Allen Ripley Foote was born on January 26, 1842, in Olcott, Niagara County, New York, possibly the son of Elijah Foote (1810-1863) and Olivia Luce (b. 1801).
In 1840 Elijah was living in Newfane, Niagara County, New York and in when Elijah was working as a harness-maker. They left New York State and moved west, eventually settling in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By 1860 Allen was working as a clerk for J. Kendall & co., and living in Grand Rapids’ 4th Ward with Wilson Jones and his family. (Jones would also enlist in Company B, as would Alfred Pew who was married to Lucy Foote, Allen’s sister.) Next door lived David Northrup and his family; David too would join Company B in 1861. And two doors from David lived Baker Borden who would command Company B when the 3rd Michigan was first organized in the spring of 1861.
Allen stood 5’4” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was 19 years old and probably living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted with his parents’ consent in Company B. on May 13, 1861. (He is not found in the 1905 Third Michigan Regimental history; but he is found in the 1905 21st Michigan Regimental history; see below.)
“We have met the enemy and were repulsed,” wrote Allen shortly after the Union debacle at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. In a letter to Wilson Jones which was reprinted in the Grand Rapids Eagle, Allen was quick to add
but we fear not another meeting. Our retreat did not demoralize us. There is not a man in the army but has some comrade to avenge, for we all regard a soldier as a friend, no matter who he is, or where he came from. Our soldiers have been treated with cruelty and barbarity, and we will avenge them on our enemies. I do not mean to say that we will stoop to their level, that we will treat their wounded as they did ours; but we will fight them as men have not fought before, when next we meet. Their only appeal must be to the sword and the bayonet, until they surrender. We have had our last repulse; we have made the last stampede. When next we go on the battle-field, we shall be well officered, well armed, and well provided for. The battle-ground will be, most likely, the same. The rebels must be cautious how they meet us there, where the blood of our butchered wounded shall cry to us for revenge. If on Sunday, the 21st of July, our troops could fight with courage, in the next battle they will fight with a desperateness and a courage, that hearts feeling their wrongs alone can give. Look forward with cheerfulness, for we will conquer. It is as plain as though it was written in burning letters on the walls of the batteries that surround Richmond. You may think that I am getting a little enthusiastic; but you must excuse me if I am. I do not think, if you were in my place, and could hear all that I do, that you would be less so; for the more we hear of the rebels, and of their actions -- the more we talk about and think what a peaceful and happy country they have plunged into a war -- the more determined we are.”
Allen was reportedly promoted to Corporal on January 23, 1862, although according to one source he was in fact a Corporal as early as August 1, 1861. Although he was subsequently reported as promoted to Sergeant on May 21, 1862, he never claimed that rank; and in fact Allen recalled years later that he was only a corporal when he wounded at Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862.
And indeed Allen was shot in the right lung on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks: a rifle or musket ball struck him in the center of the chest, passed through his right lung and out on the right side under his arm and between the 3rd and 4th ribs. Years later, Allen recalled that his company had possession of the regimental colors when they came onto the field at Fair Oaks. “I was,” he said, “not of this guard, but was a corporal then, on the left of my Company next to the color guard. Our line was hardly formed when we received the Confederate charge. Firing was at short range. Fourteen out of the sixteen corporals composing the color guard were shot almost simultaneously; some killed; some wounded, but the colors did not fall.” As for Allen,
I was on my knees in the front rank. The corporal on my left was shot in the head and fell across my legs. He spoke to me. I turned to look at him, and said “”I cannot stop work now to help you.” As I said this I was shot, the bullet entering squarely on my breast, cutting off the first shirt button below the collar. It passed through the bone, which turned is course to the right, and passed out between the ribs. I was in the act of loading my gun at its muzzle. I had the powder in. When hit my right arm fell. I tried three times to put the bullet in and finish loading, hoping to give the enemy one more shot. Finding I could not do it, I dropped my gun, unstrapped my cartridge box and crawled to the rear until I came to a cleared field where a battery was stationed firing over the heads of our men into the Confederate ranks. As I raised up to a walk, a gunner motioned to me to step aside out of range and then continued firing. I walked around back of the battery and stopped to see it work and listen to the music of its roar.
The Confederate charge was stopped. . . .
That night I lay on the ground under a large tree. Noting that every breath sent bubbles of air through my wound, I called a soldier who was trying to care for the wounded and told him I could not live long on half-rations of air. He looked at my wound, tore some square pieces off a bandage roll, placed them over the wound and punched them into it with his finger and poured some cold water on the cloth. This caused the blood to congeal about the cloth and enable me to get the benefit of the air I was breathing.
The following morning, Allen was taken to the division hospital at Savage Station, Virginia, to have his wounded treated. The physician in charge was Dr. D. W. Bliss, who had begun the war as Regimental Surgeon with the Third Michigan infantry. As Dr. Bliss cut off Allen’s shirt, “I looked up at him and said, laughingly, ‘Doctor here is a wound you cannot amputate.’ As soon as he had uncovered it, he said, ‘It would be much better for you, my boy, if I could.’” As soon as his shirt was removed, Allen “discovered another wound on my left arm about half way between the shoulder and elbow. The bullet had chipped off a spot as large as a silver dollar but had not buried itself in the flesh. The arm was black and much swollen.”
There was some confusion in Allen’s military records regarding his subsequent hospitalization: one source reported that he was hospitalized on July 13 at Brooklyn, New York, but another noted that as of July 17 he was in Chesapeake hospital near Fortress Monroe, having been wounded in the chest and “doing well.” According to Allen, his wounds were quickly bandaged at Savage Station and he was sent on to Chesapeake hospital. From there he was transferred to Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn for convalescence and by early August he was reportedly a patient in College Hospital in New York City.
Allen eventually recovered from his wounds and was returned to duty. From New York he was sent to the Convalescent Camp at Alexandria, Virginia.
In going through Washington we passed by the Armory Square Hospital, then in charge of Dr. Bliss. I “fell out” and went into his office. Fortunately I found him at his desk. When he looked at me he recognized me at once and said, “See here, young man, this will never do. You will ruin my reputation. I reported you mortally wounded at Fair Oaks and have had you dead and buried in the Chickahominy swamp for six months.” I said, “I will improve your reputation by giving you an opportunity to resurrect me.” I then told him I did not want to be a “condemned yankee” and wanted him to find a way to save me from going to the Invalid Camp. He immediately called the hospital steward, ordered him to put me in a bed and keep me there four days. I protested, saying I was perfectly able to be about. The Doctor said to me in an undertone, “You stay in bed four days; by that time I will have an order reassigning you to do duty in my office.”
Allen was in fact transferred to Armory Square hospital in Washington, DC on October 1.
While there he was placed in charge of making out the necessary papers for patients discharged from the hospital. “I frequently urged the Doctor to order me to my regiment, but he refused, saying I could never serve as an enlisted man since receiving my wound. Being convinced there was no hope of ever being permitted to join my regiment, I made out my own discharge paper and placed it in a package I submitted to the Doctor for his signature. After he had signed all of the papers, I took mine out of the package and showed it to him. He endorsed it, “Able to serve as an officer, but not as an enlisted man.” Allen was discharged from the military on December 23, 1862, for a gunshot to the right lung.
Upon his discharge from the army Allen returned to his home in Grand Rapids, and resided briefly in the First Ward, where he resumed work as a clerk. Although he reportedly applied for a pension on January 31, 1863, in fact he reentered the service as Private in Company B, Twenty-first Michigan infantry at Grand Rapids on January 2, 1864, for 3 years, and received a $60.00 in bounty. He was “discharged” on March 12 to accept promotion to Second Lieutenant, commissioned as of January 26, crediting Grand Rapids, and replacing A. E. Barr who had been promoted.
Allen joined the Regiment on March 13 at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and by the summer of 1864 the Twenty-first Michigan was on detached service with the engineering troops.
Allen was present for duty in August, and in fact on August 23, 1864, the Eagle reported that Foote, along with Captain A. E. Barr and Lieutenant William Thornton, also of the Twenty-first “will please accept our thanks for a photographic card containing their likenesses and a romantic view of Lookout Mountain [Tennessee]. We are happy to have among our collections of the pictures of esteemed friends, the facsimile of such brave workers in the Union Army, and truly loyal men as those men represent. That they, one and all, may ere long return to their happy homes, covered with glory and bearing aloft in triumph over all, the starry old Flag of the free.”
According to William Trumper, who has studied the various movements of Foote during this period, on September 25, 1864, the Twenty-first Michigan was relieved of its engineering duties and assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, Fourteenth Corps. On October 17 elements of the Twenty-first left Chattanooga to join the Brigade then at Rome, Georgia. By late October Allen was acting Commissary of Subsistence at Dalton, Georgia, and was consequently “responsible for large amount of stores issued to various Battalions and brigades passing through Dalton, and to the Garrison at Tilton, Georgia.” Apparently no replacement had been found for Allen who was consequently out of touch with his Regiment during this period.
On November 20 or 30, 1864, Allen requested a leave of absence for 30 days to remain within the Department of the Cumberland for the purpose of settling the business pertaining to the Department, before reporting for duty. He held the post of Commissary of Subsistence through January of 1865, and in February and March was Assistant Quartermaster at Dalton. Allen returned from detached service to his Regiment on April 22, when he assumed command of Company B on April 30. The regiment marched to Washington on April 29 and participated in the Grand Review on May 24. Allen was mustered out with the regiment on June 8, 1865 at Washington, DC.
After the war Allen returned to Grand Rapids where he lived briefly, possibly at 175 Lincoln Avenue, on the west side of the River, working as a clerk. He took the opportunity to apply for a renewal of his pension on November 1, 1865. He was a member of the Twenty-First Michigan Infantry Association and in late 1866 was living in Grand Rapids, probably in the Fourth Ward, where he was also active in the burgeoning “Boys in Blue” veterans’ political movement. Shortly after the war Allen applied for and received a pension (no. 14046).
On October 2, 1866, the Grand Rapids Eagle reported the following communication received from Foote regarding the political role of the veteran. “My attention,” he wrote,
has been called to the following the Democrat of September 26th, to which I wish to make reply through the columns of your paper.
“Political Dodge to Capture Boys in Blue. -- A movement is on Foote in this city to inveigle the soldiers into a secret political organization under the captivating title of ‘Boys in Blue’. Let soldiers beware of this snare to entrap them into the radical camp, and by oath bound pledges commit them to the support of the radical schemes.”
Timely warning, from a friendly source. Soldiers beware; there has been an attempt to capture Boys in Blue. During thirty years of Democratic rule the plan was being perfected; it was proclaimed to the world in the thunder tone of the first gun fired at Fort Sumter in 1861. There were Boys in Blue in the fort there. Since then a million men have fallen into the ‘snare to entrap them into the radical camp, and by oath-bound pledges, have committed themselves to the support of the radical scheme’ of putting down the rebellion and punishing treason. Many desperate attempts were made to capture them, not by radicals, but by the Democratic rebels of the South. Thousands of them were captured. Comrades, those of you who enjoyed the hospitality of Libby Prison and Andersonville prison-pen, how did you like the fare? Not well. Then ask the sympathetic friend of ours, who so generously advises you of danger, what effort his party made to release you. His answer must be: “We voted not a man nor a dollar to assist in releasing you; we did what we could to discourage enlistments, and to dishearten your comrades in arms; we spent our time in consultation with the traitors ‘over the border’, in passing peace resolutions, and finally abandoned you entirely, by declaring the war a failure.”
Soldiers, from such a source comes this warning; can the same tree produce both good and evil fruit, can the same heart ask for us both a blessing and a curse? Ah, friend of ours, do you not know that the oath which made soldiers, made Boys in Blue also? That is the only oath we have taken, there is no more secrecy in the organization of our political army, than there was in the formation of our military forces, every oath of which was administered in public. Do you not remember the 10th day of June 1861, when the ‘glorious old Third’ a thousand strong, in the presence of the Almighty God, and as many of our citizens as chose to be present, swore to defend the Government against all it enemies? Do you not remember how at the same time your party was preaching ‘fire in the rear’? You opposed the formation of our military army, and for one and the same reason, our bullets and ballots are both fired against Democratic rebels.
Secret political organizations are bad; we endorse much that you say respecting them. But that is the first we ever saw of the secret oath of the Boys in Blue. You must recollect we are only boys; why do you take us back to the know-nothing organization, which dates back beyond our political memory? Are there none of a more recent nature? How is it with the Knights of the Golden Circle? That ‘smacks of conspiracy, of revolution, of plots, of secret designs against the Constitution and laws of the land.’ It was composed of members of your party. ‘It is an evil sign’ to ‘secretly bind each other in a political organization for political purposes’ as did the rebel agents, when they tried to burn the hotels of New York, and to liberate the rebel prisoners at Chicago; do not say that was not a political act, for they were all men of your party, they all support ‘my party’ now, and you known the rebellion was only a “political dodge to capture Boys in Blue.”
You have given us an instance of an outbreak of one organization, we remember of another, ‘which caused the gutters of the Streets of some of our cities to run with human blood.’ It is a fearful crime, it is a dark stain upon the page of our American history, and those who witnessed or remember their horrors, look upon these riots of the reconstructed Democratic rebels, in the cities of Memphis and New Orleans, ‘with a shudder that chills the blood and shames the pride of American citizenship’. You ask us to vote these men into power, you ask us to affiliate with them and trust them as we would honorable men who have never perjured themselves by breaking the most sacred oath of office. You pretend to be our friends now, and offer your ‘blandiloguent’ advice as though we knew nothing of your record for the last five years, and warn us against being ‘captured by the radicals’, as though we ever belonged to your party!
Soldiers, study well the questions of the day and the records of the past. Under the leadership of Grant and Sherman we have fought our way ‘round the circle’. By our own blood and that of our fallen comrades we have welded each link of the chain of thirty-six states in the Union; and now that the conflict has been carried back to the ballot box, our bullets having won the battles in the field, our ballots must do the work for us now. Let us form solid ranks, be on your guard, do not be ‘inveigled’ into any movement, but be careful to sustain that for which you fought; do not be captured by a Corporal’s guard of war failure Democrats. We defeated the Southern wing of this Democratic party at the point of the bayonet; we can defeat its Northern wing with our paper wads. Then rally once again, let each soldier feel the friendly touch of his neighbor’s elbow. Forward! On the sixth of next November we shall win another victory, of which the muster roll of the majority shall outnumber the surrenders of Johnston and Lee.
Sometime around 1867 Allen left Grand Rapids and moved to Missouri living briefly in St. Louis. He was living in Webster Grove, Missouri when he married Emily (or Emma) Louise Hayt (or Hoyt) on April 30, 1868, in Collinsville, Illinois and their only child, a daughter Isabella was born in Webster Grove in July of 1872. Allen and Emily separated sometime around 1875, although Allen apparently helped to finance his daughter’s education and he attended her wedding to Walter Pinkham in Quincy, Massachusetts in July of 1900. It appears Allen and Emily never divorced.
In any case, Allen remained in Webster Grove until 1878, and by 1879 he was living in New York City where he was in partnership with one A. Brymer, selling pianos and organs, located at 291 Broadway and at 40 Fourth Street in Brooklyn. He was residing at 315 West 45th Street in New York City (although it was “not a permanent address”), and in 1880 he was still selling pianos and living with his wife “Emma” and daughter “Bella” in Manhattan, and they were all living with Clara Eckert.
Allen eventually moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was living in 1889-92. He soon moved to the west coast, and from 1893 to 1894 he was residing in Tacoma Park, outside of Washington, DC, although apparently he returned briefly to New York City from 1895-96. He was back in Tacoma Park from 1897-99, at 315 Linwood Avenue in Columbus, Ohio from 1907-15 and by 1921 he was living in Fletcher, North Carolina; he may also have resided at various other times in Chicago and Philadelphia.
Allen was for many years an economist and writer on political and economic affairs, and was apparently something of an expert on the public utilities industry (all of which might account for his various and numerous travels). In 1889 he published several works on the new technology of electric light and its impact on society, and in early February was appointed Chairman of the National Electric Light Association committee to investigate state and municipal legislation on the utilities.
He was a member of the American Economic Association (1899?), the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (1899?), a commissioner on the Ohio State Board of Commerce (1907?), was president of the National Tax Association in 1907 (1907?), and a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. In December of 1907 his address was listed as 417 Board of Trade Building, Columbus, Ohio, and he was still livingin Columbus in 1912.
In 1913 Allen, then living in Columbus, Ohio, read a paper before the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion held in Cincinnati, in which he recounted some of his more interesting wartime experiences. He closed his remarks with a tribute to the “loyal volunteer.”
Ask him now how he values the memory of that day when, with his regiment, he first left home for the scenes of war. Can the picture ever fade? Streets thronged with the populace and decorated with the flag he was to defend! Can he ever forget the holy inspiration of the silent cheer from his speechless father, mother, sister or lover as he passed them?
Ask him how he values his memory of a thousand incidents of army life that are never recorded by a single line on the page of history, but which revealed comrade to comrade, knotted life to life, and gave opportunity for the expression of nobility by noble men.
Ask him how he values his memory of the hours of conflict when the magnetic touch of elbow to elbow, comrade to comrade, gave courage and the line grew firm as adamant; when the spirit of those who fell entered into those who remained, as the dying transformed their unwilling groans into cheers for the living. In the crucible of conflict men become molten. Their blood mingles. Their souls blend. Their lives are fused into the life of the Nation. Who that has felt the mystic power, the grand exaltation, the unutterable joy of that supreme moment when his heart’s blood leaped forth as he fell at his post, would call back one drop of it for all that can be given him in return?
Ask him now how he values the memory of that day, when, duty done, his mission accomplished, with tattered battle flags, clothes soiled and torn, bronzed face and hardened muscles -- it may be with scarred and disabled body -- he returned to his home with the survivors of his regiment. Again the Streets are thronged with the populace and decorated with the National colors. The storm cloud passed, all are wild with joy made solemn by thoughts of those who could not come, remembered by none more tenderly than by those by whose side they fell. The glory of flowers, mingled with the voices of music, enchant the eye, perfume the air, exalts the soul. Suddenly, from out the mass of eager faces there darts a father, a mother, a sister or a lover, as some looked-for-one is recognized. The heart can endure the strain no longer. He is snatched from the ranks and embraced amidst the cheers of all observers.
Words!! There are no words for such moments! But the entry written by the recording angel that day will forever read -- “Thank God! My boy, my brother, my lover has done his duty.”
The days of trial and victory are passed, but the memory causes them to live forever in the eternal NOW.
Such memories are the true reward of loyal duty courageously performed. They can be possessed only by those who have earned them. Find such a one, become acquainted with him, and you will find one who will exact least from the defended and is most generous to the vanquished.
These memories stir within old soldiers their best manhood, and thrill them with the noblest pride as they look into each other’s faces. They only are capable of appreciating at their true value the comrades of the campaign, the veterans of the battlefield. They, better than all others, know how to honor him that was loyal and performed the duties of loyalty when the Nation had need of his services.
All who seek to perpetuate the history of war for the preservation of the Union by pen or brush or chisel; all who speak about or ponder over the events of those days, must ever stand uncovered in the presence of him who cay of the first battle of Bull Run, of the last grand review, or of any of the battles between -- “I performed the duties of Loyalty -- I was there.”
Allen was editor of Public Policy for some years, and he published numerous articles on, among other things, the economic implications of military-service pensions in the American Journal of Politics (June 1893) and in the Forum. In fact, Stuart McConnell in his history of the “Grand Army of the Republic,” the Civil War veterans’ organization contends that Allen “attacked the service pension proponents as ‘mercenaries’ and announced a ‘Society of Loyal Volunteers,’ dedicated to the idea that military service was a duty and not a cash transaction.”
By 1920 he was boarding (?) with the Snyder family in Mills River, Henderson County, North Carolina.
Allen died a widower of a stomach ulcer on January 14, 1921, in Hendersonville, Henderson County, North Carolina and his remains were sent to Michigan where he was buried on January 18 in Fulton cemetery, Grand Rapids: block 16.