William Howard Wilson

by Steve Michaels
Wisconsin Dept. Commander
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

William Howard Wilson was a farmer, born on June 5, 1823 in Clermont County, Ohio.  One day after his 24th birthday, he married 16 year old Nancy Jane Fry.  Two months later, he left to fight in the Mexican War.  He enlisted in the 2nd Ohio Vol. Infantry and was gone from August 1847 to July 1848.  He received 160 acres land bounty for his service as a picket, guard and policeman in Mexico. The fighting was largely over by the time his regiment arrived there.

Wilson had eye problems, which originated during his Mexican War service.  These were documented in a notorized statement, May 17, 1855.  He stated that because of his poor sight, he could no longer plow a straight furrow.  Given this, it's difficult to imagine how he was able to pass a Union Army physical, but apparently he did.

At the time of the Civil War, Wm. Howard Wilson lived in Williamsburg, Clermont County, Ohio.  He enlisted on December 19, 1861 for 3 years service and was mustered into Co. G, 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on February 17, 1862. At the time, Wilson was 38 years old, although some documents say he was considerably younger.  He was 5'9", light complected, had blue grey eyes and brown hair.  He was the father of a 4 year old boy, my great great grandfather, Wm Noah Wilson.

During the fighting at Shiloh, Wilson's right eye was burnt with powder from the gun of a comrade in the right rear of his company.  Primitive field conditions caused other problems.  A neighbor reported him in a "crippled condition," attended by a physician when home on furlough in late April 1862.

Wilson returned to his regiment, presumably before June 2nd, when it began its march through blinding dust and intense heat to Memphis.  The unit's duty at Memphis was largely provost guard duty at the military prison in Irving Block.  A fellow soldier there in Autumn 1862 noted later that Wilson had been exposed to malaria and inclement weather and had intermittent fever, affection of his throat and respiratory organs.  His pains were like that of rheumatism.

According to the Surgeon's Certificate of Disability, Wilson had been in Memphis General Hospital since at least November 1862.  After 60 days, doctors certified that he was incapable of performing soldier duties due to entire loss of sight in his right eye.  He was discharged at Memphis on January 26, 1863 and returned to Fayetteville, Ohio for a time before returning to Williamsburg.

A year after Wm. H. Wilson's return from the war, another son, Henry, was born on January 29, 1864.  A daughter, Jane Ann, was born 8 years later, but died in childhood.

Wilson used crutches for the rest of his life and remained blind in the right eye.  He is thought to have been a member of the GAR. Wilson was dropped from the pension rolls in 1877 based on his being blind before enlistment.

Unable to support himself or his family, with no pension, he was forced to rely on the kindness of others.  Wilson moved his family frequently, presumably living with friends and relatives after the war.

On June 13, 1886, back in Williamsburg, William Howard Wilson died of rheumatism at age 63.  His widow eventually received a pension of $8/month for his Mexican War service.  While she pursued a widow's Civil War pension until her dying day, 16 years later, there's no evidence that the U.S. Government ever considered her appeals.

William Howard Wilson was buried in a section of Williamsburg Cemetery, owned by the town and reserved for indigent veterans, orphans and paupers.


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