Golden Thread 75 Years are gone, but Old Men will Remember

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
[Two boy scouts were assigned to each veteran during the 1938 Gettysburg reunion, to serve as guides and all-around helpers. That’s why we see so them in the background in so many of these photographs.]
polk.jpg
Rolling down a board walk between the tents, the alert gent in the foreground is 95 year old Wilson Polk Wallace, a veteran of four years in the service of the CSA. He was 17 when he enlisted on April 6, 1861, at Springfield, Ark., in Co. F, 5th Arkansas Volunteers (later redesignated the 17th Ark., and still later consolidated with the 11th Ark. as Griffith’s Consolidated Arkansas Infantry). He claims to have shot the first Union officer killed in Arkansas (Battle of Poison Springs). He was wounded several times (seriously at Corinth -- earned a 10 month furlough home that time), and was briefly a Prisoner of War at Port Hudson.

A grand-daughter later recalled, “Grandpa had long conversations with everyone. And when Grandpa did start talking to the visitors, all the kids gathered around hoping he was going to tell some of his war stories.”
polk2.jpg
Wilson P. Wallace was described as “chipper,” when he arrived at Gettysburg on June 26, 1938, and his pictures certainly look that way. But he was not as strong as he appeared. The sweltering July heat and the unaccustomed excitement took its toll. “On July 5, he became ill, but two days later his physician felt that he was able to make the return trip home. Seriously ill of pneumonia, he was taken from the train at St. Louis and carried to the United States Veteran's hospital, where at 12:25 AM, July 11, he answered the roll call from the Great Beyond. His last conscious words were ‘I'm so glad I came.’”

I won’t go into detail here, because there are several web pages dedicated to telling the story of Wilson Polk Wallace’s long life and very active service record that everyone can read at: http://www.reynoldsarchives.com/wilson.wallace_1.htm
 
Last edited:

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
banks.png
[Charleston News and Courier, July 9, 1938]​

Banks was one of a small group of veterans who simply didn't want to go home. They were having such a wonderful time that they sent a telegram to the quartermaster general's office in Washington asking permission to stay on the battlefield as long as they wanted, or at least until the Lord sent his angels.

"We have been the humble guests of the greatest nation on earth and as such have walked on and viewed again the sacred shrines at Gettysburg made Holy by the blood of patriot martyrs, North and South. We desire to remain here on this hallowed hill till Gabriel shall call us to that eternal party where there is no strife, bitter hate, nor bloodshed, and we are one for all and all for one. Please wire immediate that we shall stay!"

[quoted in Last of the Blue and Gray, by Richard A. Serrano]
 

NH Civil War Gal

Captain
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Feb 5, 2017
I saw something on Facebook that suggested that at these reunions, the smiles or hand shakes between the blue and gray veterans were all staged and that there was a lot of ill feeling. I can imagine a handful of people like that, but that isn't the impression I've gotten from hospital diaries if the two different armies were bunked together. The Union nurses seemed more surprised than anything what good friends the men would become.

So does someone know if this is true about the reunions?
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
I saw something on Facebook that suggested that at these reunions, the smiles or hand shakes between the blue and gray veterans were all staged and that there was a lot of ill feeling. I can imagine a handful of people like that, but that isn't the impression I've gotten from hospital diaries if the two different armies were bunked together. The Union nurses seemed more surprised than anything what good friends the men would become.

So does someone know if this is true about the reunions?
There was still a lot of hard feelings among many veterans of both sides. But, those who felt that way generally didn't attend. Something over 10,200 invitations were sent out to known veterans. About 1,800 actually attended. Most were simply too old and feeble to travel (all their travel and living expenses -- for the veteran and one companion -- were paid by Congress, so that wasn't an issue). But there were some, particularly southerners, who refused to participate alongside "The Enemy."
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Gettysburg's Last Casualty
hamaker.jpg
[Sgt James P. Hamaker, 50th Virginia Infantry]
Gettysburg had not been good to James Hamaker. On the morning of July 3, 1863, as sergeant in Company G, 50th Virginia Infantry, (Johnson’s Div., Ewell’s Corps) he had taken a disabling wound in his right leg, and another in his left shoulder. He was carried to a nearby field hospital, and later that day to the larger Confederate hospital at Cashtown. And there he was when the Federals marched in on the 6th, and took the whole hospital prisoners. The Yank doctors at a federal army hospital in Maryland patched him up ok, though, and eventually he was as good as new. But it was the end of his war. Twenty-three months he spent as a Prisoner of War: first at Fort McHenry, then at Fort Delaware.

Born in 1843, in Montgomery County, Virginia, James Philip Hamaker’s war had begun in July, 1861, when he enlisted in Wytheville. He was made corporal in Co. E, 5oth Virginia Infantry. The entire regiment was sent West, only to be captured at Ft. Donelson, the following February. Exchanged not long after, the unit was reorganized in May, Hamaker becoming sergeant in Co. G. He and his comrades were assigned to western Virginia, and took part in Loring’s campaign there that fall. In the spring, they were transferred to the Army of Northern Virginia, and fought under Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville.

Finally released from Ft Delaware on taking the Oath of Allegiance, on June 20, 1865, James Hamaker went home to Montgomery County. There he married, and raised a family. In 1894, he moved his whole brood to Aledo, Texas, taking position of foreman on the Higbee Ranch in East Parker County, not far from Fort Worth.

When he heard news of the big Reunion of the Blue and Gray being planned for Gettysburg in 1938, he was anxious to go. At 94 years of age, he was alone now. Bettie had passed on just last year, and all 4 of his children were gone as well. But, he had some friends who were also going (Texas sent the largest contingent of veterans of any southern state). They all boarded a special train together on June 24th, and set out for Yankeeland.

If James Hamaker had been superstitious, he might have been concerned about returning to the place of his misfortune on the 75th anniversary of the battle. But, he apparently had no premonition as the train rolled through the Pennsylvania countryside, approaching Gettysburg. Just how it happened isn’t clear at this late date, but that morning, as he crawled out of his 3rd level Pullman berth, James Hamaker lost his grip, and fell painfully, fracturing his left shoulder (the same one that had taken a bullet in ‘63). At the station, reunion organizers were well prepared for any eventuality. They took him first to a local hospital, and then, because of his age and the seriousness of his injury, James was loaded into an ambulance and rushed an hour and a half south, to Walter Reed Army Hospital -- which ironically was built on the exact site of the hospital in which he had been treated while a PoW after Gettysburg.

The old veteran’s good overall condition and healthy lifestyle showed, and, despite his age, he was soon feeling better, and anxious to be on his feet. But, the doctors insisted he was still not able to get safely about under his own power, he needed a couple of weeks of rest. His disappointment at missing the reunion was so obvious that the doctors made a special call to Paul Roy, head of the Reunion Commission, and he, in turn, phoned Pennsylvania Governor Earle. On the morning of July 3rd, a Pennsylvania State Police ambulance pulled up in front of Walter Reed Hospital, and James Hamaker was loaded aboard. They drove him to Gettysburg, where a couple of James’ Texas friends climbed in, and together they were driven on a complete tour of the battlefield. At each stop, two brawny attendants hoisted James’ stretcher, and carried him anywhere he wanted to go.

Hamaker’s greatest wish was to locate a tree and a boulder, next to which he had been wounded early on the 3rd day of the battle, as the Federals tried to recapture the trenches Johnson’s Division (including the 50th) had taken the previous day. “If I could get to that tree,” he told them, "I could die happy.” The hard working troopers carried him back and forth all over Culp’s Hill trying to locate the spot. But the terrain had changed too much in the intervening three-quarters of a century, and they were not able to find it. In the end, Hamaker conceded defeat. “I guess I better get home to my rocking chair,” he said. But first, he was taken back to Walter Reed, and spent a full two weeks under treatment.

A sketch in Texas Co-Op Power Magazine concludes:

“After his return from Gettysburg, Hamaker never fully recovered. In the days and weeks after his ill-fated trip, he made the most of his rocking chair, enjoying the early autumn breezes on the front porch of his home as he attempted to convalesce. On September 5, 1938, Hamaker’s housekeeper checked on him and said that shortly after he got up from his rocking chair, walked to the bathroom and then returned, she found him motionless. He had survived being shot twice [at Gettysburg], but it was his third Gettysburg wound, incurred as he traveled for a peaceful reunion, that dealt the fatal blow, allowing him only a few final days until he died on his porch in Texas.”

dalmngnws6s38.png
[Dallas Morning News, Sept. 6, 1938]
Besides the Magazine article quoted above (which, incidentally, erroneously has him wounded during Pickett's Charge), Hamaker is also profiled in Joseph Owens’ Texas at Gettysburg. and numerous newspaper articles.

hamaker.png
James Hamaker's Find a Grave entry badly needs to be completed. [https://forums.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=66431650]

There is a bit more at Billion Graves. [https://de.billiongraves.com/grave/James-P-Hamaker/7512146 ]
 
Last edited:

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
It's SO odd Hamaker's Find a Grave memorial would need to be completed, isn't it? What a story, what a veteran and what a Texan, for that matter!

There's a great project for some group, creating memorial for veterans who do not have them. Sometimes churches are not aware of Find a Grave, believe it or not. I once contacted a local church office, making sure it was ok to wander around in their cemetery taking photos for Find a Grave requests? They hadn't heard of it- but boy, in another month those people adopted every grave in that cemetery. Coolest thing ever.

It must have seemed impossible to pull off a 75th reunion. The whole idea is so absurd that of course it worked. Wonder how many of the old Civil War vets Dad remembered as a little kid, from Tamaqua, PA were there? He was born in 1931- bet a few.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Do wish he could have found his tree, though ... and gone home happy.

The whole story does demonstrate just how well these old veterans were looked after. Nothing was too good for them. Paul Roy, Executive Secretary of the Gettysburg Chamber of Commerce had come up with the whole idea of a last reunion of the Blue and Gray, and worked for years organizing it. It wasn't easy. Just collecting a list of surviving veterans was a huge problem. Union records were quite complete, but assembling a documented roster of ex-confederates was an overwhelming task. He visited GAR Posts and UCV Camps all over the country. The reception was, at first, mixed. In the South it was often hostile ... many old rebels just didn't want to stand in the presence of Yankees. After one such meeting, he was actually attacked by a mob of women, who tore his coat, and screamed that he "wanted to kill our veterans," by "making them go" to Gettysburg to "live in tents in the wilderness!" Virginia UCV Commander Gen. W.M. Evans thought the idea of hundreds of men in their 90s sleeping in tents was "insane."

It was a long, hard struggle, but eventually he did it. He put together a program that satisfied the fears and doubts of most. In the end, when the facilities were described to him (airy tents with wooden floors, wooden boardwalks to avoid mud and uneven footing, ample medical care, food, assistance of all kinds, all expenses paid for a veteran and one companion), even Gen. Evans concluded that those who went would probably "be as safe and comfortable in their tents as if they were at home" ... though he wouldn't be going himself.

In 1950, Paul Roy published a small book, The Last Reunion of the Blue and Gray, in which he tells the story of his struggles to bring it about, and the details of how it was organized. It is full of anecdotes of the event.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
While poking around some of the many ‘little’ news stories about the old veterans who attended the the 1938 Gettysburg “Reunion of the Blue and Gray” I find this one that appeared in several newspapers in mid-July concerning 104-year-old James Handcock.
handcock1.png
[Gettysburg Gazette, July 11, 1938]​


But, there’s more. It seems the Philly police did not succeed in seeing James Handcock on his way to New Orleans. For, on July 31st, the following article appears in a number of newspapers:

handcock5.png

Same name and age, and the same Gettysburg Reunion connection make it unlikely to have been different men … but he claimed to have come from a different soldier’s home. I suppose he could have been confused, forgetting in which Soldiers Home he was currently residing. The poor old gent was clearly having some “clarity issues.” He couldn’t quite remember what he had been doing since leaving Gettysburg (recollection of the Phillies game quite eluded him). He “thought” he’d been to Newark, and was “quite certain” was headed for Boston … but didn’t sound all that sure.

James Handcock's name does appear on a printed list of a dozen residents of the (U.S.) Soldiers Home in New Orleans, who travelled together to Gettysburg for the reunion. They had, in fact, traveled on the same special train as some 23 Confederate veterans.

Trying to locate his service record, I checked the Pension index cards for James “Handcock” (none), and went through the dozen or so James “Hancocks” (most of whom were already dead) without luck. Same for the name (with and without the ‘d’) in the nps database.


Searching through older newspapers, I found a few articles that make my search both more interesting and more confusing, as the playing-field changes from time to time. A couple of years earlier (July 1936), we find Col. James B. Handcock, age 102, in San Francisco. And we hear quite a remarkable story:

handock4.png

Since he says he was working at the Boston Transcript when he enlisted, I made a special search through Massachusetts regiments -- but again, came up empty. The whole “British Army in India” thing is tantalizing, but don’t quite know what to do with it just now.


Just three months earlier, he was in in Denver, where he gave the newspaper interviewer even more elaborate details.

handcock6.png

Curiouser and curiouser. Black Watch, veteran of four wars ... then the quote, “I had 40,000 men in my command and was in Wheeling, W. Va. in the Fall of ‘63. Gen. Grant ordered me to take my men South. … I refused …” Things start to look ‘curiouser,’ indeed. Was Grant giving orders in West Virginia in the Fall of 1863? Grant complained to Lincoln … vindicated by the changing “situation in the South."

Memory is a strange thing. I keep thinking of Henry V’s line from his “Band of brothers” speech:

"Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day:"
What "advantages" of memory might centenarian James Handcock have been enjoying?

Well. I’m still following up on Col(?) James (B., P., or D.) Handcock (Hancock?). He was a genuine veteran, I’m sure; the Reunion Commission checked very carefully before sending their invitations. And, he could not have gotten into the New Orleans Soldiers Home without documented service. The records of the Home (which would specify his service) are not accessible to me online -- (they are to members of the LDS Genealogical Society, apparently). And I find no mention of any Soldiers Home at Fort Mason.

If anybody has any ideas for more places to look, I’d appreciate any suggestions. I am determined I am going to find out about this peripatetic old gent, however long it takes.

I find I rather like old Col. Handcock, and hope to find what eventually became of him.
 
Last edited:

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
The continuing story of James Handcock,
who, it seems, was missed when he left the Reunion site. An AP notice dated July 1, reports a State Police bulletin to be on the lookout for him. It, however, mistakenly identifies him as a confederate veteran (probably just on the basis of his coming from New Orleans):

"July 1 (AP) State Police sent out a teletype message today to find a 104-year-old confederate veteran who went AWOL from the 75th battle anniversary encampment. James P. Handcock of the veterans' home in New Orleans left the camp, police said, without leaving word where he might be going." (Albany Times-Union, July 2)

Three years earlier, in the summer of 1935, then a spry 101-years-old, his seemingly endless wanderings had taken him to Amsterdam, New York.
hcck101a.png
reported the Amsterdam Evening Recorder on August 19th.

And, his story becomes yet more elaborate -- it's FIVE wars now.. "Col. Handcock, who won his title in India in the service of the British Empire, is a printer by trade, and has his home in the officers' quarters at Fort Mason, San Francisco. ... He attended a military school and served in the British Army in India largely in charge of the transportation of troops and equipment." Coming to America in 1859, he worked in Boston as a printer. "Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, President Lincoln, according to the Colonel's statement, heard of him and of his experience in transportation, sent for him, and appointed him as division commander of transportation of troops and equipment." He was wounded twice at Gettysburg.

"During the Spanish War he enlisted again, and also served during the Boxer Rebellion. During the World War he was superintendent of a warehouse in Brest, France, he stated." Little remarks like, "he stated," and "according to the Colonel's statement," suggest that the reporter suspected he was being 'led on.'

There's much more ... including James lament that there are "too many women" hanging around in saloons since the repeal of Prohibition -- it was much better in the old days. Attached is a pdf of the entire page containing the lengthy article.

I would dearly love to find that all his stories are true. They, however, do seem too good to be.
 

Attachments

  • handcock.pdf
    1.2 MB · Views: 138
Last edited:

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Can some find birth and death dates for this man?
James Hancock
He claimed he was born in Edinburgh, January 5, 1834.
I have been trying to find a date of death. So far without success.

Every veteran who attended the reunion was given a badge commemorating the event. This is the actual one presened to James B, Handcock. It is currently in the possession of the Adams County Historical Society:
 
Last edited:

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Alvin F. Tolman

On June 15, two weeks before the official start of the Reunion of the Blue and Gray, 91-year-old Alvin J. Tolman of Manatee, Fla. was the first veteran to arrive at Gettysburg. He is shown here being greeted by Gettysburg Military Park Superintendent James R. McConaghie.
tolman3.jpg
[Gettysburg Museum Of History archives photo]

He and his wife had driven all the way from Florida. [When she wasn't around, he quipped, sotto voce, that he really wanted to get there early “to get my pick of the Gettysburg women.”] Actually, they had come by way of Watertown, Mass., where he had been guest of honor at that year’s Memorial Day exercises. Alvin was past Commander, and last survivor of that city’s Israel Patten Post #81, G.A.R., and was the only Civil War veteran to attend that year. He had moved to Florida eleven years before.


The encampment at Gettysburg wasn’t yet ready to receive the veterans, so the couple was temporarily housed in a cottage in town.

"My only regret is that I forgot to bring my uniform with me," he said. The uniform was a Navy one. Naval service records are not as available online as are military records. In fact, I didn’t at first know what his ACW service was. The sources only had him as a “Union veteran” from Massachusetts. Assuming he was army, I searched everywhere, but I could find no sign of any Alvin Tolman in any state or branch of the military. Then I came across the Gettysburg Times of June 16, 1938, which notes Alvin's arrival, and says: "Tolman participated with the North Atlantic squadron in both battles at Fort Fisher. When the war broke out Commander Tolman was too young to be accepted into the service but after much difficulty did get into the navy." If I had found that earlier, it would have saved me a lot of time.bof-191d065-1926ac3.png

I still almost missed him. The naval Enlistment Registers are at fold3.com, but not easy to use. Finally, I found a torn and fragmentary page for enlistments at Portland, Maine in August, 1864. The left edge of the page is torn off … the right half of the page is missing, several columns of data gone (including age, occupation, and residence). But, barely legible, there he was: Tolman, Alvin F. enlisted Aug. 23rd, for 1 year, of "General Service" as a Landsman (the rating given new recruits with little or no experience at sea):

rendez2.png
rendez1.png

The Navy Rendez-vous Index (also at Fold3, indicates he served on the twin-turret monitor USS Monadnock, and was discharged June 26, 1865.
Uss_Monadnock_1864.jpg
USS Monadnock​
 

LoriAnn

Retired User
Joined
Oct 9, 2015
I've just started reading through this thread properly and noticed Homer Woodworth's story about initially being mistaken for dead, coming around as he was being lowered into a ditch. :alien:

I wonder how many men were left for dead when they in fact weren't. :frown:
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Charles W. Eldridge was the oldest veteran to attend the 1938 Reunion at Gettysburg. On June 29th, in fact, he marked his 107th birthday. Aside from his battle wounds and an attack of pneumonia when he was just 97, Eldridge said he'd "never had an ache or pain," and "feel good for another 10 years at least."

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 29 June, 1831, Charles Wilmott Eldridge had been broughtto America at the age of ten by his shipwright father, who had taken a job at a Boston shipyard. The youngster was restive, though, and just a few years later he ran away to sea. His fifteenth birthday, he said, was spent aboard a brig off Capetown, South Africa. A couple of years later, he was crew member on another ship that floundered off the Grand Banks in the North Atlantic, and spent days in an open boat before being rescued. In those years, he visited ports on every continent, and became an expert navigator.

He was in San Francisco when the Civil War broke out, and, it is reported, enlisted in the First California Cavalry. More about his Civil War record later.

Following the war, Charles Eldridge returned to the sea. The details of this period are elusive, but for a time he captained his own ship; at other times he served as first officer. In his late 60s, he decided it was time to retire. He somehow wound up in Worcester, Mass., where he settled down in 1901, taking a position as “bookkeeper, stockkeeper and general utility man” at a large plumbing supply firm. He would remain there until past his 100th birthday.

The Springfield Republican of July 30, 1931, notes his centenary:
eldridge8.png
As suggested in that last paragraph, Charles did retire later that year, and moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where he would spend his remaining years. But, it would not be a quiet retirement. That “old-timers baseball team” he had enjoyed the previous April was known as the ‘Kubs’ -- the Senior of the two teams in the Three Quarters Century Softball League (the name referring to the minimum age of the players). The Junior team (the ‘Kids’) was made up of men 75 to 85 years old; the ‘Kubs’ were aged from 86 “to whenever.” There were Civil War veterans on both teams.
eldrgb.png
They played a regular schedule of two games a week every winter, with scores often in the double-digits for both teams; their games were viewed by about five thousand spectators a year. Charles W. Eldridge took over as President of the League, and later as Captain of the ‘Kubs,’ and would hold the positions for the remainder of his life. In 1934, he even made an appearance in John Hin’s nationally syndicated “Strange as it Seems” editorial cartoon:
eldrg16.png
He was also referee at the Three Quarter Century Club’s program of “Whisker Weight” boxing matches.

to be continued
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Charles W. Eldridge, continued:

Active 100+ year-olds make the news. And so it was for Charles W. Eldridge. Every year, newspapers all across the country took note of him. At 103, when he was elected Commander of St. Petersburg’s Kit Carson Post, G.A.R., the Miami Herald noted that he “walks miles daily from his home in the downtown section, takes a lively interest in local and national affairs, and frequently goes fishing alone in his rowboat.”

Centenarians are always asked “the secret to their longevity.” He had given his best answer on his 102nd birthday: “Don’t die!” But, at other times, he was more forthcoming. At 104, he attributed his survival to “heredity and his many years at sea.” In 1936, when John D. Rockefeller, sr., reached the age of 79, he published a long list of “rules to live by” for a long life. Eldridge was not impressed:
eldridge4.png
But, most of all, "Keep your hat on and don't worry." He said there was a mistaken impression that bared heads resulted in hair growth. "The head should be bared no longer than the rest of the body," he said. "Benefits from the sun's actinic rays are to be obtained within 20 minutes. I have seen tars in the old days who made the mistake of going about hatless who lost their hair within a year. Salts who wore head covering kept their locks. … And early deaths are brought about by worry. "

As the 1938 reunion approached, Charles W. Eldridge got in a little hot water with the U.D.C. (United Daughters of the Confederacy). Passing through Charleston on his way north, the always opinionated veteran remarked that such ill-feeling as exists between the north and south as an aftermath of the war was being kept alive by the women. “The southern soldiers were darn good fellows. A number of us Yanks stole behind Confederate lines to swap stories and trade our salt for their tobacco. On our stolen visits … we always found the enemy friendly. On both sides we felt that the war was a most unfortunate thing, and the sooner over the better. Men who fought the war would have forgotten their differences long ago, and would be having bully times together if it weren’t for the women of the Confederacy.” he insisted. The President-general of the U.D.C. gave a dignified reply that her organization “is too busy with its program to stir up differences.” Only those who did not know of the U.D.C.’s work would criticize it, she insisted.

Charles enjoyed his time at the Reunion of the Blue and Gray. He may not have voted for that young Roosevelt chap who spoke at the dedication of the Eternal Light of Peace monument, but acknowledged that the president had said all the right things for the occasion. He also said that the most tiring, yet flattering part of the anniversary were the crowds seeking his autograph.

Following the Reunion, Charles W. Eldridge returned to St. Petersburg; to his fishing and baseball, and refereeing. He hung up his uniform that year and no longer played, but he kept his position as “Czar” of the League. Like so many of the veterans visiting Gettysburg that year, he didn’t long survive the excitement. He passed away at his home in St. Petersburg on December 17, 1938, at the age of 107. Buried in Bay Pines Cemetery, (he has no Find-a-Grave entry).

The Three Quarters Century Softball League of St. Petersburg still plays 2-3 games a week every winter. (http://kidsandkubs.webs.com)

Charles W. Eldridge’s Civil War Record

My usual manner of going about these sketches is to begin with a search of newspaper archives and other general online sources, and from there look for more specific military resources (regimental histories, fold3.com, etc). A problem with depending heavily on newspaper reports is that they tend, with unsurprising regularity to get things wrong -- or at least to be mutually contradictory. Where does their information come from? Is it from the subject himself (who, at over 100 years might be getting a bit foggy), from a secondary source, is it hearsay, someone’s vague recollection (accurate or otherwise)? Sometimes a reporter fills in blanks with surmise or his own fallible memory.

The published statements regarding Charles Eldridge frequently state that he served a full four years during the civil war; and that he was wounded multiple times. But only two found thus far specify his state or regiment. According to a May, 1938 account:
eldridge2 - Edited.png While in 1935, he eldridge5 - Edited.png

First of all, there seems to have been no Charles W. Eldridge (or any reasonable approximation of the name) in the 1st California Cavalry. There was a William Eldridge in Co. G, 3rd California Infantry, but his CSR identifies him as a 45 year old mechanic born in Delaware Co, New Jersey. But, there was a Charles W. Eldridge in Co. D, 2nd Maine Cavalry, who enlisted 8 December 1863, and was discharged as disabled on March 8, 1865. That would give him sixteen months service. The regiment served in the Department of the Gulf, particularly western Florida and the Mobile campaign. The regimental history gives his residence as Perry, Maine; but the Maine CSRs are not yet online at fold3, so other details are not yet found. I am still looking,however.

Just to complicate matters a bit further, we read the caption to this photograph:
eldrg17.png
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Top