Jackson R. “Jack” Meeks was born in 1836 in New York, probably the son of New York natives Michael (1802-1887) and Mary (b. 1805).
Between 1835 and 1840 the family moved to Pennsylvania and by 1850 Michael was working as a farmer in McKean County, Pennsylvania. “Jack” (who was probably listed as “Russell”) was living with his family and attending school in 1850 in McKean. The family was still living in Mckean in 1860 and in 1864. By the time the war broke out, however, Jack had moved to western Michigan from Eldred, McKean County, Pennsylvania.
Jack stood 5’8” with hazel eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was a 25-year-old lumberman probably living in Crockery, Ottawa County when he enlisted as a Musician in Company I on May 13, 1861.
In early 1862 Jack found himself in a rather difficult situation. Captain Stephen Lowing of Company I wrote home on January 5, 1862, asking his brother-in-law Franklin Bosworth in Georgetown, Ottawa County if Clarinda Bement, the sister of Harley Bement, also of Company I, “is in trouble by Jack Meeks” and is “she likely to become a town charge? If so, I will hold on to him. He wants to get transferred to some other Regiment, for the purpose of not coming home.” (Whatever became of this potentially thorny problem is unknown, although in 1868 Clarinda (1842-1906) did marry Amos Utter.)
Jack was described as a fun-loving sort of fellow. On May 3, Lowing wrote home that “Last night a part of our company was dancing cotillion at the sound of a violin played by Jack Meeks, while shells were laying on our position. . . .” By mid-summer Meeks was on detached service, probably with the Brigade Quartermaster’s department, and was driving an ambulance from July of 1862 through March of 1863. In July he was injured while driving a team of horses.
According to Jack, “on or about the 1st day of July, 1863 [probably 1862], near Falmouth Va, while driving a medical supply wagon, having been detached for aid duty, while passing through the company streets of the 37th [New York], the horses that were driving the wagon became frightened, and in attempting to hold them the off horse became restive and kicked me on the right knee fracturing the cap of the knee.” Meeks claimed he “was sitting on front of said wagon at the time [and] that he was treated for said injury by Dr. [Walter] Morrison who was regimental surgeon, and that he was unable thereafter to perform military duty.”
Jack was treated in the Regimental hospital and by November was in the First Division hospital, and was still absent sick in December of 1862. He was admitted to the Regimental hospital on February 28, 1863, with “wound of knee,” was returned to duty March 18, 1863, and probably readmitted for the same wound (noted in the records as an “incised wound”) to the Regimental hospital and then sent to the Division hospital sometime in April of 1863. He returned to duty on May 11, 1863, and in June and July was in the ambulance corps. By January of 1864 he was a teamster in the Brigade wagon train, and admitted to the Regimental hospital on February 25, 1864, with intermittent fever.
Jack returned to duty March 6, but on May 11 was admitted to Emory hospital in Washington, DC, suffering from chronic rheumatism. He was mustered out on June 20, 1864, at Detroit.
Following his release from the army Jack settled in Steuben County, New York.
Jack was probably married to Pennsylvania native Susan (b. 1847) and they had at least one child: Jela (b. 1867).
It is quite likely that Jack and his wife were living in Pennsylvania in 1867. In 1870 he listed himself as “Russell” Meeks, born in Pennsylvania, working as a farm laborer and living with his wife and daughter in Rathboneville, Steuben County. By February of 1876 he was residing in Rathbonville, Steuben County. (His parents were living in Ravenna, Muskegon County in 1870.) However, he had returned to western Michigan by 1877, when he applied for and received a pension (no. 150,195), and was probably living in Ravenna, Muskegon County where for for some years he worked as a lumberman. (His father Michael was living in Ravenna in 1880.)
By 1883 and again in mid-1888, he was living in Henrietta, Clay County, Texas, when he sought an increase of his pension (he was drawing $4.00 per month in September of 1889). Curiously, in February of 1893 he was dropped for “failure to claim,” and apparently his pension went “unclaimed three years.”