Monday, June 10, 2019

Last Cincinnati Civil War Veteran?

I was doing some research on a different project and happened to find this story in the Cincinnati Enquirer of  September 21, 1947.   The Civil War part obviously caught my attention, but the story about his birth and his parents' deaths is also fascinating, though sad.

"Drummer Boy," 96, Dies; Arnold's Death Robs City of Last Civil  War Veteran

Cincinnati was without a former wearer of the Blue or the Gray last night after the death of Franklin Arnold, retired Chillicothe horse trainer who served 26 days as a drummer boy in the Union Army.

Mr. Arnold, who was within a month of being 97 years old, died at General Hospital from the effects of a right hip fracture suffered August 7 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Rhu, 688 S. Crescent Ave, Avondale, with whom he lived.

Although he could produce no documentary proof of his Civil War service, Mr. Arnold insisted during his recent stay at the hospital that he was 15 years old when he and 2 other youths enlisted as drummer boys at Newark, Ohio.

He explained that a discharge was not allowed him because of his short service and because he got only as far as Shilo, Ky., when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered in April, 1865.

"We just disbanded and went home," Mr. Arnold told interviewers at the hospital.

Mr. Arnold declared he was living in Steubenville, Ohio, with the family of William H. Anderson, friends of his parents, when he ran away to join the army.

After the war I went to Chillicothe, Ohio and hired out to a race horse man," Mr. Arnold said. "I was in the horse-training business for a long time."

Mr. Arnold said he had been living in Cincinnati since 1922 or 1923. He had lived in Avondale with the Rhu family for the last eight years.

Mr. Arnold was born on the Atlantic Ocean when his mother, a native of Ireland, was on her way to friends in the United States a month after the death of his father. His mother died at his birth and was buried at sea. His father, a native of Wales, died when the windjammer, of which he was captain, sank off the coast of Scotland.


It says he could not document his story and my one quick search could not any evidence to back up his claim, but I think this is worth sharing anyway. Stories about boys running away from home and joining the army as drummer boys are not uncommon but for some reason I find myself skeptical about his story. I don't know why.

Perhaps the sad tale of how he became an orphan makes his "runaway" story more believable. It also seems unlikely that someone would make up a story with so mundane an ending as "getting there too late and disbanded."

Maybe someone has studied Civil War soldiers from Cincinnati and has seen this story or others about "last Civil War veteran" in the area, or maybe someone can research it further, but I thought it was interesting enough to post and share as is.

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