Edward Smith Earle

Edward Smith Earle was born around 1829 in New York, the son of John E. (b. 1800) and stepson of Mary (b. 1819).

New York native John E. married his second wife, New Yorker Mary sometime before 1850. By 1850 Edward and his brother John were working as clerks for his father who was a merchant living in the western half of New York City’s Fifteenth Ward, New York.

Edward was married to New York native Anna S. Tripp (b. 1830) on December 25, 1851, in St. George’s chapel, Beekman Street in New York City, and they had at least two children: John E. (b. 1853) and Anna A. (b. 1858).

As a young man Edward became involved with the Seventh New York cavalry, a militia company in New York City and served in that unit for perhaps as long as nine years, probably up to the time he moved to Michigan.

Edward and his family moved from New York City to Michigan sometime in 1853, probably along with his parents and younger brother John and their families, and engaged in the grocery business in Grand Rapids along with his brother John and presumably with his father. In 1859-60 Edward was managing his brother John’s store, and living on the west side of Lafayette between Fulton and Washington Streets, and in 1860 he was working as a grocer and living with his wife Anna and their two children in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward, near Rev. Francis Cuming, rector of St. Mark’s church and who would be elected chaplain of the Third Michigan infantry the following spring. That same year Edward’s father was working as a grocery dealer and living with his wife and children, including son John H. who was clerking for him, in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward.

Given his previous experience with the New York militia it was perhaps only natural that in 1855 Edward became a member of the newly formed Grand Rapids militia company, the Valley City Guard. In fact both he and his father John E. were active in the VCG. In January of 1856 Edward was reported as First Sergeant of the VCG and by the first of the year 1858 John E. Earle had replaced Captain Daniel McConnell who had been promoted. (McConnell would become the first Colonel of the Third Michigan infantry.) Edward served as Orderly Sergeant, or Adjutant, of the VCG.

Both father and son held their respective posts in the militia through the year but on March 22, 1859, his father resigned, while Edward stayed on as Orderly Sergeant, working for the new Captain, Byron R. Pierce (who would one day become Colonel of the Third Michigan). Edward continued to serve as Orderly Sergeant until the war broke out. He also served as Judge Advocate the Fifty-first Regiment of State Militia (Daniel McConnell commanding), comprising four west Michigan militia companies including the VCG.

By January 1, 1861, Edward was listed as Adjutant for the Fifty-first Regiment, having replaced William Andre (or Amane). He would continue in that capacity after the Fifty-first was reorganized as the Third Michigan in April. In June of 1861, one observer noted that Edward was “fond of military tactics, and . . .with the exception of a want of strong lungs, he makes a good officer.”

Edward was 32 years old when he enlisted as Adjutant and First Lieutenant of the Third Michigan Infantry when it was first organized at Cantonment Anderson in the old fairgrounds about two miles south of Grand Rapids along the Kalamazoo Plank road (present-day Division Street). However, he had taken sick while in camp and did not leave Michigan with the Regiment on June 13, 1861, when it departed for Virginia, but remained behind, along with Captain John Price of Company G, to oversee the three dozen or so soldiers -- most of who were also sick -- who had been left behind in Grand Rapids and vicinity.

Edward eventually left Grand Rapids on Monday, June 24, reportedly “with the last detachment of the 3d Michigan.” Although he was scheduled to arrive in Washington on July 1, with the remainder of the Third Michigan that accompanied the Fourth Michigan infantry to Washington, in fact he did not join the Regiment before July 6.

After his arrival in Washington Edward apparently spent little time with the Third Michigan, however. He was appointed Brigade Commissary on July 19, 1861, with the rank of Captain, and on September 16 was appointed Captain and Commissary of Subsistence of United States Volunteers. He was discharged from the army on April 1, 1863.

It is quite possible that Edward returned to Michigan after his discharge from the army, possibly to the Detroit area where his brother John may have been operating a grocery business. In any case,, Edward reentered the service and, according to a biographer of George Custer, was serving on Custer’s staff during the last half of the war and on into 1866.

After the war Edward eventually returned to Grand Rapids and by 1865-66 he was boarding at the Fay house, located at the corner of Monroe and Justice Streets. By 1870 his father was listed as a retired manufacturer (he owned some $25,000 worth of real estate and another $10,000 worth of personal property) and was living with his wife Mary in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward.

Edward soon left Grand Rapids and returned with his family to New York, eventually settling back in New York City, and by 1870 he was working as a clerk in a dry goods store and living with his wife and children in Brooklyn’s Twentieth Ward, New York. Also living with Edward and his family was his younger brother John and his wife Emily and one Susan Tripp, presumably Anna’s sister. They were all living with the William Harris family who was reported as a bookkeeper for a dry goods store. Edward also he worked for some years as a bookbinder.

Nevertheless Edward still remained in touch with his former comrades and was for some time a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.

By 1880 Edward was working as a clerk in a store and living with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, New York. In 1888, 1889 and 1890 Edward was working as a clerk and iving at 551 1/2 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, and also in 1890 when he was working as a bookkeeper and when he received pension no. 819,068, (dated February 18, 1891) drawing $12.00 a month in February of 1891. That same month, Edward claimed he was suffering from a partial paralysis of the right arm as a result of the dislocation of his shoulder. According to his wife, Edward slipped and fell on their stoop that was covered with ice, resulting in his inability to perform any manual labor. By the fall of 1891 Edward and his brother John were both reported to be living and working in New York City.

Edward died of heart failure, probably at his home at the corner of Flatbush and Union Streets in Brooklyn, New York, on October 21, 1892, and he was buried in Greenwood cemetery, in Brooklyn: section 114, lot 11785.

His widow was living in Hollis, Queens County, New York, when she applied for and received pension no. 394,712, drawing $8.00 per month in 1908. She died on March 8, 1908, in New York City, and is reportedly buried with Edward.