Standing guard for old soldiers
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
BAZETTA -- The lives of hundreds of men who marched from Trumbull County, and those who returned here after fighting in the war between the states, are being lost to history.
Anne Colucci's eyes well with tears just thinking about it.
"These are just ordinary people -- farmers and mill workers -- who go and do extraordinary things," said Colucci, surrounded by Civil War books, pictures and guns in her carpeted living room.
"There are stories that need to be told."
Helps: Over the past four years, Colucci, 38, has helped hundreds of strangers learn the stories of the people closest to them.
A database on her Web site lists 50 pages of names of Civil War servicemen with ties to Trumbull County, culled from troop rosters and aging newspapers.
Every day, she gets e-mails from people trying to find out about their ancestors. Colucci tries to oblige them, for free, using resources on the Internet and in local libraries.
The goal is to give people enough information to be able to request a serviceman's record from state or national archives, she said.
What they find is history on a more human scale than what many people expect.
"Some of the legends don't live up to reality," she said.
Colucci, a former Cortland cop, said she began researching her own family history as a reaction to her brother-in-law's boasting about a Confederate general in his family tree.
Among her discoveries was that the third-great-grandfather who the family believed to have escaped from a Confederate POW camp using a forged pass was actually given a medical discharge -- for hemorrhoids.
"It is a whole different perspective on history if you look at it for a particular soldier," she said. "They are really just ordinary people."
War stories: Their diary entries typically begin talking about the weather. Then, they will often go on to mention their bare feet or how cold they are in their one woolen uniform.
"It all started as a big adventure, but the entries after they have been in battle a few times change real quick," she said.
Many soldiers survived the war to descend into drink, she said.
Many others committed suicide, described in graphic detail by the newspaper accounts of the time.
Other local fighters found glory.
Five Union generals either came from this area or settled here after the war and a 16-year-old recruit from Orwell, Adna Chaffee, eventually rose to be Teddy Roosevelt's Chief of the Army.
"It is a shame," she said. "No one has heard of them."
Colucci's Web page is www.geocities.com/civilwarlady/.