Thursday, June 11, 2009


One hundred forty-eight years ago our nation went to war – the North against the South. I want to showcase a few relatives who took part in that conflict, which lasted four long years (1861-1865). As you know brother at times fought against brother, and relatives against each other. The battlegrounds were mostly in the southern states, there were advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand, the Rebels knew the lay of the land and the Yankees did not, but in the end their homes and cities were largely destroyed in the fighting.
One of these nine relatives was a Confederate soldier and the rest fought for the Union. There are, no doubt, more Civil War veterans in our family tree, but they haven't been discovered yet. Many times relatives influenced one another to join the fighting. In our group we have three brothers, two brothers, a father and son, and individuals. All but one of these men I have documents proving their service.

Andrew Edward Marick Rockwell our 2nd great-grandfather (through our father, Derryl) was born in Ohio and lived near Elsie, Michigan during the war. He died in Benzie County and was buried near Elsie. On his grave is a military marker which is the only “proof” he was in the Civil War, besides a photo in a family album, which “family tradition” says is him. Derryl, his great-grandson, thought the muzzleloader, now owned by Brian Kohn (Derryl's grandson), could have been the one Andrew used in the Civil War. (Shown above)

Charles Washington Rea our 3rd great-grandfather (through our mother, Nina) and his brother, Allen, joined the 79th Illinois Infantry Regiment in August 1862. Their brother, Alonzo, had joined the 5th Illinois Cavalry Regiment a year earlier and was sent to Missouri, a state with divided loyalties during the war. No doubt he wrote home about his experiences and may have influenced his brothers to decide to go to war too. Charley and Allen, with their unit, were sent South to Tennessee. Three months later Charles died of disease (pneumonia or Typhoid Fever) in Nashville, and was probably buried there near the battleground. Four years later, the Nashville National Cemetery was created and his body was moved there. Allen finished his three year tour serving in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and then joined another unit to finish out the war serving in Georgia. All three brothers were born in Ohio, Allen and Alonzo died after the war in Missouri.

Andrew John and William Alfred Linman were brothers of our 2nd great-grandmother Lydia Linman (who married Andrew Rockwell our first soldier). Andrew and William were born in Ohio and lived near Elsie, Michigan they both joined the 1st Michigan Cavalry Regiment. They were sent immediately to Washington, D. C., where Andrew died of disease just two months after entering the army. William's and his regiment continued to march all over Virginia (just outside Washington, D. C.) for seven months. This unit participated in the Second Battle of Bull Run, Gettysburg and were at the Appomattox Courthouse when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant which ended the war. After the war William lived and died in Elsie, Michigan.

John Valentine Ruehle II and John Valentine Ruehle III were father and son. John Senior was our 2nd great-grandfather (through our step-dad Ross), he was born in Langen-Steinbach, Germany and immigrated with his parents when he was twenty years old. Though he was older than most soldiers of the time (forty-nine), he was welcomed into the army because of his experience, having served honorably in the Mexican War (1848-1849) and had also served in the militia in his hometown, Detroit, Michigan. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel and was made a Commander in the 16th Michigan Infantry Regiment in September 1861 and shortly left for Washington, D. C. His unit took part in many battles and skirmishes in the area of Virginia. In 1862 he had to resign his commission because of ill health. He returned to Detroit and retired to his farm in Hamtramck, but continued to participate in raising troops for the army. He died and is buried in Detroit.
His son John V. Ruehle III, brother of our great-grandmother, Hattie Ruehle Ford, also served honorably. He joined the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment and was commissioned as First Lieutenant, probably because of his experience in the Detroit Scott Guard, which his father was instrumental in starting. The 2nd was raised to answer President Lincoln's first proclamation calling for troops, April 13, 1861. It was to be a three-month unit raised from the organized volunteer state militia, but quickly became one of the first federal three year units. They served mostly in Virginia, but also were in Kentucky and Tennessee. Sometime before 1864 John Junior was promoted to Captain. He probably died in Detroit, Michigan.

Our one Confederate soldier (that we know so far) was Isaiah Seymore. Isaiah was born in North Carolina and was about thirty-one years old when the war started. The records we have (much documentation has been lost because of the destruction throughout the South) show Isaiah joined the 8th North Carolina Battalion Cavalry Regiment in February 1863, he was in what was called the Partisan Rangers, which possibly tried to protect people's property from marauders. His whole unit later became part of the 66th Infantry Regiment. I believe he served only in his home state of North Carolina during the war, yet that is basically a guess, due to scarcity of documents.

This is only a small part of the information I have collected on these men. They endured the hardships of war and being away from their families. Some were wounded or killed and never got back home. And some died of disease. They carried the things they needed on their back, which could have included food, water, eating utensils, writing materials, perhaps a Bible or a book, bedding, and sometimes they carried photos of loved ones. Not to mention their rifles and ammunition, and some carried swords. Not to mention the emotional weight of battling your own countrymen.
Whether they fought for the North or the South these men deserve our admiration and our honor.
Note: This is written from the perspective of my siblings and I, children of Derryl Leon & Nina Johnson Rockwell.