Tuesday, December 08, 2015

3rd Michigan Infantry soldiers buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Middleville, Michigan

James Dibble

Alpheus Hill - his body was brough home one of his sisters during the war

Sidney Smith and family

Alonzo Southwick

Frederick Teadt

Asahel Tewksbury

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The McLenithan boys - the small mystery of lot 85 in Fulton Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan

On the face of it, this looks pretty straight forward: two men, probbaly brothers (they were) who both served together in the Civl War and are buried next to each other: S. O. McLenithan of Company K and Joel Mclenithan of Company A, both of the 3rd Michigan infantry.

But then looks are deceiving in many a cemetery and most especially when the cemetery in question dates back to 1838. Lots of misplaced bodies, lost records and just missing people generally. So it may be here.

The "mystery" first came to my attention many years ago when I learned that Joel had in fact been living in Indiana for many years before he died in 1917. According to his death certificate and the review of markers Joel was buried in Sumption Prairie Cemetery, South Bend, Indiana. Simple, no? No.

A more in-depth look at the cemetery records for Fulton Street Cemetery in Grand Rapids further deepens the mystery in lot 85, division 1.

We know that next to Joel is a second government marker for "S. O. McLenithan." This was undoubtedly Stephen O. or D. McLenithan, Joel's younger brother. So far so good. There are no other family markers. We also know that the index of gravestones in the Local Historical Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library, lists Joel and one “S. O.” of Company K 3rd Michigan” as well as their mother Mary (who died in 1857) buried in lot no. 85 in Fulton, and no other burials are noted. No marker for Mary is found today and it probably disappeared long ago.

The transcribers for the D.A.R in the late 1920s identified the graves of Joe, Mary and one "S. C. McLenithan of Company K, 3rd Michigan" but no mention is made of Samuel. By the time the cemetery records were re-transcribed in the late 1990s, all four McLenithans are listed: Joel, Mary, S. O. and now Samuel (1847-1880).

However, the cemetery burial book lists Joel, mother Mary and “Samuel” as buried in Fulton cemetery, yet there is no marker for Samuel, who died in November of 1880 (see Grand Rapids Democrat November 24, 1880, p. 4 col. 1: “Died”). Indeed, the cemetery records list Samuel’s death date as well as his birth date, but there is no mention of Stephen McLenithan. (We also know that Samuel died indigent and possibly a resident of the city or county poorhouse. If that were indeed true, then who would have paid for the interment alongside his mother and/or brother?)

In the late 1930s Francis Hall attempted to identify all the Civil War veterans buried in Kent County and he knew of the markers for both Joel and "S. O." so it's quite likely the government stones were probably already in place by then. But who ordered them? Was Joel's body returned to Grand Rapids to be buried next to his mother and brothers? If so, who would have coordinated that? Is it possible that Joel's marker was ordered and put in place as a ""memorial"? If so, again, who would have arranged for that and why? We do know that Samuel McLenithan served in the 16th Michigan Infantry during the war and he has no marker at all. . .

Any thoughts?

Friday, August 07, 2015

Where is Casper Thenner?

Casper Thenner was born in 1831 in Germany. He stood 5’4” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was a 30-year-old laborer possibly living in Shiawassee or Kent County when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles,” a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)

Casper was taken prisoner on July 1 or 2, 1862, at White Oak Swamp, Virginia, confined at Richmond, Virginia, and paroled in mid-September. He was returned to the regiment on either November 15 at Alexandria, Virginia, or December 20, 1862, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia.

He reenlisted on December 21, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids’ 4th Ward, and was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and probably returned to the regiment on or about the first of February.

Thenner was transferred to Company I, 5th Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the 3rd and 5th Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

He  was  taken prisoner on December 6, 1864, at Jerusalem Plank road, near Petersburg, Virginia and was sent from Petersburg to Richmond on December 10, 1864. Casper was paroled at Cox’s Wharf, Virginia on February 5, 1865, and furloughed as a paroled prisoner of war.

Casper returned to Grand Rapids, where he was examined by Dr. Charles Hempel. Dr. Hempel certified on March 20, 1865, that Thenner was “suffering from chronic diarrhea and general debility and is not able to travel and I further certify that in my opinion he will not be fit for duty in less than twenty days.”

Casper died of chronic diarrhea on May 27, 1865, in Grand Rapids and "his funeral was attended and the remains followed to the grave by a company, under command of Captain [Theodore] Hetz, of heroes, once members of the old Third. According to a local newspaper he was buried in the “city cemetery”.

This much we know. What we don't know is exactly where he is buried.

According to the online resource Findagrave.com, Casper was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery (Hall and Eastern streets). Certainly a number of men who died during the war are interred in the Watson GAR Post lot in Oak Hill but there was never any mention of Casper in the earliest records (newspaper or burial) and it seems unlikely he was interred there. Plus, the Grand Rapids Eagle reported that a procession of his former comrades "followed" the coffin to the grave, which lends credence to the theory that he was buried in Fulton since it was located right at the edge of town (Oak Hill was then out in the country). Finally, Fulton was the "city cemetery" during the war.

Since Casper was German- or Dutch-born it is, of course, possible that he was buried on the west side of the city but, again there is no reason to presume that to true beyond the simple fact that many European immigrants lived on that side of the river. Anyway, quite a few Dutch immigrants who died in the mid-nineteenth century are in fact buried in Fulton Cemetery. (For example, Martiena Van der Stolpe died in 1864 and Pieter Van der Stolpe died in 1866 and both and are buried in division 9 of Fulton.)

So, assuming Casper was buried in Fulton, where is his grave?

One starting place would be at what is today the back side of the cemetery but during the war a burial place of distinction. A number of other Old 3rd men who died during the war are interred at the top of the hill, in division 7: Lieutenants Peter Weber, Charles Cary, and Peter Bogardus and Captain Samuel Judd, while Brigadier General Stephen Champlin is buried in his own section right  next to division 7.

Along the same ridge is division 8 which then slops downward to division 9 and the western boundary of the cemetery. It is in division 9 that Margaret "Maggie" Ferguson was buried in 1861. She had sewn the regimental flag presented to the regiment by the ladies of the city shortly before the regiment left Grand Rapids on June 13, 1861. He grave remained unmarked until sometime after the war when the Old 3rd Association paid to have a marker erected on it.

While there is little evidence beyond "reasonable speculation" to assume he is buried in division 8 or 9, I believe that either would be, at this point, the "most likely" location. Barring the discovery of sexton's records dating back to the mid-1860s, we cannot confirm tCasper's burial location one way or the other.

So, the question remains: where is Casper Thenner?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Daniel Stocking of Company B is buried in Grattan Cemetery, not Wells Cemetery

Having walked both cemeteries this past week I can safely say that Dan Stocking, his wife Lucy and his parents as well as other family members are definitively buried in Grattan Cemetery, Kent County, and not in Wells Cemetery in Ottawa County. Oddly, each family member is listed in both places, but there are stones for them only in Grattan, as you can see (Dan in the middle with the flag):

Tucked away inside a facility for boarding horses, Wells Cemetery has plenty of missing stones to be sure but none that list Stocking:

Whitneyville Cemetery: the King brothers

Hiram King of the 5th Michigan Infantry, Alvin King of the 6th Michigan Cavalry and Myron King of the 3rd Michigan Infantry. Myron's stone is facing his two brothers and set back nearly out of the cemetery into the undergrowth, even though it's a relatively new stone. When I photographed this nearly a quarter f a century ago it was a very weather stone roughly in line with the other two King brothers.

Myron murdered his wife and then shot and killed himself.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Edward Morse buried in Garfield Park cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Now that I'm returning to Grand Rapids, one of my first projects is to rephotograph the gravesites of the men of the Old 3rd. The photos I took more than 20 years ago we limited in scope, quality and quantity. I hope to rectify that over the coming months.

whether I get around to posting all of the "reshoots" here or not remains to be seen -- I've already shot more than 600 images to date. But here's a sample of what I'm doing now, environment shots as well as multiple closeups:

Monday, April 13, 2015

The “Brown” Books

The state-sponsored “Brown” series of regimental histories provide a good overall background to each Michigan regiment’s role in the American Civil War; unfortunately the volume devoted to the Third Michigan Infantry suffers from several important shortcomings.

(While the Brown Books do indeed have a brown cover and back, the name derives from George Brown who, as adjutant general for the state of Michigan, oversaw the publication of the regimental history series.)

For example, when the Brown history of the Third Michigan Infantry is compared to the more exhaustive “Regimental Descriptive Rolls” (RDR), the individual biographical sketches in the former are often found incomplete and occasionally inaccurate. Strangely enough, much information was dropped and new errors introduced, when the RDRs were turned into the Brown books. The result was only a cursory review of each soldier’s service; and even then some soldiers were omitted. In fact, there are least 44 members of the regiment whose service record is not given in Volume 3 of the Brown regimental history series. Omitted soldiers include some of well-respected citizens of Grand Rapids both before and after the war, and some who rendered notable service during the war itself.

From this distance it is unclear why so many men were omitted. Take for example the service records of Corporal Don Lovell and Peter Weber of the Third Michigan, men who eventually became Majors in other Michigan regiments. Lovell is not listed at all in the Third Regimental history and Weber, who was killed in action while a member of another regiment, is simply listed “No further record.”

Similarly, seven members of the Third Michigan who are not in the regiment’s history are found in Volume 5 (5th Michigan Infantry) of the Brown books.

Still other members of the Third Regiment are not found anywhere in the series. Daniel Littlefield, a well-known Grand Rapids boy who enlisted as a Sergeant in the Third and who would become a commissioned officer, transferred to the Seventh Michigan Cavalry and died of disease in 1864, is left out of the sketches altogether. Also omitted (though is mentioned in the brief introductory history of Volume 3) was Edwin S. Pierce, a Grand Rapids merchant who began the war as Captain of Company E and ended his military service as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Michigan, serving alongside his brother Colonel Byron Pierce. Edwin would return to Grand Rapids where he became one of the city’s leading clothiers.

These were some of the most promising and well-known young men in Grand Rapids in 1861, yet it appears that by the time the Brown books were written their service in the Third Michigan had been virtually forgotten.

It appears that the Brown books relied primarily on information readily available in Michigan while little or no effort was made to mine the wealth of information available in Washington, DC. The federal records have their gaps too, however: unaccountably some twenty members of the Third Michigan Infantry have no service record at the National Archives.

Even Michigan sources were often underutilized. Allen Shattuck (a former member of Company G) was the Third Regiment’s unofficial historian. During the regimental association reunion banquet of 1896 it was reported that Shattuck had maintained a diary (which has yet to be uncovered by the author), and which apparently served as the basis for the numerous anecdotal speeches Shattuck would give during many of the reunion meetings. In 1904 it was reported that Shattuck had been authorized to proof the copy of the regiment’s Brown history volume then being prepared in Lansing by the state authorities.

However, when the regimental history was published the following year, Shattuck reported back to the association during its annual reunion held in Grand Rapids that he was unable to correct the history of the regiment undertaken by the Adjutant General's office. Whether it was because of time constraints, lack of cooperation from Lansing, or problems unique to Shattuck was not stated.

Another shortcoming of the Brown books is the absence of cross-references to other units in which the soldier served. This omission is especially glaring with the Third Michigan since so many of its members went on to serve in other units. By contrast, the RDRs heavily cross-referenced many state and military reference materials when compiling its sketches of each soldier in the 1880s.

For example, of the 432 men in the Third Michigan who were discharged for disability, 145 reentered the military; of the 40 officers who resigned on account of disability, 18 reentered the army; and of the 130 men mustered out with the regiment on June 10, 1864, 13 reentered the military. Only a tiny fraction of these reentries were reported in the Brown series. In some cases, the compilers of the Brown books must have been unaware of a soldier’s subsequent service. The RDRs were meticulous in noting the cross-referenced service for each man.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How many men served in the 3rd Michigan? - update 5/20/2017

Based on present research, when the 3rd Michigan left Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 13, 1861, it had enrolled (inclusive of officers, musicians and wagoners) 1,046 men and officers:

Company A 102
Company B 100
Company C 103
Company D 101
Company E 102
Company F 103
Company G 101
Company H 102
Company I 106
Company K 99
Staff 8
Band 19

During its existence, the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry recruited some 366 additional men. They joined the original group of 1,046 who had enlisted by June 10, 1861, for a total of 1,412 men who either enlisted in or were assigned to the regiment during the war.

Of the total enrolled:

Company A 127
Company B 123
Company C 132
Company D 133
Company E 163
Company F 130
Company G 126
Company H 128
Company I 144
Company K 131
Unassigned 44
Staff 11
Band 20

It should also be noted, however, of the Unassigned five men are accounted in the transfer to the 5th Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the two regiments in June of 1864, and nine others are known to have entered other units instead of the Third Michigan, leaving a total of 30 men who remain today unaccounted for.

We can say with some certainty that a total of 1,373 men actually served at one time or another and in one capacity or another in the Third Michigan infantry (first organization).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Third Michigan Infantry website has a brand-new look with updated information

Well, I suppose the subject line pretty much says it all. Anyway, you can see for yourself right here:


Spread the word! And thanks for your support --

members attending the 1921 reunion in Grand Rapids

l-r, top row: George Carlise, Abraham Eddy, Henry Patterson 2nd row: John Barrett, John Jackson, Oscar Foster third row: Charles Miller, Andrew Webster, Simon Brennan, August Heyer front row: Martin Taylor, George Davis, John McNab, Robert Musgrove

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Website update: Burial sites of the Men of the 3rd Michigan

In preparation for creating a brand-new look for the oldthirdmichigan dot org website, I've updated much of the content as well. Here's the latest information on burial sites:

The men of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry died literally all over the United States and Canada. They are buried as far west as California and British Columbia, as far south as Key West, Florida and as far north as Montana and Maine:

Alabama 2 

Arizona 1

Arkansas 2

California 22

Canada 4

Colorado 6

Connecticut 3

District of Columbia 34

Florida 3

Georgia 13 (11 at Andersonville) 

Iowa 4 

Illinois 16

Indiana 7 

Kansas 13

Kentucky 1

Louisiana 1 

Maine 2

Maryland 8

Massachusetts 1

Michigan 683

Minnesota 4

Mississippi 1

Missouri 6

Montana 3 

Nebraska 7

New Hampshire 1

New Jersey 2 

New York 33

North Carolina 8 (5 in mass grave at Salisbury)
North Dakota 1 

Ohio 24

Oklahoma 9 

Oregon 11

Pennsylvania 39 

Rhode Island 1 

South Carolina 8

South Dakota 2 

Tennessee 4

Texas 6

Utah 1
Virginia 195 

Washington state 15 

Wisconsin 20

Wyoming 1

The great majority, however, are buried in Michigan and Virginia. In fact, at least 881 of men who served in the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry, or nearly 62% of the total enrolled, died and were buried in Virginia or Michigan.

Of the 683 men reportedly buried in Michigan, by far the largest number (208) are found in Kent County, and of that number 42 are buried in the “Michigan Soldiers’ Home” Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

The Michigan counties with the next highest number of burials are Ottawa (53), Ionia (50), Barry (38), Muskegon (28) and Newaygo (22).

Many of the 195 men buried in Virginia are probably interred in unknown graves scattered throughout the state, like so many thousands of soldiers.

For example, it is likely that of the estimated 35 men who died at Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862, all are interred in Seven Pines National Cemetery, although we know exact locations for only a fraction of that number. And the men who died at Groveton on August 29, 1862, their remains were reportedly brought to Arlington National Cemetery and interred in a mass grave very close to the Custis-Lee mansion.

The fact that so many men who died in prison camps remain "unknown" is well-established. However, it is also quite likely that several of the Old 3rd soldiers who returned to Michigan during the war and died at home today rest in unmarked graves. This is particularly true for Samuel Camp in Lamont, Ottawa County, Francis Barlow, Henry Kampe and William Gibson in Grand Rapids, as well as Chauncey Strickland.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Website update: Birthplaces of the Men of the 3rd Michigan

Silas Compton
In preparation for creating a brand-new look for the oldthirdmichigan dot org website, I've updated much of the content as well. Here's the latest information on birthplaces:

Of the 1,277 reported birthplaces of the men of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry we find 207 born in Europe, 72 in Canada and 998 in the United States.

More than 21% of Old 3rd Michigan men were born outside of the United States. From Europe the highest number came from present-day Germany (104), followed by the United Kingdom (82).

In the United States, the overwhelming number of men were born were born in New York State (489), accounting for nearly  39% of the total reported. Next was Michigan with 225 or about 18% of reported birthplaces; of that number 21 men were born in Kent County (the point of origin for the regiment). Third highest was Ohio (128).

When taken together, New York, Ohio and Michigan accounted for more than two-thirds (66.6%) of all reported birthplaces.