was born November 16, 1836, in Clotten Regir (?), Kreis Cochen, Coblenz, Prussia, son of Mathias Joseph (d. 1884) and Margaretha (Herberz, d. 1851).
About the middle of May of 1852, a year after his wife died, Mathias took his three sons and boarded a flatboat on the Moselle River for Coblenz where they then boarded a steamer on the Rhine River and headed for Rotterdam. From there they went to London and then on to New York, crossing the Atlantic in about 47 days. From New York they took a steamboat up the Hudson River to Albany, then by rail to Buffalo and by boat on Lake Erie to Sandusky, Ohio, The Castors, along with two other German families, remained in Sandusky for a short time. Mathias placed the boys at a neighbor’s house while he set off with several other men to Allegan County, Michigan, having heard that a substantial amount of government land was for sale, and by the end of 1854 Mathias had in fact reached Allegan County.
By the spring of 1856 Theodore had joined his father in Michigan and was working at Dorvey’s mill in Allegan County cutting logs for $26.00 per month. He remained at Dorvey’s through the fall but over the winter 1856-57 he hired himself out to a man by the name of Wilson for cutting logs and splitting rails for fences. In the fall of 1857 he and his brother Peter returned to their father’s home and helped him clear another six acres of land. Theodore then worked at cutting logs for a hotelkeeper for a short while before moving to Grand Rapids where he got a job as a teamster. He remained there through the winter of 1857-58 and in the spring of 1858 returned home, where he helped put in the crops and with other chores around his father’s farm.
Theodore then went up the Muskegon River in the winter of 1858-59 and probably worked at a logging camp, returning to Allegan County in the spring of 1859. He remained at home helping on his father’s farm throughout the year and in the winter of 1859-60 assisted his brother Peter to clear land on his new farm (Peter had recently married). In 1860 Theodore was a farm laborer working for Albert Kros or Krause in Salem, Allegan County, where he remained through the summer and fall. In late 1860, he “hired out to a man,” Castor wrote years later,
by the name of Daly who was putting logs in Black Creek . . . for Frank Stockbridge. My job was scaling the logs and that was the first lumbering that was done in Salem. About that time there was a good deal of talk of war and about the middle of April the whole camp -- 32 of us concluded to enlist for three months. And as everybody that the war would be over by that time and as I wanted to see the world and have some fun at the expense of Uncle Sam, I thought three months wasn't very long and I would be back by the 4th of July, I concluded to go but the boss wouldn't let us go until we helped him running the logs out of the creek and into the Kalamazoo River. And it took us until about the 10th of May. When we started from Saga-Took (Saugatuck) by the way of Holland afoot to Grand Rapids; and on the 13th day of May enlisted for three months to serve the U.S. After I had enlisted, I wrote to my girl [Barbara Schwander] about it and she didn't like it very much. I wrote to her that I would come home in a few days and that I would leave everything to her and make a will and if I got killed that everything belonged to her. And as she couldn't read German she had to take it to my brother [probably Peter] to read it to her. And that letter made very hard feelings on my side of the family. Before I went home I made my will, delivered it to her and told her to take charge of everything. I left her 490.00 in cash, 160 bushels of wheat, cattle, hogs, and a good bed and 40 acres. The wheat she sold for $1.75 per bushel and loaned out all the money she had. She never spent one cent of her money. She stayed with her folks and they kept her in clothes and everything she needed for her labor. I stayed a few days with her and then we parted both agreeing never to forget each other.
Theodore stood 5’4” with gray eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was 24 years old and living in Allegan County when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles”, a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)
According to his unpublished memoirs, Theodore was involved in a massive strike by many of the men in the Regiment in September of 1861. Shortly after the surrender of Fort Sumter in mid-April of 1861 President Lincoln announced a call to the states for 75,000 soldiers to serve 90 days. Shortly afterwards, however, the War Department decided that not only was another call for troops necessary but that those men who had originally been enlisted for ninety days should be remustered for three years or the duration of the war. The German soldiers from the west side of Grand Rapids who had enlisted during that first call, perhaps lacking a firm understanding of the English language, left Grand Rapids believing they had enlisted for only three months (the original call by Lincoln in April) when in fact they had been sworn in for three years.
On September 10, Castor wrote years later, “we struck and next day refused to work for Uncle Sam any longer. We were ordered out but we didn't go and in a few hours we was surrounded by cannons, calvary [sic] and infantry. And soon after that President Lincoln, Secretary Seward, Governor Blair of Michigan, our Senators and Representatives from Michigan and others visited our camp, made us a speech, called us all kinds of pet names, told us that we could not go home, that (19) we was in for three years and what they would to us if we would any longer refuse duty. After they was gone the order was given to fall in for drill and everybody got in line, and that settled our hash for three years.”
By late fall he had been assigned as a company cook. “I had two assistants and didn't have to work very hard, but we had to cook out in the open and no shelter and it by that time rained lots. I got disgusted with the job and told the captain to find somebody else, but I had to stay with it for three months before I got somebody to take my place. I was eighty dollars ahead when I quit -- I could sell everything . . . we didn't use for cash, and keep the money. Folks from the City came after and were glad to get it.”
Theodore was indeed adept at “scrounging” for himself and his company. During the early phases of the Peninsular campaign in March and April of 1862, while the Regiment was at Yorktown, Virginia, “One day while we were grading a road on a side hill and digging out a stump, I found a solid six pound cannon ball that was supposedly shot under there at the time of the Revolution. I carried it into camp and sold it to our sutler for five dollars worth of cheese and cookies. Cheese was worth at that time one dollar per pound.” Shortly afterwards, “while we were on picket and on duty, four of us on the reserve sat down on the ground to play poker and a shell busted right overhead of us and a piece burried [sic] itself about six inches in the ground right in the center of the four of us. We looked a little surprised. We dug it out and kept on playing poker. I carried that piece of shell for 150 miles then had to throw it away. After we got the road fixed so that we got our big siege cannons into position, they kept firing from both sides and the Rebels had a particular grudge against our saw mill, and it wasn't a safe place to be around.”
Theodore was wounded slightly in the left leg during the battle of Chantilly, Virginia, on September 1, 1862, and shortly afterwards the Regiment had gone into camp near Washington. He promoted to Sergeant in October of 1862. “About October 1st [actually the 12th] we went up the Potomac,” he wrote after the war, “on the Maryland side to Nolan’s Ferry to guard the locks on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal where I was made Sergeant of Company C.” In November the Regiment recrossed the Potomac into Virginia.
The boats didn't go any further than Washington and above there the river is rather shallow, so when we re-crossed we pulled off our clothes and tied everything -- cartridge boxes, box of provisions and clothes around our necks and waided [sic] across. It was a grand sight to see it. After crossing we went out a few miles and camped for the night and next day we headed for Leesburg and that night camped about three or four miles from town in a great big cornfield. The corn was all in shocks and we found lots of guns hidden there by the gorillas [sic] and we destroyed all of them. That night six of us started out from Camp to hunt something good to eat. We got three miles from camp when we got to a house part of us went in, asked for something to eat and the proprietor said "No" there wasn't anything on the place that the Yanks took everything he had. But we didn't believe him, went out and hunted around and found a lot of smoked hams and shoulders hid in the barn, took one apiece. While we were looking for the chicken house we struck a big cider press and by the signs of the press it had been used that same afternoon. We went to the house and asked the man for cider. He told us that there wasn't any on the place. We went out, hunted some more and soon found where there had been a big hole dug in the ground and covered up with boards. We pried off a board, lit a candle which we always carried and found lots of barrels of cider down there. About that time the man made his appearance and told us not to drink any of it that he had put poison in it and would kill us. We knocked the head out of one barrel, told him to help himself first. He didn't want to do it but we made him,. When after he got done he told us that the cider was all right and we could help ourselves to all we wanted if we wouldn't tell anybody else. We went back to Camp, we told just our friends about it and they told their friends and by morning the cider was all gone and saved the man the trouble of hauling it to town.
Food was a constant and central issue for many of the men. Castor told how, sometime in November that although the army was on the move,
nothing happened in particular except when the people got after us for stealing poultry of all kinds. We got into trouble most every night with the farmers and their dogs when the chickens would give us away. And one night our bunch started out from Camp and had to go a long way before we struck a house. There was a good many buildings there and it took us sometime to locate the smokehouse, but when we did find it -- it was barricaded, but [we] finally got to the door. It was locked, we tried to ram the dore [sic] but it wouldn't ram. The house was quite a ways off and all we needed was the key to get in. So I told the boys to wait and I would go to the house and get the key. when I got to the house I stepped on the big long porch, opened the door and as soon as I looked in found about ten or fifteen old men setting on benches with a gun apiece on their lap. I didn't take (26) time to count them, but there were lots of them. As soon as I looked in and saw the situation, I hollered out for the boys to surround the house and the old fellows thinking that probably the whole army of the Potomac was after them, got up and got out of the back door in a hurry, and I didn't take time to ask for the key and made quick time to where the rest of the boys were and we didn't get anything out of that smokehouse. But before we got to Camp we found another place and got a ham apiece and some eggs and butter.
He was wounded severely in the chest and arm on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Virginia.
In the first place a piece of shell struck my knapsack, went through my frying pan which I had strapped on the knapsack and took of[f] the two buttons on the back of my coat. And soon after that I was struck in my breast. About that time our folks had to retreat and when I woke up I picked myself together and looked around and found that the Rebels had possession of our lines. They never stopped me and I got to the Chancellorsville House about the time our folks commenced to retreat. I waited there and tried to get in to an ambulance, but they were all loaded and I made up my mind if I didn't want to be taken prisoner that I would have to move on. And I got up and started for a six-mile walk to get across the river and it took me until midnight to make it. The wagoner of our company -- Frank Marty had been looking for me all night and he found me in a old shack with some more of our Brigade. The mark of our Brigade was a red diamond fastened on top of your cap. Every corps had a different mark, but it all run to red, white and blue, and if you wanted to find anybody you just looked for your mark. Frank was all loaded up, he went and saw the wagon master to find out where the wagons were to report at and came back with the news that they were to report at the old camp and got permission to start right off and not wait for anybody. He put me in his wagon on top of the baggage, give the teamster orders to drive as fast as he could to Ayene [Acquia?] Creek the nearest railroad station to Camp Pitcher. We got there in the forenoon sometime in time to get off with a train load of wounded to start for Washington. We got to the Potomac River where a steamboat was ready to take us to Washington. Arriving there we were all assigned to different places and I was sent to Mount Pleasant Hospital on 7th Street and was well taken care of.
Castor was sent to the First Corps hospital along the Rappahannock River on May 6 hospital, was at a corps hospital at Acquia Creek on May 10 and sent to Mt. Pleasant Hospital in Washington, DC where he remained through June. In late June Theodore was granted a furlough from the hospital and went home to Michigan to recover from his wounds
I had to go around by New York City on account of the Rebels having possession of all the rail-roads leading from Washington to Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]. I got to New York City just in time to see the big riot on account of the draft, and got to Grand Rapids on the 4th day of July 1863. I got home next day and of course went to see my girl who was very glad to see me and we concluded to get married. We wanted to get married in the Catholic Church and we had to go to Grand Rapids to do it. And the priest told us that it would take three or four weeks on account of the girl belonging to the Lutheran Church and on account of my time running out long before that and had to report back to Washington by the last of July, we thought best to get married before a Justice of the Peace at that time and have the ceremony in the church performed after I got home for good. The few days that was left passed off very fast and about the 26th day of July I said goodbye to my wife and folks and started back, and reported at Mount Pleasant Hospital. Before I got there I found out that one regiment was back from the front and was in camp at Alexandria and expected to go some where but didn't know where, but thought it was Michigan. I made up my mind that I wanted to be with them. I went to the surgeon in charge of the hospital and asked for a transfer to my Regiment. I was examined and pronounced not fit for duty on account of my wound not having healed. But I made up my mind that I was going to the Regiment, and as a wounded soldier didn't need any pass I started out for the rail-road station and got on the first train that went over into Virginia and to Camp Convalescent. This camp was composed of all different corps and all men that was about able to be sent to the front. And I was about to report at headquarters when an officer with the red diamond on his cap came along. I saluted him, he stopped and told me that he belonged to the 5th Michigan Infantry and the same Brigade as I did. And after I told him the situation I was in, he said that he had some business in camp and if I go down to the gait [sic] and wait until he got there he would pass me out and would take me to my regiment. So when he came along we started and in a short time got to our camp where I reported to Colonel Pierce. And explained to him how I got there and he told me that I was all right and stay and he would see that I was reported all right at the hospital, and that I wouldn't have to do any duty until my wound was healed up. The first act I done after the boys got done carrying me around the camp on their shoulders -- I asked the colonel for a two hours pass to go to town for about twenty of our bunch. He looked at me and said yes but be careful, and we started -- I carrying the pass and 23 dollars in money. There were but a few places in Alexandria where you could get any beer. But a few of the boys had already been there and knew where to go. We soon got there -- way down in the basement, dark as pitch except a little light in front at the bar, and the room as full as it could hold. We by hard work got to the bar and ordered beer, and as you had to stay right there if you wanted to hold your place, and the glasses were very small and ten cents per glass. It didn't take but a little while to finish my 20 dollars. For the other three dollars I bought a bottle of whiskey and give it to the colonel.
He rejoined the Regiment shortly before it was detached and posted to New York City in late August of 1863. The soldiers boarded a steamer at Alexandria, and
The first night we were on the boat four of us got into a poker game. I borrowed 20 dollars of a friend of mine and at the end of the game after paying back the 20 dollars, I was ahead 82 dollars. And that money and no duty to do give me a good chance to see the sight[s] of New York. We landed at Governor's Island in New York harbor, stayed there five days and from there were taken to the city and camped on the corner of chamber[s] and Broadway [Streets]. Our business was to help guard the city. The city had tried to draft their quota in July and the roughs had started a riot, and the state having no militia in the state to enforce it, they had to postpone the draft until the U. S. Government would send troops there so the state could enforce the draft. The government had 35,000 troops there and after they were all stationed and distributed all over the city, the commenced to draft. Our orders were very strict not to leave camp for five minutes night or day until the draft was over. And if everything passed off quiet[ly] an opportunity would be given to see the sites of the city. The draft passed off without any trouble and in a few days we got all the passes and could out anytime we wanted to -- so we was in camp at roll call. And I with my 82 dollars and my company had a hot time while it lasted. We stayed in New York about two weeks when all the trouble was over and the money all gone and started by steamboat up the Hudson River one night. And in the morning at day landed at Troy, N.Y. in company with the 3rd were the 5th, part of the 17th, one company of calvery [sic] and one field battery. And when we got there early in the morning the folks looked wild and after they found out that we were U.S. soldiers and not rebels, they came around and asked us all kinds of questions. And in a short time we were ordered in line on the side walk. Teams drove up loaded with crackers, cheese, smoked herring and beer. Everything was strung along on the side walk and when everything was ready we were told to help ourselves and you bet we did. And that was our first breakfast in Troy, N.Y. At dinner time we were marched up to a big hotel where they served meals and the city kept that up and paid the bill as long as we stayed there. And besides this they furnished us with lots of things. In the morning the milk wagons would drive up and they wanted every body to drink all the fresh milk you could hold. then breakfast at the hotel. Between 9 and 10 o'clock the young ladies came around with baskets full of nick-nacks and you was invited to sit down and have a pick-nick with them. At noon after dinner we were told to help ourselves to all the cigars. In the afternoon the fruit wagons drove up and you helped yourself with all you could eat, and after supper the beer wagons would deliver to every company all the beer they wanted. And at last the best and nicest ladies out of the best families came and invited you to go to the theatres with them and they paid the bill. And after the theatre you go home with them (there were eleven of our original forty German boys left and all but myself and one other one were college bred talked different languages and play any kind of a musical instrument). Every night our bunch would be invited to a party by one of the ladies' parents and every one of the boys would have from one to three partners and we all stayed together and go to different house every night. And as soon as we got there our exclusive set-girls and boys, would strike up any kind of musical instrument that came handy and we would have some music and dancing. And as the boys were all good singers, the girl[s] would join in and we would have some fine singing. And after that would have the finest supper you could ask for and about 12 o'clock or soon after the company would break up and every body start for home with an invitation to another house [the] next night.
By the middle of September the Regiment was back in Washington, and, once again, food was uppermost in the minds of many of the soldiers.
During the war they had in every big city in the North put up Soldier's Retreats -- great big long sheds where they could feed from one to ten thousand men at one time. When we got to Washington we stopped, stacked arms between two of these long building, was ordered inside to get out meal, and found the table all ready with one great big piece of boiling fat pork in a tin plate, one big bowl of coffee without sugar or cream and about two pounds of bread apiece waiting for us. The whole command went in and everyone came out without tasting or eating anything, and as there were lots of restaurants around they all soon found something to eat. Our bunch hadn't realized yet that we were U.S. soldiers. We had been babied so much in Troy that we thought we were civilized citizens of the U.S. and we took the privilege without a pass to go a little further down in the city to find a first class restaurant (cheap things didn't do for us). And while we were waiting for our orders, the proprietor came in the dining room and asked us if we had passes, if not to go with him into another room that the Provo Grand [Guard] would be around pretty soon and if we would stay there they would arrest us. We didn't pay attention to him and after they had served the order and we were about done eating, the guard came in, went through the dining room and give us another chance to get out. And when they came back and arrested us and without finishing our meal rushed us out. We were going along up on the side walk when we met our colonel and he asked us what the matter was. We told him our trouble in a few words and he told us he would see to us and the guard took us to the central guard house. Arriving there we were ordered to deliver and give up all our valuable, money and trinkets and we were treated just like any other criminal and murderer. And then took us to [a] dark room and told to strip and get ready for a shower bath. And about this time we head foot steps coming towards our door. The door was opened and there stood the jailer and our 2nd lieutenant [Julius] Finger [Fanger] who told us to put on our clothes and follow him. When we went to the office, got our belongings and started for the Soldiers' retreat where we found the box cars all ready to get in and go to the front. But before we got in the bugle called us to supper (the whole command). Our Regiment occupied one table and as we went in found the same cold, big and fat slices of pork, bread and coffee that had been there probably a month. The boys looked at it and they didn't seem to like it. And it was just like a flash of ligthening [sic] when Uncle Sam's supper, tin plate and dishes were down on the floor and everybody trying to get out. The building was a one story, long with two big double sliding doors at each end, lots of windows of the sides and it wasn't five seconds after the trouble commenced when the guards charged on us through the door with fixed bayonets and there was some business going on for some time. We got out through the other door and windows and got to our guns in time to get loaded and for a little while we had a battle of our own as by that time we had to stand off probably 200 or 300 and they was still coming as thick as bees. Our position was between the building and box cars and after we fired a couple of rounds and other Regiments were come double quick to re-inforce the guards our Colonel Pierce give the command to get in the cars and in less time than you can tell it we steamed off and got over into Virginia. And it was the best thing that ever happened to the Third Michigan Infantry. If we hadn't got off as quick as we did we never would got out of there but surrounded, court martialled and sent to a military prison.
The Regiment eventually went into camp near Brandy Station, and according to Castor, the camp was located close to the railroad. At one point, he related,
when the first train came in with supplies, I and Sergeant Dietrich went down the track and we got to a car where they were unloading hams. There was no guard there yet and we pretended that we were sent there to guard the hams. And we did for a little while until they had finished and moved down to some other car and we watched our chance and slipped a ham apiece under our overcoats and started for camp. In our camp we had everything fine, the houses were big enough to accommodate 20 persons with a fireplace and bunks and table in them. And you could cook alone or pick your company of two or more and cook together. there were four of us -- Sergeant Dietrich who done the cooking, Frank Martig -- our company wagoner who could get into any wagon in the brigade. He done the stealing and stole anything at night that he could lay his hands on from the officers and get it in camp, and Rudolph Nagel and I. when we were not on duty we played poker and furnished the rest whenever Frank would make a good haul. We didn't have to furnish very much, we could buy anything we wanted to eat -- bread, cookies, potatoes, onions and anything at the commissary where they kept everything to sell for the officers. They didn't draw any ration from U.S. and had to buy everything and pay for it out of their monthly pay, and if we wanted anything we would ask our Lieutenant Theodore Hetz for an order and he would gladly supply us by us inviting him to a dinner or two or by buying a bottle of bitters. And as money and everything came easy we could afford to live as well as any other Major General in the army.
By late November the Third Michigan, along with the Army of the Potomac under the command of General George G. Meade, became heavily engaged with rebel forces at Mine Run, Virginia.
General Meade had took it in his head to out-flank General Lee, get in his rear and go right on to Richmond. We had marched 12 miles by daylight, got across the river and after going about 6 miles, got to the place where General Meade intended to get around their lines, but found out that Lee had closed the gap and was ready to give battle. And from that time we had a busy time of it to get in position and we expected to have a big battle next day. Our regiment's position was on the foot of a hill and our orders were to keep crawling up and get on top of that hill, fortify ourselves by building breastworks and be ready for an attack by daylight next morning. There was a big frost that night but we kept warm as we had to work all night. We didn't dare talk loud and all the conversations were carried on in whispers. When daylight came we were on top of the hill. Down at the foot on the other side was a stream and across the stream on a bluff the rebels had fortified themselves and were waiting for us. As soon as we could see we were ordered to advance and down the hill we went on a run, and when we got to the creek we came to a dead stop for a few seconds on account of the creek didn't look very inviting. It was deeper than we had expected to find it and it had a pretty good coat of ice on it. We didn't stop but a little while because the Rebels were just giving it to us. So down we went into the creek the water about three feet deep and drove them out from behind their breastworks into the woods. When we halted we had lost two of our commissioned officers and one sergeant, and seven privates but only wounded in that little scrap. And as I was second in command, I had to take charge of the rest of our Company. The balance of the Regiment had but a little opposition. In and after crossing on the left of the Company, the lay of the ground was in different shape and the creek was shallow, but after coming to a halt and looking to our right I saw that we left a gap open on our right, that there wasn't anybody had crossed the creek on the right of us on account of the water being too deep. We had crossed on the forks of two creeks. The Colonel came up and I called his attention to it, then he ordered the whole Regiment to fall back. By that time the Rebels got in the rear of part of our company. They came down between the banks of the creek and the woods. And as the right of our company was resting now in a thicket of scrubby pine, we couldn't see them when they popped up and demanded seven of us to surrender. We all fired and run and I'm sure that my man fell and I and a man by the name of [Levi] Tanner slipped through the brush, got in the open and while doing so were exposed to a shower of bullets but wasn't hit. The other five were taken prisoner and only one of them came back to tell the story. Late in the afternoon of the same day we had another scrap which lasted until late at night. We had possession of that battlefield and at about midnight were ordered to lay down right where we stood, and that night I had a dead man for a pillow. When daylight came I got up, looked around and saw that we were close to a house. I aroused some of the boys and we got our guns and went over there. There was a hedge fence clear up to the house, we kept behind it and were very careful not to disturb anything. We got clear to the back door and looked in and found the whole floor covered with Rebel soldiers asleep and all kinds of cooked and raw beef and hoe-cakes and sweet potatoes. Three of us stayed at the back while the three rushed to the front door and then hollered to the sleeping rebels to surrender. They jumped up but I told them to lay down -- all but one and he to gather up their guns and fetch them to the back door and deliver them tome. And as fast as he fetched them I ordered one of the men to thrown them into a ditch filled with water. After we had disposed of their guns I told them to get up and as there was still a good fire and lots of wood, to go over and sit down in the corner of the fireplace and I put two men as a guard over them and sent one of our men to headquarters to report. And as I was the only non-commissioned officer in the bunch, I inquired how and why they was there away from their command and they told me that they were a reserve of a picket line and as far as they knew were not called in when the picket line was taken off, but that they didn't care and were glad that they were prisoners as they were tired and had all they wanted of the war. And that when they came to that house it was empty, the folks that had left it a day or two before -- left everything in [it] -- dishes, kettles, furniture, and even flour and that they supposed they would be back as soon as the soldiers were gone, that when they took possession they went and killed a big steer and commenced to cook and eat and that was their first full meal they had for a month and told us to help ourselves as there was plenty of flour and beef left. And you bet we did and by the time that we got orders from camp we were all loaded up with the finest kind of beef and some of the hoe-cakes that the Rebels intended to take along with them. We couldn't make use of any flour so left it in the house. And then I ordered all of them to get into line, there were 18 of the prisoners, I the only Non-commissioned officer and five privates of our company. And when we got to headquarters delivered our prisoners over to the Colonel and he sent them to Brigade headquarters. And after we got rid of our prisoners the Colonel asked me all kinds of questions how we happened to be outside of our lines and that we had no business there. and I had to tell him all kinds of stories.
The Regiment went back into its former camp near Brandy Station, occupying land which had formerly belonged to John Minor Botts.
He had thousands of sheep, cattle, hogs, slaves and everything in plenty. His fence and buildings were in good shape and all on account of being a smart man, because when the Union forces occupied his plantation he entertained and fed all the higher Generals and was one of the best Union men in the U.S. and the Generals would put guards all around his property and give orders not to take a rail. And when the confederates was there he was the worst seesaw and Gorilla [sic] that was in the state of Virginia and they would protect him and up to the time when we came back from Mine Run there hadn't been anything taken nor any rail burned. On the road to get to our log houses we had to come by his houses which looked like a little town, and as we went by, our Adjutant rode up to the house (what for we didn't know) but as soon as he got to the house half a dozen Rebel Calvery [sic] nabbed him and away they went and that the last we saw of him for six months. When we got into camp there was no wood as that had to be hauled quite a ways and it was whispered around that we helped ourselves with rails. And as our Regiment felt like doing something and there hadn't been any guard put out yet, and it was dark, we pitched in (and I suppose every other Regiment done the same thing) as when morning came you couldn't see a rail on the whole plantation; and also half of his sheep had disappeared -- that is the mutton while the pelts were left on the ground. In a few days we got orders that every Regiment would have to split new rails and put them up where they burned them. And then there was some hard feelings between the boys and John Minor Botts, but we had to do it and we were kept at it until all the fences were replaced. What they done about the mutton we never learned, but suppose he got an order and a big price from the U.S. Government on account of being a first class Union man.
Theodore reenlisted on December 23, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids, and went home to Michigan on his veteran’s furlough. He wrote in his autobiography in great detail of his reenlistment and his return home on veterans’ furlough. On December 24, he wrote, (although in fact it was several days later),
we were ready to start by special train back to Michigan. And it was a very tiresome trip as we had to side-track for every train on the road. The weather was pretty fair and when we got to Cleveland, Ohio on New Year's evening we were told to get off as we were to be fed at the Soldiers' Retreat. Getting in there it didn't look very inviting. It was the same old thing -- cold boiled pork, coffee and bread, and as it was New Year's Eve, we thought we were entitled to something better. Right across the rail-road track was the Rail-Road Restaurant. We all rushed over there and found two long tables big enough to accommodate all of us and loaded down with everything good to eat. We didn't wait to be invited neither did we call for any waiters, but sat down and helped ourselves, ordered more after we cleaned up the table the first time and after we had our fill we packed off what was left and everyone said that turkeys, chickens, cookies and all the rest of the good things were better than U.S. rations, and just as cheap because we didn't pay anything at the restaurant. After the excitement was over at the restaurant we got started for Toledo and during the night it got to snowing, and after that to freezing. And when we arrived in Toledo early next morning there was about two feet of snow on the ground and ten below zero. We got out of the cars and hunted for shelter and something to eat which we soon found and waited for something to turn up. And about noon the sun came out and in a short time the bugle sounded to fall in and everyone rushed for the train and we started for Detroit. And it took us just twelve hours to make the trip. And that ended the first day of January 1864 -- what was called the cold New Year's for many years after. Along in the night we got started for Grand Rapids. We hadn't gone but a few miles when the train got stuck in the snow and as they had provided themselves shovels, we were ordered to use them and dig out. And we had to keep up every few miles and finally next day about noon we got to Saint Johns and got a lay off for two hours to get thawed out and russel for something to eat. And everybody had his own way of getting it. It was on a Sunday morning, about three feet of snow on the ground and ho how cold as we started up the one street west from the rail-road to look for a hotel. Some of the boys found something but about one hundred kept on to explore the town and finally stopped in front of a grocery store and rattled and hollered and were about to break down the door when a man opened a window in the second story and asked us what we wanted and we told him to come down, open the door, build a fire and furnish us with something to eat and be quick about it was we about frozen to death, and hadn't any time to loose [sic]. He came down pretty near scared to death. We rushed in and filled the room chock full. He and some of the boys helped him breakup some boxes and in a short time had a warm fire and had the room warmed up. While they was building the fire, we organized and I was one of a committee of five to russel for something to eat and as we couldn't get anything cooked, we concluded that crackers and cheese would have to do so we called the man to one corner and asked him if he had any and how many crackers in the house and he told us he thought he had two barrels. But when we went in the back room with him we found six barrels of crackers, one barrel of cookies, two big cheeses, three boxes of candy, and alot of dried herring. We told him to roll everything out on the floor which was probably 75 or 80 feet long and made the boys stand to one side. We busted the barrels and boxes and strung a pile of everything through in the middle of the floor, and in the distributing the cheese we didn't have enough to reach the other end so we, the committee, told him to get out and find three more. At first he didn't want to, he said there wasn't any in town, that it was Sunday, that he was a church member, and had all kinds of excuses, but when we told him that if he didn't have the cheese there in 15 minutes it would go hard with him, he rushed out and soon got back with a small sleigh and the cheese. When we finished cutting it up and it looked good to see a great pile the whole length of the floor to pitch into. The command was given for everybody to help themselves and we done justice to it as we ate everything up and didn't leave anything to carry off. The many was sitting in one corner and scared to death, but when the committee asked him to get his wholesale bills and find out what the stuff cost him he brightened up and got very pleasant as he hadn't any idea he was going to get any pay for it. I don't recollect how much it amounted to but we, the committee, made everyone come up and pay his share. And the old fellow sat [out] a pail full of fine cut tobacco on the counter and told us to help ourselves. It was now time to get to the train and it started out as soon as we got on and it took us until midnight to get to Grand Rapids where we expected to be royally entertained. When we arrived at the Detroit and Milwaukee depot, the only rail-road that run into Grand Rapids at that time, everything was dark and about ten below zero and no way to get to town except to wade through about two feet of snow as there was no street cars at that time but one. It would make a few trips, weather permitting during the day time and their motor power consisted of an old horse. The passenger depot was a small concern and there wasn't room for more than half of us, and them that couldn't get in started afoot for town. Getting there everybody looked out for himself to find lodgings. And about ten of us German boys went to the old Ohio House, woke up the landlord (Richter) whom we all know and when we told him our business he rushed to the door and threw it wide open and told us to make ourselves at home, and asked if we were hungry, and when we told him we were he told us he would have to go out and find something to eat as there wasn't enough cooked in the house. And when he came back he fetched two men with him each carrying a big basket full of all kinds of good things, and with that and beer we made out a very good supper. Next day I tried to get home and I went all over the city to get a livery team to take me out, but the snow was so deep and had drifted so that a person couldn't get a livery team for love or money, so had to stay until the storm was over. And in a few days there was a crust on the snow to hold a man up, when I started one very cold morning a foot and got home by night where Barbara and all the rest of the folks were glad to see me.
While Theodore was home on furlough recovering from his wounds in the summer of 1863, he and his long-time girlfriend Anna Barbara Schwander (d. 1891) were married on July 10, 1863, by a justice of the peace. While home on veterans’ furlough in January of 1864 he and Barbara were married a second time, on January 14. (They had at least one child, Helen Lawrence.)
In fact, Castor and Andrew Kirschman, also of Company C, had a double wedding service, while both were home on furlough. Castor described in detail the events leading up to the double wedding. Theodore explained the situation.
In order to satisfy the demands of the times and the belief of the people, I and Barbara wanted to get to Grand Rapids because our people on both sides thought that in order to make our marriage legal we would have to get married in the church. So to please them we waited a few days until the roads got broke when one of the neighbors took us back to Grand Rapids were I met one of our Company C boys -- Andrew Kirschman, who told me that he was going to get married and his intended wife was a Catholic and he Lutheran. When I told him my business we concluded to have it come off together. So we started to the Catholic Parish to see the Priest and found that he wasn't in town and they didn't know when he would be, when we went to the Lutheran minister who told us that he was ready any time we were and to just let him know when and where. And when at noon at the dinner table told the rest of company C boys about it, they told us not to make any arrangement except to get a private house and family to get the supper and have room enough to accommodate lots of people. I and Kirschman went over on the west side to see one of Kirschman's friends -- a man by the name of Wurfel who had a big house and he told us that the house was free and to come any time we were ready and that he would get up the supper and wouldn't charge the regular price -- so much per meal and take the boys for pay. We told the boys that we wanted the business to come next day and they russeled around and got everything ready. And we four drove up to Wurfel's house -- everybody was there and the house was as full as it would hold. [On January 14, ] The boys had invited all their friends and everybody else. And after the ceremony was over supper was served and we had as fine a supper as anybody could get up. And when morning came we all adjourned and I and my double married wife went to the Ohio House and stayed there a few days and went home to her father's and visited around with my folks and the neighbors and everybody seemed to be satisfied.
When his furlough expired, Theodore left his new wife and home on January 25, 1864, to return to the Third Regiment with Army of the Potomac in Virginia. He and several others refused to take the special train carrying the returning veterans back east, and waited until January 30 when they rode as regular passengers.
We got to Detroit late in the evening and went to a restaurant close to the depot and ordered something to eat and while eating I picked on Christian Schmidt (also of Company C) to go along with me after supper to get transportation for all of us and told the rest of the boys to be sure and stay there until we got back, so as to be handy in case we needed them. So after supper I and Christian we washed up and brushed up, put on our belts, cartridge box and bayonet, white gloves and collars and started up to Woodward Avenue to Colonel Smith's office. And arriving there where we were passed in the office and standing at attention, saluted the Colonel and I told him that I had a squad of men down at the depot and that I wanted transportation for them to Washington. When he got up and he stood right in front of me and I thought he was going to look right through me, and asked me for my authority and written orders. And when I told him that I never had any written orders and how the Captain in command of the Regiment had detailed me and my companion, Corporal Christian Schmidt, at the time when the train was ready to pull out, to go back to town and hunt up the stragglers and report to Colonel Smith at Detroit. He said to me “I believe you are a straggler yourself”. But he asked me and Corporal Schmidt's name and rank and the number of stragglers I had down at the depot and told the clerk to write out an order to the Quarter-Master (I had been a little excited when he asked for the number of the men and I told him there were 18 when there were only 12 of us) for 18 men's transportation to Washington. And further told me that after I got done with the Quartermaster to start right out as there was a train going out at 12 o'clock and if the guard found us around there in the morning they would treat us as deserters. And I said yes to everything he said. When the clerk handed me over the order I felt somewhat relieved and went over to the Quartermaster's office on the same floor with lots of courage, and when I handed him the order he wanted to know who had command of the men and I told him that I had. He sat down and asked me my name and what office I held in my Company and when I told him that it was Sergeant of Company C, Third Michigan Infantry, he told me that the Third Infantry went through Detroit three or four days ago on a Special and that if we got out that night we might catch up with them. His plan was to get us out of town on the first train. I told him yes to every remark he made. He then went on to ask me every name of my command and after I had given him twelve I hesitated a second and when I couldn't think of any more right quick, I told him there were new recruits and I couldn't think of their names. So he put them down Recruits and handed me the big envelope with the transportation inside and told me to be sure and get started that night, and I felt as if I had won a great big battle. Well, I and Christian went down to the restaurant to tell the boys the good luck we had and to get ready to start out, but found no boys there. They had left their guns and everything in care of the land-lord who had it locked in a room and they had told him they would be back after the theatre, and if we got there before they to wait. We waited until after mid-night when we made a bed on the floor and went to sleep. And when we woke up in the morning we waited again until about ten o'clock when some of them came. And as I and Christian didn't want to be caught on the sidewalk for fear of being arrested by the Provost Guard, I sent them back to hunt up the rest, and along sometime in the afternoon they all came in. We all stayed at the restaurant until after dark when we slipped to the depot and left Detroit at 8 o'clock and got to Cleveland, Ohio in the morning where we got out and where one of our boys met his brother-in-law who entertained us all day and part of the night and showed us the sights of the city. We left there sometime in the night and got to Pittsburgh, Penn. next morning where we made another stop and where we were entertained by Professor Nagel -- a brother of Rudolph Nagel -- Sergeant of our Company and with us at the time. And at night left there for Harrisburg and had to lay over four hours and started for Baltimore, and when we got in the big depot found the Third Michigan with their special train side-tracked. We didn't want them to see us but our orderly Sergeant got a glimpse of us and he came over to our car and told us that we would have to join them and if we didn't he would report us as deserters. When I told him that I had command of those men and that I had orders from Provost Marshal Colonel Smith of Detroit, Michigan to report at Provost Headquarters in Washington, he let us alone. And we changed cars and soon started on and left them on the side track. When we got to Washington we went to a restaurant and ordered something to eat, and when I inquired of the landlord about the Guard he told me that we would be all safe, that they had just left and they wouldn't visit him any more that day. We spent our time between the restaurant and depot until some time in the night when the special came with the Third Michigan Infantry and we joined them, and never heard of any bad effects it would have on account of our traveling alone.
Theodore was wounded and taken prisoner on May 5, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia. His wound resulted in his left leg being amputated. In fact, Castor lost his leg to the same cannon or minie ball which caused Captain Israel Greer to lose his leg. According to one source, “His wound was received very peculiarly. He was standing in line of battle in the place assigned a company commander of infantry, directly in the rear of the first sergeant. A minnie ball struck the sergeant in the leg, causing him to fall and giving him a wound from which he lost a leg. The same ball passed through the sergeant’s leg and struck Capt. Geer in the leg, causing a wound that cost him also his leg, if we remember rightly. Both men recovered after much suffering.” According to the Evening Leader, “it was the custom of Capt. Geer and Sergeant Castor to take turns carrying that wicked minnie ball, a year at a time. It is considerably flattened and deformed from striking the bones of its brave victim[s].”
Castor described the details of his capture many years later. “We stood our ground,” he wrote of the battle on May 5,
and fired about three or four rounds when I was hit in my left leg, got down on the ground and leaving everything except my canteen commenced to pull myself back out of the line of battle -- taking hold of the underbrush but didn't get very far when our line give away and they had to fall back. When they caught up with me two of our Company boys tried to take me back with them by seating me on a gun and one taking ahold - one on each side, carried me a little ways when I told them to leave me to my fate and lay me down behind an old tree that had fallen to the ground. And the boys hadn't gone but a few minutes when the Rebels line of battle came along and passed by me and about that time I made up my mind that my chances to be of any benefit to Uncle Sam were very slim, and that if I ever wanted to get back to Michigan I would have to put on a bold face and stand all the hardships that were ahead of me. And as I wasn't raised in a band box and had seen hardships before, I was prepared to take anything that came along. And that if there was any show that I would stand a first chance. Well the first thing I done after the boys left me, I dug a hole with my hand in the ground and put my pocket book containing 150 dollars in greenbacks in the hole and covered it up with leaves and then waited for the results. And sure enough it came to pass just as I expected as the Rebels had the same kind of dead beats in their army as we had in ours -- fellows that would drop down at the first firing of the guns and lay there until all the lines passed and then get up and follow in the rear and rob the dead and wounded. And when they got in camp after the battle would tell how many they had killed and if General So and So had done so and so the results would have turned out different. Well their three lines of battle passed me and they all used me well and were very careful not to step on me. But after they had passed the dead beats came along -- not very many -- but enough so as to find every wounded or dead soldier that was laying on the ground. Two came to me and the first thing they done was to turn my pockets inside out, but as I had been looking for just that kind of a move, they didn't get my money and I was ahead just 150 dollars. I had on two blouses -- one a commissioned officer's --they commenced taking both of them off and they tried to take my canteen when I begged and asked them to leave, or if they would give me two of their canteens full of water they could have mine. So after reasoning with them they finally give in and left me two of their common tin uncovered cans full of water for my covered pewter can and left to rob somebody else. The first thing I done when I found out that I was wounded through the knee joint was to take a piece of bandage out of my pocket which I always carried with me and tied up my leg above the knee joint as tight as I could get it. And that I think was what saved my life. And when I layed [sic] down behind the tree I took the rest of my bandage and done the upper part of my limb good and tight and it stopped the wound from bleeding all together. It wasn't but a little time after the Rebels had left that I found out that I wasn't alone and there were lots more laying around in them woods in the same fix as myself as they soon commenced to hollow [sic], pray and some would curse and begged for somebody to come and take care of them. But that was only the first beginning of our troubles and in a short time I saw a cloud of smoke raise in the air, and soon found out that a fire had started and as the leaves on the ground were very dry and lots of them and underbrush very thick, we were liable to burn up. And as I took in the situation I moved away from my log and commenced gathering up the leaves, rolling them up in bunch and throw them away as far as I could. And in a short time I had a clear place for about 20 feet around me. The fire came nearer and the noise got louder and it was awful to hear the poor fellows pray, cry and beg, and as the underbrush was so thick and green I couldn't see more than 20 feet ahead. I didn't see but heard lots and lots of their suffering. It got night and the noise and fire kind of quieted down and when the fire started up the next morning [May 6] the wind had changed and the noise came from the opposite and it never got nearer to me. I layed [sic] there all day and waiting for something to turn up and when night came I was feeling as if it was a long time between meals, and as there was nothing to be had to eat I took another drink of water and settled down for the second night. And next morning [May 7] everything was quiet with the exception of some poor fellow calling for his father, mother or sister in a faint voice for help. And I for my part was getting a little discouraged myself and on account of not having anything to eat for two days was feeling as if something would have to be done pretty soon or I would never be able to go back to Michigan to see my wife. But when it looked the darkest and when I felt the most discouraged I heard somebody close by hollow [sic] “Hello” and there seemed to be several of them hollowing [sic] “Helo” [sic] and I and several more answered their calls and when one of them came up in answer to my call I saw that he was a Confederate soldier and a gentleman. He asked me if I was hungry and as I said yes, he reached in his haversack and give me the best he had -- a piece of everyday corn bread made out of water and coarse corn meal, but it tasted very, very good. He then called up some of his companions when three more came with a stretcher, put me on it and two men took a hold of it and carried me while the other two go on ahead and cut down the underbrush until we got to the main road; when two of them went back in the woods and helped out some others.
He was taken first to a field hospital of sorts, or rather “what they called the field hospital and all that there was to it was that they had cut off some of the underbrush and carried the wounded prisoners there together and operated on them.
It was without any shelter or cover and all a body could see was an operating table here and there made out of four stakes drove in the ground and covered with a slab of wood. When we got there I could see the reason why I had to lay so long before I was picked up. They had picked them that was nearest to them first and as they didn't have help enough for the thousands that layed [sic] around them woods. It took them a long time to gather them all in. I wasn't there but a little while when a doctor came to examine me. He took ahold of my leg when the bones pierced through the flesh. The ball had gone through the knee joint and splintered the bones all to pieces and he told me that the only thing to save me was to take off my leg and he thought it might have to be taken off close to my body as he couldn't tell until they operated and find out how far up the bones were split. I told him to go on and do as good a job as he could and leave a stump big enough so that I could wear an artificial leg as I intended to come back again after I had a new leg. When he told me that there wasn't any danger and he told me that he couldn't give me any chloriform [sic]. When I told him to never mind and just saw it off and I would watch them and see that they done a good job. They then picked me up and carried me back in the brush where they had a kind of shelter made out of brush, laid me down on the slaughter board, when another doctor advanced and came up with his sleeves rolled up, give me a few drinks of whiskey and kept talking to me and told me that he was going to do the job, and asked me my name, Company and Regiment and State which he put down in his book. I asked him his name which he give as Doctor Drumers of Louisiana (parish and County I forgot). He kept on talking and taking out his instruments and laying them on a blanket while I was taking everything in and wondering that if after he got done with me there would be anything left of me that would be of any use to take back to Michigan. About the time I was thinking about all my troubles and prepared for the worst I saw a man I hadn't seen before step up from behind a tree with a cloth in his hand. The last thing I remembered was when he put the cloth to my nose and when I woke up I thought my foot was itching. When I reached down and found no foot there and nothing but a undershirt and part of my pants left. They cut off the left pants leg thinking I had no use for it any longer, and the overshirt and blouse I suppose somebody else wore them.
“After the Doctor got done with the operation (and here I will say that he done a good job as I never had any trouble with my stump after it healed up) there wasn't anything done to the wound what I did.” Nevertheless, throughout most of the month of May the wounded prisoners were forced to sit out in the sun during the day and in the open air at night, with no shelter whatsoever.
I for my part had nothing but a[n] undershirt with millions of "Gray Backs" on it, no pants as I had to use them what there was left, from the operation, to do up my stump in, and with what the Doctor had put the stump in with -- made me two sets of cloths. And I would crawl to the creek twice a day holding my stump (which I thought at the time weighed two tons) in my left hand, carrying the cup between my teeth and using my right hand for power and as I had to slide there and back and the machinery worked very slow, it didn't take very much power to run it. And I done that every day -- wash my stump and the rags, get and carry what water I could and when I got back to camp would dish out the water to fellows that were worse off than I was and couldn't get down to the creek.
Theodore was also candid about his own shortcomings as a prisoner, about his own frailty as a human being under enormous stress.
And here I will tell of the meanest trick I ever done in my life: As I said we laid in rows -- two rows with heads together, then a space about a rod wide and two more rows and so on and every 77 had two men to cook for this 75. They were cooks and waiters at the same time and the first week or so there wasn't any regular meals. They would cook a batch of corn bread ground cobs and all, and bacon and then would come around distribute it and if you was on to your job you would get more than your share. And as there was some of the boys that didn't care if they ate or not and you bet I watched them chances and extras every day. One day I think it was the second day that we laid there, a young fellow that headed with me in the other row and who had saved his haversack and his rations had somebody to fry him a frying pan full of crackers with bacon and sugar in them, and when I saw them they looked so tempting and good. I asked him for some, he said “No”. I told him I [would] pay any price he asked for half of them. I had my money tied in bandage around my body and could and would pay him any price he'd asked me, but he said no and as I wanted some and needed them in my business and he was eating all the time, I had no time to loose [sic]. And I moved up and when I thought that I could reach them I grabbed and got frying pay [pan] and contents. He hollowed [sic] bloody murder but I kept still, eat what was left and give him back the empty frying-pay [pan]. You may think that I showed bad manners. I didn't think so at the time but do so now and as it was war time and we were always allowed to forage and look out for the inner man, I think it was all right.
Around the June 1, Castor was loaded on a wagon and hauled to Gordonsville, Virginia, where he waited three days before being placed aboard railroad cars on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. They soon left for Lynchburg, Virginia, but before the train reached Charlottesville, Castor’s boxcar, directly behind the tender caught on fire and both ends burned out. They remained near Charlottesville for about a week before resuming their trip southwestward. He arrived in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he began a correspondence with one of the local girls, Lydia Hicks. He was confined at Lynchburg for some time before being shipped to Richmond, but in fact he wound up spending some time in Danville, Virginia, and then sent on to Salisbury, North Carolina, and then to Raleigh, North Carolina.
He was transferred as a Sergeant and as missing in action to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry in June of 1864, and he arrived in Richmond on September 6 where he was admitted to the prison hospital the same day. He described in detail his final days of captivity, parole and release from the army.
And when we landed one night at Richmond our car load felt happy and congratulated ourselves that after three years of hardships we at last got to the place of our destination, and beat the army of the Potomac in getting to Richmond. We were unloaded and them that were able to walk were formed in line and them that couldn't were loaded in big army wagons and hauled and all went to Libby Prison where we found thousands of others. And we were turned in on the first floor below the level of the street, stayed there about five days when all the one armed and one legged fellows and the worst sick were taken across the street to a place that they called the Prison Hospital, where we were allowed to spend all the money we wanted to for something to eat which I did, and waiting and expecting every day to get paroled. And after waiting for about two weeks they made us sign our names to the paper (parole) which stated that we wouldn't take up arms and use them any more against the Government of the Confederate States until we were exchanged of which there wasn't any danger. And one morning we were turned out and told that those that were able to walk to work their way to the steamboat which lay below the Navy Yard and about one mile from Libby Prison. And those that wasn't able they hauled there. When I got to the boat I heard somebody call my name and looking up saw Captain I. S. Greer [Geer, originally of Company D but then transferred to Company C, and who had been confined at Lynchburg with Castor] waving his hand to me. He had stayed in Lynchburg all this time and had come from there that morning, and when I got to him he told me all about the good times he had with the Hicks family. And all I could tell him was that I seen more of the C.S. and more hardships and spent more money than any body on the boat. When I left the prison I had 90 dollars left out of my whole pile and as it would be worthless after we got back to God's Country, I give it to another poor fellow who didn't get paroled the same time I did. After we all got on the boat -- 1100 and all cripples (they wasn't paroling anybody but cripples at this time) we started down the James River but not with steam up, but drifted and they used rope and block and tackle and pulled the boat from one side of the river to the other. And soon we found out the reason and cause of all of this work. The Confederates had blockaded the James River for 20 miles to keep our folks from coming up to Richmond with their gunboats by sinking boats loaded with rocks, mines and torpedoes, and nobody but their pilots knew where they were. It took until about night to make the 20 miles. When we got to an old wharf and to a big bend in the river where they tied up and as we looked across the big bend we saw about one mile distant the Stars and Stripes peeking out above the blue of the river. We wasn't very patriotic but still we saluted the Flag in good style and give three big cheers for the Red, White and Blue. After the excitement was over the Rebel commander give his orders and told us to get out and you bet we got and in a short time the boat was unloaded and he got shut of his freight, and were glad that in a short time we would be in God's country again, and were alive and free from Dixie's sunny land. As soon as we were turned over to our folks they loaded up those that wasn't able to walk and told the rest to wait until our turn would come, but all them that could walk started and were anxious to get to those glorious Stars and Stripes which were beginning to look better every time you were looking at them. The majority got to the boat without being hauled and the reception we received when we got on the boat was simply grand. As each man stepped inside the boat he was received by two nurses one on each side, one had a big bowl of real coffee with cream in it and the other had a big ham sandwich. Yes it was ham -- real ham and real light bread made out of wheat flour -- a thing that we hadn't seen for many months. And if you was able to carry it they give it to you right there and if you wasn’t, they carried it for you to your bed and done everything for you they could. We went down the James River to Fortress Monroe [Virginia] and from there to Annanapolis [sic] where they received us in grand style. And the first thing they done to us, they put us in the bath tub, scraped the mud and gray-backs off of us and dressed us up in brand new suits of clothes. And after we got all cleaned up they put us to bed and commenced to feed us and give us small rations in the start, but often -- about six times a day, until about a week when we were allowed to go to the table and eat all we wanted to and we commenced to gain and put on flesh. I weighed 95 pounds when we arrived there and in three weeks time I weighed 125, and my regular weight was 136. And I tell you that we had the time of our lives to eat all the good things they set before us.”
He wrote to his wife informing her that he was all right and that he was going to try and get a furlough to come home.
We stayed at Annanapolis [sic] about four weeks and were sent to Camp Parole [Maryland] -- about 15 miles from Annanapolis [sic] where the Government had barracks that accommodated 25,000 men. And when we got there the Camp was chuck full and the accommodations very bad. So I applied for a furlough. . . . I went to Annanapolis [sic], got my discharge from Camp Parole and started for Michigan and got there along in February, 1865 -- on crutches and a cripple for life, but not discouraged as I had made up my mind long before I got home that if I ever got home I would start a country store on a small scale. But as I was no scholar I depended most on my wife as she had taught school before I went away and I made up my mind that between the two of us we would succeed.
Theodore was paroled at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia, on September 11 or 12, 1864, and sent to the Second Division hospital in Maryland on September 14. He was transferred to Camp Parole hospital on September 22, and furloughed for 20 days beginning October 21. He was in Grand Rapids in November when he was examined by one Dr. William Wood who wrote on November 11 that he had examined Castor and “find him suffering from disease of the sciatic nerve, the result of an amputation of the left thigh which ha not yet perfectly healed & do not consider him able to travel.” Wood also observed that Castor was “not fit for duty in less than 20 days from date.”
Nevertheless, Theodore was reportedly returned to duty on December 16, 1864, and was reportedly mustered out of service on June 4, 1865 at Detroit. In fact he had been discharged on January 26, 1865, from Camp Parole, Maryland, “because of amputation of left thigh, lower third”. He gave his mailing address as New Salem, Allegan County. On his way home to Michigan Theodore made his original application for a pension on January 28, 1865, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Following his discharge from the army Theodore returned to Allegan County where he cleared a farm next to his brother Peter in the New Salem area, and was soon afterwards appointed the new postmaster of New Salem, Allegan County. He was elected Town Clerk in 1867, served for five years as Town Treasurer, was elected Town Supervisor in 1879 and also operated a general goods store in New Salem, going into partnership in 1876 with James Strang; they worked together until about 1880. Theodore was reportedly a Democrat “but believes in the principles of the Greenback party” and “he was twice named for the Legislature in Allegan County.”
In 1878 he was living near Holland, Ottawa County, and by 1881 when former Third Michigan soldier and fellow prisoner Israel Geer died in Hastings, Michigan, Theodore was reported as “a successful businessman in Burnips Corners in Allegan County.” In 1883 he was living in Burnip’s Corners, Allegan County, drawing $24.00 per month (pension no. 38,714). Theodore eventually moved westward, probably in the 1884 or 1885 and was living in Hoskins, McIntosh County, Dakota Territory by 1885 and in December of 1887.
While living in Hoskins, Theodore began experiencing some difficulty in using his left arm in 1885 and by the end of 1887, according to his physician, Dr. Heinrich Peasch, who examined him on December 10, 1887, “the condition of said arm has been much the same ever since his first examination [in 1885] and that the same is so far disabled that he cannot dress himself without help and he has very little use of it for any purpose. The difficulty being a lameness extending from the elbow joint down the forearm to the ends of the fingers of [the] left hand the muscles and tendons being much contracted causing fingers to draw up and occasioning swelling at times and in his opinion the lameness is incurable and was caused by the wound in forearm which severed the . . . nerves of the arm and is at times very painful.”
By 1909 Theodore was residing in Oakland (in the Rice Hill area), Douglas County, Oregon. That same year he returned to Michigan and was visiting his daughter Helen Lawrence who operated a bakery business in Lansing when he enrolled on March 6, 1909, in Grand Army of the Republic Foster Post No. 42 in Lansing. According to Theodore’s grand-daughter, Wanda Schosso,
Helen had just returned home from visiting relatives. The weather became real hot and Theodore became very sick. The doctors did not know what the trouble was nor the cause of it, and as a result, did not know how to treat him, and his illness became worse. Helen hired trained nurses to care for him and did everything for him that she could think of. Helen sent for her sister Louisa Kruse who left Oakland, Oregon, for the trip to Michigan on July 11, 1909. The Rice Hill people were aware of Mr. Castor’s serious illness and of course the William Castor family was very worried and greatly feared that they would never see him alive again. Just about all Theodore would say was “Get me back to Oregon and I’ll live.” The doctors said that he would never make the trip, but Helen said, “He wants to get back to Oregon and we are going to see that he gets there.” So she charted a pullman railway passenger car, engaged two registered nurses and she and Louisa started out with their bedfast father for Oregon. A telegram received at Rice Hill on July 14th stated that he was some better. The passenger car with it’s group of five people arrived in Oakland on August 6th and Theodore arrived at his home in Rice Hill soon after, but still quite a sick man. Wanda had to be very quiet and was allowed to see Grand-dad only for brief periods. The older of the two nurses stayed about two weeks and then wanted to get back to her family in the East. The younger nurse had no family ties and had always wanted to see the west, so she enjoyed every minute of her stay there. The nurses cared for Theodore for some time before they let him dress and get out of the bed room. The exact nature of Theodore’s illness was never fully understood or explained. It seemed that there developed a growth like place on his stomach like a huge red water blister the size of a large dinner plate and red as fire. This condition, whatever it was, disappeared in time. . . .
Theodore was member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and he was a witness for the pension application of Charles Houbel, also formerly of Company C.
Theodore died on June 9, 1920, at the home of his daughter Louisa, in Oakland, and was buried
in Cedar Hill