Artemus Ward

Artemas Ward

 Artemas Ward was born in Belleville, Wayne Co, MI in 1843.  He was the youngest of five boys and two girls, half of which were born in Dutchess Co., NY.  Stephen and Lucinda Anson Ward decided to join the trek to the west in the late 1830s.

       There is no clear paper trail on this family.  The census traced their movements and marked their deaths.  They didn't own land.  They were day laborers or farmhands for others.

  Lucinda Ward died in 1858.  Stephen and Artemas, the teenager, went to St Joseph Co.  There were other Wards there, possibly relatives.  Stephen remarried to a Hannah Fennel in March of 1860.

  The rumblings of war reached Michigan within the next couple of years. We don't know why Artemas went to Burr Oak in February of 1862 and volunteered.  Was it the excitement of adventure?  Patriotism?  Was he conscripted or did he want to leave the confines of a house with a stepmother?  All we do know is that he was mustered 21 February 1962 in Company A 15th Regiment Michigan Infantry.

  Basic training consisted of two weeks of getting acquainted with the rules and regulations, officers and fellow soldiers and then they marched. The 15th left Monroe, Michigan on 27 March 1862 and arrived at Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee. They fought their first battle there on the 6th and 7th of April, commanded by General Grant.  They took part in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, which lasted three weeks in May.  In September it was Iuka, Chewalle and again Corinth.

  In 1863, they were ordered to Vicksburg, Mississippi.  They were variously attached to different corps.  On 1 Nov 1863, the 15th arrived in Florence, Alabama and then to Scottsboro where it remained until 11 Feb 1864. Here, Artemas, along with 185 members of the regiment reenlisted and were finally given a furlough to visit families.

  After this break, the regiment joined others on Sherman's March to the Sea.  They proceeded to Chattanooga on 4 May 1864.  Although fighting a war was by no means a family camping trip, this was particularly bad.  This year there was out of the ordinary amounts of rain in Georgia.  The red mud turned to slippery slime.  At the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, near Big Shanty, horses and mules could not haul the artillery up the mountain.  The animals would slide back, not being able to get a good footing.  In the end, the soldiers had to pull cannon up the slippery hillside in the constant downpour.

  Our Artemas was saved from this ordeal.  His war ended just short of Kennesaw.  From the accounts I have read, I would say young Artemas was probably a smart aleck, not knowing when the right time for back talk was. He was on a foraging mission near Rome, Georgia and was captured by rebels. They were taking him to General Fergusen's headquarters and they, as he said "ran him severely".  He turned to them and told them if they carried his knapsack he could go faster.  If this was levity, it was the wrong time and place.  They promptly hit him in the head with a gun, fracturing his skull. With no remorse, they left him for dead.

  Hours later another rebel squad came upon him and administered a bit of first aid.  He was then taken to rebel headquarters.

  As a Prisoner of War in Oct 1864, the choice of prisons for him was Cahawba, near Selma, Alabama.  Sherman was probably causing enough trouble in Georgia at that time to prevent his being sent to Andersonville.  Cahawba was no picnic.  Those same rains that dogged north Georgia also plagued Alabama.  It was on the banks of the Alabama and Cahawba Rivers, which flooded the prison grounds.  It was grossly overcrowded, a small building with a dirt floor and not enough cots.  When the floods came some men collected wood and built stacks to sit atop.  A minority of prisoners survived these awful conditions. In spite of all this, Artemas did survive.  He would complain of kidney, lung and, liver troubles for the rest of his life, a result of the exposure and hardships.

  Imagine the joy of these men, when in April of 1865, they were told they were going home.  Men from Andersonville and Cahawba squeezed aboard the Sultana at Vicksburg.  It was unbelievably overloaded.  One man proclaimed there were over 2,500 souls on board this steamboat. They were sick and tired and felt deep relief.  Those finding a spot fell into deep sleep.

  The story of the Sultana is interesting reading.  It was the worst naval disaster in the US and received almost no attention because President Lincoln's assassination had occurred just two weeks earlier.

  The Sultana blew up.  Bodies were blown up and out.  The Mississippi was at flood stage and it was cold and running fast.  Many men were too ill to save themselves.  Some could not swim.  Some were killed outright and some panicked or were killed by those who panicked.  Of the 2,500 passengers on board it is thought that only 700 to 800 were saved.  Our Artemas was one of them.  He said he was in the water for four or five hours, furthering his illness.

  Artemas had been a cooper.  I have heard that he also raised hunting dogs. He returned to Belleville, MI and married Anna Scott Danes.  They had five children, three of whom survived childhood.  Artemas Ward died on Jan 14, 1914.  He is buried in Soop Cemetery in Belleville, Michigan.

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