|TRACING ANCESTORS LEADS TO INTERESTING THINGS
by Jo-Anne McDonald
| ___I had been researching our family genealogy and found
out that one of Don's ancestors had been killed in the American Civil War at
the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Our daughter, Rae-Ann, had long had an
abiding interest in that particular war.
___Rae-Ann started to look into this and found that our ancestor was none other than Brigadier General Elon John Farnsworth (1837 - 1863). Prior to the war, this young man had ridden across the country from Illinois to Utah Territory during the Utah Expedition as a forage master for the U.S. Army. We have copies of his actual letters describing all the buffalo herds that he encountered along the way, and how they shook the earth when they stampeded.
___He loved horses, and in one of his letters asked, What horses does Father have now?.
___ At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860 Elon made his way back to Illinois to join the 8th Illinois Cavalry Unit. He fought in many now-famous battles of that war, up to and including the Battle of Gettysburg.
The replica 1858 McClellan saddle, which would be what our ancestor would have been using.
___Because of his outstanding record he was promoted to Brigadier General along with George Armstrong Custer and Wesley Merritt on June 29, 1863. These three men were known as the "Boy Generals" because they were all in their early twenties.
___The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863 and continued until July 3, 1863. Farnsworth was ordered by a reckless commander to lead an ill fated charge now known as "Farnsworth's Charge" at the end of the day on July 3, 1863. He had been a Brigadier General for only five days. He was pretty sure he would not survive but was most concerned about how many of his men were sure to die with him. He is quoted as saying "these are too good of men to kill". Many did die with him, and he personally lost two horses on that particular charge, before he himself was killed. He is the only Union General to have died behind enemy lines. Thus ends the story of our ancestor at the ripe old age of 26. We are very proud of him and what he stood for.
___Our daughter became very curious about the equipment that he would have used in all this riding. She contacted a saddle maker in the U.S. who does a lot of leatherwork for Civil War re-enactors, and she now has a replica 1858 McClellan saddle, breast collar and bridle which would be what our ancestor would have been using. (See it opposite.)
___ This is a bare bones saddle, nice and light, but with no leather covering the tree. As you can see, we have been trying it out. I have to tell you that it is surprisingly comfortable. Rae-Ann also has the uniform that he would have worn as Brigadier General (but we are sure he never got a chance to wear it.) (Rae-Ann in the replica uniform above.)
___The uniform is all wool and it was hot the day Rae-Ann tried it on. We now have a better appreciation of what soldiers had to put up with in the heat, as most uniforms were wool in those days.
___Who would have thought that genealogical research would lead to a new saddle for us to try!