Friday, July 24, 2020

Soldier Profile: Israel Sellers, Company F, 53rd Ky

This is the conclusion to my series on the Sellers brothers, also published as one story on 
western See my previous entries on this blog,  here for part one and here for part two.


As of September 28, 1864, Israel Sellers stood 5’7” tall, with light complexion, black eyes (other paperwork stated his eyes were blue) and light hair. He was a farmer who had just enlisted for a one-year term in company F of the 53rd Kentucky Infantry Regiment in Newport, Ky. His enlistment was credited to Campbell County, part of the state’s 6th Congressional District. 

Even though Israel’s enlistment form listed Campbell County as his birthplace, this was a mistake. Along with his twin brother Foster, Israel Sellers was born in Bracken County, Kentucky in early January of 1837. Records do not match on the exact dates - January 3, 8 or 9 - but they were clearly born in the first part of the first month of that year.  

Per the 1850 census, Israel’s family lived in ward 1 of Covington, Kenton County, but by 1860 Israel lived with his parents and a younger sister in Carthage, Campbell County. 

One year later, on July 25, 1861, Israel married 18-year-old Nancy DeMoss in nearby Pendleton County. 

The Sellers lived in a rural area and likely spent the next few years farming and hearing about the ongoing Civil War. Israel’s brother Foster enlisted in the war in late 1861, and the couple may have known other local soldiers. Word-of-mouth likely kept them informed of the events of the war.


Israel Sellers officially mustered into Company F of the 53rd Kentucky as a private on October 24, 1864.

The enlistment form which he signed (actually, “made his mark”) included the following oath:

I, Israel Sellers, born in Campbell Co., in the State of Kentucky, aged Twenty Six years, and by occupation a Farmer, DO HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE to have volunteered this Twenty Eighth day of September 1864 to serve as a soldier in the ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, for the period of ONE YEAR, unless sooner discharged by proper authority; Do also agree to accept such bounty, pay, rations, and clothing as are, or may be, established by law for volunteers. And I, Israel Sellers, do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever, and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War. 

Others had to sign declarations on the form too. The first was under the oath: I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have carefully examined the above named Volunteer, agreeably to the General Regulations of the Army, and that, in my opinion, he is free from all bodily defects and mental infirmity, which would in any way disqualify him from performing the duties of a soldier.  (The signature of the examining surgeon is illegible.)

The final statement read: I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have minutely inspected the Volunteer, Israel Sellers, previously to his enlistment, and that he was entirely sober when enlisted; that to the best of my judgment and belief, he is of lawful age; and, that in accepting him as as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able-bodied soldier, I have strictly observed the Regulations which govern the recruiting service. This section was signed by Jeremy H. Lennin, the captain of the company Israel joined.

I cannot determine the name of the Lieutenant from the 2nd U.S. Infantry who was the mustering officer who signed the form.

Because he enlisted so late in the war and in the western theater, Israel did not participate in a lot of famous battles, but his unit, the 53rd Kentucky, did help guard the Kentucky Central Railroad between Cincinnati and Lexington, protected the region against guerrillas, and also attacked salt works in Saltville, Virginia, as part of a raid into Virginia led by George Stoneman.

George Stoneman,  courtesy Wikipedia 

Israel’s paperwork on lists him as present from November 1864 through February 1865, but then the March and April records list him as absent, stating he was in a hospital at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, though it adds “since April 20, 1865,” so he was apparently present until then. No details of his illness are given.

He then appears on a detachment muster-out roll, dated May 25, 1865 in Lexington. He had last been paid to February 28 of that year, and had been advanced $62.28 in clothing and/or money, but was still owed $66.66 in bounty money. His paperwork specifies that his clothing account had never been settled as he mustered out under provisions of general order number 27 from the headquarters of the Department of Kentucky.

A  company muster-out form confirmed this information, adding he was at the General Hospital in Lexington. 

Some of the forms mistakenly indicate he was born in Campbell County but he and his brother were born in Bracken County. There are also discrepancies in his age (e.g. saying 26 instead of 27) , but that is not unusual on such paperwork. 
Once out of the army, Israel Sellers resumed civilian life. At some point, his first wife, Nancy DeMoss Sellers, probably passed away, though I have not found what happened or when. (One guess would be that depression over her death may have motivated him to finally volunteer to join the army three years after his twin brother had done so.)

His first known post-war activity is his second marriage, to Mary Carter DeMoss. The bond was dated December 31, 1868 in Alexandria. (Mary may have been a sister to Israel’s first wife Nancy, according to one family tree on, but I have not confirmed that as other records and other trees do not show the same information. That same site indicates that Mary - and, thus, perhaps Nancy - were apparently half-sisters to Sarah DeMoss, the wife of Israel’s twin brother Foster. Additionally, one of the DeMoss brothers, John Fletcher DeMoss, joined Israel in Company F of the 53rd Kentucky, under the name “Fletcher.” Fletcher also married Lydia Sellers, the oldest sister of Israel and Foster. (Here is some DeMoss family history. These DeMoss individuals were children of John and Elizabeth Power DeMoss.)

Two years later, in 1870, Israel was a farm laborer, living in the Grant’s Lick precinct with wife Mary and son John. That year’s census reports that Israel could neither read nor write.  

A membership list of the Persimmon Grove Baptist Church shows that Israel was baptized on January 19, 1879, but that the church dropped him off its rolls on September 16, 1882.  

Persimmon Grove Baptist Church & cemetery, author’s photo

Mary was also a church member.  (These records spelled their last name “Sellars.”) 

The 1880 census lists Israel as a farmer in the Gubser’s Mill precinct, living with Mary and children John, Gertrude, Charles, and Elizabeth. This arrangement soon changed, unfortunately, as Mary died on October 31 of that year and was buried in Persimmon Grove cemetery.

Israel married for a third and final time on June 16, 1887, when he wed 44-year-old Melvina Orcutt. 

Some road assessment lists and other records provide adictionary details about Israel’s life. An 1888 tax record lists him as having 53 acres of land worth $800 and $150 of stock, leaving him with $950 in property, then by 1892, his 53 acres had a value of $700, the only information available for that year.

Between the compilation of those two tax lists, the 1890 Veterans’ Schedule confirmed his military rank and unit and reported his home as the Brayville area of Grant’s Lick. The remarks section includes comments in the “disability incurred” column, but the writing is not clear.  The first word is “piles,” a term for hemorrhoids, but the other word is nearly illegible. It could be “bronchitis,” but the lack of “and” or a comma is puzzling, though maybe just laziness on the recorder’s part. 

By 1900, Israel still resided in Grant’s Lick and worked as a farmer. He could not read or write, but could speak English. Wife Melvina lived with him. 

Israel Sellers passed away on September 6, 1904, at age 67. He was buried in Persimmon Grove Cemetery. His wife Melvina lived until July 28, 1923. 

Photo from

Below are my pictures of his headstone in its current condition. I was by myself with nobody to hold it for a better angle.

Inscription on headstone’s base

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