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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

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.


  1. Vonda,
    I enjoyed reading this story. I like the links you've included. In my opinion, photos and links always add interest to a post. I would like to follow you on Google + but see no option for adding you to my circles. I prefer not to follow by email as it results in too many emails. I do see the option for reporting this on Google +. I look forward to reading more about your family.

  2. Diane, I tried to make the change you suggested. I'm not an active user of Google + but I think I added what you are looking for. Also, since I'm not an active user, do I need to do anything more than what is on this page, such as send out a formal announcement from my google+? Thanks for your feedback!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Jim! Looking forward to you starting a blog.