, Muskogee, OK


March 29, 2014

Library offers help with Civil War genealogy

Oklahoma historical and genealogical Civil War research can be a challenge as the nation marks the 150th anniversary of this catastrophic event. But many resources are available from your own home computer thanks to the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Library and the Archives of Oklahoma.

Genealogy researchers have something new to check out at the Oklahoma Archives. An index to Oklahoma Confederate Pension applications has been available for some time, but copies of the applications were only available from institutions who owned the microfilm or by ordering from the Oklahoma Archives. The Archives website now includes images of the index cards for the applications. These contain quite a bit of information within themselves such as name, unit, application date and even date of death.

But the even better news is that the applications themselves and correspondence will soon be available online. Those applications are a treasure chest of information with detailed service information, places of residence, family members, etc. And widows could apply if the husband was deceased.

Since Confederate pensions were granted only by the states, a veteran had to reapply if they moved from one state to another. For example, a veteran who served in Tennessee moved to Texas where he spent much of his adult life and then moved to Oklahoma to be with children. Although he served in a Tennessee unit, as an older citizen of Texas, he or his widow could apply in Texas. But when he moved to Oklahoma, he would have to apply again for a pension from the state of Oklahoma. So there may be more than one pension application. Then after he died, his widow might apply which furnishes yet more information.

But if you don't want to wait for the images, the Genealogy and Local History Department at Muskogee Public Library has microfilm of the applications in its collection. The index to names of applications was published in book form many years ago and is also available. Be sure to check for names of other relatives, both blood and in-laws. Relatives often served together during the conflict, leading to the devastation of entire families in one battle.

Veterans homes were established after the war as the Civil War veterans aged with their injuries and physical problems brought on by disease and poor nutrition. Shortly after statehood, Oklahoma passed funds to build a Confederate Home at Ardmore. It was heralded as a fine example for such a facility. Many who resided there are buried in a section of Rose Hill Cemetery just south of the home which still stands as a veterans center.

Several markers have been placed on the grounds of the center. The Sons of the Confederacy recently erected a large marker at the cemetery in honor of those buried there.

A home for Union veterans was established in Oklahoma City. Even most Southern states also had Union Veteran homes.

Some records exist for both facilities, as well as photographs. These are available at the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Library. Photographs can be viewed of both facilities on the OHS website. Its outstanding photography collection contains thousands of photographs.

Veterans reunions and groups were very popular in the new state of Oklahoma. Some were joint gatherings for both Union and Confederate veterans. Photographs abound for these reunions and some are available for viewing in the OHS photography collection. Newspapers carried stories of these events. The OHS newspaper collection is one of the outstanding resources in the nation, including newspapers from early day Oklahoma to the present and from all over the state. The research collection also contains many publications relating to the Civil War.

A series of stories appearing in the Muskogee Phoenix the year after statehood reported on the first Oklahoma state meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group for union veterans. Formerly, meetings were for Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory. Two other conventions were in Muskogee at the same time and 10,000 to 15,000 visitors were expected to the Queen City.

At the conclusion of the event which lasted several days, Confederate veterans were invited to join the group and were greeted with applause as they entered the venue, a little over 40 years after the conclusion of the war. A detailed story of the event appeared on the front page of the paper with the head “Confederate and Federal Veterans vie in Expression of Mutual Regard, Enmity Forgotten.” It was accompanied by a poem by Florence Hammersly, “Blue or Gray?” It ended with the lines, “So let us meet, our colors blend, It is so near life's closing day, What matters soon who wore the Blue, Or who has worn the Gray?”

Nancy Calhoun is a genealogist and local historian at the Muskogee Public Library. Reach her at (918) 682-6657 ext. 257.

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