Thursday, April 9, 2009

Richard Toner Civil War Records?

I got home late last night and, after heading upstairs to go to bed, realized I hadn't seen my Civil War records. They weren't on my desk, where my parents usually put my mail when I'm at school. I went downstairs and checked the kitchen counter. Nope, not there. Sometimes mail goes on the dining room table. Not there either. By the door? Still no.

I finally found it in a pile of envelopes on a bench in the dining room.

I ran upstairs, pulled out my records, and here's the information they contained:

Toner, Richard

Age: 24 yrs
When: 13 April 1864
Where: Utica, NY
Period: 3 yrs

Mustered In
When: 13 April 1864
Grade: Priv.
Comp'y: [Unassigned]
Red't: 5th Hy Arty

Left the Organization
How: Deserted
When: 16 April '64
Grade: Priv.
Explanation: at Auburn Rendezvous


Born: Ireland
Age: 24
Occupation: Painter
Eyes: Grey
Hair: dark
Complexion: fair
5 ft. 7 in. high
21st Corig Out [OR] 21st Cons Int. [or something like that]

In addition, "DM+DR" is written 3 times in the left margin, opposite his name, his enlistment information, and his personally identifiable information. I have no idea what it means.

Now, the most important question here is is this our Richard Toner?

Points against our Richard:
-he enlisted in Utica, of all places
- he's pert near 20 years too young to be our Richard (This is based not only on date of birth/baptism, but also on the age he reported on every record or news item we've ever come across. He was not in the habit of misrepresenting his age by more than a couple years. He was sometimes 50 when he maybe should have been 57, but never 50 when he should have been 75.)

Points in favor of our Richard:
-correct name
-born in Ireland
-he's a painter
-large parts of this Regiment were recruited in Brooklyn and NYC (posting will be light during the rest of Holy Week, but check back Monday for a Regimental History of the 5th Heavy Artillery)

Now, there was not only one Richard Toner in Brooklyn. (The other one appears not to be relevant to us, but I'll try to post the link to the article about "Dick the Rat.") I'm sure that means that there were more Richard Toners in New York State. This could be one of the others. (To our knowledge, Richard had no sons or known other relatives who shared his name.) But really, how many of them could have been painters? Okay, potentially more than one. Would it have been likely?

Richard should have been in his 40s in 1864, and something my mom pointed out is that the age "24" could be a reversal of the age "42." I wonder, though, if that might be more of a 20th century, computer keyboard kind of mistake. Would it be as plausible to transpose two digits in a number when writing by hand? It certainly seems possible.

Another factor to consider is that this Richard Toner deserted after just 3 days. While it's entirely plausible, especially in the 19th century, that someone would lie about his age to be able to join the military (and the upper limit for service was age 45), it seems that this Richard did not want to be in the army. I have to assume he didn't lie about his age so he could enlist just to desert after less than a week.

So. . .jury's still out. Got any input?

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