William Bryce - updated 03/17/09

William Bryce was born May 10, 1835, in Warwick, Ontario, Canada, the son of James (d. 1871) and Elizabeth (d. 1902).

William’s parents were married on May 21, 1834, in Adelaide, Canada. Sometime after 1835 William’s family left Canada and came to the United States, and eventually settled in Brockaway, St. Clair County, Michigan. By 1860 William himself was working as a laborer for a wealthy lumberman named Wesley Armstrong in Hume, Huron County.

He stood 5’10” with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 26-year-old laborer possibly living in Hume Township, Huron County when he enlisted in Company G on June 10, 1861, three days before the regiment left for Virginia. In March of 1862 the regiment left its winter quarters, along with the rest of the Army of the Potomac, and southward from near Alexandria, Virginia, eventually disembarking from the transports near Fortress Monroe, on the tip of the “Virginia Peninsula”. On March 26, William wrote home to his father

I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. We left Camp Mich[igan] the fourteenth of March to sail to Fortress Monroe. There has been boats running ever since from Washington to this place, from 12 to 15 a day. The number of men I don’t know; there must be over sixty thousand here now. There is six Mich[igan] regiments here. The 1[st], the 2[nd], the 3[rd] 4[th] 5[th and] 6[th besides Stockton’s Independent reg[iment]. They expect a heavy battle at Norfolk. That is over 12 or 15 miles from here. . . . The city of Hampton where we are encamped now the rebels evacuated last spring and burnt the city. . . . It lays at the head of Chesapeake bay and at the mouth of [the] James River. When we take up the line of march the whole army will march. It is the opinion the rebellion will soon be crushed. I know that if we had lost as many victories as they have that we would feel very uneasy. The men are all in good spirits. We lost a man since we came here. He is the first man that died out of our comp[any] since we came to Washington. He has [had] been delicate ever since he came here. He felt better coming on the boat than he had since he [had] been here. On the 20[th] he was taken sick and died the 23[rd] yesterday. He was buried in military style. I am well at present. We have not had any pay for three months. We don’t expect [any] till the next paid day. If I should die or be killed it would be worth your while to look after my pay. There would be between three or four month’s pay at the rate of 13 dollars per month besides the bounty money [of] one hundred dollars. Our colonel commanding [is] S. G. Champlin, a resident of Grand Rapids, the captain of our company name is R. Jeffords. I received a letter from Uncle Joseph yesterday. I have had two letters from home before this one that I have not answered, one from Jacob [his younger brother?] and one from you.

He was present for duty from January of 1862 through June, was wounded on August 29, 1862, at the battle of Second Bull Run, and was subsequently hospitalized. As of October 6 he was reported to have been recently discharged from Presbyterian Church hospital in Georgetown, and he returned to the Regiment on October 19; he may in fact have been absent on a furlough in November In any case, William was present for duty by December 23, 1863, when he reenlisted as a Corporal at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Brockaway, St. Clair County. (He actually signed the reenlistment papers on December 15 and was mustered on December 24.)

William was absent from December 30 on veterans’ furlough and present for duty from January of 1864 (presumably following his return from furlough) through April. He was transferred as a Corporal (some sources list Sergeant but this cannot be verified) to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He wounded slightly on June 15, 16 or 18, 1864, probably during an attempt to storm the defenses around Petersburg, Virginia. William was subsequently hospitalized on June 27 at Grant hospital, probably in New England, and eventually rejoined the Fifth Michigan.

On October 12, 1864, from the trenches in front of Petersburg, Virginia, William wrote to his parents urging his father to be a staunch supporter of Lincoln in the upcoming presidential election.

I sit myself down to write you a few lines with pleasure. I am well and I hope these few lines find you the same. Father I wrote a letter the 27th I think and sent ten dollars in it. I will send some more for you to keep for me when I hear from that we have pretty good times here now. We have a good deal of picketing to do and some fatigue duty but that is better than fighting. We like better anyhow. There has been very heavy fighting on our right and left all quiet in front of Petersburg. Well father, I hope you are a Lincoln man . . . the soldiers want you all to be Lincoln men. I hope you all will and there is no doubt but this rebellion will be put down. The rebels is lost and there is no it if they can’t get a peace president they are gone up. Their only hope is in McClellan being our next president but we can’t see the point to elect him. We must reelect old Abe and everything will go on all right and the rebellion put down and the union restored as it should be. Curse the man that says the rebels can’t be whipped for they can and will be and that before six months I hope. I am sorry that John Erels and John Brown is drafted. I don’t like to see them leave their families.

William was wounded again and taken prisoner on October 27, 1864, while the Regiment was engaged at the Boydton Plank road near Petersburg, Virginia, and was confined in Libby prison, Richmond on October 28. From Richmond he was sent to Salisbury, North Carolina and paroled at N.E. Ferry, North Carolina, on March 1 or 2, 1865. He reported to Camp Parole at College Green Barracks, Maryland on March 13, and was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio on March 14. According to the war Department William was mustered out with the Fifth Michigan on July 5, 1865, near Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Apparently William returned to Michigan soon after his arrival at Camp Chase, probably arriving at the family home around March 16.

William died of dropsy on May 23, 1865, at his parent’s farm near Brockway center, St. Clair County, and was buried in McFadden cemetery, Brockway Township.

His father died in Brockway, St. Clair County, in 1871 and in 1885 William’s mother Elizabeth applied for and received a dependent mother’s pension (no. 237930), drawing $12.00 per month by 1902.