The hunt for an ordnance sergeant named Burt

Posted on January 26, 2011 by


A few days ago, I asked Craig Swain about the story behind the ordnance sergeant who was present at the seizing of Ft. Pulaski. Incidentally, you may recall, Ft. Pulaski was also a subject of interest in my =>most recent post.

Anyway, Craig included the name of the ordnance sergeant in his post, but was still trying to establish what happened to him after Pulaski. He did have a hunch, however, that this ordnance sergeant later served as an officer in a particular Maine regiment; he just couldn’t match the two persons… there were some gaps. Being something that I really enjoy doing, I asked if I could take a swag at it.

For those who are familiar with research in “the old days”, this would usually entail a trip to the National Archives. Of course, with the available online resources, this is no longer a necessity for some of the most basic essentials, such as service records and, in some cases, pension records. So…

My first step was to go over to the NPS’s Soldiers and Sailors System.  It’s the basic of the basic… just a master index of names, which will reveal rank and unit. Though this didn’t help me a great deal on this go round, it’s usually a good starting point.

Screenshot of the Soldiers and Sailors System... results for my search for Edwin Burt. Soldiers #4 and #5 are the same man... and happens to be the ordnance sergeant who was present at Ft. Pulaski in January 1864.

The next step was a quick look into I was looking for a service record, but I found something better first. It just so happens that the officer, Lt. Col. Edwin Burt of the 3rd Maine Infantry, had a wife, and, Burt being a fatality in the Battle of the Wilderness, his wife applied for a pension not too terribly long after the death of her husband. In this pension record, she provided information about the date and place where they married… Fortress Monroe, in 1850. So. this Col. Burt was career Army, and, at this point, I was getting a strong hunch that he was the man we were looking for.

In addition to Margaret Burt providing information about her wedding day, there was also a written statement submitted by the chaplain who married the couple. As the document reveals, at the time of the marriage, Edwin Burt was serving with the 4th U.S. Artillery at Fort Monroe.

Also in this pension application was a list of Edwin and Margaret Burt’s children…

The first thing that came to my mind was that… if this Burt was the same Edwin Burt who was present at Ft. Pulaski, then, maybe… if the family was also living near the post, I should find them in the 1860 census record somewhere in Chatham County, Georgia… hopefully. Indeed… and they were there! Living on the post…

What might have, in earlier years, taken a day trip to the Archives, took me a matter of minutes. In fact, the first e-mail, when I asked Craig about other states as possibilities for service, was written at 6:03 p.m., and the one in which I let him know I had confirmed the ordnance sergeant as the lieutenant colonel was written at 6:19 p.m.

Lt. Col. Edwin Burt, 3rd Maine Infantry. Killed at the Wilderness, May 5, 1864.

Still, being a bulldog for minor details, I wasn’t quite done with Col. Burt (a native of Orleans County, New York). Within the next hour or so, I spent a little time tracking down his parents (in an effort at trying to figure out his connection to Maine… if any).

A day later, I remembered seeing one of Burt’s sons having been born in Gadsden County, Florida. I sent an e-mail to Craig, and it became apparent that, after Fortress Monroe, Burt had been transferred to the Apalachicola Arsenal in Chattahoochee, where his son, Edwin S. Burt, was born on April 1, 1856. Sometime after that, Burt was transferred to Ft. Pulaski… and thus ends his first decade as a married soldier.

The next thing that dawned on me was that John H. Burt was born in March 1861, meaning… Margaret was pregnant, maybe 7 months pregnant, when Burt was confronted with the Georgia Militia at Pulaski. In that his wife and family resided on post, I can only imagine what may have gone through his head. Adds another dimension to the overall story of the seizing of the fort, doesn’t it?

Still curious, I began tracking down his widow and children after the war. So far, this particular leg of the journey has been a rather rocky road. I have a hunch that Margaret died before 1870, and think I found Edwin S. Burt, in 1870, while a resident of the National Soldiers’ Orphans Home in Gettysburg, Pa. Age is correct, but the birth state is not (though not uncommon for census records). So… still working on that. Still, another 30 years down the road (1900), I found Edwin, now a 44 year-old sergeant, stationed at the Sandy Hook Proving Grounds at Monmouth, New Jersey. I asked Craig about this the location, and he knew something about the place being used to test high-powered coastal defense guns there at about that time. I’m not sure about the length of his career, but found Edwin S. Burt buried in Hampton National Cemetery… as well as (I think…) his brother, John H. Both following in their father’s footsteps?

So, that’s where I’m at right now. I’m still not quite finished with my searching, but friend Craig and I are working on a deadline, taking on the story of Edwin Burt from two different angles… so, in addition to my focus on Col. Burt here, see => here, for Craig’s focus on him, from the other angle, at To the Sound of the Guns. Enjoy!

*See =>here for Col. Burt’s Find-a-Grave page. Burt now rests in grave 3953 in Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

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