[APG Public List] Civil War question

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Sun Jan 24 09:12:49 MST 2010

Judy wrote:
>To any Civil War expert:
>How common would it have been for a man in his mid to late 60s to have
served in a Union Cavalry unit during the Civil War?  I am editing an 1839
letter for publication trying to ID the individuals mentioned.  It's from a
wife to her husband.  I traced the couple on the census up to 1860 in
Steuben Co., Indiana.  Then, I found a man by the same name serving in an
Indiana Cavalry unit and dying in the South in 1865.  No mention of his age,
but he enlisted in Steuben Co.  Problem is, this guy would have been nearly
70.  I thought perhaps the soldier was someone from a younger generation, a
nephew or son, but I'm not finding anyone else by that name.  Plus, there is
a pension file that lists a widow with the same first name as the wife.  I
don't have the actual pension record, so I don't know if her maiden name
matches.  But the names are unusual enough that it would be too much of a
I'm no "Civil War expert," but CW service at an "advanced" age is something
I've encountered a number of times. If you were dealing with infantry
service, I would expect the odds to be very, very slim that this might be
the same man. (As an example, a man who enlisted in an Alexandria infantry
unit at the proved age of 55 was sent home after a couple of weeks because
of "advanced age.")  For a cavalry unit, I've seen ages in the early
sixties. I cannot recall an instance for a man in his 'mid-to-late 60s' but
would not rule it out if I were faced with all the other evidence you've
assembled. I would not consider it a valid conclusion without mounting as
strong a case as possible based on the GPS-which you may or may not already
be close to doing. Certainly, as long as the pension record goes unexamined,
any conclusion would be premature. But if, perhaps, a client is dubious
about spending what it would take to order the record, you're on solid
ground in pressing the point.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
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