Reuben Randall Jr. was born on November 24, 1836, in Portage, Ohio, the son of Reuben Sr. (b. 1796) and Ruby or Ruba (Stark, b. 1801).
New York native Reuben Sr. married Vermonter Ruby and they settled in Ohio. Reuben Sr. brought his family to Michigan in 1842, and was among the first settlers in Lamont, settling in Tallmadge Township, Ottawa County.
By 1850 Reuben Sr. worked a farm and Reuben Jr. attended school. By 1860 Reuben Sr. was still living in Tallmadge where he and his brother Benjamin worked a large farm. Next door to Reuben Sr. lived a farm laborer named Matthew Wright who worked for Silas Hedges; Wright would also join Company I. And not far away lived Charles Randall, Reuben Jr’s cousin, who worked for another of the Hedges family and he too would join the same company.
Reuben Jr. stood 5’7” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was a 24-year-old carpenter probably living in Tallmadge when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861, along with his cousin Charles. On July 20, 1862, Reuben wrote home to his brother and sister from the field near Bull Run, Virginia.
You must excuse me for not writing before this. I have had so many letters to write and so little time and now I must write a family letter and you must pass it around. We left Camp Blair last Tuesday about 4 in the afternoon and continued our march until about 9 when we halted till morning. We then marched by the city of Germantown intending to go to Manassas Gap. We routed the rebels at Germantown and took several pieces of artillery and another portion of our brigade took possession of the Fairfax C. H.
The same day we halted that night within two miles of Centreville where the rebels had a battery erected but when we got [there] they had evacuated and fell back to a place called Bull Run where we found them. As we came up they fired on our advance guard. The artillery went in and opened on them and followed them. The first gun was fired at 25 past 12 in the afternoon and at 5 past 5 we fell back about a mile and a half where we could get water and encamped for the night. Although we retreated we did not consider ourselves whipped, but we had a pretty warm time of it and I played a game that was new to me. That was dodging Cannon Balls. Yesterday we came back to the same spot and halted and laid on our arms all day and all night but had no engagements with them except the pickets – they did some firing at one another but there were none of our boys killed or hurt.
We formed in line of battle last night and stood in readiness to give them the last we had if they advanced on us. They fired several volleys at random thinking to draw us on but were disappointed. I want you to understand that there was only our brigade that went in on them and I don’t think that there was more than 800 [?] out of our four regiments but there was a large force of them and well fortified at that. We are waiting now for reinforcements to come up and tomorrow intend to attack them with some 50 or 60 thousand and drive them out, take them prisoners or die trying.
I don’t know as there is much of any more news to write or I suppose you hear it all by the way of the papers. I want [you] to let Riley Mickam to read this – I promised to write to him and I have not time to do so at present for while I am writing I don’t know what minute I may be called on to fall into ranks. We expect a heavy battle tomorrow and after it is over I will write you and tell you how we make it. Now I want you all to write me as often as you can and tell me all the news. Direct it as before and they will be forwarded wherever we are. Give my best to everybody and tell them to write. I want to tell you that Abe Palmer and Henry Calkins were both sick and did not come with us. We left them in the hospital at Camp Blair.
On December 1, Reuben wrote to his brother and sister from Fort Lyon, near Alexandria, Virginia.
I now sit down to answer your letter which I read some time ago but have not had an opportunity to answer before. I am not very well at present. I took a severe cold about 2 weeks ago by standing guard one night – in the rain and have not been able to speak a loud word for the last week but I am so that I am around and on light duty but I don’t do much. Charley [Charles Randall?] is getting along as well as could be expected but he had the typhoid fever – the worst kind. I don’t suppose I can tell you any news for you get the papers as soon as we do. We are not doing anything at present but standing picket. I have not been out lately for I cough too much. I could not keep still enough. There may be news in a few days for there is pretty heavy cannonading going on down the river this morning.
There was an accident happened to some of the troops one day last week. As near as I can learn there were some 5 or 6 wagons and 17 men went out on a foraging expedition. They went 4 or 5 miles beyond our picket lines and had got their wagons loaded and went into a house to eat dinner and not thinking it necessary to post a sentinel to look out for breakers [?] they stacked their arms in the yard and all went in and the next thing they knew a body of secesh cavalry had surrounded the house and taken possession of their arms and teams. So all they could do was to surrender and make the best of it but I think it will be a lesson to all the rest of us.
And now Wellman I am a going to send father $25.00 in a few days and he says he will give me his note at 70 [?] percent and put it any ones hands that I said and I want you to keep it for me till father orders but I only ask simple interest. I don’t know yet how I shall send it. I am going over to the Lincoln Cavalry tomorrow to see George Averill. He expects to start for home this week and if he does I shall send it by him but if he does not I think I will get it in United States notes and send it in a letter. Charley Randall will send some at the same time. If you see George or Schuyler tell them that George Marshall is in Washington. I expect him over here in a few days and now another favor. I will ask of you is to do what you can to keep Ben at home if he has not enlisted already. I got a letter from George Baxter a few days ago and he tells me he has enlisted – it was something. I did not expect to hear from him for I told him better but of course he has a right to do as he chooses but I know he is not able to stand camp life. Where is Charlotte and how does she feel about it?
And now a question or two more. I want the particulars of the theft committed by Miss Helen Combs and who did Guy Streeter marry? I heard he was married but did not hear to [whom].
Write all the news and write soon. Give my respects to all inquiring friends.
His cousin Charles Randall gave Reuben a small diary into which he begin making entries on Christmas day, 1861. Reuben was sick in his quarters from January 7-9 and on January 10 he had two teeth pulled which apparently was the cause of his being ill in bed.
On May 8, Reuben wrote to his brother and sister from camp near Williamsburg, Virginia.
As I have a few leisure moments I thought I would improve them by writing to you. We are now near the village of Williamsburg. I suppose you will hear all about our movements in the newspapers before our letters reach you. The rebels left Yorktown last Saturday night and we followed them the next day and on Monday overtook them and had a pretty severe engagement. The fight commenced early in the morning and was kept up until after dark. The rebels slid out in the night leaving their dead and wounded behind.
Our regt. was not in the fight. They took one regt. from each brigade of our division to go around to the left for the purpose of supporting a battery of artillery to prevent the rebels from flanking us. Well, they choose our regt out of Berry’s brigade so we had to go but as it happened they did not undertake to come around in that direction. So we did not get a chance to fight but we passed over the battlefield the next day and I never want to see another such a sight – I will tell you about it when I get home. We are under marching orders tonight and expect to start in the morning and then we expect when we stop again it will be in Richmond.
Well it is nine o’clock and the lights will have to be out in a few minutes. So I can’t write any more. The boys send their respects. Give my love to all and reserve a share for yourselves. Please write again soon and I will write again the first opportunity.
Reuben was shot in the left thigh on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia and eventually sent to the hospital at David’s Island in New York harbor. On June 25 he wrote home from David’s Island.
As I have nothing else to do I thought I would drop a few lines to you. I am getting along first rate. Shall soon be as sound as ever if nothing happens to put me back. I hope to be able to join the regt again in a few weeks. There are five of here from the 3rd. We are all doing well. I have not rec’d a letter from anybody since I was wounded. But I guess I will get a heap of them when they do come. I have written three to the boys in the company and four or five home. So I think I ought to get some before long.
We are having fine times here. Nothing to do but eat and sleep and sit around and have fun. The people around here are very kind to us. They bring us any quantity of nice things and would more if the doctors would allow it. But we are first rate. I have no news to write for we do not have news on this Island. I will enclose general Kearney’s report of the Battle of Fair Oaks so you can see what our division done. I think it is about as good as the average. You will see he speaks well of the Michigan men.
Well I don’t know as I have anything more to say so good bye for this time.
On July 5 he was still in the hospital when he wrote his brother and sister from David’s Island.
I received your kind letter Wednesday and also one from Claudius the same day. I was very glad to hear from you again. I am gaining every day. Have got so that I can walk without crutches but am some lame yet. They say that yesterday was the fourth of July but I did not see anything that looked like it nor hear anything that sounded like it but then it is all in a person’s lifetime. I expect to have a grand celebration after the war is over and we all get home again. I did think of coming home on furlough but the report here is that they are a going to give any more furloughs so I suppose I shall be obliged to give it up but if there is any chance for one I will have it – but you need not expect me for I may not come but I will if I can. You spoke about money. I am very much obliged to you for your kind offer but have just received fifteen dollars from [cousin] Charley Randall and can draw two months pay anytime I go to New York. So you will see I am pretty well provided for in that line. If I can get a furlough for thirty days I am all right but if I can’t get more than fifteen days I don’t know as it would be worth the while to go for I would only get there one day and come back the next. You must tell all of our folks that I am getting along first rate but don’t tell them that I am coming home for then if anything should happen that I should not come you know they would be disappointed. I have not much to write of anything going on the Island. We don’t have any news here.
Give my love to everybody and reserve a share for yourselves.
He was discharged on July 14 from David Island’s Hospital, and returned to the regiment. He was soon back in the hospital, however, and on August 28 he wrote home from Emory or Armory Square hospital in Washington.
Here I am in the hospital again and the prospects are pretty fair for staying some time. My health is pretty good but my lameness is no better than when I left home. I was with the regiment a week and only walked one day and I was so sore and lame the next morning I could hardly move. So the surgeon gave an order for a ride in an ambulance and I rode the rest of the time. I left the boys last Saturday morning. They went out by railroad to join Pope’s army and I cam here. Silas Compton is here with me. The rest of the boys are all well or at least they were when I saw them last – I presume they are fighting before this time. We don’t get much news that can be defended or there are rumors of all sorts afloat but they are of no account when you get the Official Reports of the generals then you can tell how things are going on but there is one thing certain that Burnside, McClellan and Pope have formed a junction and are about to make a grand move somewhere. The troop[s are coming in here every day and being sent where they will help to strengthen the army and things begin to look different form what they did a week or two ago. The rebel prisoners that came in now all seem to think that the Southern Confederacy is about played out and it seems to be a general opinion that the thing will be finished up in a short time. We all hope for the best.
I want you to write as soon as you get this and tell me all the news, whether anyone has enlisted or not, whether they are going to draft. Tell Ben and Schuyler not to enlist but to stand their chances of being drafted. I wrote to Uncle Schuyler the first opportunity after I got to the regiment and mailed the letter at Yorktown. I suppose Charley’s death nearly killed his mother. The boys that were with him said he died very easy – it was like going to sleep. You don’t know how I missed him while I was with the boys. It turned very lonely without him. Give my love to all and write as soon as possible. Tell father and mother I am well and doing well.
Reuben was discharged from the army on September 29, 1862, at Upton’s Hill, Virginia, for a gunshot wound, the “ball passing through upper fifth of thigh, causing cicatrix interrupting free use of the limb.”
After he left the army Reuben eventually returned to Michigan and may have been living in Muskegon, Muskegon County when the first draft was conducted in the town in June of 1863.
In any case he soon moved back to Ottawa County and lived the rest of his life in the area of Lamont, Tallmadge Township: he was living in Lamont in 1888, 1890 and 1894. For many years he operated the only grocery store in Lamont, and he also reportedly operated a tin-shop in Lamont. He was appointed postmaster in Lamont in 1876.
Reuben Jr. was still residing in Lamont in 1883 when he was drawing $3.00 per month in 1883 (pension no. 106,188, dated May of 1872); that same year he was living next door to Hiram Bateman, formerly Company I, in Lamont, and in December of 1885 he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.
He married New York native Elvira Velzey (1846-1934) in 1865, in Lamont, and they had at least eight children: Dewitt (b. 1867), Wilber (b. 1870), Franklin “Frank” A. (b. 1871), Fred H. (b. 1876), Mary E. (b. 1880), Belle E. (b. 1886) and John V. (b. 1890).
By 1880 Reuben was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Tallmadge, Ottawa County.
Reuben Jr. died of peritonitis and dropsy in Lamont on October 2, 1903, and was buried in the Lamont cemetery, next to the graves of Hiram and Henry Bateman (Henry, son of Hiram, had also served in Company B).
In late October of 1903 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 564304).