Nelson Bressau was born on January 26, 1842, probably in Quebec, Canada or in Michigan or Syracuse, New York, the son of French Canadians and Quebecois Peter Bressau (1816-1906) and Mary Louisa Dubois (1821-1900).
His parents settled in Michigan in 1842 or 1844. By 1850 Peter was working as a sawyer in Muskegon, at that time a part of Ottawa County, and Nelson was attending school. By 1860 Nelson was a laborer in the vicinity of Mill Point, Spring Lake, Ottawa County living with his family.
Nelson stood 5’9” with brown eyes, fair hair and a light complexion and was a 19-year-old laborer living in Muskegon County (or perhaps in Fairview, Mason County) when he enlisted with the consent of his parents in Company H on May 13, 1861. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers,” was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.) Nelson was shot in the left arm on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, the musket “ball passed through fleshy part of arm, about midway between shoulders & elbow, granulated and healed kindly.” According to his medical records he subsequently “suffered pain and loss of sensation in the little finger and one-half of the ring finger” and after about three weeks “the pain extended over the whole hand front & back.”
He was first hospitalized at Emory hospital in Washington, DC, and eventually transferred to West’s Building hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and continued to suffer lack of sensation in the two digits but continuing, constant pain in his hand, indeed “leaving the arm helpless and useless and forcing him to handle it like a broken arm.” Apparently the ulnar never was torn by the musket ball and then became inflamed. He remained hospitalized until he was discharged on January 24, 1863, at Baltimore, for disability resulting from his wounds.
Nelson was probably still in Maryland in May of 1863 when he applied for and received a pension (no. 16928), drawing $8.00 per month and $72.00 per month by 1929. By the summer of 1863 Nelson was working as a laborer and living at the Hotel Baylas on 463 New Jersey Avenue in Washington, DC, when he registered for the draft; his prior service in the 3rd Michigan duly noted in the record.
Nelson eventually returned to Michigan.
Nelson was living in Mason County, Michigan, when he married New York native Alice Mary Williams or Willson (1847-1919) on March 27, 1867, in Pere Marquette, Mason County, and they had at least one child: Eva May (1873-1895).
In 1870 Nelson and his wife were living on a farm in Riverton, Mason County, and in 1873 he was living in Ludington. Nelson and his family eventually moved to Indiana and for some years he worked as a mail carrier in Elkhart. They were living in Elkhart when their only child, Eva May died in 1895. Nelson and his wife were living at 113 North Sixth Street in Elkhart and he was working as a mail carrier in 1900; also living with them were his parents and his brother-in-law Fred Willson (b. 1854). He was and living in Elkhart, Indiana in 1906, and was a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association.
By 1908 Nelson and Alice had moved on to Los Angeles, California. In 1910 Nelson was working as a mail carrier and he and Alice were living at 715 Frary Street in El Monte, Los Angeles County, California. In 1915 and 1917 he was residing at 727 S. Ivy Street in Monrovia, Los Angeles County, California. By 1920 he was a widower living at 316 Hillcrest in Monrovia; also living with him were a niece and nephew: Indiana natives Louella and Frank Ulrey (?).
Nelson married German-born widow Mrs. Anna Dunham (b. 1858), in San Bernardino, California, on January 18, 1926.
Nelson died January 2, 1929, at Monrovia, and was buried in Forest Lawn, Glendale, California: sec. D, lot 23, next to his wife Alice.
In 1929 Anna applied for a pension, which was rejected on the grounds that she “did not marry the soldier prior to June 27, 1905 as required to give title to pension under Act of May 1, 1920.”