Friday, May 18, 2012

Jesse Luther

Jesse Luther
My 3rd great grandfather Jesse Luther is one of only two 3rd great grandparents, the other being his wife Mary Jane Igo, who never quite made it to Iowa and thus given me the title of 100% Iowan instead of the 94% Iowan that I currently claim. I have no doubt that he stepped foot in the state because he is buried only about 100 yards south of its southern border and owned land in Iowa but as far as I know, he never officially claimed residence in the state and lived most of his life in Missouri.

Jesse was born 19 June 1836 in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, son of John F. Luther and Elizabeth and 3rd oldest of ten siblings. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the oldest of Jesse's two brothers was 4 years in his grave and the youngest just turned twelve. Jesse had married the previous year to Mary Jane Igo and still lived and worked on his parent's farm. His father John would die in September of that year at age 57 and since I have found no military record of him and no battles took place in that part of Pennsylvania at that time, I have assumed that it wasn't due to the Civil War that he died.

Jesse was prime fighting age in 1861 but didn't volunteer until 1 September of 1864 when he entered Company I of the 211th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry for one  year's service. He was given $29.40 for a clothing advance and given $33.33 as a sign up bounty and another $33.33 when he mustered in five days later.

Jesse was my only ancestor stationed in the Virginia theater of the Civil War and his regiment was a part of the siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia from the fall of 1864 until the spring of 1865.  Perhaps the most notable battle was the one that resulted in the fall of Petersburg followed by the pursuit of Lee's army as they fled. He was mustered out at the end of the war on June 2, 1865 in Alexander, Virginia and presumably went home to his wife and two sons.

Jesse and his growing family stayed in Pennsylvania until 1869 when they headed for the northeast corner of Scotland county, Missouri. According to his pension application records, he spent quite some time just proving he was a veteran since his name didn't appear in any rolls. Though I have copies of his records signed by his unit, this is still true today and most websites fail to mention a Company I of the 211th Regiment. Finally he was proved to be a vet and then spent the rest of his life battling the government for disability payments and supposed automatic pension increases due to his name not being listed on their official rolls. He did so until his death at age 85 on 24 July 1921.

Of my eight ancestors to serve in the Civil War, Jesse Luther is the only one of which I have a picture. It is the only picture I have of him and the uncropped picture shows him with his son (my 2nd great grandfather) and grandson (a brother to my great grandfather). His right hand seems twisted with arthritis and his beard white with age but I see the spark of his younger self in the smirk of a half smile.


R. Sherman said...

Smart man, not moving north of the Sullivan line. He was probably still pissed about the "Honey War."



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Ed said...

R. Sherman - I'm not positive but I think he is my most southern 'planted' ancestor. His in-laws are in the same bone yard as he and his wife but I think are still north a few rows since they died earlier and were buried closer to the church.

PhilippinesPhil said...

You write about two things here that I'm quite familiar with, Petersburg and the fight of a veteran for his disability payments. I spent several weeks at Ft Lee, Va. Every afternoon all I had to do was jog a few hundred meters and I was on The Petersburgh Battlefield. I spent nearly every day, hundreds of hours in total, exploring it, even ran all the way to The Crater and back once. Several times I snuck out onto the battlefield at night just to see if I could experience some battlefield ghosts. Never saw any ghosts but the hundreds of whitetails were just as spooky. Interesting to read how pissy the VA was EVEN a hundred years ago. They sucked then and they STILL suck.

Ed said...

Phil - I think of you quite often when I am reading these pension applications. It is more apparent why veterans need people like you to help them wade through the system. One of Jesse's sons was a lawyer and helped out quite a bit.

Someday when I am out east with time to kill, I would like to visit a battlefield or two and summon up the spirits of ancestors past caught up in the fight.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Some great battlefields out there, including ones from the Revolutionary War era. Gettysburg is my favorite. I'd spend literally days at a time. Know it like the back of my hand.

sage said...

Petersburg was a tough assignment in muddy trenches--almost a foreshadowing of WW1. You have such great stories of your ancestors.

PhilippinesPhil said...

If he truly was at Petersburg you should make it a point to go there. Its well marked, almost as well as Gettysburg so you should easily be able to find the exact place where his unit was. For me, knowing the battles so well, standing and walking where men struggled becomes a deeply emotional experience.