Washington

Albert Burton Towne - update 8/29/2016

Albert Burton Towne was born in June 7, 1842, in Clinton County, New York or in Michigan.

Albert, who stood 6’1” with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, was discharged (for reasons unknown) from a military unit called “Duboises” Artillery on September 20, 1861. This unit may also have been part of the Kane County Independent Illinois Company of Cavalry. Furthermore, he also appears to have served in Company H, 11th Illinois Cavalry.

In any case Albert was 21 years old when he reentered the service in Company I, 3rd Michigan Infantry on February 24, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day.

It does not appear that Albert left to join the regiment, since he married one Clara M. Bush (1843-1926) of Walker, Kent County, on March 9, 1862, probably in Grand Rapids, and they had at least two children: Alva B. (b. 1863) and Edward or Edmund (b. 1867). Albert did eventaully join the regiment in Virginia and was sick in the hospital from May 3, 1862, until he was discharged on July 25, 1862, at Columbian College hospital in Washington, DC, for chronic asthma.

He returned to Michigan where he reentered the service on March 10, 1863 in Company H, 9th Michigan Cavalry, probably at Coldwater, Michigan, where the regiment was being formed between January and May of 1863; and was promoted to Corporal on April 11, 1863. If so, Albert probably never joined the 9th Cavalry but was instead transferred on May 1, 1863 to Battery L, 1st Michigan Light Artillery. The battery was organized in Coldwater and mustered into service on April 11, 1863, and left the state for Covington, Kentucky on May 20. It remained on duty at Covington until June 4 when it moved to Camp Nelson and then on to Mt. Sterling on June 12. It participated in numerous operations through the east Tennssee area during the second half of 1863. Albert was promoted to Sergeant on September 13, 1863.

The regiment was at the Cumberland Gap by the end of 1863 and remained on duty there until June of 1864 when it moved to Knoxville where it remained until August 15, 1865 when it was ordered to Jackson, Michigan.

Albert was mustered out as Sergeant with the regiment on August 22, 1865, at Jackson, Jackson County. (Austin Dibble, who had also served in the 3rd Michigan Infantry would also reenter the service in the 9th Michigan Cavalry and he, too, would be transferred to Battery L, 1st Michigan L.A.) After the war Albert returned to Michigan. By 1880 Albert was working as a farmer and living with his wife Clara and their two children in Monterey, Allegan County, and was probably living in Hillside, Monterey Township, Allegan County in 1883 and 1885, and 1890. (There was a civil war veteran named Alberton Towne living in Whitehall, Muskegon County in 1894.)

Albert was a member of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery Association, and may have been a member of the 3rd Michigan Infantry Association; he was also a member of GAR Post Oliver P. Morton No. 10 in Washington State. He was also a Methodist minister. He was living in Michigan when he applied for and received a pension (no. 490670).

Albert eventually moved to Washington state, settling in Snohomish.

Albert died at his home on the corner of Lincoln and Wood streets in Snohomish on April 15, 1914,. The service was held at the Methodist Church and he was buried in the GAR Cemetery in Snohomish: row 14.

In 1914 his widow was residing in Washington state when she applied for and received a pension (no. 779498).


Don George Lovell - update 8/30/2016

Don George Lovell was born on September 13, 1841, in Ionia County, Michigan, the son of Vermonter George Grout Lovell (1814-1901) and possibly Susan (1822-1854).

In 1850 Don (listed as George D.) was living with his parents and siblings in Spring Lake, Ottawa County. That same year there was a 50-year-old Vermont native named Mary Lovell living with and working as a servant for W. D. Foster in Grand Rapids, Kent County. (Foster was married to Fanny Lovell who was probably the sister of Don’s father, George G.) By 1860 Don was a tinner’s (or tinsmith) apprentice working for and/or living with his uncle (?) W. D. Foster, a hardware merchant in Grand Rapids’ 1st Ward. By 1860 his father George was working as a lumberman and living in Spring Lake with three of Don’s siblings: Ellen (b. 1840), Charles P. (1849-1873), and Lewis (b. 1852). By 1864 George G. was serving as Ottawa County treasurer and living in Grand Haven.

Shortly after the battle of first Bull Run, Virginia, on Sunday, July 21, 1861, Don was reported “a little sick” by William Drake, also of Company A. Lovell was a Sergeant and wounded in the hip at Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862; he was soon reported to be getting around on crutches. He was sick in the hospital in July of 1862, reportedly in Washington, but soon returned to the Regiment and was wounded in the groin and right knee on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run.

Sometime between September 1 and October 7, Don returned to Grand Rapids where he was promoted and transferred to the Sixth Michigan cavalry on October 7, 1862. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, commissioned on October 13, 1862, at the organization of that unit, and transferred to Company F, Sixth Michigan cavalry, and was mustered the same day at Grand Rapids, crediting and giving his place of residence as Grand Rapids where the regiment was being organized. He was commissioned a First Lieutenant on May 9, 1863, replacing Lieutenant Batchelder. The Sixth remained on duty at Grand Rapids until December 10 when it left for Washington where it participated in the defenses of the capital until June of 1863. The Sixth occupied Gettysburg, Pennsylvania briefly on June 28 and while it was engaged at Hanover, Pennsylvania on June 30 and participated in the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3 as well as in the pursuit of Lee’s forces back into Virginia.

He was serving with the regiment when it participated in the Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia, on June 9, 1863. (This action is considered to have been the largest cavalry engagement during the entire war.) According to J. H. Kidd, also of the Sixth Michigan cavalry, Lovell was in fact “the senior officer present with the regiment” and greatly distinguished himself in the difficult duty of guarding the rear, meeting emergencies as they arose with the characteristic courage and coolness which distinguished him on all occasions on the field of battle.”

Many years later Kidd referred to Lovell as “one of the most dashing and intrepid officers in the brigade. He was always cool and never carried away with excitement under any circumstances. “ Kidd, who was commanding the regiment at that time, also reported that during the action at Buckland Mills, Virginia, on October 19, 1863, Lovell was riding with him. The Sixth cavalry had been ordered by Custer to take a position in the some alongside the Gainesville-Warrenton pike not far from Broad Run.

The Sixth had gone out about 250 or 300 yards and was approaching a fence which divided [a] farm into fields, when Captain . . . Lovell, who was riding by the side of the commanding officer of the regiment, suddenly cried out:
“Major, there is a mounted man in the edge of the woods yonder,” at the same time pointing to a place direclty in front and about 200 yards beyond the fence.
A glance in the direction indicated, revealed the truth of Captain Lovell’s declaration but, recalling what General Custer had said, I replied:
“The general said we might expect some mounted men of the Seventh [Michigan cavalry] from the direction.”
“But the vidette is a rebel,” retorted Lovell, “he is dressed in gray.”
“It can’t be possible,” was the instant reply, and the column kept moving.
Just then. the man in the woods began to ride his horse in a circle.
“Look at that,” said Lovell, “that is a rebel signal; our men don’t do that.”

The Union forces were routed at Buckland Mills (also known as the “Buckland Race”) and were pursued halfway to Gainesville. The Sixth cavalry eventually went into winter quarters near Stevensburg, Virginia, and Don was absent sick in December of 1863 and January of 1864. He was promoted to Captain of Company F in March of 1864, commissioned October 22, 1863, replacing Captain Heyser (or Hyser).

Don was wounded on June 11, 1864, and in early July he returned home to Grand Rapids. According to the Eagle, Lovell was in Grand Rapids “on a visit to his sister, Mrs. W. D. Foster. The captain is one of the gallant officers of [the 6th cavalry] who was quite severely wounded in one of the battles before Richmond and we are pleased to know that he is rapidly recovering from his injury.”

He remained absent wounded through August, but eventually rejoined the Regiment and in November and December of 1864 he was commanding the Third Battalion. In January of 1865 he was detached on a court martial board, and from February through August (and probably through September as well) he was again commanding the Third Battalion.

Don was probably serving with the 6th Cavalry when it participated in Lee’s surrender in April of 1865 and in the Grand Review in Washington on May 23. On June 1 the Sixth was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and consolidated with the First Michigan cavalry later that month. Lovell was commissioned Major on June 21, 1865, and mustered out November 24, 1865, probably at Fort Leavenworth.

Following his discharge from the army Don returned to Grand Rapids where he married New York native Maggie G. Blakeslee on January 17, 1867, and they had at least four children” Fannie F. (b. 1868), a son, Mary (b. 1872) and Nellie (b. 1878).

By 1868-69 Don had resumed his trade as a tinsmith and was residing with his wife at 24 Washington Street in Grand Rapids. In 1870 Don owned some $7000 worth of real estate and was working as a tinsmith and living with his wife and daughter in Grand Rapids’ 3rd Ward; also living with them was Maggie’s mother Mary. That same year George G. Lovell was reported lived with his wife a widow Vermont native Ellen Turner Perkins (1827-1897), two teenage children named Perkins, Ella (b. 1857 in Michigan) and May (b. 1859 in Michigan), both attending school, and an infant named George Lovell (8 months) and Lewis (b. 1852 in Michigan). George was working as a horticulturalist and owned some $6000 worth of real estate and another $2200 in personal property and living with his family in Tallmadge, Ottawa County.

Don and his family left Michigan and by 1872 had settled in Colorado. By 1880 he was working as a stock dealer and living with his wife and children in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In June of 1882 Don was residing in Colorado Springs when he testified in the pension claim of Emery Moon. He eventually moved on to Tacoma, Washington and by 1889 was working as a teamster and living at 743 Tacoma Avenue. The following year he was a deputy U. S. Marshal working at 5 Marketplace and living at N. 8th Street northwest corner of Q Street. He was still a deputy marshal in 1891 and living at 743 Tacoma. In fact he probably lived the rest of his life in Tacoma. By mid-1891 he was Commander for the Grand Army of the Republic Department of Washington and Alaska, and by 1900 was still living in Tacoma.

He was a member of both the Sixth Michigan Cavalry Association and the Old 3rd Infantry Association. In 1870 he applied for and received a pension (no. 103308). He was a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist.

Don died on October 25, 1907, in Tacoma, and was buried Tacoma Cemetery.

In 1907 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 637976).


George Dana Hill - update 8/29/2016

George Dana Hill was born in June of 1839 in Somerset, England, Michigan or Lorain, Ohio, the son of Bezabeel Hill Jr. and Mary Bryant Thayer. According to one source, George and his family left Ohio and by 1850 had settled in Vevay, Ingham County. It is also possible that he was working as a clerk in Grand Rapids, when the war broke out, He was a 22-year-old farmer possibly living in Clinton County or Ingham Co

unty when he enlisted as a Musician in Company D on May 13, 1861; he was possibly related to George H. Hill of Company E. (Company D was composed in large part of men who came from western Ionia County and Eaton County.) George D. was promoted from Musician Third Class to Principal Musician on January 1, 1862, and discharged at Camp Pitcher, Virginia, on January 17, 1863.

He returned to Michigan where he reentered the service as First Sergeant in Company I, First Michigan cavalry on October 23, 1863, at Vevay, Ingham County, for 3 years, crediting Vevay, and was mustered the same day at Mt. Clemens, Macomb County.

He was wounded at Trevillian Station, Virginia, on June 11, 1864, again at Winchester, Virginia, on September 19, 1864, and furloughed November 27, 1864. He reported to Detroit Barracks on March 1, 1865, and was reported as promoted to Second Lieutenant of Company A in January of 1865, commissioned as of October 25, 1864, mustered on January 2, 1865, at Winchester, Virginia, replacing Lieutenant Pierson. In March and April he was reported as acting Adjutant, and was wounded in the head and arm at Appomattox courthouse on April 9, 1865, resulting in the loss of his left arm. He was admitted to the general hospital at Farmville, Virginia, on April 13.

George was promoted to First Lieutenant and Adjutant in May, commissioned as of March 7, and mustered as of May 1 at St. Louis, Missouri, replacing Lieutenant Beach. (Curiously, though, the regiment participated in the Grand Review in Washington on May 23 and didn’t move west, to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, until June 1.)

He was absent with leave in June and in July, on detached service at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas through September, and was mustered out on November 11, 1865, at Fort Leavenworth.

George reentered the service as First Lieutenant on July 28, 1866, in the 42nd United States infantry, brevetted Captain on March 2, 1867, and was retired as a Captain on December 31, 1870.

George was probably living in Washington Territory when he married Maine native Ellen Hooper Kellogg (1845-1887), on March 28, 1872, at the home of her brother David Kellogg in Seattle, and they had at least four children: Eliza Maud (b. 1873), George Edward (b. 1877), Ellen Kellogg (b. 1881) and Eugene Cary (b. 1883).

They were living in Washington Territory in 1873 and 1879, and in fact lived for many years in Seattle, King County. By 1880 he was listed as a retired army officer and living with his wife and children in Seattle, King County, Washington Territory; also living with them were two servants. In 1866 he applied for and received a pension (no. 65392).

George was a widower when he drowned at Anacortes, Washington on December 4, 1890, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle.

In January of 1891 David Kellogg, then residing in Washington State applied for and received a minor child’s pension (no. 397963).


Robert Graham - update 8/30/2016

Robert Graham was born 1843 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

It is quite likely that Robert came to Coopersville, Ottawa County, Michigan, in 1858, where he was proprietor of the only billiard and “sample room” (saloon).

Robert stood 5’5” with brown eyes and hair, and a light complexion, and was 22 years old and living in Polkton, Ottawa County or Newaygo County when he enlisted in Company H on May 13, 1861; he was possibly related to Chancey Graham of Company A and/or William H. Graham of Company B, all of whom had lived in Ottawa County prior to the war. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers,” was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.)

Robert was absent sick in the hospital in August of 1862, again from April of 1863 through July, and was reportedly slightly wounded in the right thigh in early May of 1864, probably during the various actions at the Wilderness, Virginia. He was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864. After he left the army Robert returned to Michigan and reentered the service in Hancock’s 1st Army Corps, a Veterans Reserve Corps (VRC) unit, on March 20, 1865, at Grand Rapids, for one year. He was discharged upon expiration of his term of service on March 29, 1866, at Washington, DC, when he was a Corporal of Company A, 8th U.S. Volunteers.

Robert eventually returned to Michigan. He may have been the same Robert Graham (age 27 and born in Pennsylvania) who was working as a lumber manufacturer and living with another lumberman, John Johnson in Eastmanville, Polkton, Ottawa County in 1870.

In 1873 Robert married Margaret Malone (b. 1856), and they had at least one child: Charles (b. 1879).

By 1880 Robert was operating a saloon in Coopersville and living with his wife and son; also living with them was his brother-in-law Thomas Malone. Robert was living in Coopersville in 1888, in Polkton in 1890, and back in Coopersville by 1897 when he became a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association and when he applied for and received a pension (no. 1099398). By 1900 he had moved to Bellingham, Washington.

Robert died on February 13, 1910, in Washington and was presumably buried there.

His widow was living in Washington when in March of 1910 when she applied for and received a pension (no. 706947).

James S. Gillespie - updated 8/30/2016

James S. Gillespie was born on September 4, 1825 in Argyle, Washington County, New York.

James’ father was born in New York and his mother in Scotland.

James married New York native Caroline F. Scranton (b. 1833), on the evening of January 12, 1857, in Romeo, Macomb County, Michigan, and they had at least five children: James R. (b. 1857), Nellie (b. 1860), Jennie (b. 1861), Cornelius (b. 1866) and Grace (b. 1869). (Caroline was living in Washington, Macomb County in 1850.)

By 1860 James was working as a register’s clerk and living with his wife and children in Grand Rapids’ 3rd Ward.

James stood 5’6,” with blue eyes, auburn hair and a light complexion and was 35 years old and probably living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as a wagoner in Company A on May 13, 1861. James was discharged on account of chronic diarrhea and consumption on June 20, 1862, at Savage Station, Virginia.

After he was discharged from the army James returned to Grand Rapids where, on December 10, 1862, he applied for and received a pension (no. 13995). James subsequently reentered the service as Private in Company H, 27th Michigan infantry on March 10, 1863, for 3 years, and was mustered on April 10 at Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, where the regiment was organized. The regiment left Michigan for Kentucky on April 12 and participated in the siege and capture of Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi during the summer and the Knoxville campaign in November-December.

James was detached to Brigade headquarters from November 1, 1863, through June of 1864 -- the regiment had been transferred to the Army of the Potomac in April of 1864 -- and again from March of 1865 through May. He was mustered out with the regiment on July 26, 1865, at Delaney House, DC. After the war James returned to Michigan. He was apparently living in Corunna, Shiawassee County in 1867 and in 1870 he was working as a copying clerk and living with his wife and children in the village of Mt. Clemens, Macomb County.

By 1877 he was living in Caro, Tuscola County. In 1880 he was working as a real estate agent and living with his wife and children in Caro, Tuscola County. In 1883 he was living in Caro drawing $8.00 per month for chronic diarrhea (pension no. 13,995, dated March of 1879), drawing $30 by 1912. He was still living in Caro in 1890 and 1894 and around 1900. By 1910 he was living on Anderson with his wife in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington. In 1911, 1912, and 1913 he and Carline were living at 1532 N. Anderson Street in Tacoma, Washington.

James was a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Infantry Association.

James died on April 8, 1913, in Tacoma and is presumably buried there.

On April 17, 1913 Caroline applied for and received a pension (no. 759529).

Sylvester Gay - update 8/30/2016

Sylvester Gay was born in November of 1828 in Pennsylvania.

Sylvester was 32 years old and probably living in Allegan County, Michigan, when he enlisted in Company I on May 13, 1861. According to one source, he was among the second wave of recruits to come out of Ottawa County and did not in fact enlist until the end of May, along with Albert Hamlin, Calvin Hall, Nelson Davis and David Davis, Joseph Payne, Albert Gardner, James Rhodes, Perry Goshorn, Joseph Solder (Josiah Schuler), Quincy Lamereaux, William Suret and John Ward.

He was reported absent sick in a general hospital from August of 1862 through October of 1863, although he may in fact have been transferred to the Veterans’ Reserve Corps on July 1, 1863, at Washington, DC.

Sometime in the fall of 1863 Sylvester was arrested, charged with being drunk while on duty and court-martialed at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was confined at Harrisburg for seven months, and in March or April of 1864 was confined in the Old Capitol prison in Washington, DC.

On May 16, 1864, Michigan Congressman Francis Kellogg, from Grand Rapids, wrote to the Secretary of War requesting him to investigate Gay’s case.

Kellogg had been told that Gay had been imprisoned without a trial. “Sylvester Gay,” Kellogg wrote, “formerly of the Third Michigan infantry -- latterly of the Invalid Corps is in the Old Capitol Prison whither he was sent April 28th without sentence. Previous to this he had been imprisoned seven months at Harrisburg -- all if I am correctly informed before any trial. His crime was being intoxicated while on duty I am told. All pay and allowances stopped & part of his family at home have been sent to the Poor House. Has he not been punished enough -- Mr. Secretary please have his case looked into -- perhaps you will think best to order him where there is fighting to be done.”

On May 18, 1864, a colonel from the War Department replied to Kellogg.“I have the honor,” he wrote, “to acknowledge the receipt of your communication to the Secretary of War in which you request inquiry to be made into the case of Sylvester Gay of the Vet Reserve Corps, confined in the Old Capitol Prison, and, as you are informed, without having had a trial. In reply I beg to inform you that it appears that the soldier was tried by Court Martial at Harrisburg, Penn, convicted and is now serving imprisonment under sentence.” According to a War Department letter of November 4, 1864, Gay was discharged on September 24, 1864.

It is unknown if Sylvester ever returned to western Michigan.

By 1870 he was working as a saddler and living with a farmer named Thomas Hanley in Nawakum, Lewis County, Washington and in 1871 he was working as a farmer and living with the Allred family in Lewis County, Washington. In 1873 he was listed as married and working as a saddler and harness maker living in Thurston, Washington. By 1880 he was working as a harness maker and living as a single man with the Samuel Miller family of Alpheus Wooster family in Mason County, Washington. In 1887 he was working as a harness maker, single and living in Skagit, Washington. In 1900 he was listed as a widower and working as a servant and farm laborer for Elizabeth Tingley in Skagit, Washington.

In the Grand Army of the Republic Annual Encampment Journal for 1888, one James Gay of Alaska, Kent County published an inquiry seeking the whereabouts of Sylvester, formerly of Company I, 3rd Michigan Infantry who was supposed to be living near Seattle, Washington territory. Sylvester was still living in Washington in 1907 when he applied for and received a pension (no. 1151514).

Sylvester died on May 14, 1909, in Skagit, Washington and is buried in Mt. Vernon Cemetery, Skagit.

Doctor Willard Bliss - update 5/14/2017

Doctor Willard Bliss was born on April 18, 1825, in Brutus, Cayuga County, New York, the son of Massachusetts natives Obediah Bliss Jr. (1792-1863) and Marilla Pool (1801-1857).

In 1820 Obediah was living in Savoy, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Obediah and Marilla were married in Savoy, Massachusetts on July 9, 1815. They eventually settled in New York and by 1830 Obediah was living in Hamilton, Madison County, New York. The family moved from New York to Ohio, and by 1840 Obediah and his family were living in Chagrin Falls, where D. Willard (as he was commonly known) entered the medical department of Western Reserve College and was graduated in 1845 as a physician. He began his medical practice in Chagrin Falls, Ohio but eventually moved to Cleveland where he attended the Cleveland Medical College from which he graduated in 1849.

D. Willard married Ohio-born Sophia Prentiss (1825-1887) on May 23, 1849, in Cleveland, and they had at least four children: Dr. Ellis Baker (1850-1919), Dr. Clara (1852-1940, Mrs. Finley), Willard “Willie” Prentiss (1854-1856), and Eugenia (1855-1901, Mrs. Milbourn).

By 1850 D. W. and Sophronia were living with their infant son in Chagrin Falls, where D. W. practiced medicine; that same his parents were also living in Chagrin Falls where Obediah was working as a manufacturer and D. Willard’s younger brother Zenas was living with his parents. Zenas, too, would become a physician and serve alongside his brother in the 3rd Michigan.

In 1851 Willard and his wife moved to Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan, and sometime between 1852 and 1854 Willard settled in Grand Rapids where he quickly became an established member of the medical community. In August of 1856 Dr. Bliss and his wife suffered the loss of their two-year-old son Willie. By August of 1859, Dr. Bliss had located his office in Nevius’ Block on the east side of Monroe between Pearl and Justice Streets where he practiced as “Surgeon, Occulist and Aurist,” and he remained in that location through 1860, while he and his family were residing on the third floor of Miller’s Boarding House in Ledyard & Aldrich Block, also on Monroe Street and on the same side of the Street as his office.

The vast majority of labor in the middle of the nineteenth century was performed by hand, and trauma was one of the more common occupational hazards. Loss of a finger, a toe or sometimes a whole limb was an all-too-frequent occurrence in areas such as logging and indeed in agriculture in general, then still the predominant occupation in the United States. On January 5, 1856, the editor of the Enquirer reported the results of a recent surgical operation undertaken by Drs. Henderson and Bliss.

The poor fellow who was the subject is a Hollander well known about town under the appellation of “Jelka,” and until within the last year or two, was for a long time in the employ of A. D. Rathbone, Esq.

Nearly a year ago, he was kicked on the left leg by a horse, since which time the limb has continually grown worse, until at last it became necessary to amputate it, in order to save his life.

Doctors Bliss and Henderson performed the operation in capital style -- Dr. B., wielding the knife, and taking it off above the knee. The patient being under the influence of chloroform was not aware until told, that the major part of his limb was detached from his body. It was a painful sight to witness, and “it were well when done, that it should be done quickly,” which was done by the above named gentlemen, neatly and skillfully. We never saw chloroform administered before in a surgical operation, and we never wish to see another, unless it is administered. It is truly the sufferer’s solace, and a blessed painkiller.

In March of 1857 John Sliter, of Wyoming, Kent County, died following an accident while working as a sawyer in Mr. Haire's mill, in Georgetown some four miles below Grandville. Sliter had his right leg sawed off “through the upper portion of his thigh by a circular saw. The attendance of Dr. Bliss . . . was procured as soon as possible, who found the bone so severely fractured that he deemed amputation necessary. This operation was immediately performed, severing the leg as closely to the body as possible. The unfortunate patient lived but about an hour after the amputation was performed.”

And in late September of 1860, Dr. Bliss, “assisted by Drs. Shepherd, Bissell, and Mainard, of our city, and Dr. Z. Bliss, of Ionia, and Dr. Daniel Wooley, of Big Rapids, amputated the limb of Mr. James Robinson, of Big Rapids, at the Bridge Street House, on Wednesday last. Mr. R. has suffered several years with what is called ‘white swelling’; and it was found necessary to amputate the diseased limb just above the joint. The operation was quickly performed, while the patient was under the influence of ether.”

During the month of October of 1859 much of his time was taken up with testifying during a murder trial in Grand Rapids.

In addition to his professional interests, before the war Bliss had also been very active in several of the city’s musical circles and was well-known for his fine singing voice. Not surprisingly, Bliss was also involved in various musical productions in Grand Rapids and in February of 1858 was appointed along with several others to set up a school for amateur singers. The session was nine weeks long and was to be held at the New Church Temple.

Dr. Bliss also took a keen interest in the growing militia movement in western Michigan and in 1860 was appointed Regimental Surgeon for the 51st Regiment, Michigan Militia, under the command of Colonel Daniel McConnell, and which was headquartered in Grand Rapids.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, shortly after war broke out in April of 1861, and when it was announced that a regiment was forming in Grand Rapids, Dr. Bliss quickly offered his services. He enlisted at the age of 36 as Regimental surgeon at the organization of the 3rd Regiment on May 13, 1861, and was soon joined as assistant Regimental surgeon by his brother Zenas, a physician then living in Ionia County.

In addition to providing medical inspections to each man who wished to enlist, the regimental surgeons also provided medical information for distribution in the local newspapers. On May 1, the Enquirer published the following notice from regimental surgeons Drs. D. W. and Zenas Bliss, in which they wished to instruct the ladies of Grand Rapids as to how to make bandages, etc.

Actual war exists in our land, and the U.S. is engaged in an attempt to suppress rebellion, which exists in some portions of our Union, and to maintain the laws and support the dignity of the govt., and in this hour of peril, it behooves us all good citizens -- ladies included -- to make known by their deeds, whether they are for or against this, the land of their nativity and adoption. 

Therefore, the undersigned, as Surgeons of the 3d Regiment of M. V. U. M., and in behalf of the Volunteer Soldiery of said regiment, issue this circular, asking all ladies who feel so disposed, to contribute bandages and lint, for the use of said regiment while in actual service. 

DIRECTIONS - All bandages should be made of cotton cloth or muslin, bleached or unbleached. Old is preferable to new; if the former, it should be thoroughly washed. It should be soft, yet firm, smooth, strong, and not too yielding, divested of selvige, seams and ravelings, and should be torn (not cut) into strips varying in width from 2 and one-quarter to 2 and one-half inches, the ends of the strips lapped, and sewed together. The length of a bandage may vary from 6 to 12 yards -- ordinarily 10 yards -- and each bandage should be carefully, smoothly, evenly and tightly rolled up and pinned. 

The lint may consist of old pieces of linen or muslin, divested of selvige, seams and ravelings, varying in size from that of the hand up to any other size convenient.

It is hoped and believed that every one can do a little in this noble service, and that a hearty response will be given to this call, and that you will show your devotion and loyalty to this govt. by sending in this small yet acceptable token, to be used if necessary in mitigating the sufferings of those who go, in this hour of peril, to defend the flag and honor of our nation.

We request that all donations be completely and carefully made up, and left at the office of Dr. Bliss of Grand Rapids, and the office of Dr. Bliss of Ionia, by Weds. evening, May 1st. Each package to be carefully labeled with the name of donor, the number of yards of bandages, number of pieces of lint, and number of papers of pins.

The 3rd Michigan infantry left Grand Rapids on Thursday, June 13, and shortly after the 3rd Michigan arrived in Washington on June 16, the Detroit Free Press carried a story concerning Bliss and his attention to the troops under his care. “Surgeon Bliss,” noted the editor, “deserves a great deal of credit for his untiring efforts to render the sick quarters as comfortable as possible. They are well supplied with straw beds, blankets, and pillows. Those in Michigan who have sick friends in the Third Regiment may rest assured that every care and attention will be bestowed upon them which circumstances permit. A large portion of the Regiment have suffered somewhat from change of climate, water and diet, but they are rapidly becoming accustomed to the change. Adjutant Earle is expected today with those who left behind at Grand Rapids on account of sickness. They accompany the Fourth Regiment.”

Yet apparently there had been rumors circulating around western Michigan that the men of the Third infantry were not receiving the best of medical care. It seems that certain allegations were made against the Regimental surgeons and their performance during the various actions along the Bull Run in northern Virginia between July 18 and July 21, 1861, and in reply Colonel McConnell, Lieutenant Colonel Ambrose Stevens, Major Stephen Champlin and Quartermaster Robert Collins signed and sent an open letter dated August 7, to the Grand Rapids Enquirer, praising the two physicians.

The conduct [wrote the staff officers] of Dr. D. W. Bliss, Surgeon, and Z. E. Bliss, Assistant Surgeon, of this Regiment, during the late retreat from Bull Run, having been severely animadverted upon, and having now fully examined into the subject, we deem it just to those gentlemen to make the following statement of facts. During the battle of Thursday, when there was apprehended need of them by the Regiment, they were both on hand doing what was possible to be done for the wounded of our Regiment, and also of the Brigade; while Dr. Z. E. Bliss contrary to what is required of a surgeon, came upon the field to attend the wounded during the action, remained there for over an hour personally exposed to the musketry, shot, and shell of the enemy and remained there until it was deemed best to have him retire to the rear, where he would be less exposed and could render an efficient service.

Dr. D. W. Bliss was all that day at his proper post at the Brigade hospital, established in the rear of the line, attending to his duties as surgeon. On Sunday, the day of the last battle of Bull Run, their services not being required by our Regiment beyond prescribing for a few sick, which duty performed, they were ordered by the Surgeon General to open a hospital at Centreville, and take charge of, and prescribe for the sick, and treat such of the wounded of other Regiments as should present themselves for treatment. They complied with this order, and did their duty faithfully that day, taking care of many sick and wounded. Sunday night the retreat, having been ordered, General Tyler, a general of the division who commanded that portion of the retreat, ordered them to move forward with the ambulances containing the wounded men, and attend to their wants during the retreat. This accounts for their severance from their Regiment during the retreat, and for their arrival in Washington in advance thereof. We think that the officer who ordered them off, under the circumstances, transcended his duty, and that in complying they had no other idea than that they were obliged to obey the order of a superior officer thus given. We make this statement in justice to them, and to end, if possible, whatever unfavorable impression may be entertained toward them by those not acquainted with the facts of the case.

Dr. Bliss returned home to Grand Rapids briefly at the end of July, 1861, possibly to settle his affairs and prepare to move his family east. In September he was promoted to Major and Surgeon, United States Volunteers (probably on September 21), and on October 15, 1861, was transferred and promoted to Brigade surgeon, serving on the staff of Brigadier General Israel Richardson. He claimed after the war that while he was medical director of the Third Division, Third Corps, to which the 3rd Michigan was attached, he tented with his brother Zenas who had replaced him as regimental surgeon in the 3rd Michigan. He was reportedly in charge of the division hospital at Savage Station, Virginia, during the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862, but by late summer had been placed in charge of Armory Square Hospital in Washington, DC.

According to Allen Foote, a member of Company B, 3rd Michigan infantry, who had been wounded at Fair Oaks and was being returned to Virginia,

In going through Washington we passed by the Armory Square Hospital, then in charge of Dr. Bliss. I “fell out” and went into his office. Fortunately I found him at his desk. When he looked at me he recognized me at once and said, “See here, young man, this will never do. You will ruin my reputation. I reported you mortally wounded at Fair Oaks and have had you dead and buried in the Chickahominy swamp for six months.” I said, “I will improve your reputation by giving you an opportunity to resurrect me.” I then told him I did not want to be a “condemned yankee” and wanted him to find a way to save me from going to the Invalid Camp. He immediately called the hospital steward, ordered him to put me in a bed and keep me there four days. I protested, saying I was perfectly able to be about. The Doctor said to me in an undertone, “You stay in bed four days; by that time I will have an order reassigning you to do duty in my office.”

D. Willard spent most of his military career in the hospitals in and around Washington, but primarily he was in charge of Armory Square hospital (located opposite the Smithsonian Institute in Washington). According to one postwar report, it was at “Armory Square hospital in Washington, where he won renown by the excellence of his practice, and its large success. In this practice he became thoroughly experienced in the treatment of gunshot wounds in all sorts of cases, and with all sorts of constitutions.”

According to Sarah Low, who had been a nurse at the Union Hotel hospital in Georgetown but who had just transferred to Armory Square, the hospital

was a great improvement in every way over the Union Hotel. “The ward at Armory is bright and cheerful looking compared to the dismal condition at the Union where the air was so bad. This is a new hospital and an excellent one. Amory is nearly always filled as it is near the boat landing. The surgeon, ward master and attendants of my ward are very kind and attentive to patients. The patient’s comforts depend so much on the surgeon.” Dr. D. Willard Bliss, U.S. Volunteer, who had been surgeon in the 3rd Michigan Infantry, was the surgeon in charge of the Armory Square hospital and the doctors in the wards were most considerate. “Dr. Bliss insists his nurses go out into the fresh air and when we have very sick patients, he told us to go out for a walk every day.”

It is quite possible that Bliss moved his family to Washington, DC, shortly after his promotion and transferal since he did not return to Michigan again for three years.

In late April of 1863, according to Walt Whitman, who served as a hospital steward at Armory Square Dr. Bliss was rumored to have been arrested for allegedly defrauding the government. O April 24, Army Inspector A. C. Hamilton issued a “Report of Investigation against Surgeon D. W. Bliss,” in which he recommended that Bliss be removed from his command “for allegedly accepting a $500 bribe, received for recommending the introduction into the hospital of a stove invented by Mr. Kingsland.” Bliss was placed under arrest on April 27 and confined in the Old Capitol prison, within sight of his own home. On May 27, Whitman wrote a friend that “Dr. Bliss was removed from Armory [Square hospital] and put for a few days in the Old Capitol prison -- there is now some talk of his going back to Armory.”

Bliss was cleared of the charges on June 2 and reinstated to his command of Armory Square. On August 11 Whitman reported that Dr. Bliss was presented with a set of surgical instruments. “The presentation,” Whitman told a friend, “to Dr. Bliss came off last Saturday evening -- it was in ward F -- the beds were all cleared out, the sick put in other wards -- the room cleaned, hung with greens, etc., looked very nice -- the instruments were there on exhibition the afternoon. I took a view of them, they were in four cases, & looked very fine -- in the evening they were presented -- speeches were made by one & another -- there was a band of music etc. . . .” Shortly afterward, Whitman noted, Bliss left for three weeks of furlough up north, presumably to New York. Whitman thought Bliss “a very fine operating surgeon -- sometimes he performs several amputations or other operations of importance in a day -- amputations, blood, death are nothing here.”

On April 3,1864 Sarah Low wrote to her Aunt,

A week ago Wednesday evening we had an arrival of very sick and wounded patients, two of them died, one a very sick case of typhoid fever and the other a man with a wounded leg. I had the widows of these men to write to.” In going to another ward to check on a patient of mine who had been moved there “I found a patient with a wounded hand, sitting up in bed in great distress with his throat, he beckoned me to him,” and asked if I would not ask the Doctor to give him something to relieve him. By the time I could find a Doctor this patient was very bad. A Doctor finally came in and a moment after, Dr. Bliss happened to follow who recommended treatment. The patient began to hiccup and was dying. In a moment Dr. Bliss made an incision in the patient’s throat and inserted a tube. “Brooks, the patient, was restored to life breathing through a silver tube in his throat instead of through his mouth and nose.” The lady in charge of this ward is at home on a visit and if I had not come in Brooks would have died without ever seeing a surgeon. I have been giving him constant attention. Brooks disease is the same one General Washington died of. It has been said he died of Quincy but he did not. We shall never cease to regret that Dr. Bliss had not been there to have performed this operation, for if he had General Washington might be alive today.

On August 24, 1864, the Eagle reported that he “arrived in our city this morning. The Doctor returns after an absence of some three years to pass a short time, we believe, visiting his relatives and friends in this city. The Doctor was a practitioner here ere the war commenced, and has, by his talents and skill, won a deservedly high and enviable position in the Government service, and is considered one of the best Surgeons connected therewith.” Bliss was brevetted colonel of United States volunteers, on March 13, 1865.

After the war Dr. Bliss remained Washington to practice medicine, although he may have returned briefly to Grand Rapids in January of 1867, when either he (or his brother Zenas) may have been under consideration to the “Chair of Surgery” at the University of Michigan, vacated by Dr. Moses Gunn. However, Walt Whitman noted that at least by May of 1867, Dr. D. W. Bliss was practicing in Washington.

D. W. resumed his practice in Washington and by 1870 he was living with his wife and two daughters in Washington’s 2nd Ward.

Controversy once again haunted Dr. Bliss and he became something of a scandal within the Washington medical community for his unwillingness to allow the medical bureaucracy to stifle research and speculation into, among other things, an alleged cure for cancer called “cundurango.” It was also claimed that this bureaucracy was under the influence of former confederates. According to at least one source, in 1871 he was finally expelled from the Medical Association of the District of Columbia for his open criticism of the medical establishment. On July 13, the Democrat reported that

“There were several serious charges against him [said the report issued by the Medical Association of the District of Columbia] one of which was quackery in trying to force a medicine upon the country which he knew had not the virtue claimed for it. As the Committee on Cundurango was not prepared to report, the Association took up another charge, that of consulting in the case of Vice President Colfax, with Dr. C. C. Cox, who had been previously refused admission into said Association on account of his holding a seat in the Board of Health with Dr. Verdi, a homeopathic physician, and for this expelled him” Concerning Cundurango, which has excited the attention of the medical profession throughout the country, a learned physician says,

It is our belief that no medicine will ever be found to cure schirrus, or cancer. It is impossible that this should be so from the very nature of the case. The malignant cell growth which constitutes schirrus, or cancer, is a hereditary disease, depending upon the physical constitution of the individual. What tuberculous deposits is to the brain and bone in children, and to the lungs and intestines in adults, cancerous degeneration is to men and women of mature age. It can only be cured by a power that can removed its cause -- i.e., that can change the whole texture of the organism. Cundurango can never do this.

The next day, the Democrat wrote that Bliss had been expelled

ostensibly because he met in consultation with another physician of Washington not of the ‘regular’ school, but who holds a position upon the Board of Health with a homeopathic practitioner. But the real reason of the expulsion is political, and springs from the ex-rebel element which practically rules in that medical society. Dr. Bliss has been an ardent advocate of recognizing real merit wherever found, and therefore of admitting well qualified colored physicians into the association. He is not a mealy-mouthed nor timid man, but manly and outspoken in his sentiments, which, unhappily, are not politically in full accord with those of General Lee's staff surgeons, one of whom, we are told, is a prominent member of that association. This may account in a measure for the virus of some of the accounts sent out adverse to the new cancer cure which Dr. Bliss has been trying with what he claims to be excellent results. We have already given the claims on both sides, respecting the cundurango, and need not repeat them. As to the expulsion, it is really an honor for which the Doctor is to be congratulated.

Bliss quickly rose to the challenge and on July 27, the Eagle carried a story in which Bliss sought to defend his position.

D. W. Bliss has replied through the Washington Chronicle to some of the attacks which have been made upon his reputation in connection with the new cancer remedy, Cundurango. He denounces as false and slanderous the statement that he ‘has diligently published for selfish ends extravagant accounts of the marvelous efficiency of this South American product, knowing it at the same time to be utterly worthless.’ He also denies that he refused to cooperate with the medical society in testing its virtues. As to the report set afloat by the correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette to the effect that the Minister of Ecuador owned the only accessible lands where the Cundurango could be procured, and that he, with other interested parties was striving to introduce it for speculative purposes; the Dr. declares that the Minister does not own an acre of land there, if anywhere. He further says that he is willing to bide his time and the verdict of the public concerning both the value of the new medicine and the act of expelling him by the rebel-ridden Medical Association.

Throughout the fall of 1871 the controversial “cundurango cure” held the attention of many in the Grand Rapids community, and around the country as well. On October 6, the Eagle reprinted a story originally carried in the Chicago Tribune:

“A citizen of high standing took his wife, who had been long afflicted with cancer, to Washington, to be treated by Dr. Bliss. Her case was a very serious one, indicating a speedy termination in one way or the other. She tried the cundurango remedy, and patiently waited the result. In less than two weeks the cancer exhibited alarming signs form bleeding. Dr. Bliss could not account for the change, and an immediate operation was resolved upon. The knife soon explained the condition, which the cancer had assumed. An immense growth had become entirely separated from flesh, but at the same time had prevented the latter from healing, and the flow of blood was from unhealed flesh. As soon as the cancer was removed the flesh beneath was found apparently free from disease. Comparatively little pain resulted form the operation. The lady rapidly recovered her strength, and is now at her home in [Chicago], not only free from every sign or symptom of cancer, but enjoying a degree of health to which she has been a stranger for years. The theory is that cundurango had the effect to uproot and throw-off the cancerous growth, which had attained large proportions.”

Although a professional pariah, Bliss nonetheless felt strongly enough about the product that he continued to defend its merits, but always within reason. While in Grand Rapids in early October, visiting his sister, Mrs. Wenham, Dr. Bliss continued to affirm

with great confidence, his belief that the "Cundurango" is to become a specific for all scrofulous diseases, the same as the chincone - quinine - is a specific for the treatment of agues. He claims that it is simply the best alternative, or blood purifier, yet discovered and upon this he stakes his professional reputation. It is a bark of a vine -- which grows very like a grapevine. His first knowledge of this bark came from the Ecuador Minister, at Washington, who at the time was a patient of Dr. Bliss. From him he received a small package of the bark and the Doctor took it immediately to the residence of Vice President Colfax whose mother was then dying of cancer. That was the first introduction of the "Cundurango" as a curative agent in this country. At that time Dr. Bliss knew nothing of its medicinal virtues, but advised it to be used on the strength of the information given him by the Ecuador Minister. The case was a desperate one, and he told the Vice President that his mother's life might be saved by the use of the remedy. At least he felt assured it would do no harm -- and the result proved that "Cundurango" was a specific for cancer.

Dr. Bliss has now on his books 800 cases of cancer, and 3,000 orders for Cundurango from all parts of the world. He claims the remedy is equally as efficacious for all scrofulous diseases, as for cancer.

One of the worst cases of cancer was that of the wife of a prominent Chicago banker. It was a bleeding cancer, and would weigh from 5 to 7 pounds. Eight weeks ago she applied for Cundurango, and on Sunday last, when Chicago was a great and prosperous city, the Doctor attended this lady to church, and she stated to him that her health was better than it had been for years. The wife of a prominent physician of Buffalo, who was dying of cancer, wrote privately and secretly to new York for a small quantity of Cundurango. She commenced taking it without the knowledge of her husband, and in the course of a few weeks commenced growing better. We saw a letter from this lady's husband, addressed to Dr. Bliss, acknowledging the facts, and ordering more of the Cundurango, and confessing that its merits were marked and its curative powers surprising.

As we have said, the Doctor only claims that this remedy is simply a blood purifier, and the best yet discovered, and he predicts that in a few years it will be in universal use by the medical profession.

Bliss’ advertisements for the “cure” were, however, worded with greater emphasis: “Cundurango! The wonderful remedy for Cancer, Syphilis, Scrofula, Ulcers, Salt Rebum, and All Other Chronic Blood Diseases.” The reader was advised to write for the product, care of “Bliss, Keene & co., 60 Cedar Street, New York. (Apparently his brother Zenas was also involved in the company, possibly as an investor.)

Following his expulsion Willard returned to Grand Rapids and reportedly resumed his practice in the city. However, the “Cundurango” cure eventually disappeared, and with it went the controversy attached to Bliss’s involvement with the product. By 1880 he was working as a physician in Washington and living with his wife on F Street Northwest; also living with them were his son Ellis, his daughter Elenor and his daughter Eugenia Wilburn and her husband George and their son Paul – as well as numerous servants and boarders.

He was nominally returned to the fold of the medical community in the District of Columbia, and by the summer of 1881 was in charge of the medical staff of four other physicians in personal attendance to President Garfield who was mortally wounded by an assassin.

Less than four months after his inauguration, President Garfield arrived at the Washington railroad depot on July 2, 1881, to catch a train for a summer's retreat on the New Jersey seashore. As Garfield made his way through the station, Charles Guiteau raced from the shadows and fired two shots point blank into the president. One grazed Garfield's arm; the other lodged in his abdomen. Exclaiming, "My God, what is this?" the president collapsed to the floor remaining fully conscious, but in a great deal of pain.

The first doctor on the scene administered brandy and spirits of ammonia, causing the president to promptly vomit. Then D. W. Bliss, a leading Washington doctor, appeared and inserted a metal probe into the wound, turning it slowly, searching for the bullet. The probe became stuck between the shattered fragments of Garfield's eleventh rib, and was removed only with a great deal of difficulty, causing great pain. Then Bliss inserted his finger into the wound, widening the hole in another unsuccessful probe. It was decided to move Garfield to the White House for further treatment.

Leading doctors of the age flocked to Washington to aid in his recovery, sixteen in all. Most probed the wound with their fingers or dirty instruments. Though the president complained of numbness in the legs and feet, which implied the bullet was lodged near the spinal cord, most thought it was resting in the abdomen. The president's condition weakened under the oppressive heat and humidity of the Washington summer combined with an onslaught of mosquitoes from a stagnant canal behind the White House. It was decided to move him by train to a cottage on the New Jersey seashore.

Shortly after the move, Garfield's temperature began to elevate; the doctors reopened the wound and enlarged it hoping to find the bullet. They were unsuccessful. By the time Garfield died on September 19, his doctors had turned a three-inch-deep, harmless wound into a twenty-inch-long contaminated gash stretching from his ribs to his groin and oozing more pus each day. He lingered for eighty days, wasting away from his robust 210 pounds to a mere 130 pounds. The end came on the night of September 19. Clawing at his chest he moaned, "This pain, this pain," while suffering a major heart attack. The president died a few minutes later.

Garfield's physicians did not serve him well. It seems each of his 16 attendants wanted to literally get their hands into him - to prod and grope his wound in an attempt to find the illusive bullet. Infection invariable set in. Internal sores developed - oozing pus and requiring periodic lancing in order to reduce their size. Medicine had not yet fully accepted the relationship between germs and disease. Operations were routinely performed without benefit of surgical gloves, masks, sterile instruments, or any antiseptics to protect the patient. Of more immediate concern to the patient, operations were performed without any means of deadening the pain. The patient was left to his or her own devices to cope with the trauma of surgery.

Garfield was not a particularly popular president. His short span of office had not been long enough for the public to form an opinion one way or the other. However, the stoic manner in which he endured his wounds warmed the popular attitude towards him.

Garfield's chief physician, Dr. D. W. Bliss recounts how the president coped with his condition:

"At this time, as is known, a simple but painful operation was rendered necessary by the formation of a superficial pus-sac. When, after consultation, I informed the President of the intention to use the knife, he with unfailing cheerfulness replied: 'Very well; whatever you say is necessary must be done.' When I handed the bistoury to one of the counsel, with the request that he make the incision. Without an anesthetic, and without a murmur, or a muscular contraction by the patient, the incision was made. He quietly asked the results of the operation, and soon sank into a peaceful slumber. This operation, though simple in itself, was painful, and the manner in which it was borne by the President in his enfeebled condition was, perhaps, as good an instance as any of the wonderful nervous control which characterized his whole illness. This power of mind over body was also daily exhibited at the dressings of his wound, which were unavoidably painful, and yet invariably borne without indication of discomfort; and also at subsequent operations, always painful." When the decision was made to move the president to New Jersey, an English nobleman offered the use of his twenty-room home on the seashore. Special track was laid from the railroad's mainline to the door of the home. During the early hours of September 6, hushed crowds lined Pennsylvania Avenue as Garfield was moved by carriage from the White House to the railroad depot.

Dr. Bliss continues his story:

Mrs. Garfield sat by the side of her husband during the first part of the trip, cheering and reassuring him as no one else could, and visited him afterward, frequently, from her own car. On arriving at the track recently laid to the Francklyn [?] Cottage, we were surrounded by a large concourse of people, who braved the heat of the day in the anxiety lest the journey might have resulted disastrously. The engine had not weight and power sufficient to push us up the steep grade. Instantly hundreds of strong arms caught the cars, and silently, but resistlessly, rolled the three heavy coaches up to the level. Arriving at the cottage, the President was placed upon a stretcher, and borne under the canopy previously arranged, to the room wherein the remainder of a noble life was spent."

During the evening of September 16, Dr. Bliss passed the time reading when a servant rushed in announcing a change in the President's condition: "At 10:10 I was looking over some of the wonderful productions of the human imagination which each mail brought me, when the faithful Dan suddenly appeared at the door of communication, and said:

'General Swaim wants you quick!' He preceded me to the room, took the candle from behind the screen near the door, and raised it so that the light fell full upon the face, so soon to settle in the rigid lines of death. Observing the pallor, the upturned eyes, the gasping respiration, and the total unconsciousness, I, with uplifted hands, exclaimed, 'My God, Swaim! The President is dying!' Turning to the servant, I added, 'Call Mrs. Garfield immediately, and on your return, Doctors Agnew and Hamilton.' On his way to Mrs. Garfield's room, he notified Colonel Rockwell, who was the first member of the household in the room. Only a moment elapsed before Mrs. Garfield was present. She exclaimed, 'Oh! what is the matter?' I said, 'Mrs. Garfield, the President is dying.' Leaning over her husband and fervently kissing his brow, she exclaimed, 'Oh! Why am I made to suffer this cruel wrong?' While summoning Mrs. Garfield, I had in vain sought for the pulse at the wrist, next at the carotid artery, and last by placing my ear over the region of the heart. Restoratives, which were always at hand, were instantly resorted to. In almost every conceivable way it was sought to revive the rapidly yielding vital forces. A faint, fluttering pulsation of the heart, gradually fading to indistinctness, alone rewarded my examinations. At last, only moments after the first alarm, at 10:35, I raised my head from the breast of my dead friend and said to the sorrowful group, 'It is over.' Noiselessly, one by one, we passed out, leaving the broken-hearted wife alone with her dead husband. Thus she remained for more than an hour, gazing upon the lifeless features, when Colonel Rockwell, fearing the effect upon her health, touched her arm and begged her to retire, which she did.

After Garfield's death his physicians submitted a bill of $85,000 to the Senate. The Senators authorized a payment of only $10,000. Many of them referred to the doctors as quacks.

Dr. Bliss also attended several prominent members of the Senate as well. “He was the family physician,” noted the Eagle, “of Senator Chandler; and he has been the regular medical attendant of many of the most noted men in Washington, including several Presidents; also he was called to the bedside of the later Senator Morton, and attended him in his last sickness. For many years he . . . occupied a prominent position upon the Board of Health at Washington.” But tragedy continued to plague Willard throughout much of the last years of his life. Zenas died of consumption in 1876 and in 1886 he was residing at Willard’s Hotel in Washington and during a trip west suffered a near-fatal accident in Cleveland, Ohio, after which he returned to Washington to recover. His wife Sophia died in 1887.

Willard’s personal losses were compounded by financial setbacks. In regards to the settlement of accounts for attending President Garfield, in December of 1882 he told a reporter “that while he could not speak of his associates, he could say distinctly for himself that he should not accept the $6,500 [allowed by the Garfield claim board].” He added that he “would take what his services were worth, or he would go unpaid.” he further observed that the board’s action was an “insult” and that “the attempt to deprive him of compensation that he was entitled to was a fraud.” He claimed that he was making an average of $1500 per month which rose to $2500 to $3000 per month when Congress was in session, and that he had to suspend his practice entirely to attend to the President. He further added that this had cost him some six months’ worth of earnings since, unlike a lawyer who can postpone cases, a doctor cannot, and thus the monies went to someone with a private practice.

Congress, however, refused to increase the appropriations for the compensation of those who attended Garfield, and Bliss’ practice never regained its strength and volume it had had in his early days in Washington, although he continued to practice medicine up until his death.

No pension seems to be available.

Dr. Bliss was a widower when he died of apoplexy at 7:15 a.m. on February 21, 1889, in Washington, DC, presumably at the Willard Hotel.

Following his death in 1889, the Democrat observed that Bliss’s final years had indeed not been happy ones. “The death of Dr. Bliss,” wrote the paper, “recalls the popular superstition that fate seems to pursue everybody who was even remotely connected with the death of Garfield and the trial and hanging of Guiteau. Dr. Bliss ten years ago was a vigorous, hearty, prosperous man. Since the great patient of his time and skill died he has suffered nothing but misfortune. He lost his practice. Congress refused him his fee and gave him but a small one; his wife died; he himself met with a severe array of misfortunes and now he dies suddenly himself. He always thought Congress had treated him shamefully in cutting down his fee and his heirs may get some of the money which is still available and unexpended.” Still, “Throughout his life Dr. Bliss always spoke with affection of the years he lived in Michigan.”

Willard was buried in Rock Creek cemetery in Washington.

Benjamin Elias Baker Jr. - update 8/29/2016

Benjamin Elias Baker Jr. was born October 3, 1835, in Fort Ann, Washington County, New York, the son of Benjamin Elias Sr. (b. 1805) and Arathusa (b. 1809).

Both New York natives, Benjamin Sr. and Arathusa were married in 1825, presumably in New York where they resided for many years. By 1850 Benjamin Sr. was working as a wagon-maker and had settled his family in Warsaw, Wyoming County, New York. Benjamin Jr. eventually left New York and moved westward, settling in Oakfield Township, Kent County, Michigan where he was working as a blacksmith and farmer by the time the war broke out.

He stood 6’0” with black eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was 26 years old when he enlisted in Company I on February 22, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day. He was wounded on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, and subsequently hospitalized.

He eventually returned to the Regiment and in October was working as a company cook. He was on detached service at the Division hospital from November of 1862 (probably at Armory Square hospital in Washington, DC) through April of 1863, eventually returned to the Regiment and was present for duty throughout the remainder of 1863.

Benjamin reenlisted on February 26, 1864, near Culpeper, Virginia, and was mustered on February 29 at Culpeper, crediting Oakfield Township, which he also listed as his place of residence. He was subsequently absent on veteran’s furlough in March and April, and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of May and was transferred to Company I, Fifth Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He was listed as wounded a second time on August 15, 1864, and subsequently on detached service in September, probably at City Point hospital, and in February of 1865 was serving with an ambulance train. He was mustered out on July 5, 1865, near Jeffersonville, Indiana.

It is not known if Benjamin ever returned to Michigan after the war was over.

He did however return to New York and was probably living in Warsaw, Wyoming County where he married Priscilla Amanda Mattison (d. 1906) on August 13, 1865, (she was the widow of Robert Burke who was killed in action near Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, in 1863) and they had at least four children: Benjamin E. (b. 1866), George W. (b. 1868), Edwin T. (b. 1869) and Mirty Dell (b. 1870).

In 1871 Benjamin applied for and received a pension (no. 148115). He was a member of the Old 3rd Michigan Association.

In 1870 Benjamin was working as a blacksmith and living with his family in Warsaw, Wyoming County, New York. He worked for many years as a blacksmith and lived in Warsaw, New York until about 1876 when he moved his family to Nebraska. By 1880 Benjamin and his family were living in Adams, Nebraska, and in Johnstown, Brown County, Nebraska in 1890. In 1892 he was living in Woodlake, Nebraska and in 1900 in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife and daughter Mirty. He may have left Nebraska sometime after 1901. In any case, by late 1910 he was a widower living with his son Edwin in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington.

Benjamin was a widower and living (probably with his son Edwin) at 1624 E. 32nd Street in Tacoma when he died of apoplexy on April 29, 1919. He was buried in Tacoma cemetery.



Byron G. Austin - update 8/29/2016

Byron G. Austin was born in February 10, 1840, in Wayne County, New York, probably the son of either Isaac (b. 1814) and Harriet (b. 1814) or Alfred/Alferd (b. 1812) and Eliza (b. 1812).

New York natives Isaac and Harriet were married presumably in New York where they resided for some years before moving west, as did New Yorkers Alfred and Eliza. Sometime between 1842 and 1844 Alfred moved his family to Michigan, and by 1850 had settled in Boston, Ionia County. Sometime after 1848 Isaac and his family settled in Michigan and by 1850 they were living on a farm in Berlin (now Saranac), Ionia County; Byron was attending school and living with the Henry Perry family in Boston, Ionia County while two other Austin children (possibly belonging to Isaac and Harriet) were living with the Andrew Eddy family in Berlin, near Isaac’s farm.

By 1860 Byron was working as a farm laborer along with 18-year-old Isaac Austin (probably Isaac senior’s son) in Saranac, Ionia County, living with and/or working for the Hickson Eddy family; nearby lived Isaac and Harriet. Alfred and Eliza and their children were still living on a farm in Boston.

Byron stood 5’9” with gray eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion, and was 21 years old and still living in Ionia County when he enlisted in Company E on May 13, 1861. (Company E was composed in large part by men from Clinton and Ingham counties, as well as parts of Ionia County.) Byron was discharged on July 28, 1861, at Arlington Heights, Virginia, for an inguinal hernia on the right side supposedly caused by the forced march to Bull Run on July 18 to 21.

Many years afterward, Byron stated that on July 21, “he was detailed to go for water for his company at the battle of Bull Run and while returning with the water his orderly sergeant [probably David Crawford] met him and handed him his gun and said the regiment was in full retreat and loaded with canteens filled with water he started on a run to overtake his regiment. It was over rough and uneven ground [and] he accidentally stepped into a hole and fell. He felt something give way in his groin, accompanied with a smart pain, which proved to be hernia or rupture. While encamped at Georgetown Heights near Washington, DC, he contracted chronic diarrhea or dysentery which brought on piles. . . .”

After his discharge Byron returned to Michigan and possibly went back to work for Hickson Eddy. Some years later one Elmore Eddy stated that he and Byron spent much of the time together between 1862 and 1867, and that during that period of time Byron was frequently sick with chronic diarrhea and piles.

In any event, Byron was living in Berlin (Saranac), Ionia County, when he applied for a pension (n. 394,769) in June of 1863; by 1910 he was drawing $10.00 per month.

He married Michigan native Margaret J. Young on February 1, 1868, in Orange, Ionia County.

By 1870 Byron and Margaret were living in Berlin; also living with them was 3-year-old Albert Eddy.

Byron remained in Ionia County until about 1873 when he moved to Sheridan, Montcalm County, where he lived until 1878 when he moved to Laingsburg, Shiawassee County. By 1880 Byron was working as a barber and living with his wife in Laingsburg, where he remained until about 1885 when he returned to Montcalm County, settling in Howard City, although he was apparently residing and working as a barber in Lansing in August of 1883 when he joined the Grand Army of the Republic Charles Foster no. 42 in Lansing (he was suspended from that post in December of 1884 and dropped in April of the following year).

In 1863 he applied for and received a pension (no. 394769).

He was reportedly living in Howard City in 1888 and 1890, and was probably a member of Grand Army of the Republic Jones Post No. 252 in Howard City; he was also possibly a member of Grand Army of the Republic Curtenius Post No. 192 in Laingsburg, Shiawassee County. Byron resided in Howard City until about 1892 when he moved west, settling in Thurston, Washington state. He lived there until 1897 when he moved to Lewis County, Washington. He then moved from Lewis County to Tacoma in 1906.

For many years Byron worked as a barber.

In 1909 Byron and his wife were living at 4628 J Street in Tacoma.

Byron was still living in Tacoma when he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 13, 1910. He was buried in Tacoma cemetery on September 15.

In 1910 his widow applied for a pension (no. 953052), but her claim was rejected on the grounds that the soldier did not serve the minimum of 90 days in the military to qualify for a pension, although he in fact did receive a pension himself.