Posted By Norman Gasbarro on September 27, 2012
According to information at the Pennsylvania Archives, Lewis Boyer, age 30 (or born about 1835), enrolled at Pottsville, Schuylkill County, in Company C, 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, as a Private, on 6 February 1865. At the time, he declared himself to be a laborer, residing in Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. His physical description included a height of 5 foot 4 inches, black hair and hazel eyes.
The Veterans’ Index Card shown above was created as an index to the five-volume work produced by Samuel P. Bates for the state of Pennsylvania as a record of the service of its citizens in the war. The number in the upper right corner of the card, “1-1291,” indicates that Lewis Boyer is mentioned in volume 1, page 1291, of that work. See prior post: Bates – History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1816-1865. for information on how to use the index cards and where to locate the appropriate pages as free downloads.
The portion of the appropriate page in Bates for the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, is shown above (click on picture to enlarge). One new piece of information not found on the card is that Lewis Boyer enlisted for 1 year, whereas some others enlisted for 3 years.
The next piece of evidence to look at would be the Registers of Pennsylvania Volunteers, also available from the Pennsylvania Archives. These too are on-line and can be downloaded free from the site of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (Pennsylvania Archives). Although the register sheets for the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry indicate that this was a three-year regiment, the one year volunteers are mixed in and alphabetized with the three year volunteers.
The portion of the sheet noting Lewis Boyer‘s service is shown above (click here to directly access the sheet from the Archives). No new information is provided. As previously mentioned when discussing the Registers, these records were hand-compiled from primary sources and could be inaccurate. However, the information seems to be consistent between and among the index card, the register and Bates for Lewis Boyer.
A source not previously discussed is the General Index Cards to Civil War Military Records available at the National Archives. For residents in the Philadelphia area, the National Archives Branch Office in the 1000 block Chestnut Street has the rolls of microfilm containing these General Index Cards for Pennsylvania. Scans of the cards are also available on Fold3, a research site devoted to military records, and available at a modest subscription price. The above-pictured card for Lewis Boyer is from the Fold3 site. These records are helpful in determining whether the records of a particular individual are found on the muster sheets of a particular regiment and often, when a name has more than one spelling, whether the records are found under those spelling variations.
For those with a subscription to Ancestry.com, the information on the General Index Cards is found in a database entitled, U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865. The search for Lewis Boyer produced the following result:
The information resulting from this search should be essentially the same as the information on the General Index Cards, with the “Film Number” noting the series and roll on which the actual card is found at the National Archives – in this case, “M554” refers to Pennsylvania and “Roll 12” is the 12th roll in alphabetical order. For a picture of the actual card, the Philadelphia Branch of the National Archives has the series and roll needed – or a picture of the card can be obtained through Fold3.
Two additional military databases can be consulted through Ancestry.com. While these databases, American Civil War Soldiers and U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles usually contain information as it appears in state records – in this case the Bates/registers/index card information given above – occasionally some new information and references are given.
Helpful new information is that Lewis Boyer was mustered out at Georgetown, D.C. – and a new reference is given – Soldiers of Blair County, PA. Note that the American Civil War Soldiers database gives a reference number for the source while the U.S. Civil War Soldier Records & Profiles database actually names the source.
This new reference is an indication that the Lewis Boyer who is being researched here may have had some roots in Blair County, Pennsylvania – or may have lived there later in life. By using this information in a future search, much more of the story of Lewis Boyer can possibly be obtained.
Two additional resources need to be consulted: first, the Pension Index Cards, which should indicate some valuable information about Lewis Boyer (if he applied for a pension), and second, the Veterans’ Census of 1890.
Of the two cards shown above, the one at the top is of the “traditional” variety (from Ancestry.com) that has been pictured on this blog many times in past posts. It shows that Lewis Boyer, who served in Company C, 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, applied for an invalid pension on 8 August 1890. The absence of a certificate number is almost certain proof that the pension was not awarded. These cards are filed alphabetically by the surname of the pension applicant and can only be searched via name and state from which the application was filed. All of the applicant’s regiments/companies of service are on one card. The card at the bottom, a type which is available through Fold3, is filed by regiment and company as well as alphabetically within the regiment and company. These “type 2” cards sometimes give the death date of the veteran and nearly always give dates of service. If the veteran served in more than one regiment, there will be more than one card. The application numbers and dates of application should be the same on each of the types of cards. In the case of the example given above, it is unfortunate that the date of death of Lewis Boyer was not recorded on the “type 2″card.
Clearly, Lewis Boyer was alive in 1890 as is shown (above) by the Veterans’ Census of that year for Schuylkill Haven – and the fact that two different pension record sources reference his application to that year.
One of the search capabilities in Ancestry.com allows the entry of a place related to the individual being searched. Now, Blair County will be entered. The search produced the following result:
Does the “86” in the date of death box on the card indicate that the Lewis Boyer who served in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C, died in 1886? How could that be when he appeared (alive) in Schuylkill Haven for the 1890 Census and made application for a pension in 1890? And, there is a conflict with the date of birth – this Lewis Boyer was born about 9 years earlier than the Lewis Boyer who served in the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C. Sometimes, enlistment records are wrong – some veterans lied about their age in order to get to serve. More than often, the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Cards are wrong because they were compiled by individuals who submitted them to the Pennsylvania Archives without cross-checking them for accuracy. Is that what happened in this case? A quick search on Findagrave produced the following result:
The record for Lewis Boyer notes his burial in the Logal Valley Cemetery, Bellwood, Blair County, Pennsylvania, year of birth given as 1826 and year of death given as 1886 – and further notes that the stone inscription reads “G.A.R. – Co. C – 50th Pennsylvania Infantry.” The actual stone is not pictured.
Clearly, more research needs to be done to determine why Lewis Boyer‘s death date is recorded as 1886 and burial occurred in a county where he seems to have no other connection – and about four years before he was alive and enumerated in Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County. Is there actually a stone for a Lewis Boyer in the Logan Valley Cemetery which notes the 50th Pennsylvania Infantry?
All of this shows the difficulty in researching Civil War veterans in the many sets of secondary source records. There appears to be only one Lewis Boyer who served in the50th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company C – but there could be another Lewis Boyer who lived in Blair County who somehow has gotten confused with the one from Schuylkill Haven. Or maybe it’s the same person and the birth-death years are wrong on the stone at Logan Valley Cemetery.
Perhaps a reader of this blog can help clear up this conflict. Comments can be attached to this post or sent by e-mail (click here).
Additional information is sought as well, including copies of his actual pension application records, military records, and possible photos. All contributions are gratefully accepted!