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Our Lost Boys

The Civil War has always fascinated me. Like so many families, we suffered some of the 250,000 Union losses. Perhaps that is why I feel a personal connection to the war.

Recently I discovered two more possible Civil War casualties in my family tree. If proven, both of them were first cousins of my great-grandfather Samuel Harvey Reed.

Samuel’s maternal aunt Nancy Carter married Robert Boyd in 1840 in Coles County, Illinois. This couple had four known sons. According to 1850 and 1860 U. S. census records, their two oldest children were boys, G. R. born about 1843 and Jas born about 1845. Both these boys were the right age to serve in the Civil War. Their younger male siblings, Caleb (b. abt. 1857) and John (b. abt. 1859), were too young. Why do I believe the two older sons perished in the Civil War (1861-1865)?

I have the following evidence:

  1. Neither G. R. nor Jas has been found on the 1870 U. S. census. Perhaps they died before that date.
  2. I have a photocopy of an undated scrapbook page created by Olive Rector, a great-great-niece of Nancy Carter Boyd. She wrote that two of Nancy and Robert Boyd’s sons, Robert and Riley, were killed in the Civil War—one at Shiloh and one at Fort Donaldson (sic).
  3. The Regimental history for the 8th Illinois, Company C (raised in Coles County) lists two Boyd casualties. Private George R. Boyd was killed near Vicksburg on 1 July 1863 and is buried there. Robert Boyd died about 20 Feb 1862 of wounds received at Ft. Donelson.

Although interesting, this evidence does not make the case that Nancy Boyd’s sons died in the war. Too many questions remain:

  1. The names do not match up perfectly. I can hypothesize that the G. R. named on the census was George R. Boyd. Maybe the initial R stands for the son Riley mentioned by Olive Rector. Secondly, perhaps Jas was the Robert who died of wounds received at Fort Donelson. His full name could have been Jas Robert or Robert Jas. But without further proof, it is a stretch to conclude that the boys listed on the census are the Boyd casualties from the 8th Illinois.
  2. Olive Rector claimed that one of the sons died at Shiloh. George R. Boyd fell at Vicksburg. Was Olive mistaken about the site of the battle, or are these records for two different men? Civil War casualty lists for Shiloh do not include anyone named Boyd. A great-great-niece, writing many years later, could have named the incorrect battle.
  3. Our Boyd cousins may have served in a regiment other than the 8th Illinois.

Without further proof I cannot conclude that my great-grandfather lost his Boyd cousins in the war. If he did, I cannot say for certain which son died at which battle. I need a little more evidence to substantiate this sad conclusion.

One Response to “Our Lost Boys”

  • Hello Terri. I am also a descendant of the Boyd family and have been doing research for years. I did a Google search and came across your write up about Robert Boyd. I have a newspaper artilce that says that two of his sons died in the Civil War, so I believe your information is correct. I can email that to you if you like. You can reach me at maboyd43@hotmail.com.

    Mark A. Boyd

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