Stones River Memories – Volunteer Tom Zei

July 7, 2020, Tom Zei, volunteer at the Stones River National Battlefield

Stones River National Battlefield volunteer Tom Zei

“My Stones River story deals with an unusual encounter I had in the Visitor Center.

I had provided the usual orientation to a family from Texas and they went into the museum. As it happened, I was able to ask the visitors as they were leaving the museum whether they had any questions. The man then offered that he had an unusual story about one of his ancestors that fought in the Civil War.

He said that his great-grandfather was a doctor for a cavalry unit in Missouri. During the war, his ancestor was shot in the chest. The doctor was not harmed because the mini-ball ended up wedge in the Bible he kept in his breast pocket. The man said that he inherited the mini-ball and his brother inherited the Bible. I asked him whether the great-grandfather fought at Stones River, but he didn’t know. I offered to look up the information if he knew what unit his ancestor was in. Since he didn’t know the unit, I said I may be able to find the unit if the last name wasn’t common. He said it definitely was an uncommon name and started to spell it out “Z-E-Y.” I immediately pointed at the last name on my name tag (“Zei”) and said it was also spelled Zey back in Germany.

Being an amateur genealogist, the Zey name is very rare and probably are all related in some way. As such, it is very likely that the visitor was a distant cousin of mine.

The offhand chance of a visitor relating a Civil War story of his ancestor led to one of my great memories, even though the ancestor didn’t fight at Stones River. I heard about the miraculous save of Doctor Peter Zey of the 9th Missouri Cavalry and meeting potential cousin Eric Zey of Texas.”