G.A.R. Post: John Buford Post #89 Everett, WA
78th ILLINOIS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
Organized: 1862 Quincy, IL
Mustered In: 9/1/62 Quincy, IL
Mustered Out: 6/7/65 Washington, D.C.
2nd ILLINOIS VOLUNTEER CAVALRY
Organized: 1861 Camp Butler, Springfield, IL
Mustered In: 8/12/61 Camp Butler Springfield, IL
Mustered Out: 11/2/65 San Antonio, TX
REGIMENTAL HISTORY: (78th)
*NOTE: The history of the 78th is not being presented herein, the reason being that while Semer enlisted in and spent some time - at least on the paperwork rolls of (as noted by U.S. Government military files) an organization which would subsequently become company "C" of the 78th Illinois Infantry, on his muster date he was rejected for "official" U.S. service by the muster (swearing in) officer. Why is not documented.
REGIMENTAL HISTORY: (2nd)
This three year "western theater" regiment left Springfield, Illinois on 9/15/62 and camped for brief periods at various other locations within the state before reaching Cairo. From there it moved into Mississippi where, during the 11/7 battle of Belmont it assisted with battlefield correspondence. In December of that same year the regiment crossed over the Mississippi River and did considerable scouting after Rebel Jeff Thompson's capture of six men at Bertrand. During this expedition the unit had its first man killed by an enemy bullet.
After Bertrand the regiment became "considerably scattered." Seven companies were stationed at Columbus, KY, "A" and "B" with Union Gen U.S. Grant in TN with whom they participated in the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and at Pittsburg Landing/Shiloh. Meanwhile companies "D" and "L" were at Cairo and "C" at Caledonia. In November, six companies moved to La Grange TN and in December took part in garrisoning Holly Springs, MS which was then attacked by the forces of Confed. Gen. Earl Van Dorn. During this action, beyond suffering killed and wounded, the 2nd had 61 men taken prisoner, lost about 150 horses, plus all camp/garrison equipage including books and records.
About January 1, 1863; the regiment arrived at Memphis, TN and, while there, disbursed a battalion of Confederates. It then took the advance during the Union movement upon Vicksburg, MS during which it had almost daily contact with the enemy.
During the siege of Vicksburg, which ended on 7/3/64 with the capitulation of that city, the regiment again took the advance of Union forces as they moved toward Jackson, MS. Fighting occurred all along the route. August, 1863. The 2nd entered Louisiana, "fighting all the way." While there, six companies re-enlisted and headed home on veteran furlough. This was during February, 1864. The non-veterans then left New Orleans and took the advance during Union Gen. Banks' ill-fated Red River Campaign. During this movement the regiment lost several killed at Mansfield, LA.
In March, 1865 the 2nd started toward Ft. Blakely, Mobile, AL along the way they captured a Confederate train which carried a Rebel paymaster. On 4/1/65 it drove the enemy inside the works of the fort and held them there until arrival of reinforcements.
June, 1865. The war was over. The regiment - this time by steam boat - once again went up the Red River - to Shreveport, LA where, on the 26th, "surplus" commissioned and non-commissioned officers were mustered out. Condensed into six companies the "consolidated" 2nd then functioned until final muster in late November of that year.
Residence: Blandinsville, McDonough Co., IL Age: 20.2 yrs.
Enlisted/Enrolled: 7/22/62 Blandinsville, McDonough Co., IL Rank: None
Mustered In: 9/1/62 Quincy, IL Rejected by Mustering Officer
Mustered Out: Does not apply
Highest Rank: None
Residence: Blandinsville, McDonough Co., IL Age: 22.9 yrs.
Enlisted/Enrolled: 2/16/64 Blandinsville, McDonough Co., IL Rank: Pvt.
Mustered In: 2/16/64 Blandinsville, McDonough Co., IL
Mustered Out: 10/22/65
Highest Rank: Pvt.
NOTE: Most Civil War vets who survived the four years of bloody conflict and were honorably discharged from U.S. Government service ultimately received a disability pension varying from a few dollars a month to “princely" sum of one hundred dollars. The files remaining from these pensions contain a wealth of information pertaining to the veteran’s life moves from the time they left the service until death.
The vast majority of these pension files were ensconced in the U.S. Government Pension Office and are now available through the U.S. National Archives. However, by the late 1920s, with the numbers of surviving Civil War vets dwindling, files for those remaining old soldiers were transferred from the pension office to the recently created Veterans Administration. Over the years, some of those VA files have been misplaced or lost. Such is the case with the files pertaining to Seymour Tift. As such, the biographical profile which follows does not have the luxury of perusing those files for personal/family details. Instead, it is based only on available military service records, U.S. census data, the soldier’s obituary and family anecdotes.
According to his obituary, Semer Benjamin Tift was born April 24, 1842. Another source claims the birth month was not April, but May. Birth years vary, but herein we will accept 1842.
Again, relying on Semer’s obituary his birth locale was Green, Trumbull County, Ohio. Another location mentioned is Ashtabula County, Ohio in or near the community of Colebrook.
Semer's father was David Tift (b. 1819 NY). The U.S. Census for 1850 noted David as being a farmer residing in Colebrook, Ashtabula County, Ohio His wife - Seymour's mother - was Diantha (b. 1821 NY or OH nee Kelly/Kelley) Tift.
According to available information, Semer had six siblings. The names of five are documented: Cyrel (b. 1837 OH), Harriet (b. 1841 OH), Silas (b. 1847 OH), Willie (b. 1855), and Orlo (b. 1859).
The 1860 U.S. Census noted that Semer's father, still residing with his family in Colebrook, Ashtabula County, OH, was employed as a shoemaker. This was the occupation Semer listed as his own when, on July 22, 1862 he, claiming to be a resident of Blandinsville, IL enlisted in Captain Hume's company of the 78th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. At the time his other vital statistics were noted as: 18 years of age; fair complexion; eyes of a hazel hue; hair that was dark in color. All appears to have gone well for potential Private Tift until it came time for the organization to be sworn into Federal service as company "C" of the 78th. At that time the Federal medical officer rejected Semer for government service. No reason for the rejection is noted in available documentation.
While it is not specifically documented, apparently after being rejected by the U.S. Army young Semer returned to Blandinsville and the shoemaking trade as that was his listed occupation when on 2/16/64 he successfully enlisted in company "E" of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry. His vital statistics at that time were noted as follows: 5'4" in height; Blue eyes; Black hair; Fair complexioned. At enlistment and Federal muster he received a $300 bonus or "bounty", $60 of which was paid to him at the time with the balance to come in later increments. One interesting note is that on the same date, but in a different town, younger brother Silas joined the same regiment and company. [Silas is buried in Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery.]
Following correction of a scribner's error which had listed Semer's middle initial as X rather than B, on 4/4/64 Private Tift was sent from the Union rendezvous depot located at Camp Butler, Springfield, IL to his company and regiment at Baton Rouge, LA. Military service records for the remainder of the year note him as being present for duty, with additional remarks that he was owed an additional $40 of his enlistment bounty and that on 6/25/64 both he and his brother Silas transferred from company "E" into company "H".
1865. The opening months of the waning days of the War found Private Tift present for duty, but with two cents of his pay docked because of his loss of a tampion tool. (A tampion is a cone shaped hardwood hand tool that can be forced into a lead pipe to increase its diameter.)
In June of ‘65, with four years of bloody civil war ended, Private Tift was inter-regimentally transferred once again, this time from company "H" to new company "F". Likely this transfer was due to downsizing and "consolidation" of no longer needed field regiments. Between that time and his being mustered out of the service, his only file notation was that between 7/16 and 7/20 he was hospitalized at Sedgewick U.S. A. General Hospital in Greenville, LA. Details of that hospitalization are not available. To successfully be separated from the U.S. Army our private had to pay the two cents for the lost piece of equipment.....................
Leaving the military Semer returned to the Blandinsville area of Illinois where, not long thereafter, he married to Lucille “Lucy” Baily. Circa 1868 Lucy bore Semer's first child, a son they named Ross. The U.S. Census of 1870 found Semer, Lucy and Ross in Blandinsville Township, Hire, McDonough Co., Illinois where Semer was engaged in farming. While available documentation is unclear on the matter, a second son, Willie, may have been birthed by Lucy
The fates of Lucy and Ross are not known. As for Willie, strangely enough, in 1880 he was noted as being orphaned and residing in McDonough County, IL.
As best as can be determined, by 1877 Semer had quitted Illinois for Nebraska. He had also remarried to a woman identified as Martha A. Stowe. Martha would bear him two daughters: Anna D. (b. 1876/ ’77 or ’78) And Alberta (b. 6/20/81 or ’82).
1880. Another census. Semer was farming in an area of York County, Nebraska known either as “Range 4” or “Town 12”. His father David and brother Silas were in nearby Seward, Seward County.
Semer and family next surface in 1885 in Arborville Township of York Co., Nebraska. Whether that entailed a move or merely the renaming of “Range 4” or “Town 12” is not known.
As of 1889 Semer was still in Nebraska. If he was there during the following year's census is not known because his whereabouts cannot be documented as most of that census was destroyed by fire. By that year, however, brother Silas was in Washington Territory/State. Turning again to Semer’s obituary, on some undocumented date – likely after his brother’s move to the Puget Sound region – Semer travelled to the Pacific Northwest from his Nebraska community of residence then noted as Silver Creek to “look around.” He then returned to Silver Creek where he plied his trade as a cobbler/harness maker for a time before moving to Everett, Snohomish County, Washington. It appears he made the westerly trek on his own, so once again, the fate of one of his wives – Martha A. - is not known.
As best as can be determined, Semer’s westward move occurred prior to mid-1895 as on June 2nd of that year, in Everett. Washington, he married for a third time. His new bride was the previously wed Martha Georgiana (nee Charlton b. 1852 OH or England) Van Gordon/Van Gorden. This new “Martha” brought a daughter, Myrtle A. (b. June, 1883 NB) into the marriage household. Had Semer known Martha G. and her daughter while in Nebraska? Likely we will never know.
1900. A new century, a new decade and a new census. That tally found Semer – a saloon proprietor – with wife Martha G. and step daughter Myrtle, in Everett. Semer would live out his remaining years in Everett. Although 58 years of age, he still had many of those years ahead of him.
In the 1910 census Semer still living in Everett, but then employed as a janitor in a local bank. Noted as having been married three times, interestingly he claimed he had "no" children. The only other person named within his household was one Mary Quanstrom (age 52 married once, 4 children, 2 living b. Sweden) noted as a "housekeeper." What had happened to Martha G. and her daughter is not known.
Approximately one year later, in 1911, Semer married a fourth time. His new wife was Mary A. Murphy (b. 1853/’54 Canada).
With the passage of another ten years the census of 1920 indicated that, at the age of 86 years, Semer had "no occupation." Under his roof was Mary A. She was still with him at the time of the 1930 census. At that time 87 year old Semer was noted as being a "retired farmer." Mary died on 8/29/32.
At some point between the time of Mary's death and his own passing on 3/1/45 Semer married a fifth and final time. His last bride was one Addie Belle Kelly (b. 1868/1869 WI). She died on 2/25/44. Semer may have outlived all of his five wives.
After several months of failing health Semer Benjamin Tift died on 3/1/45. Death came to him peaceably in his sleep at home located at 3172 Norton Avenue in Everett. He was 102.11 years of age.
Semer’s obituary was published the following day in the Everett Daily Herald. It was headlined “COUNTY’S LAST CIVIL WAR VET DIED AGE 102” and read, in part as follows: “Everett and Snohomish County lost their last veteran of the Civil War and John Buford Post No. 89, G.A.R. lost its last member Thursday morning when commander Tift died…..He joined Buford in 1898 having come west three years previously. He joined the post by transfer from Smith Grant Post No. 229 of Kearney, NB…..(Mr. Tift) took pride in being one of Everett’s oldest home owners and the oldest in the nation having owned his home wherever he resided since mustering out of the Union Army in ’65. Mr. Tift was active in G.A.R. affairs ever since joining John Buford post. He was post commander in 1916 and the Department Of Washington commander in 1942 and ’43. At the time of his death he was department senior vice commander. He also was an honorary member of John Wannedo Camp United Spanish War Veterans and a life member of Everett Elks’ lodge. Surviving the veteran are two daughters Alberta Frethen of Seattle and Anna Le Latham, who has been making her home with her father; five grandchildren, ten great grandchildren….and one great, great grandchild……Burial with be in the family plot in Cypress Lawn cemetery with a firing squad from Pain(e) field participating.”
As noted above, internment was at Everett’s Cypress Lawn cemetery instead of that city’s older, historic Evergreen Cemetery which is the final resting place of his brother Silas and some one hundred fifty other Civil War veterans. Cypress Lawn is located just south of Evergreen. As far as is known, Semer is the only Civil War veteran buried within those grounds.
Buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park
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