Thomas E. Hudson simply vanished.
Disappearances were a common occurrence during the Civil War. During our nation’s bloodiest conflict, people vanished without a trace with frightening regularity. Some died in battle. Others died of the diseases that ran rampant as epidemics during the war. Others made the decision to disappear, melting into an American landscape reshaped by years of internecine combat.
Jane Hudson wouldn’t let her son become just another statistic, yet another Union soldier lost to oblivion. She submitted a notice to the newspaper near her home in Cressona, Schuylkill County. Her plea landed on the pages of Pottsville’s Miners’ Journal in January 1865:
As the mother of Thomas E. Hudson, of the Forty-eighth Regiment, is very anxious to have tidings of him, we insert the following under this head, to give it prominence:
Wanted.–Information is wanted of the fate of Thomas E. Hudson, of Company K, Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, by his mother and friends in Cressona, Schuylkill County, Pa.–Thomas Hudson has been missing since the battle of Cold Harbor, since when nothing has been learned of his fate.
In the spring of 1865, the 48th Pennsylvania returned home to Schuylkill County. Thomas Hudson was not among the men who returned.
With no where else to turn, Jane Hudson turned to the Angel of the Battlefield.
Clara Barton opened a Missing Soldiers Office in March 1865 to spearhead efforts to search for missing US Army personnel. She turned her boardinghouse on 7th Street in Washington into an office where clerks scoured records, documents, and correspondence in search of those who disappeared during the Civil War.
In three years, her office received more than 63,000 letters from families in search of their missing loved ones. Barton and her discovered the fates of more than 22,000 soldiers.
Thomas Hudson was not among those who were found by the Missing Soldiers Office.
His mother continued to seek information about her lost son and in October 1869, she wrote again to Clara Barton to see if she had discovered any new information about the missing soldier.
14th October 1869
Miss Clara Barton
Have you received any information concerning the fate of Thomas E. Hudson, late Private Co. K, 48th Regt. Penna Infty, Vols. whose name is mentioned on “Roll of Missing Men No. 4” if you have please furnish me with the same and oblige.
Address me in care of P.O. Box 622
Jane Hudson was never able to ascertain what happened to her son during the Civil War. As with thousands of other soldiers of the Civil War, Thomas E. Hudson has been lost to history, leaving behind his family to mourn the loss and grieve without knowing his ultimate fate.
Featured Image: Clara Barton in 1865 (Library of Congress)