Moses P. Bigelow, also known as “Bigalow,” was born January 11, 1840, the son of William F. (b. 1810) and Eliza (1812-1857 or 1859).
His parents were married in Andes, Delaware County, New York in 1834, and by 1850 were still residing in Andes where Moses attended school with his siblings. The family eventually moved westward, settling perhaps as early as 1853 in Montcalm County, Michigan. In any case, by the mid-1850s they were living in Bloomer, Montcalm County, and probably in 1857 and 1859 as well. By 1860 William and several of his children were living on a farm in Bloomer.
Moses was 21 years old, probably unable to read or write, and possibly living in Westphalia, Clinton County when he enlisted in Company D on May 13, 1861. (Company D was composed in large part of men who came from western Ionia County and Eaton County.) On March 18, 1862 he was admitted to Mansion House general hospital in Alexandria, Virginia and on August 17 transferred to the government hospital for the insane near Washington, DC. in May and June and from late July or early August of 1862 he was reported absent sick in the hospital, probably in Alexandria, Virginia.
On August 13, 1862, Dr. John Summers, a surgeon at the general hospital in Alexandria, wrote to the Adjutant General of the United States Army, requesting that Bigelow “be admitted into the Insane asylum [possibly St. Elizabeth’s in Washington] or be permitted to pass into the hands of his friends.” Summers claimed that Bigelow had “been a patient of this hospital department, and suffering from acute melancholy for months.” The following day J. M. Edmunds, president of the Michigan Soldiers’ Relief Association wrote to Secretary of War Stanton requesting the same thing, adding that Bigelow was “a lunatic now in the general hospital at Alexandria.” And on August 17, Dr. Summers wrote to the Adjutant General informing him that he had just received permission from the Secretary of War to place Bigelow under the care of Dr. William Cranage “who will proceed with him to the Insane Hospital.”
On September 2, 1862, C. W. Nichols, superintendent of the government hospital for the insane near Washington, advised the Adjutant General that Moses, who “was admitted to this institution August 17, 1862 very much reduced by physical disease and mentally weak” had in fact “materially improved in his physical condition since he has been here, and his father . . . has applied for permission to take him home under his immediate supervision.” Nichols went on to recommend that Bigelow “be discharged from the hospital, and from the service, and delivered into the care of his family.” Apparently the War Department agreed, and he was discharged for “acute melancholy” on September 3, 1862, at Washington.
Moses returned to his family home in Michigan (probably in Gratiot County) where he attempted to recover from his ordeal. However, in 1888, Lewis Woolford, who lived near the Bigelow family, swore that “he saw him [Moses] when he came home after his discharge and know he was insane and being a near neighbor saw him frequently during the following six months, and know from my own personal knowledge he continued insane from the time he came home from the army in Sept. 1862 to the time when he enlisted in the 17th Regt. Mich. Vols in the spring of 1863. His insanity was of a mild type, he having a disposition to wander away sometimes a person would hardly notice it; at other times it was quite noticeable.” Moses’ father, William, testified in 1887 that he used to wander away after his returned home from the army in 1862.
Nevertheless in early spring of 1863 Moses was allowed to reenter the military. He was a substitute for one Joseph Martin who had been drafted on March 11 at Westphalia (the first substitute, Peter Cramer, having been excused). He reentered the service in Company K, Seventeenth Michigan infantry on March 13, 1863, at Westphalia for 3 years, crediting Westphalia, and gave his residence as St. Louis, Gratiot County (his father was living at South Shade in Gratiot).
He probably joined the regiment somewhere in Louisville, Kentucky and allegedly deserted in June of 1863 while the Seventeenth was at Columbia, Kentucky, (although the War Department removed the charge of desertion in 1887).
His whereabouts were listed as unknown from June 5 until he was admitted on November 8, 1863, to Branch “4” of General Hospital no. 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, diagnosed as having anemia. On December 10 Moses was transferred to General Hospital No. 1 in Louisville. Suffering from chronic diarrhea. His father, who had moved to Bloomer in Montcalm County after Moses reentered the service, never heard from his son again after reentering the army, and he knew nothing of his whereabouts until someone from the hospital in Louisville wrote him in January of 1864 to tell him that his son was hospitalized there.
Moses died of phthisis pulmonalis (lung disease) on March 10, 1864, at Harrisville, Kentucky, in a hospital in Louisville (and was also reported as suffering from “insanity”). He was buried in Cave Hill National Cemetery, section B, range 9, grave no. 54, in Louisville.
His father William enlisted in the army on August 17, 1864 and was discharged on June 9, 1865. He returned to Bloomer where he resided until the spring of 1866 when he moved to Maxwell, Buffalo County, Wisconsin where he lived until about September of 1873. He then returned to Michigan and lived in New Haven, Gratiot County until about April of 1880 when he settled in Carson City, Montcalm County where he was living in 1883.
In 1879 his father William was living in Carson City, Montcalm County, when he applied for a pension, no. 250,785, but the certificate was never granted and the claim was eventually abandoned.