John P. Palmer was born in 1843 or 1844, possibly in New York, possibly the son of Othniel (b. 1806) and Almira (Thompson, b. 1815).
John’s family left New York and eventually settled in western Michigan.
By 1860 John was probably working as a farm laborer for the Gibson Cook family in Lamont, Tallmadge Township, Ottawa County; next door lived a 25-year-old farmer named Joseph Palmer (born in New York) and his wife, New York native Fanny (b. 1835); that same year there was also one John H. Palmer (b. 1844 in Connecticut), working as a clerk and living with his parents (?), M. L. and Mary Palmer, in Crockery, Ottawa County. (Interestingly, In 1869 Joseph and Fanny had a son they named John.)
He was 18 years old and possibly living in Wright or Chester, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. (He may have been related to Abel Palmer, also from Ottawa County and who also enlisted in company B.)
John died of fever on April 27, 1862, in the Regimental hospital at Camp Scott, near Yorktown, Virginia.
According to the Regimental Surgeon Dr. Zenas Bliss,
The regiment was attached to General Berry’s brigade of General Kearney’s division of the Third Corps, and arrived at Fort Monroe on March 26th, 1862, and shortly afterwards moved to Yorktown, and encamped in a thick woods, intermingled with patches of swamp and pools of water, the ground being covered with fragments of fallen trees and decaying vegetable matter. Water could be obtained only by digging holes from two and a half to three feet in depth, and the surface obtained form these was all that the men had. The regiment remained in this camp about five weeks, and was doing picket and fatigue duty on trenches and fortifications all that time. A few intermittents and remittents [fevers] occurred, as also about forty cases of typhoid fever, all very severe, marked by epistaxis tympanitis, and, after a few days, hemorrhage from the bowels, the blood being evidently impoverished. Several of these cases proved fatal.
All of these patients had active, supporting treatment throughout. The sick were cared for at a hospital, about a mile and a half to the rear, composed of log huts or barracks, built and formerly occupied by the 53d Virginia Volunteers (Confederate), upon a sandy soil, where we obtained an abundance of excellent well water. These barracks were well ventilated, and accommodated a large number of sick and wounded from both the regulars and volunteers. I saw all of the sick and what few wounded there were at this hospital and had immediate charge of very many sick who were members of various regiments; and nearly all of the cases were either low remittents or typhoid fever. I say remittents, because some of them might be easily classed as such; but I believed then, as now, that they were almost pure enteric fever. I held autopsies of all that died who were under my charge, six in number. [Probably Harrison sickles of Company G, John Palmer of Company B, Stephen Scales of Company I, Edward Bugbee of Company K, Charles Howe of Company E and David Stone of Company H.] No post mortem was held on the case of typhus. All the deaths from typhoid fever occurred late in the course of the disease, and the majority from hemorrhages from the bowels, one from coma, and the others apparently from pure exhaustion. The abdominal viscera were those principally examined. Peyer’s glands were found in each case in a state of ulceration; some very large ulcers; some healing while others were in an inflamed condition. Some of the ulcerations extended nearly through the coats of the intestines. I preserved the specimens in each case, but subsequently lost them during the campaign. The small intestines, through their entire length, gave evidence of previous inflammatory action; but all the other abdominal viscera gave no evidence of either organic or serious functional disease, and the soft parts and glands, when divided with the scalpel, seemed to be almost exsanguined. I wish the blood could have been analysed, because I feel confident that the primary trouble was there. In cases of epistaxis, the blood gave only a faint coloring to the spots on linen, and it did not give to the linen that stiffened feel that we get when it is saturated with ordinary blood, from both of which I infer that the blood was deficient in plasma and coloring matter, or defibrinated. In these cases, quinine, brandy, ammonia, and small doses of opium were given with a view to support the patient. Essence of beef and beef tea, of good quality, and in abundance, was furnished and given. The supply of medicines at this time was ample, but at times we were deficient in hospital stores.
John was presumably among the unknown soldiers buried in Yorktown National Cemetery.
No pension seems to be available.