Monday, April 9, 2012

Martin Luther Rice: Another Brief Civil War Career


On some levels, my 3rd great grandfather's Civil War service is similar to that of my 3rd great grandfather George W. Ware who I have already blogged about. Both were injured not in battle, but in camp and both were only in their regiments for a short time. They also both suffered from their injuries for the rest of their lives. The main difference is that where George W. Ware signed up for three years and only made it a few months, Martin Luther Rice only signed up for a few months and he finished his duty despite his injuries.

Martin Luther Rice was born in Noble county, Indiana in 1845 and moved to Illinois sometime after the start of the war. Towards the end of the war in May of 1864 however, he enlisted for 100 days and on June 18th, 1864 he was mustered into Company A of the 140th Regiment Illinois Infantry at Camp Butler. That very day, his regiment boarded a train and headed south to Cairo, Illinois where they hopped a boat to Memphis and from their marched 30 miles to the east to the Wolf river where they spread out and guarded a railroad between there and Holly Springs, Mississippi for the next three months.

About one month into that railroad guarding stint, my 3rd great grandfather was tasked with digging a vault with a grubbing hoe and somehow ended up falling with the hoe handle striking him in the knee. Evidently he was able to continue because there were no hospital records and no absences for duty. Martin would stay with his regiment during a battle in LaFayette, Tennessee where he would again suffer injury by losing two of his upper left molars, cracking a third and chipping a bicuspid while pulling out the rifle ramrod with his mouth in the heat of battle. Still my 3rd great grandfather stayed with his unit and eventually they made their way back to Memphis and from their back to Chicago, Illinois where Martin was mustered out on the 29th of October, 1864.

According to the unit history, once the men had given up their arms, they were asked to reorganize and march through Missouri in pursuit of General Price. While many of them did, Martin Luther wasn't among them because there was a receipt showing that he paid for transportation from Chicago to St. Louis at the rate of $0.0206 per mile for the 281 mile trip costing him $5.79. He was also charged another $2.47 for a bayonet, a tompion which is a plug for the end of the rifle barrel used to keep out water and dirt and a spare cone which was another stopper used to seal up the breech from water and dirt. The first item was probably a souvenir but the other two for the rifle back home perhaps? When he got back home, he packed up his gear and headed to Clinton county, Iowa where he would meet and marry my 3rd great grandmother Amanda Virginia Smith on her family farm which I visited and blogged about here.

They stayed there for a few years and then moved out west to Monona county Iowa in the northwest corner of the state and settled down to farm and raise a family. In the early 1880's, Martin files for disability from his old teeth and knee injuries. He claimed his left knee now caused him great pain from his ankle to his hip preventing him from walking much without crutches or just standing for long periods of time. Oddly enough, he claimed that his knee also sometimes smelled badly but the doctor just noted it and didn't say anything else about it. Martin had lost another molar on his right side and with the three gone on the left, he rightly had difficult chewing his food and complained of poor digestive organs. He claimed he was slightly deaf since the war and that in the 1870's after the war had suffered a blow to the head which was causing him to lose his eyesight. Like my other 3rd great grandfather, Martin also suffered from chronic diarrhea but claimed his was due to having had to survive for three weeks on nothings but hard tack and black beans. I don't doubt his explanation one bit.

Martin's first claim for disability was denied because he had never been reported absent and there had been no evidence of injury at discharge. They also noted that there were never any medical records to confirm his injuries. However, perhaps due to numerous affidavits from friends of acquaintances, he eventually was granted full disability in 1890 and received that for the next nine years until he died in 1899 at age 54 of stomach cancer. (I wonder if this was the cause of the poor digestive organs.) My 3rd great grandmother would continue to collect his military pension until her death 23 years later at the age of 73 at her home in Whiting.

9 comments:

Vince said...

Did the CSA vets get a similar disability payment.
You'd have to wonder how exactly he managed to only take out one side of the jaw with a ramrod. I can see a discharge taking the the rod and the charge onto his face while re-loading. But not with his teeth on the bar.

What a lot of them did in the heat was to leave the rod in and discharge.

Vince said...

E-mail follow-up

R. Sherman said...

Vince, Missouri CSA veterans received benefits from the state until their death as did their widows. Many married very late in life, and as late as the thirties, I think, their were still a few widows in the Confederate home in Lafayette County, which is now a State Historic Site. Link here.

Ed said...

Vince - From what I interpreted from the doctor's notes is that during the heat of battle he would grab the end of the ramrod with his left side of his jaw to extract it from the holder beneath the barrel and then use it to tamp down the powder. It sounds like it was a repetitive injury than one that occurred all at once.

From what I have read in books, the Confederates received pensions and as of ten years ago, there was still a living widow pensioner of the Confederate army. She married a veteran who was in his late 70's or 80's and she was in her teens.

Ed said...

Vince - I googled it up and the last widow died in 2003 but evidently there are still two children that were on the Civil War pension records as of February of this year. The article can be read here.

Vince said...

Wow, that actually sounds plausible. I had thought it stuck down the barrel.

Ed said...

Vince - For some pictures showing the tamping rod beneath the barrel, check out the Wiki article on the subject.

R Johnson said...

I don't have near as many fun stories of my kin. I'll just have to enjoy yours.

Ed said...

3 Score - I didn't have any when I started my quest five or six years ago.