WWilliam Graham's War Between the States

William Graham

William Graham about the time of his marriage in 1869

William Graham was my great grandfather. He was an immigrant from Ireland of Scots-Irish ancestry. No photos of him as a soldier remain in the family's possession.

The idea of this website first took form in August 2008 with the discovery in the Department of Special Collections, University Libraries of Notre Dame of 16 letters written by William Graham, primarily to his sister 'Libbie'.

William Graham was a tall and thin man. At the time of his enlistment, William was described as having a height of 5 feet 11 inches, light sandy complexion, blue eyes, and light hair. In a letter he said he weighed 164 pounds.

In 2011, a register of men who served in the Civil War from New York went online and confirmed William's parentage and Irish heritage.

According to Irish birth records, William was born in County Down, Ireland on August 18, 1833. His parents were James Graham and Jane Shaw. William was their oldest child.

In 1850, during the middle of the Irish Famine, the whole family emigrated to America from County Tyrone*, Ireland. They followed the path of James' older sister Elizabeth. She emigrated in 1827, at about age 44, from County Down, Ireland with her husband William Bell and children. The Bells ultimately settled on a farm in the Town of Orange in what would eventually become Schuyler County, New York.

Roscius Clippership
Clipper Ship Roscius

The Graham family ship of passage, the Roscius, reached New York City on September 18, 1850. According to the ship passenger list, William was 17, his sister Betty 'Libbie' age 12 and James, his father, 64. His mother Jane was 48 and brother John was 14. No records were found of his mother or brother after 1850. It is presumed that they perished soon after reaching America.

In 1855, all remaining members of the family were living in Schuyler County, New York. James Graham was living on the Bell farm with his brother-in-law, William Bell. William Graham, was a boarder with Enoch Webster, wife and family, including 3 adult daughters and a son. Sister Libbie was living on the farm of the Andrew Scobeys, who had adopted her.

In 1860, William Graham was working as a farmer in Orange, Schuyler Co., NY. He was living on the farm of Thomas Boyes and wife Mary and their seven children ages 10 to 24. Mary was his cousin, the daughter of William Bell.

*Based on the later Civil War Pension application by William's widow. To add confusion to the known record, William consistently lied about his age after 1850.

Civil War

Maryland Heights overlooking Harpers Ferry. William was stationed here on guard duty following the Battle of Antietam. Yes, that is a Union cap, but the man is not me.

On July 18, 1862 in Elmira, New York, William enlisted to serve three years in Co. B, 107th New York Regiment of volunteers. He was discharged on June 5, 1865 when he was mustered out with the company near Washington, D.C. He entered as a private and was discharged as a Sergeant. He was promoted to corporal on November 1, 1862 and Sergeant, on April 1, 1865.

He participated in all battles with the regiment except two. After the Battle of Antietam in September 1862 the regiment marched to Harper's Ferry where they made their camp on top of Maryland Heights.  Here they helped build gun emplacements, spending many of their days cutting down trees for that purpose.  It was here that disease struck the regiment hard and for the period ending November 8, 1862, a total of 30 men died.

William became quite sick in December 1862 during the regiment's march to Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was sent to St. Paul’s Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia on December 19, 1862. He was transferred on Feb. 18, 1863 to the USA General Hospital, Fort Schuyler, New York Harbor. The battles fought by the 107th regiment that William missed - Chancellorsville (April 29 - May 6, 1863) and Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) - occurred while he was hospitalized from December 1862 until August 1863.

Post Civil War

On March 1, 1869, William Graham married Mary Elizabeth Platt in Townsend, New York. [The custom of the men marrying in their 30s or later, starting with William's father James, continued among 'Graham' oldest sons into the present day.] She had been known to his sister since before 1860. Following marriage they lived on the farm of Brewster Platt, Mary’s father. They had two children: my grandfather Hiram Hovey Graham born December 9, 1870 [same birthday as mine] and Sarah born May 24, 1875.

William died at the young age of 44 on November 22, 1877. Mary Graham’s 1900 pension application said kidney & liver disease incurred during military service was the cause of William’s death. Doctor William Heist, who was his family physician, said on May 17, 1895, “the hardship and explosives during the war hastened his death. He was a man of the best habits strictly temperate in every respect. And one of the best men I ever knew.”

In 1884, Elizabeth 'Libbie' Graham (at the age of 46) married Eugene Pangborn, a widower with four living children. Three of them ranged from 5 to 15 years of age at the time of the marriage. The youngest, Ruth lived to the age of 102. Elizabeth died at the age of 71 in 1910, never having borne a child of her own.

Thomas Goundry and Elizabeth Pangborn submitted affidavits as part of Mary Graham’s pension application. Thomas served in the 141st NY regiment with Hiram Platt (Mary’s brother) and knew William per affidavit. In 1900, Thomas Goundry lived next door to Elizabeth Graham Pangborn. Elizabeth’s affidavit said she has known Mary Graham for more than 40 years (before 1860) and knew William Graham for his lifetime. She was present at the marriage of William to Mary in 1869.

Mary Platt Graham died in 1905 at the age of 62. She lived to see both her children married and the birth of two grandchildren.

H Graem © 2011