Monday, May 28, 2018

Luther T. Aldrich, Private, 90th New York Regiment, Civil War Veteran

Luther T. Aldrich was born about 1824/25 in Dayton, Catttaraugus, New York to Turner Aldrich and Nancy Collins. Luther married Christiann Howell of Virginia on 14 April 1850 in Clark County, Missouri.1  They had five children:

  1. Lurman Aldrich (1850 - unknown)
  2. Loren D. Aldrich (1852 - 1937)
  3. Byron Aldrich (1854 - unknown)
  4. Martin Aldrich (1856 - unknown)
  5. Sophia Mary Aldrich (1859 - 1937) - married Thomas Francis Barrett 

According to a cousin who researched much of Luther’s early life, when “Luther was a small child, there was a prolonged drought in the  the area of  New York State where the family was living at the time.   There are horrific stories of children starving and eating tree roots  in the forest in the local history books of the time.  Luther and two  or three of his siblings were placed for adoption with a family  through the Quakers. Apparently, it was not an unusual practice at the  time.  At some point in time, the adoptive family that the Aldrich  children were with, emigrated to Iowa.   Luther's birth family  emigrated to Michigan. The parents in the adoptive family and some of  the children died about 1840 in what, if I remember correctly from the  local newspaper of the time, was a diphtheria epidemic.” 

Luther eventually returned to Cattaraugus County where in 1860 the Aldrich family is living in Dayton,  New York.  Luther is employed as a carpenter. 

Prior to the Civil War, Luther enlisted in the Mexican War, but the war ended prior to him reaching the field.  

Luther T. Aldrich enlisted in the Civil War at Villenova, NY in 1864 at approximately 40 years of age.2  He was a Private in the New York 90th, starting in Co. H. Luther was transferred to Company E on consolidation by special order No. 97, 28 November 1864, forming a battalion of six companies.  The 90th was part of the XIX Corps during Luther’s service.  Around the time of Luther’s service, the XIX Corps was part of the Army of the Shenandoah, 1st brigade, 1st division from about July 1864 to February 1865, according to the regimental history.  Subsequently, the 90th became the 1st brigade, 1st division (Provisional), Army of the Shenandoah to April 1865, ultimately ending the war in Georgia.3 

The 90th was part of Sheridan’s Shenandoah Campaign in the later stages of the Civil War.  They saw action in the Battle of Winchester, September 19, Fishers’s Hill on September 22, the Battle of Cedar Creek, October 19.  All totaled, the regimental history indicates that the 90th lost 2 officers and 58 enlisted men in battle and 7 officers and 181 enlisted me to disease.

Luther was a member of Captain Edgar E. Brands Company. In the Fall of 1864 he saw action at Winchester and according to his pension file, he fell sick prior to the Battle of Cedar Creek.  According to American Battlefield Trust:4

“The Third Battle of Winchester was the bloodiest battle ever fought in the Shenandoah Valley, producing more casualties than the entire 1862 Valley Campaign. Sheridan lost 12 percent of his army with 5,000 of 39,000 soldiers killed, wounded and missing. Early suffered fewer casualties but he lost 25 percent of his army.”

According to information on the National Parks Service, the XIX Corps suffered a high casualty rate of 40%, equating to 2,074 men and “lost every regimental commander during its assaults on the Middle Field and Second Woods.”5  This battle has been called Third Winchester or the Battle of Opequon.  

Sketch of the Battle of Winchester. 1864. Map.
Library of Congress, Geopgraphy and Map Division.

There is conflicting evidence in Luther’s invalid pension file regarding his being wounded in action.6 On a march, 17 October 1864, Luther fell violently ill with numbness.  Wm. R. Oaks, a  fellow soldier, indicated that Luther was taken sick five miles from Winchester “on the pike running towards newTown, while guarding a suply train”.  He was carried from the line of duty into camp at Winchester, Virginia.  A surgeon was called on 18 October when Luther suffered severe chills and spitting of blood.  The surgeon directed Luther be taken to Sheridan Hospital, Winchester, Virginia. 

A war department record from Luther’s Civil War pension file signed by Thomas Ward in the Co. E and Regimental books show him, “wounded in action at Cedar Creek Va. Oct. 19th 1864”. According to the War Department Surgeon General’s Office, a letter dated November 23, 1882 indicates Luther was admitted to Sheridan field hospital on October 15, 1864 with pneumonia, transferred on October 18 and admitted to Jarvis G.H. [General Hospital] Baltimore on October 20.  The letter indicated a gun shot wound to the right shoulder, wounded September 19, 1864 in Winchester. Luther entered G.H. [General Hospital] Chester on October 22 with a convalescent furlough on November 4, readmitted on November 22 and returned to duty February 23, 1865.  The above information was from sworn testimony of Charles Dye, Pension file of Luther Aldrich. 

Sheridan's army following Early up the Valley of the Shenandoah.1864. Drawings. Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division.

Luther indicated in his affidavit that the regimental surgeon did not see him during sick call, so together with his captain, they went to an unknown regiments sick call where Luther was told to report to Sheridan Hospital. 

Wm R Oaks testified that Luther’s doctors gave him nothing, and the captain took him to a doctor in the New Hampshire regiment and said nothing could be done and he should be sent to hospital, which was Sheridan hospital. 

Luther remained a night and according to the records was then sent to Martinsburg, Virginia and received treatment from the Sanitary Commission only.  The following morning he was sent with others to Jarvis Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  There was no record for Martinsburg on file.

He remained for a day or two before being shipped to Philadelphia among non-wounded sick to make room for wounded from the Battle of Cedar Creek. He was moved to Chester Hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania where he remained until late February 1865. Luther indicated he was in ward 14 under the care of a surgeon by the name of Bates or Gates. The ward physician was Steine. His treatment included a glass of porter and tablespoon of cod liver oil daily until 1 January 1865.

A partial letter, undated, from Luther to the Commissioner of Pensions indicates his troubles in seeking treatment.

Luther indicated that while at the sergeants (“sergents”) headquarters (“hed quarters”) near Havre de Grace (“havadegess”), Maryland, Company E was stationed at backwater.  He was unable to get treatment, the  regiment departed to Washington where he was discharged and sent home.

In an 1884 statement, Charles Dye claims that he was present when Luther became ill and was with him when he was sent to the hospital. Dye indicated he was unaware of any gunshot wound and had no record of it. Charles Dye was a lieutenant for 90th N.Y.

Much of Luther’s pension application was filled with affidavits and “Examining Surgeon Certificates”.  He described his illness in detail, with chills, spitting of blood, and nervous prostration.  In one incident, Luther had has finger badly cut by a saw while in the mill due to the shaking.

By 1885, the doctor made notes on the Surgeon Certificate that “ His hand trembles [and] is unable to write or use them in his former occupation a millwright.  In fact is so feeble is unable to do any manual labor.”  By 1885 a medical review indicates that Luther is approved for his invalid pension “disease of lungs [and] resulting disease of heart [and] nervous prostration result of malarial poisoning.”  The intermittent fever throughout his service time

Luther died 2 October 1888 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.7  He was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.

1 Wilma (Suter) Walker and Wilma (Walker) Dunlap, Marriage Records of Clark County, Missouri, 1837-1865
2, New York, Town Clerks' Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1861-1865 (Name: Operations, Inc.; Location: Provo, UT, USA; Date: 2011;), Database online.
3 Dyer, Frederick H. (Frederick Henry). A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion : Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources. Des Moines, Ia. : Dyer Pub. Co., 1908.
4 American Battlefield Trust. "The Third Battle of Winchester." American Battlefield Trust. Accessed May 28, 2018.
5 "12. OPEQUON or Third Winchester (19 September 1864)." American Battlefield Protection Program. Accessed May 28, 2018.
6 Deposition of Claimant, DATE, Luther T. Aldrich (Pvt., Co. E, 90th New York Infantry, Civil War; Pvt. Co. H, 90th New York Infantry, Civil War), Invalid Pension Application no. 390,232, certificate no. 307,155; combined with Christianna Aldrich’s, widow pension application no. 391,176, certificate no. 264,308, 1861-1900; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veteran Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
7, Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 (Name: Operations, Inc.; Location: Provo, UT, USA; Date: 2011;), Database online.