Private Byron Churchill

Co. A, 15th Michigan Infantry

Private Henry Cooper

Co. I, 7th Michigan Infantry

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After obtaining the pension file and military record of my great Grandfather, Francis H. Wells, I noted that two names were listed by his widow, Jane Miller Wells, as being responsible for informing her of her late husband's death. These names were Henry Cooper and Byron Churchill. Based on this information, Pension Files were requested for both of these men in the hope of learning something more about each of them- in particular some possible details relating to their Andersonville prison experience.

Andersonville Prison- A military stockade of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Located near Andersonville, Georgia, the prison was used to confine captured Union soldiers. Nearly 50,000 prisoners were detained at Andersonville in 1864 and 1865. More than 13,700 prisoners died during this confinement. Exposure to the elements- together with inadequate food, impure water, congestion, and filth- led to epidemics of scurvy and dysentery. In 1865 the superintendent of the prison, Major Henry Wirz, was tried by a United States military court, convicted of murder, and hanged.

Private Henry Cooper
The first response to these requests came in the form of a notice that read, "No file was located for soldier, Henry Cooper." Thus, the following is all that I currently know about this soldier: Affidavit of Jane Wells, dated 30 January 1865
"She further states that she was informed of his death by Henry Cooper of the same Company who lives near her… Cooper brought her a few last lines from the said deceased husband."

Affidavit of James B. Tisdell and James Johnson, dated 9 February 1865
"... that Jane Wells is still the widow of Francis H. Wells who was a Private in Co. I or K in the 7th Regiment of Michigan Volunteer Infantry and who died at Andersonville, Georgia on the 4th day of September 1864 of diarrhea and starvation as they believe from hearing the account from Henry Cooper of the same company, a fellow prisoner at said Andersonville and who is now at home on furlough."

Affidavit of Henry Cooper, dated 5 July 1865
"I further state that ... I was a fellow prisoner with him, and belonged to the same Company, being now at home in very poor health on furlough."

Having taken note that Mr. Cooper was not only "on furlough" in July of 1865, but also "at home in very poor health," (coupled with the fact that no pension was filed at a later date), leads me to believe that, Henry Cooper died soon after his return home. If this Henry Cooper did not have a wife or other dependents at the time of his death, it would have been very unlikely that a pension would not have been tiled. On the other hand, being in such "very poor health" upon his return to Michigan, had he lived long afterwards, he would most certainly have filed for some type of compensation, as his fellow soldiers were doing at that time.

Additional Notes Pertaining to Private Henry Cooper:

While searching for additional information on this Henry Cooper, I was able to establish the following facts:

"Henry Cooper enlisted in Co. I of the 7th Michigan Infantry at Bronson, Branch County, Michigan at the age of 26 years."

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Private Byron Churchill

Fortunately, more information was obtained in regard to Byron Churchill. Pages from this soldier's Pension File (number 86.492) contained a great deal of information about his person. Unfortunately, little information was detailed in regard to his actual experience at Andersonville Prison. Following is what was extracted from the documents contained in Byron Churchill's Pension File:

The name of Byron Churchill appears in the following form among Francis H. Wells' Pension papers:

Affidavit of Byron Churchill, dated 23 August 1865
"... states that he was a fellow prisoner with Francis H. Wells ... at Andersonville, Georgia."

"That he, the said Churchill, was a Private in Co. A 15th Regiment Michigan Infantry."

In 1865, Byron Churchill was "a discharged soldier with deformed feet" due to the fact that he "froze his feet at Florence Prison, South Carolina."

The following items are transcribed from copies of original documents contained in this soldier's Pension File- Washington, D.C.

Discharge Certificate of Byron Churchill
Signed by John H. Oliver- "Commanding the Regiment" and dated 23 February 1864

"To all Whom it May Concern-
Know Ye, that Byron Churchill, a Private of Lieutenant Jonathan Snooke, Company (A) 15th Regiment of Michigan infantry Volunteers who was enrolled on the twenty third day of February [1862] to serve three years or during the war, is hereby discharged from the service of the United States this twenty third day of February 1864 at Scottsboro, Alabama, by reason of Re-enlistment in .. [possibly "Vetrin"] Vols. (No objection to his being re-enlisted is known to exist)."

"Said Byron Churchill was born in the State of Michigan, is twenty years of age, five feet and six and 1/2 inches high, dark complexion grey eyes, dark hair and by occupation when enrolled, a farmer."

"Given at Scottsboro, Ala. this twenty third day of February, 1864."

"Signed John H. Oliver, Col. - Commanding the Regiment"

Certificate of Disability for Discharge, dated 6 July 1865 That Private Byron Churchill "was enlisted by Captain Tolean [?] at Scottsboro. During the last two months said soldier has been unfit for duty 60 days. Discharged in accordance with the order of War Department ... May 3, 1865."

Issued at "DeCamp General Hospital, David Island, New York Harbor, June 21, 1865."

Further into this same document, Assistant Surgeon H. E. Williams states the following:

"I certify that I have carefully examined the said Byron Churchill of 1st Snook's Company, and find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of the loss of all toes on left foot and second and fifth toes of right foot, the result, as he states, of exposure and suffering at Andersonville, Charleston and Florence. Degree of disability- one half. Feb. to re-enlist in [Vetrens?] Corp."

"Discharged, this eighth day of July 1865, at DeCamp General Hospital, David's Island, NYH [New York Harbor]."

Affidavit of Byron Churchill, dated 15 April 1867
"I formerly belonged to Co. A in the 15th Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and was in prison at Andersonville, Charleston, and Florence S.C. [South Carolina] when I froze my feet and have lost part of them in consequence."

Memorandum from the Adjutant General's Office, Washington D.C., dated 12 October 1867
That Byron Churchill appeared "... On the Muster Roll of Co. A. of that Regiment dated August 13th 1865, he is reported "Was admitted to General Hospital, Wilmington, NC, March 4th, 1865 as a returned prisoner of war, discharged July 8, 1865 at New York Harbor- by reason of loss of all toes of left foot- and second and fifth toes of right foot." the result of exposure and suffering at Andersonville, Charleston and Florence, S.C."

Affidavit of Byron Churchill to Bureau of Pensions, dated 4 June 1898

"Q. Are you married? If yes, state your wife's full name and maiden name.
Answer. Yes, Rhoda Connett, maiden name"

"Q. When were you married, where and by whom?
Answer. January 12, 1867 [at] Union City, by Edwin Perry, J.P."

"Q. What record of marriage exists?
Answer. Certificate."

Document from the Record and Pension Office returned to the Commissioner of Pensions, dated 13 August 1900

Taken from date of enlistment to date of discharge, Byron Churchill held the rank of Private and during that period the rolls show him present except as follows-:

"August 31, 1864, absent without leave since 27 August 1864; October 31, 1864 Deserted, Absent without leave since 27 August 1864. Same to December 31, 1864."

"Prisoner of War Records show him captured in front of Atlanta, August 27, 1864. Paroled at Wilmington, N.C., March 1, 1865. Was admitted to General Hospital, Wilmington, N.C. March 4, 1865 as a returned prisoner of war. Captured in front of Atlanta, August 27, 1864."

"The medical record show him treated as follows... May 12 to 16, 1862, diarrhea and intestinal fever; May 18 to 21, 1862 (no diagnosis); March 4 to April 5, 1865, dry gangrene of feet, remarks, returned prisoner; April 5 to 11, 1865, (no diagnosis); April 11 to July 9, 1865, frost bite loss of all toes, discharged from service July 9, 1865, on Surgeon's Certificate of disability. Nothing additional found."

Declaration of Pension, dated 29 June 1912
"That he also served ... to July 8, 1865 as a veteran, being discharged at Hospital on Davis Island July 8, 1865."

Letter to Byron Churchill, dated 24 April 1913
from Department of the Interior

Request is made that "If there is a public, church or family record of your birth, you should forward a verified copy of such record."

Response to above request, dated 28 April 1913

As proof of birth, Byron Churchill presents a "framed family record" containing the following information:

"Hiram Churchill born September 7, 1820
Drusilla Miller born September 22, 1820
Married November 1, 1840
-Children Born-
Mercy Churchill born August 22, 1841
Wellington Churchill born January 5, 1843
Sarah Lucinda Churchill born July 3, 1844
Byron Churchill born March 6, 1846
James Edwin Churchill born July12, 1848
Hiram Wallace Churchill born December 3, 1850"

"Dated at Burr Oak, St. Joseph County, State of Michigan, this 28th day of April AD 1913"

Department of Interior Questionnaire, dated 2 May 1915
"No 2. State your wife's full name and maiden name.
A. Mrs. Rhoda Churchill, Rhoda Connett."

"No 3. When, where, and by whom were you married?
A. January 12, 1867. Union City, Michigan.
Edwin Perry- Justice of the Peace."

"No 7. If your present wife was married before ... include all former husbands.
A. Thomas Miles. March 12, 1863. Killed at the Battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864. Private in Company K, 7th Regiment of Michigan Volunteers."

"No 9. State the names and dates of birth of all your children.
A. No Children."

Declaration of Pension, dated 6 February 1924
That Byron Churchill "was enrolled at Burr Oak, Michigan on the 23rd day of February 1862 in Company A, 15th Regiment, Michigan Infantry."

"... and was honorably discharged at Scottsboro, Alabama on the 23rd day of February 1864. That he also served as private in Company A, 15th Regiment, Michigan Infantry, re-enlisting at Scottsboro, Alabama on the 23rd day of February 1864, and being honorably discharged on July 8, 1865."

"That he requires the regular personal aid and attendance of another person on account of the following disabilities: All toes on left foot and last three on right foot were rotted off by reason of confinement in Andersonville prison during the war, this together with rheumatism have crippled [his] feet as to leave deponent helpless. Failing eyesight making it impossible for him to get around with safety."
"Since leaving the service he has resided at Burr Oak, Michigan and his occupation has been [that of] farmer."

Application for an Artificial Limb or Apparatus or for Commutation for the Same, dated 28 July 1927
"... that I (Byron Churchill] lost use of left limb by reason of confinement received at Andersonville Prison during the later part of '64 and early months of '65."

"I now apply for compensation for the loss of the use of the limb."

Letter dated 8 July 1927 from Winfield Scott, Commissioner of Pensions;
"I certify that Byron Churchill ... is now a pensioner on the rolls of this office, and draws $72.00 per month."

"Last paid to July 4, 1927."

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Additional Notes Pertaining to Private Byron Churchill:
While searching for information on the St. Joseph County USGenWeb Site, I came across the following listings pertaining to Byron Churchill and his family.

Obituaries from the Burr Oak Acorn Newspaper

Churchill, Mrs. Drusilla (Miller).....edition date..... 5 September 1895

Churchill, James .....edition date.....24 December 1903

Churchill, Rhoda (Connett) .....edition dates.....12 January and 19 January 198? [1928]

Churchill, Byron.....edition date..... 20 April 1933

BURR OAK TOWNSHIP CEMETERY- Located in Section 22, Highland Avenue

Churchill, Byron......VET, Lot 212, Sec 4, buried 18 April 1933, lived in Burr Oak, 88 years, born 1845, died 15 April 1933, Civil War, Co A, 15th Michigan Infantry.....Note: Birth year from the papers of Geneva Smith.

Churchill, Olen........died 17 May 1958

Churchill, Peoda....... born 1843, died 1928

Churchill, Roda.....Lot 212, Sec 4.....born 1843, died 1928......Note: papers of Geneva Smith have this first name spelled Rhoda and provide the dates for birth and death. (Cemetery Compilers Note: Think this entry and the one above, Peoda Churchill, is the same person)

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™ Please Note ˜
The Pension file that I received on Private Byron Churchill contains eighteen (18) legal size pages copied directly from the original documents housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. I would be happy to forward these to anyone who is currently researching this man or this surname.

™ Please Note ˜
I would appreciate hearing from anyone having information about these soldiers, or other St. Joseph County veterans, who were imprisoned at Andersonville Prison during the latter years of the Civil War.

Special thanks to Patrick S. McCleary from Petoskey, Michigan who submitted this important data. Patrick's discovery of this information was during his search for his ancestor's records. Patrick's ancestor, Francis "Frank" Wells, spent time in Andersonville Prison with Private Byron Churchill and Private Henry Cooper

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