Researching a Pvt. Peter Higgins, 1st West Virginia Infantry & 1st W. Va. Cavalry

Jerseyman

Cadet
Joined
Jun 1, 2020
Hello all,

Right now my current research project is to learn more about my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Higgins (c. 1835-1876). He served as a private in the 1st West Virginia Infantry Regiment, known back then as the 1st Virginia U.S., Company C specifically.

This page from RootsWeb suggested that Peter was injured sometime in the summer of 1862, and I found the 1890 Veteran's Schedule for his widow where that page got their information from. As far as I can tell it fits perfectly with the information I have on my 4th Great-Grandmother and on Peter. It implies he was discharged for disability between May and July 1862. I was curious if there's a way for me to narrow down which battle he might have been wounded in. Based on what I've learned about the 1st West Virginia I assume that the Battle of Port Republic in June 1862 is the most likely spot, but I'd like to see if I could confirm that.

Also the RootsWeb has information that suggest Peter re-enlisted, this time in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, Company H. However he enlisted on Feb. 15 1864 and was arrested for desertion on March 23. Would that imply that he was drafted? Seems odd to think a man would enlist and desert unless he was a conscript.

Have a happy New Year, and again any information is appreciated.
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
The link the RootsWeb page gives is for info taken from the Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of West Virginia, 1864. I checked the records on Fold3. It certainly looks as if this is the same man - height, hair, and eye color all match up as does the location of residence/enlistment.

I don't think based on what's in the file that his discharge was for a wound - suffered in battle or otherwise. His papers show he was in the hospital first, then discharged. I'd guess it was illness that caused the disability discharge -

PeterHiggins1.png


It could be that he was conscripted for his second stint or it could be he wanted the bounty money and pay. His papers show he worked as a tanner and was illiterate -

PeterHiggins5.png


As to why he deserted - it could be any number of things. He changed his mind about serving, he had a horrible commanding officer, or - most likely to me - there was an emergency at home that he needed to see to and he didn't get leave. He was arrested at home, which would fit that

PeterHiggins6.png


He didn't spend too long in prison. He's shown as "Absent at Dismount'd Camp" in July of 1864 and he's on the muster rolls September thru December that year.

PeterHiggins7.png
 

Jerseyman

Cadet
Joined
Jun 1, 2020
The link the RootsWeb page gives is for info taken from the Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of West Virginia, 1864. I checked the records on Fold3. It certainly looks as if this is the same man - height, hair, and eye color all match up as does the location of residence/enlistment.

I don't think based on what's in the file that his discharge was for a wound - suffered in battle or otherwise. His papers show he was in the hospital first, then discharged. I'd guess it was illness that caused the disability discharge -

View attachment 386362

It could be that he was conscripted for his second stint or it could be he wanted the bounty money and pay. His papers show he worked as a tanner and was illiterate -

View attachment 386363

As to why he deserted - it could be any number of things. He changed his mind about serving, he had a horrible commanding officer, or - most likely to me - there was an emergency at home that he needed to see to and he didn't get leave. He was arrested at home, which would fit that

View attachment 386364

He didn't spend too long in prison. He's shown as "Absent at Dismount'd Camp" in July of 1864 and he's on the muster rolls September thru December that year.

View attachment 386365

Thank you for your research! It's greatly appreciated.

The documents line up with what I know about Peter from the 1860 and 1870 (he lived in Moundsville, West Virginia). The only odd thing is that the re-enlistment document says he was born in Marshall County, though my research suggests he was born in Ireland. But he clearly didn't fill that form out himself, so it might have confused his residence with his birthplace.

One other thing--what exactly is a Dismounted Camp? Is it just the standard camp for Cavalries?
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
I am no cavalry expert but I do know units at times included "dismounted" troops - i.e. men without a horse. It may be that the Union armies kept those men in a separate camp. But I would urge you to ask on the forum about horses and cavalry - you will get a MUCH better answer from them!
 

Bob Velke

Private
Official Vendor
Joined
Jan 25, 2014
Soldiers who didn't show up in the morning were often listed as "deserted" but it turns out later that they had a good reason - like they were lying wounded on the battlefield, in a field hospital, detailed for special service, etc. After investigation, charges of desertion are often dropped - or he is acquitted in a Court Martial.

That seems to be the case for your Peter Higgins because his widow, Mary A., applied for a pension on 15 July 1890 and it was approved. It would not have been approved if the charge of desertion had stuck. (BTW, she was living in Ohio at the time that she applied and the pension payment record says that she died 27 Sep 1916.)

record-image_-183.jpg


The full pension file at the National Archives will probably include correspondence or affidavits, etc., to document the investigation into the charge of desertion.
 

Jerseyman

Cadet
Joined
Jun 1, 2020
who didn't show up in the morning were often listed as "deserted" but it turns out later that they had a good reason - like they were lying wounded on the battlefield, in a field hospital, detailed for special service, etc. After investigation, charges of desertion are often dropped - or he is acquitted in a Court Martial.

That seems to be the case for your Peter Higgins because his widow, Mary A., applied for a pension on 15 July 1890 and it was approved. It would not have been approved if the charge of desertion had stuck. (BTW, she was living in Ohio at the time that she applied and the pension payment record says that she died 27 Sep 1916.)

Thank you, Bob for adding this clarification.

I had found the 1890 veterans pension schedule for Mary A Higgins, and was especially confused how the pension could have been approved if he had deserted and been court martialed. I would guess that the fact that he had served already from 1861 to '62 helped his case.

And that death date is accurate: Mary A Higgins died on Sep. 27 1916 in New Castle, Pennsylvania, at the home of her granddaughter Mary Edgington (my great-great grandmother). I appreciate you taking the time to research this!

-Jack
 
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