Abram, Ketchum

Abram, Ketchum was born in 1823 in New York, the son of Lewis K. and Elizabeth (Becker).

Abram married New York native Aseneth (1823-1880), probably in New York, and they had at least three children: Jerome (b. 1850) and two others who died in August and October of 1863.

Abram and his wife were living in New York in 1850 when their son was born but eventually moved westward and sometime in the late 1850s had settled in Michigan. Abram was probably living in western Michigan in 1857 when he purchased 80 acres of land through the Ionia land office.

Abram stood 5’10” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was a 39-year-old farmer possibly living in Ionia County, Michigan, when he enlisted in Company G on February 23, 1862, at Saranac or Boston, Ionia County for 3 years, and was mustered on February 25 (or 28) at Detroit.

On August 5, 1862 Abram was admitted to the hospital at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, “though not dangerously sick,” suffering from chronic diarrhea.

He allegedly deserted on September 21, 1862, at Upton’s Hill, Virginia. In fact he was put about the steamer Elm City on August 10 and sent to the hospital at Chester, Pennsylvania. He was admitted to the Chester hospital on August 12 suffering from hemorrhoids and was returned to duty on December 12, 1862. He arrived at Camp Distribution, Virginia on December 16, was examined by the medical board at the Convalescent Camp in Alexandria and was found to be suffering from fever and entered the Post Hospital, at the camp on January 3, 1863. He returned to the Regiment on April 10, 1863, at Camp Sickles, Virginia.

Abram was reported either missing in action or having deserted on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Virginia, and he “returned from desertion” on February 14, 1864, at Camp Bullock, Virginia, and placed under arrest as a deserter. He was subsequently court-martialed at Johnson’s House, Virginia on February 19, 1864.

Specifically, he was charged with having deserted from Camp Parole at Annapolis, Maryland on or about May 8, 1863 “and did not return until arrested and brought back under guard” to the regiment at Camp Bullock, Virginia, on February 14, 1864. Corporal Philo Weir testified that he and Abram were both taken prisoner on May 3, 1863 and taken to Richmond where they remained together as prisoners until paroled and they were both together briefly at Camp Parole, Maryland. Weir was asked by the Judge Advocate what he knew of Abram’s status at Camp Parole. “He left there pretty soon,” Weir answered, “ the next day I think after he got there but I don’t know how he left or whether he got a furlough.” Abram then asked the witness if he was positive he went away the day they arrived in Maryland. Weir answered he was not positive.

Question by defendant: Do you remember of my being sick about the time we arrived at the camp?

Answer: I think I do remember of your being sick about that time.

Major M. B. Houghton of the Third Michigan infantry (and a member of the court) was then called to the stand by the prosecution.

Question: Do you recollect seeing him [the defendant] in the state of Michigan during the present months?

Answer: I do.

Question: Did you have any conversation with him?

Answer: I did.

Question: Will you state what that was.

Answer: He asked me when his company was and I told him in Lansing Michigan. He said he was anxious to get with his company again. He asked me if he had been exchanged. And I told him he had been.

Question; Did he tell you anything about leaving Camp Parole?

Answer: He did not that I now recollect.

Question: Did you see him at any other time in Michigan?

Answer: I did – I saw him last August [1863] at my house in Saranac. He then asked me if he was exchanged and said he was very anxious to get back to the Regt. I do not recollect much of the conversation. I was sick. I do mot remember that he told me how long he had been home. I have never had any other conversation with him nor seen him at any other time. I did not hear him say anything of his being arrested.

Question: Do you know when the exchange was made?

Answer: I think it was in the first of September last.

Question: Did you inform the prisoner of that fact?

Answer: I did in my conversation with him in January.

After being cross-examined briefly by the defendant, Abram asked for a recess until February 25, which was granted.

Abram then submitted a statement in his defense.

Had it been my intention to desert the service of the U.S. I could have reached Canada within six hours but that I never did desert or intended to do so. I think [it] is clearly shown . . . that I was ready and anxious to join my regiment. I have never failed to do my duty as a soldier and during my absence have lived in the community where my Regt was organized expecting to join it as soon as exchanged. I trust that this Honorable Court will take into consideration the fact that I was on my way to join my company at Lansing Mich when I was arrested. Had the charge been absent without leave my plea would have been guilty but not guilty of desertion. One excuse which I have to offer is that severe sickness in my family which resulted in the death of one of my children in the month of august and another in the month of October made me quite anxious to remain after the death & burial of my children. I tried several times to ascertain if I had been exchanged that I might return to my Regt and to duty and I am now here guilty of absence without leave but not of desertion.

Abram was found guilty but the charge of “did desert” was struck and “did absent himself without leave” was inserted instead. He was ordered to forfeit six months’ pay and make good the six months’ time he was absent.

In May he was absent sick in the hospital, and was still absent sick when he was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Regiments on June 10, 1864. He remained absent sick through December of 1864, and probably until he was discharged on May 31 or June 2, 1865, near Washington, DC.

After the war Abram returned to Ionia County where he lived for some years. By 1870 he was working as a farmer (he owned some $2000 worth of real estate) and living with his wife and son in South Cass, Odessa Township, Ionia County, and in 1880 Abram was working as a farmer and living with his wife in Boston, Ionia County.

Abram eventually moved out west and by 1887 he had settled in the Dakota Territory when he applied for and received a pension (no. 398,823), drawing $12 per month by 1906. He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.

He was living in South Dakota when he married his second wife, the widow Mrs. Annie Palmer (d. 1912), on July 28, 1888, possibly in Clear Lake, Duel County, South Dakota.

According to his second wife, they lived together until about June of 1892 when Abram left her and returned to Ionia County, Michigan. She added “that the reasons for his leaving was a disagreement between his stepson William Palmer and himself and . . . that before his leaving she requested him to stay and live with her . . . but he refused to do so.” Nor did Abram “try to conceal his place of residence and at intervals did inform his wife . . . of his whereabouts and health” but “that after he entered the soldiers’ home at Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1902, he stopped all correspondence and from that time on she never heard from him.” However she further claimed that there was never any divorce. In fact however, Abram did divorce Margaret after he returned to Ionia County.

By 1894 Abram was in Saranac, in Lake Odessa in 1897 and back in Saranac by 1898. On January 3, 1902, he was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 3968).

Abram died of “old age” at 4:00 a.m. on April 12, 1906, and was buried in the Home cemetery: section 4, row 19, grave 30.

In May of 1909 his widow was living in South Dakota when she applied for and received a pension (no. 701795). She was probably living in Clear Lake, South Dakota, when she died in 1912.