Monday, December 10, 2007

Alexander James and Simon Brennan

Alexander James Brennan was born 1845 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the son of Simon F. (1801-1868) and Elizabeth (Innes).

In 1850 Simon moved his family from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts and they settled in Boston, where Alexander attended public school along with his older brother Simon. The Brennans remained in Massachusetts for some years before heading westward, and in February of 1859 the family moved to Michigan where they settled in Georgetown, Ottawa County.

By 1860 Alexander was living with his family and attending school with his younger sister Eliza, in Georgetown; his older brother Simon Jr. was also living with the family and he too would enlist in the Third Michigan.

Alexander stood 5’8” with blue eyes, brown hair and fair complexion and was 17 years old and working as a farmer and probably living in Georgetown Township, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company I, joining his brother Simon (who had enlisted the previous year), on August 19, 1862, at Detroit or Ionia for 3 years, crediting Georgetown, and was mustered the same day at Detroit. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) Alexander joined the Regiment on September 3, 1862, at Upton Hill, Virginia, and was on duty with the regiment in February of 1863 when he wrote home from Camp Pitcher, the winter regimental quarters.

I now set down to let you know that I am well and Simon’s first rate. I received a letter from you which bore the date of the 3rd. I was glad to hear from you but very sorry to hear that Father was so poorly. You said that you was in want of some money. I sent you ten dollars or rather gave it to Simon to send and he sent it to you in a letter. I only drew 16 dollars but they owed me about 3 months and a half more which I think we will get before long, then I will send you all I can. I bought a pair of boots that cost 6 dollars which I am to pay next pay day. Simon thought that I would them; the mud is up to our knees and it is impossible to go a rod with shoes without getting your feet wet. My boots come up to my knees and are first rate ones. One of the captains bought them in Washington; they were too small for him so Simon got them for me that cost him, Capt. Pierce, 10 dollars; so he said. I think if you can get pay or anything else on credit for a month or so I can send you some more money. Simon did not get his pay when the rest of the regt [did]. The reason I did not get more was on account of the cold days. You wanted to know if Simon and me tented together; no we do not. I tent with two boys in the company: George W. Adams is one and the other is George Carlisle. They are both good boys. I think they don’t snore much and Adams don’t at all; he has not snored once since he left Camp Mich. The boys in the company like him. I am glad to hear that you have a good time to home and glad to know that you have a good teacher. I should like to be to home but our country needs men to help them and men we must have. I think if I had come before it might have helped more. I do not think I don’t like it for there is no place like home but suppose we all should stay to home what would become of our Union? I think it is every man’s duty to come that can come. Let the North turn out as we have and the Rebellion is done for Look at Mr. Tate’s folks; this war has sent two of them to the grave but they have the satisfaction of [knowing] that they have done all . . . for their country. . . . Billy Finch and John they’re all that their mother has and yet you see them go to fight for their adopted country. There is Mrs. Doyle & Simmons. . . . Then there is Capt. Lowing’ he can send one. Let them send one as you, Mrs. Tate & Mrs. Finch and then this Rebellion is [washed] up. But if we don’t [finish it soon] it is not because we have men we can fight as hard as any troops. We can stand hardships as well as any army and why don’t we do more I think it is because we want Generals. The boys have no faith in Burnsides for a leader; Hooker they think all the world of but don’t think him capable of leading this army. Burnsides & Hooker are both good generals in their place but Gen. Geo. B. McClellan is the man to command the army of the Potomac. Well there, I think I have done a small amount of preaching. I expect Esther will think that I am a sermon minister for certain. Well, I will draw this to a close for the present. If Father can get by and on credit until about the 12th of next month I think I can send him some more money. We may get some in a week and we may in a month if we don’t we will draw pay but if we get it in a week we will not get it for 2 months. But rest assured that as soon as I can get it I will send it to you.

Alexander was wounded slightly in the head and arm on May 6, 1864 at the Wilderness, Virginia. On May 11 he was admitted to Emory general hospital in Washington, DC, with a “gunshot wound ball passing through biceps from without inwards,” and was furloughed from the hospital four days later.

Although he was probably still absent wounded, Alexander was transferred to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He eventually joined the Fifth Michigan and was wounded again on October 27, 1864, while the Regiment was engaged at the Boydton Plank road, and where he was taken prisoner.

Alexander was never heard from again. He presumably perished in one the confederate prisoner-of-war camps in the south. Indeed, according to Van Eyck's study of Ottawa County veterans, Alexander was one of the unknowns buried near Petersburg, Virginia.

In 1879 Alexander’s mother applied for an received a pension (no. 203214).

Simon Brennan was born April 22, 1840, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, the son of Simon F. (1801-1868) and Elizabeth (Innes).

In 1850 Simon (elder) moved his family from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts and they settled in Boston, where Simon and his younger brother Alexander attended public school. In 1855 Simon went to work “to earn his own living, and for one year followed fishing during the summer and attended school in the winter months.” Sometime early in 1857, he went to sea and, according to one biography, sailed to various South American ports, spending the summer coasting along the shore of the Atlantic ocean. In 1858 he returned home to Boston where he worked on a farm that summer and studied in the winter.

In February of 1859 the Brennan family moved to Michigan where they settled in Georgetown, Ottawa County and where Simon worked in the sawmill business. He soon gave up that pursuit and by 1860 he was working in a boatyard. Indeed, By 1860 Simon Jr. was reportedly working as a sawmill hand and living with his family in Georgetown; his younger brother Alexander, who would also enlist in the Third Michigan, was also living with the family.

Simon (younger) was 21 years old, stood about 5’10”, with light complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair and was probably employed as a lumberman in Ottawa County and living in Georgetown when he enlisted as First Sergeant of Company I on May 13, 1861; his brother Alexander would join him the following year. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) Shortly after joining the Third Michigan Simon was promoted to Lieutenant, and on November 27, 1861, Lieutenant Stephen Lowing of Company I wrote to Franklin Bosworth, his brother-in-law back home in Georgetown that in his opinion, Simon Brennan was a first rate officer.

Simon was wounded severely in the left arm and shoulder by gunfire on May 31, 1862 at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and subsequently sent home to recover. Although reported absent with leave from July 17, in fact, he had returned home to western Michigan on June 17. The train carrying Brennan as well as Colonel Stephen Champlin, Captain Lowing and Lieutenant George Dodge, all of the Third Michigan, arrived in Grand Rapids at 3:00 p.m. “They were received,” wrote one local newspaper, “by the Mayor and Common Council, the firemen and GR Greys, and a large concourse of our citizens, who escorted them to their stopping places. Their feeble appearances excited the warm sympathies of every beholder for these gallant men who have suffered so much in defense of the government. Their noble deeds of daring excite the pride of every Michigander, and when this satanic war is over and history records the deeds of valor performed by Northern arms, the names of the Michigan volunteers will adorn its brightest pages, and first upon the record will stand in letters of gold the brave deeds of the noble 3rd.”

In early June Simon was still at home recovering his strength, although he reportedly hoped to rejoin the regiment soon. Simon soon recovered his strength and returned to the Regiment. He was wounded a second time, this time in the right arm on August 29, 1862 at Second Bull Run. He was reported absent wounded through October, when he was promoted to Captain and transferred to Company G on October 20, replacing Captain Abram Whitney. In November Simon was listed as AWOL, although it is unclear why, and then was transferred back to the Company I, ostensibly as Captain. In fact, according to one source, he was apparently in Boston, Massachusetts, recovering from his wounds. He was absent sick at Washington, DC from March 27, 1863 through April, and according to one report he was commanding Company I in September. He was on detached service in Michigan, recruiting for the Regiment, as of December 29, 1863, and rejoined his command before the launching of the spring campaign in May of 1864. Simon was wounded for a third time and listed as missing in action on May 5, 1864 at the Wilderness, Virginia. In fact he had been taken prisoner.

Simon was transferred as a prisoner-of-war to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was held in Libby prison in Richmond for some months before he and several others escaped. However, they were soon recaptured and Brennan was sent to the prison at Columbia, South Carolina, and he was confined at Camp Asylum in Columbia. He was paroled on March 1, 1865, at N.E. Ferry, North Carolina, subsequently reported to College Green Barracks, Maryland on March 7, and was given a furlough on March 14 at Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland. He sought an extension of his furlough in mid-April, and was mustered out as of May 24, and honorably discharged as of May 17.

By early July of 1865 Simon was back home in Georgetown, “a physical wreck, his constitution impaired by exposure and the hardships of marches and camp life, as well as by the privations endured while in prison,” and as a consequence he “was unable for some time to perform any manual labor.” Simon was struck by the idea that the climate of Colorado would prove beneficial to his diminished health, so he moved to Colorado in 1866 and spent two years engaged in lumbering in that state. However, when his father died in 1868 he returned to Michigan, and took up farming in Ottawa County. He was what was described in the late 1880s as “a general grain agriculturalist,” and marketed most of his produce in Grand Rapids. However, farming wasn’t his only pursuit, and among other business interests he “was a heavy stockholder and director in the Alabastine Co. of Canada. . . .”

Simon was living in Georgetown in 1870, 1871 and in 1872 when he married Ruth E. Haire (1840-1910) on March 28, 1872, in Eaton County, Michigan; they had at least one child, a daughter Lillian Brennan Crothers (1875-1946).

He was living in Jenison, Ottawa County in 1874, was back in Georgetown by 1882, and was listed as living in both Jenison and in Manton, Wexford County in 1883 and in Manton in 1885. Simon received a pension (no. 99,982) drawing $12.75 per month in 1883 and $50 per month by 1923, for gunshot wounds to the left arm and right shoulder.

By 1886 Simon had returned to Jenison, where he lived from 1888 through 1891, but by 1895 had moved to Grand Rapids, and he resided at 920 Dunham Street in Grand Rapids from 1906 through 1912 and possibly until 1922. He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association as well as Grand Army of the Republic Post O. P. Morton No. 5 in Manton and Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids, and active in the Grand River Valley Old Settlers’ Association and a staunch Republican. He served as Supervisor of Georgetown Township, Township Clerk, Highway Commissioner and was once nominated for sheriff but was defeated at the polls.

In early December of 1922 Simon drove to Washington, DC, and then on to Florida where he had a winter home in Del Ray Beach. He died of acute indigestion at about 11:30 a.m., at his home in Del Ray, on Thursday, January 4, 1923, and the body was placed in a vault where it remained until spring when his remains were returned to Grand Rapids. His funeral was held at Spring’s Chapel in Grand Rapids on Thursday, May 2, 1923 at 2:30 p.m., under the auspices of the Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids, and he was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section Q lot 63.

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