John I. Cutler
was born May 7, 1836 in New York, son of John (1807-1892) and Christina (Spoor, 1811-1875).
John's father was, one biographer noted, "of Welsh descent and was reared to the trade of a blacksmith, and in the later years of his life was an agriculturalist,” although Bowen noted that he had “received a limited education." New York natives John and Christina were married in 1830 in Coxsackie, Greene County, New York (where Christina had been born and raised) and they settled in Coxsackie for some years. John (elder) moved the family to Delaware County, New York in about 1836 or 1837 and in 1847 settled in Chenango County, where he practiced the trade of blacksmithing as well as farming.
John (younger) was, according to one Kent County historian, “a greatly respected agriculturalist of Gaines Township” and “the fourth in a family of ten children -- two sons and eight daughters -- born to John and Christina” Cutler.
In 1853 John (elder) brought his family to Michigan and they settled in Gaines Township, Kent County, where he purchased 312 acres, “all new land, with no improvements. The first home that was erected was a log cabin on the gravel road.” His father was often sick and John (younger) was frequently required to run the family farm. Still, hereceived a limited education as the schools were very scarce in the early day” and was thus “reared to the life of an agriculturalist, and with his two good hands he has helped clear up 40 acres in his native state. He began toil in life at the early age of 10 years, and all these years has been a hard worker. When he came on the farm in Gaines Township, it was heavily timbered. He has cradled many acres of grain with the four-fingered cradle at four shillings per acre, and many a day has he cut grass with the scythe. He has used the old ox-team many a year, and many a time has he driven it to Grand Rapids; and upon Canal Street he has seen the mud and mire a foot deep. He can well remember that where the Union depot now stands there were but a few small buildings. Mr. Cutler continued in charge of his father’s farm till his majority. Mr. Cutler attended one school year in Albion Seminary, and while there he was janitor and earned $90.
By 1860 John (younger) was a farmer living in Gaines.
John married New York native Harriet Elizabeth Church (1837-1934) on March 7, 1861, at Geneseo, New York, and they had at least five children: Dr. Mary M. (b. 1865), Dr. John C. (b. 1867), Frank Daniel (b. 1870), Nellie J. (Mrs. Woodworth, b. 1870), Hattie (Mrs. Wallace Richards, b. 1874) and an adopted son Preston W. (b. 1873).
John stood 5’10” with blue eyes, auburn hair and a light complexion and was 26 years old and probably still working as a farmer in Gaines when he enlisted in Company G on August 14, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Gaines, and was mustered the same day at Detroit. He joined the Regiment on September 18 at Upton’s Hill, Virginia, and on March 26, 1863, he wrote to the Eagle from Camp Pitcher, describing recent events in the Third Michigan. “We left” Maryland, Cutler Wrote,on 26th day of last [November], forded the Potomac near Conrad's ferry, and marched westward into Virginia to Snickerville, thence south, along the east side of the Blue ridge, through Middleburg, Salem, Orleans, and Warrenton, and arrived at within 2 and a half miles of Falmouth on the 30th of Nov., where we still remain. -- We were not certain, at that time, that this camp would be our home for the winter; but engaged energetically in the work of building log-shanties, of a size suited to the accommodation of 4 soldiers each. We had hardly finished this enterprise before, at an early hour on the morning of Dec. 10th, our ideas were startled by heavy booming of cannon, and the familiar sound ‘Fall in!’ -- We were soon in line and marching toward the battle field. On nearing the river, we halted and waited orders. We crossed the Rappahannock on the 13th, at 10 AM were ordered to the front at half-past 11, to support a battery, and held an important position during that battle, where the shot and shell fell thick and fast around us; but Providence smiled upon us, and we returned to our old camp, on the 16th, with a loss of only 4 or 5 slightly wounded, and one deserted [actually two, Darwin Hendershot and William Pollock]. We broke camp again on the 20th day of [January], marched up the river, about 5 or 6 miles, and bivouacked for the night, with the supposition that we would cross the river at daylight the next morning and give battle to the enemy. We had scarcely made ourselves comfortable for the night before the rain commenced falling, and continued 48 hours, which made the roads impassable with artillery or pontoons; so we about-faced and marched back to our old camp again, on the 23rd, where we are likely to remain until settled weather this spring. Then the scenes of camp life will probably be changed to scenes of bloodshed and sorrow. Our camp is on a pleasant side hill, where wood was and water is handy. 4 months ago our campground was covered with a dense forest; now our firewood consists of short stumps cut close to the ground, and carried nearly half a mile. The army has consumed the wood from nearly a 100 square miles of Virginia timber-land. We have an abundance of food and clothing, and are generally well supplied with green-backs. The boys are anxious to visit their [Michigan] homes, see the fair faces and hear the sweet voices of their much beloved wives, children and sweethearts, but say they don't ask any odds of them in the line of cooking. Large details are frequently made from this dept. of the army, of which the 3rd form a part, for the purpose of building corduroy roads to accommodate supply trains. Our morning sick report is comparatively small. The boys are in fine spirits, and are justly proud of their noble commander, B.R.P. [Byron R. Pierce] The weather is so changeable in this climate that it is impossible to move an army successfully in winter. 3 feet of snow has fallen, but not more than 10 inches at any one time. -- Snow and rain storms have occurred alternately, so as to keep the roads in a horrible condition most of the time. Judging by the winter, we anticipate a favorable spring. Soldiers, generally, favor the conscription act, and think it the only tight way to put down the rebellion. If I am rightly informed, the Regiment numbers nearly 300 present for duty. Several have been discharged lately for disability from wounds.
The same issue of the Eagle
reprinted Cutler’s addendum of March 30, 1863.Before I had sufficient time to close and mail this article, on the morning of the 27th, orders came to fall in with blankets and 3 days rations, to go on outpost picket duty. We marched about 3 miles up the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg, and had the pleasure of picketing on the bank of the river within plain sight of the rebels, who were stationed on the opposite bank. They frequently saluted us, and indicated their friendship in various ways. One in particular, while the picket guard was looking at us, stepped back several paces and imitated a man swimming -- as much as to say, ‘If I had liberty I would soon be with you.’ The same day a Lieutenant and 3 noncoms are said to have come over to our lines, further up the river, and given themselves up, stating that they had fished for a living as long as they were going to. During the 3 days that our regt. stayed on picket, the rebels might be seen fishing in various places along the opposite bank, at all times of the day, some with hook and line, and some with a small dip net; but, in either case, they were poorly paid for their trouble. After watching them for a long time, one could not but come to the conclusion that they had not cast their net on the right side of the ship. But the time is near at hand when fishing will be played out, and our boys will play them a game at ball (and perhaps bawl). 2 powerful armies are here, separated by a stream of water not half so large as the Grand River; and it is my opinion that only a few days separate both from one of the bloodiest battles of the war, unless the rebels skedaddle immediately. We are waiting only for a few days of good weather to show the world that the army of the Potomac is not demoralized; that it is our turn to whip this time; that Gen. Hooker is the man to lead us on from victory to victory; and that, although I, and perhaps a 100,000 more, may fall in battle, this uncalled for and unjust rebellion must and will be swept from the face of the earth, and the stars and stripes again float unmolested "from the flagstaff of every city town and fortress" from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the lakes to the Gulf. Then, mothers, do not mourn as your brave sons are marching boldly to the field of carnage. If they fall, they fall in defence of that which Heaven ordained for them. If they return, they will return prepared to live better lives in a better country. Beloved wives and little ones, while we regret that many of you are to become widows and orphans by this war, and left to select your own pathway among cowards and traitors, we rejoice that it is your privilege to meet us in that bright home above, where goodness is forever in glory, and wars will never come.
In May of 1863 John was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the left chest, possibly received on May 3 at Chancellorsville, Virginia, and he remained in the hospital through July.
It appears that John had returned to the regiment by the time it was sent north to New York to provide security for the upcoming draft in that state. The regiment spent nearly two weeks in Troy, New York and returned to the Army of the Potomac in early September.
On September 16, from the regiment’s quarters in Washington, John wrote an open letter to the “Citizens of Troy”we have not forgotten you. The reception we me with in our arrival at your city, the kind treatment shown, and the many little presents bestowed upon us as tokens of your friendship to and sympathies with us as defenders of our country, the many kind words spoken while we were with you, and so clear a manifestation of your friendship on the evening of our departure, all contribute largely in making you seem near and dear to every soldier in the regiment. Be assured, dear friends, that those invitations to your houses, those various kinds of delicious fruit, and other tokens brought to us in camp, and more especially those waving handkerchiefs and exclamations of “Good-bye”, as the steamer bore us onward to the seat of war, were all big and expressive words to the soldier. Not only the pleasant time generally we had while with you, but yourselves individually and collectively will live in our minds a whole lifetime. When we left the field, we had a faint hope of a visit down East; we more than met our expectations. We came cheerfully to your city, and you are well aware we came cheerfully away; we are now going cheerfully to the field of battle; and, led by our noble commander, I trust we will, if need be, go cheerfully to our graves in defense of our much afflicted country. We are now at the city of Washington, and have orders to start to the front at daylight tomorrow morning. Quite a change! We will no more be seen tripping down the sidewalk to Carpenter’s hotel for breakfast, but may be seen proceeding from our lowly beds on cold damp ground – some starting for the little running brook with canteens for water, and others breaking dry branches from the trees, whittling kindlings, building fire, filling cups, packing up our houses (little tents), etc. The coffee is soon cooked; then, of course, breakfast is ready. We then soon find ourselves seated upon our beds (the ground), where we dispose of our ration of hard-tack, pork and coffee. By this time, the bugle will call us to attention; we are soon in line, and forward march to no one knows where. Don’t you believe we’ll think of Troy? Most assuredly we will; also, of our far-off Western homes. The army of the Potomac is again on the move. There have been some skirmishes recently, which have been favorable to our cause, all preparatory to another terrible battle, which we hope and trust will result in a total rout of Lee’s army. To you that oppose the Administration and the Union, I would say oppose it no more; it only beckons the South on to a more terrible destruction, while at the same time it not only increases out already immense expenditures, but subjects you to the fate of those who are now facing our giant foe. For the time will come “when the stars and stripes will again float from the flag-staff of every city, town and fortress” from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the lakes to the gulf. If three hundred thousand conscripts and a million of treasure per day won’t accomplish the object, more will be used. The Union will be restored. Notwithstanding there is a lack of time, we would not fail to speak a word to you, dear children (for I am a great lover of children). You still live in our memories, with increasing interest, as we go forth to battle with our country’s foes, not less for yourselves than for us. My little friends! Have you ever thought of the fact that those who are now but children will soon have the rule of Government? Our fathers are one after another dropping away, and soon you will arrive at the period of manhood and must occupy some position in life. What shall yours be? Now is the time to determine. Let is set our mark in the world and never yield to discouragement. May it be our first and greatest object to accomplish the high and nobler purpose for which we were created – that we may pass off this preparatory state of existence with a knowledge that we have not lived in vain, and that the world may acknowledge itself better for our having lived in it. If my life should be spared and I again permitted to see you somewhere in the wide world, may it be my greatest delight to learn that you are good and useful men and women. Hoping that none of our soldier boys were so un kind as to leave a stain upon our character in your city, and that I may hear from many of you again, I subscribe myself, yours very respectfully, Private J. I. Cutler, Company G, Third Michigan.
By December John was reported as a guard at the First Division headquarters through January of 1864, in February he was detailed to Corps headquarters, and in March was on detached service at Division headquarters. He soon rejoined the Regiment and was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.
John was shot in the left side of his chest on June 16, near Petersburg, Virginia, the “ball entering at junction of fifth rib with sternum, fracturing it at that point, passing outwards and emerging about an inch below the nipple.” He was admitted on June 20 to the hospital at City Point, Virginia. He was subsequently admitted to Lovell hospital in Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island on June 26 and transferred on September 2 to and admitted on September 6 to Skellary’s (?) hospital in Detroit. On November 25 he was admitted to Harper Hospital in Detroit where he remained until he was discharged at Detroit on either March 21 or April 27, 1865, for disabilities resulting from his wounds.
John returned to his home in Gaines and by 1870 he was working as a farmer (he owned some $7000 worth of real estate and another $2000 of personal property) and was living with his wife and three children next door to his parents (his father owned some $6000 worth of real estate) in Gaines.
According to local historian Bowen, John was a supporter of “the republican policy, and the first presidential vote he cast was for Lincoln,” but during his later years he tended toward a “a strong prohibition principle” and in fact “he has been selected by the prohibition party to represent them in County and state conventions, and always received the nominations from his party for important positions in the Township, and was also nominated for County treasurer by the same party. He takes high ground as to the public schools, and he believes in the best of teachers which can be procured, and in keeping up the best improvements to advance the children to a higher and better education and place in life. He is one of the heavy taxpayers of the Township, and a man who has aimed to let nothing impede the progress of improvement and advancement.”
John and his wife were “ardent church members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and Mr. Cutler has aided in the erection of 6 different churches in the community, which shows that he has been generous,” and they regularly attended the Methodist church on Division Street in Grand Rapids. Bowen added that “The estate of Mr. Cutler comprises 486 acres in Gaines and Byron Townships. The beautiful brick mansion is of three stories and basement under the entire residence, with stone base. The elegant home is finely finished in hard wood, is heated by furnace, and fitted with electric bells and gas. The residence is a model of a beautiful home, built in the Romanesque style of architecture. It was erected in 1901, and most of the natural woods were taken from the Cutler estate. Mr. Cutler is a gentleman of large executive ability and business experience, and the family is one of the most highly respected in the Township.”
John was living in Gaines in 1870, working on his farm, and in Fisher Station or Dutton (both in Gaines Township) in 1883 and 1888 and in Gaines, Kent County in 1890, but generally he resided in or near Gaines most of his postwar life. Cutlerville in Gaines Township, was named after his father who was one of the pioneer settlers of that part of the County, and, according to Louise Downs, “they were the largest land owners in that area.” Downs added that “In 1910 Pine Rest Christian hospital was established and had its beginnings in the Cutler mansion built" in 1891.”
John was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and he received pension no. 123,942, drawing $4.00 in 1883.
John fell ill in 1911, lapsed into a coma and died on March 3, 1911, presumably at home in Gaines. He was buried in Blain cemetery, Kent County.
His widow applied for and received a pension (no. 724,818).