Notes from the past…


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Civilian vs Soldier

As I continue to study and transcribe Dr. Kennedy’s Civil War file, I came across one document that I had not previously seen. It is entitled “Contract With A Private Physician”. It was drawn up on 1 Oct 1862 between Dr. Kennedy and the Confederate States Army. Dr. Kennedy was to be paid the princely sum of $80 per month (can you imagine!) for his medical services, which are “necessary because of the insufficient number of medical officers” presently available to the Confederate forces.


So Dr. Kennedy became a civilian employee of the Confederate Army in October 1862. Dr. Kennedy was living in Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi at the time of this contract, where he had already been attending the Confederate sick and wounded. Why the contract now? To extradite payment for services rendered? Future consideration when the Confederacy triumphs? Improved availability of drugs and supplies that a contract might ensure?
What was the state of the Confederacy on Oct 1862? The battle of Antietam had occurred only a month earlier, with massive casualities for both sides. It is now apparent that this conflict cannot be won in a just a few days or weeks and that the death and destruction it will cause will be like nothing America has ever seen. Abraham Lincoln will not let the Union disintegrate and the Confederacy must fight a bitter, all-out battle if it is to survive.
Perhaps Dr Kennedy has seen the reality of the day and is resigned to its inevitablity. At any rate, this contract was canceled on 31 Oct 1862, and shortly thereafter, in February of 1863 Dr. Kennedy enlists with the 27th Alabama Infantry Regiment as an Assistant Surgeon.


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Transcription in progress

Some time ago ( almost 2 years, I’m ashamed to say!) I requested and received the Compiled Military Service File from The National Archives and Records Administration for my 2nd great-grandfather, Nathan Blunt Kennedy. When the records arrived, I did a cursory examination of the them, then filed them away. I had always intended to transcribe them, but never “got around to it”.
This packet consists of photocopies of those surviving documents from Dr. Kennedy’s Civil War service. Almost all are hand-written in the script and style of the time, so some are a bit difficult to read. Since my ancestor was a physician, there are also several archaic medical terms to decode.
Several days ago I began my first story page at footnote.com: “The Doctor is In: The life and work of my second great-grandfather, Dr. Nathan Blunt Kennedy, Physician & Surgeon, 1836-1897″. In support of this writing, I have scanned several of the NARA documents and uploaded them to my “shoe box” at footnote for use on Dr Kennedy’s story page.
As I went through the more than 30 pages of photocopies trying to decide which to include, for the first time I actually read each document. Now I knew from my earlier quick look that Dr Kennedy had developed “hemorraging of the lungs”, diagnosed as Phthisis Pulmonalis. On further investigation, I discovered, thanks to antiquusmorbus.com, that the dear doctor had developed “Consumption of the lungs; strictly applied to the tuberculous variety. [Cleaveland1886]; Pulmonary consumption. Pulmonary tuberculosis. [Dorland]“. As there was esentially no cure for tuberculosis in the 1860s, my ancestor had contracted a disease that would affect him for the rest of his life!



Well, I have finally realized how important these NARA documents are to my research, so it is time to transcribe them. I have done several pages so far, and may I say they are fascinating! As an RN, I am especially interested in the medical aspect. Compared to today’s modern medicine, it’s amazing that anyone survived the Civil War!


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Let me tell you a story…

I have looked at several “social networking/genealogy” sites, because I think they have a lot of potential for sharing genealogical information and connecting family members. Geni, MyHeritage, and WeRelate all seem to be good options.
However, in an effort to concentrate and organize my efforts, I have decided to use Footnote.com for several reasons. First of all, I believe Footnote is the best site for the serious family historian. Access to original documents at a very reasonable price is probably the top selling point. Unlimited document storage is also available. And I really like the story pages concept. Here I can write about my ancestors and include photographs and supporting documents.
So, this morning I have been tweeking my account at Footnote.com a bit, and I have started my first story page, about my 2nd great-grandfather Dr. Nathan Blunt Kennedy.