(thanks to family historian Jeff Coke for sharing "The Story of David James Webb as told to his granddaughter Bernice Powel.")
David James Webb was born on August 18, 1843, in Mason, Ingham County, Michigan, the son of William (born in England) and Jane Wright (b. 1820 in England).
David’s parents immigrated to the United States sometime before their daughter Matilda was born in 1840 in New York. The family eventually moved west settling in Ingham County, Michigan by 1843. After William died, presumably in Michigan, David along with his siblings and mother went to live with his maternal grandfather William Wright in Aurelius, Ingham County. In 1850 David was attending school with his older sister Matilda, and they and their younger sister Mary A. were living with their mother with the William Wright family in Aurelius. Also living in Aurelius were William and Mary Webb, b. 1778 and 1779 respectively in England, as well as David Webb, born 1819 in England, and George B. Webb (b. 1802 in England) and his wife Lucy (b. 1815 in New York), and their family. George was David’s uncle and, according to David was the first to leave England for the United States, settling in Syracuse in 1825.
By 1860 David was an apprentice cabinet-maker working for Daniel Buck, a cabinet manufacturer in Lansing’s 2nd Ward. David’s younger sister Mary was working as a domestic for the Enos Blanchard family in Aurelius.
David stood 5’7” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 18 years old and living in Ingham County when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. David was with the regiment when it went into its first major engagement, at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. That was when he saw his first man killed: “He was about 8 feet from me. A cannon ball took his head off. We quit fighting at 5 o’clock (I had had the next man to me killed three different times – those nights I couldn’t sleep.)”
In the aftermath of the fiasco at Bull Run many of the men became separated from their units and had to make their own way back to Washington. Not surprisingly, many of the men became disenchanted with the army. “Four or five of us were disgusted with that way of fighting, for we had been retreating for two days without molestation. So we decided to quit and go home. We didn’t know anything about deserting. We met an old fellow at his house gate; we told him we were going home to Michigan. He said we couldn’t or we would be deserters. Said he worked in the Treasury Department and asked us to stay with him.”
David along with his comrades eventually rejoined the regiment.
He was wounded in the left arm and hand on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, after which he was hospitalized through September. “I was so close to the Reb that shot me that I could see just what was on his mind. Thinks I, ‘If I don’s shoot him, he’ll get me.’ Well, he winged me first.” David claimed that he walked to the nearest aid station at Savage Station apparently. Along the way “passed a quartermaster’s tent – he was from Lansing – and he took my canteen and put good liquor in it.”
Once he arrived at Savage Station he was “directed to a tobacco barn where the surgeons were cutting off arms and legs of those in our regiment. I saw two cut off. It was awful to hear the screams.” As two men prepared him to have his arm removed, he promptly got up and at gunpoint held them off until he left and hid outside nearby. After a few hours, David related, the surgeons left, and one of “the boys” came by and did his arm up and he was put on a boat for Washington.
When the boat landed in Washington, David couldn’t find his clothes. “I had been put to bed on the boat. I saw my friends getting into a hospital wagon and called to them to take me too. The driver said they were full, but I ran out in my drawers, and they let the tail of the wagon down and I sat there swinging my feet. We went to Douglas Hospital.” After he was examined, a doctor by the name of Bronson informed him that he needed to have his arm taken off or he would surely die. “I said, ‘Doc, I’m a poor boy, how’ll I earn a living without my right arm?’ He agreed to doctor it and kept a man putting ice on it for three days. Doctor Bronson did the work, and thought I could never open my hand or use my fingers much, I have a lot to thank him for.” David added years later that his wife always had to button his shirt for him.
He allegedly deserted on September 21 at Upton’s Hill, Virginia, and returned to the regiment on October 3 at Upton’s Hill, but in fact was discharged on October 3, 1862, at Douglas hospital in Washington, DC, as a result of his being wounded which had caused a fractured “ulna and impairing greatly the use of arm and hand. . . .”
After his discharge from the army David returned to Michigan.
He came first to Owosso in Shiawassee County and then took the stage to Lansing but couldn’t find work. (His mother was working as a nurse for a number of private families in Lansing, according to David.) He hired himself out to Lyne Patten, the quartermaster of the 4th Michigan Cavalry and soon afterwards he went to work for Patten’s brother Hood, who was the sutler of the regiment. Before long they were back with the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Eventually Hood Patten left to return home to Michigan and David went with him.
After visiting him mother “and letting her cry over me and feed me up good” he took the stage to Corunna and then to Saginaw County. He hired out to drive an ox team. In St. Charles, Saginaw County, he “a fine girl working in her uncle Hunt’s tavern. She cooked me a meal that went right to my heart, she weren’t but 15, but was mighty capable. Maybe she took to me because of me being wounded, girls are sentimental that way. Anyhow I was surprised when she said she’d marry me.”
David married New York native Alice Lorissa Colvin (1852-1939) on May 22, 1867 in St. Charles, Saginaw County, and they had at eight or nine children: Charles R. (b. 1868), Myrtle (Mrs. Ireland, b. 1870), Carrie (Mrs. Ward, b. 1872), Alice (Mrs. Ward, b. 1874), Jane (Mrs. Perrot, b. 1876), William B. (1877-1936), Grace (Mrs. Jurma), Minnie (b. 1879) and a son J. D. (b. 1891).
He received a pension (no. 10294).
By 1870 David was working as a lumberman and living with his wife and two children in St. Charles, Saginaw County; his mother was living in Lansing in 1870. By 1880 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Brant, Saginaw County; also living with them were three boarders: Otto Rich, Frank and Jane Shepherd, all laborers. David was still living in Brant in 1888, 1890 and 1900, that same year four boarders were rooming with the Webb family: Nelson Sweeney, Arthur Bradford, Henry Fenchell and William White. By 1910 David had moved to Chesaning where he was living with his wife and sons William and J. D. In 1920 David and Alice were still in Chesaning and J. D. was still living with them. In 1930 David and his wife were living in Chesaning; rooming with them was 14-year-old Ilda Tausch.
David was probably living in the vicinity of Chesaning, Saginaw County, when he was killed in an accident on June 4, 1936, and was buried in Wildwood cemetery, no. 2., in Chesaning.