Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bovina in the Civil War - Those Who Served

I have been working on a database of all Bovina men who served in the Civil War. Creating a list is a challenge. In fact, it will be impossible to have a truly ‘definitive’ list. Right now, the list has 82 names. These include Bovina residents at the time of the war, soldiers from other towns buried in Bovina (such as brothers Thomas and James Elliott, who were from New Kingston), and soldiers who came from other towns but at some point lived in Bovina. I decided not to include those who simply enlisted in Bovina or were born in Bovina but left early in their lives.  For instance, I've included Samuel Bouton because he lived in Lake Delaware, though he was born in Roxbury and served in the war in a Pennsylvania regiment. Hiram Couse was from Otsego County but in 1865 was listed as boarding with William Dennis in Bovina, so he also is included. Robert Crawford, however, is not included.  Though born in Bovina, he was living in the Town of Middletown during and after the war.  Alexander Laidlaw (or Laidlow) enlisted in Bovina, but was from Andes and was included in the Andes census in 1865, so he is not on my list either.

The closest to being a definitive list comes from the 1865 New York State Census. That census flagged soldiers currently and formerly in service. A separate listing for each town was created of soldiers who had died in the war. Shirley Houck in the Delaware County Clerk’s office, along with Deb Lambrecht, has created a list of the soldiers from this census. The list of soldiers still in service in 1865 is on the Delaware County Genealogy website (, grouped by town. Unfortunately, I have found that the 1865 census is not a totally definitive source. Sometimes a soldier was missed.

Another source that was produced at around the same time is the Town and city registers of men who served in the Civil War. This was created at the end of the war by each town, with a set to stay in the town and a set to be sent to Albany. Not every town managed to create this listing. Bovina’s is among the missing. Town Clerk Michael Miller (my great great grandfather) was paid $24 to produce the register. It seems unlikely he would have been paid without producing it, but for some reason, both sets are missing. The registers that do exist are available at the New York State Archives. Another register from this same time period was created by the Adjutant General’s office and is also at the State Archives – Registers of officers and enlisted men mustered into federal military or naval service during the Civil War, 1861-1865. This has three sections – active soldiers, soldiers who mustered out and soldiers who died in the war.

Included in my list are all thirty Civil War veterans buried or memorialized in Bovina. Sinclair Burns, Thomas Elliott and James Oliver are the only casualties of the war to be actually buried there. Other soldiers who fell in the war, including Thomas’s brother, James are buried elsewhere, usually near where they fell or died.

As mentioned earlier, the Elliott brothers were not from Bovina but from New Kingston (and are listed as casualties of the war in the 1865 census for the Town of Middletown). I questioned an Elliott descendant as to why they were buried in Bovina. She noted that until New Kingston had its own Presbyterian church, the Elliotts went over the mountain to attend church in Bovina. Though there was a church in New Kingston by the time the two Elliott brothers perished in the war, the family already had a plot in the Bovina church cemetery.

James Oliver was from Delhi, and he has been proving to be somewhat elusive. He is not listed as a fatality in the 1865 census, but his headstone begs to differ, as do some other military records.   I continue to try to track down further information about him. 

James is the not the only conundrum. He shares a headstone with his brother Francis. In the current database of Bovina burials, Francis, who died in 1867, is included as a Civil War veteran. When I was unsuccessful in finding any record of his service, I began to wonder if the information in the database was wrong. Francis does appear on a list of soldiers drafted in 1863, but it is noted that he was ‘erroneously enrolled.’ He also appears on the 1862 and 1864 rolls of men liable for military duty – any male from 18 to 45 was on this list. In the 1865 NY Census for Delhi, Francis appears, but no mention is made of any military service. It appears he certainly was in Delhi in the fall of 1864, and not in military service, for he had to sign a document related to his late brother's estate in October. 

In looking at the headstone, I noted that while James has his regiment noted, no such notation appears for Francis. So I contacted Ed and Dick Davidson, who have documented all Bovina burials, to find out their source of information that says Francis was a veteran. It came from a 1920 inventory of the veterans buried in Bovina. Since the brothers share a stone, I wonder if the person doing the inventory got muddled and included both brothers on his list. An inventory of all burials in the cemetery taken four years earlier by Thomas Gordon, himself a Civil War veteran, does not include Francis as a Civil War soldier. I am going to be reviewing a couple of the sources mentioned above at the State Archives to see if Francis shows up. The Davidsons agree that if I find no evidence of his service the database will have to be corrected.

So those are just some of the challenges in developing this list. I will be posting this list (such as it is) on this blog in late March. And a project for 2012 will be to provide mini-biographies of most, if not all of the Bovina Civil War soldiers.

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