Friday, October 21, 2011

History Does Matter

My nephew often complains that history is boring, that it isn’t relatable to the present. Tonight I have proof that his hypothesis is wrong. And that the proof involves his family past and present.

Joe Armstrong at
John Armstrong's grave
I’ve had a road block regarding information on my great-great-great grandpa John Armstrong. In my ongoing ancestry quest, I attended a chat tonight on Civil War research tips hoping for someone to help me find more information on John. While I didn’t find a lot of information on John’s individual record, I did find a fascinating book “The Story of the Forty-Eighth, a record of the campaigns of the Forty-Eighth Regiment Pennsylvania veteran volunteer infantry during the four eventful years of it’s service in the war for the preservation of the union” by Joseph Gould. My ggg-grandfather John served in the 48th regiment from 1861 until his death in 1864.
The first story that touched me was about the early 1864 furlough of the regiment (pg 156). That trip took the regiment by train from Pittsburgh to Altoona and finally home to Pottsville. What struck me about this trip was the history of these locations for my family. John came to America from the Isle of Mann in 1838 settling in Pottsville to work as a miner prior to the war.  My 2nd great-grandpa, Michael Armstrong, and his son Edward Lewis also worked the mines until Edward left the area to work on the railroad in Altoona. John would have left for the war when Michael was 7 and he was dead by the time Michael was 11. John never met my great-grandpa Edward or my grandfather or father whom both born in Altoona. He would never know how the tracks he traveled on his last trip home would 87 years later take his great-great grandson on the reverse trip from Altoona to Pittsburgh where my father met my mother.
At this point in time the only facts I know about John’s time in the war are about his final battle at the Spotsylvania Courthouse in May of 1864. Private John Armstrong was wounded by gunshot on May 12th in Spotsylvania, sent to a backline hospital in Washington DC where he succumbed to his wounds on July 1, 1864. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

Chestnut Hill Hosptial during Civil War
On the day my great-great-great grandfather was mortally wounded, another soldier Comrade John Morrisey had a premonition he would not survive the day (pgs 178-179). Morrisey turned to his friend Sgt William Wells beseeching him to relay a message to his sister Mary that he died facing the enemy. As the battle commenced, Comrade John Morrisey was shot through the head. During a lull in the battle, Sgt Wells buried his friend.  Later during the war, Sgt Wells was injured and sent to a hospital in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania where John’s sister Mary Morrisey found him. Sgt Wells shared with Mary Morrisey her brother’s last words. This story gave me chills when I realized not only that John Morrisey & my great-great-great grandfather fought in a battle on the same day that ultimately killed them both, but the hospital where Sgt Wells and Mary Morrisey met was the same hospital where I born.
Can anyone say small world.