G.A.R. Post: Post # 107 Granite Falls, WA
Upon receipt of orders to create a regiment to serve as both artillery and infantry the 14th, a three year eastern theater unit, was recruited from throughout the State Of New York. Initial duty assignments for the 14th included garrisoning forts in the harbor of New York, NY.
In April, 1864 most elements of the 14th joined Union Gen. U.S. Grant's overland campaign as Federal forces moved southward into Virginia to bring an end to four years of bloody civil war. Until final muster, a majority of the regimental companies/batteries served in front of Petersburg, VA during the siege and final conquest of that city.
Regimental losses: Officers killed or mortally wounded = 6; Officers died of disease, accidents, etc. = 2; Enlisted men killed or mortally wounded = 220; Enlisted men died of disease, accidents, etc. = 299.
Organized: Spring/Summer, 1863 Rochester, NY
Mustered In: 8/63 - 1/64 By Companies, Rochester/Elmira, NY
Mustered Out: 8/26/65 Washington, D.C.
Residence: Oswegatchie, St. Lawrence Co., NY Age: 21 yrs. (as per mil. rcds.)
Enlisted/Enrolled: 7/31/63 Oswegatchie, NY Rank: Pvt.
Mustered In: 9/11/63 Rochester, NY
Mustered Out: 8/26/65 Washington, D.C.
Discharged: Date Not Avail. Rochester, NY
Highest Rank: Pvt.
Napoleon Bonaparte - at times during his life nicknamed "Bony" - Fox was born in either Rossie or Clinton, St. Lawrence County, New York. As the latter community name appears only once in available records it was likely the former. The year was late 1841 or early '42. No birth month, day or date has been located within available documentation.
Parents of the young Napoleon were Simon/Simeon Richard (b. ca. 1815 or '18 Canada) and Sarah A. (nee Harder b. ca. 1821 NY) Fox. At the time of Napoleon's birth the Foxes were a farm family. Later, however, while the family as a whole would continue to farm, there is some indication that Simon/Simeon became employed in some type of supervisor role in the local, St. Lawrence County iron mining industry.
Simon/Simeon and Sarah Fox would produce at least eight children of which Napoleon was the eldest. Siblings younger than he were: Washington (b. ca. 1842 NY), Lafayette (b. ca. 1844 NY), Josephine (b. ca. 1846 NY), Marshall (b. ca. 1858 NY), John Henry (b. ca. 1849 NY) and Ida (b. ca. 1855 NY). As noted, all of the Fox children were birthed in The Empire State.
Little is known about Napoleon's childhood, formative or teenaged years other than that he was most likely a "laborer" on his parents' Rossie farm. Additionally, the fact that he had at least a minimal education is indicated by the fact that in later years he could write letters and sign his name.
Although still residing and working on the Fox family farm, on 11/5/61 Napoleon married. His bride was Martha J. Soper (b. 1845 NY 1870 U.S. Census). While it appears that Martha's family also had a farm in the area of Rossie, after marrying the couple settled on the Fox family homestead. It seems, that by this time Simon/Simeon had abandoned farm work, perhaps as earlier noted, because of having become employed in the area’s iron mining industry. As Napoleon operated the family homestead, during the winter of 1861/'62 he was joined by Brother Lafayette who boarded in the home.
Beyond marriage, the next big change in Napoleon's life came during the summer of 1863 when he left his wife and the family farm* (*Note: In later years one individual who reportedly enlisted with Napoleon and was reportedly boarding with the family at the time, would claim that at the time of their enlistments both were employed in the St. Lawrence County iron mines.) to enlist in the U.S. Army. What prompted the decision is not known, but perhaps it was the offering of a $100 enlistment bonus or "bounty", one third of which was paid up front with the balance to be received in two additional increments. In a day and age when the pay for a private soldier was $13 per month, $100 was quite a tidy sum.
Private Fox's new "family" was Company "C" of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery. Initial records of the unit provide this look at Napoleon the physical man: "Age 21; Height 5'9"; Eyes blue; Hair and complexion dark.
Roster records for Company "C" for the latter months of 1863 as well as those for early 1864 show Private Fox as present duty. Medical files for the same period indicate a bout with laryngitis in late December and early January, but nothing else of significance. From May into July, 1864 diarrhea, at times coupled with fever, hospitalized the young private on several short occasions. Then, around mid-July - somewhere between the 15th and the 19th - an incident occurred which would haunt Private Fox for the remainder of his life. And, it didn't involve the gunfire of Johnny Reb.
Union Gen. U.S. Grant considered Petersburg, Virginia the key to the back door of Richmond. Petersburg was a major rail hub for the region. Capture Petersburg and Richmond would fall of its own weight. When Federal troops first reached the Petersburg defenses in June, 1864 General Grant ordered they take the city by storm. The subsequent attacks almost succeeded, but failed. Faced with that fact, General Grant had his forces do what they had done at Vicksburg, MS, dig in, lay siege to the city and wait. As such, by mid-July, Federal troops were not trying to break into Petersburg, but constructing defenses to keep the Confederates from breaking out. This entailed the construction of miles of earthen forts, log breastworks and trenches and it was during this construction period Private Fox was injured. He later described what happened: We were on the Union left. I was with a detachment working at night to build a log breastwork (for a fort). I was part of a group carrying a log on our shoulders when one (or more) the men fell causing the log to bring its entire weight upon me, scraping the skin off of my back and knocking me to the ground injuring my back. Retrieved by comrades, the injured private was carried to medical assistance. That assistance was initially with his regiment, but after a number of days was at the "depot" hospital located at City Point, VA. From there Private Fox was transferred to Mt. Pleasant General Hospital in Washington City where he was diagnosed as suffering from "sprain of spine from fall". He remained in Washington City until returned to duty in mid-October.
Here it should be noted that in the case of Private Fox, returning to duty did not mean he had been healed. On the contrary, his back was still "lame" and painful. Also, around this time he contracted piles (hemorrhoids). He later recalled his "return to duty” this way: “After I left the hospital I rejoined my regiment about the first of November. I was excused from (heavy) fatigue duty, but did picket duty. About the 1st of December I was detailed as picket night and was an orderly during the day. While this was not hard, I was lying on the ground before the enemy. My feet were wet and I was very cold. Within a month I could hardly walk.”
With his activities being limited around the large caliber guns of a heavy artillery unit, on 3/19/65 Private Fox was detailed as a gunner on a mortar battery. This assignment was considered to be light duty, but turned out not to be so. One reason was that with one of the mortar crew killed and two wounded the remaining crew members had to work even harder. Another was that - at some point - Private Fox further injured himself while moving a mortar from earthen Fort Morton to an adjacent hill. All this being said, when mustered out and discharged from the service Napoleon Fox was no longer the healthy specimen of a man he had been when he enlisted and left home............
As best as can be determined, after leaving the service Napoleon returned to Rossie and rejoined his wife who had apparently lived on her parents' farm during his absence. Napoleon and Martha may then have remained on the Soper farm where Napoleon attempted to return to farm life in spite of suffering from back pain, serious piles and rheumatism. During this period it appears he occasionally visited his mother's farm.
In later years - after divorcing - Martha would claim that Napoleon also brought home a sexually transmitted disease (s.t.d.) which, in turn, he transmitted to her. (Note: In later pension depositions/testimony a former comrade of Napoleon, upon hearing of this accusation replied that he doubted the story as Napoleon was "the last person" he would have thought of as contracting such a disease.
Whether or not Napoleon and Martha were impacted by an s.t.d., during the time of their marriage, they produced two children. The first, daughter Mary was born 2/20/70 in Illinois. While she may have survived into adulthood her fate is unknown because available documents are, beyond her birth, silent regarding her. Napoleon and Martha's second child, a son they named John Henry, was born in 1874 also in Illinois. John reportedly did not survive infancy. No details are known about John's passing.
As noted by the state in which the two above children were born, following his return from the military Napoleon and Martha did not long remain long in New York. Indications are that as early as 2/14/66 the two departed New York for Illinois. What prompted the move is not known.
Arriving in Illinois on 2/17/66 Napoleon and Martha settled near Rockwell in Kankakee County. Interestingly, though, the couple's post office address for the next four years would be Kankakee City. In Illinois Napoleon would rent and begin farming on a portion of farm owned by a relative of his wife. While it is not directly documented, there are references to the fact that the Foxs may have also resided and worked upon another farm while in Illinois.
The stay of the Foxs in Illinois lasted until the fall or early winter of 1869 when they again pulled up stakes and moved, this time to Michigan choosing initially to put down roots in or near the Ottawa County community of Polkton (U.S. Census, 1870) and, later, Coopersville, also in Ottawa County. Again, what prompted the interstate and, later intrastate, resettlement is not documented.
The Fox’s, or at least Napoleon, would remain primarily in Michigan until 1890 when he - and those in his family at the time - quit that state and moved westward to the State of Washington. I say "primarily" because available documentation hints at a sometime move back to Rossie, New York. When that may have occurred, however, is not known.
In Michigan Napoleon's deteriorating physical condition spurred by continuing back pain, hemorrhoids and rheumatism strained his ability to earn a living as a farmer either on land of his own or belonging to others. By this time he was walking with a cane and, somewhere along the way decided to seek a new career that being a stationary engineer; one who operates and tends to a steam boiler located either in a building where it powered the heating system, on a ship or in other settings such as a logging camp. In Napoleon's case he reportedly worked in at least two of the three settings those being a brickyard owned and operated by his future “new” father-in-law, H.H. Gray, a steamboat and a logging camp. Even with a change of occupation it was reported that, at times, his sufferings confined him to his house three or four times per month.
If the years of the early 1870s proved painful to Napoleon not only because of his physical sufferings, there were undoubtedly emotional sufferings connected with the afore-mentioned death of his second born child - and first son - John. While it is not known how long the child lived, likely it was not long and, perhaps that trauma helped lead to his third trauma, that of the dissolution of his marriage to Martha.
As previously noted, Martha was not happy with her husband's alleged infidelity while in the service which lead to her contracting an s.t.d. Further complicating the marriage was Napoleon's allegedly "seeing" a woman named Victoria L. Smith; a woman to whom Martha would later alleged to has having a bad reputation. As this situation progressed she later claimed Napoleon promised to "behave", but didn't, so she left him. On 8/24/75 in Grand Haven, Ottawa Co., Michigan the divorce of Napoleon and Martha Fox was granted on the grounds that she had deserted him. Later that same year in Pearson, Montcalm Co., MI Napoleon and Victoria married.
The marriage of Napoleon and Victoria did not last long as sometime during the calendar year 1876, she died. Once again available documentation is murky when it comes to delineating when, where and why she passed away. One hint of where is that it may have been at his mother's home in New York - perhaps now in Somerville/Summerville - so this may have occasioned Napoleon's earlier mentioned return to the state of his birth.
Whatever the circumstances and location of wife Victoria's passing, as the 1870s continued Napoleon remained in Michigan and wed for a third and final time. This wife was Polly (nee Gray b. June, 1851 or '52 Quebec, Canada) Brading. She having been previously married, but granted a divorce from one Noah Brading on 8/14/78. On 9/25 the two married in Spring Lake Michigan. The two had likely met through Polly's father, Mr. H.H. Gray, who at one point owned the brickyard where Napoleon tended steam boiler. Interestingly, Polly's divorce proceedings mention her receiving custody of one child, Clarine Brading. However, no further mention of this child has been found either in subsequent U.S. census data connected with her and Napoleon or in available pension documents pertaining to either he or she.
As for Napoleon and Polly having children, she birthed him three: sons Guy Frederick (b. 3/6/83 MI) and Frank H. (b. 10/11/85 MI) and daughter Jessie (b. 4/4/91 WA).
Only weeks before son Guy was born Napoleon began the paper chase necessary to obtain a U.S. Government disability pension based on the ailments and conditions he traced back to his days of Civil War soldiering. For Napoleon, those issues of prime interest were his lame back and piles. One would think the burden of proof for obtaining such a stipend would be an easy one to attain, but it would take until 10/1/66 for a pension of $4 per month - retroactive to 2/19/83 when the pension chase began, to be granted. Then, someone - it is not clear who - decided that Napoleon's piles had not had their onset during his period with the service, but earlier. Thus began what was to be an excruciatingly grueling period of hearings, depositions and government travel expenses aimed, apparently, at disproving Napoleon's right to even a meager government pension. This exhaustingly expensive process would continue almost until the old soldier's death and result in his archived pension file being bloated with hundreds of handwritten depositional and hearing testimony from everyone from his mother, his first wife Martha, former military comrades, neighbors, relatives and friends. In hindsight the money and effort put into attempting to not place blame for his back pain, hemorrhoids and - added later - rheumatism as well as heart disease on the U.S. Army is incredible. Perhaps never have a man's hemorrhoids been so thoroughly and minutely scrutinized.................In the end, however, the effort and expense was all for naught as Napoleon's initial monthly stipend was, on 7/20/87, upped to the magnificent sum of $8, a rate at which it remained for the remainder of his life. Speaking of the remainder of his life, suffering as he was, Napoleon still had a life to fulfill, albeit one which continued to be filled with depositions and hearings.
Napoleon and Polly remained in Michigan until what appears to have been the very end of the year 1890. This, however, is only an educated guess based on available documentation as most of the U.S. Census conducted that year was later destroyed by fire. Focus of what would be Napoleon's final move was the small, western Washington Snohomish County community of Granite Falls. Motivation for the move to the local may have been Napoleon having one or more of his brothers already residing there as it appears brother John had moved earlier to that locale. As for Napoleon and Polly, upon their arrival in Granite Falls they appear to have entered into an agreement to purchase a 160 acre homestead claim located approximately five miles from the community itself.
With Napoleon unable to perform most, if not all manual labor it is hard to imagine him carving a livable homestead out of the wilderness of Snohomish County, WA. Obviously most - if not all - of the work was done by others including one or both of his sons.
The Granite Falls, U.S. Census for 1900 found the Fox home consisting of Napoleon, Polly and children Guy, Frank and Jessie. Napoleon's occupation was listed as day (more likely day-by-day) laborer. This would be Napoleon's final census.
Napoleon Bonaparte Fox's years of suffering from the physical debilities of his Civil War soldiering - back problems, piles, kidney affection, liver difficulties, rheumatism and heart disease - ended with his death on 6/6/01. At the time of death he was around 59/60 years of age. Burial was in the Granite Falls "American Legion" cemetery. (Note: In 1957 a military headstone was acquired for the grave site.)
After Napoleon's passing Polly remained in Granite Falls where she began the paperwork process needed to try and continue receiving at least a portion of her late husband's $8 per month government disability pension. She had to provide not only for herself, but two of her children who were still under sixteen years of age.
Even after death the U.S. Government tried to deprive his survivors of pensionary benefits by claiming the old soldier's death was not the result of anything connected to Napoleon’s suffering ailments which he traced back to his time of Civil War soldiering. In this vein, a doctor wrote that the death WAS connected to Napoleon's soldiering because it was caused by paralysis of the spinal cord. While it took some time, as of 9/7/04 Polly was pensioned at the monthly rate of $8. While she had earlier dropped the seeking of pension benefits for son Frank, she was awarded an additional $2 per month for daughter Jessie.
Later that same year, 1904, the following information was provided to the government pension office regarding Polly's living situation: "The land owned by her is not under cultivation and has not been for three years past. There is no income from the property. Instead, there is a mortgage against it to pay interest on. The house is not inhabitable and not insured.
Her personal property outside of clothing and bedding consists of a sewing machine costing $45 two years ago and nothing else. She keeps house for her sons and daughter without pay. Obviously Polly was no longer residing in her own home.
1910. Another decade. Another census. Polly was still residing in Granite Falls, but now with her widowed Sister Sarah Spoor (ACW veteran W.H. Spoor buried Granite Falls, WA). Also in the home were Sarah’s two adult (aged 27 and 18) sons and Polly's daughter Jessie. The following year Polly's pension stipend was upped to $12 per month.
The U.S. Census for 1910 is the last in which Polly is documented. It's not that she died, because she didn't. She had nearly three decades of life ahead of her.
From all appearances, in mid-1910 Polly returned to Canada, the country, and Quebec, the province of her birth, arriving in that country at Huntingdon, Quebec in June of that year. In 1921 she was noted as living on Stuart Island in the province of British Columbia with son Guy.
Polly's community whereabouts for the next two decades are not documented. Country wise, however, she was obviously in Canada. As of mid-November, 1942 she requested a transfer of address from Thurlow, British Columbia back to Granite Falls, Washington. Polly was returning to the home of daughter Jessie.
On 5/6/45 Jessie wrote a letter to the pension bureau seeking an increase in her 95/96 year old mother's monthly stipend which, at the time was $40. The increase was requested to keep up with increasing care costs. The response to that request is not in available files.
Polly Fox died August 1, 1949 at the age of 98 years. She was buried beside Napoleon in Granite Falls.
Buried at American Legion
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