Levi S. Tanner was born on June 22, 1840, in either Columbus, Franklin County, or Fairfield, Butler County, Ohio, the son of the John B. (1815-1903) and Sarah (Peugh, 1819-1881).
Maryland native John B. married Sarah, probably in Ohio where she was born and eventually settled in Ohio by 1840. Levi’s family moved from Ohio to Michigan probably sometime between 1850 and 1860 when Levi was a farm laborer working for Zebulon Hinman in Sparta, Kent County. He was probably living with his family in Chester, Ottawa County, where his father worked as a farmer. (Nearby lived John Crysler who would also enlist in the Third Michigan.)
Levi stood 5’7” with black eyes and hair and a dark complexion and was 21 years old and residing in Chester when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. He was reported as a company cook from September of 1862 through October, but had been promoted to Corporal by December 23, 1863, when he reenlisted at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids’ Second Ward, and was probably absent on veteran’s furlough, presumably in Michigan, in January of 1864.
Levi probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February and was shot in the right thigh on May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Virginia. He was subsequently hospitalized in Armory Square hospital in Washington, DC, and was still in the hospital when he was transferred as Corporal to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. On August 21 Levi was transferred from Armory Square hospital to Judiciary Square hospital in Washington, where his right leg was amputated above the knee.
He was furloughed on October 25 for 20 days, and while home on sick furlough he married Swedish-born Matilda Sowers (b. 1843) on December 4, 1864, in Walker, Kent County. Apparently he returned to Washington and was readmitted to the hospital on December 9. He discharged on December 29, 1864, at Judiciary Square for “loss of right thigh at lower third from gunshot wound.”
After his discharge from the army Levi returned to Kent County. He was living in Sparta by 1870 when he received an artificial leg from a company in Washington, DC. By 1880 he was working as a shoemaker and living with his wife in Sparta. In fact, he lived in Sparta virtually his entire life, where for some years he operated a store. (His father was still living in Chester, Ottawa County in 1880.)
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and probably a member of the GAR.
Shortly after his discharge from the army Levi received pension no. 38,182, drawing $24.00 per month in 1883, increased to $48.00 in 1906, presumably for his amputated limb.
In 1873 he wrote to the War Department requesting an increase in his pension. On March 13, 1873, he sent a communication addressed to either the Secretary of War or the Pension Commissioner, informing them that “I feel that I had a right [to] have a rise in my pension. I have got so I can’t hardly get around, have to go on crutches most of my time so to get around. My stub [stump] has become so tender, and my armpits get so sore on hot days. If I am not very careful they will scald then [I] got to lie down on my back [with my] arms up over my head for one to three days to let them cool off & heal up. In all it is anything but pleasant, so as it is with me I got to stay at home [and] hear but little of what is going on in the outside world.”
According to a sworn statement Tanner gave in April of 1906, his “stump is now and has been for several years in such a condition as to totally prevent the use of an artificial limb. . . .” And in July of the same year Dr. John Gillett of Sparta testified that in fact he was ‘satisfied that he could with any comfort wear any kind of artificial limb, th stump not being suitable for one. The end of the femur is covered by not more than one-half inch of integument, and is very tender and sensitive to pressure.”
The following year, one Christine Strouhn testified that she had been taking care of Levi for some two years “in undressing and dressing, giving him baths, have helped him in various ways in getting about the house and down and up the steps have run wheel chair down the steps which he has to use in place of crutches in going about on the side walks. . . .”
Levi was still residing in Sparta in 1909 and 1913.
He died on March 4, 1919, in Sparta but his burial location remains unknown; there is no record of his death in Kent County or burial in the Sparta area.