It was a visit to Gettysburg in March 2012 which launched my intense interest in family history and genealogical research. I wanted to know: did any of my ancestors fight in that bloody battle? Was I walking over the same ground on which a forefather of mine went into battle? Did he survive? Not long into my research, I found that, indeed, I am a descendant of several Union soldiers. Most were soldiers; one was a sailor. Most survived the war; some were killed in battle. And one was taken prisoner. This is the story of a young man from a rural farm community in Western New York State, a father of two boys when he signed up as a volunteer, who marched off to fight for the Union in the fall of 1862.
Pvt. Buel Bishop was born in Cattaraugus County, NY, in 1835 to Martin and Zylpha Bishop. Buel grew up on a farm with his two brothers and four sisters. According to the 1850 Federal Census, Martin Bishop owned 64 acres of land (15 acres improved, 49 acres unimproved) with a cash value of $384. He had 1 milch cow and 2 working oxen with a combined estimated value of $65. Produce from the farm in August 1850 included 60 bushels of Indian corn and 250 lbs. of maple sugar. On hand that month was $7 worth of slaughtered animals. At 15, we can imagine Buel being put to work each day helping his father and older brother (Roswell) maintain the farm to provide for the family.
At age 24, Buel married Lucina Ingols on Jan. 16, 1859. The Rev. Joseph Whitley, a Methodist Clergyman, performed the ceremony. Lucina gave birth to three children: Manfred (b. 1860), David (b. 1862) and DeEtta (b. 1863). Buel and Lucina should have been enumerated on the 1860 Census, but despite numerous hours searching I have not located them.
Buel was mustered into the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, Company B, in Jamestown on September 24-26, 1862. (Website of the regimental historian.) The regiment bade farewell to family and friends and departed Jamestown by train on September 29, 1862, heading for Washington D.C., where they arrived on October 2, 1862.
Buel was captured at Gettysburg on the first day of the Battle: July 1, 1863. The prisoners were sent off to Belle Island and later Andersonville, where Buel died in Feb. 1864. It is likely that he lies in the Richmond National Cemetery.
The facts stated above were discovered in the Civil War Pension File submitted by Buel’s widow, Lucina, which I obtained through the National Archives.
Buel is mentioned twice in the book, War’s Relentless Hand: Twelve Tales of Civil War Soldiers by Mark H. Dunkelman. Chapter 7 of the book recounts the war experiences of Pvt. William (Bill) Hawkins, also of Company B. His horrific tale of that fateful day on the field of battle in Gettysburg, his capture, and subsequent imprisonment, suffering and survival of the notorious Andersonville prison, provides us with insight into what our forefather, Buel, underwent before finally succumbing to death. Below are the passages in which Buel is recalled by Pvt. Hawkins, as told by Dunkleman:
“Every now and then Bill enjoyed a special triumph over a dim-witted guard. One day, without telling his comrades, he took a poorly counterfeited two-dollar bill from his squad’s kitty and bought a plug of tobacco from an older Reb guard, receiving an authentic dollar greenback in change to boot. On returning to his tent, Bill asked the boys to find the phony deuce. Alansing Wyant, Private Buel Bishop of Company B, and the other men searched in vain for the missing bill. Hawkins then revealed the tobacco and the greenback and told his story. The men were overjoyed, Bill noted with pleasure, and they divided the tobacco evenly.” ~ p. 119
“Malnourished, poorly clad, haphazardly sheltered, overcrowded, filthy, vermin-ridden, wallowing in their own waste, the prisoners were ravaged by chronic diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, smallpox, and pneumonia … For a long time the sickest prisoners were taken out of the pen, loaded aboard an old scow, and ferried across the James [River] to hospitals in Richmond, where most of them died. Bill helped carry several of his comrades to the scow, among them Alansing Wyant and Buel Bishop. Both of them died in the city.” ~ p. 120
An amazing tidbit of information is that Buel’s youngest child, DeEtta, was born July 13, 1863. This was just days after Buel’s capture at Gettysburg. Based on human gestation period, DeEtta must have been conceived in the final, if not very last day, before Buel left Jamestown for Washington. Thus, because of perhaps one final fling with his wife before heading off to the war, and by sheer chance, Lucina conceives DeEtta … my 2nd great grandmother, making it a minor miracle that I’m here at all!