Almon D. Borden was born 1836 in New York, the son of Baker and Hannah. (See Baker’s biographical sketch which follows below.)
Almon came to Michigan with his family in 1837, at the age of one year, settling first in Saline, Washtenaw County and in 1838 in Lodi, Washtenaw County. Baker moved the family to Lyons, Ionia County in 1841 and eventually settled in Grand Rapids, Kent County around 1848. By 1850 Almon was living with his family and attending school with his younger siblings in Grand Rapids.
Almon was living in Grand Rapids when he married Michigan native Ellen E. Robinson (1840-1860) on January 20, 1859.
By 1859-60 Almon was working with Baker as a carpenter on the east side of Turner Street between Bridge and First Streets on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids, and in 1860 he was working as a carpenter and living with his wife Ellen in Grand Rapids’ Fifth Ward. (His wife’s parents were living in the Fourth Ward, next door to Wilson Jones who would also join the Third Michigan infantry and two doors from Baker Borden, Almon’s father.)
Almon was 25 years old and probably still living and working in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as First Lieutenant in Company K (Baker Borden was in fact Captain of Company B) on May 13, 1861. In July of 1862 Almon was absent with leave for 30 days, and apparently returned home to Michigan. He eventually rejoined the regiment and by October he had been promoted to Captain of Company K, commissioned as of August 26, 1862, replacing Captain Abram Whitney and then Captain Charles Lyon.
On May 30, 1863, Almon was court martialed for being absent from his post without proper authority during the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863.
Specifically, he was charged with “Conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline” in that he “did leave his company and Regiment on the morning of the 3rd day of May 1863, when the said company and Regiment, were in front of and expecting to be engaged with the enemy every moment, and did not return until about noon of the next day. This at or near Chancellorsville, Va. on or about the 3rd and 4th days of May 1863.” Second, he was charged with being “Absent without leave” in that he “did leave his company and Regiment without the consent or knowledge of his commanding officer, Col. Byron R. Pierce, and did remain absent nearly two days. All this while the Regiment was engaged with the enemy, at or near, Chancellorsville, Va., on or about the 3rd and 4th days of May 1863.” Borden pled not guilty to both charges and specifications.
The court martial was convened near Falmouth, Virginia, at the headquarters of the Second Brigade, First Division, Third Corps, Brigadier General J. H. Hobart Ward as president of the court which consisted of Colonels Samuel Hayman of the Thirty-seventh New York, Thomas Egan of the Fortieth New York, A. S. Leidy (?) of the Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania, Peter Sides of the Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania, Byron Pierce of the Third Michigan and Lieutenant Col. E. Burt of the Third Maine; Major W. C. Taylor of the Twentieth (?) Indiana was the Judge Advocate. Following the pleas, Lieutenant Andrew Nickerson of the Third Michigan was called as a witness for the prosecution:
Question by the Judge Advocate: State your name, rank, and the Regiment to which you belong. Answer: Andrew Nickerson, First Lieut. Third Mich. Vols. Question: Are you acquainted with the accused Capt. A. D. Borden, if yes, how long have you known him? Answer: I have known him since June 1861. Question: What do you know, if anything, of the accused leaving his company and Regiment on 3 May, 1863, while said Regiment was expecting to be engaged with the enemy Answer: I saw Capt. Borden on the morning of the 3rd May. I saw nothing more of him until the next day about 3 or 4 o'clock. Question: Who has command of his company during his absence? Answer: I have. I am Lieut. in his company. Question: Did he turn over his command to you when he left? Answer: He did not. Question: At what time did he return? Answer: It was my impression that it was the afternoon of the 4th of May.
Sergeant Reuben Tower of Company K, was then called as a witness for the prosecution:
Question: What do you know,if anything of Capt. Borden, on 3rd May 1863, leaving his company, when his Regiment was expecting to be engaged with the enemy? Answer: I know that he left. He was with the company on Saturday night when we went into a charge. When we came out we formed and went into rifle pits. He was with us then. I missed him on Sunday morning. He returned on Monday afternoon. Question: Who had command of his company during his absence? Answer: Lt. Nickerson.
Colonel Byron R. Pierce of the Third Michigan then called:
Question: State what you know of Capt. A. D. Borden leaving his command on 3rd May 1863, whether or not he left by your permission. Answer: He did not have my permission or consent to be absent. He first I saw of him was on Monday afternoon. I was commanding the Regiment at the time. Question by the Accused: Did I not join the Regiment before they changed their position on the morning of the 4th and took the second line of rifle pits? Answer: I can't remember of seeing him in the morning.
The Court then adjourned until the morning of May 23. When it was reconvened, Regimental Assistant Surgeon Walter B. Morrison was called for the defense:
Question by the Accused: Did you see me on Sunday morning May 3rd, if yes, what was said and done by me? Answer: I saw Capt. Borden on Sunday morning May 3rd. I saw him at a house in the open field, about one mile in rear of the Brigade. The Captain said he wanted some medicine. I told him to remain at the house and I would be back in a few minutes. That was the last I saw of the Captain until that afternoon. I next saw him down by a brick house near the hospital at that time he started back to join his Regiment. Question: Did you not tell me that I had better stay in the hospital until the next morning? Answer: Yes sir. That evening I told him so. Question: Did I not start in company with the Major for the Regiment, the next morning? Answer: I could not say.
Following a day of testimony the Court adjourned until the morning of May 23. After testimony was concluded, Borden then read a statement in his defense. He said that as he had been feeling unwell on the morning of May 3, and had gone searching for the Regimental surgeon.
On the morning of the 3rd, feeling unwell I thought best to see the Regimental Surgeon and learning that he was at a house near by I went over to consult him -- Supposing it to be but a short distance and not expecting to be absent more than fifteen or twenty minutes I neglected to ask permission to be absent. On arriving there I met Asst. Surgeon Morrison. Stated to him that I wished to see him. As he was mounted over his horse at the time [he] requested me to remain where I was -- that he was going away for a few minutes but would soon return -- About this time the rebels made the attack our troops commenced falling back and the Surgeon not returning I thought best to return to my Regiment. I was informed that they had marched past towards the large brick house (formerly Gen Hooker's head quarters) towards which I directed my steps. -- While stopping at this place I saw a portion of the Seventeenth Maine and Thirty-seventh NY Vols. Marching to the rear I inquired of one of the men for the Third Mich Vols. [and] he stated [that] they [were] ahead marching to the rear and I marched in company with them to the large field near the ford. Not finding my Regt. I started for the front. When within about one half mile of the front I met Asst. Surgeon Morrison again I stated to him the condition I was in -- He said he had established a hospital near by and that I had better remain there all night as the Major was there and I could return with him in the morning -- Which I did joining my Regt. about 7 o'clock a.m. on the morning of the 4th.
Upon examination by the accused, former Hospital Steward and now acting Assistant Surgeon Walter Morrison admitted that indeed Borden had been to see him that morning. Borden asked “Did you see me on Sunday morning May 3rd, if yes, what was said and done by me?” Morrison replied that he had in fact seen “Capt. Borden on Sunday morning May 3rd. I saw him at a house in the open field, about one mile in rear of the Brigade. The Captain said he wanted some medicine. I told him to remain at the house and I would be back in a few minutes. That was the last I saw of the Captain until that afternoon. I next saw him down by a brick house near the hospital at that time he started back to join his Regiment.” Borden then asked “Did you not tell me that I had better stay in the hospital until the next morning?” To which Morrison said yes. Borden asked Morrison if he did not see him leave with a Major for the Regiment, the following morning? Morrison said he could not say.
After deliberating the court found Borden guilty both charges and specifications and sentenced him to “forfeit all pay an allowances that are or may become due him, and that he be dismissed from the service of the United States.” He was cashiered on June 8.
On June 7, while the regiment was at Belle Plain, Virginia, David Northrup of Company B wrote to a former Company B soldier, Fred Stow discussing this incident.
You mention the report of the arrest of James [Bennett] and Almon Borden. It is too true. Their sentence is as you hear. Capt. Borden dismissed with pay [and] James cashiered, dismissed without pay. It is the opinion of all that it is unjustly hard on James. It ought to be reversed the two. Borden ought to go without pay. The charge against James was deserting his company before the enemy. He went in with us the night of the charge and was not seen till Monday morning. We all supposed him killed or taken prisoners. But Monday morning he made his appearance. He is with Al[mon Borden] in Washington at present. I do not know what they intend to do. Now do not tell anyone that I have written anything about it. It must be a severe blow to his father. I presume he will take it hard. James has been anxious, very, to get out of the service but I think at too great a sacrifice. I am very sorry and do not know hardly how to express my thoughts. I should rather have sacrificed my life than to have to have such a thing to think of. I would not let this be public even to his friends if they do not know it. You will see it in the Herald of June second or third. I do not remember which. I have not got through but must close for the want of more room.
After he left the army Almon eventually returned to Grand Rapids and from 1867-69 was probably working as a carpenter for Wheeler, Borden & co., and residing on the north side of Third Street between Turner and Lincoln Streets.
It appears that at some point after the war he married a New York native named Julia (b. 1847) and that by 1870 he was working as a sash maker and living with his second wife in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward. (Baker too was living in the Fourth Ward and also working as a sash maker.)
Almon was a member of the Old Settlers Association, and a witness at his father's wedding in 1872.
He apparently never applied for a pension.
While the reasons are obscure, at some point between 1872 and 1880 Almon was admitted to the State Asylum for the Insane in Kalamazoo, where he died of “general paralysis” on January 20, 1880. The body was reportedly returned to Grand Rapids, where the funeral service was held at the Second Street M.E. Church (also Baker Borden’s church) at 2:00 p.m. on January 21, conducted by the Rev. James W. Robinson, pastor. There was also a private service at the home at 1:30 for friends of the family. According to the Democrat, the funeral service was attended by members of the Old Settler’s association as well as several old Third veterans, and Borden’s remains were reportedly interred in Greenwood cemetery: section B, lot 45.
Baker Borden was born April 24, 1814, in New York State.
Both of Baker’s parents were reportedly born in New Jersey. In any case, Baker was married to New York native Hannah (1809-1872), and they had at least three children: Almon D. (1836-1880), Sophia (b. 1837-1851), Hellen Eliza (1841-1862) and Charles (b. 1846).
In 1835 Baker was still living in New York and serving as a sergeant in a New York state militia regiment; he was probably still living in New York in 1836 when his son Almon was born. Baker brought his family to Michigan settling in Saline, Washtenaw County in 1837, and soon afterwards moved to Lodi, Washtenaw County where in 1838 he organized a militia company of home guards “because,” wrote the Herald in 1899, “of the Fenian difficulties that were then disturbing the country. At the height of this excitement, many Michigan men were going to Canada to take an active part in the war that was raging. The company of which Capt. Borden was the commanding officer voted to cross the border and enter the active warfare then in progress. It was owing to arguments brought to bear by the Capt. that this rash [action] was given up and for this wise action taken at this crisis, Captain Borden received the personal thanks of the governor and other state officials.” He was still in Lodi the following year (1840).
In 1841 Baker moved to Lyons, Ionia County where he began working as a builder and contractor. Baker remained in Lyons for several years and in 1848 he brought his family came to Grand Rapids and was at that time reported to be the only architect and builder in the city. By 1850 Baker was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and children in Grand Rapids.
On July 12, 1855, Lucius Patterson organized a company of state militia, the Grand Rapids Artillery, with Borden serving as First Lieutenant, and in April of 1858 Borden replaced Patterson as Captain of the company; indeed he would continue to command the company until it was reorganized as Company B in the Third Michigan in April of 1861. In 1859-60 Baker was working as a carpenter with Almon (who was probably his son) on the east side of Turner between Bridge and First Streets, on the west side of the Grand River, and in 1860 he was a master carpenter living in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward.
Baker was 47 years old and still living on the west side when he enlisted as Captain of Company B (Almon joined Company K) on May 13, 1861. On July 29 he wrote to the Adjutant General of the United States Army, asking him “to accept the immediate and unconditional resignation of his commission as Captain in Co. B 3d Regt. Michigan Infantry and would ask for an honorable discharge from service under such commission on account of ill health of himself and family. I am troubled with a chronic hemorrhoidal disease which in all justice renders me unfit to do duty.” On the same day Regimental Assistant Surgeon Dr. Zenas E. Bliss certified that Borden was indeed “incapable of performing military duty from the fact of his having hemorrhoids . . . which has troubled him for fifteen years past, and which has been increased by recent exposure and fatigue resulting from the recent march to ‘Bull Run’ and the retreat.”
In fact, Borden resigned on account of hemorrhoids on July 30, 1861. He was replaced, George Miller of Company A, wrote home on Sunday, August 11, 1861, by First Lieutenant Fred Shriver of Company A. Miller noted simply that “Captain Borden . . . has gone back to the Rapids.”
Baker indeed returned home to Grand Rapids, where he was reported to have reentered the service as Captain in Company B, First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics at the organization of that unit on September 12, 1861, when the regiment was formally organized at Marshall, Calhoun County. On October 2, 1861, he wrote to Michigan Governor Austin Blair asking whether a commissioned officer who had previously been mustered into U.S. service and then resigned under honorable circumstances on account of disability could be reinstated as a commissioned officer in another Regiment. While Blair’s reply is not known, Baker was accepted into the Michigan E & M, and probably mustered in with the regiment on October 29, 1861.
The regiment left Michigan for Louisville, Kentucky on December 17 and was broken into at least three detachments almost immediately. Company B was probably on duty at Green River, Kentucky, building storehouses, fortifications, etc., until February of 1862 when it and the regiment advanced to Bowling Green, Kentucky and then advanced on to Nashville, Tennessee February 14-28. The regiment was Engaged in building railroad bridges at Franklin, Columbia, Murfreesboro, etc., till April.
He resigned on account of disability on February 23, 1862. “The men,” wrote Private Albert Graves of Company E on February 9, “regret his loss like that of a father for he is a model captain.” Private William Calkins of Company B wrote home that something besides a disability was involved. He told his wife that Borden “has resigned on the account of our being deceived and he is going to do what he can to have us mustered out.” Calkins was concerned over the issue of pay rates for volunteer engineers and he infers here that Borden resigned in large measure due to his unwillingness to tolerate the failure of the government to pay the engineers more money.
Others were not so convinced of Borden’s virtuous character as Graves and Calkins. Captain James Sligh, also of Grand Rapids and who commanded Company F of the E & M was apparently informed by his wife that upon arriving in Michigan Borden had been critical of Colonel William Innes, then commanding the E & M. “Col. Innes,” Sligh wrote home to his wife on March 29, “says that fear and nothing else was the cause of Captain Borden resigning as they were just to the point of moving forward to attack the enemy when he applied for his discharge and it has some little appearance to it when we remember his first resignation and the charge Col McConnell made against [him] at that time. And again if an officer has inadvertently enlisted men under a false idea, he should have honor enough to stick by them to the last and share their difficulties and danger and endeavor to get for them their rights and not leave them because he can resign and they cannot.” In Sligh’s estimation, Borden, who not only had shown the white feather had enlisted the company with promises of pay increases as engineers and then when such a raise failed to materialize simply resigned. Sligh’s reference to Colonel McConnell of the Old Third having made a charge against Borden is also curious, since no mention of this is found in the present record.
Whatever the circumstances, following his discharge from the Michigan E & M in 1862 Borden reportedly went to Kansas, “in the hope,” wrote the Herald in 1899, “of bettering his life and it so happened that he arrived in Lawrence on the night before the famous Quantrill raid in which almost every man in that town was slaughtered. Captain Borden escaped by the merest chance. He had fled to a cornfield in the rear of the hotel in which he was staying at the first alarm. He was seen and pursued by one of Quantrill's men who ordered him to halt. Borden turned about and faced the rebel and told him he was perfectly defenseless. The guerrilla was just about to shoot when Captain Borden made a Masonic sign which was recognized by the rebel who happened to be a fellow Mason. He not only spared his life but aided him to escape.”
Shortly after this incident (if in fact it took place) Baker returned to Grand Rapids where he lived the remainder of his life. From 1867-69 he was co-owner of Wheeler, Borden & Co., a sash and blind factory run on an eight-hour day schedule, on the site of the old Engine House no. 3 in Grand Rapids, and was living at 16 Turner Street. Although his business soon failed, Borden remained a firm advocate of the eight-hour workday for the rest of his life, and he continued in his trade for the rest of his life. By 1870 he and Hannah were living in the Fourth Ward where Baker worked as a sash-maker (he owned some $3000 worth of real estate and $7500 of personal effects), and his son (?) Almon was also working in the sash business and he too lived in the Fourth Ward.
Baker married his second wife, Mary A. Belknap (1827-1887) on November 6, 1872, in Grand Rapids (his son Almon and daughter-in-law Julia Borden were witnesses).
Baker was working as a mechanic in 1872, and in 1880 was listed as a builder and living on Turner Street with his wife and two step-sons in Grand Rapids. (Two doors away lived Henry Marvin who had also served in the Third Michigan.) He was working as a carpenter in 1890-91, a builder in 1892 and in 1894, was a wagon-maker for Belknap & Co. in 1895, as a wood-worker in 1896, a carpenter in 1897 and a wagon-maker in 1898, and from 1890 to his death in 1899 he lived at 20 Turner Street.
He married his third wife, Ellen Lucina Stockwell (b. 1843) on July 18, 1888. (She had been married before to one Edgar Borden in 1862. As far as is known there is no known connection between Baker and Edgar.)
Baker was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, Grand Army of the Republic Champlin Post No. 29 in Grand Rapids and was the post chaplain at the time of his death. In 1890 he applied for and received a pension (no. 634957). Baker also belonged to the Old Settlers’ Association, the Old Residents’ Association and was elected an officer in the Doric Lodge F & A. M. number 342. Baker was also a founding member of the Second M.E. church (where Almon’s funeral service had been held).
Baker died of mitral disease of the heart on January 18, 1899, at his home at 20 Turner Street.
Borden’s funeral, held at the Second M.E. church at 2:00 p.m. on January 20, was “one of the largest . . . that has been held for some time in this city . . . and his friends turned out en masse to pay to his memory the last possible tribute of their respect”. Members from the Champlin post G.A.R as well as the Old Settlers’’ Association were in attendance, while George Judd, formerly of Company A, ordered all members of the Old Third to meet at Sweet’s hotel at 1:00 p.m. in order to attend the funeral as a body. Borden always took “an active part in all national and local matters,” wrote the Press, and “he was widely known, loved and honored by all who knew him.”
“One of the notable persons,” wrote the Herald, “who came out of the city to attend the funeral was the Rev. [Amos] Wakefield, the Methodist minister, who was the past of the first church established on the west side of the river, the church which was the predecessor of the present Second Street M.E. Church. . . . The Rev. Wakefield is located now in Middleville and has attained the ripe old age of 70 years.”
Services were conducted by Rev. Joseph McCarthy, pastor of the Second Street M.E. church, and took his text from second Corinthians, verse 1. It was reported that Rev. McCarthy confined his remarks “to a eulogy of the deceased, the speaker dwelling upon his record as a patriot, citizen and churchman.” A “quartet choir sang ‘Home of the Soul’, ‘Soon we'll Gather at the River, ‘It is well with my soul’. The casket was draped with a large American flag and was covered with a mass of roses and call lilies. The Old Third Inf. comrades of Mr. Borden contributed a wreath of beautiful yellow roses, and white roses were given by the neighbors of the deceased. . . . A large procession of relatives and friends followed the remains to Greenwood cem. Services at the grave were conducted under the auspices of the Doric lodge of Masons.”
Baker was buried in Greenwood cemetery: section B lot 45.
After Baker’s death Ellen struggled to make ends meet and eventually sought access to Baker’s pension, in addition to taking in boarders. John Wheeler, a former member of Company B and a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids, wrote in 1899 that he
had been personally acquainted with the late Baker Borden since . . . 1849 and with his present widow Ellen Borden since year 1888. I have been a near neighbor. I have met & seen them frequently. She has not remarried; she remains his widow. To the best of my knowledge and belief, she Ellen Borden has not sufficient income for her support only from her daily labor. That she has to pay $70 interest on the $1000 mortgage of her house and lot that her taxes are $14 per year, insurance about $15, water tax on or about $12 per year. That her income from the rents of her rooms when occupied (as at present) is on or about $19 to $21 per month. She has atr present one day boarder who pays her $2 per week.
The Special Commissioner for Pensions investigating Mrs. Borden’s case found otherwise to be the case. “This claimant,” he wrote in October of 1900,
is a strange woman. She has no friends and the relations of her late husband dislike her. She is said to have a very bad temper and I also heard that her mind was not just right. At times but to me she appeared to be a grasping, prudent stingy woman, she deliberately concealed the fact that she had the note of H. P. Belknap for $1000, and when I found out about it by Miss Nellie Borden and went back to her she at first tried to evade the matter. H. P. Belknap is entirely responsible financially and the note is good for its face. I am surprised that John Belknap did not tell me of this as he is a responsible businessman but he covered this up as will be seen by his attachments [to the report]. I saw the $1000 note he holds against Mrs. Borden’s property; the interest payments are all endorsed upon it but there is no credit on the principal. I am thoroughly satisfied now that all sources of income and property rights of claimant in this state are given herein but I think some urging should be made at her old home in New Hampshire as she may have some interests there covered up. [She did. See below.] The woman is thoroughly greedy. She got this city property deeded to her as a marriage settlement and I understand that she charged her husband board at $2 per week but5 they lived together until Mr. Borden died. He was a highly respectable man. . . .
Mr. Sims, the Special Commissioner, in concluding his report on this case, recommended that a thorough examination of Mrs. Borden property in New Hampshire be undertaken.
In fact, sometime in the fall of 1901 Ellen left Grand Rapids and returned to New Hampshire. In response to a request from the federal government to explain whether she ever drew a pension from her first husband, Edgar Borden who had served in a New Hampshire regiment, Ellen wrote on that she “felt obliged to break up housekeeping [in Grand Rapids] and come east . . . to visit my relatives, in order to save expenses, and put my building [presumably in Newport, New Hampshire] in repair so as to keep my tenants.”
His widow eventually received a pension (no. 547424).