Friday Find: A Civil War Relief Book

As a librarian and archivist, one of the joys of my profession is finding a new source, discovering a hidden collection, or unearthing a mysterious ledger book. Even if it doesn’t tie into my own family research, perhaps it can help me down the road in an unexpected and invaluable way.

Earlier this week, one such resource jumped out at me at the Archives of Michigan. Found deep within a collection of records, largely assessment rolls,¬†from the Ingham County Treasurer’s Office, one resource stood out. Indeed, only 1 volume in a collection of 314, the Civil War Relief Book lists detailed information about the Civil War soldier, the remaining head of household still residing in the area, other family members and their ages, and the amount of relief required.

Here is an example from the volume:

Entry for Milo[w] Smith in Volunteer Relief Book, Fund Report, 1861-1865. Ingham County Treasurer’s Office. RG 80-10, Vol. 312. Archives of Michigan.

And the rest of the entry:

Part 2: Entry for Milo[w] Smith in Volunteer Relief Book, Fund Report, 1861-1865. Ingham County Treasurer’s Office. RG 80-10, Vol. 312. Archives of Michigan.

38 years old at the time of his 3-year enlistment in Lansing in August 1862, Milo Smith served in Company A of the 20th Michigan Infantry. Louisa Smith became the temporary head of the family until Milo’s return, with Fanny Smith and a Harvey Tussell also in the residence. The family required $15 of relief per month while Milo was off at war.

Here is the family in 1860 in Lansing:

Milo Smith and family. 1860 U.S. Census (M-653, r. 545), Lansing, Ingham, Michigan, p. 202.

Milo Smith unfortunately did not live to see the end of the war. According to the 20th volume of the Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Smith died on the hospital boat “Tycoon” on the Mississippi River on 4 August 1863. Here is that entry:

Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (Vol. 20): Twentieth Infantry, p. 88.

This information found in the Civil War Relief Book adds a certain level of context to the home front and the family members those Civil War ancestors left behind. Indeed, many of our ancestor’s stories are not found on the battlefield, but rather back home as those remaining family members endured their own wartime struggles. The volume discussed above is full of other compelling examples and, although some stories end tragically, others end with the veteran soldier returning to family life in Ingham County and beyond.