James Hanna was born on December 12, 1840 in Tecumseh, Lenawee County, Michigan, the son of John (1808-1874) and Elizabeth (Curry, 1818-1865).
John left his home in Ireland, possibly with Irish native and immigrated to America. They were married and eventually moved westward and by 1840 had settled in Tecumseh, Michigan. (That year there was one Joseph Hanna living in Tecumseh.) John eventually moved his family to Grand Rapids in 1843, but by 1850 had resettled them on a farm in Allendale, Ottawa County. By 1860 James was working as a chopper and living at the Ewing boarding house in Blendon, Ottawa County. Apparently by 1860 his father John had moved his family to a farm in Paris, Kent County. (Next door to the Hanna family in Paris worked a farm laborer named Freling Peck who would also join the Third Michigan.)
He stood 5’8” with black eyes, red hair and a light complexion and was 20 years old and residing in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company K on May 13, 1861, with the consent of the Justice of the Peace (his younger brother John would join him the following March). He was absent on furlough in March of 1863, and awarded the Kearny Cross for his participation in the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863.
James reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Sparta, Kent County, was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February. He was taken prisoner on May 6, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia, confined first at Libby prison in Richmond, Virginia, and then at Andersonville, Georgia.
According to James on May 6 he was shot in the right arm, the “ball entered at the elbow up the arm struck the should and stopped under the skin had it cut out by a reb el soldier.” On May 13 he was
taken with others able to walk to Gordonsville. Sat wet and took cold. Arm began to swell. Lynchburg May 16. Left here with others to sick to go further. Arm running matter two pieces of cord come out of hole at elbow one 2 1/2 inches long the other two inches had no care, dirty water to bathe with. Lynchburg June 9 Started for Andersonville Ga where we arrived June 18th. Andersonville Sept. 13th taken to Florence South Carolina. Arrived here Sept. 15th. Florence S.C. Dec. 8th. Paroled today. Dec. 9th on cars for Charleston where we arrived Dec. 10th. Dec. 11th got on board transport at noon. Dec. 15th arrived at Annapolis. Dec. 24th Parole furlough. Started for home, Grand Rapids, Mich. I was sick when I started, was delirious with typhoid fever fr three weeks. I think my extensions of furlough will show when able returned to Annapolis meantime had been transferred to Camp Chase, Ohio. There got another furlough to go home. June 27th 1865 got my discharge by Gen. O. No. 77, War Dept. A.G.O.”
He was transferred as prisoner-of-war to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and exchanged sometime in late fall of 1864. He was reported as a paroled prisoner and Sergeant at Camp Chase, Ohio, March 10, 1865, although in fact as he himself noted later he was at home in Michigan recovering from his ordeal.
His mother Elizabeth had died at the family home in Paris, Kent County, on February 5, 1865, and four days later the Grand Rapids Eagle reported James was at home in Michigan recuperating. Describing Hanna as “a true soldier,” the paper went on to say
It affords us pleasure to learn that Sergeant James Hanna, of the old Third Michigan Infantry, who has been sick, right unto death, for some weeks past, has recovered and is again able to be out around. The Sergeant was taken prisoner on the sixth of May last, in the battle of the Wilderness and conveyed to Andersonville, in which Rebel prison he remained most of the time for some seven months, when he, with others was exchanged and allowed to visit his home in this city, for rest and the recovery of his health. Young Hanna, had a brother John Hanna, who was in the same Regiment, and was killed in a skirmish on the 27th of October last [Hatcher’s Run and Boydton Plank road, Virginia]. Another brother, Alexander Hanna, a member of the First Michigan Artillery, lost a leg in the siege of Atlanta, and has just returned on a furlough of thirty days, he not yet having been discharged from the service. Added to all of these afflictions, the young soldier now mourns the death of a loved mother who died on the 6th inst. Who will not drop a tear in sympathy with the afflicted soldier?
James was discharged at Camp Chase on June 27, 1865.
Following his discharge from the army James returned to western Michigan and lived virtually his entire life in the Grand Rapids vicinity. He resided in Georgetown, Ottawa County until about 1870 when he moved to Grand Rapids where he stayed about 6 years. In 1876 he moved to Paris Township, Kent County until 1890 then back to Grand Rapids where he remained until at least 1913.
On April 20, 1874, the Eagle published a most curious story regarding James Hanna’s father and his family.
Last week and the latter part of the preceding week, the principal cause on trial in the Circuit Court, the one that occupied nearly all of the time, was the case of Kennedy Hanna against James Hanna and others, made on an appeal from Probate Court. In the circuit Court the decision was in favor of the contestants, as was noted in the Daily Eagle of Saturday. The case possesses much interest for many residents of the town of Gaines, and a short history of it will not be unwelcome to all the readers of the Eagle. Among the old residents of Gaines was an old man named John Hanna, who had seven children, five sons and two daughters. One of his sons died before his decease [John, during the war] which occurred in the early part of last year. -- John Hanna in his life time was possessed of the idea that his wife's [Elizabeth] children were all illegitimate, and in 1862 began proceedings to obtain a divorce from her. The case was in court for about 3 years, and was finally terminated by the death of his wife, after he had expended several hundred dollars ineffectually. Of course her children sided with Mrs. Hanna and thus provoked their father's enmity. After their mother died her husband refused to pay the funeral expenses and they compelled him by a suit at law, which increased his anger against them. He said repeatedly during his life time (as it appears in the testimony in the Circuit Court) that the children, James and others, were not his children, and never should had a dollar of his property. He made a will bequeathing a few hundred dollars to two sisters living in Ireland, devising [dividing] the balance of his property, about $12,000 worth, to a relative, a nephew we believe, named Kennedy Hanna, who is a resident of Gaines, naming Kennedy Hanna as his sole executor.
The will was admitted to probate, James Hanna and his brothers and sisters saying that since it would undoubtedly have to go to the Circuit Court, they would contest the will there on an appeal from the Probate Court. The contest is made on the part of the claimants of the property, legally termed the contestants, on the ground that their father was a monomaniac on the subject of their illegitimacy and their mother's infidelity to him, and that his will was evidently made as it was, because of this mania. The case occupied nearly nine days in the Circuit Court, some 75 witnesses being sworn and a large mass of testimony from the testimony in the old divorce case being read. Messers Holmes & Godwin appeared for the proponent, and Messers Taggert & Allen were attorney's for the contestants, assisted by Hon. Thomas H. Church as counsel. The decision was given as noted above, and unless the case is taken to the Supreme Court the heirs by blood will get their father's property. Many of the old residents in Gaines, who have known the whole history of the family and of the case, claim that the decision is a just one.
A curious twist to this tale is that on June 11, 1881 the Eagle reported that one “Catharine Hanna of Gaines Township became the wife of John Hanna [on] January 4, 1879. She has filed a bill of complaint in the circuit Court suing for a divorce, charging as a reason that he is addicted to the excessive use of intoxicants.”
James married Michigan native Matilda Jane Carpenter (b. 1850), on September 7, 1871, in Grand Rapids, and they had at least three children: William (b. 1873), Emma (b. 1875), Eva L. (b. 1878), twins Warren and Walter (b. 1882) Daisy Lucella (b. 1885) Clara (b. 1887). (His obituary listed seven children: William, Warren, Walter, Mrs. Charles Fox, Mrs. Frank Molesta, Mrs. Jacob Molesta and Mrs. Daisy Beems. Eva and Clara were both married to Molestas.)
In 1880 James was working as a farmer and living with his wife Matilda and three children in Paris, Kent County. He was living in Paris, in June of 1889 when he attended the reunion at Gettysburg, and still living in Paris in 1890.
By 1894 and 1895 he was living in Grand Rapids’ Eleventh ward, and in 1906 was reportedly residing at 1029 Oakdale Avenue in Grand Rapids, and in fact he lived on Oakdale Avenue in his last years: he was living at 1029 Oakdale in 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912, and by 1918 at 423 Oakdale. By 1920 James and Jane were living in Grand Rapids; also living with them was his daughter Daisy and her husband Jacob Beems and their son.
James was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, as well as Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids and he received pension no. 74,821.
He died of “acute indigestion” (angina pectoris) on Thursday evening, April 1, 1920 at his home, 423 Oakdale southeast, in Grand Rapids. Funeral services were held at his home at 2:30 p.m. Monday and he was buried under the auspices of the Grand Rapids Custer Post No. 7, in Oak Hill cemetery: section 10 lot 197.
In April of 1920 his widow applied for a pension (no. 891429).
John Hanna was born in 1845 in Ottawa County, Michigan, the son of John (1808-1874) and Elizabeth (Curry, 1818-1865).
John (elder) left his home in Ireland, possibly with Elizabeth (she was born in Ireland as well) and immigrated to America. They eventually moved westward and by 1840 had settled in Tecumseh, Michigan. John eventually moved his family to Grand Rapids in 1843, but by 1850 had resettled them on a farm in Allendale, Ottawa County. By 1860 John (elder) had moved his family to a farm in Paris, Kent County, where John (younger) was attending school with his four younger siblings, working as a farm laborer and living with his family. (younger) was working as a farm laborer in Kent County. Next door worked a farm laborer named Freling Peck who would also join the Third Michigan.
John stood 5’7” with hazel eyes, sandy hair and a light complexion and was 17 years old when he enlisted in Company K, joining his older brother James, on March 18, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day. (Another brother, Alexander, served in the First Michigan Artillery.) John was sick in the hospital from November of 1863 through May of 1864, and had probably returned to duty by the time he was transferred to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry, upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, on October 27, 1864.
There is no further record, although according to the Eagle John “was killed in a skirmish on the 27th of October last,” probably at Hatcher’s Run or Boydton Plank road, Virginia. John may be among the unknown soldiers buried in Petersburg National Cemetery.
No pension seems to be available.