Louis Ruthardt was born June 30, 1842, in Holchinger, Baden, Germany, the son of George Michael (b. 1808) and Christine (b. 1818).
Louis’ parents were married in Germany and the family immigrated to America, probably around 1848 (?), and eventually settled in Michigan sometime before 1850. By 1860 Louis (or “Lewis”) was attending school with four younger siblings and living with his family on a farm in Alpine, Kent County.
He stood 5’8” with hazel eyes, brown hair and a florid complexion and was a 19-year-old farmer possibly living in Alpine, Kent County when he enlisted in Company C on March 1, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day. He was sick in the hospital from July of 1862 through August, and allegedly deserted on September 21 at Upton’s Hill, Virginia, but was in fact probably still hospitalized and was discharged for general debility on September 2 at Detroit (possibly from Harper hospital or Detroit Barracks).
On November 5, 1862, Ruthardt wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Smith, military commander in Detroit, that “In the first week of Sept. I received your discharge furlough. When made out, you will please send my discharge and pay certificates [to] Mr. P. R. L. Peirce of Grand Rapids” (Peirce was an attorney and one of the city’s leading citizens.) However, because Ruthardt had lacked certain necessary forms, particularly his descriptive list or roll, Smith’s office sent out an inquiry to Captain Israel Geer, then commanding Company C. Geer, replied that Ruthardt was taken sick in the spring of 1862, somewhere between Fortress Monroe and Yorktown and his descriptive list was in his possession when he was sent to the hospital. Geer added, however, that “This is the first that he has been reported to the Regt. since” last April. “In compliance with general order he has been dropped from the rolls in Sept. last. There is a Gen. order forbidding me to give a second descriptive list until certain forms are complied with on his part. I have stated his case to the Col. of our Regt. He directed me [to] write & send the particulars as above to you saying Ruthardt had never done day’s duty in [the] Regt. and had been dropped as deserter. Said Ruthardt had never drawn any pay or clothing from [the] government while with [the] Regt.”
On July 3, 1863, P.R.L. Peirce of Grand Rapids wrote to Smith that Ruthardt “has been long sick, and is one of the most honest and true-hearted Germans I ever knew, and if well enough he would jump at the chance to once more ‘fight mit Sigel’. In answer to yours of the 8th May, concerning him, I have to say that at the battle of Siege of Yorktown and on the 4th of May/62 he was by illness sent to a farmhouse used as a temporary hospital, where he remained until May 30 when he was sent to Newport News hospital [Virginia] and remained there until June 12 and was sent to New York. Ruthardt says he was ‘very sick’ indeed at that farmhouse, and that he thinks a doctor with the 2nd Mich. Regt. attended him, and to that doctor, or to whoever did attend him, he gave his descriptive list, at that house. He thinks when he left or was sent to Newport News there were a hundred other sick ones sent. He is a strictly honest fellow, . . . very ill of rheumatism, diarrhea and typhoid. If an affidavit of his that he left or has lost said roll will be of any use I will be get it and send it to you. I suppose there is some way to meet and overcome exigencies. He has never been paid either.”
In a sworn statement he gave on August 5, 1863, Ruthardt testified that he
continued in service until the 3rd day of September, 1862, when Lt. Col. Smith . . . gave him -- after a due medical examination -- a furlough to go home and await his discharge, which furlough he now has. Deponent further says that he was first taken sick near Yorktown Va, and on the 4th day of May/62 was sent to a farm house hospital, about five miles from Yorktown, where he remained until the 28th of May, when he was sent to Yorktown where he remained two days, and was then sent to Newport News; where he remained quite sick twelve days and was then sent to New York where I remained one day and was then sent home, and getting better reported to Detroit to Col. Smith who kept me three weeks, and then sent him home on discharge furlough. Deponent further says that while at said hospital farm house the doctor who attended him in uniform took his descriptive roll, and never returned it to deponent. Deponent not understanding its nature or value and supposing that said doctor was entitled to it made no objections to his taking it, and thought nothing more about it. And this is positively a true account of its loss; and that it is lost deponent has not doubt, as he never saw it after giving it to the doctor aforesaid whose name deponent does not know, as he deponent was very sick with the fever and supposed his superiors would do right with him. Deponent in his oath positively and solemnly aver that he has never received any discharge or pay certificates, nor any pay from the United States, since he entered the service.
Louis gave Grand Rapids as his mailing address on his discharge paper, but he soon moved to northern Michigan.
He married Amelia and/or Emeline (b. 1849), and they had at least three and possibly ten children: Amelia (b. 1868), Louis (b. 1872) and Edward (b. 1878), possibly also Edward C. (1874-75), William, Anna, Irene, Alice and Clare and possibly an infant not named (d. 1876).
In July of 1870 he purchased 160 acres of land through the Traverse City land office; in November his father or brother (?) George also purchased 160 acres nearby.
By 1870 Louis was working as a farmer (he owned $2500 worth of real estate) and living with his wife Amelia and his younger brother George in Elmwood Township, Leelanau County. By the mid-1870s Louis had settled in Solon, Leelanau County. By 1880 Louis was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Solon.
Louis was living in Cedar Run, Benzie County in 1888, and back in Solon, Leelanau County by 1890. In 1920 Louis was living in Solon, Leelanau County with five of his children.
In 1889 he applied for and received a pension (no. 765179).
Louis died at his home in Solon on September 9, 1926, and was buried in Solon Township cemetery.