Sometimes people ask why history is mostly about wars. One reason is that war departments keep excellent records. Sometimes those records and the census are all a genealogist has to go on. Social history is more ephemeral. And this is the case with my Roundy ancestors.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, there were enough wars in the 18th and 19th centuries so that my three closest Roundy ancestors fought in one and each Roundy widow applied for a war pension. This is fortunate because, without letters or diaries, these applications provide most of the personal information that is available about the men and their wives. Uriah Roundy fought in the Revolutionary War. Uriah’s son, Daniel Roundy, fought in the War of 1812. Daniel’s son, Porter Wallace Roundy, fought in the Civil War. His daughter, Nettie May Roundy, married Edward H. Gifford, my great grandfather and estranged son of Edmond J. Gifford.
Recall that Edward H. Gifford was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on April 4, 1861, a week and a half before the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. The next month, his father, Edmond J. answered President Lincoln’s first call for 75,000 volunteers. This left their mother, Nancy Ann (Renfro), with two small children, William and Edward, to care for. Although Edmond J.’s service lasted for only three months, I can find no evidence that he ever returned to Nancy Ann and their sons. By 1870, Edward and William were living with their mother in Davenport, where she worked as a seamstress and William, only 14, was a store clerk. In 1880, Edward cannot be found and his brother William was living with their grandmother Elizabeth Cormack Renfro in Rock Island. By this time, their parents had been divorced for eight years. There’s no sign of their mother, and their father had remarried and moved to Petoskey, Michigan.
Then Edward met Nettie May Roundy and his brother William met a woman named Lizzie and they were married in a double ceremony on July 1, 1880 in Davenport by Rev. H. S. Church. Looking at William and Edward side-by-side makes it hard to believe that they are full brothers. So, maybe Nancy Ann Renfro Warren was pregnant by her first husband when she married Edmond J. Gifford, making William and Edward only half brothers.
Edward was a member of Trinity Masonic Lodge in Davenport and worked as a messenger for United States Express Company in Davenport until at least 1900. The United States Express Company, founded in 1854, was third in size and importance among the 19th century express operations. It was headed by a banker, D. N. Barney, who was also the president of Wells, Fargo & Co. A few months later, in the spring of 1855, he also headed the National Express Company. This must have been an interesting business arrangement. The United States Express Company mostly served the states of the old Northwest Territories. Think of Charlie Utter in Deadwood.
After Nettie May died in 1905, I have no record of Edward’s activities until 1921, when Edward traveled with his son Porter, who was 35 at the time, to Honduras. Porter had started a railroad business, Walsh, List and Gifford and was beginning a project for the United Fruit Company building railroads in Honduras to transport bananas from the trees to the port in La Ceiba for shipment to America.
As further evidence of the estrangement from his father, on his passport application in 1921 Edward says that his father is E. J. Gifford, birthplace “U.S.A. New York I Think.” He also lists his father’s birth year as 1839 instead of 1830. Remember, Edmond J. said in 1900 that he had not heard from his son since 1885. Edward even gets his own birth year wrong, giving 1863 instead of 1861. Edward says that he is currently living in Biloxi , Mississippi, working as a farmer. His son Porter had just moved to Biloxi , maybe to be near New Orleans for all his traveling. More on that in the next essay. When asked why he was going abroad he writes, “To work, Vaccaro Bros. & Son on railroad construction”. This is then crossed out and only the word “Employment” is left as the answer.
Edward died two months after returning from his first trip to Honduras. He was only sixty. Edward’s son Porter would continue the railroad business in Honduras and eventually start building railroads in Texas.
Now on to Nettie May’s family, the Roundys. The Roundys are well researched because they were often pillars of their tiny communities and one became a founder of the Mormon Church, which puts great store by genealogy. Nettie May’s 6th great grandfather, Philip Roundy, was born on the Isle of Guernsey in 1628 and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1656. After Philip, there was his son Robert, then his son John, then his son Robert, then his son John, then his son Uriah, who may have been a person of some note. According to “Roundy History” by Jesse Warner, Uriah Roundy was a Personal Guard to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. However, this seems to be a remnant of the pension application of his widow, Lucretia (Needham) Roundy and repeated in the book. More on that below.
The Revolutionary War
Uriah Roundy was born in 1756 in Rockingham, Vermont and he died there, too, in 1813. In between, he moved to Connecticut, fought for years in the Revolutionary War, married Lucretia Needham and had eleven children.
Lucretia Needham’s family, at least the Needhams, can also be traced back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where Lucretia’s g-g-g-grandfather Edmund Needham arrived from England in 1638 and settled in Lynn, next to Salem. The Needhams stayed in Lynn, Massachusetts for generations, a succession of Edmunds and Daniels. Lucretia’s father ventured as far as New London, Connecticut, where Lucretia was born in 1760.
The history of the Roundys says that John Roundy and all of his sons, including Uriah, served in the Revolutionary War. However, the details are murky. It may be that Uriah was a member of General Washington’s “Life Guards”. But Revolutionary War records are very incomplete. Most of the ones held in Washington were lost when the British burned the city to the ground during the War of 1812, sometimes referred to as the Second American Revolutionary War.
Our best information comes from the pension applications made by Uriah’s wife Lucretia after his death in 1813. Although the act establishing the pensions was passed in 1838, Lucretia did not apply until 1841, when she was 81 years old, blind and unable to sign her name. She claimed that Uriah signed up as a Continental soldier in Windham County in a Connecticut Unit on 1 May 1775. His major was John Durkee of Norwich and that Uriah’s first big battle was Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775, where he served under General Putnam. She thinks he was wounded in the ribs by a bayonet and she thinks this was at the Battle of Brandywine and that he was under the command of Colonel Knowlton.
Serving under Major Durkee, Uriah crossed the Delaware River with General Washington on Christmas Day 1776 and participated in the Battle of Trenton. and even spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge before engaging the British at the Battles of Monmouth and Morristown. So he could have served as a personal guard to General Washington. But, his name does not appear on the available list of Washington’s Guards. He also may have run into William Gifford in Col. Lippitt’s Rhode Island Regiment.
The description of Uriah’s military service contained in Lucretia’s pension application implies that he served in a Connecticut Regiment. But the Pension Board denied the application because they said that his name did not appear on any Connecticut rolls. But I found him listed in the Connecticut Revolutionary War Military Lists, 1775-83 in Capt. Abner Robinson’s Rhode Island company, Oct.1777. I, along with a couple of experts I corresponded with, am willing to take Lucretia’s word for it. Her version of Uriah’s service gets enough names and places correct that it’s hard to believe that it isn’t true. Besides, John Durkee raised his regiment in the same town, Norwich, Connecticut, in which Uriah and Lucretia were married in 1780.
It turns out that, according to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Uriah Roundy later served as a private in the Rockingham, Vermont company of Captain Jonathan Holton, which saw action “in the Alarm in Oct. 17, 1780”, which occurred after he and Lucretia were married. This is not quite as heroic as the previous account, but it’s still enough for the D.A.R. This British-led Indian Raid was the last and one of the most savage Indian raids of the Revolutionary War. It was an attempt by the British to use their Indian allies to terrorize the Colonial frontier settlements. Three hundred Indians, with their British leaders, attacked Royalton, Vermont without warning, burning the town to the ground.
Uriah, on the other hand, filed a certificate on March 20, 1797, recorded by the Rockingham town clerk, which reads: “This is to certify that Uriah Roundy is of and belongeth to the Universalist Society in this town and contributes to the support of the same”. It is said, by explanation, that this certificate allowed Uriah to avoid the town “Ministers Tax”, by claiming his preference for or belief in the Universalist Church. This issue took me into an in-depth reading of the Minister’s Tax, which was imposed by each town on its citizens to pay the ministers of the Puritan churches. Although there were members of other faiths in these towns, the Puritans were the majority and so the tax laws continued to be upheld. No separation of church and state in those days, even though Vermont ratified the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, in 1791.
Lucretia Needham Roundy, Uriah’s wife, frail and old, moved from Rockingham to Spafford, Onondaga County, New York, sometime after her husband’s death in 1813, with all or most of her, by then, grown children. Her children became prominent citizens of the tiny new town. Uriah, Jr. was postmaster and his brother Asahel served in several town offices. Both Daniel and his brother Uriah, Jr headed west sometime between 1830 and 1840. Lucretia must have gone with one or both of them because she died in Michigan in 1845 when she was 85 years old.
The War of 1812
Uriah Roundy’s son, Daniel, was born in Rockingham, Vermont, in December 1780, just after his father fought in the Alarm at Royalton, Vermont. My father’s records show that from October 15 to November 17, 1813, Daniel served in Capt. Asahel Langworthy’s Co. of Vermont Volunteer Riflemen in the War of 1812. More on this later. Daniel and his wife Ruth Beard were both the grandchildren of Daniel Needham and Hannah Allen. Their mothers, Hannah and Lucretia, were sisters, making Daniel and Ruth first cousins. Marriage between first cousins was not unusual in small isolated communities that were settled by only a few families. Ruth’s father, Amos Beard, served in the Revolutionary War from Massachusetts. He enlisted four times but saw only brief engagements. His name appears in the official roster of the soldiers of the American Revolution as buried in the state of Ohio, where Amos died in 1821.
Daniel and Ruth Roundy had five children in Spafford, New York, including their youngest, Porter Wallace Roundy, who was born in 1829, within a year and 100 miles of the birth of Edmond J. Gifford in Utica, New York. Then the family moved west to Cook County, Illinois by 1840. So Daniel Roundy ended up in Illinois just as Hicks Gifford was. And just like Hicks, Daniel purchased public land in Illinois: 160 acres in Cook County, E SE Sec 34 and 35, Twp 41N R9E Hanover Township. This took place 1 May 1845. He continued to make land purchases until he died there two years later.
An 1861 plat map of Cook County shows that a P. Roundy owned the lands that Daniel purchased. Since Daniel had only one son or grandson with the initial P, I assume that Porter Wallace Roundy inherited the land from his father.
After Daniel died in 1847, Ruth remarried in 1854 to a Benjamin Blodgett, who then died four years later. Then, until her death in 1894 at age 94, she lived with her son Porter Wallace and his wife, Jane, and their daughter, Nettie May, in Davenport, Iowa.
In 1889, Ruth applied for a widow’s pension under the “Act of March 9, 1878”. She had legal representation from John W. Morris, attorney at law, and a former principal examiner U.S. Pension Bureau. Amazingly, his name and former position at the Pension Bureau are shamelessly stamped on the application and all supporting affidavits. His former employment as a pension examiner apparently did not exclude him from later representing pension claimants. It may have given him an advantage since he made it so obvious. Or maybe full disclosure laws required it.
The application goes into great detail about Daniel’s life, including the fact that he had been married previously, that Daniel was a tin smith, that he was 6’1” tall and that his eyes were gray. Since Ruth was 89 years old at the time, it is possible that she made her mark on the application not because she was illiterate, but because she was blind. Anyway, she was also confused about her husband’s military service. She thought he had served under Capt. Gates, of Ohio. Then there are several pages of affidavits, including a physician’s affidavit from her son, Dr. Daniel Curtis Roundy, saying that her husband Daniel died of “malarial fever”.
Then the decision comes in 1890: “Application for pension is rejected on the ground of your remarriage after the soldier’s death.” But her son, Porter Wallace, did not give up. At the bottom of the rejection letter he wrote a note to Green B. Raum, returning the letter to him. Then there are several pages of a digest of laws and practices by the Pension Bureau. This includes the stipulation that if a widow of a soldier in the War of 1812 remarries before 1878, she is still eligible for a pension.
Finally, there is a letter dated May 11, 1889, from John W. Morris, attorney at law, but also the former principal examiner, to the Commissioner of the Pension Bureau requesting the latest known address of Ruth Roundy Blodgett. On the final page of the packet in my father’s files is the Widow’s Brief, with Mr. Morris representing Ruth, and finally the correct service record for Daniel. But this appears to be a rejection. It is “sub”mitted “for rejection Feb. 4th, 1890”.
Poor Ruth. She died in 1894, five years after applying for the pension and there is no evidence that she ever got it approved. The pension acts were passed in 1871 and 1878. Why did she wait eleven years to apply? Blodgett was long dead and her marriage to him didn’t affect her eligibility. She had been living with her son Porter and his wife Jane for over twenty years. Maybe she and Porter didn’t feel the financial need for it. But we will see that that was not the case.
The Civil War
There are several reasons why Porter Wallace Roundy is interesting. His Civil War memorabilia has been passed down through the generations, including his day book from the war and memorial pins; he’s the first of four Porters in the family and his daughter, Nettie May, married Edward H. Gifford.
Porter Wallace was born in Spafford, New York in 1829, about 90 miles from Utica, where Edmond J. Gifford was born in 1830. Porter Wallace had come west around 1838, going by a memorial of his better known brother, Daniel Curtis Roundy. Both Porter and his brother Daniel married women named Jane Young, but I can find no connection between them. Porter Wallace married Jane Ann Young in in 1855 in Sharon, Wisconsin, where her parents lived. She came from Maryland. Little else is known about Jane Ann, only her parents’ names and a few dates. In 1859, still in Sharon, Wisconsin, Porter Wallace and Jane Ann became the parents of their only child, Nettie May. In 1860 Porter Wallace was Deputy Sheriff of Darien, Wisconsin, which was named after the town in Connecticut. If Porter Wallace inherited his father’s land in Cook County, Illinois, there is no record of him selling it.
When President Lincoln first called for volunteers, in 1861, Porter Wallace enlisted on November 18, 1861 as a private in the Wisconsin cavalry. He was promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant in January 1862. However, Porter Wallace managed to injure himself in June in a fall from his horse and had to resign. One document says it was during a cavalry charge but not where or in what battle this took place.
However, Porter Wallace reenlisted on March 30 1864 into the 37th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin in which his brother Daniel Curtis Roundy served as Regiment Surgeon. It looks like he went in the place of someone else who was drafted but paid the $300 bounty to Porter Wallace to go in his place.
Porter was promoted to Hospital Steward in April. The 37th Infantry Regiment was then sent to join the siege of Petersburg, Virginia. Company S was posted to the City Point Depot. “From the end of June 1864 to May 1865, City Point provided all supplies necessary to support the 125,000 men and 65,000 animals of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Armies which lay siege to the strategically important town of Petersburg, Virginia.” Petersburg was between the Union forces and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy.
City Point was on a little spit of land sticking out into the James River. This allowed for easy off loading of munitions, food, clothing, saddles and everything else an army required. The boats also brought in medical supplies for the treatment of the wounded in the hospitals.
Seven hospitals operated at City Point during the siege. The largest was the Depot Field Hospital which covered nearly 200 acres and could hold up to 10,000 patients. Twelve hundred tents, supplemented by ninety log barracks in the winter, comprised the compound, which included laundries, dispensaries, regular and special diet kitchens, dining halls, offices and other structures. Army surgeons administered the hospital aided by civilian agencies such as the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission. Male nurses, drawn from the ranks, made sure each patient had his own bed and wash basin; and regularly received fresh pillows and linens. The excellence of the facilities and the efficiency and dedication of the staff not only made the Depot Field Hospital the largest facility of its kind in America but also the finest.Nation Park Service
There are actually a lot of photographs of the City Point Depot and Hospitals. I tried to find one picture of the hospitals that would give a visual sense of the description above. However, I finally decided to use this one from Matthew Brady’s City Point Collection at the National Archives. This shows trains used to take supplies inland to the Union troops at the siege of Petersburg. The large house in the distance might be the home of the large plantation that was taken over by the Union Army as Headquarters for General Grant.
It was at the siege of Petersburg that the “Battle of the Mine” (or “Crater”) was fought. The Union troops from Pennsylvania devised a plan to tunnel under the Confederate earthworks and place dynamite. Then the dynamite would be exploded on June 30th to allow the Union forces pass through the resulting break in the earthworks to take the city. However, disaster ensued. The Union regiments ended up trapped in the “crater” while the Confederates picked them off from the ground above. If you remember the opening scene in the movie “Cold Mountain” you have a sense of the tragedy.
Of the Union forces there were 419 killed, 1,679 wounded and 1,910 missing. The wounded were taken to City Point Depot hospital to be treated. On that day, in his diary, Porter writes, “at 4 ½ oclock. Am they blew up the Rebbles Fort & faught 4 hours & forty minits & charged twice & charged again at 11 oclock & still again 2 ½ oclock P.m. It is all [?] at the front this morning.” Porter Wallace did not make another entry into his diary for several weeks after that. Porter Wallace and his brother Daniel were mustered out on July 27, 1865.
Porter Wallace Roundy
From the pension records and his diary it’s clear that Porter Wallace was sick for much of his second duty. Disease was the cause of more than half of the deaths of soldiers during the Civil War. Porter Wallace continued to be unwell after the war and was put on a disability pension. I’m pretty sure this is a picture of Porter Wallace, especially when you compare it with the pictures below. It’s probably after the war when he is still a young man, only 36, despite his appearance. His hair is still dark and many veterans had long beards, probably more from necessity than fashion.
After the war in August 1869, Porter and his wife and daughter Nettie May moved to Davenport, Iowa, where, in 1870, Porter owned one horse and ten acres of improved land planted with Indian corn and oats. The U. S. census lists Porter as working as a gardener in 1870, a “market gardener” in 1880, a gardener in 1885. The 1900 census says he was in the “milk business”. This looks like an economic decline for Porter and this may be what lead his mother Ruth to apply, futilely as it turned out, for a war widow’s pension.
It was in Davenport that the Roundys met Nancy Ann (Renfro) Gifford and her two sons, William and Edward H. Gifford. Nancy Ann Gifford was divorced from her second husband, Edmond J. Gifford, in 1872. She had been living in Davenport since at least 1870, separated from her husband and working as a seamstress. In 1880, Nettie May Roundy, Porter’s daughter, married Edmond H. Gifford, Edmond J’s son, in a double ceremony with William Gifford, Edmond’s brother, and his bride Lizzie.
About this same time, Porter Wallace applied for an “invalid pension” for his service in the Civil War. As one of his witnesses says, “after his discharge,…he was in very feeble health appeared to be entirely broken down, was troubled with a cough, and appeared to be totally unfit and unable to perform any manual labor.” Maybe that is why he did not do well farming or gardening. His application was apparently approved because in 1891 he applied for an increase of $4 in his pension because of his increasingly poor health. When new pension laws are passed in 1907 and 1912, he applied again.
Porter and Jane Ann celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1915. They lived together in Davenport until her death in 1916.
Jane Ann (Young) and Porter Wallace Roundy 1915
His 1915 Iowa State Census card tells us a little more about him. It shows that he had a eighth grade “common” school education and could read and write and had no church affiliation. It also confirms his Civil War service.
1915 Iowa State Census
After Jane Ann died in 1916, he visited his grandson, Porter William Gifford, and his family, who were living in Biloxi, Mississippi. How Porter Wallace managed to get from Davenport to Mississippi and then back to Iowa is probably a good story. That’s a long train ride for a 90 year old disabled Civil War veteran. There are several pictures like this one of Porter Wallace sitting on this porch in Biloxi.
Porter Wallace continued to live in Davenport with the Harrison family. Porter had lived in Davenport since the Civil War and probably was reluctant to uproot himself. Then on April 12, 1921, his pension check for $150 was returned by the Davenport postmaster. W. N. Campbell notes “DROPPED because of death, which occurred on Feb. 1, 1921”. Porter Wallace was 92 years old. He outlived his wife, Jane Ann, and his daughter, Nettie May. His son-in-law, Edward H. Gifford, died two months later. For a disable Civil War veteran, he lived a long time.
I have a number of items from Porter’s and Edmond’s civil War service. There are Porter’s brass identification stencil and three pins from the G.A.R. There are two memorial ribbons worn in remembrance of a friend and Davenport native, August Wentz, during parades in Davenport. However, these probably belonged to Edmond. August Wentz and Edmond both fought at Wilson’s Creek in 1861. Wentz also reenlisted and was killed that same year in Belmont, Missouri. Both battles were demoralizing defeats for the Union Army. The Davenport Grand Army of the Republic Post was named in his honor.
This photo was probably taken at one of those G. A. R. memorial events and these two men must have served with Porter, who is in the middle (note the distinctive ears).
Nettie May Roundy and her husband, Edward H. Gifford, would have two children, Aimee Edna Gifford, born 1881, and my grandfather, Porter William Gifford, born 1885, both in Davenport, Iowa. He died before I was born, so I have no personal memories to relate. He was an enigma even to his son, my father.