In the late 1990s, I was researching my father’s side of the family. My grandfather’s grandparents on his mother’s side were Augustus and Elvira (Baldwin) Bodwell. The Bodwell family is well documented, tracing back to the late 1500s. In my direct lineage, there is an incredible history of Bodwells who served in various branches of military from King Philip’s War to the Civil War. Augustus (pictured right) enlisted for the call of duty at the outbreak of the War Between the States. There is a story within the family that George Bodwell (cousin to Augustus) was part of the company who captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis, but I have not found any official documentation to confirm this.
In the midst of my research of the Bodwell family, I came across an 1864 diary housed at the Connecticut State Historical Society penned by a POW serving time at the Andersonville Prison in Georgia. The term diary is used loosely as it is actually a small leather-bound pocket daily calendar. Each page had a lined space for three days. Private Samuel E. Grosvenor, who kept the diary, served with the 16th Regiment, Company B for the state of Connecticut.
Augustus served with various companies throughout the war and was at the Battle of Fredericksburg, as was Grosvenor. I began to think that if they served in the same battle, they might have crossed paths. Long story short, they didn’t. However, I found Grosvenor’s diary so intriguing, I transcribed it over the course of four months, did extensive research on his time in the military, read about half a dozen books on Andersonville, visited Andersonville, and followed Grosvenor’s genealogy going back to England into the late 1700s.
Then in 2011, I released Almost Home: The 1864 Diary of Sergeant Samuel E. Grosvenor. Usually when I release a title, I do a bit of marketing, give some presentations, blast it on social media, and then I’m onto the next project. This title would prove to be different as it keeps on breathing a life of its own.
1) Shortly after its release, I was contacted by Loren Evarts of Connecticut. He is a direct descendant of Mary (Grosvenor) Evarts. Samuel had eleven siblings, one of whom was Mary. While Samuel was in Andersonville, Mary had kept a diary and jotted down how the family was coping with not hearing any news about their loved one. It was interesting to see the contrast between Samuel writing about the hopes of an exchange and his faith (or lack of) in God, while Mary wrote about the family worries knowing Samuel was imprisoned. Although he did manage to mail a few letters to her, communication was extremely limited during that time. Loren recently published Mary Ann Grosvenor's 1865 Diary.
2) I also was contacted by Tracy Tomaselli of Guilford, Connecticut, who wrote Civil War Soldiers, Guilford, Connecticut. She compiled a book of brief biographical sketches of all the soldiers who served from the historic town of Guilford, which included Samuel and his two brothers, Daniel and Joseph. After a few conversations, she gave me permission to append her book to mine. Almost Home was then rereleased as a second edition to include excerpts of Mary’s diary and Tracy’s book.
3) Interestingly, in 2014, C-SPAN TV2 called me. They explained the station was putting together a series which featured literary writers living in big cities. Fort Myers—where I was living at the time—was on their list. A reporter from C-SPAN came out to my condo and interviewed me for about an hour and a half, which was then edited down to a short nine-minute segment. The show featured six talented writers living in Fort Myers as well as myself for their hour-long episode. You can view my segment here.
Not long after the C-SPAN show aired, I decided the title Almost Home wasn’t letting potential readers know what the book was about. Only after reading the book would a reader understand the title. So, I rereleased the book once again, this time under the title The 1864 Diary of Union Soldier Sergeant Samuel E. Grosvenor: A First Hand Account of the Horrors at Andersonville Prison.
4) Here’s the strangest discovery since the original book was released in 2011. Samuel’s sister, Emily, married Abner LeBarron. They had two daughters, Bertha and Grace. Bertha married Louis Jacobs, who happens to be in my Jacobs lineage. Therefore, through the marriage of Samuel’s niece, we are distantly related. A fact I did not know while researching this book or his life.
One last thing to share about this book is that it keeps on getting attention with no effort on my end. I created a Facebook page for the book in 2015, and after doing some initial sharing and posting, I’ve let the page idle. Yet, it continues to gain likes and views almost weekly. Maybe I’ll put aside some time and rethink a social media plan for this title. Maybe not. For now the Facebook page will remain “live” and the video will perhaps always be on YouTube.
My only real hope is that Samuel Grosvenor would be pleased with my efforts and know that his contributions to the Cause in which he gave his life for, at least with me, are not forgotten.
If you’re interested in having your family lineage traced, please contact Tim at email@example.com for more information. He’d love to find out who you’re related to!