|Grave of William and Catherine Ferguson |
showing military service inscription
What really excited me was that the stone also appeared to show a partial inscription about military service. I saw "Priv?? Co I", and "8 ?? Reg't???? Vol" Further Civil War records search confirmed that there was a William Ferguson in Company I, 8th New Jersey Volunteers. This was worth a follow-up. I made a quick trip to the National Archives. (I am so lucky to live nearby) What I found was a treasure trove of information. After a short wait, they handed me two folders, one small and one containing nearly sixty pages of original documents. The details about his family allowed me to confirm that this was the right William Ferguson.
William had both served in the Civil War and received a pension from the government as a result of his service. The smaller folder was his service record, and the larger contained ten years worth of correspondence, affidavits, and records related to his pension. Combined, these allowed me to document quite a bit about William's life and his family. He was illiterate, but each of the documents carried his mark and a statement of the writer and witnesses where needed.
William was born on February 14, sometime between 1841 and 1848, in New Brunswick, NJ. The exact year of his birth was a matter of importance to the pension board and they documented no fewer than 22 documents that he had submitted showing different birth years between his enlistment and his death. He submitted a letter  on the subject detailing his parents names ( Philip and Maria) and the names of his siblings (James, Edward, Mary Ann, Margaret, and Philip) so that the census bureau could search the 1850 and 1860 census for for Middlesex County to find the family and determine his age at that time. They were unable to find the family in the census .
On Sept. 1, 1864, declaring age 19, William, a fisherman, was mustered in as a private to the New Jersey Volunteers. He was a substitute for a John Runyon of the 3rd Congressional District . The Draft or Enrollment Act passed in 1863 allowed men who were drafted to hire a substitute to take their place in the Army. The substitute could ask for substantial payment. I have not found a record of what William received. A history of the Regiment indicates that "At different times during the years 1864 and 1865 the strength of the regiment was augmented by the joining from Draft Rendezvous, Trenton, N.J., of large numbers of substitutes." Between his mustering-in date and his discharge, the regiment participated in at least nine engagements including the capture of Petersburg, and Lee's Surrender at Appomattox, VA. William's service record does not indicate that he was absent at any time during this period so one may assume he participated in those engagements. 
|William Ferguson's Muster-Out Roll 1865|
According to the papers he submitted for his pension, on March 11, 1868, William married Catherine Cavalier in New Brunswick. They quickly had several children. In 1870 the census shows William and Catherine living in New Brunswick with a son John (age 5), and daughter Annie (age 8 mos). A son William, who had been born in 1867, had died in January of 1870. William is listed as a laborer. In the 1880 Federal census the family, now consisting of William, occupation fisherman, Catherine, no listed occupation, and three children, Annie (age 11), Andrew (age 10) and Charles (age 7) are still living in New Brunswick. John is not listed and may have died as I have found no further record of him. The 1890 Federal census was destroyed, but in the 1895 New Jersey Census, William and Catherine are found in New Brunswick with three children, Annie, Andrew, and Charles.
End of Part 1.
1. Ancestry.com, U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2012) Ancestry.com. Record for William Ferguson
2. Handwritten List of documents, dates and ages. Soldiers Certificate File 725160, William Ferguson, Private Company I, 8th New Jersey Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served In the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain ("Civil War and Later Survivors' Certificates"), 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building Washington, DC.
3. Letter from William Ferguson to Civil War Division, 17 April, 1916. Soldiers Certificate No. 725160, William Ferguson, Private, Co. I ,8th, NJ Inf, "Civil War and Later Survivors Certificates, RG 15 NAB.
4. Letter Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census to The Commissioner of Pensions, May 12, 1916. Soldiers Certificate No. 725160, William Ferguson, Private, Co. I ,8th, NJ Inf, "Civil War and Later Survivors Certificates, RG 15 NAB.
5. Certificate of Enrollment No. 473, Elizabeth, NJ. record for William Ferguson 1 Sept, 1864 . Company I, 8th New Jersey Infantry. Civil War Compiled Records of Military Service in military units of Union volunteer organizations. RG 109. NAB.
6. New Jersey State Library New Jersey Civil War Record, p. 366 New Jersey Volunteers. Eighth Regiment- Infantry- Volunteers. Record on-line http://www.njstatelib.org/slic_files/searchable_publications/civilwar/NJCWn366.html.
7. Civil War Compiled Records of Military Service. RG 109 NAB. Record for William Ferguson, Private, Co I, 8th Reg't, NJ Inf.
8. Detachment Muster Out Roll. Record for William Ferguson, Private, Co I, 8th Reg't, NJ Inf. Civil War Compiled Records of Military Service. RG 109 NAB.
9. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions, Questionnaire to William Ferguson Certificate No. 725160 Reply May 3, 1898. Soldiers Certificate 725160, William Ferguson, Private, Co I, 8th NJ Inf. " Civil War and Later Survivors Certificates" RG 15, NAB.
10. Ancestry.com 1870 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2003) record for William Ferguson.
11. Ancestry.com, U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010) Ancestry.com record for William Ferguson.
12. Database online. Year: 1880; Census Place: New Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey; Roll: T9_789; Family History Film: 1254789; Page: 30.4000; Enumeration District: 120; Image: 0487. Record for William Ferguson.
13. Ancestry. com, New Jersey State Census, 1895 (Provo, UT, USA. The Generations Network, Inc., 2007) database online. Record for William Ferguson.