Two years ago, I began to write a book on my dad's family history. One of the chapters deals with my Civil War ancestors. Moses Steen was married to my great, great grandfather, John M. Carder's sister, Susan. John was married to Moses's sister, Elizabeth. Both Susan and Elizabeth died young. A few years later, the widowed husbands remarried. John married Eliza Jane Dobbins, who was my great, great grandmother and Moses married her sister, Mary.
In 1861, early in the Civil War, John, Moses, and their brothers-in-law enlisted. John, Moses, and brother-in-law, Nelson Dobbins enlisted in Co. I, 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Moses took sick at the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh). On June 4, 1862, he was taken to Clarksville, Tennessee and transported to the Third Street Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he died on June 5th. The Third Street Hospital is now the Good Samaritan Hospital.
The PBS show told that the general belief was that the War would only last about 3 months so the government didn't set up any type of system to identify dead soldiers or notify their families until later in the War. Many men died unidentified and some families never learned whether their sons or husbands died or just chose not to return home. A lot of soldiers got tattoos or kept tintypes of their families, diaries, or something on themselves that could identify them if they died. Many of them asked their comrades to contact their families if they should perish and tell them of the circumstances of their death.
Because there was no system in place to notify families, newspapers began to publish lists of the dead and missing. People would flock to wait for the latest list to be available hoping that their loved ones were not on it. After the Civil War, the government implemented the use of dog tags to identify dead soldiers and notify their families in future wars.
In my book, I've tried to write about what it must have been like for Mary and her children when Moses died. Mary was one of the lucky ones. Not lucky because her husband died, but lucky, in the sense that she knew. How she learned of his death or whether she was able to reach Cincinnati before he passed away is not known. But she knew. She had his body brought home and buried in Smith Cemetery in Christiansburg, Champaign County, Ohio, where they lived. Many years later, in 1913, she would be laid to rest next to him. Mary's brother, William owned the local sawmill and coffins for local funerals were made there. I don't know whether William went and brought Moses home for burial, but I do know through the pension file for his children that workers at the sawmill made his coffin.
After watching this show and having a better understanding of what the aspect of death during the Civil War was like for the soldiers and their families, I plan to do some thinking and rewrite that section of my book-in-progress.
If you missed the show, PBS will probably rerun it and you'll have the opportunity to see it. PBS also archives many of their programs on their website and you can watch many PBS specials on video directly from their website. Perhaps, they will put this one on there. Catch it is you can.