Bringing home the boys of the 28th Wisconsin
I was searching for something unrelated when I came across a collection of 20 carte-de-visite portraits of Civil War soldiers in a 1917 edition of the Oregon Daily Journal.1 According to the short article, the photographs belonged to Fred R. Alexander, tender on Portland’s Morrison Street bridge, and they included a portrait of his uncle, J.B. Rockwell, who died in the war. The photos were sent by Corp. Rockwell to his sister, Fred’s mother, Mrs. Alexander.
Since the soldiers were said to be from Michigan, it seemed unlikely that their family members would ever find them on the pages of an Oregon newspaper published 50 years after the war. The names were all listed, so I figured it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to identify the men and post their photos in a more conspicuous location so these “treasured possessions” could be reunited with their living relatives.
I started by looking for J.B. Rockwell since I knew he was an uncle of Fred Alexander. I was able to find Fred’s family easily enough — he was living with parents Harmon and Sarah D., and baby brother Frankie, in Union County, Oregon, in the 1880 census. Then I found Sarah and Harmon in the 1870 census in Michigan, which aligned with where the newspaper clipping said the soldiers were from.
I set out looking for Sarah D. Rockwell, b. about 1838 in Pennsylvania, who had a brother J.B. in Michigan who died in the Civil War. No luck.
The names J.B. and Sarah were too common, and therefore hard to track, so I switched directions and took up looking for a soldier with a more distinctive name: H.S. Bloodgood.
Bingo! I found Hiram S. Bloodgood in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry, not Michigan as the newspaper said. Then one by one, I found them all.
1. Capt. Thomas Nichols Stevens was born in 1835 in New York. A motherless lad of 17, he went to Wisconsin in 1852. He married in 1857 and had one daughter and another on the way when he enlisted on 2 Sep 1862. He served until 23 Aug 1865. Following the war, the family to Greenville, Michigan, and lived in that area until his death in 1908 at age 72. In 1880, T.N. Stevens served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago.
2. Corp. Isaac N. Huntley was a bit tricky, partly because his name was listed as “J.N” in the newspaper. Even after identifying him, I just couldn’t find much about him. Born in 1835, he was living in La Grange, Wisc., when he enlisted on 12 Aug 1862. He transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps on 14 Sep 1864 and mustered out 8 Sep 1865, but then I’m not sure what happened to him.
3. Capt. Mandeville G. Townsend was born in 1838 in New York. According to the Waukesha County Democrat newspaper, “Mandy” was a popular teller at the Forest City Bank when he married Mary Ellen Bean in 1860; Mary Ellen and their infant daughter died in 1861. He went on to help form the 28th, putting out a call for volunteers in August 1862: “If any man stand back, let him be buried downward with his face looking to hell.” Mandy was 26 when he died from disease on 25 Apr 1864 at Mark’s Mills, Arkansas. The GAR Post in Pewaukee, Wisc., was named after him.
4. Lt. James M. Mead was an only child, born in 1838 near Niagara Falls, Canada. He mustered in on 13 Aug 1862 and died of typhoid fever at Helena, Arkansas on 13 Feb 1863, 25 years old. He’s buried with his parents in Whitewater, Wisconsin.
5. Capt. John A. Williams was born about 1835 in New York. He was married to Aurelia in the 1860 census with daughter Edna, who died in 1861, not quite three years old. John mustered in on 1 Sep 1862 as a captain, was promoted to major on 29 Jul 1865 and mustered out at Brownsville, Texas on 23 Aug 1865. I didn’t find what happened to John or Aurelia, but I suspect she died before he entered the war.
6. Lt. Charles Baldwin Slawson was born in 1840 in New York and died at age 39 in 1879 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He served from 1 Sep 1862 to 23 Aug 1865, earning a promotion from 2nd lieutenant to 1st along the way. Slawson married but I didn’t find any children; she remarried after he died.
7. Corp. John B. Rockwell, the handsome fella who looks like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, is where I’d started my search, but he turned out to be the very last soldier I tracked down. His family didn’t live in Wisconsin. Eventually, I was able to link him to his sister Sarah and found his family in Pennsylvania and Michigan, which is probably why his nephew thought the unit was from Michigan. Born about 1841, J.B. enlisted 15 Aug 1862 in Wisconsin and died 27 April 1863. He’d been in the hospital at St. Louis, Missouri, described as very sick with fever. He’s buried in a family plot in Michigan.
8. Col. James M. Lewis was born in 1835 in New York and died in 1907 in St. Petersburg, Florida, about 72 years old. He served from 2 Sep 1862 to 2 Jan 1864; discharged with disability. He worked as a farm laborer and, as far as I could tell, he never married. There’s a nice portrait of him on the Wisconsin Veterans Museum site.
9. Corp. John A. Stewart was born in 1835 in New York. He enlisted on 15 Aug 1862 and mustered out on 23 Aug 1865 at Brownsville, Texas. After the war, he married and had three children who all died young. He worked as a farmer, saddler and fruit grower until his death at age 73 in 1909 in Missouri.
10. Lt. Daniel Porter Curtis mustered in on 2 Sep 1862 and resigned on 11 Dec of the same year. Born in 1819, he was 43 at the time of enlistment. He was married twice. It appears his first wife left him, remarried and became a physician and surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri, as did their daughter, Elthera E. Curtis.2 Daniel married Nancy Henry and had five children before his death at age 50 in 1870.
11. Capt. Herman Adolph Meyer was born in Germany in 1836 and immigrated to Wisconsin as a child. He mustered in on 8 Sept 1862 and resigned on 18 Feb 1864. He was probably needed at home since his daughter Elina was born about 1864. He had a wife and three children. He hadn’t lived with the family for several years at the time of his death in 1876, according to the newspaper article about his death. He died by suicide, shooting himself in the head with a pistol in his boarding room at the Central House in Boscobel, Wisc.3
12. Fifer Edwin Ransom Norcross was born in 1844 in Wisconsin and died in Los Angeles at age 75. After the war, he worked as a piano maker in Texas, Kansas and California. He married late life to a woman 15 years his junior and raised three children.
13. Capt. Edward Sheldon Redington was born in 1820 in Montreal, Canada. He was married with four children when he mustered in on 2 Sep 1862. He mustered out 23 Aug 1865 in Brownsville, Texas, and returned to his family in Wisconsin. He died in 1888 at age 68.
14. Wagoner Michael C. Heath was born in 1837 and worked as sawyer before joining the infantry as a wagon master on 21 Aug 1862. He mustered out on 27 Mar 1864 after suffering a gunshot wound at Helena, Arkansas. He had two children and was married to wife Angelena for 53 years until his death in 1917.
15. Private Edward Wells was born in 1844 and enlisted at age 18 on 21 Aug 1862 and mustered out 23 Aug 1865 at Brownsville, Texas. After the war, he worked as a barber, married and raised two sons in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He died in 1915 at age 71.
16. Corp. Horace T. Wilkins was born in 1837 in New York. He enlisted on 21 Aug 1862 and mustered out on 23 Aug 1865 in Brownsville, Texas. When he was about 70, he married his cousin Edith; she was 39. He died at age 86 in 1924.
17. Corp. Lewis E. Bloodgood, of La Grange, Wisc., served from 14 Aug 1862 to 25 May 1865; he was discharged with a disability after being wounded 2 Apr 1865 at Spanish Fort, Alabama. He was born in 1844 in New York and died in 1927 in Huron, South Dakota. He was married twice and had many children.
18. Private Hiram S. Bloodgood, of La Grange, Wisc., served from 14 Aug 1862 to 26 May 1863. I’m certain he’s related to Lewis Bloodgood, but it’s more distant than you might expect. He was born in 1841 in Pennsylvania and died at age 77 in 1919. He married and raised a family in Nebraska and Illinois.
19. Private Sylvanus Devello Hay was born in New York in 1839 and moved to Wisconsin as a child. He mustered in on 15 Aug 1862 and served until 23 Aug 1865, mustering out at Brownsville, Texas. He married after the war and raised three daughters, and then remarried after his first wife died in 1901. He died at age 78 in Iowa in 1918.
20. Corp. Andrew Arwood was born in 1841 in Norway and immigrated as a young child. His family name was Arverson. He mustered in on 21 Aug 1862 and then married Prudence Loomer on September 3. He mustered out on 23 Aug 1865 at Brownsville, Texas, and went back home to Prudence where they raised three children in Wisconsin. He died at 77 in 1909.
- “Pictures are Treasured Possessions,” Oregon Daily Journal, 19 Aug 1917, p. 10, col. 3-5; digital image, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/81087676/fred-r-alexander-collection-of-civil/; accessed 8 July 2021).
- “Women Doctors,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 Jan 1890, p. 17; col. 1; digital image, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/84310768/women-doctors/; accessed 28 Aug 2021
- “Suicide of H. A. Meyer of Boscobel,” Grant County Witness, 4 May 1876, p. 3, col. 4; digital image, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/81133443/suicide-of-h-a-meyer-of-boscobel/; accessed 9 July 2021.