John Henry Bender

John Henry Bender was born 1844 in Medina County, Ohio, the son of Joseph (1805-1881) and Lydia (Steaton, b. 1809).

Pennsylvania native Joseph married New York-born Lydia and they eventually settled in Ohio and settled in western Michigan sometime in the early- to mid-1850s. By April of 1859, Joseph, who had apparently been an invalid for a number of years, was reportedly suffering from chronic rheumatism and unable to perform any form of labor whatsoever, and Lydia was dependent upon her younger son John for her sole source of support since her oldest son George Hiram had married and left home, moving to Holland, Ottawa County, probably to work as a farm laborer.

John subsequently went to work for his older brother George in Holland and he continued to work for George off and on through 1861. In 1860 and 1861 he also worked for Peter Ball of Jamestown, Ottawa County and the Fleetwood family in Salem, Allegan County through 1861. John was also listed as living with his parents in Jamestown in 1860.

John stood 5’8” with hazel eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 18 years old and possibly working in Georgetown or living in Jamestown, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company I on April 4, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered on April 9. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) He soon joined the regiment on the march along the Virginia Peninsula, and on May 16, 1862, he wrote to his mother and sister from Cumberland Landing on the Pamunkey River.

I received your kind letter on the 14th and was glad to hear from you. I am very well now, I was taken sick on the boat going from Alexandria to shipping point; I was taken to Fortress Monroe hospital and was there one week with a bad cold. Now we have pretty hard times; now we are on the march for Richmond. There is some nice land here. I never saw so much wheat on the ground. There is nothing but wheat on the ground. We live hard now while we are on the march. I think that we will be home the 4th of July if we do not have to follow them all over the southern states. It is warm weather here now. I do not know how long we shall stay here nor where we shall go. I know that I did not do right by going off as I did. I have learnt something since I left home which will be a good lesson for me. I shall be contented when I get home if ever I do. The country is well watered here. I have not seen a maple tree since I came to this part of Virginia. The soil is sandy with [Jack] pine growing all over the ground. I saw mud until the day that the battle of Williamsburg. We started from where we camp[ed] [a]bout ten o'clock in the morning and went 10 miles in mud up to our knees. We was fetched up in line of battle, the orders was [sic] countermanded and we was [sic] marched down into a swamp and he stood there in the mud [a]bout a hour, then we went back to where we left our knapsacks, about 2 miles and camped. It was 12 o'clock before we got to lie down. We laid down upon nothing but pine bows to lay on and then all wet. The next morning we got [up] and got grub and started for the battle field. We was [sic] marched through where the dead and wounded was [sic] dying. It was hard for me to look at the dead; you know that I never saw many dead persons.

In late June of 1862 John was reported to be suffering from “fever” and sick in the hospital at Bottom’s Bridge, Virginia. And in fact, he died of typhoid fever on August 9, 1862, at either Hanover or at Harrison House hospital, at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, and was presumably buried at Harrison’s Landing.

Joseph and Lydia were probably living in Summer Township, Gratiot County in the 1870s, when Lydia applied for a dependant mother’s pension no. 210594.