Silas M. Pelton was born on December 28, 1819, in Blenheim, Oxford County, Ontario, Canada, the son of Vermonter James Pelton (1791-1851) and Canadian Anna Doyle (1790-1848). James left his home in Grand Isle County, Vermont and moved to Canada where in 1813 he married Anna at her home in Buford, Oxford County, Ontario. They lived in Buford for several years before moving to Batavia, New York residing there briefly before returning to Canada and settling in Blenheim, Oxford County, Ontario where they lived for many years.
Silas left Canada and moved to Michigan along with several other family members.
He married Canada native Elizabeth Anderson (1823-1904) on January 14, 1840, in Grand Rapids, and they had at least ten children: Albert C. (b. 1843), two daughters, S. A. (b. 1843) and E. E. (b. 1845) -- both of whom may have died young; Sylvia (b. 1846), Francis (b. 1847), William H. (b. 1850), Alice (b. 1852), Cora or Nora (b. 1854), Kitty (b. 1855), Amy W. (b. 1868), and Silas H. (b. 1859), Carrie May (b. 1861), Frederick H. (b. 1869).
Silas and his wife moved to Michigan, probably from Canada, sometime before 1843, and by 1850 (?) he and his family were living in Grand Rapids where he was working as a carpenter, a trade he followed for many years before the war.
He also worked as an architect, and in 1858 he designed the plans for the new engine house for Wolverine fire company no. 3. “Mr. Silas Pelton, architect,” wrote the Grand Rapids Enquirer on May 26, “has shown us a drawing and plan made by him, for an engine house for Wolverine Company No. 3, and, as we believe, accepted by the Company. The plan, it appears to us, could not be improved; and, if constructed according to design, the building will be an ornament to the city. It is to be of brick, with four tasteful plaster columns in front. The estimated cost of the building is $2,500, and the Common Council is asked to appropriate $1,200 of the amount -- the Company and other citizens of the West Side pledging themselves to make up the balance. The Company have a fine lot, and it is to be hoped that their present laudable design may be carried into effect.”
Silas was elected foreman of the Wolverine fire company in May of 1859, superintending some 47 men. In 1859-60 he was working as a carpenter and living on the north side of Bridge Street between Turner and Broadway Streets on the west side of the Grand River, and in 1860 he was listed as a carpenter and builder living with his family in Grand Rapids, Fourth Ward.
In September of 1859 he was elected constable for the Fourth Ward. As Constable, Pelton found himself working frequently with another local officer, George Dodge, who would enlist in Company B. On February 17, 1860, the two officers “arrested four persons who are supposed to be guilty of firing the dwelling house of J. Irwin. The ones arrested are now in jail awaiting examination.”
And on March 24, “Officers Dodge and Pelton brought into town . . . a number of the citizens of Courtland Centre, who are charged with assault and battery on one Chase, of that village. It appears that there is a dispute between said Chase and George W. Bush, in regard to a piece of land. Bush got possession last Fall, and kept it until a few days since, when, being absent for a short time, Chase entered the house, put Bush's furniture out doors, and took possession. The night thereafter, Bush, with three men, returned and broke the door open with an ax and put Mr. Chase and family out.”
In early November Silas suffered a riding accident, but was not seriously hurt. He was out riding on horseback in the country, “some six miles from this city. In crossing a bridge his horse broke through, thus precipitating him to the ground, and fracturing his shoulder to some extent. Dr. Bliss was called, and the fracture dressed. It was not so severe but that Mr. P. was out the next day, with his arm in a sling. He will probably lose the use of his arm for a couple of weeks.”
In 1860 Silas was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and children in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward.
Silas was 41 years old and living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted (possibly as Sergeant Major) in Company B on May 13, 1861.
His son Albert enlisted at the same time in Company A; he was probably related to Alfred and Andrew – the former born in Canada and both of whom enlisted in Company K. He was also the uncle of Samuel who would enlist in Company I.
He was promoted to Sergeant Major on October 30, 1861, and on January 1, 1862, he was promoted to First Lieutenant of Company C, commissioned January 2, replacing Lieutenant Felix Zoll who had resigned. Silas was wounded in the right side of his chest on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, the ball “lodging near the lower part of the right shoulder blade. . . .” Although he was reported absent on 30 days’ leave from July 5, in fact he was back home in Grand Rapids by the middle of June, probably recovering from his wounds.
Silas eventually recovered his health and returned to the Regiment. Although he was at first reported missing in action in December of 1862, in fact he was taken prisoner at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13-14, 1862, and by December 20 he was confined in Libby prison in Richmond, Virginia.
It was first believed by his family that Silas died in prison. One of his comrades in Company A, Charles Wright, wrote home on February 11, 1863, that “Lieutenant Pelton, who was missing at the battle of Fredericksburg, is dead; he died at the Libby prison, Richmond.” And the day before, the Eagle wrote that Pelton’s wife had received a letter from their son Albert, “dated at Alexandria, Virginia, in which she is informed that her husband, Lieutenant S. M. Pelton, of the glorious 3rd, who was taken prisoner during the battle of Fredericksburg, is dead; that he died a few days since, in the Libby prison, at Richmond. Although this news comes from a source which cannot well be questioned, still we hope that there may be some mistake, and that it may prove untrue.”
In fact, Pelton was paroled on January 12 (or February 20), 1863, at City Point, Virginia, reported to Camp Parole, Maryland, on February 21 and hospitalized at Annapolis, Maryland along with other paroled prisoners-of-war. On February 27, the Eagle reported that “Mrs. Pelton has just received a letter from her husband that he still lives and that he has arrived among paroled prisoners at Annapolis.”
Silas was put under arrest on April 3, 1863, for disobeying orders, but released on April 8. He returned to the Regiment on May 20, 1863, and was wounded in the back and shoulder on July 2 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was shot, he claimed, “between the left shoulder blade and backbone lodging on the right side near the collarbone and neck.” He was subsequently hospitalized at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was furloughed from the hospital in August.
From the thinned ranks of the battle-regt. Third [wrote the Eagle on August 7] Pelton “has returned to his home in this city, covered with scars, pale and feeble from the loss of blood and the severity of the wound received in the second days battle of Gettysburg. The Lt. received a terrible wound in the battle of Fair Oaks, from the effects of which it was supposed, for a time, that he could not recover, but contrary to the expectations of his friends, he regained his health and again returned to his command. At the battle of Fredericksburg he was taken prisoner and carried with other brave soldiers to the rebel capital, where he remained for a time and until exchanged; when he again took his command and was in the terribly bloody struggle at Gettysburg, where, in the 2nd day's contest, he received a ball in the soldier which was thought at the time and for some time thereafter to be a fatal wound, but, thanks to God, the Lt. is still alive with a fair prospect for recovery.
Less than four weeks later, the Eagle reported “We were pleased to meet Lt. S. M. Pelton, of the glorious ‘Third’, on the street this morning. The Lieutenant, it will be remembered, has twice been dangerously wounded in battle. The last time, in the terrible conflict at Gettysburg, he was so severely injured by a ball, which is yet in his body, that it was, for a considerable time after the battle, supposed he could not recover. He was, however, enabled to reach home, and through the best of medical care and nursing, he has now so far recovered as to be able to walk a short distance at a time; and the prospects are fair that he will, with due care and time, wholly recover and be himself again.”
Silas may have recovered from his ordeal but he nevertheless resigned on October 22, 1863, for disability -- although according to the Eagle, on December 24, Pelton, having “recovered sufficiently from his wounds, as he thinks,” left Grand Rapids “to rejoin his old command. Good for Lieutenant Pelton. He doubtless thinks himself bullet proof by this time, as most any man who has been shot so many times would.” It is not clear as to what transpired here. Pelton may have returned to Detroit where he was officially discharged from the army on account of his disability, or, less likely, he returned to the Regiment in Virginia, was discharged there and returned to Michigan.
Silas returned to Grand Rapids and on March 29, 1864, his four-year-old son died. That same year he applied for and received a pension (no. 39592).
By 1865 and 1866 he was working as a lumberman and living in 51 Bridge Street on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids, and in 1867-68 he was still engaged in the lumber business and living on the southwest corner of Lincoln and Third Streets. He was a Deputy Marshal in 1871, and on July 24, 1871, the Democrat wrote
We owe Captain Pelton, our efficient Deputy Marshal, an apology for allowing the communication signed ‘Observer’ to appear in our columns on Sunday morning [July 23]. The communication written by an irresponsible person, and inserted in the absence of the managing editor, does the Captain great injustice, whose official career has been satisfactory to our citizens. The author complains that part of Monroe Street is obstructed with building materials, which is true, but then Messers Godfrey & Tracey obtained permission to make such obstruction, and the Marshal or his deputy have no power to remove said obstructions. The Captain has full power to arrest disorderly persons, and should he fail to do so, he would not discharge his duty. Let ‘Observer’, who is a Radical, bear in mind that Captain Pelton's nomination as Deputy Marshal was strongly endorsed by the oldest Republican Councilman on the Board, and that he was confirmed by a vote of 13 to 3, four Republicans voting for him. He has discharged his duties with fidelity, and no one has ever found fault with him except ‘Observer’, who probably has an axe to grind.
Silas was living in Grand Rapids in 1874, and was involved in the building of a large saw mill on Penoyer Creek near Newaygo, Newaygo County in 1876. By 1880 Silas was working as a millwright and living with his wife and two of their children on Scribner Street in Grand Rapids’ 7th Ward; also living with them was another millwright, a nephew named Charles Pelton, his wife and infant daughter. That same year he was also reported working as a millwright in Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota. He was back in Duluth in 1885 and in 1890; in 1890-91 he was living at 813 W. 4th Street working as an agent for the James Leffel Water Wheel Co. in Duluth. He was still in Duluth at 813 W. 4th Street in 1891-92.
Sometime in the late 1880s (probably 1888) Silas had moved to Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota. He was chronically ill through much of the early 1890s, and, according to one source, he was frequently confined to his home and often to his bed during this period.
He was a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association and an active Democrat.
Silas was residing at 813 W. Fourth Street in Duluth, Minnesota when he died on February 4, 1899, in Duluth. His remains were brought back to Grand Rapids and interred in Fulton cemetery: section 3 lot 21.
His widow was living in Minnesota in 1899 when she applied for and received pension no. 478757. She was still living at 813 w. 4th Street in Duluth in 1899, 1902 and 1903.