I started by making a list of all male ancestors in my family tree who were between the ages of 14 and 60 in the early 1860s. I then searched for Civil War Service Records for those men, using the indexes available on Ancestry.com and images on Fold3. Once I found their records, I made a list of my Civil War soldier ancestors with their enlistment date, regiments, and discharge date, as listed on their Civil War Service Records.
Next, I researched the regiments and units that each soldier served in, to find out which battles they fought in. This can be difficult, as each regiment has been researched to a different extent. Some regiments were large and part of even larger armies, others were small and participated in smaller battles. Regiments were often reorganized, becoming part of a larger army (ex Army of Northern Virginia). Here, Google was my friend and will be yours as well. There are lots of small websites out there, dedicated to particular regiments or units. I also found good information on Wikipedia, in some cases. For those doing Georgia research, the website, Georgia Confederate Units, will be very helpful to understand the organization of regiments. But don't neglect books either! Check out the collections at nearby libraries and archives to see if there is anything available.
As you can see in the service record shown here, my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Nathan W Hyler, enlisted with Company C of the 15th Regiment South Carolina Infantry on 7 April 1862. This record shows that he was "Present" with his unit during the months of July and August of 1863.
The dates on this record are key; I know when he joined the war (so I don't need to look earlier than this date) and I know that Nathan was with his regiment in July of 1863. From researching his regiment, I know that at that time they were fighting at Gettysburg!
Using the information I uncovered about my ancestor's military units, I came up with the following list of ancestors who fought there:
- From my Paternal line
- William Anderson Craft of Elbert County, GA, with the 15th Reg GA Infantry, Co F
- Wiley Powell of Elbert County, GA, with the 38th Reg GA Infantry, Co F
- From my Maternal line
- William Washington Sprouse of Abbeville County, SC, with the 1st Reg SC Cav, Co A
- detached to Hampton's Brigade
- Franklin Edwin Leaphart of Lexington County, SC, with the 15th Reg SC Inf, Co C
- Nathan Washington Hyler of Lexington County, SC, with the 15th Reg SC Inf, Co C
I then visited CivilWar.org to look at battlefield maps from Gettysburg. I was able to find each of my ancestors' units on the maps. This image shows a portion of "The Wheatfield Fight." You can see where the 15th Georgia and the 15th South Carolina fought in this battle. That's three of my ancestors fighting very close together. Hopefully one day I'll visit Gettysburg and will be able to walk where my ancestors fought. Hopefully you found some helpful tips here and will be able to walk where your ancestors fought too.