Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who is Fred M. West ? A Mystery

     The Southern California Genealogy Society is transcribing the register of the 1886 Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) encampment in San Francisco.  They hope to have the project finished by June.  The G.A.R. was a post-war fraternal organization for honorably discharged Union Veterans.  The organization was a strong political force in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  My friend and fellow Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War comrade, Nick Smith is helping with the project and has compiled the records of about 20 G.A.R. posts himself.

     An appendix to the encampment book, lists members by the regiment they were affiliated with during the war.  Nick came across several former members of the 13th Mass listed in the department and sent me their names.  These are members that settled in California and the west.

     I recognized one of the names, Levi L. Dorr, a prominent post-war physician in San Francisco, who wrote several letters to the 13th Regiment Association in Boston.  Some of these letters were published in the annual circular; (a newsletter sent out once a year to association members).   I know of others who settled out west who were not on this list, but there is one ‘mystery’ name, that does not appear in any of the rosters of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.  That name is “F.M. West.”

     Here is Nick’s list which includes the name of the G.A.R. post the veteran belonged to, and its location.  I’ve added the soldier’s record from the rosters to each name:

  • Alonzo P. Bacon, Post 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco; 
    From the Roster:  age 21; born, Winchester, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, ’61; mustered out, March 9, ’63, for promotion; detailed as clerk at headquarters, June, ’62; appointed capt., Ulman’s brigade Colored Troops, March 9, ’63; resigned, July, ’63;  residence, San Francisco.
  • Bartlett M. Bramhall, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 19; born, Boston, clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, 1861; mustered out, Feb. 16, ’63; detailed for duty at War Department, Nov. 20, ’63.
  • Frank Coolidge, Post # 118, Riverside Post, Riverside, Cal.;
    From the Roster:   age 25; born, Sherborne, Mass; farmer; mustered in as priv. Co. H, July 16, 1861; mustered out as Corporal,  August 1, 1864, promoted to Corporal March 18, 1863.  Residence, Riverside, Cal.
  • John H. Crocker, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 20; born, Charlestown, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 16, ’61; mustered out, Dec. 30, ’62; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • J. Curtis, Post # 1, Lincoln Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:  John B. Curtis; age, 19; born, St. Johnsbury, Vt.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, '61; mustered out as corp., Aug. 1, '64.
  • Levi L. Dorr, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 21; born, No. Bridgewater, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 6, ’61; transferred, May 5, to V.R.C.; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • George Fred Ford, Post # 5, Custer Post, Carson, Nevada;
    From the Roster:   age, 19; born, Boston; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, Aug. 16, ’62; mustered out, Aug. 1, ’64; was detailed as clerk at headquarters; residence, Carson City, Nevada.
  • Samuel S. Hinckley, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 19; born, E. Bridgewater, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 16, ’61; transferred to V.R.C. as sergt.-major, July 1, ’63; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • Robert F. Johnson, Post # 63, Antietam Post, Petaluma, Cal.;
    From the Roster:   age, 27; born, Roxbury, Mass; painter; mustered in as priv., Co. E, July 20, ’61; mustered out Dec. 26, ’62.
  • F.M. West, Post # 23, Rawlins Post, Stockton
    No record in the rosters
     F.M. West who is listed as a member of Co. K in the G.A.R. register does not appear in any of the regimental rosters which I have been able to search.  This includes the Massachusetts Adjutant Generals report, & the roster printed in the official history of the regiment. Nor does the name appear in the corrections to the roster which appeared in the 13th Massachusetts association circulars.  He does not appear in the roster of Sergeant Austin C. Stearns book, which is a memoir of Company K.  Most Co. K men were from the town of Westborough, Mass.  An 1891 history of the town contains a detailed record of all the men from town that served in the military during the war.  F.M. West does not appear in the book.   Nick said the Stockton G.A.R. post listed him very specifically as having been in Co. K of the 13th Mass.  Nick was also unsuccessful in digging up information on West.  He wrote me, “I’m not finding anything in S&S that’s even and easy transposition of his name or his regiment, and he doesn’t’ show up in their roster of the 13th”  (S&S is an on-line database that lists the rosters of soldiers and sailors in the civil war).

    Authorities on the G.A.R. told me membership was very strict.  Applicants had to prove their service; their honorable discharge, and have comrades vouch for their good character and service record.  At first I thought perhaps this was a mis-spelling or an alias. I know of another 13th Mass soldier who settled in San Francisco under an assumed name. But the G.A.R. register appears to be correct.  I found two references to West in the 13th Regiment Association Circular #16, dated December 1, 1909. 

     The first mention of West is among the list of letters rec'd from comrades to the association secretary.  It is stated a letter was received from Fred M. West, Stockton, Cal.  So Fred M. West is apparently someone known to his comrades in the 13th Mass. 

     Levi L. Dorr, who is on Nick’s list, was very active in the GAR  At one time he served as the commander of his post, General Thomas, Post #2, San Francisco. Several of his letters are printed in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars.  Here is an excerpt of a letter that mentions West:
Crocker Building, San Francisco, Cal., Sept. 3, 1903.
     My Dear Comrade:  Our occasion of the G.A.R. has come and gone, and they adjourned to meet in Boston next year.  I wish I could anticipate being there with you, but at the present time that seems improbably.  We had a very glorious and satisfactory encampment, besides the many entertainments of various Posts and other organizations here.
     The Thirteenth Massachusetts turned up rather numerously.  Shepard, of company A, from New York; W. H. H. Howe, company B, from Boston; E. R. Jenness, Post No. 26 in Boston;  Fisk, of company H,  from near Boston; Morton Tower, of company B from Oregon; H. J. A. Hebbard, of Alameda, Cal., and F.M. West, of  Stockton, Cal.  Then there was B. T. Norris, of Sonoma, Cal.  All of these, but W. E. Shepard, who was not particularly well, joined me, and I gave them a lunch at the Olympic Club in this city.  There are two others of our regiment in San Francisco; John A. Neill, of company G, living 208 1/2 Leavenworth street, and S. D. Thurston, of company C, of  906 Geary street.  I invited these last comrades to join us, but I had no response from them, and I am not aware that they were seen by others visiting here.

    There were some inquiries for Sam Hinkley of company A, who formerly lived here, but I have not heard of him for years.  George Kimball, of company B, lives in Los Angeles but made no response to my initiation.  We were all so glad to meet and pass a couple of hours nicely, and all seemed to enjoy themselves in talking over old times and of old comrades.
     The identity and service of Fred M. West still remains a mystery.  His case is more perplexing than 1st Lieut. Francis H. Stowe, whose name was misprinted as 'Stone' in the rosters.  If anyone has any ideas of how he might have been affiliated with the regiment, and missed being on the rosters please let me know.   As far as I know he was not a sutler.  The sutlers to the regiment during the war were Mssrs. Chase. Robinson & Brown.

1 comment:

  1. Update:

    Shortly after posting this, I rec'd a message from Barbara Filbin, (I think from the Stockton, CA Historical Society) about Fred West. She sent the following information:

    "West, Fred M. Co. E 13th. Mass. Inf. Rural Vault. I have a photo of him taken at the 1886 encampment. He is buried in Rural Cemetery in the heart of Stockton, San Joaquin county, California."

    I requested a copy of the photo but received no reply.