Calvin P. McTaggert was born in 1836 in Canada, probably the son of Canadians David (b. 1801) and Deborah (b. 1811).
By 1851 Calvin was working as a laborer and living with his family in Hay, Huron county, Ontario, Canada. By 1859-60 Calvin was working as a carpenter and boarding on the south side of Lyon between Division and Bostwick Streets in Grand Rapids, Kent County.
He was 25 years old and probably still working as a carpenter and living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as Sixth Corporal in Company A on May 13, 1861. (Company A was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of whom had served in various local militia units before the war, specifically the Valley City Guards, or VCG, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.)
Calvin was a Sergeant when he was wounded at Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862, resulting in the amputation of his left arm by Dr. D. W. Bliss on the field on June 1. In early August he was listed as a patient in City Hospital in New York City, and probably returned to Michigan on sick furlough because by the first week of October he was in Detroit at the Michigan Exchange Hotel.
Calvin eventually returned to duty and was reported as Second Lieutenant of Company F on October 7, 1862, commissioned the same day. In fact, Calvin was commanding the ambulance corps, probably near Falmouth, Virginia, from December 6 or 18, 1862, and was on detached service as chief of ambulance corps, Third Brigade, First Division, Third Corps from January of 1863 through April. Although still on detached service, he was transferred to Company H on May 1 and commissioned a First Lieutenant, replacing Lieutenant Thomas Waters.
(McTaggert’s transferals to Company F and later to Company H were probably on paper only and designed, it is assumed, to allow for his subsequent promotions. In fact, he probably never rejoined the Third Michigan following the loss of his arm but instead served in a managerial capacity in the Brigade Quartermaster department commanding the various ambulance units until the end of 1863 when he was transferred to the Veterans Reserve Corps.)
From his office in the ambulance corps at the Third Brigade hospital no. 2 at Belle Plain, Virginia, Calvin wrote to the mother of Third Michigan soldier Chester Adams, who was killed at Fair Oaks, sometime probably in 1863.
I received four letters from the Postmaster of Grand Rapids, asking for information regarding your son. I knew one corporal Chester Adams, he belonged to Co. B, 3rd Regiment Michigan V. He enlisted at Grand Rapids, Mich. & was wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Va., on the 31st day of May, 1862 by a musket ball in the thigh, and was removed to New York City & afterwards died. I do not know whether he had any property or not, as I did not know him previous to his enlistment but I will find out & let you know., He has about four months pay due him. I have forgot the day of the month that he died. I was in the same hospital with him. You can find out the exact day of his death by applying by letter to the surgeon in charge of City Hospital, New York & then I will see the captain of his company & have him send you his descriptive list, stating the time he was last paid & then on the surgeon’s certificate of his death you can obtain his pay. You had better put it in the hands of some lawyer to collect it for you. I will try and ascertain all about his affairs previous to his enlistment & let you know. If you wish ask me any questions in regard to him for further information. Calvin P. McTaggert, Lieut. & Amb. Off. 3rd Brigade 1st Division 3rd Corps Army of the Potomac
From May of 1863 through July Calvin was absent as acting chief of the ambulance corps, but on the night of July 23 he was seriously injured when he was thrown from his horse, resulting in a second amputation of the left arm, also by Dr. Bliss at Armory Square hospital in Washington.
By early August Calvin had returned to his home in Grand Rapids on sick leave. McTaggert, wrote the Grand Rapids Eagle on August 10, “who recently belonged to the Third Michigan Infantry . . . and who is now a member of the ambulance corps in the army of the Potomac, has just returned to his home in this city, on a furlough, to visit his relatives and friends. All loyal men will greet him with a warm welcome and a hearty shake of his single hand.” At noon on August 13, McTaggert left Grand Rapids “for the field of his duties again.”
By early September of 1863 Calvin was again in need of medical attention for his arm. On September 11, Dr. D. W. Bliss, former Regimental surgeon for the Third Michigan and presently in charge of Armory Square general hospital, sent the following communication regarding McTaggert to Dr. Dewitt, in charge of Invalid officers in Washington. “I would respectfully request permission,” Bliss wrote, “ to take personal supervision of [McTaggert’s] case . . . for the purpose of performing an operation his case requires. I make this request at the instance of this officer, and agreeable to my own wishes, as he is a member of the Regiment to which I was formerly attached, and one of my patrons before entering the public service. The medical director informs me that upon your granting this request he will order Lt. McTaggert to be admitted to this hospital for treatment.’ The request was approved.
In December of 1863 Calvin resigned to accept appointment in the Veterans’ Reserve Corps, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the VRC as of November 26, 1863, and was given a furlough in January of 1864. The Eagle reported on January 6, 1864, McTaggert, “of the 3rd who lost an arm in the battle of Fair Oaks, has just returned on a short visit to his friends in this city. The Lieutenant has been appointed Inspector General for Indiana, in the Invalid Corps, and he will leave for Indianapolis in a few days.”
Calvin eventually arrived in Indianapolis where he served as First Lieutenant 39th company, First Battalion, under Colonel Ambrose A. Stevens, formerly Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Michigan, but now commandant of the prisoner-of-war at Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Calvin married Indiana native Martha “Mattie” Gutteridge (1850-1925) on October 3, 1864 in Marion County, Indiana, and they possibly had one child, a daughter named Dora.
By mid-December of 1865 McTaggert was again back at his home in Grand Rapids. “Captain McTaggert,” wrote the Eagle on December 15, “originally of the noble Third Regiment, is in town. The captain lost his left arm at the battle of Fair Oaks and a subsequent injury necessitated a second amputation close to the shoulder, since which it has been quite troublesome. It is now improving and he hopes for its speedy and permanent healing. He has for some time been attached to the Invalid Reserve Corps, and on duty at Indianapolis. He has been ordered here to report by letter to Washington, being now without a command, and is awaiting the action of Congress in the matter of reorganizing the army for a peace footing.”
Calvin was honorably mustered out of service on September 24, 1866, at Thibodeaux, Louisiana, promoted to Second Lieutenant Forty-fourth United States Infantry on January 22, 1867, transferred to the Seventh United States Infantry on May 27, 1869, and promoted to First Lieutenant March 4, 1873.
He was on duty with the VRC at Washington from April 4, 1867 to June 1, 1868, after which he was on a leave of absence until July 10. He was then reported present for duty in Washington until March of 1869, and in Virginia as of April 1, 1869, on reconstruction duty in the First Military District until July 10, 1869, with the regiment in Virginia and North Carolina until April of 1870 and reported enroute to the Dakota Territory to August 1, 1872.
Calvin applied for and received a pension (no. 77347, dated December 18, 1866).
He was again on sick leave to May 1, 1873, back with the regiment in Dakota to May 30, 1875, on sick leave to August 26, 1876, and on recruiting duty at Loganport, Indiana in September 18, 1876, when he died of a drug overdose on September 18, 1876.
According to eyewitness testimony, Calvin was in the habit of routinely taking “chloral” as well as morphine “to produce sleep,” and that he had suffered regularly for at least two years from sciatica, diminished hearing loss and chronic pain in the stump of his arm. He was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
In October of 1876 his widow Mattie applied for and received a pension (no. 178,278). By 1878 she was residing at 15 Fourth Street NE in Washington, DC, in 1878, and by 1880 she had remarried. In 1886 she married John Walden in Lebanon, Indiana.