I’m headed to Alabama on June 13th for a week-long class on Military Records. The class is one of the offerings of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University, a premier genealogical institute. One of my (self-assigned) preparation tasks is to gather up my clues on ancestral military service so that I have a menu of real-life inquiries to pursue during my week of immersion.
I had a request to indicate (my) relationship to the ancestors below. That information appears in brackets. And I’ve posted a picture of John Kennedy “Jack” Gates, cousin and combat photographer. It’s a unique shot that includes headline news. Thank you, Susan!
Here is what I have (so far) on direct ancestors, working forward from the 1700s:
Alexander Stephens (1726-1813) [4th great grandfather – Dad’s paternal line], immigrant from Scotland, served in the French and Indian War in the 1750s, as part of Colonel Clapham’s 3rd Battalion, and in the 1780s as a private in the 4th Company, 5th Battalion Cumberland County Associators Pennsylvania. (1) There are sources of every type available on his colorful life – from The Pennsylvania Archives to compiled genealogies to manuscript collections. It is under his name that many of our early 20th century ancestors joined lineage societies.
Philip Ruffner (1738-1784) [5th great grandfather] served in Northampton County (PA) Militia in 1780 (First Company, 3rd Battalion, Private, 6th Class) and 1783 (Sixth Battalion, Private 2nd Class). (2)
Edward Haney Ruffner (1820-1908) [2nd great grandfather] mustered into service in Company A of the 206th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry as a private on 26 August 1864. He became ill with ague (malaria) while working on the fortifications on Chaffin’s Bluff on the James River near Richmond. After a time in the hospital, he returned to his unit; he was discharged as a corporal on 26 June 1865. (3)
James Alexander Chapman Ruffner (1845-1928) [great grandfather] enrolled in the service on 1 July 1863 as a private in Company A 1st Battalion Pennsylvania Cavalry and was discharged on 26 December 1863. (4) He is pictured below as part of a group (he’s at the far left) in Gettysburg in 1915. (5) I also have an oversize enlargement of just his image from this picture with the background completely air-brushed — and all before Photo Shop!
George Washington Walling (1828-1916) [2nd great grandfather, Mom’s maternal line] served as a private in Company C, 33rd Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army, a unit called Duff’s Partisan’s Rangers. (6) According to his affidavit supporting the pension application of his brother’s widow, he and John E. Walling served in the same company, probably enlisting on the same day, 14 September 1862. (7)
Jesse G. Williams (1837-1864) [2nd great grandfather, Mom’s paternal line] according to family legend, was killed October 25, 1864 at what is “believed to be the Battle of Little Blue River Missouri in the War Between the States.” (8) The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database places a Jesse G. Williams in the 1st Regiment of Monroe’s Arkansas Cavalry. (9) Considered a minor win for the Confederacy, the extent of casualties at Battle of Little Blue River is unknown. (10)
Here’s Jesse C. Williams (1895-1978) [maternal grandfather], pictured (courtesy of Jerry L. Williams) on his day of discharge in April of 1919 in Fort Worth, Texas. Jess was with 132nd Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. (11) The Armistice was signed before the unit entered combat. (12)
James S. Ruffner (1916-2008) served for 37 months during World War II in a wide variety of posts, the last as Court Provost overseeing trials of civilians in occupied Korea. (13) My siblings won’t be surprised to learn that, among his papers, I discovered a thick file documenting his service – including his draft card, orders, policies, equipment checklists and more. I’ve included just one item below of family interest. Plenty of material for a dedicated post! Thanks, Dad!
Gerard B. Odell (1925-1994) [father-in-law] served as a Navy doctor in the mid 1950s. According to his sister, he railed against the 4-F status assigned to him during WWII due to an early bout with polio; he very much wanted to serve alongside his brothers. Once he graduated from medical school, though, he was suddenly declared 1-A. (14) The whole family did a tour of duty on Guam. (15)
Other collateral ancestral (but uniquely interesting!) records to pursue:
John (Jack) Kennedy Gates (1918-2001), (picture of courtesy of Susan Gates Payerchin/SGP), Dad’s cousin, served as a combat photographer during Word War II. (16)
Rose Offut (1894-1963) (picture courtesy of SGP), Dad’s aunt, was an alumnae of the Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed General Hospital. (17) The nurses served in military settings but retained civilian status. (18)
And, finally, from my collection of mystery pictures, I have this portrait of a young Confederate soldier taken in the H. B. Hillyer Art Rooms in Austin Texas. Maybe the uniform has more clues than I can see at this moment…..
(1) Bell, Raymond Martin and Robert Grier Stephens. Alexander Stephens 1727-1814: Scotland-Pennsylvania-Georgia; Grandfather of Alexander Hamilton Stephens. Washington, Pa.: p.p., 1956. DAR Library, Washington, D.C. Membership Application, Martha May Ruffner, National No. 132707, on Alexander Stephens (1726-1813, Georgia), approved 29 May 1917; National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D. C.
(2)) Sweinberger, Jane S. Ruffners of Pennsylvania and Collateral Lines, 1743-1978. San Diego: Axis Printing Company,1979, 34. This is a well-documented comprehensive work; for this particular military information, Sweinberger cites the Pennsylvania Archives, Series V, Volume VIII.
(3) Edward H. Ruffner (Company A, 206th Regiment, Pa. Inf., Civil War ) invalid pension application no. 743,531, certificate no. 520,905, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
(4) James A. C. Ruffner (Company A, 1st Batt., Pa. Cav., Civil War) invalid pension application no. 834,912, certificate no. 594,237, widow’s application no.1,637.050, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
(5) James A. C. Ruffner, Sr. photograph, 1915, privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [address for private use], Baltimore, Maryland. The picture was inscribed on the back by Elizabeth W. Ruffner, wife of the grandson of Ruffner; “Taken at Gettysburg, J.A.C Ruffner Sr. (figure far left)”. The date is inscribed on the front of the single figure image described in the text, also privately held by Malissa Ruffner.
(6) National Park Service. “Civil War Soldiers and Sailor System ” database, NPS.gov (http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/soldiers.cfm : accessed 31 May 2010), search terms “G. W. Walling,” “Confederacy,” “Texas”.
(7) Widow’s Pension Claim, 21 August 1909, application no.16974, Isabella Y. Walling, widow of John E. Walling, Company C. 33rd Texas Cavalry; Confederate Pension Files, Texas State Library and Archives.
(8) Melvin McBride, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina [street address for private use] to Elizabeth Ruffner, letter, undated, Williams Research Files; privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [street address for private use,] Baltimore, Maryland.
(9) National Park Service. “Civil War Soldiers and Sailor System ” database, NPS.gov (http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/soldiers.cfm: accessed 31 May 2010), search terms “Jesse G. Williams,” “Confederacy,” “Arkansas”.
(10) National Park Service – The American Battlefield Protection Program. CWSAC Battle Summaries (http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/mo024.htm : accessed 31 May 2010), “Little Blue River.”
(11) Jesse C. Williams photograph, April 1919; digital image, privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [address for private use], Baltimore, Maryland; original privately held by Jerry L. Williams, [address for private use], El Paso, Texas. Jesse C. Williams gave the original to his son, Jerry, and inscribed his unit information and the date on the back. In 2010, Williams lent the original to his niece, Ruffner, for scanning. “Jesse C. Williams – Democratic Candidate for [San Juan] County [New Mexico] Tax Assessor”, campaign broadside ; privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [address for private use], Baltimore, Maryland.
(12) “132nd Field Artillery Regiment Lineage and Honors,” Texas Military Forces Museum (http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/36division/archives/132/132lin.htm : accessed 31 May 2010).
(13) “Ruffner, James S. 01 048 951.” Military Service Records, 1940-1946; privately held, 2010, by Malissa Ruffner, [Address for Private Use,] Baltimore, Maryland, who found the folder in the effects of her father, James S. Ruffner.
(14) Yvonne Odell McIlvravy, Lansing, Michigan [(e-address for private use),] to Malissa Ruffner, e-mail, 26 April 2010, “a couple of more notes,” Personal Research Folder, Odell Research Files; privately held by Ruffner [(e-address), & street address for private use], Baltimore, Maryland.
(15) Dr. Gerard B Odell, wife Louise Mitchell Odell, and sons Gerard, Timothy and John, September 1956, departure from Guam, privately held by Malissa Ruffner, [address for private use], Baltimore, Maryland.
(16) “Personals,” The Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pa.) 12 February 1945, p. 3, col. 2; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 March 2010).
(17) Army School of Nursing Class of 1925. The Annual (1925), 117. Digital images. National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, available at Archive.org (http://www.archive.org : accessed 30 May 2010).
(18) U.S. Army Medical Department – Office of Medical History. “History of the Army School of Nursing,” U.S. Army Medical Department – Office of Medical History (http://history.amedd.army.mil/ancwebsite/uniformpres_files/history.html : accessed 30 May 2010).