Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Origins of My Civil War Research Interest

I never imagined in my all of my 16 years of doing genealogy research that I would ever become seriously interested in researching military, soldiers, and matters related to war. But since late 2009, I've been hooked on studying the Civil War. Now I’m even researching a regiment of the United States Colored Troops who organized in 1863 in Camp Hamilton in Hampton, VA in the present day area where Hampton University is now located.

James A. Fields
It all began after I became interested in researching the life of James A. Fields, a former slave who escaped from slavery during the Civil War from Hanover County, VA and became a guide for the Union Army during the war. After the war, Fields was part of the first graduating class of Hampton Normal and Agricultural School (now Hampton University) in 1871. He taught in the counties of Elizabeth City and James City for numerous years. Later, he became the first black judicial officer in Warwick County (now Newport News). In 1881, Fields graduated from the School of Law of Howard University in Washington, D.C. Beginning in the year 1897, Mr. Fields used his property at 617-27th Street as his law office and primary residence until his death in 1903.

Gregory Cherry
A few months before his death in August 2007, Gregory Cherry, owner of the historic James A. Fields House in Newport News, VA spoke to my genealogy society about the this historic house and his work in acquiring and restoring the house. I knew right then that I needed to get involved with the Fields House and even mentioned this to Greg after his presentation. I had good intentions when I met him, but did not initiate anything at that time. I did not give any serious thought to getting involved with the Fields House until I learned that Greg Cherry had passed away on August 8, 2007.

Saundra Cherry
As fate would have it, I would meet Greg's wife, Saundra, the following year and she would become a constant part of my life. During our conversations, she would mention the Fields House and the work she was continuing that had been started by her late husband. One of the projects she talked about was about creating a family tree of the descendants of the Fields Family. Eventually, I offered to type up the tree in a genealogy program. Saundra had drawn a family tree on a large roll of paper that is the length and size of a roll of gift wrapping paper.

Typing the Fields Family Tree
On a Friday evening after work in October 2009, I decided to begin typing the Fields Family Tree. This was the commitment to get involved with the Fields House that I had promised Greg Cherry more than two years earlier. I thought that it would take me longer to complete this task, but I actually finished the project that night. As I studied the names on this family tree, in particularly James A. Fields, his siblings, and parents, I longed to know more about this family. A few brief Internet searches gave me some initial info on Mr. Fields and his historic house.

The Fields House Blog
A second way of honoring the commitment I had made to get involved with the Fields House was by creating a James A. Fields House blog in November 2009.

My Research Journey
Thus began my interest in researching the Civil War era and the Fields family. It has been quite a journey and research of this family has taken me into so many different documents and resources in which I never had a reason to use in researching my own family. My research journey and findings will be discussed in future blog postings.


Darlene said...

Thank you for making us aware of your project. I hope to find some little project that I will also be passionate about and hoping to share.

DearMYRTLE said...

Thanks for sharing your time and energy in such a worthwhile cause. Dru. I think many of us have had that "feeling" that we should do something -- but few take the steps to actually commit.