Who Was C[harles] C. Ackels?: Help Needed!

by Brett Schulte on February 19, 2013 · 6 comments

Recently Kathryn Lerch (who so generously donated a large number of items from her 8th New York Heavy Artillery collection to me for use on my Siege of Petersburg site) contacted me via email with a mystery:

Brett, I decided I have exhausted my usual search lines on Ancestry and Fold3, and still keep coming up with dead ends.  Then it occurred to me you might be the perfect resource. If you “run out” of thing to do in research, do you have any suggestions for other avenues for me to use to find the regiment of this writer?  I did not locate him with a pension, and really don’t want to go through 60,000+ names on individual unit rosters. . .  The order of battle is too extensive for Petersburg in Dec. 1864.  Therefore, I am attaching the scanned pages from the letter and the transcribed copy. My students are wrapping up section of the Civil War anthology we are working on and it would be nice to put Lt. C. C. Ackels with a regiment if possible, but I am not hopeful. I am assuming his name is Charles C. Ackels and I have even varied the spelling in my search for records for Eckels, Ackles, etc.    Thanks again for the newspaper resources in New York. This has been very helpful. Hope all is well with you and your family, Kathryn Lerch

Kathryn was kind enough to attach a transcription of the letter referred to above:

Camp near Peatersburg Va Dec 24th 1864

Dear Father,

Christmas eve is upon us.

Four months ago today all left home with the full determination or expectation of being in a General pitch battle before this time. But as yet we are all alive & well & the war is progressing as fast as we aught to anticipate under our Nations present circumstances

Savanah has fallen with all its brave defenders & Artillery & munitions of war into our hands. Wilmington has come to the same unhappy fate   The two fell abot the same time.  B  Bailey — that Old Benj Butler plade a yankee trick on the Johnies.  He worked at that candle [?] canal & there commenced shelling  Their Batteries with all his fleet & the same night was on His way to join the armey in the cotton states.  C Niles [?] the Johnies had sent every man that they could spare up hear & Theer Rail Roads cut then you see  Was the time for our men down there & I think it will prove to be one of the Splendidest movements of the war

I cannot make up my mind as to the movements but I think they will either move upon Charleston or in the rear of Richmond but I think the former & I also think with a skillful and earnestness upon the parts of the Officer & Men there is nothing that will save the sitty    I hope every soldier will do his duty in thie comeing & nearly lastly campaign   I hope that the people in the North will cheerfully respond to the late call & that it may bee filled by volunteers & if not With the draft    The Johnies are diserting & arive hear to these Head quarters from 20 to 200 every day & they say that there is lots —il smart more coming. You may think that by my writing that I think the war is closed But it may last some time yet   but the rebel army is diminishing as fast as I ever thought it could & a little faster

We had one man shot through the arm last night on guard around camp  The ball came from the Rebs pickett line.  We recd those articles that you sent by Oren al wright & a letter this week Under date of the 3rd   I rote one to you & am a little anxious to hear from it.  We havenot received our pay yet   I wish you all a happy new year   I sign this as ever your affectionate Son

Let. C. C. Ackles


We was called up last Thursday between 2 & 3 o’clock with orders to be ready  But morning came & we did not have to leave camp.  What caused this alarm was that some Johnies diserted came in & stated that they intended to blow up one of tour Forts at 4 in the morning   it was raining & there was a large pond of water that had settled in front of the fort Which on a sudden disappeared & the Johnies at once commence firing   They think the water drowned them out   I don’t know as this is so but I got it from a staff Officer.  You take good care of that Wagon & Harness & donot let eny one have it to drive a mild not to hitch onto it & keep them away from these enise [?]

Dec 25th noon Christmas

The day is very plesent & warm  every thing is quiet & the camp is still  we have had our Sunday mornings inspection & there is nothing else to do untill dresperade [dress parade] at a little before sunset

PS  I should have finished this last night but I thought our mornings male might bring a letter from home but as it didn’t I will finish this

Hoping that I shall receive one soon

A leter wishing you a marry

Christmas  I close this as

Before Your


Mate  tell me who is our School man & if you go, & who all &ct


So there you have it.  Just who was C. C. Ackels?  He was present in camp “near Petersburg” on December 24, 1864 when he wrote the letter Kathryn mentions.  His name and location on December 24 are really all we have.  Does anyone know of any good sites to be able to find a soldier’s unit based solely on his last name and initials?  I’ve gone ahead and attached the letter images below.  Any help you can give Kathryn is greatly appreciated.  This looked like the perfect “crowd sourcing” question and I figure one or more of my readers will be able to come up with an answer.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter February 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Part of the problem is that the last letter of the last name is ‘y’ instead of ‘s.’ It is a bit squished because the writer ran out of space. The abbreviation of the first name also ends in an ‘n’, not ‘r.’ If you go to the NPS Soldiers and Sailors database and put these parameters in, you get 2nd Lt. Chancy C. Ackley of the 207th PA Infantry, posted near Petersburg and with an enlistment date of August/September 1864 (this time frame is mentioned in the first paragraph of the letter).


Brett Schulte February 19, 2013 at 9:03 pm


Interesting detective work! I’ll be sure to pass along this information to Kathryn. Thanks for mentioning the free NPS Soldiers and Sailors Database as well: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm



SteveG February 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I agree with Peter. I read Chan Ackley in the signature. At FamilySearch I find Chancy C. Ackley listed as being in the 58th New York National Guard, 1864. If nothing else at least two pairs of eyes agree on a name for further digging!


Brett Schulte February 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Thanks Steve. I’ve found one of the most difficult things to do is transcribe period handwriting in letters, official reports, diaries, even numbers in ordnance returns. I think the more you do it you sort of gain an eye for it, but I’m still a novice as far as this goes.



Peter February 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Brett, the more you read them, the easier it will become. Easiest thing to do is compare letters to ones in words that you know; the ‘y’ at the end of “Ackley” looks a lot like the terminal ‘y’ in “artillery,” but not like any terminal ‘s’ in the rest of the letter. Sometimes 19th century writing is a lot worse than having to do paleography, because at least with paleography the writers are trained to a consistent hand.
SteveG, maybe Ackley served in the 58th NYNG for a bit, but according to Dyer, the 58th NYNG mustered in for 100 days in August 1864 and spent all of them guarding the prisoners at Elmira.


Brett Schulte February 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm


Thanks! I recently went through and transcribed the Union Ordnance returns for June 30, 1864. I got used to the clerk’s handwriting…and then realized a different person compiled the September 30, 1864 returns, and had an entirely different style of handwriting.


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