Nathan Ross Jr. was born on September 24, 1841, in Pownal Center, Bennington County, Vermont, the son of Nathan Sr. (1799-1879) and Lydia (Kimball, 1804).
Nathan’s parents were married in 1820 in Pownal where they resided for many years. Nathan and his father, a laborer, were residing in Pownal, in 1850. Nathan Jr. may have still been living in Vermont when he married Polley June (or Jane) Haley (or Holley, b. 1841) on November 11, 1858, in Clarksburg, Massachusetts. Nathan soon left New England, however and by 1860 Nathan Jr. was working as a farm laborer for one Jeremiah Robinson in Grattan, Kent County.
He stood 5’8” with blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was 19 years old and living in Saranac, Ionia County when he enlisted with the consent of the Justice of the Peace in Company D on May 13, 1861. He allegedly deserted either at Arlington Heights on July 21, 1861, or from a chopping party near Hunter’s Farm, Virginia on July 28, 1861.
Nathan later claimed that in fact he had enlisted originally only for three months, was afterwards mustered in for three years, and “honorably discharged” on or about July 25, 1861. He also claimed to have been taken prisoner on or about August 1, 1861, although there is no confirmation for this claim.
On November 21, 1862, the town clerk in St. Johns, Clinton County, wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Smith, military commander in Detroit, stating that Ross, formerly of Company D, Third Michigan infantry, “wishes to report himself under the following circumstances as he hears that he is exchanged. As ready for duty -- but have been sick and wants funds ($15) and a pass to whatever place you wish to order him. The money he wishes is to pay doctor’s bill. He was taken prisoner Aug. 1861 and released May 31, 1862. In case he is not exchanged, wishes to stay here until called for, when he will consider himself ready for duty.” It is not known what Colonel Smith’s reply was to the clerk’s request, and there is no further military record for Ross.
Nathan Jr. had a variety of scars, marks and tattoos on his body: the letters “PJR” (or perhaps “PJH,” “Polley Jane Haley or Holley”) and a star on the left arm, both put on, he claimed, while he was in Libby prison. In addition, the letters “MA” on the right arm, put on he said since he was in the war in 1863; a name on the back of his left hand; and a diamond on the left hip near the waist. (This may in fact have been the letter “D” for deserter. Ben Nestle, also of the Old Third, had been charged during the war with desertion, and was branded with a “D” on his left hip and drummed out of the service.) There was also writing on the inside of the left wrist and marks on his left leg below the knee. He had a scar on the corner of his right eye and a burn scar on his right knee. He also noted that some years before he had lost two toes and part of a third from the right foot.
By 1865 Nathan Jr. was probably living in Clinton County, and he may have returned to Vermont briefly before heading back west. For a while he resided in Indiana, and worked as a laborer most of his life.
He eventually returned to Michigan and was living in Campbell, Ionia County in 1890 and 1894. He was living with one John Dixon in Lake Odessa, Ionia County by 1905 when he applied for a pension (application no. 1,334,619) “under the ruling of the Commissioner of Pensions of March 15th, 1904, comonly [sic] known as the ‘age act’, as he was born September 24th, 1841,” thus making him 63 years old. However, his pension was rejected on the grounds that he had deserted during the war, and that said charge was never removed. In any case the certificate was never granted.
Nathan Jr. was twice married: first to Polley Holley (who he said left him, no divorce is in evidence), and second, on October 11, 1865 to Henrietta Eldridge (a widow whom he divorced) in Clinton County. He had one child, a daughter Marsha Ella Ross.
Nathan was listed as a widower and probably still living in Ionia when he died of influenza on March 19, 1923, possibly at the Ionia County Home and was buried in Highland Park Cemetery, Ionia: grave/lot no. 54.