1st WISCONSIN VOLUNTEER CAVALRY
Organized: Summer/Fall, 1861 Ripon and Kenosha, WI
Mustered In: 3/8/62 Kenosha, WI
Mustered Out: 7/19/65 Nashville, TN
After muster, the 1st Wisconsin, a three-year regiment, left the state for equipping. Units were subsequently detached for scout and railroad guard duty throughout Missouri and Arkansas. The next three years found the 1st involved in numerous firefights and pitched battles all across the war’s western theater.
On 5/6/65 a detachment of the regiment set out to search for fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The advanced guard, coming upon armed men who ordered them to halt, opened fire. Firing became general until a captured prisoner stated that the supposed “enemy” were Michigan troops sent to surround the Confederate camp holding Davis. Although Davis was not captured until after the Union units ceased firing upon one another, many of the 1st always believed they were entitled “to at least equal credit for the capture.”
Numbers for the 1st were as follows: Original strength, 1124. Gain by recruits, 1056; substitutes, 83; draft, 278; veteran reenlistments, 61; total, 2602. Loss by death, 366; desertion, 91; transfer, 67; discharge 634; mustered out 1444.
Residence: Summit, (or Oconomowoc) WI Age: 38 yrs.
Enlisted: 9/18/61 Ripon, WI Rank: Pvt.
Mustered Out: 10/31/64 Calhoun, GA
Highest Rank: Pvt.
NOTE: The original birth – to – death biographical profile of James Russell was created during the early years of the Civil War Veterans Buried In Washington State project. As a result it was limited in both size and availability of research resources.
The biography which follows was written in May, 2019. Although it contains many more details than its predecessor, it still lacks the depth of more recent additions to this website which draw heavily upon veteran-related military, pension and other documents housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
James Hendry Russell was born 5/6/43 in North Ferrisburgh Addison Co., Vermont. His parents were Andrew (b. 9/1/08 Wigtown, Scotland) and Helen Keir (nee Hendry b. 9/1/10 Morayshire, Scotland).
Andrew Russell emigrated from Scotland to Ontario, Canada in 1832. On 12/19/34 in Montreal Quebec, Canada he marred Helen Hendry.
By 1841 Andrew and Helen had departed Canada and moved to America. In the U.S. the Russells produced six children. They were Helen (b. 9/3/41 Addison Co., VT), James Hendry (b. 5/6/43 Addison Co., VT), Elizabeth (b. 10/29/44 Addison Co., VT), Caroline Philena (b. 7/21/49 Jefferson Co., WI) and Evangeline (b. 11/5/1853 Jefferson Co. WI).
As noted by the birth states of the children between 1843 and ’44 the Russells quitted Vermont in favor of Wisconsin. At the time of the 1860 U.S. Census they were residing in or near Concord in Jefferson Co., Although the census data does not reflect the fact, likely the Andrew Russell family was a farm family.
In September, 1861 James enlisted in the U.S. Army. At that time the 5’8 ½ “ Wisconsin farmer was far beyond the average age (27.5 years) of a typical Civil War soldier.
We a have little insight into Private Russell’s wartime service history. The only available documental notations are as follows: 10/13/62 Det. At Cape Girardeau, Mo; 4/6/63 bronchitis acute, 4/10/63 sick in hospital at Cape Girardeau since April 5; 4/21/63 returned to duty, 12/31/63 det. at Knoxville, TN.
After wartime service James returned to Wisconsin> There, on 5/6/66 he married Marion Elizabeth McKeana (b. 1/26/49 Pewaukee Waukesha Co. WI).
Jams and Marion would produce fourteen children. Ten would survive to adulthood. The children were Marion Etta (b. 3/7/68 Jefferson Co., WI), James Andrew (b. 10/30/69 Waukesha Co., WI), Helen Catharine (Jefferson Co., WI 4/5/71-3/16/82), George Edward (7/13/73-8/23/73), Eveline Elizabeth (7/7/74), Frank Archer (b. 4/11/76 Jefferson Co., WI), Caroline Philena (b. 4/2/78), David Wegg (b. 2/21/80-10/14/87), Robert Roy (3/26/83-2/11/88), Chas Hendry (11/18/81), Duncan Harry/Harry Duncan (b. 5/28/84 Jefferson Co., WI), Libby Mary (7/13/85), Roy Wegg (3/26/87) and William “Willie” Arnold b. (5/4/90).
As noted by the birth and death places of the Russell children, in Wisconsin the Russells resided in at least three counties. One was Jefferson Co. Another was Waukesha Co while the third was Clark
By 1890 the Russells had departed Wisconsin and moved to Iowa. In Iowa they first settled Ayreshire (Co), but by 1900 their community of residence was Palo Alto located in Silver Lake Co. In the latter location it appears James and Marion lived in the home of married son Frank and family.
As of 1907 James and Marion were residing in Snohomish, Snohomish Co. WA. Exactly what had drawn them to the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest is not documented, however it may have been the availability of new farm land as in 1910 James noted his occupation as being “farmer.” Also, not known is exactly when they arrived here.
In 1920 James and Marion were still in Snohomish, WA. At that time they were living with married daughter Libbie and her family. Interestingly, in 1920 James’ occupation was managing the Grand Army Of The Republic (G.A.R.) Cemetery in that town.
Marion Russell died 11/17/25. Her passing was not in Washington, but in rural Canyon Co., ID near Nampa. Although it is not documented she was likely living with another of her married children. She was buried not in Idaho, but in the Snohomish, WA G.A.R. Cemetery.
James died on 1/27/27. He, too, died in Canyon Co., ID. At 83.8 years of age the cause his passing was “old age and complications.” He had been “sick” most of the three years prior to his death. He had no “personal property.” His remains were transported to Snohomish, WA where they were buried beside Marion.
Sometime, post – war, James had applied for and been granted a U.S. Government disability pension based on illnesses or ailments which traced back to his days of Civil War soldiering. His last $65 monthly pension check arrived seven days after his passing so it was returned to the government. Two of his daughters, however, later petitioned the U.S. government for reimbursement of $61.50 expended on grave and burial costs. It is not known if the payment was granted.
Buried at Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Snohomish
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