Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial Blog Challenge: Kellogg and Towle

Today, April 12th, 2011, marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Having ancestors in New England since 1620, it isn't surprising to find two Union solider grandfathers on my tree.  Though both men served, their experiences and personal outcomes in the war were vastly different.

My great-great grandfather, Luther Alonzo Kellogg was the only child of John Kellogg and Mary Kidder Kellogg.  He was born in Orange, Massachusetts in 1846, which made him all of 17 years old when he enlisted.  Many of Luther's ancestors were American soldiers as well; his line featuring almost continuous military service beginning with King Philip's War.  His half-brother, Charles Kellogg who was 11 years his senior, also enlisted.  I imagine this fact had some bearing on his decision to join.  Both Kellogg brothers served side by side in the 137th Massachusetts Infantry, Co. D.  

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a Civil War narrative written by my grandfather Luther Kellogg.  It was written many years after his service and the purpose of the writing was its inclusion in a genealogy book about his mother's Kidder line.  In Luther's words, his narrative in it's entirety:

Luther A Kellogg, Born Jan 28, 1846. Served as a Union soldier in the 137th Regt NY Volunteers from the 18th day of August 1862 until the close of the war. Was in the battle of Chancellorsville, VA and at Gettysburg, PA., at that time being 17 years old.

Was engaged in the battle of Wauhatchie Valley, Oct 28th and was one of those who charged Lookout Mountain, Nov 24th of the same year under fighting Joe Hooker. The rebels being driven off Lookout Mountain and took refuge on Missionary Ridge another mountain, and the following day, being driven from that stronghold, they retreated to Ringgold, GA where after a fine engagement, they were whipped and scattered in all directions. Started the following spring in May 1864 on what is now known as "Sherman's March to the sea," fighting more or less every day and with the exception of a bullet scratch at Peachtree, GA, escaped unhurt and was discharged at Elmira, NY at the close of the war.

Luther A Kellogg, 1897, Haverhill, MA

What my great-great grandfather fails to mention, and what I discovered when I received his Civil War pension file, was that he spent a fair amount of time in field hospitals.  He was hospitalized for dysentery twice,  one occurrence removed him from service for nearly a year.  He was also hospitalized for diarrhea, scabies, and scurvy.  He suffered two bouts of scurvy, a disorder that historically plagued men at sea without access to fresh fruit and vegetables.  For me, this brings home the horrendous living conditions he and so many soldiers endured during the Civil War.

Luther survived the war and not long after its conclusion, married my great-great grandmother, Mary Potter of Owego, NY.  Luther went on to be a insurance salesmen in Michigan, a printer in New York, and ultimately a foreman in a shoe factory in Haverhill, Massachusetts.   Luther filed a pension claim in 1898 citing his many internal organ disorder issues as cause of his inability to work.  I imagine suffering numerous bouts of dysentery and scurvy took their toll.  He died in 1904 of heart failure at the age of 57 and was buried in Owego, New York.  My great-grandmother Alice Mary Kellogg Pratt is his only child to survive to adulthood and give him grandchildren; my great-uncle Elbridge Gerry Pratt, my great-aunt Mary Pratt (Burke), my grandfather Fred Pratt and my great-uncle Robert Clark Pratt.  Though his line endures though my many, many cousins, his death was the end of our Kellogg surname.

My other Civil War grandfather, Elbridge Gerry Towle, called simply "Gerry" (Gary) by his family, was a 31 year old, married, New Hampshire farmer and father of three children when he enlisted in September of 1861.   Gerry had inherited roughly 100 acres of farmland in Kingston from his father, Ludovicus Towle, three years prior to his enlistment.  When Gerry joined his regiment, the 4th New Hampshire Infantry, Co. H in January, 1862, he left behind a pregnant wife, Hannah Jane Clayton Towle and three young daughters, Mary Loretta Towle age 6; Rose Ann Towle (my great-great grandmother) age 4; and Hannah Jane Towle age 2.  His son, Gerry Elbridge Towle named after him, was born the following September.  I don't know why Gerry chose to enlist, taking such a gamble with a young family at home.

Gerry was sent to Florida, South Carolina, and served during the Cold Harbor and Bermuda Hundred campaigns.  In November of 1862, he was promoted to Sergeant.  He was also sent as part of a special order to NYC in July of 1863 where, "on or about the 26th of July" he deserted.  Details about this event remain sketchy at best as I await his court martial record.  I do know that he was stripped of his rank, returned to service, and rejoined his company.  He suffered an injury to his right wrist during the Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, VA on July 30th, 1964.   At some point, he was placed on a boat outside of City Point, VA where he died on August 9, 1964. 

In her pension petition, his widow, my great x3 grandmother Hannah Clayton Towle claims that he he had been discharged due to injury and died of dysentery en-route home.  His commander claims he died in service onboard a hospital boat; his name continues to appear in red on muster rolls indicating his death in service.  I had hoped that his remains had been sent home to New Hampshire, but as far as I can tell, this wasn't the case.  His widow, Hannah is buried with two of their daughters, Mary and Hannah in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  There isn't a known grave for Gerry Towle.  The Department of Veteran Affairs has no burial information.  No piece of marble memorializing his life and service to the United States exists.

I need to do something about this.   

While visiting his hometown last summer, my cousin Nancy Birdsall, pointed to a list of men from Kingston that served in the Civil War.  This hangs in the hallway of the Town Clerk's office in Kingston, New Hampshire.  And serendipitously, I saw it on the 146th anniversary of The Battle of the Crater; July 30th, 2010.  It is the only official recognition of his service he's received:

(click to enlarge)

Gerry Towle's descendants number in the hundreds now.  They are scattered like wildflowers all over America.  Elbridge Gerry Towle may not have a piece of marble memorializing his life (yet), but his name lives on in generations of his grandchildren:  William Gerry Towle,  Elbridge Gerry Pratt Sr., Elbridge Gerry Pratt Jr, Stephen Gerry Pratt... Yesterday, a newly found distant cousin informed me that she also has a brother named Gerry.  Some were unaware of the original origin of the name.  But now, they know. 


  1. No marble, but his legacy of name lives on - remarkable!

  2. I love that you have the framed list! Thank you for your service, Gerry and Luther.

  3. I'm sorry I have to know the details about the desertion/discharge. I don't think I can rest until I do.