George W. Lemon was born on December 29, 1839, in Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, the son of James (b. 1803) and Abigail (b. 1805).
Virginia-born James married Connecticut native Abigail and they settled in New York where they resided for some years. George’s family left New York and by 1850 had settled in Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Indiana, where James worked as a cooper. In 1860 George was living with his family in Mishawaka’s Fifth ward, where his father was employed as a day laborer. George eventually moved to Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan, where he was employed as a mill worker.
George was 21 years old and working in the mills in Muskegon when he enlisted 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.)
On June 20, 1861, Lemon wrote his parents from Camp McConnell (also called Camp Blair) to let them know that he was well and to describe the Regiment’s trip from Grand Rapids to Washington, DC.
We left there the 13[th] of June and took the cars for Detroit and got there at 5 o'clock P.M. and marched through some of the main streets and then took supper and left at 8 o'clock for Cleveland. It took two boats to carry us there; we got there about 9 o'clock a.m. and took dinner. We did not see much of Cleveland for we stayed near the depot till we left which was about 11 o'clock a.m. and we took the cars there for Pittsburg, Pa and got there at 9 in the evening. We seen some nice land going through Ohio and some very nice villages. We left Pittsburg about 12 at night for Harrisburg, the capitol of Pa and got there at half past one in the afternoon. We did not have a chance to see much of that place for the cars run through one side of the city, but it is a nice place. We went from there to Baltimore Md. We got there Sunday morning at 8 o'clock a.m.. The country in between H. & B. is mountainous and hilly. We went through a tunnel under the Allegheny mountains which is over a mile long; it was black as night and the boys lit the lamps and there was one more that was about one-fourth of a mile long. After we got in Baltimore we had to march about a mile to get to the Baltimore and Washington R.R. We crossed six bridges which had been burnt by the rebels before we got to Baltimore. They are all repaired now and the 12th Regiment of Pa is stationed along there to guard it. We expected to have a brush in Baltimore but they did not try it. If they had we would of give ‘em fits. Baltimore is the nicest place I think I ever was in; the buildings is most all brick and very large; we see as many colored folks as whites there. We got in Washington at 11 o'clock and marched from there out to Georgetown Heights, 6 miles from the city of Washington on the banks of the Potomac River where we shall stay till ordered away. There is a bridge of 1,000 feet long here crosses the Potomac River; this is guarded night and day.
He added on June 21 that they could “hear the cannons a firing down the river, supposed to be at Alexandria. They say they can call 60,000 troops here in five hours time. . . . It is warm weather here now; our boys all feel well and want to fight. We are 1,000 strong. I guess you will think this an odd letter but better than none.”
On July 6, 1861, he wrote from Camp Blair to his family, “I suppose you would like to know what is a going on here and how I like to be a soldier.
I can't say I like it as well as I thought I would for they keep us pretty strict. There is 5 out of each company to go out to the city or where they please every day. I was down to the city last Monday. We went to Georgetown and there took a bus for the Capitol which is two miles for 6 cents; the two places are close together, a river going through to the Potomac divides the two cities. After I got in the Capitol I went to the Post Office and from there to the Patent Office where you can see everything in the shape of machinery you ever thought of besides a little more. I was in there about two hours and then did not see more than one quarter they had there for I got tired of looking. I see a coat there that was worn by General Washington in the battle of New Orleans and coat and pants worn by General Jackson when he was in service. There I see models and patterns of everything I could not tell of all they had if I knew. The building is one of the largest ones in the city except the Capitol. I went from there to the Capitol but only went through the main entrance so I did not see much of the building. It is one of the largest buildings I ever saw. The dome on it is not finished. They are to work on it now. I went from there back in the city and I met one of our boys and then we started off and met a soldier of the 2nd Regiment; he was going to the museum and wanted us to go along so we went with him there. The museum is open free from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m.; it was the first time I ever was in one. They have all kinds of animals & reptiles there that they generally have in such places. I see all kinds of birds you can think of from a hummingbird up to the wandering albatross. And they had all kinds of animals from a mouse to a grizzly bear, and snakes, the greatest lot i ever see; they were in glass jars preserved in some kind of spirits. They had two that were alive called the pine wood snakes. They had one Alligator which was alive and 3 feet long. I see a good many kinds of fish most of them were small and preserved in glass jars. They had a shark there that was caught in the Potomac; it was about 5 feet long. They have a good many things that are too numerous to mention. I see a piece of copper that cost the United States government $5,654; it was bought of the Indians out by the Lake Superior copper mines. And I see a great many valuable things that came from a great way off. I guess I must tell you a little more about us soldiers. We were promised a dollar a day from the 25th of April to the 13th of May, but the state complained of hard times and said they could not raise it then, though they raised enough to pay us 5 dollars apiece. That was before we left G.R. They said the rest would be raised and sent to us here by an agent by the 1st or middle of July. We got one set of clothes from the state of Michigan before we left; dark gray color. We are getting a new uniform now, the color is blue.
On July 12 he wrote his parents to describe to them details about his Brigade. “There is 4 Regiments in this Brigade, the Michigan 3rd, 2nd and New York 12th and Mass. 1st.
The Mass. 1st is camped one mile below us, the Michigan 2nd is camped near by in sight; the New York 12th is above us in sight. We got our new pants last Sunday. They are better than the first ones we got. The rest of the uniform came last night. We are a going to have new canteens, haversacks and knapsacks. They say the canteens came last night with the boots. We are drilled before breakfast in the morning one hour and in the afternoon comes battalion drill and after that we are formed for dress parade the way we are when on the battle ground. Then we are exercised wit our arms; the band marches in front from the right of the battalion to the left and plays for us. After the exercises are over with, the Adjutant has the First Sergeant's report, when they step out two paces in front then they turn right and left and march to the Adjutant and then report. After that they march to their posts when the parade is dismissed. The commissioned officers step in front and file right and left to the Adjutant and then front face and march to the colonel and get the countersign and other instructions. And the Orderly Sergeants take command of the company and march them to their quarters where we put up our guns and accouterments and then go to supper. We have tea for supper with bread and meat. We have coffee for dinner and breakfast. We have rice or bean soup for dinner and pork or beef boiled. Our rations are small we have a pint of coffee with a third of a loaf of bread and a little piece of meat. You may think enough but our coffee is very weak and we get tired of one thing all the time. The boys of Co. A have got up a petition for to have our quartermaster removed and one put in that will give us something to eat but I don't think we can do it unless our officers have a hand with us.
The most of us are all well now. There has been a good many sick with the colic caused by the weather and climate; it is warm weather here now, but cool nights. There was 5 companies of boys that were raised in the District here stationed at the bridge. Their time was out this week and they have gone to the city. They did not know whether they should serve more or not. The bridge is guarded by our boys now. Co. C being on the Virginia side and some of our boys on the bridge. There is a battery here of five guns, 2 howitzers placed before the bridge, one of them a 12-pounder, the other a 32[-pounder] and up on the bluffs above is 3 columbiads [and] one 32[-pounder] and 2 64-pounders. The road leading to the bridge on the Virginia side is through a deep valley so that it would be difficult for the enemy to attack us here. If they did they would get enough and want to back out. There is a canal here that runs close to the river from Georgetown to the Ohio River. This bridge spans them both. There is blackberries and raspberries ripe here now.
On July 26, 1861, he wrote home to his parents to let them know that he was well, and to describe the recent events at Bull Run.
We left camp Blair July 16 and started for Manassas Junction; we left camp at 3 p.m. and traveled till about 11 o'clock at night when we encamped for the night. The country through which we went was very stony and hilly. We see nothing of much account; that day we did not see many men or anyone else as the most of them had been pressed in the southern army. We encamped near Vienna the first night; you have heard of that place where there has been a skirmish 2 or 3 times. We were alarmed once or twice in the night but it did not amount to anything. The first one was caused by a horse that came in to camp and stepped one one of our boys. He [yelled] and that raised the whole of us every man up and had his cartridge box on and gun in hand, but we was soon ordered to lay down again and go to sleep. We were aroused once more but what caused it I did not learn in the morning we eat our breakfast and packed up our things and marched. There was not many buildings at Via [Vienna?] the R.R. runs through there but no cars run now; we see [about] 8 or 10 cars that had been burnt by the rebels. There was one store there and our troops took possession of it and took what they wanted. We had a very good meal that day. All that we wanted most was water; good water was scarce along the road, and when we did get it you would have to wait for there is so many that it takes a good while for them to get enough. The further we got into Virginia the less it was inhabited and every lace was deserted. Once in a while we would see a white man that had escaped the rebels, and he said they had all been pressed in the army.
We came across today where there had been numerous camps of rebels; we came to a place today called Germantown, a small place that was deserted a day or two before we came through; there was a colored family living there and two secession soldiers left behind sick; there had been 1,000 of them encamped there. Our troops burnt half of the town down and our skirmishers freed a good many as they went through. There was a good many places we came to day where the road had been sloped up by falling trees into to stop the passing of our troops, but our pioneers soon cleared the road. We came through two of their batteries today where they calculated to make a stand, but give it up. We encamped near Centreville that night there was nothing of account that happened that night. The next day we were up and off today we did not travel so fast as we were getting nearer the enemy, for we could see by their signs that we were driving them right before us for their campfires still smoked in many places and we see a good many wagons and other things they left behind them. One wagon load of flour was drove into a field nearby the road and the barrels broken open and the flour dumped into a mud hole. Everything seems deserted. There is no crops of anything to be seen except a few oats or a little corn. The fences have all been taken down for firewood near where they have encamped and there is no one to be seen. I told you I my last that our Regiment and the Michigan 2nd with the Mass. 1st and New York 12th formed the 4th Brigade. The colonel of the 2nd Michigan is our brigadier general. Today in the afternoon about 2 p.m. we come near the enemy. We are halted and our artillery goes ahead; we opened fire upon them at 3 p.m. and was answered very quick. We were not there very long before we were ordered to advance. Their situation is in a hollow amongst the hills and mountains, so you see it is a hard place to fight. We were ordered by General Tyler to advance and so we had a chance of seeing the rebels. The fight was kept up till night. There was one killed in Co. A, 2 or 3 others wounded; that was all in our Regiment. The Mass lost 8 or 10 killed, 10 or 15 wounded.
On August 25 he wrote his parents from Arlington Heights that the Regiment had moved since he wrote last.
We moved Wednesday Aug. 21 about 2 miles up on Arlington Heights where the rest of our Brigade is camped. Our Brigade has been altered: the Mass 1st & the New York 12th have gone out & the Mass. 14th & New York 37th have come in it; we are all camping within 5 minutes walk of each other. The camp is a very good one we have here. The Mass. Regiment have charge of a fort called Fort Albany where there is 18 large guns mounted. When we are drilled we go down in the valley or flats towards the river where our whole Brigade is drilled together by our brigadier general I. B. Richardson. We all like it better since we came here for our colonel kept us so close that we could not get outside the guard. When we moved here our colonel posted a guard around the camp which took about 60 or 70 men. They had not been out more than 2 hours when Colonel Richardson ordered them in all but 3 which are posted inside at the colonel's headquarters & one at the quartermaster's tent & one where the horses are kept. Now we are allowed to go from one Regiment to the other in our Brigade, which is quite different from being kept confined inside a guard all of the time. Our colonel is not liked very well by any of us, for he has kept us closer than there was any need of; we have been confined more than any other Regiment around here. We are a getting some of our things now that we wanted which we left at Bull Run; we have drawed 2 pair of stockings this last week & a new knapsack today which we needed very bad for to keep our clothes and things in. I expect we will stay here till we are ordered away to the battle field or some where else. We have had some very warm weather here till lately we have had some very cold nights which I did not expect to see till in Sept. or October. We will be drilled about 3 times a week while here or oftener if the weather keeps cool. My health is good and I am glad to hear that mother's health is a getting better I hope that it will continue so till she is able to do all that is required of her to do.
Father, I guess you was mistaken in regard to our wages; they are raised from 11 to 12 dollars instead of 15. The report here was that they were $15 and then the papers stated that they were raised from 11 to 13 instead of 15. We are to be paid off the first of Sept. 2 months wages. Father, I would like to get them things you asked me to but it is a bad thing to get across the river to the city unless it is something very urgent; [even] commissioned officers are not allowed to go across the river without a pass from the brigadier general or some superior officer. I will try & send you some money in Sept. or after pay day if I can. There was a captain escaped from the rebels at Richmond [Fairfax = crossed out] who belonged to the 4th Regiment of Michigan & lieutenant with him. They state that the rebels are advancing on us now in large forces.
On Sunday September 15, 1861, he wrote to tell his parents that he had been sick since the 9th.
I have had the intermittent fever the doctor calls it, but it seems to me like something else, more like the rheumatism, by the way I feel for my bones are sore and flesh too in some places and I fell like an old man that is all crippled for life. I have taken medicine every day but one and I think it does me no good. As I can see since I wrote my last we have moved again. There was 5 compan[ies] taken from our Regiment and stationed on the side of a high hill where we have been to work on the fort; we have had to work every day since we came back from Bull Run, Sundays and all, till last Sunday a week ago today which was the first one in a good while; but General McClellan has passed a rule that there shall be no more working on the sabbath day which I think is a good one. Two weeks ago last Thursday I chopped in the rain all day with the rest of the Company. The next day I think it was one of our boys was taken sick and went to the hospital and has been there ever since. I catched cold that day after chopping in the rain and have had some ever since. I got a little more cold while on guard one night since and I did not feel well ever since and I had to work every day or else go on the sick list which I would not do till I could not stand it any longer. Some of our boys will go on the sick list to get rid of work but you know that hain't me. We are now in sight of a rebel battery which is about 4 miles from here; we can see the rebels on their fort and one flag with a spyglass. This fort here is called Fort Richardson. We have got two guns here now, they are 30-pounder rifled cannon. I don't no [sic] as I can write you much more news; we got our United States pay yesterday afternoon, which was $23.66 cents. They had 20 dollars in treasury notes, which you can take to any bank and draw the gold for them, that is the reason why I have not written before. I will send you $20 in notes.
On Monday, September 30 he wrote to his sister that
There was an order came after dinner today and we had to fall in with out guns and cartridge boxes on and canteens and haversacks on but we have not started yet and I don't know how long it will be before we are called out; it may be in 5 minutes or it may not be in a week, so you can see we can't tell when we will be called out. I think though we will have to move somewhere in a few days; the rebel forces have fell back from their batteries that was in sight of is here and our troops have advanced and taken possession of Munson's Hill and the union flag floats there now where the rebel's flag has been flying for a good while. How far they fell back we cannot tell yet. I hear our troops have been out as far as Fairfax, but don't believe it here in camp. The balloon goes up nearly everyday for to see the motion of the enemy. It was moved out in advance of where it has usually went up; it was up today nearly 4 or 5 miles from our camp, but what they see I don't know anything about more than you do for they keep everything very still now a days and we don't know what is going on unless we get a pass and go out of camp and they don't give a pass very often so you see we don't know what is going on outside of camp.
On November 21, 1861, Captain Emery Bryant of Company H, wrote to James Lemon, from Fort Richardson, Virginia, in regards to George’s health. Apparently George’s parents had not heard from him in some time and possibly wrote to Captain Bryant in order to find out what had happened to their son.
The reason of your not hearing from [him] is undoubtedly since he has been in the hospital he has been too sick to write, and they have not the conveniences near them. He has had the typhoid fever, he was taken to our Regimental Hospital (which is on our grounds and I can see them every day) about four weeks ago. He has been a very sick boy, but is now convalescent, is considered out of danger if he does not have a relapse. I went to see him as soon as I received your letter. He told me to write you [that] he had the best of care a plenty to make him comfortable. The food is generally what the boys mostly complain of, that is when they begin to get better, their appetite craves more than their stomach will digest and the doctors are very particular about what they eat and how much while they are in the hospital. Our doctors have had better luck with the typhoid fever than any other Regiment around us. They have not lost one patient and we have had as many as twenty at a time in the hospital. This disease is a lingering one, it takes one some time to get over it. It will probably be some weeks before he will be able for duty. He complains much of his feet being sore; if it weren't for that he would be able to walk out now. Anything I can do or my wife for his comfort we shall do willingly. My wife has a particular interest for him as a cousin of his (Martha Hurlburt) and she used to be schoolmates. She and George often conversed about Mishawaka, South Bend and those he knew of her acquaintances. I will see that George is furnished with stationary at the hospital so he may write you. If he should have a relapse and does not get along as well as he ought I will let you know.
George regained his health and on December 18, 1861, he wrote his parents from Camp Michigan, explaining why he had not written in some time.
You know the reason why I have not written to you in so long a time, I was taken sick with the typhoid fever about the 8th of October, but did not go in the hospital until the 14th. The Brigade moved the 12th of October 2 miles below Alexandria and I was in the hospital there until the 9th of December when I went to the company to stay but I only stayed there that day and night for the next day they had to pull up stakes and move. The Brigade moved about 6 miles where they was a going into winter quarters, but they went too far and so only stayed there one night and the next day they moved back about 2 miles. We are now encamped in the woods where we expect to stay for the winter. . Our camp is 4 miles below Alexandria, off from the river we have a pleasant camp here in the woods if they will only let us stay here but there is talk now of our moving to Fort Pickens, but I can hardly think we will go for the boys have all been to work fixing up winter quarters. Although they was not ordered to commence any new shanties for a day or two, the most of the boys have laid up logs [and = crossed out] 3 or 4 feet high and then set their tents on the top of them. The Regiment got new tents in November, but there was not enough of them to keep us all in, each company got 4 new tents, some 5. Our company has got 4 new ones and 2 old ones in use; there is 8 of us in the tent where I am. Our shanty is made of boards about 12 by 16, the boards are nailed up about 5 feet high and covered over with two old tents which make a good roof; we have a trench dug in the ground covered over with sheet iron which runs outside of the tent which we use for a fire place so you see we are very comfortable. We have 2 blankets apiece and there is about 30 bed comforters distributed among the company, which was sent by the citizens of Muskegon with a good many other things. There has been 3 of our boys deserted since I wrote last, one sergeant and 2 Corporals. We have not heard anything from them since they went away. We have not had any snow here yet; it has been pleasant weather here for the last 10 or 12 days. There was a little fight this morning with our pickets of the 2nd Regiment. There was a company of rebel cavalry that come on them and drove them back and took their blankets and knapsacks. Today there was 600 infantry and 100 cavalry went out to look them up.
I have been with the company since last Thursday. I am not well enough yet to do any duty and it will be quite a time before I will be as stout as I was before I was taken sick. I am getting along very well only I am very weak and my feet are sore, but are getting better now and I hope I will soon be able to do duty. I hope I won't be sick any more while I am a soldier, for it is a hard place to be sick.
Father, the last time you wrote to me I was in the hospital and Mr. Bryant took it and read it. He was in the hospital the next day or two and he told me [he] had got a letter for me and he said that he would answer it for me. I was not able to write then. I asked him if he had got an answer yet and he said no. When I got out of the hospital I went and asked him for the letter and he could not find it, so I did not see it when you write again don't write in care of Mr. Bryant write if you answered Mr. Bryant's letter.
Ten days later he wrote his family to let them know that he was “getting along very well now and I am on light duty and I hope I will soon be [able] to do as much as any of the boys.
We have 4 of our men in the hospital here and our fifer is in the general hospital at Alexandria. There was a part of our Brigade that went out on a scouting expedition on Christmas day and two Pennsylvania Regiments went out as far as Pohick church, [a] distance about 9 miles, but discovered none of the enemy except a few pickets. They fired a blank cartridge from one of the guns and . . . took their dinner along with them and returned at night again. Pohick church was built in the year 1773 at the expense of General Washington; the brick was fetched from England. The church is 6 miles from Mount Vernon. It was a nice building once but is going to ruin now; it ain't occupied now only by every one that takes a notion to go in; the rebels go there once in a while on a scouting party, but they don't damage anything. The most that go there leave their names wrote upon the walls. I have not been there but I would like to go there and to Mount Vernon where General Washington lived and I intend to go if I have an opportunity to see them places before leaving here. There is a little town called Accotink about 2 miles from the church, but that is a place you don't know, I guess. I want you to write and tell me if you was ever to Mount Vernon or to Pohick church and what year you left your home in Virginia.
We had 30 new recruits come from Michigan last Thursday and there has 6 officers gone to Michigan to recruit for 6 months. There ain't much signs of the war a being ended right away I don't think, for if we don't whip the rebels before long some other nation will whip us so I hope Uncle Sam will try and have them whipped out by spring so as we can have the Union stand and then we can all fight together if England wants to try it. But I hope we will have peace here first and then we will feel stronger. But at last come to think I would rather be excused from being a soldier for he has got many hardships to endure that he don't see before he meets them. But so far we have had very good times and plenty to eat most of the time. When at Bull Run we got short but the sutler was there and we bought of him till our provision came. We live very good while in camp but when on a march then is when the soldier suffers the most. We drawed new frock coats last Sunday and we all have new over coats which are very good ones and I drawed my new pants yesterday which is the 2nd new pair from Uncle Sam, so you see we have very good clothes. Our pants and overcoats are of a blue color and our overcoats are black and we have plenty of clothes for the winter.
George was absent sick in the hospital in August of 1862, but eventually recovered and was awarded the Kearny Cross for his participation in the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863.
By July of 1863 he was on recruiting service in Michigan, posted to the draft rendezvous (Camp Lee) in Grand Rapids. On October 30, 1863, George Remington, the Adjutant for the Third infantry wrote to notify Lemon that he was “to report at this place [Grand Rapids] by the 30th day of this month in order to be mustered for pay.” The next day, he was granted permission by Lieutenant Jerome B. Ten Eyck, commanding the draft depot, to remain absent from the draft rendezvous until November 3. He remained detached at the draft depot through February of 1864, but by spring had returned to his Regiment.
George was wounded by a gunshot to the right foot on May 5, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia, and on May 13 was sent to Armory Square hospital in Washington, DC. According to a statement he made on December 4, 1875, he had been “wounded by minie ball, striking him in the bottom of the right foot near the heel & passing out near the inside ankle joint fracturing the bones of the foot & causing a wound that has never healed entirely on the bottom of his foot or at the ankle joint.” He was subsequently transferred to a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 26, and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864; he received pension no. 63,349 in July of 1864.
George eventually returned to Michigan, and married Michigan native Sarah Bradley (1845-1877) at Richmond, Osceola County on September 20, 1868, and they had at least three children: Mabel Valenta (b. 1872), Cora Belle (b. 1875) and Alfred James (b. 1877).
By 1870 George was working as a farmer and living with his wife in Richmond, Osceola County; next door lived George’s brother Franklin and his family. He was possibly living in Livingston County in December of 1875, and in Deerfield, Livingston County in 1877 when his first wife died.
He eventually moved to Damascus (?), Oregon and married a woman named Mrs. Bills sometime in the 1880s in Portland, Oregon, and they eventually divorced. He was still living in Oregon in 1900 and resided in the Damascus area for some years before moving to southern California. By 1915 he was living in San Pedro, California.
George married his third wife, Fannie McCully (d. 1921), on June 24, 1908; she had apparently been married at least three times before. (In 1920 there was one George Lemon married to Illinois native Mehitable and living in San Pedro.) By 1921 George was living in Long Beach, California.
George was residing at 223 1/2 Elm Avenue in Long Beach in October of 1922 when he applied for an increase in his pension, claiming that his right leg was “off at midway between my ankle & knee.”
By December of 1923 he was in such a bad way that he sent for his son Fred who was living in Salem, Oregon to come and get him, and George was living with his son in Oregon when, according to his pension records, sometime in April of 1923 he suffered a stroke and was confined to his bed unable to feed or take care of himself.
He was still an invalid by the end of the year, and he died in Salem, Oregon, presumably at the home of his son, on September 6, 1925, and was probably buried in Salem.