Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Michael Gabbard, Part 1: Common Soldier

My previous post explored the life of Mary Ann (Mangan) Gabbard, a nineteenth century woman who was born in Ireland before immigrating to the United States, where she met and married the subject of this post, American soldier Michael Gabbard. Gabbard, a story claims, was a part of the honor guard which accompanied Abraham Lincoln’s body from Chicago to his burial place in Springfield


Michael Gabbard had been born on April 30, 1837, the son of Isaac Hugh and Jane (Isaacs) Gabbard. He married Mary Ann on September 15, 1864, while he was still serving in the Civil War, which he had entered as a private in Company D of the 8th Kentucky Infantry, which he joined in Owsley County on September 24, 1861 for a standard three-year term.

Photos from 

A brief recap of his time in the war is in a photocopy of a newspaper article which was among the documents I received from a cousin who alerted me to his story. The article is entitled It Happened Here, written by Jess  D. Wilson (copyright 1979, Jackson County Recorder, McKee, Ky.) It stated: Margie, as I told you, your great grandpa, Mike Gabbard, was wounded at Look Out Mountain during the Civil War. His entire kneecap was blown away. He used a cane and later a crutch, too. The wound never healed. 

After suffering the knee injury, he transferred to the Veterans Relief Corps (VRC.) His wife’s autobiography says he was in the 7th Regiment of that unit, but the Soldiers and Sailors database indicates he was in Company G of the 8th Regiment, as do forms on Since she did not writ her story until about 1913 (according to a family history page,) it is likely that she misremembered the exact unit number.

Unfortunately, this newspaper story is untrue, as various observations and information contradict it. One example is that his wife’s autobiography (see my previous post linked at the start of this story) mentions nothing of him being seriously wounded, even as he pushed her on a swing. A man with a blown away kneecap might not be able to do a physical activity, or the wound would at least be noticeable, if as severe as the story described it. Additionally, would a man with a “blown away” kneecap have been able to participate in Lincoln’s honor guard, as he supposedly did? 

Even if Mary Ann  just did not remember that type of detail, or if the honor guard story is not true, a more irrefutable contradiction of this story comes from the timing of events.

The Battle of Lookout Mountain did not take place until November 24, 1863, after the couple had met. She acknowledges he was already in the VRC in Chicago when they met, and records on Fold3 show he had transferred to the VRC on August 5, 1863, after being listed sick on multiple muster rolls. This was three months before his reported wounding. This could be a case of her memory being faulty regarding details, but the dates on the military records confirm that he was in the VRC before the battle where he supposedly was injured. 

I did view pension index cards in his file but admittedly did not spend the time or money to request his pension file, so maybe I am missing key information about his specific ailment, though the earliest date I saw on any of them was 1876. He apparently fell ill more than once and the last illness was severe enough to remove him from his original regiment. This is one detail I wish I had, so perhaps I will request his pension records eventually.

The records I did find show that injury at Lookout Mountain was not the reason he transferred to the VRC as he was not even in that battle, being in the VRC long before that fight took place. (For anyone who may want to look at his paperwork, please note that I found some under “Michael Gabbard” and others under “Micheal Gabbard” on Fold3.)

Another piece of this story that is a bit puzzling is that some of the records on Fold3 seem to contradict each other, based on the dates and information on these documents (though none of these, even the differences, support the idea of him being wounded at Lookout Mountain.) With so many different military forms to complete and so many men involved in the war, such mistakes were probably inevitable.

Here is a recap of the information and dates on the paperwork in his Fold3 file:
Joined for duty Sept 24 1861 Owsley County, 3 years, mustered in  Lebanon Ky Jan 15 1862 

Muster roll cards: 
Sept 24 to Dec 31 1861, present or absent: not stated
Jan & Feb 1862 present
Mar & Apr 1862 present
May & Jun 1862 present
Apr 30 to Aug 31 1862 present
Sept & Oct 1862 present
Aug 31 to Dec 31 1862 absent, at convalescent camp, Nashville
Jan & Feb 1863 present
Mar & Apr 1863 present
Apr 1863 present 
Feb 28 to June 30 1863 absent, sent to convalescent camp, Murfreesboro, TN
July & Aug 1863, absent, left at Murfreesboro TN sick, 1st July 1863
Jun 30 to Oct 31 1863, transferred to the Invalid Corps Aug 5, 1863

Appears on muster-out roll dated Chattanooga TN Nov 17 1864, last paid to Feb 28, 1863,  transferred to Invalid Corps Aug 5, 1863 

Appears on returns (1 card)
Jan 1863 absent sick Dec 26 1862, Nashville
May & June 1863 absent sent to convalescent camp at Murfreesboro TN
July 1863 absent sick, sent to convalescent camp Nashville TN
Aug & Sept 1863, absent sick, sent to convalescent camp, Murfreesboro May 11 1863
Oct 1863, Loss, Aug 5, 1863, Murfreesboro TN (over, but no 2nd page)

Some of the dates showing present or absent do not match other cards, but the main point for this story is that none of them show him available to the 8th Kentucky Infantry at the time of the fight at Lookout Mountain in November 1863.

How exactly his story developed into one saying he suffered a major injury at Lookout Mountain may be lost to history. Did he suffer a knee injury while in the VRC or perhaps in a non-military accident after the war? Did his memory falter or did he fabricate the story and share it? The 1890 Veteran’s Schedule Census does list him having a “damaged limb,” supporting the idea of his knee/leg being injured somehow, but I have found no other source stating how/when/where he was injured or where the Lookout Mountain fight entered the legend. Maybe the pension file would help with that.

The newspaper story quoted previously may partially clarify how this version of his story came into being, as it states: Nell wrote down... a lengthy (24 typed pages) family history from their oral tradition. “Nell” was a granddaughter of Michael and Mary Ann. Since the stories came from family oral history, it is likely that failing memories and mis-worded stories (wording might change with every telling and every attempt to recall them) led to a tale that does not match official records. 

This explanation might also apply to so the next part of this story as well. The next post will explore the story of Michael Gabbard’s reported role on Lincoln’s honor guard.

1 comment:

  1. I have researched my great grandfather, Joseph Quigley, who served in the MO Home Guard, then transitioned into MO State Militia, 2nd Battalion, Company C Cavalry. Military records showed that he was scheduled to escort Lincoln who was planning a trip to Independence. I read in my first cousin, 3x removed General Schofield's autobiography, however, that it was too dangerous for Lincoln to come, as the Confederates were gathering for an attack and it was felt that they could not guarantee Lincoln's security. At that time Joseph was stationed in Sedalia (1862) to protect the railroad for which Sedalia was the end of the line. I just finished a historical novel (at age seventy-five) that tells of Joseph and his brother's lives. They were Irish immigrants from a family of ten that had dissolved through disease and separation into a family of two by the time they got to Kansas-Missouri. All of the historical detail are correct; only in daily events of their lives is there "novelty." It's hard to sort legend from fact when nothing is recorded. It's especially difficult for non-scholars, especially like Mary Ann Gabbard. She didn't have the internet or modern libraries. Newspapers and local histories are rife with myth and legend. However, as with my story, she wanted to tell it. Accurate or not, such accounts still give insights, provide tone and make history relatable on a human level. (About my story, see more at My grandfather's brother, Mike Quigley, was a stonemason who helped Father Donnelly build St. Mary and Immaculate Conception Churches, yet used his income to purchase a farm that his brother, Joseph, wanted to protect during the war. Joseph and Michael's stories are compelling as they show how much suffering immigrants endured when they arrived so poor that they went from eating grass in Ireland to fighting a battle for the life of the nation in which they arrived. Of course, in Ireland, they had suffered war, deprivation and land loss since the 1300's. Like the Scots who fought in the Revolution, the Irish were pretty tough.


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