Friday, May 08, 2015

Amazing discovery: Image of his 18th Connecticut ancestor

Corporal John E. Barrows of the 18th Connecticut was captured at the
 Second Battle of Winchester (Va.) (Images courtesy of Alan Crane)
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When he was married 10 years ago, Alan Crane and his wife bought a family poster and filled out entries for his ancestors.

Great-grandfathers. Check.

Alan Crane and his sister celebrated after winning
 the auction for an image of 18th Connecticut 
Corporal John E. Barrows.
Great-grandmothers. Ditto.

Great-great grandmothers. All good.

Great-great-grandfather 1. Got it.

But when the Norwich, Conn., resident got to entry for his other great-great-grandfather, Crane didn't have a clue. That set him on a journey to fill in the blank in his family story and led to an amazing discovery last fall at an antiques auction in New York.

After doing some digging on, Crane determined that his missing great-great-grandfather was John E. Barrows, a corporal in Company H in the 18th Connecticut. From Windham, a small town in eastern Connecticut, Barrows was captured at the Second Battle of Winchester (Va.) on June 15, 1863, and confined in a Rebel prison at Belle Isle in Richmond, where he contracted an illness. After he was paroled on July 14, 1863, Barrows spent the rest of the war in and out of hospitals until he was discharged on June 23, 1865.

Over the past 10 years, Crane found mentions of Barrows in the 18th Connecticut's regimental history, snippets of information in the Willimantic (Conn.) Chronicle and his grave in Willimantic Cemetery. In Barrows' widow's pension file, he even found a poignant letter from his great-great grandmother to the Connecticut Adjutant General's office in which she pleaded for government assistance. Any aid, she wrote, would be looked upon with favor by the "god of widows and orphans."

John E. Barrows' grave in Willimantic (Conn.) Cemetery.
He was only 34 when he died.
But Crane still was missing the holy grail of his search: a wartime image of his great-great grandfather.

Fast-forward to last fall.

Crane, who over the years has collected or catalogued every 18th Connecticut image he could find, received a text from a friend who was on a similar mission to find an image of his ancestor, who was in the 77th New York. His friend's message included a link to an auction in Scarsdale, N.Y. Stunningly, one of the photos offered for auction was a wartime carte-de-visite of Barrows. His  name, company and regiment were in ink below the image.

"I nearly passed out when I saw it," said Crane, who took off from work and traveled to Scarsdale with a "wad of cash." Luckily, he put in a winning bid for the image of his great-great grandfather as well as images of other soldiers who may have known Barrows while he was at Camp Parole, Md.

Amazingly, Crane had similar fortune during his search for information on his other Civil War ancestor, Alvin M. Crane. At a local flea market, he bought a framed Soldier Memorial poster for the 21st Connecticut captain. And last year, Crane bought on eBay a Revolutionary War receipt signed by his fifth great-grandfather, Hezekiah Crane Jr.

"All in all," Crane said, "I'm pretty lucky with this kind of thing."

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

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