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Title: Henry D. Kingsbury Toledo Pioneer & Patriot

Henry D. Kingsbury
Henry Dennison Kingsbury

My interest in the 14th Ohio began when I wanted to learn something, anything, about Henry D. Kingsbury. Hoping to create a personal connection with the Civil War, I decided one Memorial Day to "adopt" a soldier. While visiting Forest Cemetery, Toledo's oldest cemetery, I came upon what was obviously a family plot located in the oldest part of the cemetery. One of the headstones was of the type issued by the government for Civil War veterans. The stone was inscribed:

Colonel Henry D. Kingsbury
189th Ohio Infy

The graves were devoid of any flowers or remembrances; there wasn't even a flag for Memorial Day! It looked as if no one had visited this part of the cemetery in many a year. So I adopted Henry and his family. I wanted to learn more about the man, but wasn't sure just what, if anything, I would ever find out. And that, in a nutshell, is "how it all began."

Since that Memorial Day five years ago I've learned a lot about Kingsbury, his family's history, and my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. As far as I am concerned, Henry is part of the family. I would love to someday make contact with his descendants -- if there are any around -- and share what I know about their ancestor.

Title: Early Years

Henry Dennison Kingsbury was born on the 19th of July 1818 in Otis, Massachusetts, the oldest child of Alvah Kingsbury and Lydia Barber. Otis is located in southern Berkshire County, about 20 miles north of the Connecticut border. Like most Americans of that era, Alvah and Lydia subsisted by agriculture. But the land of the Berkshires is rocky, and the winters are harsh. In 1820 the opportunity presented itself to move to the more clement "Western Reserve." So, like many another Berkshire family, the Kingsburys sold their farm, packed up their belongings and, traveling the miles by ox-drawn covered wagon, made their way to the village of Brunswick in Medina County, Ohio. There they settled on the farm owned by Alvah's father, Jabez Kingsbury, remaining there until about 1850.

Kingsbury Road in Brunswick, Ohio
Kingsbury Road in Brunswick, Ohio. The road runs past the land on which the Kingsbury farm once stood.

There is little information available about Henry Kingsbury's childhood; it was probably typical of many another boy growing up in rural Ohio of that time. Henry had three siblings born in Ohio -- brothers William and Orson, and sister Emily. If there were others, their names are now lost to us.

At the age of 8, Henry began attending the public school in Brunswick, some 3 miles distant from the family farm. By his early teens, Henry was attending the Select School of Judge Abram Freese of Brunswick, where according to Kingsbury's obituary the judge's daughter was his teacher. A glimpse into Henry's school days may have been found in a Medina County history book in which was found the following:

Miss Pamela [Freese] was…a teacher for several years, but due to the unruly behavior of some of the big boy pupils, Judge Abram Freese would visit the school at unscheduled times and administer chastisement where needed.

The unruly boys are not named, and I could not help but wonder if it was coincidence that on November 22, 1832, 14-year-old Henry Kingsbury along with his younger brother William left for Toledo. Could he have been expelled from school? Or was it decision based on economics, with he and his family feeling it was time for the boys to begin making their own way in the world? I doubt we will ever know. Whatever the reason, the boys made the three-day trip to Toledo, and from there went to live with their uncle, (another) William Kingsbury, who had been living in Maumee City since 1832. Uncle William was the proprietor of an inn/tavern called Jefferson House, and while there Henry worked for his uncle, earning $8 a month plus board.

In 1839, Kingsbury was employed by the Ohio Rail Road Company, and was in charge of construction of a section of track running five miles east of Manhattan. Apparently finding this work to his liking, Henry took on other contracts with the railroad, only to have the company end up going bankrupt around 1841. The line was never completed, and Kingsbury received only about $1,000 of the $16,500 owed him.

On November 11, 1841, he married Harriet E. Van Orden of Manhattan Township. The couple made Toledo their permanent home, living for many years on Summit Street near where Maritime Plaza is today.

The next few years were active ones for the young couple. Henry became involved in the local political scene. His original political allegiance was to the Whig party, and later, the Republicans. During the 1840s Henry served as marshal (1846-48) and treasurer (1849) for the city of Toledo.

It was also during this decade that three of their four children were born. The first two, William, born 1845 and Henry D., born February 18, 1847, died in infancy, an all-too-common event in those years. Their first child to survive the hazards of growing up in the mid-19th century was daughter Mary Louise, who was born on June 19, 1849. Their last child was a son, Charles Haskins Kingsbury, who was born February 14, 1852. Both Mary Louise and Charles Haskins lived to old age.

The next decade saw the Kingsburys' fortunes continue to thrive. Their fourth and last child, son Charles Haskins, was born on February 14, 1852. Like his sister Mary Louise, Charles would grow up and live to a ripe old age. Henry also continued taking an active part in the community in which he lived.

Perhaps his uncle's success as an innkeeper had some influence upon Henry as, in 1850, he and his uncle William rented the Ohio House, a local hotel that stood on north Summit Street, refurbished the establishment and reopened it under the name of Kingsbury House.

In 1851, and again in 1855, Henry Kingsbury ran for sheriff of Lucas County on the Republican ticket. Both times he lost, but he did not lose heart. In 1857 he ran again, and this time he was elected, serving the first of what would eventually become four two-year terms in that office (two terms served prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, and two more terms after). At the time of his death in 1904 the Toledo Blade noted that Henry D. Kingsbury was the only man to ever serve four terms as sheriff of Lucas County.

In addition to holding elected office, Kingsbury was also a member of the local militia company. August 1855 saw the formation of the Toledo Guards, a company in the state militia, and Henry D. Kingsbury was elected 2d Lieutenant. In December of 1857 he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. The Toledo Guards would later become the nucleus of Company A, 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry when the Civil War broke out. Among the company's junior officers serving with Henry Kingsbury was 3d Lieutenant Albert Moore, who would also one day command the 14th Ohio. Many of the Toledo Guards' rank and file would serve during the Civil War with the 14th Ohio and other regiments.

Title: Three Months Service

On April 12, 1861 life in the United States suddenly changed when Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was fired upon, thus ushering in the great cataclysm known as the American Civil War. President Lincoln immediately issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to help put down the rebellion, which was thought could be accomplished within a few weeks' time. Back in Northwest Ohio the Toledo Daily Herald and Times asked, "Where are the War Patriots?" That question wasn't long in being answered as a full regiment of volunteers was formed within a week following the President's call. Among the first of those to volunteer was Henry D. Kingsbury, along with the bulk of the Toledo Guards.

On April 23d, company elections were held, and Henry D. Kingsbury was voted Captain of Company A. The next day a presentation was made on the steps of the Court House. The ladies of Toledo, eager to prove their own patriotism, presented the Toledo Guards with a flag to be carried into battle. As the company's captain, Kingsbury accepted the flag and "responded in a patriotic speech, thanking the fair donors for the compliment to him and his brother soldiers."

On April 25th, the city marshal ordered no teams or horses or traffic of any kind would be permitted on Summit street that morning as the regiment was preparing to depart for camp in Cleveland where they would be mustered into Federal service. Thousands flocked to the streets of downtown Toledo, and the scene was described in the local newspaper as follows:

"Never has our city experienced such a day as the present. At early dawn the people from the country began to pour into the city in immense crowds, and the firing of cannon aroused our citizens from their slumbers, who contributed to swell the multitude so that by 9 o'clock there must have been at 10,000 people in the streets."

After marching to the parade ground, blessings were asked for the men about to leave for war in a prayer service conducted by the Rev. Mr. Walbridge. The men then formed ranks and marched to the depot where they would take the train to Cleveland. The newspaper account continues:

"Arriving at the Depot, the scene was truly grand. The crowd filled the entire space devoted to the passenger trains, but after an energetic effort of the police, a passage way was cleared and the troops marched in sections to the cars designated for each."

Amid tearful and emotional farewells, the regiment finally left Toledo.

The 14th Ohio spent a short time in Camp Taylor, Cleveland. While here Henry Kingsbury resigned as Captain of Company A in order to accept an appointment as Regimental Quarter Master, at the request of his commanding officer, Colonel James B. Steedman. One new recruit wrote to the folks in Toledo about life in Camp Taylor, reassuring them that they were all being well cared for.

"Our provident Quarter Master, H. D. Kingsbury, looks after our interests at head quarters, and sees that we have plenty to eat and good places to sleep. The Sheriff knows when the victuals are well cooked too, and he takes care that the boys of the 14th get their full share of all the good things of camp. "Hank" is sound, and all the boys are delighted with his appointment."

But what the boys were most anxious for was fight the rebels -- and it wasn't too much longer before they were able to get their chance to do just that.

By the end of the month the 14th Ohio was on its way to Western Virginia, where they were to become part of General George B. McClellan's Army of Occupation. Their main objective was to secure the B &O Railroad for the Union, and provide a buffer between Virginia and the Northern states.

Among the companies of the 14th there was a certain amount of rivalry, as each group was eager to claim its share of glory. In a letter written to his family in Toledo, Henry D. Kingsbury described one such incident.

"There was great strife among the Toledo boys to see what Company's flag would be the first to float to the breeze upon Virginia soil. Which do you think was the first? The "Toledo Guards" -- God bless them and the makers of the flag! You ought to have heard me cheer." (Letter written on June 1, 1861, and published in the Toledo Blade, June 5, 1861.)

No doubt this was the same flag that had been presented to them on the Court House steps.

The 14th Ohio proceeded to the small town of Philippi where they engaged the enemy in what, by later standards, would be considered a very minor incident indeed. But to the men of the 14th, the affair provided them with the bragging rights as the first Ohio regiment to unfurl its colors in battle, and left them feeling that now they were real soldiers. Enthusiasm in the regiment ran high, and as one correspondent wrote,

"The boys were all in fine spirits...They say that as long as they have Col. Steedman to lead them, Hank Kingsbury to feed them, and Dr. Daniels to plaster them, they don't fear the devil, or any of his minions."

Title: Three Years with 14th Ohio

By the time the regiment's three months' term had expired, it was evident that it was going to take more than a few months to put down the rebellion. There was another call for volunteers, this time to serve for three years or the end of the war, whichever came first. Kingsbury and the 14th returned to Toledo were mustered out, and the regiment reorganized for three years' service. Advertisements appeared in the Blade and the Herald & Times in which officers were looking for "a few good men." By the end of summer the reorganization was complete. Once more the regiment left Toledo, with Henry Kingsbury once again Captain of Company A. This time they were headed to Kentucky, and went into camp outside of Louisville where they experienced the Civil War soldiers' version of boot camp.

Although they took part in a number of engagements throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, the 14th never really got involved in any of the major battles until late in 1863. For example, the regiment missed out on the Battle of Shiloh when the division to which they were assigned was placed so far in the rear during its march to that place, that they did not arrive on the battlefield until late at night on April 7, 1862 -- when the fighting was all but over. During the winter of 1862-63, the 14th were part of a detachment that was sent to Gallatin, Tennessee to repair railroad tunnels and thus missed out on the fighting at Stones River. From our modern-day perspective we might think that they were a pretty lucky bunch to have missed out on some of the bloodiest fighting that had taken place up to that point, the boys of the 14th weren't happy. They were grumbling over the fact that they were always being placed in reserve when a battle was approaching, and felt they were being cheated out of their chance to show their fighting spirit. But they finally got their chance in the battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 19-20, 1863. It was also Henry Kingsbury's moment of glory.

By this time Kingsbury had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, putting him second-in-command of the 14th Ohio. During the Chickamauga campaign, he was actually commanding the regiment as the 14th's colonel, George Este, was back in Ohio. In the two-day battle, Kingsbury's regiment was in some of the hottest fighting, and only two other Union regiments suffered higher casualties. The following are excerpts from two letters written by members of the 14th Ohio only days after the battle. These letters describe some of the fighting as well as the actions of their commanding officer. A regular correspondent wrote the first letter from Chattanooga on September 23 with the Blade who signed his name as "N."

"After a tedious and severe night march, our troops found themselves at daylight in the vicinity of the enemy, with whom some of our cavalry and infantry had been skirmishing the day previous.... In the advance, on the morning, was the 2d brigade of the 3d division of General Thomas' corps....under the command of Colonel Croxton, of the 4th Kentucky. When within a few hundred yards of the enemy, a line of skirmishers was sent out--the regiments forming in line of battle--and advancing a short distance, came in contact with a force of rebel cavalry who advanced with the customary yell and whoop and attacked our skirmishers; but a volley of musketry from our lines emptied many rebel saddles and sent back the balance to their lines. Here commenced the great battle and soon the 14th was in the thickest of the fight....

"Lieut. Col. Kingsbury had command of the 14th Regiment during the battle. Shouldering his musket, and fastening his cartridge-box upon his person, he led his regiment into the thickest of the fight, and by his acts during that terrific struggle proved that his heart and musket were in the right place." (Toledo Blade: October 2, 1863)

The next letter was written by Private Augustus C. May on September 30, 1863. He writes:

"Col. Kingsbury was at the head of the Regiment, just as brave as a man could be; and he did not go into the fight like some officers do -- swinging his sword in the air -- but he went in on foot, with a cartridge box strapped on his shoulder and musket in his hand, and besides performing the laborious duty of constantly cheering on his men, he, at the same time, kept loading and firing his musket with dexterity, and, I doubt not, but that he made as many rebels bite the dust as any other man on the field. In fact, he shot and "blowed" himself nearly away, for when he came off from the field he was that hoarse, from cheering his men on to the fight, that he could not speak above a whisper.... Col. Kingsbury could put our Regiment in any shape [he] wished to have it, in the short space of five minutes time, which was in a measure the means of our being so successful on the field." (Toledo Daily Commercial: October 17, 1863)

14th Ohio Plaque on Mission Ridge
The Fourteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry's plaque located on the crest of Mission Ridge.

Following Chickamauga, Kingsbury and the 14th withstood the siege of Chattanooga. With Kingsbury still in command, the 14th Ohio took part in the breakout from Chattanooga in late November, and participated in the Assault on Missionary Ridge. By December the regiment's term of service had expired, but most of the men re-enlisted, allowing them to return home on a 30-day Veterans Furlough.

The regiment returned to Toledo the first week of January 1864. Within a few days of returning home, Henry Kingsbury was stricken with rheumatic fever. When the rest of the regiment returned to the front in February, Kingsbury was still sick in bed, and remained so through the spring and early summer, suffering from "lung fever" and other complications. The long illness left him greatly weakened, but he was determined to rejoin his regiment, and against his doctor's wishes left in late July to rejoin the army. This was during Sherman's Atlanta campaign, in which the 14th took an active part. Kingsbury tried to resume his duties, but within a short time he was back in the Division Hospital. Finally accepting that his health would not permit him to continue, he reluctantly tendered his resignation and returned home in early November 1864.

Once back home, away from the rigors of army life, Kingsbury's health improved. In March of 1865 he accepted an appointment as Colonel of the newly formed 189th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It was at this time also that Kingsbury was brevetted Brigadier-General for his conduct at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The 189th was sent to Huntsville, Alabama with Kingsbury in charge of the brigade.

"Since the surrender of the miscellaneous gang of vagabonds called Confederate soldiers, we have had a peaceable time and pleasant, if the intense heat is excepted. The only items of interest have been the election of delegates to the Union Convention and withdrawal of troops whose term of service is near expiration. The election of delegates was held near a month since. Col. Kingsbury was appointed as one, the other I have forgotten. Preferences for candidates were as numerous as the detachments, and no one man had a clear majority, although this one passed a resolution endorsing Gen. Steedman as their first choice." (Daily Toledo Blade: Monday, June 19, 1865, page 2.)

There they performed primarily garrison duty, protecting bridges and railroad lines, serving until September when the regiment was mustered out. And so with the war over, Henry returned home to Toledo and civilian life once more.

Title: Postwar Years

Upon returning to Toledo Henry once again ran for sheriff and was elected by an overwhelming margin, serving two more terms in that office. Though Kingsbury House had been sold earlier, he and his family continued to live on Summit Street until the late 1890s. As he got older, Kingsbury was plagued with very painful and crippling rheumatism. Eventually the condition became serious enough that he could no longer work to support himself or his family.

His pension records are filled with affidavits testifying to just how bad his condition had become. By 1897 he was completely bed-ridden. Being unable to care for himself or Harriet, the elderly couple moved to Maumee to live with their daughter and her family. Two of the grandsons were given the job of taking care of their grandfather, as Harriet's age and health were leaving her too feeble to continue doing so herself. A fall resulting in a broken hip further complicated Henry's condition to such a degree that his physician was certain that he had not long to live. But Henry stubbornly hung on for another seven years.

On January 22, 1901 -- after almost 60 years of marriage -- Harriet passed away. The grief, added to his already enfeebled condition, was more than Henry could bear. Unable to care for himself, and suffering what was termed "mental derangement," he was finally admitted to the Toledo State Hospital. As the third anniversary of Harriet's death approached, he became more and more distressed. On January 21, 1904 -- almost three years to the day of Harriet's death -- Henry D. Kingsbury passed away. His remains were taken to Soldiers Memorial Hall to lie in state, and members of Ford Post, Grand Army of the Republic, of which Henry had been a member, conducted the funeral service. It was written about him in the Blade that:

"General Kingsbury was a popular man in Toledo, and has been before the public for many years. Both politically and socially he had much to do with the growth of Toledo, and his benevolent and loving wife, who died just three years ago, was one of the most popular women in Toledo. Her home was the scene for many social gatherings, and its hospitality was known and appreciated by a large circle of friends. The General will be greatly missed by Toledo people, and his death, which came so suddenly but peacefully, will be a shock to his many warm friends." (Toledo Blade: January 22, 1904)

Grave of Henry D. Kingsbury

The grave of HENRY DENNISON KINGSBURY in Forest Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio. Buried along with Henry in the family plot are his parents, ALVAH and LYDIA KINGSBURY who were both victims of cholera during the mid-1850's; his wife HARRIETT E. VAN ORDEN; and their children. Since this picture was taken, Henry Kingsbury has received a new headstone with his rank of Brevet Brigadier General and his affiliation with the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Every Memorial Day, I make sure there are flowers and a flag on his grave.

Kathleen A. Jones

Title: Sources

  • An Outline History of Brunswick 1815-1965. No author or publication date known.
  • Census Returns for the State of Ohio, Medina County: 1820, 1830, 1840.
  • Census Returns for the State of Ohio, Lucas County: 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870.
  • Everts, L. H. Combination Atlas Map of Medina County, Ohio. Chicago. 1874.
  • Kingsbury, Henry D. Service Records. National Archives and Records Administration.
  • Kingsbury, Henry D. Pension Records. National Archives and Records Administration.
  • Medina County Historical Society, History of Medina County.
  • History of Medina County and Ohio. Chicago: Baskin & Battey, Historical Publishers. 1881.
  • Northrop, N. B. Pioneer History of Medina County. Medina, Ohio: Geo. Redway, Printer. 1861.
  • Reid, Whitelaw, Ohio in the War.
  • Waggoner, Clark, History of the City of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio. New York: Munsell & Company, Publishers. 1888.
  • Toledo Daily Blade, April 25, 1861.
  • Toledo Daily Blade, June 5, 1861.
  • Toledo Daily Blade, October 2, 1863.
  • Toledo Blade, January 22, 1904. Page 12: "Gen. H. D. Kingsbury Dead. One of Toledo’s Pioneers"
  • Toledo Daily Commercial, October 17, 1863.
  • Toledo Daily Herald & Times, April 25, 1861.
  • Toledo Daily Herald & Times, May 14, 1861.
  • Toledo Daily Herald & Times, June 6, 1861.
  • Picture courtesy USAMHI, collection Massachusetts Commandery MOLLUS. Date of picture not known.

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