Nathaniel Cotton was born in 1821 in New York, the son of William (1792-1873) and Parnell (Russell 1796-1873).
Both New York natives William and Parnell were presumably married in New York where they resided for some years. Sometime after 1837 William and his family left New York and moved westward, eventually settling in Illinois; in 1840 William was living in Jackson, Will County, Illinois.
Nathaniel was probably living in Will County, Illinois, when he married his first wife, Ohio native Susannah Noel (1831-1854), near Joliet, Will County, Illinois, on July 4, 1850, and they had at least one son, William N. (b. 1853).
They went to live with Nathaniel’s parents in Jackson, Will County, where William owned a large farm (in fact he owned some $2000 worth of real estate while Nathaniel owned $650 worth of real estate). Curiously, Susannah Noel was also reported to be attending school and living with her family in Wilmington, Will County at the very same time she was listed as having been married within the year and living with Nathaniel and his family in Jackson, Will County. It is possible that they were in fact two separate women.
In any case, Susannah (or Susan) reportedly died giving birth to a daughter (it is not known what became of the child or other children). By 1860 William N. was living with his grandparents in Jackson, Will County.
Nathaniel was a widower when he married his second wife, a widow (or divorcee) named Frances “Fannie” M. Howland (maiden name of Cochran), also in Will County, Illinois, on May 23, 1857, and they eventually moved to Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan.
Although Nathaniel later claimed to have divorced Frances (sometime in the early 1860s presumably), there remained some doubt as to whether a decree was ever granted. According to a report prepared for the pension bureau, Nathaniel and Frances had reportedly lived together as man and wife until he enlisted in June of 1861, but that sometime after he went into the service she ran off with another man and that subsequently Nathaniel represented that she had died subsequently and he had obtained a divorce from her prior to her death and before he married his third wife in 1866. (See below)
In any case, Nathaniel was 40 years old and possibly living in Kent County, Michigan, when he enlisted in Company F on May 13, 1861. He was reported to be driving an ambulance from July of 1862 through September of 1863, and in October he was absent sick in the hospital at Alexandria, Virginia, through December. Apparently he was admitted to Armory Square Hospital in Washington, DC, on July 17, 1863 and furloughed form the hospital on July 22, returning on August 22.
Nathaniel was reportedly driving an ambulance in the Washington area when he was thrown out of the wagon on December 1, injuring his right shoulder and right hip. He was apparently transferred to the Forty-eighth company, Second Battalion, Veterans’ Reserve Corps per G.O. No. 116 (War Department), on December 30, 1863 at Armory Square hospital, assigned to the VRC on January 12, 1864. (The VRC was made up of men who while ambulatory were generally incapable of performing regular military tasks due to having suffered debilitating wounds and/or diseases and were assigned to garrison the many supply depots, draft rendezvous, camps, forts, prisons, etc. scattered throughout the northern cities, thus freeing able-bodied men for regular military duty.) He was subsequently discharged for general disability at Armory Square Hospital on January 27, 1864.
Nathaniel listed Grand Rapids as his mailing address on his discharge paper, but it is not known if he ever returned to Michigan.
He married his third wife, Samaria Baird (b. 1833) on November 28, 1866, in Chicago (she had been married once before to Jacob Baird who had died in 1863).
Nathaniel and Samaria eventually settled in Kansas. By 1880 Nathaniel and his wife were living on a farm in Conway, Sumner County, Kansas. He was still living in Conway in the spring of 1891.
In 1863 Nathaniel applied for and received pension no. 29831.
Nathaniel was still living in Conway Springs, Kansas when he died on November 5, 1903, and was presumably buried in Conway Springs.
His widow Samaria received pension no. 598,028, and was drawing $30.00 in late 1923. Samaria was living in Conway Springs when she died on December 23, 1923.