Cold Harbor Comrades

Week 41: #52 Ancestors – Newest

By Eilene Lyon

“Cousin Orin Rhodes was shot through the head the first battle he ever was in. George Rhodes is in hospital. No more news this time.” – George L. Carey, June 26, 1864

My newest cousin contact, thanks to this blog, sent me on a research quest (aka “rabbit hole”) regarding this Civil War photograph. We knew that the young man on the right was her ancestor, John Arlington Carey. Because she inherited the Carey family photo album, which contains other images of the man on the left, we figured he must be related to John somehow.

Katherine Elizabeth “Katie” Cutting. (Courtesy of N. Ingram)

John Carey’s second wife was Katherine “Katie” Cutting, whom he married in Codington County, South Dakota, in 1885. Katie is my 3rd great-aunt, thus our family connection. I shared a few items I had on the Careys, including a biography published in the Codington centennial history book. I don’t know who wrote it, but the first part led to some confusion.

“John A. Carey, son of Alfred and June Carey, was born in 1846 in Westfield, New York. His mother died when he was eight and, after that, he lived with cousins.”

Census records from John’s early life, and Ancestry trees, tell a different story. He was born in 1844 to Thomas L. Carey and Stephania Wade. John was at least 10 years old when his mother died. (I still don’t know where Alfred and June come in.)

Thomas L. Carey, John A. Carey’s father. (Courtesy of S. Mackey)

At age 17, John enlisted in Company E, 112th New York Volunteers from Westfield. He served from 1862 to war’s end in 1865, mustering out in Raleigh, North Carolina, in June of that year. He was wounded in the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, in 1864.

I noticed that the unknown soldier had sergeant stripes, so I went online to find the Company E roster and muster rolls. None of the sergeants’ names meant anything, but I jotted them down. There were no Careys among the privates aside from John. I found a brief blurb about John in the 112th Regiment roster, but neglected to scroll up a page.

Looking through Ancestry trees, I found that Thomas L. Carey’s brother, Nathaniel, and family also lived in Westfield, New York, during the war. One of Nathaniel’s sons, George L. Carey, served as a sergeant in Company E, same unit as John. Hmm.

George L. Carey, John A. Carey’s first cousin. (Courtesy of S. Mackey)

Going back to the Co. E muster roll, I found him: Corporal “G. L. Cary” denoting his rank upon enlistment. Back to the 112th roster. Yes, George L. Carey and John served together, enlisting a few days apart, and mustering out together. I figure the feature photo was probably taken in 1864, when they were on furlough, and before John had been promoted to corporal.

Excerpt from Adjutant General’s roster for the 112th New York Volunteers. (Click to enlarge)

Almost better than the photo, someone on Ancestry posted the transcript of a letter from George to his cousin, Emma Wade, in Iowa shortly after the Cold Harbor conflict. He mentions John in the letter:

“Dear Cousin Emma, I received your last letter at White House Landing, Va. and the next day I was wounded in a charge at Coal Harbor. It was a flesh wound in my left hip and cousin Johnnie rec’d a flesh wound in his left arm and I expect that he is at home on furlough now.”

Sadly, John and George’s cousin, Orin Rhodes, was not so fortunate, as the opening quote attests. John and George Carey, on the other hand, lived out their lives, marrying and having children and grandchildren. George lived to 65 and John to the ripe age of 85.

Gathering at the Guy Halse house in Dexter Township, Codington County. John A. Carey is seated in front with a child on his lap. The woman to his right is likely Katie (Cutting) Carey. John never seemed to age past about 60, though Katie certainly did. Taken about 1925, the year before Katie died. (Courtesy of W. Halse) Click to enlarge.
John A. and Katie (Cutting) Carey in their later years. (Courtesy of S. Mackey)

Feature image: Sgt. George L. Carey and Pvt. John A. Carey in their Civil War uniforms c. 1864. (Courtesy of S. Mackey)

P.S. I might be meeting my new cousin face-to-face (with masks) in the next week or so. Oh boy!


Letter to Miss Emma J. Wade, Maquoketa, Jackson Co., Iowa, from George L. Carey – De Camp General Hospital David’s Island NY Harbor, June 26, 1864, posted by robtdenman1 on

Codington County History Book Committee. 1979. “The First 100 Years” 1879-1979 in Codington County South Dakota. Watertown Public Opinion Print, p. 134.

Thomas Cary. Year: 1850; Census Place: Westfield, Chautauqua, New York; Roll: 485; Page: 147b – via

Thomas Carey. New York, State Census, 1855 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

Thomas Carey. Year: 1860; Census Place: Westfield, Chautauqua, New York; Page: 79; Family History Library Film: 803732 – via

Links to Muster Roll and Unit Roster at

40 thoughts on “Cold Harbor Comrades

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    1. My understanding is that it’s a hand-tinted tintype. So probably done shortly after the image was processed. I love it when I have photos to illustrate a story – and of course, this story was about a photo.


  1. Thank you for an interesting story. I would be interested to know whether they might be descended from the Carey family that Mary Boleyn (sister of Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII) married into. I am descended from William and Mary Boleyn Carey’s daughter Catherine (who is alleged to actually be the daughter of Henry VIII through Mary’s affair with Henry). I might try to research it when I get some free time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not researched back on that line. I did find Thomas L in a book called John Cary, Plymouth Pilgrim… That is where I learned of his parents and siblings, e.g. Nathaniel.


      1. This John A. Carey is definitely the one who served from Westfield with his cousin, George. In addition to his (admittedly flawed) bio mentioning his service and battle injury, he is listed in the 1890 US veterans schedule (which gives his service unit), and he has a veteran’s headstone which also has the service unit. It is a common name, certainly.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thomas L. Carey’s hat in his photograph is quite dapper. I do like it.

    I find old family photos interesting, but do wonder sometimes if the person we see in the photo is the actual person whose name is on the photo. I mean, there’s no way to double check. Who’s to know for sure?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true. But how often is a photo really likely to be misidentified? Why put an incorrect name? In this case, I don’t think there’s much confusion, as the photos are part of a family album. There is another photo of Thomas in it as well, but of the two, I preferred this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a good history sleuth you are 🙂 And what an amazing story too. I admired the Iowa connection, since I grew up there 🙂 The brothers were lucky to survive – Cold Harbor was a nasty fight!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good question, I had to think about this and can clearly see it is history and pop culture, both of which are often intertwined. On of my most recent dives was into Zora Neale Hurston and the “missing” ten years in her biography and If her blow up with Langston Hughes caused her to be forgotten for a period of time. I need more down time to keep reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sounds fascinating. Thanks for introducing her – she had not been on my radar. It’s interesting that you mention how history and pop culture are intertwined. I don’t know that many people see that connection.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Pop culture is part of history. Maybe it is because I grew up a reader. As a kid I was allowed very limited TV, but I could read anything I wanted and I had my own transistor radio. Remember those? LOL

        Liked by 1 person

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