The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was an organization for Union veterans of the Civil War. The monument in Erie Cemetery was raised by Erie’s Samuel Orcutt Chapter of the GAR. The GAR Chapter was named for one of Erie's Civil War soldiers, Sgt. Samuel Orcutt.
It seems fitting that information on Sgt. Orcutt’s life and service be included on the Erie Cemetery site. It is more so because Sgt. Orcutt’s story tells us so much about the War, about Erie, and about the nature of small-town life in the 18th Century.
Sgt. Orcutt enlisted with many other Erie men in August of 1862 and reported for duty on September 2, 1862, at Dixon. He was a member of Company I of the 75th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Most Erie enlistees were part of this company, which came to be known as “the Reapers.”
In early October, 1862, just a month after it was formed, Company I was engaged in the Battle of Perryville, KY, and suffered greatly. Sgt. Orcutt survived the battle, but he took sick soon afterward. He recuperated for many months, and rejoined the ranks, only to be taken prisoner by the Confederates.
Sgt. Orcutt was sent to Andersonville, the infamous Confederate death camp in Georgia, and to the Florence Stockade in South Carolina. When he was released, he went home to continue his life.
As a veteran of the war, Sgt. Orcutt, and later his widow, were entitled to some government assistance. In the days before photocopies, drivers’ licenses and social security numbers, the government’s job of issuing pensions was more complicated. In the government’s file are many affidavits, statements and depositions filed and made on behalf of the Orcutts. They provide us with an incredible window into the lives not only of Sgt. Orcutt, but of the entire Erie community.
What follows are transcriptions of some of the documents in Sgt. Orcutt’s pension files at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
State of Wisconsin
I, Matthew Scott and Nathaniel A. Thompson, both of the town of Lowell in said county, each for himself, do solemnly swear that we know and were acquainted with one Samuel Orcutt, and one Martha Thompson in the year A.D. 1848, that said Samuel Orcutt and Martha Thompson were legally married together on the 9th day of April, A.D. 1848, at the town of Lyndon, in the county of Cataraugus and the state of New York, by Alexander Howden Esq., a justice of the peace in and for the county of Cattaraugus aforesaid, that we were present at the time said persons were so joined in marriage and we do of our own knowledge know that said Samuel Orcutt and said Martha Thompson were duly joined together in holy matrimony at the time and place as above stated at the house of Matthias Scott above named in said town of Lyndon aforesaid. So help me God.
Registered by G.W. Tanner, Justice of the Peace
15 February 1865
Statement of Col. John Bennet, 75th Illinois Infantry
State of Illinois
County of Whiteside
John E. Bennet of Helena, Ark., whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit, and who, being by me first duly sworn, according to law, do depose and say that he was Col. of the 75th Regt. Of Ill. Inft. Vols. And is acquainted with Samuel Orcutt who was a Sgt. Co. I of said regiment,, that while in the service of the United States and in the line of his duty as a soldier at Nashville, Tenn., on or about Oct. 31, 1862, said Orcutt contracted a disease of the kidney resulting from exposure on picket while en route to Nashville, that it rendered him unable to perform hard military duty thereafter and at times he was unable to perform any service, and further says his knowledge of the above facts is obtained from the following source, viz: personal knowledge of the facts stated as to the performance of service, as to the disease for surgeon’s report, and that he has no interest nor concerned in the prosecution of claim of Samuel Orcutt for a pension.
John E. Bennet
Affidavit, Samuel I. Clark
State of Arkansas, County of Phillips, 9 October 1875
…that he is personally acquainted with Samuel Orcutt who is a claimant for Invalid Pension No. 186,808 and that he was with him in Co. I 75th Regt. Ill. Vol. Inf., that our regiment in the pursuit of Bragg’s Army after the Battle of Perryville marched light, we had neither knapsacks nor tents, That when wee had marched back to Danville, Ky., we were out in a sever snow storm in the last of October of first of November, 1862, and that said Samuel Orcutt gave his blanket to James Marks and Paschal Hanley, one of which was near sick, and said Orcutt laid without tent or blanket and got his back wet and took cold and at Nashville was taken sick with what was called kidney disease and said disease was contracted in the line of his duty.
John Freek, Jr.
State of New York
County of Niagara
Lewis E. Chubbuck of Middleport, NY, whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit, and who, being by me first duly sworn, according to law, do depose and say that he was Lieut. Co. I 75th Regt. Of Ill. Vols. And is acquainted with Samuel Orcutt who was a Sgt. in said company, that while in the service of the United States and in the line of his duty as a soldier at Nashville, Tenn., on or about Oct. 31, 1862, said Orcutt contracted a disease of the kidney resulting from exposure on picket while en route to Nashville, that it rendered him unable to perform hard military duty thereafter and at times he was unable to perform any service at all, and further says his knowledge of the above facts is obtained from the following source, viz: personal knowledge of the facts stated, and that he has no interest nor concerned in the prosecution of claim of Samuel Orcutt for invalid pension.
Lewis E. Chubbuck
5 March 1874
Witnessed, A.L. Baker, Justice of the Peace
Registered, P.D. Walter, Niagara County Clerk
Statement of the Adjutant General's Office, 17 March 1874
Adjutant General’s Office
Washington, DC, March 17, 1874
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt from your office of Application for Pension No. 186,808, and to return it herewith with such information as is furnished by the files of this office.
It appears from the rolls on file in this office that Samuel Orcutt was enrolled on the 8th day of August, 1862, at Erie in Co. I 75 Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, to serve 3 years or during the war, and mustered into service as a sergeant on the 2nd day of Sept., 1862, at Dixon, in Co. I, 75 Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, to serve 3 years, or during the war. On the muster rolls of Co. I of that Regiment for the months of Sept. and Oct., 1862, he is reported present - no remark; for Nov. and Dec., 1862, “In Hosp. Louisville;” for Jan. and Feb. 1863, “in Camp Dennison since Jan. 1, 1863;” and reported absent sick until roll for March and April, 1864, reports him present for May and June 1864; “Taken prisoner at Kenesaw Mt., June 28, ’64.” Mustered out June 17, 1865, to date May 29, 1865, under tel. W.D. of May 12, 1865. Date of parole not stated.
I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Assistant Adjutant General.
[editor's note: After the death of Samuel Orcutt, Martha Orcutt applied to the federal government for a widow's pension. This document was prepared by the investigating officer and summarizes the testimony taken in support of that pension.]
August 25, 1883
I have the honor to return the claim No. 292,548 and papers in the case of Mrs. Martha Orcutt, whose P.O. address is Erie, Whiteside County, Ill., and who seeks a pension on account of the death of her husband, Samuel Orcutt late sergeant, Co. I, 75 Ill. Vols., where she alleges he contracted a disease of the lungs and kidneys in service and on the line of his duty which finally resulted in consumption causing death.
The case was referenced for special examination upon its general merits and particularly with reference to the alleged disease of lungs, conditional discharge and cause of death.
I have complied with your instructions in the case and respectfully submit herewith the following report.
Plainant was duly notified of the examination to be made in her case and of her rights in the premices. See her acknowledgement of notice hereto attached. She was not present in person during the investigation having waived such right and affirmed Mr. R. L. Burchell of Erie to look after her interests - see claim statement Exhibit A. Mr. Burchell was not present during the examination of all witnesses but counseled with me from time to time and after concluding my investigation at Erie, Ill., the evidence was all submitted to him and he expressed himself fully satisfied with the manner in which the examination had been conducted. See his statement - Ex. X - in which he waives the right to be present during any further examination that may be necessary.
The following is a summary of the testimony taken by me.
Claimant - who is 55 years of age, residing at Erie, Ill, alleged that she is the widow of Samuel Orcutt late sergeant Co. I 75 Ill. Inf., that her husband died on the 14th day of December 1881 of consumption and disease of the kidney, contracted while in service and in line of duty, that her maiden name was Martha M. Thompson, and that she was married to said Samuel Orcutt at Lyndon, Cattaraugus Co., NY, on the 9th Day of April 1848, that she has borne five children by the said marriage all of whom were over 16 years of age at date of husband’s death save Anna aged 12, she having been born on the 14th day of July 1869, that at and prior to his enlistment her husband had been sound and well, that when home after release from prison he was a skeleton, that soon after his discharge he had a cough and his lungs were affected and continued so up to his death.
Dr. H.K. Wells, aged 62 years, a physician of about 20 years practice, swears that he has resided at Erie since March 1865, that his books show he was called to treat claimant’s husband on July 25th ’68, and that his recollection is that he then treated him for intermittent fever and that he was delerius, that he was his family physician from ’66 to ’70, is confident he treated Mr. Orcutt prior to ’68 but has no record, that his other treatment was for a cough and kidney trouble. His examination in ’78 was with a view of making the affidavit now on file in the case and his opinion of the case as he found it at that time was given therein that it is his opinion that he made an examination prior to ’78 and that while he found no albumin in the urine he “thought there was some disease of the kidneys,” that there was other deposits but he did not analyze it. First saw him in spring of ’65 when home from prison “and like all Andersonville prisoners he was terribly emaciated.” It is his conviction that Mr. Orcutt had lung trouble and a cough prior to ’78 but cannot state positively to what extent, that he has not been able to do ordinary work over one fourth of the time without injury to himself.
Reputation for truth and veracity and as a physician, good.
York-Eddy, 51 years of age, a farmer residing at Erie, Ill., swears that he saw Sam Orcutt at least once a week from ’57 to ’62 and that he was a strong, healthy man, a robust fellow “free from lung or kidney trouble,” that he and client’s husband were comrades in Co. I, 75th Ill., and that he continued well until after the Perryville fight, was then sick with diarrhea and had a cold at Danville and complained of pain across back and kidneys. “We were both sent to some hospital at Nashville, had a bad cough and had a spell of bleeding at the lungs.” “Our cots were close together” and he witnesssed said hemorrhage. Saw him then come home from prison, was coughing and complained of lung and (…) discharges, that from discharge to date of death “he was not able to have done” one months’ ordinary work in a year, and that he helped to take soldier out of church three times when he had bleeding of lungs.
Witness I think somewhat biased from sympathy, yet the main facts can be relied on, I think.
Luther Mathews, aged 42 years, a butcher by trade residing at Erie, Ill, swears that he has known Mr. Orcutt since about 56, lived within a half mile of him, saw him two or three times a week, considered him sound and one of the strongest men he had, that he was a private in Co. I 75 Ill. and was wounded at Perryville and sent to hospital and did not see client’s husband until the Co. reached Blue Springs, GA, over a year. Never heard him complain of his back before he was wounded but did so complain when he next saw him. Saw him next when he came home from prison, he was in very bad condition and had a bad cough “saw him when he had a cough so often that I would not like to even (…) that he coughed when home from prison, but to the best of my knowledge he did.” Think he had a cough at discharge or soon after but cannot recall particular time until about the time of the dedication of the Baptist Church, that he has seen him have several spells of disease of the lungs.
E. J. Talcott, 56 years of age, a physician residing at Spring Hill, Ill., swears that Mr. Samuel Orcutt called on him in October of ’78, that he made an examination “and found him affected with a troublesome cough from disease of bronchial tubes and probably of lungs. There was much debility with chronic inflammation of the bladder and indications of disease of kidneys, did not test the urine. My impression was that he was in the first
Stages of pulmonary consumption."
David R. Moulton, aged 47 years, a farmer residing near Erie, swears that he was a comrade of soldier and first knew him in Co. I 75 Ill., that he was a stout, robust man and continued so until after the snow storm at Danville just after the Perryville
fight, when he was taken sick, had severe cold, coughed badly and was sent to hospital at Nashville. Was coughing and looked badly when he returned from hospital and was captured shortly afterward. “That he seemed sick and broken down after discharge, and I don’t remember that I ever saw him after discharge when he didn’t have a cough.”
Levi Wright, aged 69 years, a laborer residing at Erie Ill., swears that when Orcutt came home from prison in ’65 was only skin and bones and complained of his back and stomach, that his health was very poor at discharge and complained of his kidneys and had a cough even after the discharge. And he could seldom go to church without having to go out and draw his water, and always coughed when he tried to talk, that he did work perhaps one half the time for the first five or six years but he wasn’t able to.
Daniel Schryver, aged 51 years, a farmer residing at Erie, Illinois, a comrade of solder, swears that he resided near to him for eight to ten years prior to enlistment, saw nim nearly every day, testifies to prior soundness, and that he continued sound and well until they reached Danville where he took a severe cold, complained of chest and back, was sent to hospital at Nashville, was complaining of back and sides and always coughed from then until he died, that he complained of his…
… side and back and was coughing at date of discharge and seemed to be generally used up, that for 7 or 8 years after discharge they lived only 80 rods apart and saw him nearly every day and “in my opinion for the first ten years he might have made about one half a hand, after that he did not earn his board,” that about five years after he was discharged he was quite sick and while he was there to see him he had a bad hemorrhage of lungs and in a week or so at deponent’s house he had another, soldier always said it was his kidneys but he thought it was consumption.
A.W. Capen, aged 61 years, a laborer residing at Erie, swears that he has known claimant’s husband since he was a boy, lived within 20 rods of him two years prior to ’62, saw him nearly every day, testifies to his soundness, that he was known by him in flesh, when home after release from prison complained of his kidneys and was weak across the back, and that when he came home after discharge he complained of his kidneys and lungs and had a hacking cough, had several spells of bleeding lungs and kept getting worse until he died, that he is a cousin of soldier and worked with him when he first came home for three years, that he did not work over one half the time, did not think he was able to have worked over one quarter the day since three years.
John F. Dickinson, aged 53 years, a merchant residing at Erie, swears that he probably saw soldier for the two years prior to his enlistment two or three times a day. Testifies to his soundness, that Orcutt was very much emaciated when he came home from prison, complained then of back and frequent (…) of urine, and he had a dry hacking cough, remembers that he was called out in a meeting at the time to relate his experience while in prison, that he was frequently stopped in his talk by a kind of hack or cough, that he saw soldier same day he got home at discharge, had the appearance of a wrecked and broken down man, complained of back and kidneys that he had to frequently void his water, and he still was troubled with a hacking cough, that he had frequent hemorrhage of the lungs and continued to grow worse until he died.
Samuel Taylor, aged 54 years, a physician of thirty-years practice and U.S. Examining surgeon residing at Morrison, swears that he has resided at Morrison for 21 years and prior to that had resided at Erie, and was well-acquainted with Samuel Orcutt. See deposition in full.
D.B. Seger, aged 41 years, a physician residing at Morrison. See deposition in full.
He is 47 years of age, states… Erie is his post office address and he is by occupation a farmer.
Q - How long have you resided in Erie?
A - I have only resided near Erie a little over two years, but I have resided in Whiteside county since 1856.
Q - Were you acquainted with Samuel Orcutt (deceased) prior to ’62?
A - Yes, I knew him by sight - he was first sgt. of our company and I knew him ever since our enlistment.
Q - What was his physical condition during the first few months of his service?
A - He was a stout, robust man and continued so until about the time of the snow storm at Danville, just after the Perryville fight. We had no tents, and we had thrown down many of our coats and blankets before the fight and lost them, and consequently suffered greatly from exposure during the storm. I think he was taken sick just after that storm. The regiment went back to Nashville and I am quite sure Orcutt was sent to the hospital from there.
From Deposition J, Daniel Schryver
Q - How near did he live to you from discharge up to date of death?
A - For the first 7 or 8 years we lived about 40 rods apart, after then I went out on the farm four miles out and stayed there until sometime a few months before death when I moved back to town.
Q - Did he ever work for you after his discharge?
A - No, sir.
Q - How frequently did you probably see him on an average, up to the date of his death?
A - For 7 or 8 years I saw him nearly every day. While in the county, probably once or twice a week.
Q - Please state as nearly as you can just what his general health and condition was from discharge up to the date of his death.
A - He complained as I have said right along. He kept getting worse and worse all the time. He tried to do what work he could, though. For ten years before he died I don’t think he did any work to earn a dollar. We elected him a J.P when he could not work. For the eight years before he died he could not be out nights at all. We both belonged to the Masons and if he came to Lodge he would cough so hard he had to go home.