Daniel and James Birdsall

Daniel E. Birdsall was born October 10, 1842, in Westchester County, New York, the son of James G. (b. 1810) and possibly the son of Harriet (Manning, b. 1820).

New York natives James and Harriet were presumably married in New York and resided there for some years; they were living in Westchester County in 1842 and in New York City in 1846 (when their daughter Mary was born). In 1858 James moved from New York and moved the family in Michigan. He was overseer of a large farm owned by the D. & L. Angevine company of New York, a wholesale flour company. By 1860 James had settled in Hastings, Barry County, where he opened up a blacksmith’s shop, which he operated until the war broke out. That same year Daniel worked as an apprentice carpenter in Hastings working for A. Cotan (it is not clear whether Daniel was living with his family or not).

Daniel stood 5’7” with dark eyes, black hair and a light complexion and was 18 years old and may have been working as apprentice mechanic in Hastings when he enlisted in the Hastings Rifle Company in April of 1861. The company was disbanded shortly after it arrived in Grand Rapids to become part of the Third Michigan infantry then forming at Cantonment Anderson just south of the city, and Daniel eventually enlisted in Company E, along with his father James on May 13, 1861.

Shortly after the Third Michigan arrived at Camp Blair, along the banks of the Potomac, on June 16, 1861, Dan along with several other soldiers from Hastings wrote the editor of the Hastings Banner,

We are all here in Camp in good spirits, occupying an elevated position on the Potomac, six miles north of the city of Washington, and going through the usual performances of Camp life. The days are occupied in drill, and the nights are more or less used for scouting, but we see none of the enemy. There are several regiments encamped close by us, and more coming in every day. The District of Columbia is so occupied by troops that there is, seemingly, scarcely room for another Regiment. Our Fourth of July was very curt [?]. We have about made up our minds that we have left no friends in Hastings; we have written from five to eight letters each, and have received no answers. A few lines from home would do us much good, especially from our friends, if we have any. If money is scarce out that way and our friends are out of postage stamps and envelopes, let them draw on us and they can be accommodated.

December 18, 1861, was a rather rainy day when Dan Birdsall of Company E took the opportunity to write the editor of the Hastings Banner and describe the Regiment’s winter quarters.

As to-day is somewhat rainy, and having a sheet of paper and franked envelope on hand for which I had no particular use, I thought I would drop you a few lines from the land of Dixie. The sacred soil of Virginia is converted into a vast sea of mud by the late rain, but, thanks to General Richardson, our camp is in a dry place. We are in a nice piece of woods, five miles from Alexandria, on the Richmond road. The General gave us to understand that this would be our winter quarters; and the boys are engaged in erecting log cabins, for winter accommodation. Our camp begins to look quite like a little village, and the boys are as happy as kings. The tent I am in is set upon a stockade. There are sixteen who live in it. We have a fiddler in our tent, and some evenings we get one of the many contrabands that are about us, and have them go down on a “Virginia break-down”, much to the amusement of the lookers on. A few days ago, our Division was reviewed by General Heintzelman; tomorrow it will be reviewed by Gen. McClellan and staff. Our boys like going on picket very much except sleeping out nights. There are a few families out near our lines, that the boys think entertain secesh feelings, and we make them supply us with chickens and fresh pork, and the way that we get our poultry etc., out there, would hardly agree with the citizens of Hastings, but it has to do here. I have seen many a noble chicken taken prisoner and put to death by our boys, for not taking the oath of allegiance; and hogs have been known to share the same fate. A few of the boys from Barry are in the hospital, but none of them, are dangerously sick. We can occasionally hear heavy firing from the rebel batteries on the Potomac, at our vessels as they pass up and down the river under the cover of night. We should all like to engage the enemy in battle, but the prospect is not very good at present. A few nights since two squads of pickets belonging to the Michigan Second, were driven in by a party of rebel cavalry, one of the pickets had two buttons shot from his coat. The attack was so sudden that the men left their blankets and knapsacks,m which were taken by the rebels. Tomorrow I shall have to go on guard, and pass away eight long and dreary hours in walking my lonely beat. Occasionally, during the night, the voice of some drowsy sentry will break out on the air with “Who comes there; advance and give the countersign”, and other similar expressions; but what pleases us most, when we are on guard, is to hear the cry of “Third relief -- fall in.” Christmas is close are hand, and the papers say that we shall have liberty to visit all the neighboring camps in the division, without a pass. Our Chaplain [Rev. Francis Cuming] has established a library for our regiment which we highly praise. We anxious await the arrival of the paymaster, to distribute some yellow pieces among us. It is almost dinner time, and I will close this by wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Daniel was reported as a Sergeant, in February of 1863 and in May was awarded the “Kearny Cross” for his part in the battle of Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863.

Daniel was wounded on July 2 at Gettysburg “by a piece of shell striking him in the head, but within a week he rejoined his Regiment.” (The Third Michigan was hotly engaged at the Peach Orchard on July 2.) He eventually recovered, however, and reenlisted on December 23, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Byron, Kent County. Daniel presumably went home to Michigan on a thirty-day veteran’s furlough, and probably returned to the regiment by the first of February, 1864.

He was transferred to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and that same month he was promoted to Second Lieutenant replacing Lieutenant Jerome Ten Eyck, and commissioned First Lieutenant on September 1, replacing Lieutenant James McGinley.

Daniel was wounded “in the right arm, a ball passing through his wrist” on October 27 at Boydton Plank road, and subsequently hospitalized at City Point, Virginia. On October 29 Dr. F. F. Burmeister in charge of the Second Corps hospital at City Point noted that Birdsall was unfit for duty and would remain so for at least 30 days. Daniel then went home on leave, and on December 8, he was examined by a physician in Detroit who recommended to the War Department that his furlough be extended since he was not fit to travel. Unfit or not, while he was home on leave he married New York or Michigan native Sarah Delia McClellan (1845-1932), on December 22, 1864, in Hastings, and they had at least three children: James Lewis (1865-1869), Henry E. (b. 1868) and Charles D. (b. 1878).

Daniel soon returned to the east, however, and was admitted on December 20, 1864, to ward seven (the officers’ ward), in the general hospital at Annapolis, Maryland. (Note the date of the marriage conflicts with the date of his admission to the hospital.) It was reported that he had just returned from leave and “suffering from the effects of a gunshot wound in wrist and right forearm fracturing the radius necessitating resection of 2 1/2 inches.” The examining physician noted that “the wound is healed requiring no treatment” but that “he has no use of hand.” He was discharged on January 10, 1865, for wounds received in action.

After he left the army Daniel returned to his home in Hastings, “where he was engaged in the carpenter's and joiner's trade, having learned the business before entering the war. In the spring of 1873 he purchased his present farm, which consists of 80 acres of valuable land, and began its improvement.”

In fact, he spent the remainder of his life in Hastings where he served as alderman, as Township treasurer for three terms and one of the trustees of the city.

By 1870 Daniel was working as a carpenter and living with his wife and children in Hastings. Daniel worked for some years as a carpenter and then took up farming a few miles east of Hastings, on section 34. By 1880 Daniel was living with his wife and two sons in Hastings where he worked as a farmer. He eventually retired from farming and moved back into town. He served as a member of the city council in 1871, as alderman from the First Ward in 1907 and from 1910 to 1914 was the County drain commission.

Daniel was living in Hastings in 1890 and by 1915 was residing at 235 E. Thorn Street.

Daniel was a Republican, a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, as well as Grand Army of the Republic Fitzgerald Post No. 125 in Hastings. He applied for and received pension no. 40,975 (dated April of 1865) at the rate of $15.00 per month in 1883, and increased to $40 per month by 1917.

He was still living at his home on Thorn Street when he died on July 14, 1917. At his funeral honorary pallbearers were David Crawford, Henry Patterson, M. D. Reed and William Paustle, all former members of the Old Third infantry; other pallbearers were Archie Anderson, Charles Weissert, John Weissert and Henry Sheldon. He was buried on July 17 in Riverside cemetery, Hastings: block P-north, lot numbers 8 and 9, graves southwest 1/4-3.

His widow received pension no. 847,424, drawing $50 per month by 1932. Sarah was living at 1148 Madison ave., SE, in Grand Rapids, when she died in March of 1932; she was buried beside her husband. (She had been in Grand Rapids for the last three years of her life, under the care of one Rose VanderMeer, who claimed that Mrs. Birdsall was suffering from significant mental debility.)

James G. Birdsall was born around 1810 in New York.

James may have been married to New York native Harriet (Manning, b. 1820); she had been married previously to one Henry or Harry Comstock. It is quite possible that if they were married that she was his second wife. In any case, James had at least two children: Daniel (1842-1917) and Mary (b. 1846). James and his family were probably living in New York City in 1846.

In 1858 James brought his family to Michigan “for the purpose of taking charge of a large farm owned by D. & L. Angevine, New York capitalists, members of a large wholesale flour firm. He was a blacksmith by trade and while residing in the Empire State did the repairing of tools for the company that built the great Croton Aqueduct.” In 1860 James moved the family to Hastings where he opened a blacksmith's shop; his wife Harriet (or perhaps "Carnit") and his daughter mary were both living with him. Next door lived Henry Kingsbury and Cody Reed -- with the family of Dr. Albert Bomtul (?) -- Henry and Cody would also enlist in the Third Michigan.

James was 51 years and living in Barry County when he enlisted in Company E on May 13, 1861, along with his son Daniel. James was absent sick in the hospital from October of 1862 to September of 1863, and transferred to the Veterans’ Reserve Corps on September 1, 1863, at Washington, DC.

There is no further record.

It appears however that in 1866 James applied for a pension (no. 108586), but the certificate was never granted.