Age: 16, credited to Poultney, VTVITALS
Birth: 07/15/1847, Keeseville, NYADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: Bonville, JosephDESCENDANTS
St. Marys Cemetery, Fair Haven, VT
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and other veterans who may be buried there.
William (alias Joseph) Bonville
(Courtesy of William Bonville)
William Bonville served in Civil War, first with 2nd NY Veteran Cavalry known as the Empire Light Cavalry, Co. I, in 1863, then in 1864 with 7th Vermont Infantry, Co. C, enlisting under the name, Joseph Bonville.
His obituary in the Rutland Herald, 14 May 1912, said he enlisted at 15, which would have made his birth year 1848. His Civil War Veteran's tombstone in St. Mary's Cemetery, Fair Haven, gives his birth date as 15 June 1847. More likely he was 16 at enlistment.
In his maturity, Bonville was a great story teller. His son related that people used to come and gather on his porch or in the local park just to hear him spin tales. Ed Bonville, a son of William's brother Adolphus, when he was old and retired, opined that William was no doubt one of the biggest liars there ever was, but he could tell a good story for sure, and had listened to him many times.
One story William used to tell was about escaping on foot through the swamps from the Rebs, with alligators and water moccasins all around, etc. Both Ed and William's son told about hearing that story. Also both told of a humorous story about how William was out foraging and stole a chicken from some darky's hen house.
William, age 16, living in Keeseville, NY, enlisted September 9, 1863 with the NY 2nd Veteran Cavalry. He was first assigned to recruiting for Company I from the temporary headquarters at Saratoga Springs, NY. The regiment was formed around veteran cavalrymen signing up for another hitch, but filled out with raw recruits like William.
When Company I was mustered, William was not present, and so was said to have "deserted on the day of muster." A month thereafter he was shipped to his unit, fined $5 and returned to duty with Company I in Washington, DC. The regiment in February 1864, was shipped to New Orleans to join the Fifth Brigade, Cavalry Division, 19th Army Corps, Department of the Gulf.
From March 10 - May 22 the 19th Corps engaged in what is called the Red River Campaign. After a fairly uneventful advance on Alexandria over a couple of weeks to March 27, suddenly there were Rebels everywhere as the yanks turned further west. There was constant skirmishing and a series of almost continuous fights. From that point on the campaign became hard fought, ending in a general retreat by the Union forces back to Alexandria after the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9. That was a Pyrrhic victory for the yanks, whose general decided it was time to head back to Alexandria after losing more than 4000 men in two days of fighting.
William, however, allegedly was not present at muster on April 2, 1864, and the records say he deserted at Alexandria on April 2, no matter that his unit was nowhere near Alexandria at the time. His actual status is unclear. The actions at Monett's Ferry, Cloutiersville, and Natchitoches between March 29 and 31, left his unit in disarray, and probably that experience was the origin of William's story about escaping from the Rebs on foot through the swamps. But what exactly happened to him at that point is a mystery. Sometime during the retreat to Alexandria, William appears to have been separated from his troop in the melee, chased on foot through the Louisiana swamps, and managed to get back to his unit at Alexandria much later, where he learned he had been charged with desertion.
Given his previous "desertion," one suspects that William decided he had no way of proving he had not deserted the second time in battle, and besides had had enough of being chased by Rebs. So he hauled tail for home. It would be a wonderful story to tell how he actually made it to Vermont from Louisiana right in the middle of the war. No doubt, being just 16 and decked out in civvies, he passed for just another kid at loose ends in a war-torn land.
We learn from the affidavit of Joseph Clark, given in April 1887, that in 1864 when William "came to Fair Haven, VT….(he) boarded with me until he enlisted in January AD 1865." Joseph Clark was his brother in law, husband of Lucienne Bonville Clark. The decision to join the 7th Vermont no doubt related to the fact that William's older brother Adolphus had been a founding member of that regiment.
William, working as a farmer in Poultney, enlisted (as Joseph Bonville) for two years on January 9, 1865, in Company C (Adolphus' unit) of the Vermont 7th Infantry. (His enlistment paper is signed with his "X".) With other recruits, he was shipped to the Gulf, probably arriving in New Orleans in mid-February 1865, just in time to embark on one of the war's final campaigns. While stationed at Annunciation Square, New Orleans, the Seventh Regiment was principally employed in guard duty.
Adolphus, then a sergeant, recounts that "In February AD 1865, in connection with a large number of other recruits….I was assigned to the duty of drilling said recruits and acted as such drill master until the regiment started for Mobile City." On the 19th of February the regiment was ordered to Mobile Point, to take part in the operations against Mobile. The regiment on the 17th of March began a march to flank the defenses of Mobile on the western shore and operate against those on the eastern shore. This march, which was one of almost unparalleled difficulties in the way of mud, rain and exposure, continued until the 23d, when the regiment went into camp on the north fork of Fish River.
It was during this terrible ordeal that Adolphus' health broke down and William was credited by Adolphus with carrying the packs and materials of both men through the rain and mud that, the records say, mired down animals, wagons and men. Given that they were issued rations and supplies for ten days, along with shelter halves, arms, etc., the burden on each man was no doubt ponderous. William surely was extremely fit at the time, and not worn down as were many of the others. Adolphus related in his affidavit for William's pension, "During the march to Mobile City he (William) would take my knapsack and carry it --- in addition to his own --- when I was so fatigued that I could not carry it." The tremendous hardships of that march from Mobile Point to Spanish Fort are described in "Mobile, 1865; Last Stand of The Confederacy," Chapter 3.) There we also find that at the siege of Spanish Fort, "every day the Seventh was engaged in dangerous picket duty, labor in the trenches or repelling sorties by the enemy. After thirteen days of active operations the fort was abandoned and the works occupied by the Union forces on the 8th of April. An historian of the 7th remarked: For thirteen days and nights in succession there had not been a moment that the Seventh was not exposed to either musketry or artillery fire, or both."
Although Lee had surrendered at the time of the siege of Spanish Fort, the war was still a month more winding down in Alabama. The regiment drove north into Alabama until May 9, 1865, when the rebels finally surrendered. During May and June the regiment was at McIntosh Bluffs, AL, engaged in building a fort (which Adolphus related later that they never completed). The unit was then shipped to Texas, first to Brazos, then to Clarksville and to Brownsville on August 2, where it remained as part of "the Army of Observation." The mission was both to watch for possible activities by rebels who had fled across the Rio Grande, and also to be a force in readiness to "observe and wait development of operations of Maximilian and his French allies, then in Mexico."
With the war wound down, Texas evidently did not agree with William. He was medically unfit for duty the last couple of months of his service (September and October), and was discharged with a medical disability (something wrong with his heart) on October 28, 1865 in Brownsville, after which he returned to his hometown, Keeseville, NY.
William joined his brothers Adolphus and Theophilus in Fair Haven, VT during the 1870s to find work in a slate mill. In October 1877 he married Anna Dupont and they made their home on the corner of Grape and West Streets.
William/Joseph Bonville filed pension application 269732, 28 Feb 1879. He was granted at $12 per month for "disease of heart and lungs."
We learn from the affidavit of a man named Stephen Belflower, given in support of William's pension application, that prior to enlisting they had known each other for years and worked together at an iron works. Belflower said, "I knew him to be at the time he enlisted as a strong, sound, tough, healthy fellow, one who could do his full share of work. Never knew him to be sick prior to his going into the army. If he had had heart disease, I think I should have known it. Never heard him complain of his heart or any other trouble until he came home from the army. At the time he enlisted he was doing heavy work handling nails in kegs and other articles of iron manufactured in said works."
Thomas Clodgo (Gladu), who said he lived next door to the Bonville family in Keeseville, said in his statement that William was "tough, rugged and well," and "played ball and was accomplished in sports generally."
William lived into his 60s and died of tuberculosis 12 May, 1912.
Source: Contributed by William Bonville, Grant's Pass, OR, William's grandson, from family information.
From the Rutland Daily Herald, May 13, 1912
Fair Haven - William Bonville died at his home on West street at 2:30 o'clock Sunday afternoon after a two years illness. He was 66 years old and is survived by his wife and three daughters, Mrs. Robert Williams of Rutland, Mrs. Michael Minogue and Miss Leona Bonville of this place, and two sons, Charles of Hudson Falls, N.Y., and William of Plattsburgh, N.Y., and two sisters, Sarah and Delia of Keeseville and two brothers, Adolphus and Edward, both of Fair Haven. He was a veteran of the Civil war and a member of Post Bosworth, No. 53, G.A.R.
Courtesy of Jennifer Snoots.