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Eben Cady

Genealogy Essays:

Recording Adoptions
How do you draw adopted children in a family tree? (2011)

Those Elusive Edes
9 lessons learned about finding people in the census. (2009)

The Joys of Inveterate Button Pushing (2004)

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Genealogy versus family history. (2004)

Suspicion Meters
Your program doesn't have one, but you do. (2004)

Estimating Dates (2002)

A cautionary tale (2002)

Count Your Blessings
1988 and now (2002)

The Grand Chase
How my individuals connect (2002)

What makes a family? (2001)

A genalogical detective story (2000)

Eben J. Cady
Musing about a tombstone (2000)

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(First published on the RootsWeb Cady mailing List, 22 February 2000.)
(Mailing List Directory)

One of the thrills I get out of genealogy is it makes history real. Sometimes it just reaches out and breaks your heart. The good people at the Wayne County (NY) US Gen Web site have put in a site search engine. I was using it to look for my Ela Cady, 1781 - 1843. I didn't find him. I found Eben in Evergreen Cemetery:

Eben J. Cady
Co. C, 108 Reg., N.Y.S.V.
Fell at Fredericksburg, Va., Dec.13, 1862,
17y 4m 8d.

Stonecutters get paid by the letter, so families had them abbreviate a lot. That's Company C, 108th Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Regiments who volunteered got to say so; it gave them bragging rights over the draftees. "Fell" had a specific meaning in the Civil War. He died in battle, not by disease or accident. He was 17 years, 4 months and 8 days old when he died. Fredericksburg was the first place in the Civil war to show that stupid generals could get a lot of troops killed for no good reason. It wasn't the last. At Fredericksburg the Union boys charged uphill, again and again, with virtually no cover, against Confederate forces who had been digging in for a week. Towards the end of the day many of the survivors were using piles of bodies for cover. The dead had been their relatives, friends and neighbors, because regiments came from the same town, back then.

Chances are Eben is no one's ancestor; he might be a great-great uncle. As I surf my daughter and her 17-year old boyfriend are in the next room, watching TV and eating micro-waved pizza. The boyfriend's biggest worry is saving up enough money to buy a rebuilt clutch.

Eben's biggest worries were getting killed, having to march 20 miles in thick mud, cold, bad food and dirty drinking water. He slept on the ground a lot, with a thin blanket. He probably wondered how he'd do in his first battle. He ate a lot of salt pork and hardtack. Then, just 12 days before Christmas, he picked up his 13-pound musket and went charging to an almost certain death, because some generals who learned their lessons in the Mexican-American War hadn't changed their tactics. Some of the regiments at Fredericksburg suffered 70% casualties.

I've lived three times as long as Eben; as I type I'm warm, safe and dry. Tomorrow when I go to work no one will to try to put a .54 caliber ball through my liver. I'm going to sleep indoors on a soft bed tonight. All in all, my life is a lot easier than his.

Did Eben have a sweetheart? Did he want to be farmer when the war ended, or would he have gone on to be a doctor, lawyer, banker? We'll never know. I shed a quiet tear and hope he's at peace.

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This page updated: June 21, 2014