GEORGE ELLIS IN THE CIVIL WAR
Drawn Chiefly from His Military and Pension Records
George Ellis enlisted at Nichols, N.Y., on Sept. 18, 1861 (by Capt. Thomas F. Shoemaker). At enlistment he was described as follows – Age: 44 years; Height: 5 feet, 11 inches; Complexion: dark; Eyes: blue; Hair: black; Where born: Barton, N.Y.; Occupation: farmer. His term of enlistment was for three years. He was mustered in as a Private, Company E, 86th Regiment, New York Infantry, at Elmira, N.Y., on Sept. 25, 1861.
Ellis was with his company while it was stationed in Georgetown, D.C., beginning in March 1862. From May 9 to 12 he was treated for a contusion. On Aug. 23, 1862, the entire regiment was ordered to join the main body of the army. Ellis participated with his regiment in the second battle of Bull Run on Aug. 30, 1862. He was taken prisoner by the enemy after the battle, and was then paroled and sent to Camp Parole in Annapolis, Md. In 1882 Ellis summarized what had happened to him, recalling that
he contracted spinal disease leading to softening of the brain, by reason of excessive heat and overexertion while on the march from Warrenton Junction to Bull Run at the time of the Second Bull Run battle – That he was there taken prisoner while lying in the field hospital, and taken to a Rebel Camp up Bull Run and kept 5 days without anything to eat when he was paroled and sent to Capitol Hill & from thence to Annapolis and to the Parole Camp where after being sick for a month or more, he was told to go to his home if he had one for he would die if he staid there – Accordingly he came to his home at Nichols, N.Y., where he staid over a year...
On Feb. 4, 1863, it was noted in the regimental records that Ellis had previously been reported “absent with leave” from Camp Parole, but was “now considered a deserter.” In another notation it was stated that he was “Supposed to have deserted from Camp Parole, Annapolis, Md.” Ellis was arrested at his home in Nichols on Dec. 29, 1864, and was received at Barracks No. 1 in Elmira the following day. He was forwarded to his regiment from Elmira on Jan. 9, 1865, and rejoined it at City Point, Va., on Jan. 23. Capt. F. L. Wright, the Provost Marshal who had authorized his arrest, remarked at the time: “This man we do not deem merits very severe punishment.” It was also noted in the regimental records, upon his return, that he was “badly deformed.” From Feb. 5 to 18 Ellis was treated for a fractured right femur. In 1882, on the basis of a conversation he had had with Ellis, Dr. L. H. Allen said that Ellis “returned to his Regt. at City Point, Va.; was before Petersburg, and followed Lee up to his surrender.” On the company muster roll for March and April 1865, it was noted that he was at that time in the Division Guard House, “awaiting sentence” from a Court Martial for the charge of desertion. He was eventually tried and acquitted, and was then discharged, due to the expiration of his term of enlistment, at Bailey’s Crossroads, Va. (near Washington, D.C.), on May 20, 1865.
In 1888, Ellis recounted in greater detail the difficulties he had experienced at the time of the second battle of Bull Run and later. He said:
I cannot say how many days we were on the march. The whole thing seems like a dream. It seems to me we started and went a day’s journey and then went back; and pretty soon were started for Bull Run again. I cannot say first when and where I was taken sick. I recall that I suffered a severe pain in my head and shoulders; that before these pains attacked me I got very warm and tired and dizzy and suffered terribly for water. I walked all the way through, they let me fall out of line and get along the best I could. The boys relieved me of my luggage. ... I went with the company into the battle of Bull Run, because there was no place to go. ... After the battle we (the sick and wounded) were sent across the creek to [a] house which was used for a field hospital. ... I think the Regt. Surgeon Dr. Wiley [was there]... His name is the only one of those connected with the hospital that I can recall. I walked from the battlefield to the field hospital, just a short distance. I only staid there one night. I lay on the ground on a rubber blanket. I had no treatment. All I wanted was water and I filled my canteen as I crossed the creek.
The next morning about sunrise I with all the sick and wounded was captured. Probably a few made their escape. I think Charles Waterman did. We were marched a mile or two and halted in a flat piece of ground near the creek. We were guarded there three or four days. I got some rails, placed them against a bank, put some bushes on them to make a shelter from the hot sun. I lay on the ground all the time we were there without food or attention. I would fill my cup from the creek. All this time I suffered with my head, with pains all through my body and with sickness at my stomach.
After a few days we were paroled and marched to Alexandria, Va., and then to Washington. From Washington we were sent to parole camp at Annapolis, Md. ... From the time I left Bull Run till I got to Annapolis there was a continual buzzing in my head and it ached and pained me constantly. My bones ached and pained me. I had severe pains in my back. I cannot recall much about my stay at Annapolis, can not say how long I staid there, can not recall that I had any medical treatment. ... I suffered all the time and must have been in a half-conscious state. ... I would answer roll call mornings and would stay all day in the woods near a brook. At last I went to the Colonel or officer in charge, I suppose, and told him I wished I was home. He asked if I had a home; and told me to go to it, that I was a nuisance there. I then wrote to my boys and they sent me money to come home on. I came home by rail. I came home alone. I know nothing of the officer who gave me leave to come home. He told me to report to the Provost Marshall of my district. The next day after I got home I had Dr. Knapp (now dead) called. I was confined to my bed and under his treatment for a long time. ...Dr. Knapp said he would report for me and I know no more about it. I think I got home in Oct. 1862. ... I returned to the army about the latter part of 1864. ... My sons were then in the army. ...
I was arrested and taken back to the army. I do not know why I was arrested. I do not know whether Dr. Knapp neglected to report my sickness. I was tried and acquitted. ... I staid in the guard house probably a month. A doctor, I do not know his name, would come to see me mornings. I was then suffering with my back and head. After I was released from the guard house I do not recall that I had treatment, but I think the doctor gave me quinine and whiskey. I did no duty after I was released except a little camp guard duty at times. I tented with an Irishman. I do not know his name. I know he was very disagreeable when I would be sick. ...
I was not discharged with the company. I came home alone. ... Since discharge I have lived where I now live. I have never been free from the disease in my head and back. There has never been a day since discharge that I have not been some of the time confined to my bed with the disease in my head and back.
Also in 1888, Joseph Woodford, who had been a Private, a Corporal, and later a Sergeant in Ellis’s company, recalled these things concerning Ellis:
I remember that he complained of being “played out” while on the march to the second battle of Bull Run, Va. I think I carried his gun for him, for a time. I remember he was in line when we went into the battle and I am quite positive he went into the battle with the company. The next I saw of him was in the winter of 1864 & 1865 while in front of Petersburg, Va. ... I detailed him to stand guard there.
In that same year, Charles Waterman said:
I knew [Ellis] intimately in the service. ...the march from Warrenton Junction to Bull Run, in Aug. 1862, a day or two before the Second battle of Bull Run...was a hard march. The weather was hot; it was dusty and water was scarce. ... I recall that [Ellis] complained on that march of terrible pains in his head and through his body. I would only see him occasionally on the march as he was allowed to fall out of line and get on the best he could. He would overtake us when we would halt and would look very bad. He seemed to be in a dazed condition. I think he started in the battle but I cannot say how long he staid. I know he was not fit to be in a battle. ... After the battle I was in the field hospital one night with [Ellis]. I found [Ellis] in the hospital when I went there. I had a wounded hand. That night [Ellis] had his head bandaged and complained awfully with it. He seemed to be half crazy. He would wander in his talk from one subject to another. The next morning [Ellis] was missing and it was understood he and others were captured. The night [Ellis] was in the field hospital he did what he could for the wounded, carried water and looked after them.
Also in 1888, Stephen P. Coleman, Ellis’s neighbor before the war, described these events in a similar way:
I lived in the neighborhood with him and enlisted at the same time he did in Co. E, 86 N.Y. Vol. I roomed with him 6 months in Georgetown in the first part of 1862. I knew him well in the service till he was taken prisoner at [the] 2nd Battle of Bull Run in late Aug. 1862. We marched from Warrenton Junction, Va., to Bull Run. I think we were two or three days on the march. I recall that George Ellis was complaining all the time on that march. He complained of his head. I recollect seeing him in the battle. He then had a gun. After the battle we fell back by an old building where the field hospital was and I saw George Ellis there helping take care of the wounded. I did not talk any with him at that time. He was pouring water on the head of a man who was wounded.
In regard to the events that led up to Ellis’s arrest and return to the army, Emmanuel Cargill said, likewise in 1888:
I recall that the Provost Marshall requested me to send [Ellis] word that if he would meet him in Owego he might go back without being arrested. [Ellis] would not go because he suspected it was a trap set for him.
The Provost Marshal therefore arranged to have him arrested at his home. In recalling a previous conversation with Ellis, John H. Rogers stated in 1888: “I heard him say he was mowing once and some soldiers came to arrest him.”
On Apr. 28, 1865, Ellis’s case was heard by a General Court Martial convened at the headquarters of the 3rd Division of the 2nd Army Corps. The court was comprised of Col. Francis Price (7th N.J. Infantry), president; Maj. Walter F. Scott (120th N.Y. Infantry); and Captains Henry F. Travis (124th N.Y. Infantry), John R. Ross (57th Pa. Infantry), John F. Pope (1st Mass. Heavy Artillery), and Richard Clark (120th N.Y. Infantry). The Judge Advocate was Capt. Henry Bell (73rd N.Y. Infantry). The charge was desertion, and the specification of the charge was
that he, Private George Ellis of Company “E,” eighty-sixth Regiment of New York Veteran Volunteers, having been duly enlisted as a soldier in the service of the United States, did leave his hospital at Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland, without permission from proper authority and remain absent until arrested as a deserter at or near Nichols, Tioga County, New York, on or about the twenty-ninth day of December eighteen hundred and sixty four; thirty dollars being paid for his apprehension. This on or about the twenty-fifth day of December, eighteen hundred and sixty two.
Ellis pleaded “not guilty” to both the charge and the specification of the charge. The prosecution called as witnesses Capt. John C. Dalgleish, Sergt. Joseph Woodford, and Corp. Henry H. Cole, all of Ellis’s company in the 86th New York. None of them was able to offer any testimony that was material to the case, and Ellis declined to make a statement. Thereupon the court found him “not guilty” of both the charge and the specification of the charge. On May 1 Brig. Gen. Philippe Regis de Trobriand approved the acquittal, and added that “Priv. George Ellis will be returned to duty or discharged from the service of the United States, as the case may be.” Nineteen days later he was, in fact, discharged.
Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland (1864)
Barrack at Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland
George Ellis was born in Barton, N.Y., on Sept. 20, 1818, the son of Jesse and Nancy (Halliday) Ellis. In Litchfield, Pa., on Aug. 24, 1837, he married Freelove Nichols, born in Chemung Co., N.Y., on Dec. 12, 1818, the daughter of John and Polly (Presher) Nichols. George and Freelove were the parents of eight children: John Charles (born Oct. 16, 1838), Orvilla (born Sept. 15, 1840), William Henry Harrison (born Oct. 28, 1844), George Jr. (born Oct. 4, 1846), Josephine (born 1848), Theron (born May 17, 1855), Ida J. (born Aug. 1, 1859), and Mary Jane (died in childhood). George Ellis died in the Mount Pleasant section of Nichols, N.Y., on Dec. 27, 1888, and is buried in the Nichols Cemetery. In Nichols on Oct. 20, 1892, Freelove married (2) Erastus Quick, who died in Burlington, Pa., on Mar. 22, 1897. Freelove died in Burlington on Dec. 18, 1897, and is buried with her first husband.
George Ellis was a member of Warwick Post 529, Grand Army of the Republic, in Nichols, N.Y.
George Ellis and Lieutenant General Ulysses Simpson Grant were sixth cousins: George Ellis, son of Nancy Halliday, dau. of Solomon Halliday, son of Solomon Halliday, son of Mary Lewis, dau. of Mary Humphrey, dau. of Priscilla Grant, dau. of Matthew Grant. Ulysses Simpson Grant, son of Jesse Root Grant, son of Noah Grant, son of Noah Grant, son of Noah Grant, son of Samuel Grant, son of Samuel Grant, son of Matthew Grant.
86th Regiment, New York Infantry
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