by Kate Refolo
Through traditional genealogical research—such as looking at family records, U.S. censuses, and interviewing my family members—I learned that my great-great-great grandfather on my maternal side, Francis Downing, fought for the Union in the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War.
My mother owns a book, titled Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, that mentions one of Downing’s experiences during his time as a soldier when he was 31 years old. He was stationed at the Baptist Church that was converted to a hospital. This hospital treated the wounded soldiers from the 108th New York regiment. On December 13, 1862, Downing was in the Baptist Church when the Confederate forces began to fire at this makeshift hospital. According to the book, “the first shot just struck the corner of the house, knocked out a few bricks and exploded just as it struck the church.” The Confederate forces continued to fire and Francis Downing was shot in his hip.
Due to his injury, Downing had to have his leg amputated, and was “discharged for disability” eight months later.