Older Men From Kendall County Who Served In the Civil War
Originally Published in Historical Notes: The Newsletter of the Kendall County Historical Society, Volume 30, Number 2
By Elmer Dickson
The pool of potential Union Army soldiers consisted of all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 years of age unless they were specifically exempt. It is unknown what the life expectancy of an American male was during the Civil War period, but according to U. S. Dept of Health and Human Services data, in 1900 male life expectancy was about 48.2 years. Doubtless it was less in 1861-1864.
Who shall serve is always the question when armies are assembled. The answer is provided by two other questions. Who will make the best soldier? Who can most easily be spared from the tasks at home? It is generally concluded that young men should be called first. Throughout history armies have been built around the youth of a nation.
Soldier's lives during the Civil War were hard. They frequently experienced long marches, severe storms without shelter and deep mud in the field. They often slept in the open or under wagons in the foulest of weather. They were often hungry, as rations were insufficient and unhealthy, yet they were asked to perform exceedingly strenuous physical activities.
Younger men typically were healthier, stronger and more resilient than those who have passed what is referred to as the prime of life. It was believed the majority of older men lacked the endurance it took for front line duty or hand to hand combat. Even with arduous physical training, only exceptional men past the age of forty-five could march thirty miles a day with rifle, ammunition, and full pack. There were a few exceptional Kendall County men over the age of 45 who served in the Civil War.
Why did they enlist? The majority appear to have been motivated by their Christian beliefs and patriotism. They believed slavery was wrong and that the Union was worth saving. A few of the older enlistees were poor men with large families. They may have been influenced by the large enlistment bonuses offered toward the close of the war. Bonuses of up to $600 would be very attractive to a man who earned one dollar per day when he could find work. The following are the service profiles of the oldest volunteers from Kendall County.
Walter AITKEN, Sr. was born October 3, 1810 at Cadder, Llanark, Scotland. When the Civil War broke out he was living in Newark. Walter tried to enlist locally several times but was turned down because of his age. He kept trying to enlist until he was finally accepted at Winfield in DuPage County on February 18, 1865 for a one-year enlistment in Company I, 153rd IL INF. His age was listed as forty-four years on the original muster roll but his actual age was fifty-four years, four months, and fifteen days at the time of enlistment. Private Aitken was mustered out of the company September 21, 1865 after serving seven months and three days. He died September 23, 1888 at Newark, IL when seventy-seven years, eleven months, and twenty days of age and is buried in Millington-Newark Cemetery at Millington, IL.
Luke H. BLACKMER (Blackmar on roster) was born October 25, 1814 at Greenwich, MA. When the civil war began, Luke was a resident of Massachusetts where he enlisted in Company F, 15th MA INF and served two and a half years. In 1863 he was wounded in the battle of Balls Bluff, VA and captured by Confederate forces. He was held for four months in Libby Prison in Richmond, VA before being exchanged. He returned home to Massachusetts in broken health and was discharged for disability shortly after his release. In July 1864 Luke and his family moved to the village of Little Rock in Kendall County. March 6, 1865 Luke again enlisted for three years in Company I, 23rd IL INF (Cons) and was mustered in March 31, 1865. He was carried on the muster roll as forty-four years of age but his actual age at the time of enlistment was fifty years, four months and nine days. Because the war was winding down, Private Blackmer was mustered out of the army July 24, 1865 after serving four months and eighteen days. He died June 2, 1899 at the age of eighty-four years, seven months and eight days at Plano, and is buried in Little Rock Township Cemetery, Plano.
Samuel BUELL was a resident of Oswego when he enlisted for three years service in Company C, 4th IL CAV January 1, 1864 and mustered in February 8, 1864. His age was listed as forty-seven. He was transferred from Company C to Company D, 4th IL CAV (Cons) and was appointed Sergeant. He transferred from there to Company L, 12th IL CAV (Cons.) Sgt. Buell was mustered out November 22, 1865.
Renselear "Carp" CARPENTER was unmarried and living in Lisbon when the Civil War began. His exact date of birth is unknown but he was born about 1804, probably in New York. Renselear had been a prominent businessman and civil leader in Lisbon. He was one of 22 founding members of the Lisbon Congregational Church and served as sexton of the church for many years before and after the war.
Carp was somehow able to talk his way into Company D, 36th IL INF organized at Lisbon. He enlisted for three years service July 15, 186l and was carried on the muster roll as forty-five years of age but was actually approximately fifty-seven years of age. Not only was he the oldest soldier to enlist from Kendall County but a most unusual aspects of his enlistment was he was "extremely" deaf. Private Carpenter was discharged from Company D, September 12, 1862 after serving one year, one month and twenty-eight days. Renselear died February 19, 1888 at Wilson, NY and according to his obituary was eighty-four years of age. He is buried in Lisbon Cemetery.
Lyman CHILDS was born April 2, 1808 at Lee, MA. When the Civil War broke out he was living at Bristol, IL. On June 4, 1862 Lyman enlisted in Company C, 69th IL INF a ninety-day company. He was listed on the muster roll as forty years of age but was actually fifty-four years, two months and twelve days of age at the time of his enlistment. Sergeant Childs was mustered out of the company September 27, 1862 after serving 103 days. He died April 30, 1891 at Avon, IL at the age of eighty-three years and twenty-eight days. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Bristol Township.
Michael DEVINE (Divine on muster roll) was a resident of Yorkville when he enlisted in Company E, 36th IL INF for three years February 24, 1864. When he mustered in March 18, 1864 his age was recorded on the muster roll as forty-eight years. Pvt. Devine died at Nashville, TN of wounds, December 1, 1864.
William L. FOWLER was a resident of Oswego Township when the Civil War began. He was one of the organizers of Company A, 127th IL INF and was appointed Captain and company commander. He enlisted September 5, 1862, for three years but resigned December 10, 1862 after serving three months and five days. Captain Fowler was approximately forty-six years of age during his time in the army. He died November 20, 1873 at Elgin, IL at about fifty-seven years of age and is buried in Cowdrey Cemetery.
Parley F. FREELAND (Perley on muster roll) was a resident of Newark when the Civil War began. He enlisted in Company C, 4th IL CAV for three years service, September 7, 1861. He mustered in September 26, 1861 as a blacksmith and was mustered out November 3, 1864. His age was listed as forty-six.
William V. GRISWOLD was living near Lisbon when the Civil War occurred. He enlisted in Company H, 89th IL INF for three years on August 7, 1862 and mustered in August 25, 1862. He was discharged for disability January 19, 1863. Pvt. Griswold's age was listed on the muster roll as forty-four but he was enumerated as fifty years of age in the 1860 census of Kendall Township. William V. Griswold died January 18, 1896 in Johnson County, IA. His obituary stated he was eighty years and eight months of age. Thus he was born in either April or May 1811 and was fifty-one years of age when he enlisted.
Amos A. HOLT was a resident of Oswego when he enlisted August 7, 1862 for three years in company A, 127th IL INF. He mustered in September 5, 1862. Private Holt was transferred to the Veteran's Reserve Corps February 15, 1864. His age was listed as forty-seven. However, he was enumerated as forty-eight years of age two years earlier on the 1860 census of Oswego Township.
Joseph JENKINSON was a resident of Kendall Township when the war broke out. He enlisted in Company E, 36th IL INF for three years February 29, 1864 and mustered in March 18, 1864. He was mustered out September 30, 1865. Joseph's age was listed as forty years when he enlisted; however, he was fifty years of age at the time the 1860 census of Kendall County was taken.
Gilbert LaSUER (Lassure on the roster) was born about 1817. When the Civil War began he was living in Little Rock Township. Gilbert enlisted in Company I, 23rd IL INF (Cons) March 2, 1865 for three years. He was approximately forty-eight years of age at the time of his enlistment but was carried on the muster roll as forty-four years of age. Pvt. LaSuer was mustered out July 24, 1865 after serving four months and twenty-two days. He died September 2, 1890 in Little Rock Township and is buried in Griswold Cemetery.
Stephen MINARD was a resident of Oswego Township when he enlisted in Company I, 36th IL INF for three years, August 10, 1861 and mustered in September 23, 1861. He died at Murfreesboro, TN July 12, 1863. Stephen's age was given as forty-five on the muster but he was enumerated as forty-seven years of age on the 1860 census of Kendall County.
Wright MURPHY was born October 31, 1811 in Bangor, ME. He had been the sheriff of Kendall County and was a lawyer in Oswego when the Civil War began. In 1862 a war meeting was held to discuss the organization of a company from Oswego. Wright was asked to speak and wound up by saying, " I have asked a great many men to enlist, and now propose to enlist myself." He subsequently enlisted in Company A, 127th IL INF August 6, 1862 for three years. He was mustered in September 5, 1862 when he was fifty years, ten months and five days of age. He was carried on the original muster roll as fifty years of age. The soldier's life was too much for Wright and his health was broken by the experience. Pvt. Murphy was discharged for disability August 27, 1864 after serving one year, eleven months and twenty-two days. He came home to Oswego and died there February 22, 1865 at the age of fifty-three years, four months and nineteen days. He is buried in Oswego Township Cemetery, Oswego.
Azariah NELLIS was a resident of Oswego when Company A, 127th IL INF was organized there. He enlisted August 7, 1862 and mustered in September 5, 1862 as sergeant. His age was listed as forty-six on the muster roll but he was enumerated as forty-eight years of age, two years earlier on the 1860 census. Sgt. Nellis was mustered out June 5, 1865.
Thomas ROWLAND (Roland on muster roll) was baptized February 14, 1808 at Hayton, England and was a resident of NaAuSay Township when the Civil War began. He enlisted at Plainfield, IL in Company I, 46th IL INF for three years service, December 1, 1862 and was mustered in the same day. He was carried on the muster roll as forty-seven years of age, but actually would have been closer to 54 years of age. Pvt. Rowland was discharged January 10, 1863 at Memphis, TN after serving one year, one month and nine days. He died in August 1880 in Oswego Township, at approximately seventy-two years of age, and is buried in Aux Sable Grove Cemetery, NaAuSay Township.
Jacob J. SNELL was a resident of Oswego Township when the Civil War began. He enlisted in Company I, 36th IL INF for three years August 10, 1861. He mustered in September 23, 1861 was one of two musicians in the company. His age was listed as fifty-four on the muster roll. Later he was promoted to Staff Drum Major and Principal Musician. He was mustered out March 3, 1863.
Edward C. WESTOVER was a resident of Little Rock Township when he enlisted for three years service in the 127th IL INF. He was mustered in September 6, 1862 and appointed a Principal Musician. His age was listed as fifty. He died at Aurora, IL February 7, 1863.
George W. WORMLEY was a resident of Oswego Township when the Civil War began. He was born March 13, 1809 at Corning, NY. George enlisted for the first time for three years service in Company C, 4th IL CAV, August 21, 1861. He was mustered in September 26, 1861 at the age of fifty-two years, six months and thirteen days. Pvt. Wormley was discharged from Company C, 4th IL CAV for disability November 4, 1862 after serving one year, one month and nine days. Later George W. was back in the army servings as a Wagoner in Company D, 4th IL CAV (Consolidated.) From Company D, he was transferred to Company L, 12th IL CAV (Consolidated) as a Wagoner. George was mustered out July 24, 1865 at the age of fifty-six years, four months and eleven days. He died at Oswego, IL October 25 1889 at the age of eighty years, seven months, and twelve days. He is buried in Wormley Cemetery, Oswego Township.
Joel ZELLAR was a resident of Little Rock Township when the Civil War was fought. He was born December 15, 1815 but his place of birth is unknown to the compiler. Joel enlisted August 11, 1862 for three years service in Company F, 127th IL INF. He was mustered in September 5, 1862 and was forty-six years, eight months and 21 days of age when his military service began. Pvt. Zellar served for two years and nine months before being mustered out of the army June 5, 1865. He returned to Little Rock Township where he died June 5, 1866 at the age of fifty years, five months and twenty-one days. He is buried in Little Rock Township Cemetery, Plano.
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