Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Melvin J. Hart, Civil War Veteran, 1842 - 1928, Part One

The single most thrilling moment of my involvement in family history to date is when a Civil War era photo of Melvin popped up in a database on Ancestry. Although I would dearly love to post the photo here or the enhanced version I created, due to copyright restrictions, I cannot. Fortunately, you can see both photos, which I originally posted to Melvin’s profile on Ancestry, if you “google” “Melvin J. Hart” under “images”. I had only ever seen photos of him in his old age, and here he was, the Union solider in uniform--young, handsome, and with such expressive eyes. There was something terribly knowing and world-weary in his stare, despite his youth and the possible beginnings of a smile. Oh, and the wonderful family resemblance.

Melvin J. Hart, Civil War veteran, was born on October 29, 1842 in Pinckney, Lewis County, New York, the son of John Hart and Sally (a.k.a. Sarah) Wright Merriam Hart. He was the youngest of ten children. I will give their names and full birthdates, as I found them in a transcription of a family Bible page in Melvin’s Civil War pension file. This is likely to be of value to others researching this family, as vital records are hard to come by for this time period in Lewis County:

Record of Births, Family of John Hart.

Chloe – September 27, 1821
Aldula – February 15, 1823
Lovina – February 25, 1825
Alvira – March 27, 1827
Delilah – May 3, 1829
Joel – June 16, 1831
James – September 1, 1833
Phoebe – December 29, 1835
Hester – June 20, 1839
Melvin – October 29, 1842

Melvin’s grandfather, the Honorable Stephen Hart, had been one of the earliest settlers in the town of Pinckney in 1805, and had been a Member of the New York State Assembly in 1820 and 1821. As Stephen died in 1861, Melvin is likely to have grown up knowing his grandfather, referred to as “Old Squire Hart” by his neighbours. Melvin’s family was Methodist, and Melvin appears to have been a Methodist his whole life. The first time Melvin appears in a census, 1850, the family is farming in Hermon, St. Lawrence County, New York. Melvin is seven, attending school, and living with his parents and his siblings, Hester, Phoebe and James. Melvin cannot be found in the 1860 census, but there is a “Melvin Glazier” of the right age (seventeen) who is a “farmer” living with his sister Delilah, now Mrs. Daniel Glazier, and her family in Melvin’s parents’ neighbourhood back in Pinckney.

At the age of nineteen, on November 18, 1861, Melvin enlisted in Company F, the 94th New York Voluntary Infantry, the “Bell Rifles”, six months after the hostilities began in the Civil War. He was living in Pinckney at the time. His brother James was in the same regiment, but in Company G, and his brother Joel was in Company C, the 6th Infantry Regiment, Minnesota. His uncle Reuben Hart was with Melvin and James in the 94th, but was in Company H. Melvin was in the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1962 in Culpepper County, Virginia, and in the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 28, 1862, in Prince William County, Virginia.  Uncle Reuben is killed in this battle at the age of 46, leaving behind a wife and nine children, the youngest being three years old. Stephen Volentini Hart, Reuben’s son and Melvin’s cousin, died in 1864 from wounds inflicted during the Battle of the Wilderness.

Melvin is not wounded in this battle, but he becomes very ill with “dyspepsia”, which leaves him with lifelong disabling gastrointestinal disorders. He is discharged from the 94th New York Infantry on November 5, 1862, due to a “physical disability”. He is nursed back to health for several months by his sister Alvira and her husband, Rev. William S. Glazier, in back in Pinckney. They report that when he comes to them, he is “nothing but a skeleton”.

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