Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When Past Meets Present


Captain Albert G. Cummings - 5th NH
     We all know there are times in life when we feel right in line. Of course these times may make up for all the times we don't, but sometimes certain events really make me question myself, as if to say, “can this really be the case?” I had another such one of these experiences very recently.
     I have had some mysterious connection to the Civil War era since the time of my boyhood. I had the pleasure of knowing my Great Grandfather and I remember sitting on his lap at their home up in Schuylkill County watching the movie Glory and listening to Grandpa Leroy tell me all about my ancestor that fought in the great war. The last time I saw him as I was leaving his hospital room, he said my name. I stopped and turned around.  He then put his hand up to his brow and saluted me. I sometimes wonder if it was a friendly reminder that it was now my turn to carry the torch.
     From there my grandparents took my siblings and I to Gettysburg and told us our family's role in the war, further fostering my passion for Civil War history. As a kid, instead of playing cowboys and indians, I was playing the part of JEB Stuart or Unconditional Surrender Grant, awaiting the next attack from the enemy. Not once did my parents ever tell me to stop being foolish, but they continued and continue to support my interest in the fascinating period that was the Civil War.
     This may seem a bit irrelevant, but as I am getting older, I find that Civil War history runs through every course of my life. Maybe it's because I'm constantly looking for it, but as a great writer once said...”how can we possibly see what is above us if we're constantly looking down at the ground.” The most recently unearthed family connection may seem petty to many, but it is a connection none the less.
     I was just having a normal day, surfing the vast web for more information on units and men to which I have taken an interest, when I stumbled across another internet blog. This blog involved a gentleman by the name of Albert G. Cummings. Mr. Cummings was born in 1844 in East Lebanon, New Hampshire and when the great war broke out, he enlisted with the 1st New Hampshire Infantry. Serving out his 9 month term he mustered out honorably with his regiment in September of 1861. As the conflict continued to pick up steam, his patriotic fire was not quenched and he reenlisted with the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry as a 1st Sergeant. He continued on his upward trek as a company commander through the war with bravery and strong leadership skills, eventually attaining the rank of Captain of Company F before mustering out of service in 1864. He was wounded at Fair Oaks, Fredericksburg and Chancellosville and a very proud member of the regiment that suffered the greatest number of casualties in the entire war.
     After the war Captain Cummings decided it was time to settle down and purchased a farm in the small Pennsylvania town of Millersburg, 29 miles north of the capitol, Harrisburg. For the sake of the story, Millersburg is my hometown as well.
     In his post war years, while conducting work on the farm, Captain Cummings was an inventor. His inventions which received patents include the Propeller Wheel (1896), Hydraulic Packing Device (1903) and a Land and Water Boat (1906). Captain Cummings died on August 3, 1911 with what many would consider a lifetime filled with stories of adventure. Although he served in the Civil War, through the research of Mr. Norman Gasbarro, we know that no pension card exists and his name is also not found on Millersburg's Civil War Monument.
      Here is where the story gets interesting for me. I really discovered this story by accident and I went home and shared this information with my family. I thought it was neat that a member of the 5th New Hampshire (one of the most famous of Civil War fighting units) lived and was buried in my hometown. When I said the name Cummings, I could instantly see a look of surprise come across the face of my parents.
When I was a kid, one room of the house where my siblings and I were not permitted to cause destruction was the “good room.” The “good room” is a sitting room filled with antiques and some of my family's more personal items. We as kids of course were not always successful in our bid to keep the energy down, but the room was more creepy to us at that time than it was interesting.
The sofa belonging to Captain Cummings Parlor Set
     In this “good room” sits a parlor set consisting of three Victorian chairs and a sofa dated to the late 19th Century. They are beautiful pieces of furniture, all hand carved and exquisite. It just so happens that in the 1980s the Cummings Farm, north of Millersburg, went up for auction and my parents were in attendance. At the end of the sale my father told my mother to come look what he had purchased. She followed him over to an outbuilding and inside was a pile of furniture covered in dirt and bird feces that mortified her. My father cleaned up the rosewood furniture and it has been sitting in the “good room” ever since. My mother also picked up a children's tea set at the sale.
     Now is when the tale comes full-circle. As you've gathered by now, all these items belonged to the late Captain and his wife. My parents also have a picture of the Cummings Farm that is rarely seen. Yes, it is merely old furniture, but now it has a story and the story goes to show that there are treasures of historical significance under our very noses.
     Whatever our beliefs of the afterlife may be, the story of Captain Cummings now lives on, which is to me in some way, a continuation of life for this very interesting man. Although it took many stars to align this tale, it definitely was worth discovering no matter how you look at it.  

Resources:
Mr. Gasbarro's Article on Albert G. Cummings - 

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