Unpacking History One Discovery at a Time
My great grandfather, Edward Sweezey Sanford and his brother Elam Miles were both born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey to Elam Sanford and Jerusha Larkin Sanford. Their lives diverged when Elam Miles left for Illinois and then reconnected when Sweezey followed. Some in our family say Elam mustered a Civil War company in 1863 but to date I have found no evidence of service for an Elam Sanford among the Civil War records.
Sweezey did serve as part of a Hundred Days unit assigned to guard the Rock Island Prison. Though not as horrific as Andersonville, Rock Island was brutally cold, with limited food and medicine to maintain either prisoners or guards. Corruption and incompetency killed more Confederate prisoners than battle wounds:
A total of 1,964 Confederate prisoners and 125 Union guards are buried in the adjacent military cemetery, including 49 members of the 108th Regiment of United States Colored Troops, most of which died from disease or exposure. The prison camp was operational from December 1863 until July 1865 when the last prisoners were freed. After the war the prison facility was completely destroyed. During its two years in operation, the prison camp housed over 12,400 Confederates. (1)
Before joining the Illinois 133rd Infantry Regiment, Company B, Sweezey was a marble cutter in business with his brother, Elam. The 1864-65 Tax Assessment List shows Elam’s profession as a marble monument
Sweezey remained a marble cutter, moving to St. Paul, Minnesota, then to Eureka, California, and back to Minnesota, and finally resting in Eureka. He led a paupers life subsisting on his Civil War Pension. He died in the Union Labor Hospital, with no family around him.
Elam on the other hand went on to become a lawyer, and a justice, buying and selling high-priced property in the quality area of San Diego. He moved in society circles in North Dakota and later in San Diego, California, where he lived from 1903 on. His wife and daughters were mentioned in Golden Circle club announcements and in Knights of Pythias membership roles.
Sweezey and Elam had the same beginning.Yet one prospered and one struggled. One died a pauper, the other at home surrounded by his family. I don’t yet understand why they diverged and why they each made the choices that they did. Perhaps it was the death of Sweezey’s wife and child, perhaps it was just their different natures.
Born in New Jersey they took different roads to California and lay there waiting for relatives like me to start asking questions.
I am actively looking for relatives of Elam Miles Sanford. Please let me know if we’re related. I would love to see a picture of him.
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