Roderick Robert Ackley

Roderick Robert Ackley was born in September of 1829 or in 1835 in Wales, Erie County, New York, the son of Ithamar (1799-1866) and Polly (d. 1837).

Ithamar was born in either Connecticut or Vermont and was married to a woman named Polly sometime before 1829, possibly in New York where they resided for some years. Polly died in 1837, probably in Wales, Erie County, New York where she is buried and Ithamar remarried New York native Matilda Barnard (b. 1811) and by 1842 they were living in Wales, New York. By 1850 Ithamar had moved his large family to Aurora, Erie County, New York where “Robert” was attending school with five of his younger siblings and living with his family on a farm in Aurora. Ithamar moved his family from New York to Michigan sometime after 1854, and by 1860 Roderick was living with his family in Tallmadge, Ottawa County, Michigan, and working as a farmer or farm laborer in Wright, Ottawa County.

Roderick was 26 years old and stood 5’11’’ with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and probably still living in Ottawa County when he enlisted on May 13, 1861, in Company I, a company made up largely of men from the eastern side of Ottawa County.

On June 3, 1861, just ten days before the Third Michigan regiment would leave Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Washington, DC, Roderick married his first wife, Clarissa Hoag, possibly in Ottawa County. In any case, Roderick had rejoined the regiment by the time it left Michigan and was probably serving with the Regiment during the federal retreat from Bull Run on July 21. He was apparently taken sick soon afterwards and was reported in a general hospital from July 28, and possibly through August and September as well.

Hiram Bateman, also of Company I, testified after the war that at one point, possibly in 1861 but probably in 1862, Roderick was a patient in the regimental field hospital where Bateman had been detailed for duty. Hiram also claimed that Roderick remained in the regimental hospital until he was transferred to the hospital at Annapolis, Maryland. In fact, according to the War Department, Roderick was present for duty until about February of 1862, when he was subsequently absent sick in the general hospital at Annapolis, Maryland; in March and April, and quite probably through June as well he was still absent sick. He eventually returned to duty and was present in July and August, but was again taken ill and was sick at the Patent Office hospital in Washington, DC, about the middle of October.

Sometime in late 1862 Roderick was transferred to the general hospital at (reportedly) German, Pennsylvania, where he remained until April of 1863. In fact he was probably admitted to the hospital at Germantown, Maryland -- just north of Washington, DC. In any case, according to the official records he was discharged for typhoid fever on April 13, 1863, at the general hospital in “Germantown, Pennsylvania” (again, probably Maryland).

After he left the army Roderick returned to Michigan where he reentered the service as a Private in Company B, Fifth Michigan cavalry on December 16, 1863, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Wright in Ottawa County and was mustered in on January 6, 1864, at Grand Rapids.

Sometime in February Roderick joined the Regiment at Stevensburg, Virginia, and was on duty at Camp Stoneman in Virginia from June of 1864 through January (and indeed probably through February) of 1865. During this time, Roderick went home to Michigan on a furlough and he married his second wife, Sarah (or Susan) J. (probably Jane) Woodbury (1841-1914), on November 24, 1864, at Grand Rapids. (Sarah was probably the daughter of Thomas and stepdaughter of Delphina Woodbury of Ottawa County. Samuel Anderson who also served in the Old Third during the war apparently lived with the Woodbury family in 1860.) It is unclear what became of Clarissa.

Roderick eventually returned to duty with the Fifth Michigan cavalry in Virginia and was reportedly transferred along with all the veterans and recruits to Company I, First Michigan cavalry in Washington, DC on June 20, 1865; that same month he was promoted to Corporal. It seems, however, that Roderick never did join the First cavalry, since the First Michigan cavalry was on duty in the District of Utah from November of 1865 until March of 1866, and Roderick remained in Washington sick.

He was reported absent sick in Washington, DC from June 13, 1865 through September. Indeed, Roderick was apparently suffering from general debility and scorbutus when he was reportedly transferred on October 10, 1864, to the Two-hundred-thirty-eighth (or perhaps the First) Company, First Battalion Veteran’s Reserve Corps, at Camp Stoneman. (The VRC was made up of men who while ambulatory were generally incapable of performing regular military tasks due to having suffered debilitating wounds and/or diseases and were assigned to garrison the many supply depots, draft rendezvous, camps, forts, prisons, etc. scattered throughout the northern cities, thus freeing able-bodied men for regular military duty.)

He was reported absent on furlough for 20 days from October 30 and present for duty from November of 1864 through April 30, 1865. He was again absent on furlough in May and June, and was detached to an unassigned VRC unit in late summer.

Roderick was discharged from the First Battalion, VRC Cavalry on September 7 or 17, 1865, at Washington, DC.

After he was discharged from the army Roderick returned to Lamont in Ottawa County where he lived for a short time before moving to Allegan County. By 1867 he was probably living and working in Monterey, Allegan County, and indeed resided there for some years -- he was working as a farm laborer in Monterey in 1870 -- although he may have returned briefly to Tallmadge around 1874. According to a neighbor, Chandler F. Miller of Monterey, Roderick worked for him by the month for some two years in all during the years 1868-74.

During that same time period Roderick probably also worked as a farmer in Greenville, Montcalm County, Michigan, where he was living when he married his third (or remarried his second) wife, Sarah Jane Woodbury on September 21, 1871, in Fallassburg, Kent County. They had at least two children, Emmett W. (b. 1874) and Willis J. (b. 1876).

Roderick eventually returned to Monterey where he remained until about 1883 when he moved to Fruitport, Ottawa County. By January of 1885 he was living in Polkton, Ottawa County but sometime in 1887 he returned to Allegan County. (Chandler Miller claimed that Roderick resided in Fruitport from 1883 to 1887.) In any case, Roderick apparently resided off and on in Allegan County until 1889. He was probably living in Lamont, Ottawa County when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association in December of 1886, and in Allegan County by 1888, was reportedly in Grand Rapids living on Gilbert Street in 1890 and by 1894 he had settled in Muskegon’s Second Ward, Muskegon County. By 1899, however, he was residing in South Haven, Van Buren County; he was still residing there in 1900.

Around 1894 Roderick’s eyesight began to fail and by1901 he was diagnosed as being effectively blind in both eyes. That same year he was reportedly residing in South Haven, Van Buren County, probably living with his son Emmett. In 1910 Roderick was living at 153 Lyon Street in Grand Rapids (again probably with his son Emmett), and by 1912 was residing at 328 Raymond Street in Elgin, Illinois, possibly with his son Willis.

He was a member of Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids, and Randall Post No. 238 in Coopersville, and he received pension no. 373,956, dated September of 1885, drawing $30.00 by 1912.

Roderick had been living with his son Willis at 1369 S. California Street in Chicago shortly before he was admitted to the veterans’ hospital at the Northwestern Branch, National Military Home in Milwaukee, where he died of “senility” and epithelioma of the left hand on October 1, 1914. He was buried in West Dundee cemetery, Dundee, Kane County, Illinois; his wife Sarah is buried next to him.