Thursday, November 08, 2007

Alva Bonney

Alva or Alvah Bonney, also known as “Bonna” or “Bonner”, was born 1841 in Pennsylvania, the son of Walter (b. 1793) and Chloe (1796-1854).

Massachusetts natives Walter and Chloe were married on September 26, 1812, in Chesterfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts, and by 1832 the family had settled in New York where they resided for some years. Between 1836 and 1841 the family moved to Pennsylvania -- probably living in Conneaut, Crawford County in 1840 -- and then on to Michigan. By 1850 Walter had settled his family in Newaygo County, Michigan, where Alva attended school with his older siblings. Walter remarried, probably to Lydia Anna (b. 1817), on January 1, 1855. By 1860 Alva was working probably as a farm laborer and living with his family in Big Prairie, Newaygo County.

Alva was 20 years old and probably still living in Newaygo County (probably with his family in Croton) when he enlisted with the consent of the Justice of the Peace in Company K on May 13, 1861. According to two other members of Company K, Alva was taken sick with measles while the regiment was in camp in Grand Rapids, but had sufficiently recovered his health to accompany the regiment when it left for Washington, DC, on June 13.

On July 16, just before the regiment was to leave its quarters at Chain Bridge overlooking the Potomac from Georgetown Heights, Alva wrote home to his parents, “We have not left here yet as I wrote to you the other day but we have orders to leave at 3 o’clock and it is nearly 3 now and we have about completed our arrangements to leave.” Still, he wanted them to know even in his haste that the regiment had just received its pay “and I have sent ten dollars to the Rapids [Grand Rapids] so you can get it you can” get it there. he also wanted them to “Write soon and tell me all the news.”

Indeed, the regiment left its quarters that very day and marched into Virginia, heading for Manassas Junction.

Alva remained on duty with the regiment through the summer. He wrote home in September that

I am well and enjoying myself. I received a letter from you not long since and was glad to hear that you was well. You wrote that you wanted me to come home and I should have done so if I could but I am bound to stay by the papers until the war is over. We are held as much as we would be if we were regulars and our captain would hardly want to lose one more of his men. There has several of them left this regiment and three have deserted from our Co. Some have been discharged by sickness and one of the toughest men we had died last week so that out of 101 men we have only 80 left and the most of the Co have suffered more than ours. We received our pay yesterday and I have sent you a twenty dollar gold piece. The captain’s father is here he is going to carry it to the [Grand] Rapids. He starts Monday so that by the time you can send an order for it it will be there. Send an [express] order to [Grand Rapids] and you will get it. [Wallace W.] Dickinson [of Company K] has sent his to Whitney the same way so you can get him to get yours. I should have sent it to Whitney if I had known that Dickinson was going to send his. Now father I want you to use the money and not work so hard. Hire someone to help you and provide for the wants of the family. You wrote that our friends . . . was all well. I hardly know whether I have any friends there or not for with the exception those that write to me can’t think that I have any human feelings for they write such letters as I never read before in my life. When I get their letter it makes me mad and when I get over that I have to cry and I shall answer no more letters of this kind. . . I don’t want any one to write as if I was never going home for I am when the war is over but they can’t bear the thought of seeing me happy one moment so they keep harping about something or other all the time. Guess they will catch it when I come back. But enough of this. The army stand[s] the same as they did when I wrote last. It is reported that many of the Secessionists are leaving for home and it is thought to be true but I think that it only a story although one of the Miss. regt did smash their muskets and leave not long ago and they had all better do the same thing for we have got them nearly surrounded and when we do begin they will have no place to run out and their reinforcements will be eaten up. But I must stop writing for I have this sheet nearly full. Keep up your courage and get along the best you can and if I ever come back I will stay with you. Write soon. Kiss sis for me, my love to all, . . . I heard that Nathan . . . has got home, is it so [?]

At some point, possibly soon after he wrote home in September, Alva became ill, and remained sick for some time. He eventually recovered and was even well enough to be posted to picket duty in late November when he wrote home on the 23rd,

After a long delay I now sit down to write to you. I wanted to send you some money when I wrote and we did not get our pay as soon as we expected for the papers was wrong or something was the matter and it has been a long time but we have got it at last and I send you 15 dollars in treasury notes. I could not send any more for I had to me a paid of boots and a pair of gloves and that took 5.50 so you can see that is all I can spare this time. I cannot get any chance to send it by express so I shall have to trust it by the mail. I know you will want it soon for it is pretty near tax-time and taxes must be very high this year. I have been sick a long time but have got well again. I should have applied for my discharge but they have taken our captain away from us and put in [as] Major [of the regiment] but this is no more than I expected for he is too much of a military man to rank as captain. They have put a mean dirty coward over us by the name of Lyon. He is at the Rapids recruiting for the Co and he had best stay there if he wants to keep out of hot water for the whole Co was mad at him before he was put in as capt so this trouble has kept me from doing anything about it and I have got well. I think I shall try to stay for it is my opinion that the war will not last long. I haven’t any news to write. Everything is quiet here and we don’t see a rebel once in a month. Our tickets [pickets?] are in advance of us 10 miles and we have good times. . . . I came off [picket duty] last night after a tour of two days and nights. I should like to be at home Christmas and New Year’s but should like to see this trouble settled first and I think it will be before long but I must close for this time for I have got to write to Stella Eldred today and as I have not slept much for three nights past I don’t feel much like writing. My love to All Alva Bonney.

By early 1862, Alva was still serving with the regiment when he wrote home to express his concern over his father’s welfare.

I now take my pen in hand to write you a few lines and send you some money. We have received our pay and I do not forget you and can send 15 dollars in treasury notes to you they are as good as gold any where so I will send them in stead of gold Father I want you to use it for your own benefit and make yourself comfortable. I have just received a letter from E. he seems to be in trouble about his land but I have forgotten all about it so that I can’t tell him any thing about it and in fact I have enough trouble my head about without that but if I could help him I would but I think that if I take care of you and send money to help you along I am doing pretty well. I can send 15 dollars this time and perhaps more next time. I received a letter from you not long ago and answered it. I received a letter from Amos C. not a great while ago he was well then. I want you to write as soon as you get this and tell me whether it went safe for I shall feel anxious until I hear from it. Give my best respects to Alfred and all inquiring friends and write often.

Alva was present for duty until about June 18 or 19 when he was taken sick. According to Dickinson and Carpenter, they helped Alva into the carriage which took him to the field hospital and apparently suffered from an attack of fever. Carpenter. About three or four days later Carpenter along with George French, also of Company K, went to th4 hospital to check on Alva’s condition. and when they arrived they “found him dead [and] that they inquired of the person in attendance at what hour he had died upon which they were informed that he was alone at the time he died, that they immediately buried him. . . Indeed, Alva was reported sick in Berry’s Third Brigade (the Old Third’s Brigade) hospital at Mrs. Allen’s farm (possibly near White’s Tavern, Virginia, along the Charles City road), suffering from a bad fracture.

In fact, Alva died of pneumonia at either at Savage Station, or Fair Oaks, Virginia, on June 22, 1862, and was possibly buried among the unknowns in Glendale National Cemetery.

In 1867 Alva’s father applied for and received a dependent’s pension (no. 145212).

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