explosion of the Sultana in 1865 on his way back home.  He wrote prolifically to his wife throughout his service during the Civil War, and I count myself very blessed to have copies of his correspondence that came to my family through our Ellis cousins. I’ve been working my way through his letters and transcribing them for the public record. It’s really heartbreaking to read some of his letters, particularly the ones he wrote just after being liberated from Andersonville. He was very eager to see his family again, but never got the chance.

Edward’s letters are all rather clincial; he gives reports rather than his opinions (other than his nearly-constant and understandable desire to see his wife and kids) most of the time, so the post-script of his June 11, 1864 letter caught my attention:

“Old Abe has been nominated to be our president for the next term, he is my choice and the choice of most of the soldiers, next to him would be Butler, the vice president is to be Andy Johnson of this state another good man, Hurrah for Lincoln and Johnson.”


Not sure he ever got that furlough — but I’m not done going through the over 400 pages of letters yet. So, to be continued…