"The Brotherhood of Battle" by Jerald L. Marsh

October 1, 2013

The Civil War was more than a dividing line in American history, a bitter and bloody resolution of the unfinished work of building a nation where all could be equal.  It was also a fraternal conflict in which both sides displayed valor and imagination, developing iron-clad warships and surveillance balloons.  The combatants were largely literate and have left behind detailed documentation of both military action and the tedium between engagements.  To understand the Civil War we must study the words and actions of legendary figures like Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, but we can also draw on the experiences and observations of Lewis W. Ballard or Jacob Saddlemire or George Muzzy. They were all combatants in the 1861-65 conflict with ties to Newark Valley, NY and their stories are recounted in "The Brotherhood of Battle" an encyclopedic work by Jerald L. Marsh, himself a resident of the small town in rural Tioga County. 

"The Brotherhood of Battle" is 626 pages long, with biographical sketches of more than 300 men who were in the Civil War, including details of family history, occupation, health condition and life after the war.  In some cases the soldier was a lifelong resident of Newark Valley, while others lived there only briefly or chose to resettle.  The information about battles in which they fought would be of value to any historian.  For example, the diary of Pvt. Henry Leach around the time of the Battle of the Wilderness, when he was near Fredericksburg, Va. in 1864:

May 19  This morning about 1/2 hour before daylight we marched from our entrenchments and stopped in the woods several miles from where we had been lying.

May 20   Worked nearly all night erecting breastworks.  Have lain behind them all day.
May 21   Part of the 2nd and 6th Divisions have started for Richmond in pursuit of Lee who is said to be in retreat for the North Anna.
May 22   We started about daylight and followed up other Divisions.  Have marched all day.

But just as valuable are the personal details in letters, census data, newspaper articles and obituaries that follow these veterans literally to the grave.  Pvt. Andrew Graham of Company E, 80th New York Infantry, was mustered out of the army in 1866 and

resumed his life as a civilian.  He soon married and started a family.  In the summer of 1870, he, his wife Charity, one-year-old John, and three month old Maria were living in the town of Broom in Schoharie County.  Charity, born in December 1841, reported she had a personal estate of $1,100.  Andrew had commenced his career as a shoemaker.

     The next move was to the village of Newark Valley where the couple remained for the rest of their lives and where they produced and raised eight additional children.... While Charity had her hands full at home, Andrew was working away at his shoemaking business at his little shop on Main Street, located between Moses's grist mill and Eugene Mix's blacksmith shop.

Jerald L. Marsh was born in Richford, just down Route 38 from Newark Valley, earned a degree in history from the University of Rochester, then spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Vietnam and retiring with the rank of Major.  He began "The Brotherhood of Battle" as a regional study but soon felt the need to limit himself to one community.  Companion volumes will appear in the future.  He consulted many sources, including government records of veterans' and widows' pensions, cemetery records, census reports and Federal and State archives. 

He also examined hundreds of family records, including his own, for he notes that ancestors on both sides of his family served in the Union army.  Marsh was also aided by members of the Binghamton Civil War Historical Society and Roundtable and the local chapter of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Jerald Marsh joins Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to tell about researching the Civil War, with hints for listeners who wish to learn about their own ancestor who wore the Blue or the Grey.  To join in the conversation call during the live broadcast to 888/359-9754 or e-mail OffThePage@WSKG.ORG.

Guests: 
Jerald L. Marsh