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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Family in the Civil War, Part Six: William Henry Harrison Reck

This is the sixth in a series on my Civil War ancestors.

William Henry Harrison Reck, 69th Regiment Ohio Infanty, Company D and 19th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps Company G

Harrison Reck began an application for pension in 1891. He claimed he was disabled by rheumatism, a shoulder injury, and weak eyes. His physical exam noted he was 5'7" and weighed 138 lbs. at age 55. The rheumatism and weak eyes, he claimed, began during his time in service and increased in severity over time. In fact, by today's standards, Harrison was legally blind. From the doctor's description, this is probably not due to any injury he received but rather progressive myopia. The surgeon's report in 1901 noted Harrison used a cane because his vision was so poor.

The shoulder injury is documented carefully. Harrison was riding a horse on September 3rd, 1889, and was thrown, dislocating his shoulder. Though this had nothing to do with his service, it was considered in his pension application.

Squire Hathaway, a close neighbor of the Recks, testified: "I know that said claimant has been suffering severely with Rheumatism, at various times he would be confined to his house from 2 to 3 & some times 4 weeks at a time."

John Clapper, a young carpenter, had this to say: "[I] have worked on buildings in his immediate neighborhood & worked as a carpenter on the building of a of which said Wm. H. Reck was serving as Building Committee...& know that he was suffering from what he said was Rheumatism to such an extent that at times when we would want directions I would have to go and see him as he was unable to come out although the building was in less distance than 1/4 of a mile from his house."

I admire that even though he was nearly blind and so crippled by back pain he couldn't get out of bed at times, Harrison Reck continued to serve on committees and oversee building projects. He wanted to stay busy and connected to his community.

William Harrison and Catharine (Murphy) Reck

Harrison and Catharine Reck had seven children. They lost their son Charles in an accident in 1893. They, along with four of their adult children--David, John, Martha, and Perry, made a big move to California sometime in the early 1900s. My great-grandmother Jennie and her sister Angie stayed behind in the midwest.

I will leave you with some excerpts from a letter Catharine wrote to her daughter Jennie, my great-grandmother back in Indiana after the death of Harrison. The letter is dated December 14, 1909, a month after Harrison's death.

"Dear Daughter Jennie, Marion and Family, I will write you a few lines to let you know how we are. Martha and I are keeping house together. I have about 50 chickens young and old together. Martha is packing lemons today and expects to pack oranges after the first of January. We both have pretty good health. We have nice weather now, after the rain everything is green and seems like summer, or spring rather where the grass starts to grow, just before the trees put out their blossoms. Next month the wild flowers will be blooming.

"I want to tell you more about Pap’s sickness and death. I don’t know how much Martha told you. I didn’t think she would tell you all. He suffered awfully for a year, first one thing and another getting wrong with him. As soon as one disease let up, he was stricken with some else. He had that cough only worse like he always had. His heart was awful weak. He had dropsy in his legs and it left them and went to his stomach a couple of weeks before he died. He had between 2-3 gallons of water in his stomach. He had to take a teaspoon of cream of tartar and 2 of salts three times a day. Then he had brights disease, his kidneys would not work anymore. He got out of bed on Saturday after laying up for nearly a month. He sat out on the front porch. Then he stayed up and was able to walk outside. 

"But on Wednesday night he got to feeling bad about 10 o’clock and again morning his left side was paralyzed and had a hemorrhage in the right side of his head. He kept on getting paralyzed a little at a time till Friday morning he could not move anywhere. He would not talk nor open his eyes. He only coughed and strangled and choked. He could not take a drop of water from Friday till Sunday morning about 10 o’clock when he died. He went just like blowing out a candle. He looked so nice after suffering so hard. He had a lovely smile on his face. He took sacrament about 2 weeks before he died and told the preacher he was ready to go. He wanted to see you so bad. One night when he realized he was never to get well again, he cried like a child and said he wanted to see you and Angie once more. But you can see him again in a better world. He has passed through what we all have to do sooner or later. He is resting in a nice spot in Olivewood Cemetery. I waited on him day and night when he needed attention and he didn’t seem to want anyone else. But toward the last, John & Dave & Perry stayed constantly by his side. John seemed to stand it the best, and done more about him, he was a helpless as a child...

"I send you my love and best wishes to all. From your loving mother, Catherine Reck"

I love that line, "He went just like blowing out a candle." My heart breaks for the father and daughters that didn't get to see each other at the end, but Harrision was surrounded by his other four children and wife, caring for him until the last.

Harrison and Catharine are buried in Olivewood Cemetery in Riverside, California. I was able to locate their graves while living in nearby San Bernardino in the early 1990s.

William and Catharine Reck graves, Olivewood Cemetery, Riverside, California

This ends my direct ancestors' involvement in the Civil War. I may do posts on brothers and sons of my ancestors who also fought, at a later time. Thank you for reading along.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Family in the Civil War, Part Five: William Henry Harrison Reck

This is the fifth in a series on my Civil War ancestors.

William Henry Harrison Reck, 69th Regiment Ohio Infanty, Company D and 19th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps Company G

William H. Reck, one of my great-great grandfathers on my dad's side, was born in Darke County, Ohio on January 29, 1837. He was the son of Samuel Reck and Mary Ann McCune. His father had been married previously, though little is known of that marriage. When William was 10, his mother died at the age of 30, having borne four children. Samuel remarried seven months later to Margaret Alice Miller, who was only 11 years older than her stepson William. Samuel and Margaret also had four children.

I don't know for sure, but I think William went by his middle name. In the 1850 census he is listed as "Hansen" and in the 1880 he is "Harrison."  From here on, I choose to call him Harrison. The Reck family is one that's had a lot of research done on it by others so I haven't delved into the records a lot myself. This is one of the few lines that I have going back to the "Old Country." Harrison's great-grandfather Christian Reck Jr. and great-great grandfather Christian Reck Sr. immigrated from the Palatinate region of Germany and settled in Pennsylvania.

William Harrison and Catharine (Murphy) Reck, estimated about 1860
This photo was taken from a tintype

Harrison married Catharine Murphy on January 6, 1859 in Darke County, Ohio. Catharine was the oldest of 13 children born to William Henry and Mary (Sipe) Murphy. She was born October 3, 1838. Both the Recks and the Murphys seem to have been well educated, able to write well, and by the census records their children attended school. Their daughter Sarah Jane (my great-grandmother), and Sarah Jane's daughter Alys (my grandmother) were both trained as school teachers. The family wrote letters, a few of which I possess copies of, and many photographs exist.

Harrison enlisted as a private in Company D of the 69th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 21, 1861. Catharine had just given birth 23 days before to their second son, and had a two year old to care for as well.  The 69th began its journey the following February, traveling by train to Camp Chase in Columbus, then in April to Nashville, Tennessee. Here they performed guard duty for several months. This duty did involve a skirmish with General John Hunt Morgan and his raiding cavalry at Gallatin, Tennessee; the same General Morgan that John H. Anderson trailed through Indiana the following year.

The first major battle the 69th participated in was Stones River. This seems to be a little-known battle, but it involved  over 76,000 men and decided the fate of middle Tennessee. One third of these men were wounded, died, taken prisoner, or reported missing.  The two armies met on the banks of the Stones River on December 30th, 1862. The Confederates attacked at dawn on New Year's Eve: a cold, foggy, wet morning, and six hours of savage fighting ensued. The North was badly injured, but refused to retreat and reformed, receiving reinforcements on January 2nd. With this assistance, they took the victory and secured middle Tennessee for the North.

Stones River produced battle locations called "The Slaughter Pen" and "Hell's Half-Acre." If you want some detailed reading, I recommend The Civil War Trust's article "New Year's Hell." For a lighter version, try their battle summary, "Stones River."

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

On March 24, 1864, Harrison Reck was transferred to Company G of the 19th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps. I had never heard of this Corps before, and learned that it was organized into two classes. The first was for men who were partly disabled but whose terms were not yet expired. They were still able to handle a musket and do some marching, and did some hospital, guard, cooking, and provost duty. The second class was for men who had been discharged due to disability but could still do light duty and wanted to serve further. Harrison fell into the first class. His civil war military record notes he was absent sick in hospital in June 1863, then transferred to the invalid corps on February 29, 1864 (which was later named the Veteran's Reserve Corps.)  

The Veterans Reserve Corps had a special uniform which included a sky-blue coat to match the regular army pants. I found the page "A study of Enlisted Invalid Corps jackets 1863-1866" by Christopher Daley an interesting read on the history of the invalid jacket, and contains some further information on what disabilities were permitted and which were not in the corps.

Harrison was discharged at Elmira, New York, on December 22, 1864. This leads me to wonder if he might have served at the infamous prison there. Further research is needed into this.

There is much more to Harrison's story, but I'll leave that for the next post.