Friday, March 21, 2008

Hobart Henry Chipman

Hobart Henry Chipman was born August 16, 1843 in Troy, Oakland County, Michigan, the son of Dr. Oscar Harry (b. 1807) and Amanda Spencer (Rogers, 1807-1860).

Vermont native Oscar and Amanda were married on October 18, 1835. Hobart came to Grand Rapids with his parents in February of 1852 where he father worked as one of the city’s first physicians. According to one source Hobart “was an intelligent, active boy, . . .” At one time Hobart was employed as a delivery boy for the both the Enquirer and Eagle, and he later learned the trade of jeweler under Edward Bolza. By 1860 he was a “student” working as “librarian” for a local subscription library, and living with his father, at the family home in Grand Rapids' Third Ward.

Hobart was reportedly one of the original members of the Grand Rapids “Greys,” a small, select militia company made up of young boys in Grand Rapids and established in May of 1861. According to former “Grey” member, Joseph Herkner, "a large number of boys like myself belonged to the Valley City Guard when the war broke out and" folks "made such a fuss about our going to the front" due to our young age "that we did not go when the other members went out” with the VCG in June of 1861. (The VCG became the core of Company A of the Third Michigan infantry.) That first “first call,” said Herkner, “disorganized the [VCG] and those of us who were left conceived the idea of organizing another company for mutual instruction in the tactics so that in case we were to go to the front we would know something besides how to shoulder a musket. The result was the founding of the Greys.”

Hobart was 17 years old and still living in Kent County, probably at his parents’ home in Grand Rapids, when he enlisted in the Band as a Musician Second class on June 10, 1861. He reportedly participated in the battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia on July 1, and was discharged as a member of the Band on August 13, 1862, at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, upon the disbanding of the regimental bands in the Army of the Potomac.

After his discharge from the Third Michigan Hobart returned home to Grand Rapids where he reentered the service as Sergeant in Company F, Sixth Michigan cavalry on September 18, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered on October 13 at Grand Rapids where the regiment was being organized. The Sixth remained on duty at Grand Rapids until December 10 when it left for Washington where it participated in the defenses of the capital until June of 1863. The Sixth occupied Gettysburg, Pennsylvania briefly on June 28 and while it was engaged at Hanover, Pennsylvania on June 30 and participated in the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3 as well as in the pursuit of Lee’s forces back into Virginia.

Hobart was reported missing in action on October 11, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, and in fact had been captured and held briefly as a prisoner-of-war. Hobart was soon exchanged, rejoined the Regiment and was promoted to First Lieutenant in May of 1864 and transferred to Company A in September.

While in Virginia in October of 1864, Lieutenant Chipman was asked by Brigade headquarters to explain his actions in having three local farmers summarily shot for allegedly shooting one of his men from ambush. Hobart stated in his report to Captain C. H. Stafford,

On the afternoon of the 23d instant one of the men of my company came to me and said that another one of the company, named George Briggs, had been shot on the other side of the river. I received permission from Major Deane, commanding the Regiment, and immediately started after Briggs. I took nine men with me. On the other side of the river a sergeant from the First New York Dragoons, in command of the picket reserve, informed me that he had sent 12 men and a non-commissioned officer out to where Briggs was shot, with orders to get his body, arrest what men he found near there, and burn the houses, etc. On my arrival, I found they (First N.Y. Dragoons) had two men and one boy under arrest. They had searched the houses, but had not found any arms. The body of the soldier (Briggs) was bound on his horse, dead. I made what inquiries I could. Two men [of the New York Dragoons] said that they saw the smoke of the gun that shot at Briggs, and it came from the house of one of the men arrested. One of the prisoners said they (the prisoners) had been together all day, and I became satisfied that one of the men shot Briggs, but which I could not determine. In one of the houses were seven beds -- two down stairs, five above -- all in use. The family consisted of one man and wife and two small children. The men and their families were very abusive in their language, saying they wished all of us were shot, “Served him right”, meaning Briggs, and other very insulting remarks. While I was making these inquiries it was only by the greatest effort that I could keep the men from killing them on the spot. I set fire to the houses, and, with the prisoners, started for the camp. When I was about half a mile from the houses I heard cartridges explode in one of the houses burnt, thus proving that they had arms and ammunition concealed, which the men in their search did not find, and in contradiction of the prisoners, who had stated they had none about their premises. I tried to procure ropes to hang the men, but on failing I asked for volunteers to shoot them. The men rode forward as one man. I sent word to the picket reserve, gave the prisoners time to say their prayers, and then they were shot. The boy I released and sent home. The reasons that I did not bring the men into camp were: first, I and the men who were with me were satisfied that one of the men shot the soldier (Briggs); and, second, I was afraid if I did so I would be reprimanded for so doing. The soldier murdered (Briggs) was an old soldier, was recklessly brave, and a favorite with all of his company.

Apparently no action was taken against Chipman for this incident, and indeed, by January of 1865 he had been promoted to Captain of L company, commissioned December 10, 1864, replacing Captain Mathers, and was mustered as Captain on January 10, 1865.

Hobart went home on furlough in late February, and was reported in Grand Rapids at his parents’ home by the first week of March. He returned to the Regiment, and in June and July was on detached service, probably in the Nebraska Territory. In August and September he was reportedly commanding the post at Platte Bridge, Nebraska Territory, and he was mustered out on November 24, 1865, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Following his release from the army Hobart moved to Detroit where he worked as a clerk for A. W. Copeland, and in 1867, he was elected vice president of the Sixth Michigan Cavalry Association at its second annual meeting held at the Russell House in Detroit. The following year he left Detroit and joined Colonel Thornton’s engineer corps which was involved in the construction of the Grand Rapids & Indiana railroad. By 1870 he had returned to Grand Rapids where he was instrumental in organizing the Old Third Infantry Association that same year, and in fact many of the early organizational meetings were held in his office. In 1871 he was appointed Deputy County Clerk under Captain McNaughton, and in 1872 and again in 1874 was elected County clerk on the Republican ticket. Hobart was a member of the State Executive Committee and actively involved with the state reunion of soldiers and sailors to be held in Jackson on April 9, 1874. He was also a member of the Knights Templar of De Molai, the Knights Pythias of Eureka and the Master Masons of the Grand Rapids lodge. Chipman was clearly a young man “with prospects”.

But Hobart suffered from consumption, the “Great Destroyer”, and in late 1872 or early 1873 he sought relief from tuberculosis by a trip “down east”.

According to one local observer, “He does not seem to have lost any flesh or lost his stock of affability and good humor by this trip.” The following year he again sought relief from his ailment and this time took a trip out west. “His health,” wrote the Grand Rapids Eagle on May 13, 1874, “which had not been good for some time before he left, is much improved, and he is ready now for hard work and plenty of it, again.” But by August he was back on the road, this time to Chicago seeking a remedy for the consumption that was killing him. On January 4, 1875, the Grand Rapids Democrat reported that Hobart, “our genial County clerk, is suffering from a severe cold and sore throat and was obliged to leave more of his work to deputies.”

The following month he was still convalescing but “able to leave his rooms.” On February 19 Hobart returned to his office, but, it was noted, he “looks as though he had been down through a small knot hole. But we are glad to see Hobart out again, and he says he will reenter upon his official duties in a few days.” By late March he was reported well enough to attend the circuit court but, wrote the Democrat on March 27, “he is thin -- very thin -- yet.”

His illness aside, Hobart was married in Chicago of December, 1875.

Yet, his strength continued to ebb, and by January of 1876 he was again confined to his bed where he remained through the month and on into February as well. In the middle of February he took another “vacation”, “which,” wrote to the Democrat, “he has long stood in need of, but has been postponed until the last minute”.

He was due to leave the following evening with his wife for a trip down south. “The length of the stay,” wrote the Democrat, “is not yet determined. We trust he may return the robust Hobart Chipman of former days, and that the trip in all particulars may prove of the pleasantest.” On the 26th Hobart and his wife arrived at New Orleans en route for Cuba, and around March 13 had arrived in Memphis on his return from New Orleans, and had sent word to Grand Rapids that his health was much improved. By March 28 he had returned to Grand Rapids where he suffered a relapse.

In April Hobart was reported to be convalescing, and by the end of the month seemed to have regained his strength, and on May 17 he rode to his office for the first time in several months.

Notwithstanding his illness, he still found the strength (and time) to prepare for the state of Michigan bar exam, and on September 4, 1876, he was admitted to the bar of the State of Michigan. The Eagle wrote, “‘Chip’ is certain to make a success of his profession and will win honors as well as profits thereby.”

Less than three weeks later, on September 25, 1876, Hobart died of consumption at his home at 833 Fulton. “Our citizens were pained, though not surprised,” wrote the Herald on September 26,

to learn on yesterday that County Clerk Chipman had at last given up the frail hold upon life that he had so tenaciously clung to under every discouragement, and passed quietly away. We say not surprised, because they had long known from Mr. Chipman's serious and continued illness, and from his attenuated frame -- daily becoming more reduced -- that he could not long survive. But though we have long feared and expected that our friend and brother must pass away ere long, the sad duty of announcing his death is not softened on account of this premonition. He was a young man of extraordinary promise, with a heart filled with kindly impulses. His generous nature, cheerful temperament -- even when suffering -- and indomitable energy, had won for him hosts of friends everywhere, and intelligence of his death will be received with universal sorrow. Only a few weeks since he was admitted to the bar of this state, and his examination was so creditably passed as to elicit the highest commendation from the Court and able Jurists in attendance; and could he have but lived he would doubtless have attained preeminence in the profession that he so fondly admired.

For the last year of his life, “he has not been able to devote much time to his official duties, but whenever it was possible to reach his office he was found there -- though for the past 6 months he was obliged to make his visits in a carriage and on crutches. Though it has long been apparent that he could not long resist the disease, he had by his wonderful energy and indomitable will, battled with it till hope sprung up anew in his bosom, and on the slightest change for the better, would imagine that he had triumphed over it, and would soon be strong again. Not till within the past week did he despair of regaining his shattered health, when he calmly and heroically awaited the inevitable.”

The day Hobart died, the Eagle wrote that he was “Always wide awake, energetic, cheerful, courageous, and generous, a man of noble impulses, he won the ardent esteem of those with whom he came into contact, both in public service and private life.” The Democrat wrote that Chipman’s “life was active, eventful and useful one, and his untimely death will be mourned by all our citizens. He enjoyed the warmest friendship of all who knew him, and his taking off causes a feeling of gloom to pervade the community. His aged father, young and loving wife and a brother, who are his only surviving relatives, have the deep sympathies of all our citizens in their terrible affliction.” Chipman now “sleeps the sleep that knows no waking, and the community suffers the loss of one who was always trustworthy, honest and a valuable member of society.”

“As we go to press,” wrote the Eagle on September 27, “a long concourse of citizens, all of whom were warm friends and admirers of the deceased, are paying the last tribute of respect and affection to the late Hobart H. Chipman.” The services were to be conducted under the auspices of the Knights Templar of De Molai Commandery, the Knights Pythias of Eureka Lodge and the Master Masons of the Grand River Lodge. The courts were closed for the day in memory of his passing, “and the legal fraternity and County officers, of which classes of citizens the deceased was a distinguished and honored representative, are also attending the funeral in a body.” The funeral services were held at his residence on September 27, “and were very solemn and impressive.”

Hobart was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section 7 lot 94.

In 1880 there was a widow named Jane Chipman (b. 1854), living with one John Stanley (b. 1825) and his wife Jane (b. 1825) in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

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