U.S. History/Civil War


I am puzzled.  I have an ancestor, James Pennington, who waited until 1864 to enlist in the Civil War for the 9th New York Cavalry Company G.  Thing is... James Pennington was from Courtland Township, Kent County, Michigan (just north of Grand Rapids).

Was this common for a volunteer from one State to travel to another State to enlist?  Why wouldn't James have just enlisted in one of the Michigan-based Cavalry units?

According to the National Archival Pension Documents, James enlisted at Lockport, New York.  The soldier roster does not show any other Michigander accompanied James in his travel or enlistment.

Thank you.

Hi, Jay,

I can understand your puzzlement. And you are right: it is unusual that a guy from Michigan would be enlisting in another state's unit. But the explanation is probably simple. Just like today, 19th century Americans didn't necessarily stay in their place of origin. Hundreds of thousands upon thousands of people pulled up roots and moved elsewhere. It's possible your ancestor was one of these, and he was living in New York. Conversely he may have been in New York temporarily for some purpose. We do have muster roll information--see below--so we know that he enlisted on October 4, 1864 in Genesee Falls, NY. He was 35 years old at the time. During this stage of the war, the U.S. had been conscripting men for service for over a year. Maybe he was signing up to avoid been drafted. Well-to-do draftees could hire a substitute for them for $300 if they were drafted. Maybe James Pennington was one of these.   

In any event, those are best speculations I can come up with without some other primary evidence like correspondence or something else to go on.

See: https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/cavalry/9thCav/9thCavMain.htm

There's also a history of the regiment available for download online at:

That history, on p. 360, has the following information about James Pennington.

Pennington, James, age 35. Enlisted Oct. 4. '64. at Genesee
Falls. Mustered out with Co. July 17, '65, at Clouds Mills, Va.  

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Tom Schott


Civil War, Reconstruction, military and political, Southern politics, slavery, civil war causation, general American history. Prefer 18th/19th century, but can handle all.


College level teacher. Published author.

Ph.D. in American history (LSU, 1978)

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