In the Steps of a Civil War Great-grandfather

The article in our March issue about Civil War historian Gary Gallagher included the story of my great-grandfather William H. Stubbs.

Readers searching their Civil War roots have asked how I gathered the Stubbs background.

Some 60 to 70 years ago, William Stubbs told his granddaughters-my mother is one-of his war experiences. She also knew where he was buried; on his tombstone was "67th PA Vol." I wrote the National Archives, 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408, to obtain Form NATF 80. I filled it out, asking for great-grandfather's pension as well as military records, because the former are often genealogically richer. Archives personnel found both sets of records and notified me that the cost was $5 for each set. You pay only if they find records. You can also travel to Washington and search the Archives yourself.

Archivist Leon Stout of Penn State's Pattee Library told me of Samuel Bates' History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. Other states have similar histories; Maryland's is History and Roster of the Maryland Volunteers. To look for a regimental history, try Dornbusch's bibliography, Regimental Publications and Personal Narratives.

Gallagher located in a Table of Organization the 67th Pennsylvania in the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Sixth Corps. Many histories mention divisions and brigades, not always regiments. I learned from Jeffry Wert (author of From Winchester to Cedar Creek and teacher of history at Penns Valley High School and Penn State) of several eyewitness accounts of Sixth Corps action. The best was Slavery and Four Years of War by J. Warren Keifer, who was my great-grandfather's brigade commander. Gallagher and Wert also sent me to the Shenandoah Campaign books of the huge 70-volume War of the Rebellion with its three-volume atlas. The "Official Records," as they are known, contain detailed battle reports and dispatches.

I began to contact distant relatives and realized that I should have asked them first. We have already learned much from each other.

Coral Altemose, Ellen Davis, Mrs. Clayton Eckley, Laura Drauschak, Marion Transue, and my mother, all granddaughters and great-granddaughters of William Stubbs, knew that William's brother John had also served in the war. I found the two brothers in Bates's roster of Company D of the 67th regiment. I found a Joseph Stubbs as well but most of the relatives didn't know of him. Yet Ellen Davis remembers her mother and aunt talking about a battle in which one brother was shot down while the other had to march on. And John and William Stubbs had survived the war. On a typewritten transcription of a story set down about 1895 and sent to me by Coral Altmose:

"Joseph Aaron Stubbs was killed at the battle of Cedar Creek June 21, 1864." (Wrong date.) From Bates: "Stubbs, Joseph A., Co. D., Died at Newtown Va., [near Cedar Creek] October 21, 1864. Buried in Winchester Nat'l Cem., Lot No. 26."

Marion Transue, now 80, spent time as a young girl with William and wife Mary Ann in their White Haven, Pa., house across the road from my grandmother Sax's home. Marion and my mother, Hazel Sax, played together. My mother, 83, remembers her grandfather telling of a battle and "the man on the left of me and the man on the right being shot." Mrs. Transue remembers William saying, "In the charge, my two brothers were on either side, and I could not hold them back. They went out ahead, and one was shot down, we had to go on." Laura Drauschak also remembers her grandfather telling of one brother shot down while he had to go on. The battle must have been Cedar Creek, about 4:00 in the afternoon of October 19, when, as one account put it, 200 bulges blared the notes of the charge over the cheers of Union soldiers. Neither my mother nor Mrs. Transue remembered Joseph Aaron, because William never spoke his name to them.

Four days after Joseph died, the third brother, John, mustered into Company D, according to Bates's roster. But John may have been visiting before the battle, says Jeff Wert, "and he grabbed a musket and joined in. It sometimes happened that way." Perhaps a fourth Stubbs brother, George Washington, was there; Marion Transue says that William mentioned him. So far I haven't found George in likely regiments or in the special Civil War veteran's census of 1890. I hope that he may appear in the Bates card index held by the State Archives, Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, Box 1026, Harrisburg, Pa.

If I travel to the national battlefield parks, guides can show me almost exactly where my great-grandfather stood. Yet the many details of his story bespeak far more the culture of the period than they do mere battles. In this very personal learning one senses something of the discoveries of historians such as Gary Gallagher. One envies them their vocation.

Last Updated June 01, 1989