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Sibling Saturday: Happy Birthday, Abram F. Springsteen! Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Abram F. Springsteen
"The Hoosier Drummer Boy," Abram F. Springsteen, 15 Oct 1861
“The Hoosier Drummer Boy,” Abram F. Springsteen, 15 Oct 1861

Family stories become a part of one’s being if one listens closely. Growing up, I always heard the story of Abram Springsteen, “the youngest drummer boy of the Civil War.” Mary T. Helbling remembered going to the museum in Indianapolis, and said his portrait was there, with the same claim. She was just 14 and had gone to Indianapolis with her family for the funeral of  Abram’s sister, Anna Missouri Springsteen Beerbower. We always wondered what had happened to his drum, but the branches of the family had not kept in touch, and no one of our branch knew its disposition.

Fast forward many years- and a phone call to Edgar Helbling in his final years which amazingly produced a shoebox with newspaper clippings and obituaries that gave more information about Abram and confirmed his parentage, plus some clues for follow-up. (Major brick-wall breakthrough in those days before internet genealogy.) Many more years passed- sadly, too many, as by then Alzheimer’s had a death-grip on Mary’s usually sharp-for-details brain; she probably did not really understand my excited phone call about finding Abram’s descendants through Ancestry.com.

Today is the anniversary of Abram’s birth, and since this is a patriotic weekend, it is appropriate to tell his story. He too fought for our freedoms, and was an incredibly patriotic man throughout his life.

Abram F. Springsteen was born 5 July 1850 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, to Jefferson Springsteen and Anna Connor, the fourth child of their eight boys and girls. Jefferson Springsteen had lived in Indianapolis, Indiana when it was just a few houses back in 1835, before he moved and married in Brooklyn. The family moved to Indianapolis in 1852 when Abram was just 2 years old.By 1850, Indianapolis had grown to a city of about 8,000. There already was a significant Irish population in the city by then (Anna Connor was Irish), and Germans (Jefferson Springsteen’s heritage) began populating more heavily in mid-century, driving the population to over 18,000 by the time of the Civil War.

Jefferson Springsteen was an active Democrat and elected Town Marshall, so the children grew up around political discussions- he was serving in a local office while Benjamin Harrison, future President of the United States, was also serving, so probably knew him. Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States on March 4, 1861, but seven southern states had seceded after his election the previous November. On April 12, 1861, the first shots were heard at Fort Sumter, and four more southern states quickly became a part of the Confederate States of America. Lincoln requested troops but it took three months for Congress to call for 50,000 men to fight the rebels. Abram enlisted three months later, on 15 Oct 1861, in Co. A 25th Indiana Regiment as a drummer boy; he was only 11 years, 2 months old at the time. His parents consented to the enlistment as it was believed he would only be a member of the Home Guard, and his drumming would be beneficial to the cause.

When it became clear that his regiment would be sent off to fight in the south, his parents demanded that he be discharged, which was done 23 Dec 1861.

Just eight months later, when Abram was all of 12 years old, after beating the drum about the streets of Indianapolis while a regiment was being recruited, Abram re-enlisted 9 August 1862 into Co. I of the 63rd Indiana Regiment. He did have parental consent, perhaps because his father had run away to the circus when he was a young lad, and he thus understood the yearning of a young boy for the excitement of new places and war. His parents probably realized that they could not deter Abram from military service any longer.

Co. I of the 63rd Indiana Regiment moved south, with Abram alongside the column, drumming commands and encouragement to the troops day after difficult day. When drummer boys were not needed for signaling the troops, they were stretcher bearers, wandering among the fallen and trying to get the soldiers the medical care they required. Abram was captured with a wagon train at the battle of Spring Hill, Tennessee, 29 Nov 1864, but he escaped after dark as he was small enough to hide under a wagon and elude his captors. Family stories tell of how popular he was with his fellow soldiers, as his small size and swift feet helped him to sneak into farm areas such as chicken coops unnoticed, steal eggs and hide them in his drum, then return safely to his comrades with a feast. Company engagements included “Buzzard’s Roost”, Resaca, Burnt Hickory, Kennesaw Mountain, Altoona, Chattahoochie, Atlanta, Lost Mountain, Jonesboro, Cassville, Columbia, Franklin, Town Creek, Fort Fisher, and Willmington.

Abram’s diary and other documents claim that he was quite a wheeler-dealer while in camp with the other soldiers. He apparently had little trouble holding his own despite his age and size, for he was able to use his meager salary of $13 per month (if he indeed received a standard soldier’s pay) and parlay that into goods highly desirable to the troops, thereby making a good profit for himself.

Abram was lucky to survive the war. Of the 63rd Indiana, 3 officers and 53 enlisted men were killed, but another 2 officers and 130 enlisted men died from disease, for a total of 188 from the company. A total of 620,000 men died in the Civil War from both sides. It has been the deadliest war our country has ever experienced.

Abram was discharged 21 June 1865.  Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, and in May the final Confederate troops surrendered. The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution that had been passed by Congress on January 31st of that year was ratified on December 6, 1865, and slavery was abolished in all the United States. Our kin, little Abram Springsteen, helped to make that happen, offering to sacrifice his life in order that others could be free.

 

And the drum? The wonderful cousins I found through Ancestry.com have the drum- it has been handed down to the oldest male in each generation. It is not Abram’s original drum, as that was confiscated during one of his captures. This drum was given to him by his company, grateful for the little drummer boy who guided them through battle, helped them to medical care, and often provided them with food, necessities, and maybe even a laugh at his antics.

Abram Springsteen's Drum, taken c1960s?
Abram Springsteen’s Drum, taken c1960s?

 

[Abram’s life will be continued in my next posting.]

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family photographs, ephemera, bible.

2) Civil War Trust: http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/faq/

3) Want to read more about how the troops ate during the Civil War? Here is a quick look: Desecrated Vegetables: The Hardships of Civil War Eating. (http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/desecrated-vegetables-the-hardships-of-civil-war-eating.) See also Hard Tack and Coffee: Soldier’s Life in the Civil War, by John D. Billings, an accurate account of Union soldier life written in 1888 by a veteran of the war. The National Park Service has a good website too: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/civil_war_series/3/sec2.htm

4) Abram F. Springstein pension papers from National Archives (XC2631939)

5) 25th Indiana: http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unininf2.htm#25th

6) 63rd Indiana: http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unininf5.htm#63rd

7) The 63rd Indiana guarded Washington D.C. until August, 1862, when Abram enlisted. There is no Co. I in the above reference (#6) for this company, but the battles listed in the southern campaign are the same as those recounted by Abram in his account of his time in the war as well as in his pension records.

8) Some of his pension papers state he was in the 35th Indiana reg., but these are all later papers, c. 1915.

9) Other drummer boys were as young as Abram- see http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/drummer-boys-played-important-roles-in-the-civil-war-and-some-became-soldiers/2012/01/31/gIQA3cKzRR_story.html

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
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It’s July 4th- Do You Know Your Revolutionary War Ancestors?

 

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson working on the Declaration of Independence, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1900.
Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson working on the Declaration of Independence, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1900.

It was July 2, 1776 in hot Philadelphia, and a group of delegates to the Second Continental Congress had just committed a treasonous act- they had declared their thirteen American colonies as sovereign states, independent of Great Britain. That treasonous act included a unanimous vote for independence, using a document that had been drafted by a group of five, including Thomas Jefferson, the primary author.

The Assembly Room in Philadelphia's Independence Hall, where the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The Assembly Room in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Most of the delegates to the Continental Congress signed the document that same day, but it was not until July 4th that the remaining delegates approved the document that we now know as the Declaration of Independence. (Some historians believe it was not signed by all until August 2, 1776.)

Original US Declaration of Independence- note differences in wording from today's version.
Original US Declaration of Independence- note differences in wording from today’s version.

The Declaration was read to the public on July 8th, 1776, accompanied by a parade of the battalions participating in the Revolutionary War, which had already been going on for over a year. Gun salutes were punctuated by cheers from the crowds who believed in the revolution. (I assume Loyalists were not in attendance… at least, not for long.)

Pulling Down the Statue of King George III after the Declaration of Independence was read by George Washington to the troops and public in New York City. British gunboats sat in the harbor. By Johannes Adam Simon Oertel.
Pulling Down the Statue of King George III after the Declaration of Independence was read by George Washington to the troops and public in New York City. British gunboats sat in the harbor. Painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, ca. 1859.

John Adams, one of the instigators of revolution, wanted us to celebrate our independence on July 2nd. In a letter to his wife Abigail Adams, on July 3, 1776, he wrote:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

A large celebration did not occur until the first anniversary of the signing. In Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, fireworks, bonfires, 13-gun salutes from harbor ships, patriotic music, candles in the windows of houses, and church bells sang of our new country,  and its promise that:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

 

Tombstone of Heinrich Horn, Horn United Methodist Church Cemetery, Alum Bank, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
Tombstone of Heinrich Horn, Horn United Methodist Church Cemetery, Alum Bank, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

There are many Revolutionary War heroes in our family, and probably many more than we know. Wartime is particularly difficult when it takes place in ALL the areas that people live, as it did during the Revolution- few areas were spared from battles or troop movements. It was a brother vs. brother war as well, because so many of the colonists, including many of our ancestors, were native to England. Following are brief bits of info about three of our Revolutionary War heroes. More details about their lives will be found in upcoming posts.

Daniel-Hemphill (George A. Roberts) Family:

Capt. Audley Paul (1728-1802)- Born in Ireland, he served from 1754 in the French-Indian War through the close of the American Revolution. He was an Ensign in the Virginia Colonial Militia in 1758.

McMurray-Benjamin-Horn Family:

Jonathan Benjamin (1738-1841)- Private, received pension for his service from Licking County, Ohio.

Heinrich Horn (1758-1845)- Born in Germany, Heinrich has a very interesting story that will take a bit to tell in a future post. He did receive a Revolutionary War pension.

I do not know of any portraits of our own Revolutionary War ancestors- any who survived into the 1840s may have had their picture taken.

Time Magazine has a wonderful webpage, Faces of the American Revolution,  that includes some portraits of Revolutionary War soldiers. Additionally, Maureen Taylor, “The Photo Detective,” has written two books that include similar portraits and the stories of these heroes: “The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation” (Vol. 1) and “The Last Muster. Vol. 2  Faces of the American Revolution.” Her article “Ghosts of the Revolution”  about these 80+ year old soldiers was published in the DAR’s American Spirit magazine. She also had a Kickstarter campaign that raised money to make these books into a film, “Revolutionary Voices”: A Last Muster Film.

It is really amazing to see the faces of those who fought and endured so that the United States of America could be a free and democratic country. Two hundred and thirty-eight years later, today is a good day to celebrate, and remember that freedom is never free.

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Declaration_of_Independence. Accessed 7/4/14.

2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_(United_States). Accessed 7/4/14.

3) See details of the painting “Pulling Down the Statue of King George” at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Johannes_Adam_Simon_Oertel_Pulling_Down_the_Statue_of_King_George_III,_N.Y.C._ca._1859.jpg. There is a fair amount of ‘artistic license’ in this painting. Accessed 7/4/14.

4) Time Magazine: Faces of the American Revolution at http://lightbox.time.com/2013/07/03/faces-of-the-american-revolution/#1. Accessed 7/4/14.

5) Maureen Taylor’s website: http://www.maureentaylor.com. Her books are available in bookstores as well.

6) “Ghosts of the Revolution”: http://www.maureentaylor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ghosts_of_the_revolution.pdf

 

 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Mystery Monday-Helbling or Springsteen Woman and Child

Unknown woman and child tintype from Helbling and Springstein picture collection
Unknown woman and child tintype from Helbling and Springstein picture collection.

This beautiful image was in with photos of the Helbling and Springsteen family. Looking at other images we have, I think this may be Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling, with one of her children. Facial features are similar, and note the size of her hands in both pictures- very large.  She may even be wearing the same earrings! (Some enhancement in Photoshop may be required for further investigation.)

Daguerreotypes were widely available from the early 1840s to the late 1850s. Ambrotypes first came into use in the US in the early 1850s and lasted until the 1860s, when tintypes became more popular and cost effective.

Mary Theresa Knipshield’s first child was born in 1837, her last in 1862.

Follow along with my posts on the Helbling Family Home and School this week to see another image of Mary that is positively identified. What do you think?

Stories- A Family Legacy, Part 2

Edith Roberts- Declamatory Contest. Prairie City News, Prairie City, Jasper Co., Iowa, shortly after 2 Feb 1917. (from a clipping without date)
Edith Roberts- Declamatory Contest. Prairie City News, Prairie City, Jasper Co., Iowa, shortly after 2 Feb 1917. (From a clipping without date)

Telling the family stories is a wonderful legacy to pass on to your children.

But I can’t find ANYTHING about my ancestor ANYWHERE…

Don’t know much about the actual stories of the lives of your ancestors? There are many resources available, both online and at specific places that can help you piece together a life and/or a family. If you are not lucky enough to have many family stories, you can learn more about your ancestors to help put their lives in context.

Newspapers

Newspapers are a great resource for learning the stories of ancestors, or the places and times in which they lived. Newspapers of 50+ years ago included who was visiting where, long or one-line obituaries, detailed political and voter information, etc. The obituary of Jefferson Springsteen (1820-1909) tells of him running away to join the circus as a boy- how could he then be upset when his son Abram Springsteen ran away to join the Union Army as a drummer boy at age 12? There is a story there… A short note about Miss Edith Roberts (1899-1982) taking first place in the Declamatory Contest as well as “the Dramatic’ is on the same page as the notice of  the “Death of Grandma Roberts” (her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Murrell Roberts, 1835-1917). What mixed emotions Edith must have felt that day! Such information from newspapers allows us to realize and then understand the challenges and triumphs of those who have gone before, and help us tell the stories of our ancestor’s lives.

"Death of Grandma Roberts"- Elizabeth Ann Murrell Roberts. Prairie City News, Prairie City, Jasper Co., Iowa. Undated newspaper clipping but Elizabeth died 02 Feb 1917.
“Death of Grandma Roberts”- Elizabeth Ann Murrell Roberts. Prairie City News, Prairie City, Jasper Co., Iowa. Undated newspaper clipping but Elizabeth died 02 Feb 1917.

Genealogy Bank is my favorite newspaper website for ease of use and breadth of papers held, though it is a for-pay website. Ancestry.com also has newspapers, as do a few other for-pay websites. Some favorite free websites are chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc for California newspapers, and http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html for New York state and other newspapers, postcards, etc.

If you can’t find articles about your own family, read through the headlines, ads, and social columns of the newspaper from where they lived and during that time period- it will help to put your ancestors into the context of their times.

Books

There are many books that can be found in the history section of the bookstore or library that can help you to piece together more information about your ancestor’s probable daily life. (Jane Austen’s England by Roy Adkins is on my list to read- it tells about everyday life in the late 18th and early 19th century England.) Used or out-of-print books may be found at abebooks.com, alibris.com, or a local used bookseller can do a search for you. Many other family or social history sources can be found on Google Books (books.google.com), such as county histories. Although your ancestor may not have had the money or inclination to buy a writeup in a county history (AKA “Mug Books” since they sometimes required a payment to be included), just reading about the area in the first part of the history can give an idea of the topography, religion, economics, goods and services provided, social groups, etc. Google Books may give you a snippet of information from a book so that you can determine if you would like to buy it, or it may provide an ebook for free to download. The Internet Archive (https://archive.org) has millions of pages of books, videos, etc. available for free. (Sadly, some of them are OCR’d images and may be hard to read, but may still be useful.) They also offer “The  Way Back Machine” to help you find old web pages from now-defunct websites. Another good free online book source is hathitrust.org.

WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org) is a great place to find a book, and then your library may be able to get it on interlibrary loan for you if it can’t be found locally. College libraries that include manuscript or special collections and dissertations may provide wonderful information. Some may be dry and/or scholarly, but you may be able to find information that can help you enhance the date and place information you already know about your family.

Here are some social history questions to ask, and research, about your ancestor’s time, place, and life:

What events were going on locally, nationally?

What was the economy like? Boom time or bust, or just a long struggle like in the 1890s?

What were prevailing religious views?

What were political leanings and issues of those in the area where your ancestor lived?

What provided income to your ancestor, and how common was that occupation?

Some of the answers can help provide family stories. We inherited some strange tools- they were very old and it was hard to tell what they were used for. They belonged to descendants of George Lee (1821-aft 1880) who lived in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, England, which was a large shoe-making center. George and his sons all came to America, and at least one son, Josiah, was a shoemaker. With the knowledge that shoemaking was important in their hometown in England, and then the US Federal Census that listed shoemaking as an occupation for Josiah, some online research for shoemaking tools helped us identify the purpose of the artifacts. The tools we have were probably Josiah’s, and now we can add shoemakers to the family stories.

When telling your family stories, whether in print, electronic form, or oral stories, it is important to ALWAYS differentiate general facts from those known specifically about your family. Also, document sources with proper citations, so that you or others may revisit those sources to verify or  disprove ideas and ‘facts.’

 

Adding social history to your research can give a deeper understanding of the lives of our ancestors, and enrich the family stories we leave as a legacy to our descendants.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Newspaper clippings are from the Prairie City News, around 02 feb 1917.

2) I have no affiliation with any of the websites listed, and do not receive any benefits from them financially or in product. (FTC Disclosure.)

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2013 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Tombstone Tuesday: Laura May (Longfellow) Springsteen

Laura May (Longfellow) Springsteen- Headstone, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Posted with permission of photographer.
Laura May (Longfellow) Springsteen- Headstone, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Posted with permission of photographer.

Laura May Longfellow was born about 1853 in Ohio to Jane (maiden name unknown, b. 1831) and George W. Longfellow (1817-1893). The family is found in the US Federal Censuses in Kankakee, Illinois in 1860, and in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1870. In both censuses, her father is listed as a Hotel Keeper and her mother a Landlady.

Laura married Abram Furman Springsteen (1850-1930, and a Civil War Veteran) on 11 Jan 1872 in Huntington Co., Indiana; the Rev. C.M. Cain officiated. Laura was 19, Abram 21.

Their daughter Laura Grace Alien Longfellow was born on 20 Mar 1873 in Indianapolis. Laura died just 24 days after giving birth, and their daughter Laura was raised by her paternal grandparents,  Jefferson Springsteen (1820-1909) and Anna Conner (1824-1887). Sadly, little Laura died young, at the age of 12 years.

 

Laura May (Longfellow) Springsteen- Headstone. Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Posted with permission of photographer.
Laura May (Longfellow) Springsteen- Headstone. Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. Posted with permission of photographer.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) 1860 US Federal Census: Source Citation- Year: 1860; Census Place: Kankakee, Kankakee, Illinois; Roll: M653_192; Page: 17; Image: 21; Family History Library Film: 803192. Accessed on Ancestry.com 12/3/13.

2) 1870 US Federal Census- Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Indianapolis Ward 7 (2nd Enum), Marion, Indiana; Roll: M593_339; Page: 440B; Image: 314; Family History Library Film: 545838. Accessed on Ancestry.com 12/3/13.

3) Springsteen Family Bible record of births, marriage, and deaths.

4) Obituary of Laura May Springsteen (daughter) published 30 Mar 1885 in the Indianapolis News- have just the clipping.

5) See also Find A Grave Memorials, where some of this information is also published:

Abram F. Springsteen: Find A Grave Memorial# 3755016

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3755016

Laura May (Longfellow) Springsteen: Find A Grave Memorial# 27892748

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27892748

Laura Grace Springsteen: Find A Grave Memorial# 27909730

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27909730

 

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Copyright 2013 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.