Orville Calistus Ingersoll was born on July 13, 1840, in Delta, Eaton County, Michigan, the son of Erastus Smith (b. 1808) and Cyane Peabody (Utley, b. 1811).
New York native Erastus married Vermonter Cyane in 1830 in Oakland County, Michigan and by 1840 had settled in Delta, Eaton County. By 1850 Orville was attending school with his siblings and living on the family farm in Delta. In 1860 Orville was working as a farmer and living with his older brother Harlan and his new wife Polly and their twin boys Fred and Frank in Delta, Eaton County. Two houses away lived a laborer named William Agard and his wife; William too would join the Third Michigan infantry.
When war broke out Orville joined the Lansing militia company called the “Williams’ Rifles,” whose members would serve as the nucleus of Company G. He stood 5’8” with dark eyes, auburn hair and a light complexion, and was 20 years old and probably still living in Eaton County when he enlisted in Company G on May 10, 1861.
On December 3, 1861, Case Wickham, also of Company G, wrote to his sister back in Michigan, “J. E. & G. W. & W. H. Davis and O. C. Ingersoll send their respects to you in return for yours. They stay in the same tent with me. They are pretty good boys and we have some tall times once in a while.”
By mid-April of 1862 Ingersoll was hospitalized at Fortress Monroe, probably Chesapeake hospital, suffering from “general debility.”
Orville soon returned to duty and was shot in the right leg on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia. On June 4 he was admitted to Judiciary Square hospital in Washington, DC, with a gunshot wound to the calf of the right leg. He was transferred on September 4, to the Broad and Cherry Streets hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then sent to the 12th and Butterworth Streets hospital, also in Philadelphia, on October 25, 1862.
While he was in the hospital he was reported as having deserted from Upton’s Hill, Virginia, on October 23, 1862, but that charge was removed in 1886. He was returned to duty on December 9, 1862, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia.
On April 15, 1863, the Lansing State Republican reprinted a series of three letters written by Ingersoll to his mother while on picket duty along the banks of the Rappahannock just above Falmouth, Virginia. In the first one, dated March 27, 1863, after thanking her for the letters that he had jut received, he goes on to explain something of army life.
Picket duty consists in forming a line of sentinels, posted within speaking distance, clear around the whole army, with different Regiments. The object of this is to guard against any surprise by the enemy, and to arrest all persons trying to leave the army without proper authority. I am now within sixty rods of the rebel lines, or rebeldom, sitting behind a hill, just as safe and secure, as I would be were I at home, or at least I feel so. A few moments ago I was down to the water's edge, looking across about a stone's throw. There I could see the rebels fishing, reading the news of the day, playing ball, pitching quoits, etc., etc. We on this side of the river, they on that, both enjoying ourselves the best we can under the circumstances. Perhaps tomorrow we may be arrayed in mortal combat, the one against the other; and for what? yes, for what? Simply because the oligarchy of the South would not consent to live under the rule of a man, as President, who was elected by the voice of the people, Foolish men. But what's the use to talk? The time for debate has long since past and gone. Now our only alternative is to act, and our best plan is to act with vigor and energy. I tell you that I am in favor of prosecuting this war with all possible vigor. If we get one army killed off, let the Chief Executive order a draft, and force out another army. We have got men enough to lose 100,000 lives every year, if necessary, until there is not a Regiment of rebels left in the seceded States. I say, put them down in the quickest possible time.
The following day Orville described the weather as beastly, made even worse by being out on picket duty and thus out in the elements.
It is a very rainy day; in short, the rain just pours down, it doesn't sprinkle, and I am as wet to the skin as though I had lain in the river two hours. The reason of it is, I have been on duty, and had no chance to get out of the wet. But still I am happy and as contented as I possibly can be under the existing circumstance, away from home and friends, as I am.
You say that ‘if stay I must, you hope I will bear it as a man and patriot should’. I will try to, my mother, and thank you sincerely for your good and kind advice. I received a diary from Father, some three or four days ago, for which I ma very much obliged. My old one I mailed to you a day or two before I got the new one. I hope it will reach home in safety. The mail has come nothing for me. In the mail was a few copies of the Lansing State Republican; I was fortunate enough to get hold of a copy. In it is part of a speech which is said to come from (the paper says,) Hon. G. W. Peck, which I call very Traitorous, and for which I would shoot him for that speech sooner than I would a traitor in arms against me; and it would be of infinitely more benefit to the country and to the community, at home and at large, were he killed just for that one reason, than the killing of ten -- yes, ten times ten rebels in arms against the Government.
Just such men -- (no, Devils incarnate!) have been the means of prolonging this conflict, and it is now getting to be a matter of some doubt, especially in the army, that if such speeches and carryings-on at the North are not put a stop to -- it is a matter of doubt, I say, whether we ever conquer the rebels or not. We shall be at last compelled to give up the contest, in despair, and give them their "freedom,” as it is called, if such things are not stopped; for one enemy in the rear is worse than ten in the front. It is not right. As I shall have to go on duty in a few moments, perhaps I shall write some more tomorrow.
From Camp Pitcher, near Falmouth, Ingersoll wrote home on March 30 telling his mother that they had finally come off from picket duty.
You will see by the heading of this that I have got back to camp. Yes, we got here about noon. It has been a very pleasant day, indeed; I may say that it has been as fine a day as it is possible to think of enjoying. It does not seem as though fierce war was right in our very midst; as though I were here for no other purpose than to shoot and kill my fellow man; but it is a stern fact, not to be denied.
I have written a good long letter to you this time. In it I have said some things which you may think I ought not to have written, but I do not think so. Desperate cases, like these men's, require desperate remedies, you know, and besides this I cannot tolerate [action] in any form. If it is ever my lot to get back there, people must be very careful what they say, in my hearing, regarding the President and the Commanding Generals, for I will hear nothing detrimental to their fair [characters] -- not a word!
It is nearly 11 p.m., and I am rather tired from my march today, so please allow me to bid you all a kind good-night.”
According to Homer Thayer of Company G, Orville was wounded in one of his legs, on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Edgar Clark of Company G wrote that Orville had in fact been “wounded in the leg above the ankle,” and indeed according to Orville’s diary he was struck in the left ankle by a shell fragment.
On May 9 he entered Mt. Pleasant hospital in Washington, DC, and was furloughed from the hospital on May 29, returning on July 29. He was allegedly returned to duty on September 22, but in fact was transferred to the Eighty-first company, Second Battalion, Veterans’ Reserve Corps on October 26, 1863, at Camp Convalescent, near Alexandria, Virginia. (It is quite likely that his second wound had rendered him too lame to march and so prevented him from rejoining the Third Michigan.) According to his diary he was stationed at the U.s. Army General Hospital at Fairfax, Virginia. It is unclear what his exact duties were but apparently he missed inspection and parade on January 3 and was put in the guardhouse for the night. He was released the following day, January 4, and assigned to guard duty. He reported, “it snowed hard all day.”
Orville was discharged on June 11, 1864, when his enlistment expired. He was paid off ($212) and on June 13 met up with some of his old friends from the Third Michigan who were also on their way home.
The Third regiment was officially mustered out of federal service on June 10, 1864 and sixty or so men who had not reenlisted returned home to be mustered out of service along with the regiment. It is unclear whether Orville joined that group or not. He reported that he left Washington on June 14, spent the night at the soldier’s Rest in Baltimore before leaving for Pittsburgh the next day (by train presumably). He reached Cleveland on June 16 and took the steamer Morning Star for Detroit, arriving in that city on June 17 and then moved on to Jackson. The Third Michigan and returning veterans were mustered out of service at Detroit; it is unclear whether Orville was mustered out in Detroit or in Jackson.
Either way Orville soon returned to his home in Eaton County and moved back in with his brother Harlan in Grand Ledge.
Orville married his first wife, Ohio native Maria Space (1843-1875) on June 20, 1866, in Grand Ledge, Eaton County, and they settled into the same house with Harlan.
In a sworn statement given in January of 1904, Harlan testified that when Orville was discharged from the army he returned home and came to live with him (Harlan). “We lived together much of the time for twenty years, in fact in the same house and worked together all the time. My wife died in 1866 and the same year he married and moved into my house and until about ten years ago we have been together all the time and up to ten years ago we saw each other every week and mostly every day.”
Orville was possibly working as a mechanic and living with his wife in Delta, Eaton County in 1870. (He was listed as “Oliver” Ingersoll.) His father was living in Eaton village, Eaton County that same year.
Orville was a widower and still living in Grand Ledge when he married his second wife, Jane Hamilton Oakley (1839-1913) on June 20, 1877.
By 1880 he was working in a planing mill and living with his wife Jane in Grand River City Delta, Eaton County.
He was residing in Grand Ledge in 1883 when he was drawing $6.00 in 1883 for a wounded right leg and ankle (pension no. 123,830, dated 1873), and living in Delta Township (probably in Grand Ledge), Eaton County in 1883, 1888, 1890 and 1894, and in Grand Ledge in 1903.
Orville lived in Grand Ledge for nearly 40 years.
By 1904 he had moved into Lansing where he remained until he died a widower on November 30, 1915. He was buried in Delta Center cemetery: section B-2, lot 6, Eaton County (his wife was buried in the same location).