John Wesley Whittaker, alias “Warfield,” was born on August 9, 1840, in either Cherry Valley or Picton, Ontario, Canada, the son of Buel C.
John left Canada and came to western Michigan sometime before the war broke out.
He stood 5’9” with blue eyes, auburn hair and a light complexion and was a 20-year-old mechanic, lumberman and farmer probably living in Newaygo County when he enlisted with the consent of the Justice of the Peace in Company K on May 13, 1861. John was on detached service from the end of August, 1861, and allegedly deserted on June 16 or 20, 1862, at Savage Station, Virginia, but was in fact discharged on June 20, 1862. (The charge of desertion was removed in 1899.)
He apparently never returned to Michigan but settled in Minnesota where he reentered the service as “John W. Warfield” in Company A, Tenth Minnesota infantry, on August 11, 1862, for three years, probably at Garden City, (or perhaps the Winnebago Agency, Fort Snelling or St. Paul). In any case, the Tenth Minnesota remained in Minnesota between August 12 and November 15 and participated in Sibley’s campaign to put down the Souix uprising in Minnesota between August 20 and November 14.
Due to the uprising, at organization the regiment’s companies were quickly detached to numerous locations throughout the state. Company A was stationed at Garden City upon organization. Company A, along with companies B, F, G, H and K were present at the Indian execution at mankato on December 26, 1862. The Tenth Minnesota also participated in Sibley’s expedition against the Souix in the Dakota territory from June 16 to September 12, 1863, and was at Big Mound, Dakota Territory on July 24, at Dead Buffalo Lake on July 26, Stony Lake on July 28 and along the Missouri River from July 29-30.
The regiment was transferred to St. Louis, Missouri, to garrison and provost duty at Benton Barracks, on October 7-12, 1863 and remained attached to the District of St. Louis through April of 1864. John was on leave for 20 days from December 31, 1863, and eventually returned to the regiment.
On April 22, 1864, the regiment was moved to Columbus, Kentucky where they remained until June 19 when they marched to Memphis. In June of 1864 John was at the convalescent camp, recovering apparently from some illness, in Memphis, Tennessee.
The regiment participated in Smith’s expedition to Tupelo, Mississippi on July 5-21: were at Pontotoc on July 11, near Camargo’s crossroads on July 13, and at Tupelo on July 14-15, at Old Town or Tishamingo creek on July 15. Also participated in Smith’s expedition to Oxford, Mississippi, August 1-30: Tallahatchie River August 7-9, Abbeville, on August 23. Was on Mower’s expediton to Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas, September 2-9, marched through Arkansas and Missouri in pursuit of Price September 17 to November 15 and moved to Nashville, November 24-30. Participated in the battle of Nashville December 15-16 and helped to pursue Hood to the Tennessee River December 27-28. Moved to Clifton, Tennessee, then to Eastport, Mississippi, December 29 to January 4, 1865 and remained on duty at Eartport until February 6 when they moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, February 6-21.
The 10th Minnesota participated in the campaign against Mobile, Alabama, and its defensive works March 17 to April 12, and in the siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely March 26 to April 8; assaulted and captu5ed Fort Blakely on April 9. occupied Mobile on April 12, when they marched to Montgomery April 13-25 and remained on duty there until may when they moved to Meridian, Mississippi.
The regiment remained in garrison in Meridian until July when they were sent home to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they were mustered out on August 18, 1865. John was treated for opthalmia on June 24 and 28, 1865, and was discharged, possibly as Corporal, on August 9, 1865, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
After the war John remained in Minnesota where he lived until about 1892 when he moved to Eugene, Oregon. He lived the rest of his life in Eugene working variously as a blacksmith and farmer.
John was married twice to Wisconsin native Marcelline (1848-1920), first probably in 1870 or 1871; they were divorced on June 7, 1873, and remarried on July 16, 1873, in Rochester, Minnesota. They had at least eight children: Amber (b. 1872), twins Anna & Alma (b. 1874), William (b. 1876), Wesley (b. 1878), Bertha (b. 1881), Blanche (b. 1884) and Nellie (b. 1887).
John and Marcelline were separated the final two or three years of his life, due, she claimed, to his excessive drinking. She testified in 1908 that the ‘estrangement was caused by his persistent use of liquors, thus causing his presence to be intolerable, and that I feared for my life when he was intoxicated.”
An acquaintance in Oregon, James Turner testified in 1908 that he “was well acquainted with Mr. Whittaker during his life, knowing him for some ten years” and that “He was quite successful in consuming his earnings and pension money in drink. He was a fine man and mechanic when sober, but quite the reverse when under liquor.”
John received pension no. 1,247,380, drawing $8.00 in 1907, and his widow received pension no. 672,199, drawing $25.00 in 1920.
He was “found dead after a protracted drunk” of “acute alcoholism” on November 10, 1907, at Eugene, Oregon, and was buried in the Eugene I.O.O.F. cemetery.