Sunday, September 18, 2011

Antietam, the General & Serendipity

Jacob Dolson Cox
photograph from Military Reminiscenes of the Civil War
by Jacob Dolson Cox, published 1900

Yesterday was one of those rare genealogy days. All week I anticipated spending Saturday immersed in family research. The day revolved around Ancestry, Find-A-Grave, Google Books, and a myriad of other research databases.

While scanning information from various websites I stumbled upon the fact yesterday was the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862.

Wikipedia states the following:

"as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000 casualties"

Emotions stirred reading the article about this monumental day in our countries history. The pain and loss suffered that day is beyond comprehension.

On a more personal level memories of visiting Antietam as a child, and later an adult came back in full detail. My father was an avid history buff. Over the years our family visited many battlefields and historic sites.

As luck would have it I married someone with a passion for history. As our children grew we shared these same experiences. We spent many hours hiking the trails and visiting the monuments of Antietam National Battlefield.

Some of their favorite memories are of strolling along Snavely's Ford on a bright summer day.

After refocusing on my research what occurred next can only be described as "genealogy serendipity." Returning to  Ancestry the very first "leaf" I clicked on was for Jacob Dolson Cox. Jacob married Helen Clarissa Finney, my husband's 2nd cousin 4 times removed.

What caught my attention was the striking photograph of Jacob in Civil War uniform. It seemed  interesting to discover an ancestor who served during the conflict I was reading about moments before.

Further research netted Jacob's burial information listed on the Find-A-Grave website. Included were several photographs and an extensive biography.

Reading along we discover Jacob was a Union Major General and eventually governor of Ohio. Several paragraphs into the article it states:

"he served as a division commander in the subsequent battles of South Mountain (assuming command of the IX Corps after Major General Jesse Reno was killed) and Antietam (where his Corps fought to take what was to become known as "Burnside's Bridge)"

To say this information blew me away would be an understatement!  What are the odds of discovering this ancestor on the anniversary of the battle?

 Burnside's Bridge
I keep thinking about is walking across Burnside's Bridge without knowing the role Jacob played in keeping it safe for future generations. The next time our family visits Antietam there will be an entirely different perspective about events occurring that day.

Whether serendipity, coincidence, or the hand of fate this was an excellent genealogy adventure!


  1. I just love it when everything just falls into place! Genea Gods at work.

  2. Joan, thanks for the comment! Sometimes we just have to follow where lead! Love when our ancestors prod us in the right direction.

  3. I enjoyed seeing your blog featured in geneabloggers.

  4. What a great story!

    It was a pleasure to "meet you" over on the Geneabloggers website.

  5. Oh, if we could all experience those serendipitous moments! Just like a sweet box of chocolates!

    Thanks for sharing, now I'm going to go give it a whirl! *;-)

  6. Thanks for the kind words!

    Joan - Gini does a wonderful job connecting the GeneaBloggers community. Glad you enjoyed our "meeting'!

  7. A genealogy miracle, Deb Ruth and I am so happy for you! And, thank you for the wonderful comment, it was a pleasure to feature you . . . thank you for that too!