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Elias Rich's Story

Updated on July 10, 2016

Elias Rich my 3rd Great Grandfather

Elias Rich was my 3rd Great Grandfather

As I began to research Elias, I found that he had lost his life in the Civil War..

My research revealed that Elias was in the 14th Illinois infantry. This is confirmed by his wife, Angeline’s, application for his military pension.

Angeline's application for military pension

Elias mustered into the Army

Elias mustered in on March 2, 1865 at Springfield, Illinois. He was 34 at the time and for whatever reason, he chose not to volunteer earlier.

The Draft Act of 1863 was the first instance of compulsory service in the federal military services. All male citizens, as well as aliens who had declared their intention of becoming citizens, between 20 and 45 were at risk of being drafted. No married man could be drafted until all the unmarried had been taken.

Two methods of evading the draft were available. A man could hire a substitute who would serve in his place, or he could simply pay $300 to get out of the obligation.

I will bet that $300 would have been hard to come by for Elias and his family. Therefore, I speculate that Elias got drafted.

Elias's Short Service

Elias was sent to join Sherman’s Army in North Carolina. I have not been able to determine whether Elias arrived in time to participate in Sherman’s last major battle, the battle of Bentonville, North Carolina. That battle occurred from March 19th to the 21st of 1865. As you may know, Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Further south General Johnston surrendered to Sherman’s forces on April 26, 1865. Sometime in late April or early May the 14th Illinois Infantry and another unit were combined, the veterans discharged and sent home, and the new men like Elias were formed into the new 14th Illinois.

The Tragic Part

Sherman’s remaining army was sent to Washington DC to participate in a Grand Review of the Armies to be held on May 23 & 24 of 1865. Sherman’s Army paraded on the 24th but Elias was not with them. He was in a make shift hospital at Fairfax Seminary in Alexandrea, Va. He died on May 25, 1865 of the listed cause of Chronic Diarrhea. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in plot B 0 2967.

His service to our country is hardly one of great accomplishment and heroism. Instead, it is a sad story of a man who lost his life in the service of his country with little apparent reason. For his family to have lost their husband and father for a parade seems senseless.

Elias Rich's Stone at Arlington

An Aside

I have copies of the death index from Fairfax Seminary that Included Elias. I was surprised to see deaths from measles, chronic diarrhea, as well as other causes not common today. Further research revealed the of the 620,000 or so soldiers who died during the Civil War more than 2/3 of them died from disease with dysentery being the most common. Further, you might be surprised to learn the Civil War had more soldier deaths than any other American war.

Civil War Disease Data


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