In early August, 1861, Col. Daniel Leasure received permission to form a regiment in western Pennsylvania. They were to be called "The Roundhead Regiment" because of some distant connection to Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War in the 1660s. They assembled for the first time on this date -- Aug. 27, 1861 --- in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Leasure's home town. The town turned out to give them a fine send-off. One soldier reported, "The evening was spent by promenading the streets, visiting friends, and squeezing the girls."
Thios may seem like a small event. Surely scenes like this repeated themselves all over the country at the outbreak of the Civil War. So why do I care about this particular regiment? It's the one to which I have family ties. My interest in the war began when I discovered eight old letters, tied together with a thin reddish ribbon, in my mother's attic. (Talk about cliches!) They turned out to have been written by my great-uncle.
No, I'm not quite that old! My family just has a history of having large families, with brothers and sisters whose ages differ by 20 years or more. James McCaskey, born in 1839, was the oldest son in the McCaskey family. He had a little brother, Joseph, who was only five when James left to join the Roundheads.
Joseph grew up to raise a family of eight daughters -- the oldest born in 1877; the youngest in 1898. That youngest of Joseph's daughters was Margaret, my mother. And Margaret bore two children, my brother when she was 19 and me when she was 41. So here I am, born exactly 100 years, with a family responsibility to tell the story of my great-uncle who fought in the Civil War.