Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old News now has PDF images from a number of old newspapers. Yes, some of these would have been available on microfilm, but not with capability to search the text.

You can now find many articles that were lost to memory or some that were printed decades before you were born.

The Abilene Texas paper is one that they have about twenty years worth of issues. I found the death notices of my wife's great grandparents, Benjamin and Kate Longacre. Kate died in 1942 and Benjamin in 1951.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat

No, this is not an Olympic moment.

In researching the nephew of my great Grandfather I came across an interesting fact about his short military service. Robert Franklin Wilson was born in 1884 near Dade City, Florida. His father, Moses Wilson was the older brother of my great Grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wilson.

When World War I broke out Robert Wilson enlisted in the US Navy. Considering he grew up on a farm in rural Florida that was unusual but in his large extended family, several cousins also joined the Navy during WWI.

What was more unusual was the coincidence of the two ships he served aboard during his military career. In WWI many of the men who enlisted did so only for the duration of the war. Robert served from April 21, 1917 a couple weeks after the US declared war on Germany until November 11, 1918. November 11th was the day Germany surrendered and he was released from active duty that same day.

When he started his service he was assigned to the the USS Hartford. It was a Civil War era ship that by 1917 was used only for training. But in looking at it's history I found it was a ship that took a lead in the most important naval campaigns of the Civil War.

In fact the USS Hartford was the flagship of Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of New Orleans in 1862 and the Battle of Vicksburg the next year. These two Union victories put the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico in Union control and sealed the fate of the Confederates to eventual defeat.

In the subsequent battle of Mobile Bay, it was aboard the USS Hartford that Farragut gave his famous order "Damn the Torpedoes, Full speed ahead."

After his time aboard the ancient wooden Hartford, Robert Wilson was transferred to a brand new modern steel battleship, the USS Oklahoma. The Oklahoma served as an escort for convoys crossing the Atlantic during WWI. I don't know if Robert saw any action during the two plus months he was aboard the Oklahoma. It didn't have a particularly memorable WWI record. It's much better known for what happened during the next war.

The USS Oklahoma was assigned to Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941 and yes, the next day was moored in Battleship Row with it's guns stowed when Japanese planes struck. It was hit by multiple bombs and torpedoes and within a few minutes of the beginning of the infamous attack was upside down with her masts stuck in the bottom of the bay.

So in a short military career Robert Wilson served aboard two ships that represented the two extremes of US Naval history.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

POW later MIA

My great great grandfather was David Fulford of Carteret County North Carolina. He was born in 1832 so was of age to have served in the Civil War, but so far I haven't found proof of his service. I have a copy of a pardon he received from the Union Army who were occupying Beaufort, North Carolina at the time, so he must have served in some way in the CSA.

He had several brothers and two of them were taken prisoner and sent to POW camps.

Richard Whitehurst Fulford was a Captain in the North Carolina 5th Infantry when he was captured on May 5, 1862 near Williamsburg, Virginia. He was held prisoner at Fort McHenry, Maryland.

William Burgess Fulford, the youngest brother was serving in the North Carolina 2nd Infantry when he was taken prisoner on November 7, 1863 at Kelly's Ford, Virginia. He was held prisoner at Point Lookout, Maryland until the end of the war. He wrote this letter to David. I found it in the North Carolina Archives.

Letter addressed to
Mr. David W. Fulford
Beaufort, NC

Return address
Prisoner of War
Point Lookout, MD
November 10th, 1864

Dear Brother David:
I seat myself this morning to write you a few lines hoping they may come to hand in due time and find you and family enjoying good health. As far as health this leaves me well. David, I have written to Mother often since I have been in prison but have received but three letters from her. So I write you hoping to hear from you soon. If this reaches you give my love to all the family. David, I have been in prison twelve months today. I hope the time will soon come that I may be exchanged. Write to me as soon as you get this and send me some money. As I am not allowed to write but one page I will now close. R. Whitehurst is here and well.

Wm B. Fulford
Co I 4th Division

William moved to Florida in 1888 and filed for a Civil War pension in 1908 but I haven't located much about him from the end of the war until when he filed for a pension.

Was he married? Did he have children? Where did he live from 1865 until 1908? So far the answers to these questions have been elusive. I've searched for him several times without success.

He was on the 1910 census in Hillsborough County Florida, 70 years old, listed as single living in a boarding house and employed as a machinist for sewing machines. That and his small pension file are the only records of his life.