George Vanderpool

George Vanderpool was born on September 7, 1840, in Benson, Hamilton County, New York, the son of Sophia (Van Heusen).

George left New York and moved west, and may have settled in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan, as early as 1857 and worked as a clerk for Ryerson & Hill & Co. George worked a year or so for Smith & Odell, for William Morton, possibly for Rice & Morris, and possibly for William Martin. By 1860, however, he had returned to New York and was probably working as a laborer and living with the Gradley (?) family in Bleecker, Fulton County.

George stood 5’8” with brown eyes and hair and a florid complexion. (His prison record of February of 1870 describes him as a male with “white/light complexion, 5’8’’, auburn hair, slightly gray, large round blue eyes” with a “high full forehead, prominent roman nose, small fine mouth, full lips,” and a small chin.) He was 20 years old and working as a laborer in Muskegon when he enlisted with the consent of the Justice of the Peace in Company H on May 6, 1861. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers,” was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.) George was reported on detached service in October of 1862, sick in the hospital in November of 1862 and again in January of 1863.

George was discharged on February 5, 1863, at Third Corps hospital, Fort Lyon, Virginia, for “inguinal hernia of the left side brought on by straining while carrying a log in January 1862.” George claimed in 1863 that “While on duty with his regiment at Camp Michigan” in January of 1862, “and while carrying a pole to build a cook shanty he stepped and fell and the pole falling on him produced a rupture on the left side. By [using] a truss he was able to and did do duty from that time till about the middle of September 1862 when his rupture became so aggravated and painful that he could not do duty any longer and went into the hospital October 11, 1862.”

Some years later George testified that “The soil being wet and slippery after a frost, while carrying a heavy oak pole I fell with the pole across me injuring me internally and this was the starting point of my hernia on the right side.” Throughout the spring and summer, during the Peninsula campaign he wore a truss. However, he stated, “it was imperfect and in marching with belt - cartridge box - knapsack etc. my truss became misplaced and my hernia was so sore and inflamed as to cause sickness at the stomach. That day seventeen of my company of twenty-six were killed or wounded, and the action heated up my blood, and a very heavy rain followed toward evening (of the same day, and near the spot where General Phil Kearny met his death). I took a severe cold and next day Surgeon Grove . . . had me loaded into an ambulance and taken to Camp Fisher near Alexandria.”

According to First Lieutenant Thomas Waters, formerly of Company H, in his pension affidavit for Vanderpool, “While in the line of duty with his Regiment at Camp Michigan, Virginia and while carrying a pole to build a cook shanty, he slipped and fell and the pole falling on him produced a rupture on the left side. He did duty, however, after that as before as a true and faithful soldier and was engaged in the battles of Bull Run, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill and the two battles of Bull Run. By the hardships incident to all these battles his rupture became so bad that he could not do duty longer being unfitted for military duty and from earning his living at manual laborer. His case is a very meritorious one and deserving of a pension.”

Curiously, however, several years later Waters had a somewhat different opinion of Vanderpool. When Vanderpool was on trial for murder in 1870, several former members of Company H testified for the prosecution claiming that Vanderpool’s reputation for “honesty, integrity and humanity” among his comrades in the company, was bad. Waters was asked by the prosecution if he had “the means of knowing what the reputation of Vanderpool [was] among his associates in the regiment for honesty, integrity and humanity?” Mr. Hughes, for the defense, “objected to this, claiming that reputation in the community where the person resided, among his neighbors, was what must be proved. The objection was overruled and exception taken. The witness then answered that he knew Vanderpool’s reputation, and that it was bad. He was not cross-examined.”

Sam Murray, another former member of Company H, testified that “Vanderpool’s reputation among his military associates . . . for honesty, integrity and humanity . . . was not first-rate.” Murray also said that to the best of his knowledge Vanderpool had never fired his musket, and that he “used to see him scuffle with the other soldiers; never noticed much about his strength.” Once again, the defense “objected to the testimony and exception to the Judge’s ruling by which it was admitted.” The prosecution argued “that they proposed to show that Vanderpool’s reputation was not only bad, but that he had never, while in the service, been in an engagement or fired a musket in the army.” Under cross-examination the James Van Arman for the defense, Murray said that he

was not in command of the company at the battle of Fair Oaks; I was in the battle. Vanderpool was not in the battle, I think. James Lebel [Lavelle] was killed in that battle. I do not think Vanderpool was in that battle by Lebel’s side. Layman [Lyman] Lull was wounded in that battle; I cannot remember that Vanderpool was in that battle and helped carry Lull from the field. I was in the last battle of Bull Run [Groveton or Second Manassas]; James [William] Ryan was shot there; Peter Archer was missing in that battle; don’t remember that Vanderpool was in that battle; don’t know that he was not in the second battle of Bull Run; don’t know that he was not in the battle of Fair Oaks. He was a member of the company at the time of both battles. At the siege of Yorktown our company were under cannonading fire, not much else, I believe. I have known Vanderpool at Muskegon since the war. His general reputation there was good. I remember a skirmish at Aquia Creek in which our company was engaged; I was not in it. While Vanderpool was a member of the company it was in the battles of first Bull Run, the skirmish at Aquia Creek, the siege of Yorktown, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, etc. I don’t know that he was absent from any one of these battles. I don’t know that he was absent from the company from the time he joined it until he was discharged, a single day except in hospital.

Question: Where in was his reputation not first rate?

Answer: We used to call it “cramping on the sutler” -- used to get things without paying for them.

Question: Which do you think were the most honest, the sutler or the soldiers?

Answer: The soldiers generally, I think.

Redirect: I heard it said that several of the men were engaged in getting things from the sutler; sometimes by means of forged order and sometimes by “reaching for things.”

William Ryan, also formerly of H company and from Muskegon, then swore under oath that he knew Vanderpool’s reputation among his associates to be bad. Under cross-examination, Ryan stated that he believed George had been “borne on the rolls of the company for a year and eight or ten months, but he was about in the hospital most of the time; he was discharged from the hospital. I think about eight or ten months. I can’t say how long he was in hospital; I think about eight or ten months; he was absent from the company two months. I was absent from the army from wounds 30 days. I was wounded in the second battle of Bull Run; Vanderpool was not in the battle of Bull Run. I have no recollection of scolding Vanderpool on the Centreville heights for making coffee in certain way and being late. He was not in action. I heard it remarked that he had forged orders on the sutler and taken some bottles of wine and canned fruit. His general reputation in Muskegon is good. Can’t say who I heard say that he had forged orders on the sutler.”

Following his discharge from the army George returned to Muskegon where he lived for several years, boarding with and working for John Rudiman. He married Helen Mary Case (1846-1926) on August 11, 1868, in Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, and they had two children: Fred Case (b. 1872) and Dora Anna (b. 1880).

George and Helen moved to Manistee, Manistee County in November of 1868. Shortly after moving to Manistee George entered into a banking business partnership with a young man by the name of Herbert Field who provided much if not most of the capital for the venture.

On September 5, 1869, Herbert Field disappeared, and after about one week Vanderpool was arrested on suspicion of having murdered his partner. On September 17 Field’s body was found on a Lake Michigan beach about 28 miles north of Manistee, and it was deduced that he had met with foul play. The body was brought to Manistee and, after a coroner’s inquest, Vanderpool was indicted for murder.

He was arraigned for the crime of murder on December 22, 1869, before the Circuit Court for Manistee County, and he pled not guilty. The trial commenced on February 1, 1870 and after thirteen days of taking evidence and six days of summing up by counsel, Vanderpool made his statement on the February 25 in which he continued to claim his innocence. The jury went out and six hours later returned with the verdict of guilty. On February 26 Vanderpool was sentenced to life in solitary confinement and was transferred to the prison at Ionia, Ionia County.

His counsel sought a new trial and his various friends in Michigan and particularly in Muskegon began to raise funds and clamor for another trial, arguing that Vanderpool had not received a fair trial in Manistee. The request was granted and a second trial was held in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County and Vanderpool was released from prison on May 9 pending his new trial. By early July he was reported in the jail in Kalamazoo village; his wife was also living in Kalamazoo village at the time. The trial commenced in Kalamazoo in late October and lasted until November 22, 1870. The jury failed to agree on a verdict, however, and a third trial was held in late August of 1871 in Hastings, Barry County, which resulted in his acquittal on September 14.

Following his release from custody he moved his family to Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio . By 1880 George was working as a shoemaker and living with his wife and children on Clay Street in Tiffin, Ohio. They remained in Tiffin until 1884 moving to Kansas City, Missouri where they lived for a year or so. In 1888 he and his wife moved back to New York and settled in Mayfield, where he lived out the remainder of his days working as a farmer. In 1920 George was still living in Mayfield along with his wife and daughter.

He received pension no. 21,797, and was drawing $50.00 per month in 1922.

George died of myocarditis and arteriosclerosis on December 19, 1922, at his home in Mayfield and was buried in Mayfield cemetery.

His widow Helen applied for and received a pension (no. 93221).