Monday, February 11, 2013

Leander Clark Wells: Civil War Deserter

I thought I would pick up my story telling about my Civil War ancestors, something I have neglected for the past year or so due to other things happening in my life.

Leander Clark Wells was born in New York on 5 May 1833 to Peter and Mary Shaw Wells. For reasons unknown to me, Leander and his three siblings, Philander, Alexander and Clarinda left home and moved west while their parents remained behind in New York. They settled in Nininger, Minnesota for a time before parting ways. Leander remained behind and married his wife Mary Ellanor Sheldon.

By the time the Civil War rolled around, Leander had a young daughter living at home and was 29 years old, older than the majority of people volunteering to fight in the war. But in August of 1862, Leander signed up for a three year stint in Company F of the 7th Regiment of the Minnesota Infantry. Things went well until March of 1863 because he was marked present for all roll calls. In March, he was granted leave from March 1rst until March 15th but never came back. I suspect the reason was that his second daughter was probably born or close to being born and he did what most doting fathers would do and decided his family was more important than fighting and possibly dying in a war.

Leander was officially listed as deserted from the military in the April roll call of 1863 and at the end of his three years in August of 1865, he was officially discharged. I have no records of Leander from his desertion in Minnesota in 1863 until I pick up the trail again in Iowa in 1870. By then, his third child and first son, William Hix Wells, my second great grandfather had been added to Leander's family.

On a side note, Leander's younger brother Philander would return to New York when the war started and serve honorably with the 106 New York Infantry Company D. He fought in many major battles in the Shenandoah Valley and the Wilderness and was wounded by a musket ball through the shoulder. When he was discharged at the end of the war, he had made the rank of Captain and returned to Iowa a few years later where he made a name for himself.. Leander's older brother Alexander would move up to Canada at the start of the war and live out his life there.

For the most part due to the large number of deserters, they weren't actively sought out and punished. Some were sentenced to death but these were a few minority of the hundreds of thousands of people who deserted their unit. Never the less, I suspect that his desertion caused Leander to move to Iowa and once there, move around quite frequently because he was never in the same county for any census taken between 1870 and 1900. His wife Mary died in 1883 but two years later he had been remarried to Susan whose last name is still unknown to me. The trail goes cold after 1885 until 1901 when an article said Leander burned to death in a fire working for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad out in Colorado Springs in January 1901. He built a fire to keep warm and made his rounds only to find that the depot was on fire upon his return. He fought the fire until being overcome with smoke and ultimately burned to death. The heat was hot enough to set off his shells in his revolver and melt his lantern into a puddle of metal. Coincidentally his son and my second great grandfather came to town to visit his father the very next day and learned the tragic news. Leander's body was brought back to Iowa and was buried in E. Linwood Cemetery in Boone county Iowa next to his first wife Mary Ellanor. His brother Philander was instrumental in starting up that cemetery among other things he did. Leander's children would scatter in various directions and Leander's second wife Susan disappeared from record.

Leander Wells and his wife are one of the few of my third great grandparents whose graves I have yet to visit. It is on my list someday when I am up in the area. His son William and later William's wife would be buried in Wyoming making them my only 2nd great grandparents buries outside the state. Had William's wife known that I would be keeping track of this statistic 70 years later, I'm sure she would have shipped him back to Iowa before planting him.


Vince said...

I seem to remember reading a good while ago that not returning was factored in. Especially for the farming States in the North. And there was also rich traffic in proxies also where immigrants were mustered. The first part I'm not fully certain, it's an impression of reading it. The latter I am fully certain.

Leigh said...

I love genealogy. Makes for fascinating reading. You've reminded me of my own neglected genealogy project (which will probably have to stay that way for awhile.)

Ed said...

Vince - Unfortunately I am not very schooled in the Civil War so I can't verify what you have said. Learning more on that war is on my near term bucket list though. I thought I might do that after I got through the preliminary research of my ancestors who fought in the war.

Leigh - I'm hopelessly addicted to genealogy and have many posts in my archive on the subject. I've often thought that someday I'll pick up genealogy research full time but I'm not sure my wife would let me be away that long!

Vince said...

Mhm, I've come at it from the Irish side of things, both north and south. Which is mostly a city muster. While you are dealing with the farmland for the most part and smaller towns.
I cannot really point you in a direction beyond a suggestion you pick a regiment and follow it. Each regiment was different in many ways. But what you will find is the deployment tended to be gradated. City regiments were placed in the center with hill country to the wings and lowland country in the second wave. Very class structured. And religious too, with Catholics, Baptists followed by Presbyterians and Episcopalians. And of course the Race issue goes without saying for it follows the religion.