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Travels to Research a Civil War Book  

by Mary Emma Allen


Assisting my Cousin Steve in researching a book about our Civil War ancestor, Henry Ira Banks, has been a fascinating journey.  The book, The Legacy Road by Steve Enyeart, recently was released.  By combining our research and his travels, Steve has written a very informative blog and book about our ancestor and the Civil War era.   


Uncle Henry Ira Banks served in the Union Army, and Steve had acquired the bible Uncle Henry carried with him during the war.  This piqued Steve's  interest in discovering more about his ancestor.  He learned, from something I'd written online, that I was descended from Henry Ira, too, so contacted me.  

I grew up near Uncle Henry Ira's birthplace in New York State and knew about him from delving into my grandmother's family history, as well as discovering letters he'd written from the battlefields.  (Grandma was Henry Ira's niece.)  As I researched the Banks family, I learned that Henry Ira's father drowned when Henry was young, leaving his mother with five young boys and four older children.  His mother, Cynthia Banks, eventually moved to western Illinois with the younger boys.  My great grandfather, Willis Banks,  was older and stayed behind in Pawling, NY. 

Steve is descended from David Irish Banks, one of the brothers who grew up in Illinois and Iowa.


Tracing Henry's Travels. 

Through additional research and the letters I discovered, Steve traced Uncle Henry's route during the war. Then Steve actually visited many of the battlefields where Henry and his fellow soldiers camped and fought.  On his blog, , Steve relates his travels and discoveries in his search for Uncle Henry Ira.   

He corresponded with people living at Henry's birthplace, connected with the nearby historical  society, met our Cousin Dee in Colorado, who is descended from another brother who went west, explored Henry's homestead in Kansas, and found his grave site in Baird, TX.  The grave was unmarked, so Steve was successful in acquiring a gravestone for it. 

 Then he made several journeys to various places where Henry's travels with the Union Army took him.  To get the feel of what these soldiers might have experienced, Steve also participated in a reenactment.


 Fascinating Journey

Following Uncle Henry Ira's trail has been a fascinating journey for me,too.  Even though I didn't physically walk over the battlefields and visit the western sites associated with our ancestor, I've enjoyed providing information where I could and reading about Steve's travels.  It's always interesting to meet new cousins and learn more about our common ancestors.   

Resaca Reenactment    Photo Credit Kathleen Walls

I did visit the Resaca Battlefield and Kennesaw Mountain several years ago in search of another of my grandmother's uncles, this one on her mother's side.  George Mathewson fought there and was buried at the nearby Union Cemetery in Marietta, GA.  I recall the satisfaction of finding his name on a marker, so could relate to Steve's excitement in locating Uncle Henry's grave.  My Great-great grandmother Eliza regretted that she never saw George's grave.  So I somewhat felt I made the journey for her. 

Steve describes his journey to the Resaca and Kennesaw Mountain, as well as other areas in search of Uncle Henry Ira.  I must compare dates and battles and see if both of my grandmother's uncles were at that area the same time. 

Actual Kennesaw Battle Site   Photo Credit Kathleen Walls

Whether you're researching your ancestors, seeking information for a book or article,or simply broadening your knowledge,  including travel in your search can give more depth to your work and provide enjoyment for yourself.  Reading Steve's book will give you "armchair"  pleasure as you follow his travels.


Steve Enyeart's book, The Legacy Road, is available at bookstores online.


(c)2015 Mary Emma Allen 


(Mary Emma Allen writes from her woodland home in New Hampshire and during her travels.  She does a great deal of researching and writing about her family history and conducts workshops to help others with theirs.  Currently she and her daughter are compiling a family cookbook.  E-mail:



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