A Clue to a Family History Mystery: Jacob Worthington’s Civil War Service

In researching my family history on my Mom’s side, I uncovered something that struck me as being a little unusual dealing with the Civil War service of one of my ancestors, Jacob Worthington (1839-1920). Recently, while using Google Books, I uncovered information that offers a significant clue for this family history mystery.

Jacob Worthington’s Headstone

Jacob Worthington (1839-1920), my 4th great grandfather, was born in 1839 in Lexington, Davidson Co., North Carolina, and he died in 1920 in Harrison, Boone Co., Arkansas. When I was first researching my Worthington branch, I discovered early on the location of Jacob’s burial, in Grubb Springs Cemetery in Harrison. Using the internet, I tracked down a photo of his headstone, and it was a military marker, which was inscribed “Jacob Worthington 19 IND. L.A.” Digging further, I uncovered that this inscription indicated that Jacob served during the Civil War, and that “19 IND. L.A.” stands for “19th Indiana Light Artillery.” Further digging revealed that Jacob had indeed served in the Civil War on the side of the Union; and that he did so in the 19th Independent Battery Indiana Light Artillery, which he was mustered in on August 20, 1862 at Indianapolis, Indiana.

To say the least, this surprised me—and I must admit made me feel relieved to know that one of my ancestors did not fight to keep slavery alive (simplifying the war I know). Still, it was not at all what I would have expected from a young man of about 23 living (I assumed) in Confederate territory (Arkansas). I was always told that Jacob was in Arkansas, and so I was left wondering what could explain this. For years I could not uncover why Jacob was in or went to Indiana. There was no Worthington connection to Indiana as far as I had uncovered or been told.

Page Mentioning Worthington and Indiana Connection

Searching through old books on Google Books has helped uncover many facts about some of my ancestors in the past. Recently, after turning my attention back to my Mom’s branches, I decided to try this search tool for Worthington, and I found something. According to a biography about Alson G. Bodenhamer, who married Jacob’s sister Esther in 1857, published in Portrait and Biographical Record of Johnson and Pettis Counties, Missouri (1895), Jacob and Esther’s father, Brooks Worthington, moved his family to Indianapolis, Indiana after leaving North Carolina and before moving to Missouri in 1840. As it turns out Brooks was a shoemaker in Indianapolis. Based on this new information, it seems highly likely that Jacob was not in Arkansas before the Civil War broke out, but was rather in Indiana or Missouri (he is enumerated on the 1850 U.S. Census in Missouri).

Although I have found no details of Jacob’s experiences during the war, the 19th Indiana Light Artillery saw a great deal of action, being a part of numerous battles, sieges, and campaigns. They were even a part of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Jacob was discharged on June 10, 1865 at Indianapolis, Indiana. Three days later, he married Elmina Couch (1846-1921) in Wayne Co., Indiana. Perhaps she ultimately explains why he was in Indiana, as it seems likely that they knew each other prior to the war—her family was also from North Carolina. By 1866, they were living in Lafayette Co., Missouri, and by 1880 they were in Boone Co., Arkansas.

149 Years Ago Today

On July 2, 1863, one hundred and forty-nine years ago today, the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the American Civil War, was in its second day of fighting. By its end on July 3, 1863, the battle saw nearly 8,000 Americans killed and nearly 28,000 wounded. It was the bloodiest battle of the entire war.

Of those that perished in the fighting was a twenty year-old volunteer infantryman named George Lapham (1842-1863). George was born in 1842 in Wayne Co., Michigan the son of Benjamin Lapham and Cemantha Broadway. When the war broke out, he and his brother William enlisted in Company I of the 4th Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861 at Adrian, Michigan. He was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.

Monument to the 4th Michigan Infantry, at Gettysburg Battlefield

The war monument to the 4th Michigan Infantry marks the area of the battlefield, the south end of the Wheatfield, that was held by the 4th Michigan Infantry and approximately where Colonel Jeffords, regiment commander, was mortally wounded. The following is an account of the 4th Michigan Infantry on July 2, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg:

“The Regiment was commanded by Colonel Harrison H. Jeffords until he was mortally wounded on July 2nd. Advanced into the Wheatfield, the 4th was attacked from both front and flank, and in its sudden retreat the colors were dropped. Seeing them on the ground about to be claimed by advancing Confederates, Col. Jeffords plunged into the melee with a handful of men. The conflicting accounts testify to the chaos of the desperate hand-to-hand fighting, and to this day it is not known whether the colors were captured, saved, or torn to shreds in the struggle. Colonel Jeffords was mortally wounded, one of the few men and the highest ranking officer to die by the bayonet in the war. Lieutenant Colonel George W. Lumbard took over command of the regiment after Jeffords fell.” (Source: Stone Sentinels)

It is not known if George was among the men that aided Col. Jeffords in this account, but it is clear that he was among the twenty-five men (including Col. Jeffords) from 4th Michigan Infantry that died that day.

Because he was so young when he enlisted, only 19, George never married or had any children. George is the younger brother of my 3rd Great Grandfather, William B. Lapham. I have been told by distant relatives that family oral history states that George’s death at Gettysburg weighed heavily on William for the rest of his life.

The Civil War and William B. Lapham

William B. Lapham in Uniform

Although the American Civil War ended by declaration on May 9, 1865, the last shot fired took place this month 147 years ago on June 22, 1865. Many Americans still today honor the memories of their ancestors and relatives that fought in this bloody war. One of mine was William B. Lapham (1838-1925), my 3rd great grandfather.

William was born in 1838 in Greenfield Village, Wayne County, Michigan, the son of Benjamin Lapham (1807-1860), a Wayne Co., Michigan pioneer, and Cemantha Broadway (1813-c1846). His childhood was spent working on his father’s farm or that of neighbors. By 1860, at the age of about 22, he was on his own living in a boarding house and working for the Pioneer Iron Company in Marquette County, Michigan.

Monument to the 4th Michigan Infantry, at Gettysburg Battlefield

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, William heard the call to enlist; and on May 16, 1861 he, along with his younger brother George, joined the Michigan State Voluntary Service. On June 20, 1861, he was mustered into one of the first Michigan regiments to answer President Lincoln’s call for troops, the 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, serving in Company I. Four days later, the 4th Michigan Infantry left their camp of instruction and began their journey towards Washington D.C. and the war front.

Although I am not certain just what battles or campaigns William was involved in during the Civil War, the 4th Michigan Infantry was in a number of them. One battle that I am aware of is the Battle of New Bridge, Virginia, which took place on May 24, 1862, 150 years ago this year. This battle is notable for William as serving also in this battle was a young Captain named George A. Custer, later famed General that died during the Battle of Little Bighorn.

4th Michigan Infantry

Throughout the Civil War, the 4th Michigan Infantry often served in Virginia, going on many “mud marches” through the swamps. This no doubt contributed to the fact that nearly as many men serving in the 4th Michigan Infantry died from illness as did from injuries sustained in battle. Although he did not die from illness during the Civil War, he was discharged on February 19, 1863 by General Sykes as a result of it and had chronic illness for the rest of his life. His pension records are filled with affidavits from doctors attesting to his condition, having various symptoms that one might expect from exposure to swamps and swamp insects.

Union House

William’s life after the Civil War and before his death in 1925, saw four marriages, the first of which (to Emoline Reynolds in 1865) resulted in seven children, frequent moves, and numerous jobs. One job he held was that of proprietor of Union House, a hotel and dance hall in Bloomingdale, Michigan, which appears to have served troops and veterans.

William died after a long life of illness in 1925 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan at the age of 87. He was buried in Woodmere Cemetery.