Daniel S. Root was born on April 11, 1838, in Sweden, Monroe County, New York, the son of Edwin G. (b. 1811) and Amarilla (Beadle).
His parents were married in August of 1832 and eventually settled in Monroe County, New York. Edwin brought his family to Michigan in 1845, and settled in Ionia County. By 1850 Edwin had settled his family on a farm in Otisco, Ionia County, where Daniel attended school with four of his siblings. In order to support himself in the mid-1850s Daniel spent his winters teaching and working as a laborer in the summer, and by 1860 his family was still residing in Otisco.
Daniel was 23 years old and probably still living in Otisco when he enlisted as Second Sergeant in Company K on May 13, 1861. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant of Company F on November 23, 1861, and commissioned First Lieutenant and transferred to Company A on July 1, 1862.
Daniel was wounded slightly on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, and in early January of 1863, went home to Michigan on a furlough of twenty days. He returned to Company A by the end of the month, and was transferred to Company D and commissioned Captain on February 5, replacing George Dodge. Daniel was reported on detached service in Michigan, probably recruiting for the Regiment, from December 29, 1863, and was transferred back to Company A on February 14, 1864.
“In the heat of battle,” one newspaper wrote some years after the war, Root had a reputation for being “as cool as though in a drawing-room.” During the battle of the Wilderness in early May of 1864, so one story went, “Captain D. C. Crawford, of Lyons, an officer in the same Regiment, relates an incident that illustrates his superb courage and coolness in danger. ‘In one of the battles of the wilderness the skirmish line composed of their Regiment was forced back by the enemy. Our men were running for shelter within our lines, and the rebels were not 30 feet behind in hot pursuit, shouting surrender, surrender. In the retreat Root, then a lieutenant, lost his hat. He stopped, coolly turned around, facing the foe, picked it up, put it on his head and resumed his retreat. When he picked it up the rebels were within 20 feet of him.’”
Daniel was transferred to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry as Captain upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and promoted to Major on July 20, commissioned as of June 12, replacing Major Mathews. In his official report on the action of June 22, 1864, near Petersburg, Virginia, Root wrote that
in the afternoon of the 21st instant my command was detailed for picket and was posted in the immediate front of the enemy, covering the entire front of our Brigade, connecting on the left with the pickets of the 7th Regiment [N.J.] (Third Brigade, First Division) and on the right with the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division. During the forenoon of the 22d, my Regiment still being on picket, kept up a sharp skirmish fire with the enemy's pickets in our immediate front. About 10 a.m. of the 22d I reported to the colonel commanding the 2nd Brigade a movement of the enemy toward our left. About 1 p.m. of this day I heard heavy picket firing at some considerable distance to the left of my line. At this time I noticed no unusual movement of the enemy to my immediate front. My first intimation of the disaster and of the giving away of the picket-line on my left was the appearance of the pickets from my left passing to the rear of my line, closely pursued by the enemy. To prevent capture I immediately withdrew my picket-line and retired to the rifle-pits occupied by the 1st [Mass.] Heavy Artillery. In doing this 19 of my men were taken prisoners. My command remained with the 1st [Mass. H.A.] until we were again flanked by the enemy on the left, when we retired to the second line of rifle-pits, where I again formed my command.
Dan Crotty of Company F wrote some years after the war that in July of 1864, “Our Regiment, the 5th, are having lively times on the line, commanded by our gallant Lieutenant Colonel Dan. S. Root, as brave an officer as there is in the army in any battle, while in camp he is the personification of mildness to a fault. The Colonel arose from the ranks by his bravery and good conduct. He knows how to appreciate the love of his men, who now are forcing the rebel skirmishers, and they fall back to their main support, when their reserve open out with a withering fire on our men.”
Crotty observed of Root that “No braver soldier ever drew a sword than he. He is the beloved of those who have the good fortune to be in his command. In camp, mild but firm; in battle as brave as the bravest. Always at his post, he never lost a battle, from the first Bull Run to the present time. He will always be remembered with the greatest pleasure by those who have shared the numerous campaigns with him in the Army of the Potomac.” Root was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on March 22, 1865, commissioned December 21, 1864, replacing Lieutenant Colonel Mathews, and was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
No pension seems to be available.
After the war Daniel returned to Ionia and studied medicine under Dr. Evans and then under Dr. James Grove (formerly a surgeon in the Third Michigan) in Grand Rapids, and he attended lectures at Ann Arbor. He then attended medical college in Chicago, and entered into practice about 1868 in Chicago where he was living in 1872 and 1879. By 1880 he was working as a physician and living on West Twelfth Street in Chicago.
As many of his patients were German he mastered that language in order to be more effective in communicating with his patients. The Ionia Sentinel wrote in 1882, “Locating in a part of the city where it seemed necessary to know something of the German language, he mastered it without a teacher, learning to speak it fluently while he was carrying on his practice. He was a man of steadfast and unalterable purpose, fearing nothing, and shrinking from nothing in his advance. To his unflinching courage in the face of disease, his almost unconquerable will, and determined purpose to go forward and meet the duties of his chosen calling, when his physical strength was failing day by day, he probably owes his early and untimely death.”
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and an accomplished botanist, “having a large collection of plants and flowers from all the states, many if not most of which he gathered himself; and he was no mean ornithologist, having a knowledge of birds and their habits, that many a special scientist might envy. He was fond of flowers and every growing thing.
“‘A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and all that we behold
From this green earth.’”
According to the Grand Rapids Eagle of February 27, 1882, “He had been in declining health for some time and came over to Ionia on Monday, where his father, a brother and a sister reside, hoping to recuperate by getting away from all business and professional care.” His family and “friends were not seriously alarmed until Thursday last. Physicians were called. But there was no help.”
Daniel died at 5:45 p.m. on February 23, 1882, in his sister’s home in Ionia, and funeral services were held on Sunday afternoon at the residence of T. D. Fargo, his brother-in-law, in Ionia.
Daniel was buried in Oak Hill cemetery in Ionia.
“In person,” wrote the Ionia Sentinel in its obituary, “Colonel Root was tall, lithe and well formed; a model of physical beauty, he looked every inch a soldier. He was retired and reserved in his manners, intimate with but few, but most frank, genial and social with these; a true friend, loving not with demonstration but with a solid and enduring affection, as permanent as adamant.” And, he “was a man of varied accomplishments, with a mind stored with the choicest and most useful knowledge and a heart absolutely free from guile. Man or boy, he was never known to do a mean thing within the remembrance or knowledge of the writer, who knew him well for 35 years. Such a man was an honor to our country, wherever he grew to manhood, and his loss is not that of friends and family alone, but it reaches we know not where. Had he lived the three score years and ten allotted to man, no estimate can fathom the usefulness of his life.”
On May 31, 1888, the Eagle reported that at Ionia during the recent Memorial Day services, “Capt. E. M. Allen, of Portland, delivered an address at the opera house. The floral tributes were profuse. The ritual service at the cemetery took place near the monument of Col. Dan S. Root, over which was draped the battle flag of his old Regiment, the Third Michigan Infantry.” G.A.R. Post no. 126 in Belding and Smyrna was named in his honor.