500,000 HITS … WOW … My readers are AWESOME!

January 29, 2011: Barry Cauchon

My good friends Ed and Mary Beth Isaacs have been tracking the progress of my blog hit counter over the past few days as they anxiously waited for it to reach the 500,000 hit mark. Because I have been so busy at work, I haven’t been able to keep an eye on it myself and they were gracious enough to offer. I can’t thank them enough.  At 8:59 p.m. last night on Friday, January 28, 2011, the momentous occasion occurred.

Half a million people have clicked their mouses at least once on this blog since May of  2008 and all I can say is “Wow. I’m touched. I’m amazed. I’m humbled.

For those of you who personally know me, you will understand that I speak from the heart when I say, “I really am overwhelmed”! I started writing this little blog about three years ago just to share my love of history with others. I had no motive other than to see if I could connect with similar-minded individuals and students who were interested in the same subjects as I. I had no idea where this would take me. Yes folks, this is the “feel good” story of the year, so read on…lol.

In the course of this blog’s life, I have met researchers, writers, scholars, historians, museum curators, war veterans, authors, film makers, directors, actors, legislators, politicians, history buffs, teachers and students… just to name a few. However, I have also met, and have been befriended by, many wonderful people just wanting to offer their personal family stories to me. Some have become good friends. My life has been enriched by them and the experiences they’ve allowed me to share in. Their persistent and unfaltering encouragement has also kept me moving forward on my projects when there were days I felt like I didn’t have anything left to give. For that, I am truly blessed.

This year, two important things will occur for me. John Elliott (my writing partner) and I will complete and publish our book on the Arsenal Penitentiary called “Inside the Walls: The Final Days of the Lincoln Conspirators. As well, we will present our work publicly for the first time to our peers and conference attendees at the Surratt Society 12th Annual Assassination Conference in March. I will meet many of my new-found friends at the conference (some of whom I’ve never had the pleasure to meet in person). I am truly looking forward to it.

After those two milestones are met, I have other goals that I hope to begin working on in the latter half of 2011.

The first will be to get back to posting new articles on this blog. As many of you have noticed, 2010 and 2011 really saw a decline in my output. That is because writing a book, and working for a living, took a lot of my limited time. So expect to see new articles, and perhaps, even a change in how I present the work, sometime after March when things should start to free up a bit. I may even refresh the look of the blog…just thinking out loud here.

The second will be to start working with students and educational institutions again. I love speaking to students and sharing historically based information that is not always found in the curriculum. This year I want to visit more schools and meet more students and their teachers. I suppose it is my way of ‘giving back’ but I also enjoy the experience very much. Education is very important to me. If I can play a small part in helping even one student succeed, then I plan to make that a priority in my goals of the future.

Again, thank you all for your support and friendship. I look forward to moving ahead in the coming months and sharing more interesting history with you.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO PAMILA DIXON TIFT

Pamila Dixon Tift

December 6, 2010: Barry Cauchon

It is with heavy heart that I write to inform you that the world lost a lovely lady today. Pamila Dixon Tift passed away just after 9:00am this morning after battling years of cancer. Pam was a friend to me, this blog and a huge supporter of our book project “Inside the Walls”. Pam was the original owner of the Dixon Diary (the diary of George E. Dixon, who recorded his Civil War adventures including his time at the Arsenal Penitentiary during the Lincoln conspirator trial, incarceration and executions). That diary helped launch the writing of John Elliott and my book. Pam’s cousin, Ed Isaacs was instrumental in finding me and graciously sharing its content along with George’s family history. He graciously brought me into his family fold, introduced me to Pam and his wife Mary Beth. And we have all become good friends. Ed did one of my first interviews on An Awesometalks With on this blog. And it all started with Pam sharing the diary with Ed and letting him run with it.

If you have spent any time on our Inside the Walls Facebook page, you would have seen many postings from Pam and Ed. Both have been regular contributors to it and have always cheered us on by sending happy thoughts and messages. As I mentioned, Ed is a personal friend of mine now and I’m feeling for him tonight as he deals with Pam’s loss.

Although some of you may find this a little sad, Ed and I want to share the last email that Pam sent to him just four days ago (December 2). Pam may have sensed her time was coming. Along with this email below, she sent Ed a package relating to their ancestor George. It is a poignant and fitting tribute to their family. Pam sent a unique chess set and asked Ed for one small favor. I still laugh when I read the line where she scolds Ed by saying “DO NOT pick a pawn”. True Pamila.

Pam had a great sense of humor, and although the last paragraph is painful to read, her sign off is classic &  funny Pam. You were one of a kind. I will miss you a lot.

December 2, 2010

Dear Ed.

I saw the set and was instantly seeing it on display with so many of your Civil War things. Most of all I want you to pick one piece and name it George E Dixon. DO NOT pick a pawn. Set up a display and take pictures. Send a pic to me and to Barry. Maybe, ha-ha, you could convince him to put the photo in his book.
 
I am headed to Portland to see my lung doctor. Maybe he can get this COPD under control.
Love you and Mary Beth,
Crazy cousin Pam

God bless you Pam.

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

Published in: on Monday, December 6, 2010 at '8:45 pm'  Comments (7)  
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A Little Touch of History hits 400,000

July 19, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Barry celebrates the 400,000th hit to his blog "A Little Touch of History".

Hi all: On February 16, 2010, I posted a big  thank you to all my supporters for A Little Touch of History as it had just reached 300,000 visitors. Well, here we are 5 months later and now this little blog has topped the 400,000 mark. Awesome! I can’t thank you all enough. I am truly proud to have been able to bring you this blog over the past 2 years and 2 months. And the tremendous encouragement from my friends, colleagues, readers and supporters has been nothing short of outstanding. I will always be grateful.

As A Little Touch of History moves towards its next big milestone (the 500,000 mark) I am thinking about what features you would like to see here. So please drop me a note and tell me what you like, what you don’t like and suggestions on what you’d like to see. Maybe something local, or someone who has a connection to history. You never know who has an interesting story to tell.

Traditionally, I reduce the number of features and articles I post during the summer as schools are out and my readership is lower. This gives me a chance to catch up on my own research so that I can present it to you during the rest of the year. 

But as a bonus for my dedicated summertime followers, I have a SUPER DELUXE SUMMER SPECIAL to help celebrate A Little Touch of History‘s 400,000 hits, I am announcing that I will be posting a couple of brand new interviews in the few weeks.

The first was recorded on July 17 with Steven G. Miller. Steven is considered to be one of the most knowledgable experts on Boston Corbett & the men of 16th NY Cavalry (the men who tracked down and captured/killed John Wilkes Booth). The piece is just going into editing but I suspect that the final version will be published in less than two weeks from now.

The other interview is currently being scheduled for recording with Cynthia StormCaller, the curator of the Drummer Boy Civil War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia. Cynthia will walk us through the museum’s collection. If you plan on being in the Andersonville, Georgia area later this summer or fall, this will be a good primer for visiting the museum. I am hopeful that this interview will be completed and published by early August at latest.

And just a reminder for those of you who are going to be in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area this weekend. On Saturday, July 24, 2010 “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” documentary will premiere at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library from 6-9 pm. It’s open to the public with only a small donation requested. For more info, go to their blog and website at:

http://theangelmovie.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=14&Itemid=74

Not long ago I interviewed the director, Clint Ross. He and historian Michael Aubrecht, have created this documentary to tell the uplifting story of Confederate soldier Richard Kirkland, who at personal risk to his own life, stepped into the open battlefield at Fredericksburg to give aid to fallen wounded Union soldiers. It’s a great story of humanity. To hear the interview, go to the following link:

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/an-awesometalk-with-clint-ross-director-of-the-documentary-the-angel-of-maryes-heights/

Again, thank you all for your continued support and let me know what you’d like to see in the upcoming months.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

————————————————————————

July 20, 2010: I just received this great email from Ed Isaacs and his wife Mary Beth. Two weeks ago, they sent me an identical bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label scotch to celebrate the 400,000th hit. It took a little longer than we expected to reach this plateau, but it was well worth it. Cheers to both of you my good friends! Barry

CONGRATULATIONS, BARRY 

400,022 + HITS TODAY (July 19, 2010)

                             

CHEERS………….

I’ll Drink to That!!!

“AN AWESOMETALK WITH” 2008-2009 INTERVIEW LINKS

March 4, 2010: Barry Cauchon

Here is the list of the ten 2008-2009 “An Awesometalk With” interviews that I’ve conducted to date. If you never had a chance to read any of these, this would be a good time to catch up before the 2010 season is launched. Enjoy. Barry

1. An Awesometalk With HAROLD HOLZER, Lincoln Scholar (posted November 10, 2008)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/an-awesometalk-with-harold-holzer-lincoln-scholar/

2. An Awesometalk With DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ, Illinois State Historian (posted December 08, 2008)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/an-awesometalk-with-dr-thomas-schwartz-illinois-state-historian/

 3. An Awesometalk With ROBERT KRAUSS, 509th Composite Group Historian (posted December 16, 2008)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/an-awesometalk-with-robert-krauss-509th-composite-group-historian/

 4. An Awesometalk With ROGER NORTON, Webmaster of the Abraham Lincoln Research Site (posted December 30, 2008)

 https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/an-awesometalk-with-roger-norton-webmaster-of-the-abraham-lincoln-research-site/

5. An Awesometalk With LAURA FRANCES KEYES, Mary Todd Lincoln performer (posted January 26, 2009)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/an-awesometalk-with-laura-frances-keyes-mary-todd-lincoln-performer/

6. An Awesometalk With GEORGE HAUCK, WWII Veteran & Ex-Prisoner of  War (posted March 30, 2009)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/an-awesometalk-with-george-hauck-wwii-veteran-and-ex-prisoner-of-war/

7. An Awesometalk With ED ISAACS, Owner of Civil War Diary from Soldier Who Guarded the Lincoln Conspirators  (posted April 1o, 2009)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/an-awesometalk-with-ed-isaacs-owner-of-civil-war-diary-from-soldier-who-guarded-the-lincoln-conspirators/

 8. An Awesometalk With ANDREW JAMPOLER, author of “The Last Lincoln Conspirator: John Surratt’s Flight from the Gallows” (posted April 24, 2009)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/an-awesometalk-with-andrew-jampoler-author-and-ex-us-navy-commander/

 9. An Awesometalk With NIKAELA ZIMMERMAN, Kansas State Historical Society: Owners of the Lincoln Conspirators Gallows Crossbeam (posted June 24, 2009)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/an-awesometalk-with-nikaela-zimmerman-assistant-registrarconservation-technologist-kansas-state-historical-society/

 10. An Awesometalk With CHARLENE HENDERSON, The 17th Regiment CVI Gravesite Location Project (posted November 02, 2009)

https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/the-17th-regiment-cvi-gravesite-location-project/

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

 

“An Awesometalk With” CHARLENE HENDERSON: The 17th Regiment CVI Gravesite Location Project

UPDATE: March 02, 2010: Barry Cauchon

The format of this An Awesometalk With is more of a traditional article rather than interview. However I feel that Charlene’s story contains the same wonderful content that my live interviews offer. Therefore, I’ve designated this as “An Awesometalk With” feature article. Enjoy.

November 02, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Paynton, W. Wallace grave

The gravestone of W. Wallace Paynton of the 17th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

My good friend Ed Isaacs recently told me about a woman who has made it her personal project to find the Civil War gravesites of the men of the 17th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. I remember saying “Wow, what a great project. I’d like to talk to this person”. And so I did. I wrote to Mrs. Charlene Henderson and she graciously responded.

Charlene’s project certainly interested me from the start. But the story about how it all started, along with some of the eerie things that occurred during her search for these men’s final resting places, is to say the least…COOL! She describes these unexplainable occurrences as coming “directly from the twilight zone”. After you read her story you may agree with this assessment. As I have been witness to similarly strange ‘occurrences’ over the years, I believe that she may have been assisted in her search for the graves by, perhaps, the spirits of some of the very men whom she has been seeking out. One never knows.

If you are a believer in paranormal phenomena, this story will certainly add to your reading enjoyment. If not, it will at least serve to expose you to some of the things that Charlene has experience while searching for the graves of the 17th regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

Charlene’s project has been quite the undertaking. To date it has resulted in her locating, or getting leads to, over 71% of the graves of the 17th. An incredible feat!

Enjoy her story.

Barry

—————————————————–

CHARLENE HENDERSON AND HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Charlene Henderson

Charlene Henderson

Charlene Henderson currently lives in New Milford, Connecticut. In 1988, Charlene found a letter written by a Civil War soldier from the 17th regiment CVI. Now, almost twenty-two years later, she has tracked down more 71% of the gravesites of the men of the 17th, and will be writing a book containing their bios and gravesite information. 

In Charlene’s own words, this is how the story began.

“My ex-husband and a friend had a part-time business in 1988 preparing homes for resale or rent. This would include painting, carpet cleaning, windows, etc. They took a contract from a local realtor: a condo that was trashed by a tenant who had been evicted…and I do mean trashed! Visualize a car driving through a single story building  then put back the entrance and exit walls. That is what the interior of the place looked like. 

After a few days of removing debris, I made headway to a bedroom closet. A small handmade wooden blue box was on the floor. I don’t know why but I opened it, instead of throwing it out with all the other junk. A small green piece of felt lined the bottom of the box and a letter was the only object inside. I removed the letter from the envelope. It was dated Feb. ’65 and the author, James Hurlbutt, wrote about being with three other men, Hoyt, Paynton and Hagar. They were stationed in Florida. I was pretty tired and the date seemed odd. I couldn’t understand what was going on in FL. in 1965. Then the light bulb went on. They made “a chimney”, a fire. It wasn’t 1965. It was 1865 and this letter is from a civil war soldier!

I did a little research in 1988 and found that they were soldiers from the 17th CVI. Years went by, I divorced, remarried, changed jobs. I became interested in genealogy. My maiden name is Hager fro Dutchess Co., N.Y. One day, I came across a document held by the Latter Day Saints. The document listed all of my great-grandfathers’ brothers and sisters. One name kept going through my mind. Abijah. Why do I know this name?

Again, the light bulb…Abijah HAGER. Could this be the same Abijah HAGAR, the civil war soldier that was named in the letter? I sent for Abijah Hagar’s pension information and they were one in the same. He was my great-grandfather’s brother.

Again years go by, it’s 2004 and I’ve become bored with family genealogy. My husband suggests doing some research on the other soldiers in Hurlbutt’s letter. W. Wallace Paynton lived at Fitch’s Soldiers Home in Darien, CT. for twenty years and wrote his memoirs which are in Bridgeport Library in Bridgeport, CT. One story is about returning to New Haven, CT after being mustered out in Hilton Head, S.C. The paymaster wasn’t there and the soldiers would have to return to New Haven next week to receive their pay. For those who didn’t return to New Haven, those men filed an application for back pay. Not long after reading this story I was on eBay. I found Abijah Hagar’s application for back pay.

Warren, William H. military (2)

The gravestone of Wm. H. Warren.

Finally, they got my undivided attention (Note: Charlene uses the word ‘they’ referring to her soldier friends whom she is searching for). Bridgeport Library has a collection known as the Warren Collection. William H. Warren was a private from Co. C. He spent most of his post-war life corresponding with his comrades relating to the war stories. I transcribed the stories relating to Chancellorsville. I had nothing more than a high school education about the Civil War. I didn’t even know what state Chancellorsville was in. I educated myself about the battle. The 17th, being only one regiment, was out of context, with relationship to the rest of the 11 Corps and Stonewall Jackson’s flack attack. I learned of a book written by Hamlin, the 11th Corps historian. Again, eBay, I found the book and bought it. The first blank page, in pencil, which someone had tried to erase, “Wm. H. Warren -43 Beers St – no town – 1896. This book was once owned by the private from Co. C., who lived at 43 Beers St., New Haven, CT.

This is why I say, THEY FOUND ME. They sparked an interest with Abijah, twice. Finally, after eighteen years from the onset, I felt that Warren was saying to me, ‘These are not coincidences. Wake up! Do the math! The odds of winning the lottery are better!’. 

That’s how I started looking for the final resting places of ‘my soldier friends’.”

THE PROJECT

To find the gravesites of the 1153 or 1158 men (final numbers vary) who were members of the 17th regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War.

THE 17th REGIMENT CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

The regiment assembled and was accepted into Federal service on August 28, 1862. 1006 or 1008 men mustered into service that day with an additional 150 or so joining later during recruiting drives throughout the war.

THE BEGINNING – HOW CHARLENE GATHERED HER RESEARCH

The first thing that Charlene did was to get the roster from the 17th regiment. She picks up the story about her process from here:

“The roster is listed by company, the town where the person enlisted from and military history. I took the roster and arranged the soldiers by town where they enlisted; so I could use the Hale Cemetery Inscription Collection.

The Hale Collection was compiled by the WPA in 1934. Every gravestone in every cemetery was recorded by town and published with an index. Also, notations were made if the person had a flag, G.A.R. flag holder, and the company and regiment they served. The entire collection is at Connecticut State Library. One page at a time, for each town in Fairfield Co., I wrote the names of everyone who had a flag or G.A.R. marker and compared those names against the roster. Then, using the index, looked up anyone buried in a town whose name matched the soldier name (verifying the I.D. later). Any gravestone with the 17th CVI was self-evident. A typical example of a listing (without military notation) might read as follows: John Doe 1840 – 1906 flag Civil War.

Now the fun begins. The Hale Collection has a map for each town with a dot for each cemetery, the name of the street or its location referenced from another cemetery. The map doesn’t have all street names, only long streets and watercourses. Trying to find some of these cemeteries is an adventure in itself. The vast majority of these cemeteries have no office or section markers. It’s park and let the walking begin. Doing this town by town, I got smarter and wrote down the page number from the Hale Collection. If someone was listed on page 20 and someone on page 22, they would be about 80 graves from each other.  A clue was military gravestones. If the information read: John Doe, Co. A, 17th Conn. Vols., died Jan. 1, 1900, age 68, it’s a good chance the stone was military. Find him and it’s a starting point for finding the rest. So many times I would drive into a cemetery and someone’s gravesite would be right in front of me.

Story: A twisty country road, perched on a hillside, accessible to mountain goats only by traversing several unstable stone stairs, open the iron gate, one little cemetery where very few stones remain. In the back corner, the gravestone I was searching is there, completely legible.

I’ve found 575 gravesites in CT. and N.Y. 36 are buried in National Cemeteries. 38 are missing headstones or I haven’t found them yet. 21 I still have to go find. 36 are buried out-of-state. For a total of 706.

Out of state leads 77. Most likely buried in CT. 40 (burial info may be found at CT Health Dept). New info 2. For a total of 119.

Combined total 825 out of 1153 or 1158.”

stratton, charles before

BEFORE: This is how the gravestone of Charles Stratton was found.

Stratton, Charles S. military

AFTER: The completely exposed gravestone of Charles S. Stratton.

 ONE OF THE ‘EERIE’ STORIES

As mentioned earlier, Charlene has had some interesting occurrences take place while doing her project. Unexplainable by scientific methods, but real nonetheless. Here is one such event that I’d like to share with you.

“I was in a cemetery looking for ‘the guys’, having spent about three hours. One was left on my list and I just couldn’t find him.  I apologized to him, called his name, asked collectively of the 17th buried in the cemetery, to help me. A rabbit came out of a bush. I walked over, pushed the branches back, and there was his gravestone”.

CURRENTLY

Currently, Charlene is continuing to work on her project to locate the remaining graves of the men of the 17th. Recently, she enlisted the assistance of Ed Isaacs (of Dixon diary fame). Ed says this is a perfect project for him to keep busy while in his retirement.

Charlene, thank you for sharing your story with us (and keeping Ed busy). With the help of Ed and ‘your friends’, I’m sure the discovery of the remaining grave stones are not too far in the distant future.

Continued success with your project.

If anyone would like to contact Charlene, please email me and I’ll be happy to pass along your comments to her.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

“An Awesometalk With” Ed Isaacs, Owner of Civil War Diary from Soldier Who Guarded the Lincoln Conspirators

April 10, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Ed Isaacs holds the diary of his great great grandfather George E. Dixon.

Life has a way of blessing you when you least expect it. Call it karma, good luck or maybe even a genuine intervention by a higher power. I personally believe that things happen for a reason and so when this story began about two weeks ago, I can say that I was blessed again. A kind and humble gentleman by the name of Ed Isaacs, a retired fire fighter from Norwalk, Connecticut wrote to me saying that he had just come into possession of the diary of his great great grandfather, George E. Dixon. George was a Civil War sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp; the regiment that was assigned to guard, and eventually take part in the executions of several of the Lincoln assassination conspirators in 1865. This was extremely exciting news for me as this is the focus of my current research.

Once Ed shared some of the contents of the diary with me, I knew I was seeing something that was never before on the public record.

The diary is the first known document found to list the names of the guards and their duties guarding the prisoners. It also adds another perspective to the story. It’s a first hand account, documented in the handwriting of the man who was actually there and participated in this famous historic event.

From a researcher’s point of view, George E. Dixon’s diary is a great find. And as you’ll read, Ed Isaacs’ efforts to share this as well as honor the members in his family tree are genuinely uplifting. I am happy and honored to share this story with you on his behalf. Enjoy.

Barry 

——————————————————- 

B.Hey Ed. How are you? 

 

E. I’m good and ready to go! 

 

B.(laughing) Alright then, let me start by asking you where you live and what did you do for a living before you were retired?

E. The answer to that is I live in Norwalk, Connecticut. I just recently retired on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th of this year from the Norwalk Fire Department with nearly 32 years on the job.

B.Wow. 

E. Yup. It was a good career. I took good care of my family with that.

B. Let me ask you about two associations that you are affiliated with. You are a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and a member and past president of The Sons of the American Revolution.

E. Yes I am.

B.What are those organizations and how do they serve their members?

E. These are hereditary societies whose missions are to preserve the ideals our forefathers fought for during the Civil War and the American Revolution. I was the past president of The Roger Sherman Branch, Connecticut Society Sons of the American Revolution. I had three ancestors that were in the Revolutionary War and they were Amos Dixon, John Saunders and Samuel Brown Isaacs. And then I became a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and my ancestors there of course were George E. Dixon and Edwin Lorenzo Tuttle who fought in the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and then he reenlisted into the 17th.

B.And the reason we are talking here today is because of your great great grandfather, George E. Dixon.  

 

Sergeant George E. Dixon.

Sergeant George E. Dixon wearing his medals which can be seen later in this article.

 

You contacted me by email back on March 23 and I’d like to read a portion of that note now.

“I recently acquired a diary that was my great-great grandfather’s. His name was George E. Dixon from Poundridge, NY. During the Civil War he was stationed in Washington, D.C. This is what his diary says,  

May 16, 1865: On guard at the old penitentiary over the Booth party conspirators.
I was in the court room during the day while the witness’s were being examined. I saw the bullet that killed the President, also the pistol and two carbines. Booth’s photograph and the boot that was cut open to take it from his broken leg by Dr. Mudd.

 July 7, 1865: On guard at the penitentiary. The execution of Surratt, Payne, Atzerodt + Herold.

 I hope you find this interesting”.

Well Ed (laughing) the first thing that I thought to myself was ‘DAH! Of course I’d find this interesting”. For me, this is great stuff. This is sort of what I specialize in and so I was dying to talk to you and I’m glad that we now have a rapport and are talking more and more about this.

E. And for me it was very interesting because I wasn’t really aware of any of that history. Maybe I mentioned that I have his obituary, “Civil War Veteran Claimed by Death”. Commenting on the execution, of which he was an eyewitness, he says in his diary,

 “The first two, having fainted, were carried to the gallows by the guards: the latter two walked calmly up and put their heads in the nooses.”

So of course, when I eventually got the diary this is what I expected to see. I’ve never seen this line in here yet! So, it could have been hearsay from his wife or a child. But the information I did find was pretty fantastic.

B.So that quote is actually not in the diary from what you can find so far! 

E. I have not found that quote. Nope. 

B.George lived to be quite old. And two things I’ll ask you to explain to everyone are ‘Who was George Dixon’ and ‘what was his history’?

E. George E. Dixon was 90 years old when he passed away. He was a Civil War Veteran who resided in Pound Ridge, New York. He was well known to the people of Stamford. He was the driver for an old mail and passenger stagecoach line for many years. He was born in Pound Ridge on December 2, 1834.

 

George E. Dixon's business card.

George E. Dixon's business card.

He attended the schools of that district. And on April 4, 1859, he married Sarah E. Birdsall, a native of Pound Ridge. After the Civil War broke out, he volunteered for the service of his country, joining the 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery. He was mustered in at Yonkers, and went to a training camp for three months. 

B.[NOTE: At this point in the interview I interrupted Ed with another question and we never got back to George E. Dixon’s history, so here is the rest of it before we pick up the interview again].

His military service states:

 He enlisted as a Private in the 172nd Infantry Regiment New York on September 6, 1862, at the age of 27. He was transferred into Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on December 4, 1862. He was transferred on January 26, 1864 from Company M to Company A. He was wounded on June 20, 1864 at Petersburg, Virginia. He was transferred to Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on January 19, 1865 and then transferred to Company C, 14th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps January 19, 1865. On July 7, 1865, he was appointed Sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment of Veteran Reserve Corps to rank as such from the 1st day of July 1865. During the war, he was twice wounded in action and fought in the following battles: Manassas Gap, Mire Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Harris House, North Anna River, Totopopomoy, Cold Harbor, and Bethesda Church. In this last battle, he was wounded when the handle of a musket was shot off and later, at Petersburg, he was shot in the right arm. He was honorably discharge July 31, 1865. Just prior to his discharge, he was present to witness first hand, a chronicle of American History. During his final service in Washington, DC, he served as sergeant of the guard at the penitentiary in Washington where the persons implicated in the death of President Abraham Lincoln were kept and later was in charge of the guards at the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, George Atzerodt, and David Herold, who were involved in the assassination plot.

 Following the war, he returned to Pound Ridge where in 1868, he was given a contract of carrying mail between Stamford and Pound Ridge; a position which he held for 22 years. At first, he only carried the mail three times a week but, later, the number of trips was increased to six. When the rural routes were instituted, he continued carrying freight and passengers until 1916.

Ninety-year old George E. Dixon died on March 16, 1925; just 19 days shy of his 66th wedding anniversary (April 4, 1925). He was one of the oldest members of the Charles A. Hobbie Post #23 of the Grand Army of the Republic located in Stamford. At the time of his death, he was survived by four children – Charles L. of New York City, Mrs. Ada Isaacs of New Canaan, Myron A. of Stamford, and Wilbur of New Canaan: his wife, Sarah E., and 14 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

——————————————– 

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

B. You sent me two pictures of George, one of him and his wife and the other being a family portrait. I guess these are both from their 65th wedding anniversary on April 4, 1924. Is that correct?

[Note: Just last Saturday, April 4, 2009 would have marked George and Sarah’s 150th wedding anniversary].

E. That’s correct. At their home which we referred to as “Charter Oak Place”. 

B.In the family photo, is there somebody there that you are directly related too? 

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

E. The young couple right behind Sarah and George were my grandparents. The young gentleman is Clarence Isaacs and his wife Muriel. It is very sad how things go because that picture was taken in April, 1924 and my father had just been born in February of that year. My grandmother, Muriel  died the following year at only 21 years old. My grandfather Clarence died at 30 years old in 1927. So they didn’t have a great long life, yet Clarence’s mother Ada, who’s standing right next to him, lived to 96 years old. That’s Ada Dixon Isaacs, my great grandmother.  

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

 

B.Well…I’d love to say that …

E. …you don’t know what tree you’re going to be in. Right!

B.Exactly (laughing).

E. Yup.

B.When did you first get interested in your great great grandfather? I know you have some items of his as well as his diary.

E. Well first, the items that I have, I didn’t have to worry about collecting, outside of the diary, because the items were already here. My father was a great collector. In my family, we save everything. I’vegot a bible from Samuel Brown Isaacs who was in the Revolutionary War and I’ve got a powder horn from Amos Dixon.

But the question is always asked “When did I get interested in it”? Like a lot of people would say “When your parent dies”. My dad was very interested in our family history. And of course when I lost him in 1990, I’d always remember as a young kid when I was 10, 12, 14 years old, the many weekends we would spend going to a cemetery, a library, a town hall or somewhere always looking for facts on family. And that’s what we did. And of course as I came up on sixteen years old, I’m looking at my watch saying “Dad, I got a date. I gotta get out of here”. I didn’t show as much interest then. But when I lost him it became one of the most important things in my life. Honoring my ancestors is honoring my father, Howard R. Isaacs.

 My family has a lot of history in this area.  Ralph Isaacs and Mary Rumsey Isaacs settled in Norwalk in 1725.  My family has not moved more than 20 miles in 284 years.

B.What are some of the items that you obtained from your father?

E. I have George E. Dixon’s certificate promoting him to Sergeant. I’ve got his pension paper. I’ve got original news articles about George and Sarah’s 65th wedding anniversary and of course the article on his death. I’ve got many photos including George with family members in front of his home “Charter Oak Place”. I’ve got a medal given to him for serving in the 6th Regt. New York Heavy Artillery, Army of the Potomac and his GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] medal. And now I have his diary!

 

 

George Dixon's Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

George Dixon's New York Volunteers Heavy Artillery Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

 

B.Well, let’s talk about the diary then (laughing)!

When you contacted me on March 23 you had only just received it a few days before on March 18, so you haven’t had it that long.

E. When it arrived at my house in the envelope I did not open it. I needed to relax in anticipation of what I would discover. I just put it downstairs in a safe place until Sunday the 22nd and that was the first time I opened it. I was just so relieved.

B.How long have you known of its existence?

E. I didn’t know if it still existed. All I had was just a copy of his obituary that said “…in his diary” and that one quote that I haven’t been able to find. But I didn’t know where that diary could be. So really, the story of how I got it is very interesting.

B.I’m sure. Can you tell us?

E. Before I retired, I was looking at family members’ histories and went on Ancestory.com. I started loading the names of different family members that I had, on it. I looked at photographs of George and Sarah and the extended family. One of my parents had put the names of the different family members on the back of the photos. So I just started looking at the different names and I found one, that was Floyd E. Dixon. I put Floyd E. Dixon into my family tree just looking to see who else would be searching for this particular Dixon and I found one that matched exactly. And then of course, I made a phone call to Maine to Pamila Dixon Tift and said, “Hi, I’m your cousin”. I started sending her a lot of information about our great great grandfather.  When I sent her a copy of George’s obituary talking about his diary, she called me back and said she had that diary.

B.(laughing).

E. Needless to say, I nearly fell out of my chair here. But I had to keep my wits about me. Through many emails and conversations over the next week or so I let her know that since I had everything else of his, and I’m only minutes from Pound Ridge where he lived; and I visited the home where he lived many times… that the diary needed to be here. I was very fortunate that she agreed with me.  

If anything else was interesting, she told me that she put it in the mail on March 16th and just by coincidence, I looked at his obituary again that night and noticed that March 16, 1925 was when he died. So everything has a meaning.

 

 

The Dixon gravestone.

The resting place of George E. Dixon, Sarah Dixon and Ada Isaacs.

B.Yeah for sure! What an amazing story. It sounds like coincidence but perhaps it’s not. It goes deeper than that and was meant to be in your hands.

E. That’s exactly right.

B.When you first opened the diary did you focus on any one page after you looked through it?

E. The main one for me was of course the page we just talked about where he was an eyewitness in the courtroom when the witnesses were being examined. That one, and the other page that’s seems to be the one getting us all really excited, page 27, with the names of the guards and executioners. I didn’t have a clue what anything on this page meant, so I contacted you.

 

 

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

  

B.At first, when you sent me a photo of the page, we were debating whether the list of names was of guards or prisoners. Well it turned out that it was a list of guards from the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp.

 

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

 

But the names that really jumped out at me were the four at the bottom of the page [#15, 16, 17 & 18]. And those were the names of the four guards that stood under the scaffold and who were responsible for knocking the props out, or springing the traps.

 

Although spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are

Although some of the names are spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are in Dixon's list: William Coxshall, Joseph Haslett, George F. Taylor and Daniel F. Shoupe (Shoup).

[Ed later pointed out that on this same page George notes this very fact when he writes “The last four numbers were executioners. Sergt. G. E. Dixon, Co. C, 14th Reg”.]

  

 

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

I guess as we’ve talked a little bit further it sounded like George, at the time being a Sergeant, perhaps was in charge of scheduling some of his men to guard the prisoners, hence his list of guards names.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E. These names didn’t mean anything to me because even though I have my family here that I honor very much, I didn’t follow the history as much as I should. But now I’ve started looking into it more. As you know I’ve bought the book “American Brutus” by Michael Kauffman and I have just bought “The Trial” by Ed Steers Jr. That’s just about twice as many books as I’ve probably ever read in my life.

B.(laughing) Well the two authors you mentioned are both excellent in this field. The field of the assassination.

E. Oh yes. It’s very exciting.

B.On your behalf, I did approach some of these gentlemen who I correspond with and respect highly. And right off the bat we had a really good response from Michael Kauffman. I think his first response to me, before I passed it on to you, was “WOW”! So it really meant something to him as it related to his own research. I know that he is now working with you to further discover what other information is to be found in that list as well as in the other pages of the diary.

Michael is definitely excited about the project. I have had responses from other Lincoln experts. Some are quite busy right now. But eventually these folks will get back to you as their schedules free up.

E. I know for sure that this has to be exciting for some of them just like when you contacted me. If someone is going to give you his cell phone number you know that they are interested. To get the home phone number from Michael Kauffman or to hear from Laurie Verge, I mean that is very exciting and I’m very honored for George E. Dixon. I really am!

B.Laurie Verge is the Director of the Surratt House Museum and Surratt Society. She is quite interested in collecting whatever information she can on George, putting it into their files, so any future researchers have an opportunity to explore him and see how his life relates to perhaps the research that they are doing. It’s an exciting time, Ed!

E. It really is. When I retired on March 17, officially after the 18th, I wondered what I was going to do other than feet hitting the floor in the morning and going to get a cup of coffee. I’m still not that old but I plan on doing something down the road. But to have this happen, there isn’t a day right now where I don’t have something to do. I’m doing a newspaper interview tomorrow in George’s hometown of Pound Ridge at 10:00 o’clock. It’s all about honoring George and it’s a great thing. I’m really enjoying it.

B.Do you have children Ed?

E. I have a 19-1/2 year old daughter Emily and my son will be 18 in June and that is Christopher.

B.Do they find interest in this or are they sort of like how you were back when? They have their own life right now!

E. Just like me! (laughing).

B.(Laughing)

E. My wife is very good with this. She understands that not everyone is into this when you are a teenager. But everything is going to be put away safely and catalogued somehow so they’ll have things to look at and be proud of when they do show interest. My son is also a member of The Sons of the American Revolution. And in December of this past year I got my daughter into The Daughters of the American Revolution. So they are good to go. It is just a matter of what they want to do with their lives and their time. But they are good to go.

B.What’s your hope for yourself now that you are retired?

E. Now that I have the Dixon diary, I can see my first book. I can see myself going on some talking tours. Maybe do some schools. It would be very interesting once I figure out everything. It’s nice to say that you’ve got something but you want to make sure that you know what you are talking about. If I can put something together, I would enjoy it. I really would. It’s a nice thing and so many people are interested in the Civil War and of course the assassination of Lincoln. It’s a lot to go over. It really is a lot. 

B.Well it’s a great part of our history and the Dixon clan has been a part of it for decades, for centuries. And you must carry on the tradition.

E. Exactly. There you go.

B.Well Ed, this has been great. And you and I will obviously be talking well beyond this interview. I think there is a lot more to look into and as we start to pick it apart and figure out which way to go, I’m glad you’re taking me for the ride.

E. I feel I’m honored to have you ask me these questions. I’m very excited. And as I’m sitting here looking at my computer now I see this picture of Harold Holzer, the eminent Lincoln scholar and Civil War expert. And thinking that you’re interviewing me, and you’ve interviewed him and some of these other guests, I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.

B.(laughing).

E. I’m floating on a cloud right now.

B.I have to thank Harold because he was my first interview. He actually contacted me when I was searching out some information for another gentleman who had written me. He is a gracious man and always very generous with his time, and I will always be grateful to him for that. 

E. You have a great website. And of course as you already know, the short article that you put on there about me yesterday, I’ve already sent out to many of my friends (laughing).

B.Ah yes…the TEASER!!! (laughing).

E. You’ve got a lot more followers now, I tell you!

B.Thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Ed.

E. Again, I’m just very excited and very honored.

B.You’re a good man Ed and I’ve enjoyed learning about you, your family and George E. Dixon. Thanks again.

E. Thank you.

END

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

Civil War Diary Found from Soldier Who Guarded the Lincoln Conspirators

April 9, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Ed Isaacs holding the diary from his great great grandfather George E. Dixon.

Ed Isaacs holding the diary from his great great grandfather George E. Dixon.

Hi all: I wanted to share some exciting news with you today. Two weeks ago, I was contacted by Mr. Ed Isaacs from Norwalk, Connecticut whose great great grandfather was a guard at the Old Arsenal Pentitentiary in Washington D.C. in the spring/summer of 1865. The soldier’s name was Sgt. George E. Dixon. He not only acted as a guard at the pentitentiary but was assigned inside the courtroom during the Lincoln conspirators’ trial. As well he witnessed the executions of Mary Surratt, David Herold, George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell on July 7, 1865. What is particularly thrilling about this is that George E. Dixon wrote a diary and recorded notes and his personal impressions from these events.

On March 18, 2009, the diary was obtained by Ed Isaacs, the great great grandson of Sgt. George E. Dixon. On March 23, Ed graciously shared some of his excitement with me as well as the contents of the diary. I can say that I was overjoyed to see what was on some of its pages and know that a small piece of previously unknown history surrounding the conspirator trial and executions had come to light. Ed asked if I could help him better understand some of the content on the pages. Currently we are in touch with several Lincoln researchers and the information coming back has been very exciting.

I interviewed Ed on April 9 and the story is posted at https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/an-awesometalk-with-ed-isaacs-owner-of-civil-war-diary-from-soldier-who-guarded-the-lincoln-conspirators/.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com