Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hunting for New Zealand connections with the American Civil War

Terry Foenander, who runs a site on US Civil War Navies, is an indefatiguable researcher into the stories behind the names of those who were involved in the mid 19th century conflict -- and who drifted down to Australasia to settle, and in many cases die here.

Over recent days, he's sent through a number of emails involving queries of men who were involved at somed point with the war, came here -- and then seem to have vanished from the records.

If anyone can help, contact Terry via

Frederick William ATTWOOD

"I have ... located the details of another veteran who lived in New Zealand, though I could not locate any death details. His name was among the Naval pension files, but in the disapproved section, which has now been uploaded on to the Internet at the FOLD3 web site, and which I have only started searching through a couple of days ago. Although these files are described as "Disapproved" it should be remembered that there were a large number of reasons for their rejection, such as that the applicant may have died before it was approved by the Pension department in Washington, or his service may have been less than ninety days (which was the stipulation for the issue of a pension), and several other factors. In the case of Frederick W. Attwood, who lived at Gisborne, Poverty Bay, he seems to have, after several years of trying to obtain the pension, with the usual run around by the Department, abandoned these attempts. I do know that, prior to about the early 1900s, foreign applicants had to have one or more proper requirements before they were issued the pension, and nothing to do with age. The age pension, if I recall correctly, only came through in the Act of 1907. Anyway, here are the details I have compiled, from the pension files, and also the enlistment records (available at I did also check the online New Zealand marriages and deaths indices, with negative results, though I am unsure if these records are complete. "
Frederick William Attwood, born England, about 1846; resident of Gisborne, Poverty Bay, New Zealand; prior to joining the Naval service, Attwood stated that he had sailed aboard the vessel, the Young Republic, out of Portland, Maine, and had also been aboard the Thomas Lord, of Bath, in the commissariat department, and that he had also voted in the election of 1864; enlisted in the Union Navy, July 28, 1864, and sent aboard the receiving vessel, North Carolina, at Brooklyn, and remained aboard until August 18, 1864; his enlistment is confirmed by the United States Naval Enlistment Rendezvous records, showing that he enlisted for three years under the “General Service” and that he received an initial bounty of $48; personal particular shown as being, by occupation, a seaman, with blue eyes, light hair, light complexion, and standing 4 feet 10 ½ inches tall; then served as ordinary seaman on USS Minnesota (at Fortress Monroe), until January 24, 1865, and then sent aboard the USS A.D. Vance, for one day, January 25, 1865, before going aboard the USS Fort Donelson until July 15, 1865; Attwood had declared that he was in the second attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, and his group had found a lieutenant Birdwhistle lying wounded; Birdwhistle stated directly to Attwood to take one of the guns in the fort, and, pointing to a flag lying beside him, told Attwood and his group to try and plant the flag at the site of the Armstrong gun; it was during this attack, and after the flag had been planted on the gun, that Attwood received the wounds that he declared later in his pension application; after his wounding he was rendered unconscious, and remembered nothing until he awoke the next morning aboard the USS Minnesota; later contracted yellow fever, while aboard another vessel; he later served aboard the USS Buckthorn until April 1, 1867, then on board the USS Potomac to June 13, 1867, and finally discharged from Naval service at Pensacola, Florida, July 27, 1867 aboard the Yucca; then left for England, before going to New Zealand; Attwood filed for a pension from the U.S. government in 1892; stated that he had injured his hip and right knee cap; in a letter to the pension commissioner, dated June 6, 1895, Attwood states that:

“It is only through the injuries I received while in the serviced that renders me incapable of earning a living for myself and children”; 

married Mary Irvine at Kairiki, Poverty Bay, date not shown, and they had two children, Margaret Jane, born June 25, 1879, and William Bernard, born June 14, 1881; an affidavit, filled out in 1899 states that George Davie, aged 57 and also a resident of Gisborne, had known Attwood since 1862, and that Attwood was, at that time a fine strapping young fellow, and that Attwood had left New Zealand in March, 1863, and had gone to the United States where he served in the United States Navy during the Civil War; Davie had again met Attwood in 1869, after he had returned from the U.S., and noted that he (Attwood) was then broken in health, limped, and was only able to do light manual work; Attwood then complained that he had been shot in the left hip and right knee cap; Attwood also declared in another statement: “I will leave it to the generosity of the U.S. government to award me what they consider I am entitled to. If I am entitled to a medal I should be very pleased to wear one”; as identifying marks, Attwood also stated that he had several tattoos all of which he got while he was in the service; they were noted as the U.S. coat of arms on the front of his right arm, and on the back of the same arm the Guardian of Liberty, and, on his thumb, an anchor; unfortunately, some of the medical files for some of the vessels he served on do not exist, and others show no record of any medical attendances by Attwood, other than the USS Yucca, which indicate that he attended with a fever in 1867; after several years of writing to the pension commissioner, and then being medically examined, and after several attestations, his application was finally abandoned, with no reason shown for such abandonment. [Navy Survivor’s Originals (Disapproved) #36801; United States Naval Enlistment Rendezvous Records, at]

Robert GEARY

"Just found details of another veteran who had applied for the U.S. government pension, from New Zealand, in the 1890s, but which was abandoned. However, he may have returned to the U.S., as he was stated, in a letter dated in 1902, to have been living in Texas, though this seems to have been an assumption. Here are the details, as gathered from his disapproved pension application file:"

Robert Geary, born about 1836; enlisted as a private, May 1, 1861 in company B, 2nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, and mustered out August 9, 1861, as a member of company B, 24th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry; later enlisted as a landsman on the USS Princeton, May 13, 1862, and served there until June 5, 1862; then as landsman aboard the USS Braziliera until April 29, 1863, after which he was rated as captain of the hold until October 10, 1863, and again as landsman until April 19, 1864, and was discharged on April 28, 1865, at Philadelphia, as captain of the hold; indicated that when the war was over, and in the excitement, he had hurt his head on a beam aboard ship; application for the government pension filed on January 2, 1892; stated that he had never been married; stated that he had a disabled leg and impaired sight; a letter from a medical officer, T.G.H. Hall of Whangarie, New Zealand, dated February 26, 1896, certified that Geary had been under his treatment for some months, and had lost the sight of his right eye, and that the other eye was quite weak, and also indicated that Geary was depending on the charitable aid board for a living; at some stage it was indicated that he had worked in a cemetery; a final notation dated in September, 1896 indicates that the claim was abandoned; however, a letter dated May 12, 1902, written by a Robert Stanley, jr., of 6730 Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois, addressed to the Commissioner of Pensions, makes the following query:

“Will you kindly advise me if there is a man by the name of Robert Geary on the pension roll of the veterans of the Civil War. This man served in the Army, and the last of his service was on the Frigate Wabash at the end of the war. He is now living somewhere in the state of Texas and being very anxious to find him, I appeal to you for such information as you may be able to give me to locate this man”; 

the file contains no response to this message. [Navy Survivors’pension (Disapproved) file #31711.] I doubt if we will ever be able to confirm where he died.

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