Warren G. Wilkinson was born on November 4, 1839, in Castleton, Barry County, Michigan, the son of William P. (b. 1803-1887) and Eleanor Louise (Racey, 1821-1852).
William P. was reportedly one of the founders of Castleton Township in Barry County, naming it after his former home in Vermont (Castleton in Rutland County, Vermont). William was living in Barry County in 1837 when he married Eleanor, and William was living in Hastings, Barry County in 1840. By 1850 William and his family were living in Castleton, where “Orrin G.” attended school along with three of his younger siblings. Sometime after Eleanor died William remarried to New York native Angeline (b. 1812). By 1860 Warren was living with his father and stepmother on the family farm in Castleton.
Warren was 22 years old and probably living in the vicinity of Hastings, Barry County when he enlisted in the Hastings Rifle Company in April of 1861. The company was disbanded shortly after it arrived in Grand Rapids and its members distributed to other companies of the Third Michigan infantry then forming at Cantonment Anderson just south of the city, and he eventually enlisted in Company K on May 13, 1861. He was one of the three dozen or so men left behind at Grand Rapids on June 13, 1861, when the Regiment departed by train for Washington, DC.
Warren eventually rejoined the regiment and soon afterwards was appointed hospital steward. On December 19, 1861, he wrote the editor of the Hastings Banner in Barry County, describing their new winter quarters.
1st, let me tell you that we have gone into winter quarters. We are situated about four miles from the city of Alexandria, on the road to Richmond. -- It is a beautiful place for a camp, being on a side hill, and perfectly surrounded with fine oak and hemlock trees. The weather, at present, is very warm and so that every man who is well enough to work, is busily engaged in building log houses, and the camp ground begins to have the appearance of a small log house village. We have not had any thing yet that looks like winter. For the last three weeks we have not had a storm of any kind, and there has been no frost; it reminds us of an Indian summer in old Michigan.
The Barry County boys were the first to erect a cabin, and it bears the name of the “Hastings House.”
The hospital is situated about twenty rods in the rear of the regiment, on a small rise of ground, the small pine and hemlock being so thick around it, that it is almost impossible for the wind to get through. The tented is best by a large arch which the whole length. Over the mouth of the arch, is a brick oven, we find very handy in baking for the sick. Health has never been better, and we have only twelve in hospital.
At present war news is not very plenty here. A little skirmish occurred yesterday morning between our picket guard and about seventy of the rebel cavalry. The rebels rode up to within about thirty rods of our men, dismounted and crept up to within a few rods before the man on guard saw them. He tried to give the alarm by discharging his gun, but that being wet, he had to run into the tent, and wake up the other four boys who were on guard with him. By this time they were surrounded. They jumped up and discharged their pieces at the enemy, who returned their fire, but without doing any harm. Our guard saw that the only way left them was to run; so they did that to the best of their ability. The rebels walked up, took their knapsacks and blankets and then retreated. -- One company of our cavalry being close by, they followed the rebels up and before leaving them they sent four to their long home.
Warren was still working as an attendant in the hospital in February of 1862 when he again wrote the Banner to describe the recent celebration of Washington’s birthday, as well as an excursion the regiment took to Pohick church.
On the 19th of Feb. attendants of the Hospital held a meeting and after electing a chairman and Secretary passed the following resolutions:
Resolved, That in honor of the birthday of the Father of our country do appoint a committee to prepare an Oyster Supper and Cider or Champaign [sic], and further, that each be prepared with a Toast for the Union and that the Farewell Address of Washington be read by the Chairman.
The day was ushered in with the booming of heavy cannon in almost every direction, and as the daylight began to peep over the Eastern Hills of Virginia, the music of the numerous bands could be heard playing the Star Spangled Banner or some other national air.According to the arrangement of the committee, every thing was ready at seven o’clock p.m. After supper the champaign [sic] was drank [sic] with the following toasts given:
1st The Union -- May she,like the Lamp in the Temple of Venus be undying, ever beaming brighter and brighter as time travels her course. W.B.M.
2nd Abraham Lincoln -- May he like the Father of our country (whose birthday we are celebrating) be loved and admired by all. W.G.W [Warren G. Wilkinson]
3rd George B. McClellan -- The Napoleon of the age -- May he live to command the armies of the Union until the Stars and Stripes shall float triumphantly over all parts of the North American Continent. H.B.
4th Our Nation -- May it come out triumphant over all foes and become the Star of the West in Industry,Wealth and Freedom. A.P.D.
5th The Gallant 3d -- The hope of our country and the pride of her State -- May she soon have an opportunity of engaging the rebels, and show their bravery and patriotism, in fighting the battles of her country. G.P.T.
6th The Cause Under Which We Fight -- The foundation of Freedom used and sustained by the Patriots of the Revolution -- May we the Grand Sons of Liberty never desert it while a drop of blood courses through our veins. W.B.M.
7th The Women, The Flag and the Nation -- The three greatest blessings of God -- The first an emblem of innocence and beauty, 2d [an] emblem of Freedom and Liberty, 3d [an] emblem of wealth and prosperity -- May they ever remain together until time shall be no more. W.G.W. [Warren G. Wilkinson]
8th The Stars and Stripes -- Emblem of Equal Rights -- May she float triumphantly in every breeze, a terror to traitors at home and a caution to powers abroad. H.H.B.
9th The Women of Michigan -- God bless them -- May we prove ourselves worthy of their friendship, so that when the old flag floats triumphant over all parts of the United States and we are allowed to return home, they will welcome us with “well done good and faithful servant of our country. we welcome you back.” W.G.W. [Warren G. Wilkinson]
After these, the farewell address was read both to the attendants and to the sick in the hospital.
So you see that although we have been soldiers for nearly a year, there is a little feeling of Patriotism left yet. The Regiment was called on dress parade at four o’clock and the farewell address read to them and a short but patriotic speech was made by our commander, Col. Champlin.
On the morning of the 24th a dispatch came in that five thousand of the rebels had attacked our pickets, and of course they want the old Michigan 3d to go . . . and put a stop to the thing, and I believe it would have done the people of Michigan good to have seen how readily every man prepared for the expected fight; but they were destined to be disappointed as they had often been before. When we arrived at Pohick church, the place where the skirmish had taken place in the morning, not a rebel could be found. They had heard that the old 3d was coming and they made tracks for their strongholds, and our boys returned to camp, wishing all kinds of bad luck to the rebels; but if there is any more fighting to be done, I think we shall soon have a chance to do it, for the whole army of the Potomac is under marching orders and we expect to march the first of next week.
For reasons which are not fully understood, by the summer of 1862 “Warren was apparently detached as hospital steward with the Second Michigan infantry, which was brigaded with the Third. On July 26, 1862, Dr. Henry Lyster, Assistant Surgeon of the Second Michigan infantry, wrote to the Army of the Potomac (no addressee) recommending Warren for the position of hospital steward (a position he had been holding unofficially since the previous year). Warren had worked for Lyster as an acting Hospital Steward at Yorktown, Virginia, and was “eminently well qualified for the position.”
On August 7, 1862, Dr. Walter Morrison, Third Michigan assistant Regimental Surgeon and a former Hospital Steward of the Regiment, wrote to Dr. Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, also recommending Warren for appointment as Hospital Steward. According to Morrison, “he has been with me as Ward master and acting Hospital Steward more or less for the past year. I have found him to be a competent, active and trustworthy young man of good moral habits. His honesty and sobriety cannot be questioned in the least. His experience has been such as to fit him to take immediate charge of a department and do honor to himself and his superiors, in the execution of his duties.” Morrison’s comments were echoed by Colonel Byron Pierce of the Third Michigan in a letter to Letterman on August 7. “I have no hesitancy,” wrote Pierce, “in saying that he will fill the position with honor and credit.” He eventually received the appointment.
Warren was reported working a nurse in the hospital from July of 1862 through October, was a Brigade Hospital Steward in November and December and was transferred to the medical department on January 4, 1863, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia. In July of 1863 he was a Brigade Hospital Steward, in August he was at the Regimental hospital where he served as ward-master from August 15, 1863. he was apparently with the regiment when it was sent north along with the Fifth Michigan infantry to provide security in New York for the upcoming draft.
The regiments spent some two weeks in Troy, New York. On September 21, after the Third Michigan had returned to its old brigade in Virginia, Warren wrote to the Troy Daily Times.
Having become settled in our new camp, I thought that I would write a few lines to your paper, hoping that it will be interesting or at least acceptable to our friends in Troy. I shall not attempt to express our many thanks to the people of Troy for their kindness to us, for it would be impossible to do so, but suffice it to say that we all enjoyed ourselves much better than we anticipated, and could not help but regret when the order came for us to return to the Army of the Potomac. Nothing can be heard talked of among our men but the kindness, the hospitality and generosity of the people in Troy. It did not seem possible that such a strong feeling of attachment could have been formed in so short a period. Every one did all that was in their power to convince us that they were our friends, and that their hearts were with us in the cause of their country; and I am sure that our men returned with a new determination to do all that they could to put down this unholy rebellion. Too much cannot be said in praise of the young ladies of your city. Instead of standing upon etiquette and long ceremony, they were familiar and sociable, and treated us as friends and gentlemen, if we were soldiers. This was something we did not receive from Southern ladies; they look upon a Union soldier as something far beneath their notice, and instead of receiving a smile and a kind word, it is a sneer and some insulting epithet. So the ladies may rest assured that we appreciate the change.
Our journey back to the army was very pleasant with the exception of an accident, which happened – three men being hurt by a bridge while riding on top of a car. We were obliged to leave them n the hospital at Philadelphia. They names were Wm. J. Cobb, Third Michigan, John Linsea and John Lakle, Fifth Michigan. I have been informed that Cobb and Linsea have since died. They were good soldiers and had passed through all the different battles with their regiments.
We arrived here and joined our old brigade on the evening of the 18th. They seemed to be much pleased to have us return and greeted us with three cheers. We are within five miles of the rebel lines, and with a good prospect of an engagement before long.
Mrs. Etheridge is with us and is in the enjoyment of good health. She seems to feel much more at home in the camp than she did in the city of Troy, and I presume that when our regiment is disbanded she will enlist in the veteran corps.
We have been very anxious to receive some of the Troy papers, but so far have not been favored with any. No more at present.
Very respectfully, W.G.W.
Warren served as ward-master through April of 1864 and in May he was absent sick in the hospital. He was mustered out on June 20, 1864, at Detroit.
After the war Warren returned to Michigan and was graduated from the University of Michigan medical school in 1867.
He was married to English-born Alice Sully (b. 1846).
By 1870 Warren was working as a physician and living with his wife in Stanton village, Montcalm County. Warren was living in Montcalm County in 1871 when he served as a vice president of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.
Association records note that Warren died in Stanton, Montcalm County, apparently sometime before 1890, and in fact he died on June 18, 1879, presumably at his home in Stanton. He was buried in the family plot in Hosmer cemetery, Barry County, row 14.
In 1880 his father William and stepmother Angeline were still living in Castleton, Barry County.
His widow was living in Farwell, Clare County in 1890.