Category Archives: Military

“Sailing Under False Colors”

There are numerous examples on the Internet of images that purport to show nineteenth-century men and women cross-dressing in studio portraits. I cannot personally attest to the authenticity of these images as a whole, but this particular concoction is an imposition of young Thomas Edison’s head onto Clara Barton’s body.

“ARRESTED IN WOMAN’S CLOTHES.–A person in woman’s apparel came in this morning on the Toledo train, and going to the Pittsburgh Railroad ticket office, asked for a ticket to Wellington. The person’s voice was so unfeminine as to attract the attention of an officer standing by, and a very masculine face was discovered to belong with the masculine voice. Officer Warren took him into the Soldiers’ Aid Rooms, and he acknowledged that he was sailing under false colors. He had a black bag containing his suit of men’s attire. He had $2 in money in his pocket, and a piece of paper containing directions how to proceed from some point on the Milwaukee and Lacrosse Railroad to Wellington, Lorain county, Ohio. He was not disposed to be communicative at all. He said his name was Foot, and that he came from Wisconsin. He did not disclose his object in assuming female attire in which to travel through the country. His age, we should think, is about twenty-one years. Warren asked him if they dressed in Wisconsin in that way, and he replied rather dryly, ‘The women do, mostly.’ He was taken to the watch-house, and is most persistently silent. A gentleman who saw him, remarked that he desired no better evidence that he was not a woman, than his ability to hold his tongue afforded. It sounds like an aspersion on the sex. The young man might have belonged to the band of rioters in Oseaka [Ozaukee] county, Wisconsin, who recently resisted the draft with so much violence. If so, the female attire is a disguise which he assumed in order to make his escape. There is no law in Ohio as there is in New York, making it a punishable offense for either sex to don the other’s peculiar attire. The young man may be very much wanted in Wisconsin, from whose cherishing protection he was at so much pains to flee” (Cleveland Daily Leader, 11-15-1862, pg. 4).

I confess that when I first read the above notice, I suspected it was what we today call “fake news.” The most amusing and salacious tidbits that crept into nineteenth-century newspapers are often the most difficult to substantiate. I wrote once before about a humorous 1836 letter to the editor that seems to have been fabricated. But the more I dug into the details of this report, and a subsequent piece that appeared in the same newspaper two days later, the more I was able to corroborate. This incredible story seems to be true.

Andrew Jackson Foote was born June 21, 1842 in Tioga, New York. He appeared in the federal and New York state censuses in 1850 and 1855 living in the household of his parents, William Claybourne Foote (1803-1881) and Sarah Bromley Foote (d. 1867). By the federal census of 1860, the family had relocated to Westfield, Wisconsin and it appears that all of Andrew’s siblings had moved away or died, leaving him the sole of six children still at home.

In 1862, Andrew would have been twenty years old, very close to the estimation of “about twenty-one years” made by the Cleveland Daily Leader reporter. But in a follow up story, it was noted that Andrew “claims to be but sixteen years of age.” This may be an important detail.

“THE MASQUERADER.–The young man who was caught at the depot masquerading in women’s clothes, is still at the Station House. He says his name is Andrew Foot, and that his home is in the town of Oxford, Marquette county, Wisconsin. He claims to be but sixteen years of age. He wished to leave home and come to Wellington in this State, and learn the harness makers trade with a brother who resides there, but his parents opposed it, so in order to get away he [line of text missing] -ing a description of the direction necessary for him to take started. Having his own clothing in a carpetbag he intended to change his suit after getting started on the route, but found no opportunity. He has written a letter to his brother in Wellington, making known his situation and beseaching [sic] him to come and release him from dusance [durance] vile. He don’t like [look?] like a dangerous character and is evidently an inexperienced boy caught in a very foolish adventure. He will have to remain where he is over Sunday, doubtless” (pg. 4).

Andrew was telling the truth about having a brother living in Wellington. The 1860 federal census includes Frank D. Foote, then twenty-five, a New York-born carpenter living in the household of James and Mary Griffith. There was also a Mary Foote listed in the same house. The census data for the Griffiths was collected on July 9th; Frank Dunlery Foote had married Mary A. Caughlin in Wellington on June 19th, just three weeks earlier. Frank was still in the village in June 1863, when he was listed as a twenty-eight-year-old married carpenter in Union Army draft records.

Advertisement for the G.D. Foote Livery Stable. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 10-19-1881, pg. 1.

Wellington has counted members of the extended Foote family among its residents since its earliest days. Many emigrated from western Massachusetts; some went on to settle Wisconsin. A significant number chose to stay and pursue trade in Wellington, and at least two dozen find their final repose in Greenwood Cemetery. Andrew’s stated intention to “learn the harness makers trade” may have been something of a family tradition. One of the livery stables in Oberlin in the 1870s was run by Foote & Ream, while Wellington’s most prominent livery operation in the 1880s and 1890s was G.D. Foote & Co.

George Dellraine Foote, known as “Dell” or “Uncle Del,” operated a wood-frame livery stable on the south side of Liberty Street at least as early as 1879. He owned three lots corresponding to the present-day location of an imposing brick building (on what is now called West Herrick Avenue) that has the words “WELLINGTON STABLES” in raised stone letters on its pediment. Dell Foote sold his lots to C.W. Horr in 1888, but advertisements for Foote’s Livery Stable appear in The Wellington Enterprise through at least 1899. (Foote died in January 1904.) I can find no extant images of the stable from the nineteenth century. In the absence of further evidence, my working theory is that wealthy businessman Horr probably erected the brick building that still stands today, but the operation continued under its former name. Dell may have remained involved in some capacity, but he also went on to open the Hotel de Foote on South Main Street, which I will discuss at greater length in my next post.

Wellington Stables building, 139 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

All of that was in the future, however, as Andrew Foote steamed southward toward his date with infamy. Was he telling authorities the truth when he explained why he had run away from home? We know he lied about his age. Why would a twenty-year-old man need to go to such extremes to escape the nest? I wonder if Andrew concocted the story of overbearing parents to cover a darker motivation for fleeing Wisconsin. My first thought when I began to read the initial story was to wonder if the young man was running from a Civil War draft in Wisconsin. The Cleveland Daily Leader reporter clearly wondered the same thing, as the piece notes the Ozaukee County, Wisconsin draft riots of November 12, 1862–just three days before Foote was intercepted in Cleveland. Westfield, Wisconsin is less than one hundred miles from Port Washington, site of the famous riots. It could be a complete coincidence, but the fact that Andrew Foote took the trouble both to dress in women’s clothing and to lie about his age is curious. All northern males citizens from age 20 to 45 were at risk of being drafted, and single men were taken before married men. Even if he was not directly involved in the riots, Andrew Foote may have been fleeing the prospect of military conscription.

Sadly, we do not know the rest of Andrew’s story. One can only imagine the mortification of his family once the articles began appearing in a major metropolitan newspaper. Did news of his misadventures reach Wellington? Did he? Perhaps his brother Frank traveled up to Cleveland, secured Andrew’s release, then put him on the first train back to Wisconsin. He returned at some point, because he died there on January 3, 1865, just two years later. I do not know if Andrew ever served in the Union Army, or if his death was due to natural causes. (His older brother, James Foote, served and died in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1863.) Andrew Jackson Foote is buried in the Oxford, Wisconsin cemetery with his parents, his older brother William, and a dozen more members of the extended Foote family.

Headstone of Andrew Jackson Foote (1842-1865) in the Oxford, Wisconsin village cemetery. Image used courtesy of Foote family descendant Kelli Rodriguez.

“Plain Justice”

"Camp Denison, above Cincinnati O., on the banks of the Miami River, first used by General Cox as a recruiting camp, and later in the war as a permanent camp of instruction in the West." Etching by Frank Leslie, "Leslie's Weekly Illustrated" (1862). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

“Camp Denison, above Cincinnati O., on the banks of the Miami River, first used by General Cox as a recruiting camp, and later in the war as a permanent camp of instruction in the West.” Company C, 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry trained at Camp Dennison from May 6 to June 26, 1861, before departing by train for the eastern border of Ohio and what was then Virginia. Etching by Frank Leslie, “Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated” (1862). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

“Congressman S. H. Williams has introduced a bill in the house of representatives to correct the military record of N. Huckins of Oberlin. Mr. Huckins served more than ninety days, while the record does not show this fact” (Oberlin News, 7-19-1916, pg. 5).

I first came across this brief notice very early in my research on Canadian Noah Huckins. At the time, I knew virtually nothing about his life prior to settling in Wellington, Ohio. I had located his name in the 1890 United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War. (Most of the federal census documents for that year were destroyed in a later fire, but some veterans’ data for approximately half the states–Kentucky through Wyoming–survives.) That entry told me that Noah Huckins was a musician in Company C, 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Date of enlistment was given as June 20, 1861 and date of discharge September 20, 1861, for a total service time of three months.

Noah Huckins, ca. 1860. Image used courtesy of Baldwin Wallace University Archive.

Noah Huckins, ca. 1860. Image used courtesy of Baldwin Wallace University Archive.

Huckins was a private in Company C, also known as “Monroe’s Rifles.” The company was comprised almost entirely of Oberlin College faculty and students, and was nicknamed in honor of Ohio state senator James Monroe (1821-1898), a professor at the college and ardent abolitionist and reformer. Because of its strong ties to the school and the local community, “Monroe’s Rifles” received extensive coverage in the Oberlin newspaper, the Lorain County News, as its young soldiers made their way to training camp and thence into conflict.

I had so many questions about this period in Huckins’ life. Why did a student from Baldwin University join an Oberlin College company? Why did he join at all, given that he was from Canada and had not been in this country very long? Was he truly a musician, or was that a clerical error? (I found this mystery particularly interesting, given that his daughter, Ibla, later attended the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.) The brief period of service indicated on the census schedule always struck me as strange; I am not an expert in military history, but three months seemed like too brief a time to train, let alone utilize, a raw recruit. When I first saw the 1916 notice at the top of this post, I  thought perhaps it was the answer to that particular question, i.e. Huckins did serve longer than three months, but the military record was somehow incorrect.

Recently, I learned about a company called American Civil War Ancestor. They conduct research at federal, state and local records facilities in the Washington D. C. area, including the National Archives and the Library of Congress. I sent in a request form and within a few weeks I was sifting through nearly 170 digital files, all the paperwork associated with Noah Huckins’ Compiled Military Service Record and his Pension Record. What an interesting and complicated tale they tell.

Huckins was just twenty-one years old when he left his junior year at Baldwin University to enlist. He was mustered into Company C at Camp Taylor in Cleveland on April 25, 1861. The company’s term of service was three months, as no one believed that the rebellion would last very long. According to his official service record, Huckins was mustered out at Oberlin on August 18, 1861. The remarks field indicates, “Declined entering 3 years service. Was furloughed at Camp Dennison. June 14, 1861.” That short, hand-written notation would cause Huckins a great deal of trouble a half-century later.

Physical description of Noah Huckins from his Compiled Military Service Record. Throughout the documents, Huckins eyes are listed as blue, grey and hazel; his height estimates vary by some four inches.

Physical description of Noah Huckins from his Compiled Military Service Record. Throughout the documents, Huckins’ eyes are listed as blue, gray and hazel; his height estimates are equally inconsistent.

In 1915, the now-elderly hardware salesman was living in Oberlin when he was notified that he was being dropped from the veterans’ pension roll “on the ground that he did not render ninety days service during the Civil War.” In an attempt to reduce the swelled ranks of pensioners from the Civil War (the largest such cohort in American history) and the Spanish-American War, the government passed a bill saying that veterans were required to have served a full ninety days to receive monies, and that any furlough time did not count toward that ninety days. They then set about reviewing files and canceling the pensions of many “three month” veterans.

Both Huckins and his classmate John Baldwin, Jr. had been members of Company C’s regimental band. When the company’s three-month enlistment was drawing to a close in 1861, it was reorganized as a three-year company and all the soldiers were asked to reenlist. Most did, but some–including Huckins and Baldwin–did not. Those who did not choose to “re-up” were furloughed in June and allowed to return home, because the rest of the company was about to start marching into what is today West Virginia.

Noah Huckins fought the revoking of his pension fiercely. His argument was simple: he had served more than his alloted ninety days, because he and Baldwin had remained with the company after the other “three month” soldiers went home. The two men were detailed with the band to accompany “Monroe’s Rifles” as they left Camp Dennison by train for a long march from Bellaire, Ohio through Clarksburg, Weston, Glenville, and eventually Sutton, Virginia. (The western portion of Virginia did not became a separate state until June 20, 1863.) It was only on August 2nd, at Sutton, that Huckins and Baldwin were finally allowed to leave military service and make their way back to Ohio. They were officially mustered out at Columbus on August 18th.

Example of Huckins and Huckins hardware store letterhead, from Noah Huckins Pension Record correspondence.

Example of Huckins and Huckins hardware store letterhead, from Noah Huckins Pension Record, Case #1080455.

Huckins wrote repeatedly to the Commissioner of Pensions, and submitted at least six sworn affidavits from former comrades-in-arms (four of whom were also classmates at Baldwin University), as well as character testimonials from Oberlin business associates. He even had the Adjutant General of the State of Ohio write to the pension review board to avow that Ohio had no record of any furloughs granted to Private Huckins during his period of service. Huckins went so far as to note in one letter, “I was paid in full for ninety days service, although I had in fact served ninety-eight days” (2-13-1915, pg. 2). By my calculation, he served 116 days from enlistment to discharge, or 100 days if his time after leaving Sutton is subtracted. The pension review board believed that Huckins had been furloughed and “subsisted himself from and after June 14, 1861, and never thereafter returned to duty” (Statement of Facts, 4-9-1915, pg. 1). By their count, he had served just fifty days. The cancellation of benefits was upheld.

Even after the final decision of the review board had been rendered, Huckins continued to pursue the correction of his military record through the legislative process. What he wanted, he wrote in a letter to the Commissioner of Pensions dated May 15, 1915, was “plain justice in this matter.” The latest correspondence in his Pension Record dates to May 1920, a little more than a year before his death at age eight-two. If the matter was ever resolved in his favor, there is no evidence of it in his military files.

This is a thorny issue. On the one hand, I do not believe it is right for the government to rescind benefits it has pledged to supply, particularly to veterans. The justification for the cancellation seems particularly suspect. On the other hand, even if Huckins was telling the absolute truth about his tour of duty, he served a little over three months of his life in the Union Army. Two-thirds of that time was spent training on Ohio soil. So far as I can tell, Huckins never came near any actual fighting; Company C did not have its first engagement of the war until three weeks after he left Sutton. The aged veteran acknowledged that he was paid the going rate of $13 per month for his military service, for a total of $39. Prior to the pension stoppage, he had received steadily increasing checks for 128 consecutive months, or nearly eleven years. During that time, when he had a very successful hardware business and was living in a house described as “one of the handsomest” in Oberlin, he collected something like $1,600 in “invalid” benefits, describing himself on one form as “unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of: general disabilities attendant upon old age and eye sight” (Declaration for Invalid Pension, 4-1-1904). Whether this was a deliberately misleading claim on Huckins’ part, or simply the verbiage required of all applicants, I do not know.

Even after immersing myself in this man’s life for so long, I often still feel like I know nothing about him.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, 1907, in front of Wellington Town Hall. Photo 970432 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Memorial Day, 1907, in front of Wellington Town Hall. Photo 970432 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Decoration Day was officially established three years after the end of the Civil War, in 1868, by the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which was the organization dedicated to Union veterans’ affairs. From the beginning, observances have included speeches, processions to cemeteries and the decoration of veteran graves with flowers, and later flags.

Memorial Day commemorations received a great deal of newspaper coverage in nineteenth-century Wellington. Noah Huckins was very active in veterans’ affairs, having served himself in the Civil War, so I have found numerous mentions of him serving on planning committees throughout his life. In 1873, for example, he and E. F. Webster were the Oration Committee “for the observance of Memorial or Dedication Day in Wellington” (The Wellington Enterprise, 5-22-1873, pg. 3). The proposed program outline was as follows:

General procession of Soldiers and Citizens with Band.

To form at town Hall, at 1 o’clock, p. m. and proceed to

the different cemeteries and perform the ceremonies of Decoration.

Huckins would have had no difficulties recognizing the parade of veterans, public service personnel, musicians and children that marched down South Main Street to Greenwood Cemetery at 11 o’clock this morning.

For a listing of Wellington’s GAR membership, complete with images from the ‘Spirit of ’76’ Museum and obituaries from The Wellington Enterprise, please visit this page on the Wellington Genealogy Group website.