Friday, July 02, 2010

Truman Sawdy - updated 12/31/2011

 Truman Sawdy was born on December 10, 1835 or November 10, 1836, in New York, the son of Ebenezer (1812-1890) and Ruth (Rose, 1820-1905).

Both New York natives, Truman’s parents were married in February of 1836, probably in New York where they resided for some years. between 1836 and 1844 they left New York and moved to Michigan. According to one source, “in the spring of 1842,” noted one source, Ebenezer “Sawdy came to Barry County [Michigan] traveling from the lakes on foot. He bought forty acres of wild land, then returned East and in the fall brought his family to their new home. He built a rude log house and literally hewed out a farm from the timber.”

By 1850 Truman was attending school with his younger brother James and living with his family on a farm in Woodland, Barry County. His father “eventually became the owner of considerable landed property and was numbered among the successful members of the community. He was the first mail carrier between Woodland and South Cass, and carried the mail tied up in a handkerchief. He was Justice of the Peace for years and in politics was a Republican. . . . The Sawdys are of English ancestry.” By 1860 Truman was working as a farm laborer and living with his family in Woodland.

Truman stood 6’1” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was a 25-year-old farmer probably living in Barry County when he enlisted in Company E on May 13, 1861. Truman was on duty with the Regiment when he wrote to Mr. Nevins, editor of the Hastings Banner on March 4, 1862, from Camp Michigan, Virginia.

As I received a Banner to-day, I thought it could not be amiss to write to you and inform you, of the state of affairs of the Michigan 3d, and also of the brigade.

There is nothing transpiring in camp of any importance. Our boys are in good spirits now. The 5th [Michigan infantry] is suffering very much from measles, they have lost twenty men within three weeks, the sickness is abating in a measure. They have lost thirty-five men with disease since they came to Virginia. We have lost but twenty since the regiment was formed -- we have no reason to complain with a just God. His goodness and mercy has followed us all along. -- The Second [Michigan infantry] are in good spirits, also the 37th N.Y. (they are in our brigade); it is an Irish regiment, and they are a noble set of boys, they are called the bloody 37th, and I guess the Texan [sic] Rangers thought so, when they surrounded them at Mrs. Lee’s house.

The good news that we receive to-day, tends to keep up a lively Spirit among the boys. I have just come from dress parade, and we had orders to be ready to march. Everything indicates a forward movement. The roads are getting settled, and the weather is fine now, we have had considerable rain for two months past. I hope that the weather may continue to be fair, so that if we are called upon to march, that we may have a pleasant time of it; that is if we can. We soldiers do not expect to be carried upon flowery beds of ease.

Things are working admirably well now. A few more such victories as our men achieved at Roanoke Island, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, and secesh are played out. I wonder what Northern traitors think now of the valor and bravery of our Northern troops. They can’t say now now that it will take five Northern men to whip one Southern man. . . . The Northern leaders are hauling in their horns a little, I think it is about time for them to do so. I understand that a great many Northern people are growing impatient; they say that this war has not progressed as fast as it might. I would say to such if they are not satisfied with the plans and operations of Gen. George B. McClellan, they had better come down and take command of the army, and see what progress they would make in suppressing the great rebellion. For my part, I am satisfied with his operations.

A word or two in regard to slavery. I hope and trust, that this war will put an eternal end to that “bone of contention.” Slavery is the greatest evil that ever befell any nation, and I trust that the people of the United States have learned a lesson that they will never forget for years to come. If any one wants to see what slavery has done for a state they can come to Virginia and not go any farther South. There is no enterprise, or intelligence about the people. -- Virginia is the oldest State in the Union and she has nourished and cherished that peculiar institution, until she is at least seventy-five years behind the times, so much for tolerating slavery.

I guess that I have nearly exhausted the subject, and will close. A Banner now and then would be thankfully received. The Hastings Boys are all well I believe. If you deem this worthy of your publication do so, excuse all the mistakes and oblige.

He was reported at Division headquarters, probably on detached service, in July of 1862, absent sick in the hospital in August, and in December of 1862 he was a Corporal and allegedly deserted on December 18 at Falmouth, Virginia. In fact, he was probably absent sick and soon returned to the Regiment on January 24, 1863, at Washington, DC. He was reported absent sick through April, in May he was listed in the Veterans’ Reserve Corps, he was on detached service through September and absent sick in October. Truman was officially transferred to the VRC on November 26 at Washington, DC, and was discharged on June 28, 1864, from Company E, Eighteenth Regiment, VRC.

Truman eventually returned to Michigan.

He was married to New York native Cordelia R. (b. 1846) and they had at least five children: Sylvia (1865-1885), Clara (b. 1868), Sarah Jane (b. 1869), Cora B. (b. 1874) and Jay (b. 1879).

By 1870 Truman was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Woodland, Barry County in 1870. (His parents were also living in Woodland in 1870.)

Truman decided to quit farming and took up the study of medicine. By 1880 he was working as a physician and boarding with Dr. Warren Baker on South Jefferson street in Grand Rapids’ Eighth Ward; that same year he also reported as working as a physician and living with his wife and children in Reynolds, Montcalm County. Truman eventually settled in Howard City, Montcalm County where he worked as as a physician for many years. He was living in Howard City in September of 1885 when he became a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association.

Truman’s daughter Sylvia died in December of 1885, in Grand Rapids, during a botched abortion, reportedly carried out by her lover  Harry McDowell. McDowell was tried and convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Truman was still living in Howard City in 1888, 1890 and in 1894.

In 1888 he applied for and eventually received a pension (no. 671951).

He was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 2370) on February 25, 1895, discharged on April 20, and readmitted July 23.

Truman died of heart and lung trouble at the Home on August 20, 1895.

His body was reportedly sent to Howard City for burial, and may have been interred in Reynolds Township cemetery, although this cannot be confirmed. (According to the cemetery records for Reynolds township posted online he is buried alone with what is probably a government marker noting he was a sergeant in Company E, 18th VRC. There are quite a few Sawdys buried in Woodland cemetery, Barry County, including Truman’s parents and some of his siblings and at least one of his children.)

In September of 1895 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 422614).


Christina Dunigan said...

I found your page when I was looking deeper into the tragic story of Truman's daughter, Sylvia. She had gone to Grand Rapids on December 10 of 1885, ostensibly to visit the mother of Harry McDowell, the young man who had been courting her.

Either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day of 1885, Dr. Sawdy opened the newspaper and read that his daugther was dead. It turned out that Sylvia and Harry had arranged a visit to an abortionist.

I have a write up of the whole tragedy here.

Steve Soper said...

Thanks for the update to Truman's bio -- tragic but continuing evidence these men led lives of pain and suffering.