Saturday, September 22, 2007

Peter Paul Bergevin Jr.

Peter Paul Bergevin Jr., also known as “Begervin” or “Bergervin”, was born May 20, 1840, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the son of Peter Sr. (b. 1804) and Calista (b. 1794).

Canadian natives Peter Sr. and Calista were presumably married in Canada, possibly in Quebec. In any case, Peter was proficient in speaking French, and at one point claimed to be fluent in the French language. While Peter Jr. was still a small boy his family left Canada and moved westward, eventually settling in western Michigan. By 1850 Peter Jr. was working as a laborer along with his older brother Joseph and living with his family in Oceana County where his father worked as a laborer for a wealthy lumberman named Charles Mears.

By 1860 Peter’s older Joseph was working as a laborer in Muskegon, Muskegon County. Presumably Peter joined him shortly before the war broke out.

Peter Jr. was 21 years old and living in Muskegon, Muskegon County, when he joined the Muskegon Rangers in April of 1861 as Third Sergeant. (In 1860 one Joseph Bergevin, a 23-year old Canadian, was working as a sawyer and living in Muskegon.) The “Rangers” were a local militia company formed in Muskegon soon after the fall of Fort Sumter in April of 1861, and were reorganized into Company H of the Third Michigan infantry which was then forming at Cantonment Anderson in Grand Rapids. And as a result, Peter subsequently enlisted as Third Sergeant in Company H on May 13, 1861 (according to his pension records as of May 28; in fact it was probably April 28). According to another member of Company H, Charles Brittain, “Peet was a first rate fellow.”

Peter was shot by a musket ball in one of his shoulders on May 30 or 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and hospitalized briefly in Washington. He eventually returned to duty and struck by a shell shot in his right leg on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run. Peter was sent to Armory Square hospital in Washington, DC, where he suffered the amputation of his right leg above the knee.

On July 18, while recovering from his wounds near Alexandria, he took the time to write to the sister of William McKernan who had also been wounded at Fair oaks but who died of his wounds. “Madam,” Peter wrote,

I am under the painful responsibility of informing you that your dear beloved brother died in Washington Hospital Judiciary Square July 6th. The cause of this long delay on my part for not writing sooner, is on account of your address not having it with me. The last letter I sent you before you got the money [?] I was then nearly certain that he would not live for he was very bad & was getting worse & worse all the time. As concerning his death I have little to say. He died very easy, was well taken care of until the last moment & was decently buried. I will now bring this to a close by endeavoring to explain to you what few effects he has got here coming to him. He has here one shoulder strap coat one pair of pants one pair of shoes one cap & he has paid up to May 1st, 1862 so he has pay coming from that date up to July 6th/1862 & there is his bounty money & Land Warrant if such can be got. About that you can tell as well as I can where you are by applying to some Now then to get these things, as I understand his father is dead [so his] mother is next legal person to get it & no [other] person can so long [as] she is living. More than this. Mrs. McKernan has to prove herself by proper authority in the town or country where she lives that she is the identical mother of this said deceased William McKernan. For this she can apply [to a justice of the peace or mayor of the city after she has forwarded sufficient papers to prove this she then has to make an application stating all concerning his death, what battle he was wounded [in], the state & where he died & when & also stating the names of all his effects & up to what date he was paid & stating about his bounty money & land warrant. I suppose you know when he was wounded & where it was. [It was at] the battle of Fair Oaks on the 31st of May. [He was] shot through the foot. Now I think that the rest you can see for your self on this letter. More I think the surest way for you to get this is to apply to some member of Congres or a Senator if I was going to remain here I could get it for you & it would not cost a centy but I was wounded at the same battle William was & have now got well & in a day or 2 I am going back [to] join the Regiment again. This [is] all I can think of. Any further information needed on my part will be rendered with pleasure. Direct to P. P. Bergevin, Co. H, 3rd Regt Mich Vol. Washington D. C.

Peter was promoted to Second Lieutenant on September 1 replacing Lieutenant Benjamin Tracy, and in November was absent wounded and then AWOL, but by December he was reported wounded in a hospital in Washington, DC.

On December 23 William Drake of Company A was passing through Washington on his back to rejoin the regiment and stopped in to see Peter who was reportedly staying at a private home on C Street. “He has lost his right leg above the knee,” Drake wrote to a friend in Michigan, “(carried away by a shell at Bull Run/62) he can’t go out & is waiting for Govt to furnish him with a Patent limb – poor fellow – he complains of being lonely – While I was there he looked out of the window – at some school children at play and turned sharply, ‘Drake, I tell you that sight makes me almost cry sometimes.’” Drake also reported that the Third Michigan’s former Colonel, now General Stephen Champlin had stopped by to see “the other day – Don called on him also.”

He remained hospitalized from January of 1863 through September, and resigned his commission on October 18, 1863, in order to accept an appointment as Second Lieutenant in the Veterans’ Reserve Corps (the “Invalid Corps”). According a hospital chaplain, Peter was on duty with the Seventy-fifth VRC and along with his company of men were doing guard duty and any other services which might be required of them at the U.S. hospital located at Fourteenth and Massachusetts avenues in Washington, sometime between late 1863 and early 1865.

In August of 1865 he was assigned to the the medical director for the Department of Ohio, at Detroit, but those orders were revoked and he was instead ordered to report to the assistant commissioner, District of Columbia, for assignment in the Freedman’s Bureau. He worked at the Freedman’s (Campbell) Hospital in Washington and was reported “in charge of public property”.

In January of 1867 he was assigned to the Freedman’s Village in Virginia, and he remained in that post until October of 1867 when he was ordered to report to the commissioner for the bureau. At one point he reportedly served in Seventy-fifth company, Second Battalion VRC. (The VRC was made up of men who while ambulatory were generally incapable of performing regular military tasks due to having suffered debilitating wounds and/or diseases and were assigned to garrison the many supply depots, draft rendezvous, camps, forts, prisons, etc. scattered throughout the northern cities, thus freeing able-bodied men for regular military duty.) In any case, Peter was mustered out of the VRC on January 1, 1868, possibly at Washington, DC.

After his release from the army Peter went to work as a civil agent for the Freedman’s Bureau, and was working in that capacity and probably living in Washington in February of 1869 when he applied for and received a pension (no. 95,999.

Peter lived in Washington for the remainder of his life. From 1881-83, he was living at 742 Tenth Street northwest in Washington working in the U.S. General Land Office.

He divorced his first wife Martha A. in December of 1881, and was awarded custody of their infant son.

Peter was working as a clerk and still residing on Tenth Street when he married Lydia Alcorn (1847-1916) of Philadelphia, on July 8, 1886, in Washington, DC.

He was reported in Lincoln Post No. 3, Washington, DC, in 1890. Peter was apparently living alone in rented rooms in the Frost household in Washington in 1892.

Peter had been sick for about three weeks when he died of congestion of the lungs on August 6, 1896, at his home at 618 Third Street northwest in Washington. According to Dr. George Lattimer, who attended Bergervin, his death was the result of valvular heart disease itself a consequence of his having contracted rheumatism several years prior to his death. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

His widow eventually returned to Philadelphia where she lived out the rest of her life (although her body was returned to Washington for burial at Arlington). She was living in Philadelphia when she applied for and received a pension (no. 436,031).

No comments: