Royal S. Dunham

Royal S. Dunham was born March 10, 1830, in Russell, St. Lawrence County, New York, the son of Braddock (b. 1788) and Charity (b. 1793).

Royal’s parents were both born in Vermont and possibly married there. In any case by 1836 they had settled in New York and by 1850 Royal was working as a farmer along with his older brothers and father in Russell, St. Lawrence County, New York.

At some point before the war broke out Royal left New York and moved west, eventually settling in Ionia County, Michigan, where he worked as a farm laborer for one Stephen Kimball in Lyons, Ionia County, probably as early as 1856 or perhaps 1858 or 1859.

He married Mary Mortimer (d. 1862) on September 4, 1859, and they had at least one child, a daughter Mary L. (b. 1860).

Royal stood 5’6” with gray eyes, sandy hair and a sandy complexion, and was a 30-year-old mechanic possibly living in Ionia County when he enlisted as Eighth Corporal in Company E on May 13, 1861. According to Royal, while in camp at Grand Rapids, Michigan, he was stricken with a “billious attack” and he was unable to leave with the regiment when it departed for Washington, DC, on June 13, 1861. On June 25 he and several other members of the Third Michigan left Michigan with the Fourth regiment and joined the Third, which was then camped near Georgetown, along the Potomac at Chain Bridge.

Although he was present for duty through the early summer, he apparently never fully recovered his health and sometime around the end of July he was taken sick and by early fall was reported absent sick in a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland; indeed he may in fact have been admitted to the hospital in Annapolis as early as July 28, 1861. In any case, he was discharged for chronic rheumatism on November 2, 1861, at Fort Lyon, Virginia.

Royal probably returned to his wife in Lyons after leaving the army (he listed Lyons as his mailing address on his discharge papers). He was probably still living in Ionia County when he discovered that the Regiment had never received word that Dunham had been discharged and he was reported as a deserter.

On January 26, 1862, Captain Charles Lyon, in Grand Rapids as recruiting agent for the Third Michigan infantry, wrote to Colonel Stephen Champlin, then commanding the Regiment in Virginia. “According to orders received from you,” Lyon wrote,

I have found Royal S. Dunham -- at some cost -- he being reported to me as a deserter. Dunham on hearing I was looking for him delivered himself here at Grand Rapids, and produced the enclosed papers and says he considered himself honorably discharged from service. His account is as follows. His disability papers were made out by Dr. Randall at Annapolis & handed to him -- he then carried them to F. W. Knapp at Washington -- ‘Knapp’ being special relief agent of the sanitary commission. Knapp then told him the proper officers had signed them at Washington & he would send them to the Regt. & that Dunham could go home then or wait until the papers returned from Camp. Dunham concluding not to wait he, Knapp, obtained the passes over the different railroads for him & also furnished Dunham with money for subsistence on the road -- Dunham giving Knapp an order for his pay -- the subsistence to be taken out & balance sent to Dunham. This is Dunham’s report to me to account for his being home. He claims he is regularly discharged & is not a deserter. Please have this matter looked up and write me what to do in the case of discharge send on papers.

On March 1, Champlin sent Lyon’s letter along with Dunham’s papers on to the assistant Adjutant General in Washington.

On March 4, Knapp himself wrote to Colonel Hardie, ADC to General McClellan, explaining what had happened. “Dunham came to Washington from Annapolis hospital last November bringing with him a ‘certificate of disability for discharge’ from Dr. Randall, surgeon in charge of Annapolis hospital. His certificate” was approved by Dr. Tripler, and Dunham was ordered to be discharged on November 2, 1861.

“When Dunham returned to Washington from Annapolis he came to the house on North Capitol Street”, provided by the sanitary commission for soldiers coming to Washington or needing assistance. Dunham

was suffering much from the consequences and continuance of the disease which had placed in Annapolis hospital and which was the ground for his discharge. The surgeon in attendance thought it advisable for Dunham to visit his home as son as possible, therefore his case, with that of some other sick men, was represented at Head Quarters Army of Potomac, and a special order given for passes to be furnished to them to the several homes, the same to be considered equivalents of ‘pay for traveling’ and ‘subsistence for traveling’ (this fact being endorsed upon the discharge papers).

By some mistake the discharge paper of Dunham was placed on file with the discharge papers of the other sick men who had received passes to their homes”, men from other Regiments and whose “papers waited the arrival of descriptive lists which had been applied for to the officers of the Regiments.” Thus, “the papers of Dunham were not forwarded to his Regiment at once as should have been done. Dunham left with the blank receipts signed with the name (with witness) to be filled in by the paymaster; so that I might receive and transmit to him his pay."

The army took a dim view of Knapp’s handling of the Dunham affair. Colonel Hardie, in a notation on a memorandum in Dunham’s service record stated that Dunham had been discharged “in an irregular manner” and that he was not entitled to “’pay for traveling’ or for ‘subsistence for traveling’.”

Nevertheless, the charge of desertion was expunged from his record and in fact Royal was awarded a pension no. 336452, dated 1886 (by 1917 he was drawing $40 per month).

Royal’s wife Mary died in Lyons in December of 1862, and soon afterwards he left Ionia County, and moved to Branch County, Michigan. In fact he may have been living in Coldwater when he married Martha Jane Jeckett or Juckett (1836-1916) on December 23, 1863, in Coldwater, Branch County. They had at least three children: Frank E. (b. 1864), Fred E. (b. 1868) and R. Ella (b. 1880).

Royal worked off and on in a mill in Coldwater, and, according to one John Gamby of Coldwater, they worked together for some six years in the mill, and he often noticed how as a consequence of his suffering from “rheumatism” Royal was unable to perform much of the necessary labor required to work the mill machinery.

Royal was working as an engineer and living with his wife and three children in Coldwater in 1880. He was still living in Coldwater in 1888, in Coldwater’s Seventh Ward in 1890 and in the Fourth Ward in 1894; by 1917 he was residing at 97 Clay Street in Coldwater. Indeed he probably lived out the rest of his life in Coldwater. He was a member of Grand Army of the Republic Butterworth Post No. 109 in Coldwater.

Sometime around 1907 Royal suffered a stroke, resulting in the need for constant care and supervision.

Royal was a widower (for the second time) and was living his daughter Ella Downes in Coldwater when he died of heart failure (apparently he suffered another stroke) on October 8, 1917. He was buried next to Martha in Oak Grove cemetery in Coldwater.