“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.” Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19,1863.”
A few years ago my older sister Cheryl self- published a book on our family history. She traced our family lineage back to the Reverend Edward Beal (1550-1612). The wealth of information she compiled on our ancestors was amazing. As I was tracing my fraternal line of the Beale family, I came across a knot in the main truck of the tree. My fraternal line stops and turns into a maternal line. It was right at the time of the Civil War. It seems my great grandmother X 2 Delia was a Beal, but she married a man by the name of Charles Gilson. However, their son's name was Charles Beal. The mystery began.Going back one generation to my great grandfather X 3, I found the generation that fought in the civil war. There were fourteen children born to Calvin and Sally Beal three daughters and eleven sons. Of the eleven sons at least one I believe died in child birth, five were beyond military age and five served in the Union Army; my great grandfather X3 did not serve. These fourteen children were my great -great grandmother Delia’s aunts and uncles. Delia’s husband Charles Gilson also served in the Union Army. Charles volunteered in August of 1862 leaving behind his pregnant wife, of four month, Delia and there one year old daughter Susan. My curiosity was aroused, I had to find out the story of my family during the Civil War and why my last name is Beale instead of Gilson.
However, I wanted to know more than the units they served in and in which battles they fought. I wanted to know about them personally. My quest began. I started with the National Parks Service Civil War Soldiers database online. The first name I search for was Charles E. Gilson. A Charles E. Gilson was listed; he served in the 38th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. I looked up the 38th infantry and hit a dead end. Deciding not to get frustrated, I put Charles Gilson on hold and searched for Merrill C. Beal. The Database listed Merrill as a sergeant in the Second Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry. I did a keyword search on the internet using Merrill Beal and Second Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry and hit pay dirt.
The 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry Regiment was a unique regiment. It was made up of men from Massachusetts and men from California. The web page I discovered showed Merrill as Company M’s first Sergeant. It also listed his residence as Natick Massachusetts. This was my ancestor. The next step was to send for his Compiled Military Service Record or CMSR. A CMSR is a record of an individual soldier’s time in the service during the Civil War. I was about to meet my Great Uncle X3 Merrill C. Beal Once I received Merrill's CMSR, his story began to unfold.
Telling the story of my ancestors’ experiences during the Civil War will be my way of never forgetting what "they did here." Next post: the story of how Merrill became part of the Cal. Battalion.