Nelson Bressau - update 5/14/2017

Nelson Bressau was born on January 26, 1842, probably in Quebec, Canada or in Michigan or Syracuse, New York, the son of French Canadians and Quebecois Peter Bressau (1816-1906) and Mary Louisa Dubois (1821-1900).

His parents settled in Michigan in 1842 or 1844. By 1850 Peter was working as a sawyer in Muskegon, at that time a part of Ottawa County, and Nelson was attending school. By 1860 Nelson was a laborer in the vicinity of Mill Point, Spring Lake, Ottawa County living with his family.

Nelson stood 5’9” with brown eyes, fair hair and a light complexion and was a 19-year-old laborer living in Muskegon County (or perhaps in Fairview, Mason County) when he enlisted with the consent of his parents in Company H on May 13, 1861. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers,” was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.) Nelson was shot in the left arm on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, the musket “ball passed through fleshy part of arm, about midway between shoulders & elbow, granulated and healed kindly.” According to his medical records he subsequently “suffered pain and loss of sensation in the little finger and one-half of the ring finger” and after about three weeks “the pain extended over the whole hand front & back.”

He was first hospitalized at Emory hospital in Washington, DC, and eventually transferred to West’s Building hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and continued to suffer lack of sensation in the two digits but continuing, constant pain in his hand, indeed “leaving the arm helpless and useless and forcing him to handle it like a broken arm.” Apparently the ulnar never was torn by the musket ball and then became inflamed. He remained hospitalized until he was discharged on January 24, 1863, at Baltimore, for disability resulting from his wounds.

Nelson was probably still in Maryland in May of 1863 when he applied for and received a pension (no. 16928), drawing $8.00 per month and $72.00 per month by 1929. By the summer of 1863 Nelson was working as a laborer and living at the Hotel Baylas on 463 New Jersey Avenue in Washington, DC, when he registered for the draft; his prior service in the 3rd Michigan duly noted in the record.

Nelson eventually returned to Michigan.

Nelson was living in Mason County, Michigan, when he married New York native Alice Mary Williams or Willson (1847-1919) on March 27, 1867, in Pere Marquette, Mason County, and they had at least one child: Eva May (1873-1895).

In 1870 Nelson and his wife were living on a farm in Riverton, Mason County, and in 1873 he was living in Ludington. Nelson and his family eventually moved to Indiana and for some years he worked as a mail carrier in Elkhart. They were living in Elkhart when their only child, Eva May died in 1895. Nelson and his wife were living at 113 North Sixth Street in Elkhart and he was working as a mail carrier in 1900; also living with them were his parents and his brother-in-law Fred Willson (b. 1854). He was and living in Elkhart, Indiana in 1906, and was a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association.

By 1908 Nelson and Alice had moved on to Los Angeles, California. In 1910 Nelson was working as a mail carrier and he and Alice were living at 715 Frary Street in El Monte, Los Angeles County, California. In 1915 and 1917 he was residing at 727 S. Ivy Street in Monrovia, Los Angeles County, California. By 1920 he was a widower living at 316 Hillcrest in Monrovia; also living with him were a niece and nephew: Indiana natives Louella and Frank Ulrey (?). Nelson married German-born widow Mrs. Anna Dunham (b. 1858), in San Bernardino, California, on January 18, 1926.

Nelson died January 2, 1929, at Monrovia, and was buried in Forest Lawn, Glendale, California: sec. D, lot 23, next to his wife Alice.

In 1929 Anna applied for a pension, which was rejected on the grounds that she “did not marry the soldier prior to June 27, 1905 as required to give title to pension under Act of May 1, 1920.”

Noel George Bernier

Noel George Bernier, also known as “George Barnier”, “Beamier”, “Bearnier” or “Beaumier”, was born on December 8, 1835, in Cap-St.-Ignace, Montmagny County, Quebec, Canada, the son of Francis M. and Marie Elizabeth.

Noel, or George as he was generally known, left Cap-St.-Ignace, and immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan by 1857. Three years later he was working as a mill hand in the city and living at the David Cable boarding house at Sebastopol, on the north side of Muskegon Lake.

He stood 5’10” with gray eyes and brown hair and was 26 years old and living on the north side of Muskegon Lake when he enlisted in Company H on May 13, 1861. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers”, was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.)

George was a wagoner in December of 1862, and serving with the Brigade wagon train in March of 1863, but was absent sick in May, and remained absent sick through August, reportedly detached as a nurse in the division hospital. In fact, George was apparently treated for “intermittent fever” on January 30 and 31 and again from March 11 to 13, 1863. He was subsequently treated for chronic diarrhea from the end of April through May.

However, according to a report written by Captain Thomas Waters of Company H, on August 10, 1863, at camp near from Sulphur Springs, Virginia, George, was a nurse at the First Division hospital, of the Third Corps, located “near Potomac Creek station was on or about the 14th day of June last sent to Alexandria with the sick and wounded. He was then relieved from duty and ordered to report to his Regiment for duty. He was last seen by a member of the Company in the streets of Frederick, Maryland, drunk. This on or about the 7th of July, 1863.” This apparently occurred as the Regiment was returning to Virginia from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The provost marshal’s office in Washington reported on August 22, 1863, that one Captain James Smith from the provost marshal’s office in the Forty-fourth district, Frederick, (Maryland presumably) “is directed to take measures for the arrest of the [Barnier who was a] deserter, and report action to their office.”

It is not known whatever became of this particular incident, but George was treated for gonorrhea from September 19-22, 28 to October 2, October 7-10, 25, 26, November 1 to 6 and to the 14th, from the 15th to 23. He was again suffering from intermittent fever and gonorrhea in late November. In March of 1864 George was reported as a teamster detached as of January 8, 1864, serving with the Brigade wagon train.

According to Ben Tracy, who was formerly in the Third Michigan and by the spring of 1864 was acting assistant quartermaster for the Second Brigade, to which the Third was then attached, George was thrown from a horse and injured sometime around April 19, 1864. George reportedly broke his right arm just above the wrist. He was reportedly being treated for syphillis from April 22-30, 1864, and was also undergoing treatment for his fractured radius. In May he was sick in the hospital in Washington, DC, and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864.

After his discharge from the army George returned to Muskegon where he lived for many years and worked variously as a carpenter and shipbuilder. He married Sophia Roslie DeGraff (her maiden name may have been Boolinstes) on July 2, 1872, in either Zeeland or Holland, Ottawa County. George was living in Muskegon in May of 1880 when he joined Grand Army of the Republic Kearny Post No. 7 in Muskegon. That same year he was reported as working as a carpenter and living in Lakeside, Muskegon County, with his wife

He was living in Muskegon in 1883, 1890 and 1899 and probably still residing in Muskegon when he was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 4105) on September 19, 1903, listing his occupation as a laborer. When George was admitted to the Home he also claimed that he was married, however he listed his nearest relative as one Charles Miller of Muskegon (probably the same Charles Miller who had also served in Company H during the war).

George lived in the Home off and on splitting his time between the Home and Muskegon. He was honorably discharged from the Home on March 10, 1904, and was living in Muskegon from 1905 through 1911, probably at 730 or 750 Lake Street. He was readmitted to the Home on March 9, 1915, and was discharged on August 16, 1916, at his own request.

He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and he may have been a witness for Jackson Bennett’s pension application. In 1864 George applied for and received a pension (no. 86,538), drawing $6.00 per month by 1883, and he suffered from a fractured his right forearm which he claimed he received during the war (see Tracy’s statement above).

At some point after his discharge from the Home in 1916 George went to live with his nephew, Zephirin Bartet in Quebec.

George died of “old age” on January 27 or 28, 1918, at his nephew’s home in Cap-St.-Ignace, Montmagny County, Quebec, Canada and was buried in the parish cemetery there.

Peter Paul Bergevin Jr.

Peter Paul Bergevin Jr., also known as “Begervin” or “Bergervin”, was born May 20, 1840, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the son of Peter Sr. (b. 1804) and Calista (b. 1794).

Canadian natives Peter Sr. and Calista were presumably married in Canada, possibly in Quebec. In any case, Peter was proficient in speaking French, and at one point claimed to be fluent in the French language. While Peter Jr. was still a small boy his family left Canada and moved westward, eventually settling in western Michigan. By 1850 Peter Jr. was working as a laborer along with his older brother Joseph and living with his family in Oceana County where his father worked as a laborer for a wealthy lumberman named Charles Mears.

By 1860 Peter’s older Joseph was working as a laborer in Muskegon, Muskegon County. Presumably Peter joined him shortly before the war broke out.

Peter Jr. was 21 years old and living in Muskegon, Muskegon County, when he joined the Muskegon Rangers in April of 1861 as Third Sergeant. (In 1860 one Joseph Bergevin, a 23-year old Canadian, was working as a sawyer and living in Muskegon.) The “Rangers” were a local militia company formed in Muskegon soon after the fall of Fort Sumter in April of 1861, and were reorganized into Company H of the Third Michigan infantry which was then forming at Cantonment Anderson in Grand Rapids. And as a result, Peter subsequently enlisted as Third Sergeant in Company H on May 13, 1861 (according to his pension records as of May 28; in fact it was probably April 28). According to another member of Company H, Charles Brittain, “Peet was a first rate fellow.”

Peter was shot by a musket ball in one of his shoulders on May 30 or 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and hospitalized briefly in Washington. He eventually returned to duty and struck by a shell shot in his right leg on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run. Peter was sent to Armory Square hospital in Washington, DC, where he suffered the amputation of his right leg above the knee.

On July 18, while recovering from his wounds near Alexandria, he took the time to write to the sister of William McKernan who had also been wounded at Fair oaks but who died of his wounds. “Madam,” Peter wrote,

I am under the painful responsibility of informing you that your dear beloved brother died in Washington Hospital Judiciary Square July 6th. The cause of this long delay on my part for not writing sooner, is on account of your address not having it with me. The last letter I sent you before you got the money [?] I was then nearly certain that he would not live for he was very bad & was getting worse & worse all the time. As concerning his death I have little to say. He died very easy, was well taken care of until the last moment & was decently buried. I will now bring this to a close by endeavoring to explain to you what few effects he has got here coming to him. He has here one shoulder strap coat one pair of pants one pair of shoes one cap & he has paid up to May 1st, 1862 so he has pay coming from that date up to July 6th/1862 & there is his bounty money & Land Warrant if such can be got. About that you can tell as well as I can where you are by applying to some Now then to get these things, as I understand his father is dead [so his] mother is next legal person to get it & no [other] person can so long [as] she is living. More than this. Mrs. McKernan has to prove herself by proper authority in the town or country where she lives that she is the identical mother of this said deceased William McKernan. For this she can apply [to a justice of the peace or mayor of the city after she has forwarded sufficient papers to prove this she then has to make an application stating all concerning his death, what battle he was wounded [in], the state & where he died & when & also stating the names of all his effects & up to what date he was paid & stating about his bounty money & land warrant. I suppose you know when he was wounded & where it was. [It was at] the battle of Fair Oaks on the 31st of May. [He was] shot through the foot. Now I think that the rest you can see for your self on this letter. More I think the surest way for you to get this is to apply to some member of Congres or a Senator if I was going to remain here I could get it for you & it would not cost a centy but I was wounded at the same battle William was & have now got well & in a day or 2 I am going back [to] join the Regiment again. This [is] all I can think of. Any further information needed on my part will be rendered with pleasure. Direct to P. P. Bergevin, Co. H, 3rd Regt Mich Vol. Washington D. C.

Peter was promoted to Second Lieutenant on September 1 replacing Lieutenant Benjamin Tracy, and in November was absent wounded and then AWOL, but by December he was reported wounded in a hospital in Washington, DC.

On December 23 William Drake of Company A was passing through Washington on his back to rejoin the regiment and stopped in to see Peter who was reportedly staying at a private home on C Street. “He has lost his right leg above the knee,” Drake wrote to a friend in Michigan, “(carried away by a shell at Bull Run/62) he can’t go out & is waiting for Govt to furnish him with a Patent limb – poor fellow – he complains of being lonely – While I was there he looked out of the window – at some school children at play and turned sharply, ‘Drake, I tell you that sight makes me almost cry sometimes.’” Drake also reported that the Third Michigan’s former Colonel, now General Stephen Champlin had stopped by to see “the other day – Don called on him also.”

He remained hospitalized from January of 1863 through September, and resigned his commission on October 18, 1863, in order to accept an appointment as Second Lieutenant in the Veterans’ Reserve Corps (the “Invalid Corps”). According a hospital chaplain, Peter was on duty with the Seventy-fifth VRC and along with his company of men were doing guard duty and any other services which might be required of them at the U.S. hospital located at Fourteenth and Massachusetts avenues in Washington, sometime between late 1863 and early 1865.

In August of 1865 he was assigned to the the medical director for the Department of Ohio, at Detroit, but those orders were revoked and he was instead ordered to report to the assistant commissioner, District of Columbia, for assignment in the Freedman’s Bureau. He worked at the Freedman’s (Campbell) Hospital in Washington and was reported “in charge of public property”.

In January of 1867 he was assigned to the Freedman’s Village in Virginia, and he remained in that post until October of 1867 when he was ordered to report to the commissioner for the bureau. At one point he reportedly served in Seventy-fifth company, Second Battalion VRC. (The VRC was made up of men who while ambulatory were generally incapable of performing regular military tasks due to having suffered debilitating wounds and/or diseases and were assigned to garrison the many supply depots, draft rendezvous, camps, forts, prisons, etc. scattered throughout the northern cities, thus freeing able-bodied men for regular military duty.) In any case, Peter was mustered out of the VRC on January 1, 1868, possibly at Washington, DC.

After his release from the army Peter went to work as a civil agent for the Freedman’s Bureau, and was working in that capacity and probably living in Washington in February of 1869 when he applied for and received a pension (no. 95,999.

Peter lived in Washington for the remainder of his life. From 1881-83, he was living at 742 Tenth Street northwest in Washington working in the U.S. General Land Office.

He divorced his first wife Martha A. in December of 1881, and was awarded custody of their infant son.

Peter was working as a clerk and still residing on Tenth Street when he married Lydia Alcorn (1847-1916) of Philadelphia, on July 8, 1886, in Washington, DC.

He was reported in Lincoln Post No. 3, Washington, DC, in 1890. Peter was apparently living alone in rented rooms in the Frost household in Washington in 1892.

Peter had been sick for about three weeks when he died of congestion of the lungs on August 6, 1896, at his home at 618 Third Street northwest in Washington. According to Dr. George Lattimer, who attended Bergervin, his death was the result of valvular heart disease itself a consequence of his having contracted rheumatism several years prior to his death. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

His widow eventually returned to Philadelphia where she lived out the rest of her life (although her body was returned to Washington for burial at Arlington). She was living in Philadelphia when she applied for and received a pension (no. 436,031).