Monday, March 3, 2008

An Amputation in Georgia - Henry's Story

In my previous entry, I wrote about Louisa Ish Smathers. In order to get the complete picture, I thought a post about her husband Henry would be appropriate.

Actually, the best clue about Henry's past comes from the pension records of his brother, Franklin Smathers. Franklin was a younger brother of Henry who enlisted in the same company and regiment as did Henry and another brother, Ruben Smathers. They were part of Company E., Ohio 53rd Infantry Regiment.

It was stated in Franklin's pension papers:

That during the summer of 1850 and to 1858 he lived in Clarion, Clarion County PA. That during the summer of 1860 he lived in Jackson, Jackson County, Ohio, and up to about the year 1888.

That during the above time he lived with his father and mother up to the time his mother died which was about the year 1856. That afterwards he lived with his father until he enlisted.

That his fathers (sic) name was Jacob Smathers.

That his mothers (sic) name was Polly Smathers.

That his brothers (sic) names were David, Isaac, William, Jacob, John, Henry, Ruben and Lawson.

The family was actually found instead of Jackson County, Ohio in neighboring Vinton County in 1860. Jacob had moved to Ohio with six of his children - John, Henry, Ruben, Franklin, Melinda and Lawson. At the outbreak of the war, John went back to Pennsylvania and enlisted.

Henry enlisted November 27, 1861, at the age of 23. His company muster roll for May and June 1862 states “Deserted from Camp Shiloa (sic) May 5, 1862.”

However, a special muster roll taken on August 18, 1862, notes, “Sent to General Hospital at Cincinnati May 5, 1862.” He appears to have been there on detached duty as Provost Guard until Aug. 31 of that year.

Henry elected to reenlist on January 23, 1864. His vitals are given:

WHERE BORN: Clarion County, PA
AGE: 24 (Note that he only aged 1 year since he initially enlisted in Nov of 1861.)
EYES: Brown
HAIR: Brown

For details of Henry's wounds, I quote the letter of his company commander, William W. Gilbert.

I, Wm W. Gilbert, on honor, certify that Henry Smathers is a Private in my company and that on the 23rd day of June 1864 He received a Gun Shot Wound in the left Knee point which caused the amputation of his leg above the Knee point. I was a 1st Lieut. Commanding the Co(mpany) at that time and was ordered with My Co(mpany) on the Skirmish Line near the foot of Kinesaw (sic) Mountain at which place Henry Smathers Received the wound while in the line of his duty by assisting to build a Skirmish Pit.

I was right by his Side when he was hit and Saw him fall and had him carried off of the field.

Henry would die 23 years, 7 months and 15 days after he fell at Kennesaw Mountain. In Vinton County, Henry's death record would give the cause of death as gangrene.

In my previous post, you get an idea of the hardship Henry faced. You have to wonder why Louisa chose to marry a man who obviously would find it difficult to support a family because of his wounds. His occupation on his death certificate is listed as “cripple.”

Henry's wounding in Georgia began a chain of events that would keep a dark cloud over the family tree for several generations. But it is those very chain events that created me.

For each of us who walk this earth today, the right set of circumstances in EVERY ONE of our ancestor's lives had to occur to create the next set of right circumstances, so that in the end, the right two people, your parents, would meet and create you. One missed joy or one missed sorrow, and someone else would be living, breathing, existing instead of you. What a gift then, each day really is.

Until Next Time!

1. Franklin Smathers (Pvt., Co. E, 53rd Ohio Inf., Civil War) pension no. 896663, certificate no. 676404, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1864-1934; Civil War and Later pension Files; Dept of Veteran Affairs National Archives, Washington, D.C.
2. Henry Smathers (Pvt., Co. E., 53rd Ohio Inf.., Civil War) pension no. 77724, certificate no. 51080, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1864-1934; Civil War and Later pension Files; Dept of Veteran Affairs, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
3. Vinton County, Ohio, Death Record of Henry Cope 1888, Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, McArthur, Ohio.
4. Military, Compiled Service Record, Henry Smathers, Pvt., Co. E, 53rd Ohio Inf.; Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Note this post first published online, March 3, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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