October 20, 2017

William Burden Stevenson – The Civil War Years 1862 – 1864

William Burden Stevenson – The Civil War Era

(continued from William Burden Stevenson 1842 – 1926)

In William’s Civil War pension application records he states that about two weeks after leaving the Royal Navy as a deserter he made his way to Pennsylvania and joined Company I of the 111th PA Infantry under the false name of Thomas Crawford.

It’s not yet been discovered just how he began serving in the United States Navy, but I would posit that he might have divulged his previous maritime experience without disclosing that he was a deserter from the Royal Navy. In a document from the US Treasury Department dated 9 November 1893 it states that on May 2, 1864 William was transferred from the Army to the Clara Dolsen and served on that ship until May 12, 1864; he also served on the Chickasaw until July 10, 1865; lastly, his next ship of service was the Fearnot and he was stationed on that ship until August 9, 1865.

The Clara Dolsen (sometimes spelled Dholsen) is described as:

“Clara Dolsen was “a magnificent river steamer” in which half interest was owned by Bart Able and Albert Pearce of St. Louis. She was built in 1861 at Cincinnati, Ohio. Used in the service of the Confederate States out of Memphis, Tenn., she was captured by Federal ships of the St. Charles Expedition on the White River, 14 June 1862. Later she operated with the Union army and eventually as USS Clara Dolsen (frequently written Dolson).”

The Chickasaw was a river monitor, but not in the sense of what you might envision when you hear the word “monitor” i.e., the Merrimac and the Monitor. These were steam driven boats and in this case, for William Stevenson, a place to reside for a while until his next orders sent him to the his last ship, the Fearnot.

“From the time of her arrival at Key West 17 September 1861, Fearnot served as coal and supply ship for the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, sailing out of Key West to Ship Island, and after its fall, New Orleans. Her last service, from October 1865 to May 1866, was in carrying surplus ordnance to Pensacola, and guarding the large amounts of ammunition accumulating there. She arrived at Boston 29 May 1866, and there was decommissioned 18 July 1866 and sold 3 October 1866.”

William was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy on May 1, 1864 at New Orleans, Louisiana. After the Civil War was over, he continued to serve on ships at sea during peace time.

(To be continued)


(2015) Clara Dolsen. Retrieved November 02, 2015, from http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/confederate_ships/clara-dolsen.html

  1. W. (2015) Fearnot. Retrieved November 02, 2015, from http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/f/fearnot.html


1955 Operation Wigwam Participant : John E. Wilkerson

David and John Wilkerson

We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get military records for some of our older family members like Jim’s dad Loren, my dad Wm G Yates, and Jim’s uncle John Wilkerson. The fathers were both participants in World War II, and John (as well as his younger brother David Wilkerson) were in the military during the time of the Korean War. Loren, my dad and John were all in the Navy, while uncle David was in the Marines.

Operation Wigwam

My focus in this article is about John E Wilkerson though because we have documentation from his military records that he was on the Navy ship USS McKean during Operation Wigwam in 1955. In May of that year the ship and crew were one of 30 vessels and 6,800 personnel present when the underwater nuclear test took place.  The purpose of the test was to see if it would be effective for use against enemy submarines. No protection was provided for anyone.  In later years Uncle John told Jim the only thing that was done was to wash down the ship afterwards.

After Effects of Radiation Exposure

The USS McKean (DD 784) was in service for many years (In Commission 1945 to 1981) after Operation Wigwam, during which time it was probably brought into shipyards like ours in Bremerton. There, the civil service workers were also exposed to the radiation and most likely somewhat lesser contaminants as they worked on the ship during routine repairs and refurbishment. Ponder that for a moment and digest just how far-reaching the health effects might have been. [As a non-medical person I cannot say whether or not John’s health might have been affected by his exposure to the radiation during Operation Wigwam.] John is still living and his personal information is private.

Sources and Additional Documentation

For more information about Operation Wigwam, please visit this article by Thomas D. Segal The Wigwam That Kept Nobody Safe.




Excellent, Affordable Genealogy Webinars by Michael John Neill

Genealogy Webinars – by Michael John Neill

There is nothing closer to my heart than telling my friends about excellent genealogy resources.  Even better, these webinars were created by my friend Michael John Neill! You may know Michael from Casefile Clues and now I’m happy to say he has released his Genealogy Webinars to the public.

I hope you’ll take a moment to click the link above and discover some new genealogical information you might never have thought of before.

If you’re in a hurry, I’ll be adding a link to my sidebar so you can return and sign up later.


That Headstone Might Not Be Stolen


John Whitmore’s Headstone: The First One Was Broken In Shipment

We researchers probably hear about headstone desecration more in genealogy circles than the average person, but I’d like to caution my readers to always check to see if there is another facet to the story if you should find a headstone somewhere other than in a cemetery.

It’s entirely possible to find a lone headstone just laying out in a field (sometimes with cattle in attendance).  If it’s an old patch of family land, there could even be others nearby that you wouldn’t even see because they’ve deteriorated in the weather.

You Have A Headstone In Your Yard?

But what about those stones that are broken and used for steps or something in someone’s yard? No doubt at first you would be appalled that someone could use them in such a way.  There could be some simple explanations though:

  • They were not used or approved by the family because there was a mistake.
  • In the process of setting the stone it broke and the mortuary discarded it.
  • A new one was set in place (such as the Medal of Honor one above) and so one of the family members took home the old one and used it in his/her yard.
  • A new owner of a home might not know that the other side of that nice piece of granite in the yard has an inscription on the other side.

Years ago I found a DAR cemetery marker in an antique store in Iowa.  It had no identifying marks on it, and since I’m in the DAR I bought it and brought it home.  Truthfully, I have no idea what to do with it, so it’s just stored away in a safe place.

My final thoughts on all of this is that before you contact any authorities and report anyone, try to find out the facts first.

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