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Capen, Nathan Sidney


Age: 22, credited to Goshen, VT
Unit(s): 11th VT INF, 14th VT INF
Service: enl 9/16/62, m/i 10/21/62, SGT, Co. I, 14th VT INF, m/o 7/30/63; enl 8/3/64, m/i 8/3/64, Pvt, Co. B, 11th VT INF, m/o 6/24/65

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 05/27/1840, Goshen, VT
Death: 02/04/1908

Burial: Pine Hill Cemetery, Brandon, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Joe Schenkman
Findagrave Memorial #: 39110950


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, 9/5/1889, VT; widow Maria A., 2/21/1908, VT
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None

Webmaster's Note: The 11th Vermont Infantry was also known as the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery; the names were used interchangably for most of its career


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Copyright notice


Pine Hill Cemetery, Brandon, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.


Nathan Sidney Capen, son of Nathan Capen, Jr. and Rebecca Hooker, was born on May 27, 1840 in Goshen, Addison County, Vermont.[1] In 1850 and 1860, he was living at home with his parents in Goshen.[2]

On reaching manhood, Nathan was 5 feet, 6 inches, with a light complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. In the early 1860s, Nathan may have taken up photography, but shortly thereafter at age 22, he entered the Civil War. Nathan served two enlistments in the Civil War. His first tour was as Sergeant in Company "I," 14th Vermont Volunteer Infantry from September 8, 1862 to July 30, 1863 (10 months and 22 days). A year later, he reenlisted and served as a Private in Company "B," 1st Vermont Volunteer Heavy Artillery from August 3, 1864 to June 24, 1865 (10 months and 21 days).

When Nathan enlisted the second time in August 1864, he went directly to Rutland, Vermont where he served under Captain Crain's Detached Services. He remained there in that department until the quota for Vermont on the call of 1864 was filled. Then Nathan went to New Haven, Connecticut, the general rendezvous for the New England States. He and his comrade, Henry C. Powers, reached there the last of December 1864. They were detailed in the same branch of service "to see to the uniforming the men that was mustered in to the services and taking them from the Provo marshals office up to camp, distance of about 2 miles."

They left New Haven in January 1865 to join their regiment, the 1st Vermont Volunteers, Heavy Artillery.

Philo S. Severance, a member of Company "B" of the 11th Regiment of Vermont Volunteers, recalled that when Nathan joined the company in February 1865 at Patrick's Station, Virginia, he was a sound able man for any thing that I knew to the contrary.

When Nathan and Henry they got to their regiment, they had to provide themselves with timber or planks for a stockade for their tents. The timber consisted of planks 13 feet long, from one foot to a foot and a half wide, two inches thick. While gathering the planks, Henry first heard Nathan complain of being indisposed. The planks were split out of pine logs that they fell in the forest some half a mile from their camp. They carried the planks to camp by putting a strap over their shoulders and fastening each end of the straps to the planks. Henry Powers recalled: It was work suficent in magnitude for mules. While doing this work and afterwards, Capen complained of feeling a pain in his limbs and in regions of his heart. In April 1865 when they were on the march after General Lee, Nathan quite often would be quite a distance in the rear when the regiment was halted and camped for the night. When Nathan would finally arrive, Henry would ask him why he was late. Nathan's response was: I am lazy I guess I was faint and tierd.

After the surrender of General Lee, the regiment was marched to Burk Station, Virginia and went into camp. There, Henry Powers came down with acute rheumatism. In a few days the corps was ordered to Danville, Virginia. Henry was sent to the 6th Corps Hospital, at City Point, Virginia, and then to Harewood Hospital at Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, Nathan, still not feeling well, stayed with Company "B." When the regiment moved from Danville, Virginia to Manchester, Virginia, on or about May 18 to 20, 1865, Nathan was so ill, "suffering from incipient fever," that Joseph L. Harrington, assistant surgeon of the 1st Heavy Artillery, 11th Vermont Volunteers recognized that he needed help. Harrington recalled: I took him in to the car occupied by the officers of said Regt. That when we reached Manchester, VA., I sent him to Div. Hospital. The division hospital was composed of tents. In a severe thunderstorm on May 21, 1865 while in the hospital, some of the hospital tents were blown down. Nathan recalled that:

The tent where I had been placed by Surg. J.L. Harrington blew down in a very hard wind, and I was wet through to the skin and caught a severe cold for which I never fully recovered, but have suffered continuously for the said rheumatism and disease of heart since that date, May 1865. I did not know that I was afflicted with the said heart disease until the latter part of May 1865, when the command was near Washington, DC. I felt a very suffocating feeling, and a trouble in my breathing upon the least exertion. I grew worse instead of better and I was excused by the Surgeon from attending either the review of the 6th Corps, or the Grand Review on account of the above disabilities.

Nathan was treated only in the field hospital of the Second Division, Sixth Army Corps.

Nathan A. Monger of Orwell, Vermont was in the same company as Nathan Capen and was with him up until their discharge. Monger was present when Capen rejoined the company from the field hospital in June 1865. Monger recalled:

that after he joined the regiment, he had a fainting spell after an exercise around the camp and had to be cared for by his comrades. After the fainting spell and loss of breath, he was always behind on the march of the regiment, and he often had these fainting spells and loss of breath.

Joseph L. Harrington, the assistant surgeon of the 1st Heavy Artillery, 11th Vermont Volunteers was still with Nathan and the regiment at Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia near Washington D.C. when it was preparing to discharge its soldiers. Harrington recalled that Nathan: was ill at time of his discharge on or about June 24, 1865. I do not remember the character of his disease. We had very few articles of medicine at that time to treat disease.

Ambrose Ladam from Brandon, Vermont was also a comrade of Nathan Capen at discharge. He recalled that: We came home together, and he was sick when he was mustered out of the service.[3]

As a result of his Civil War participation, Nathan contracted rheumatism and resulting heart disease.[4]

Nathan returned to Vermont immediately after his discharge and settled in Brandon. Leslie A. Severy was a 15 year old lad when Nathan returned:

I first became acquainted with N.S. Capen in the latter part of the Summer of 1865 and in the fall of 65 he was engaged to teach a Winters term of School in Dist. No. 15 Brandon, Vt. where I a boy of fifteen years of age then resided. I being one of his pupils was with him every day. I soon found that Capen was troubled with labored breathing. He could walk fast but a short distance without stoping for breath. In those days it was customary in some districts for the teacher to board around as it was called so Capen boardered at our house part of the winter and upon further acquaintance with him I found that any little excitement would make his heart beat very fast. During this term of school in the month of January a boy by the name of Andrew Rando broke his leg while on the play ground which excited the scholars and also the teacher. Capen would have fainted had not preventatives been used.

In the Spring of 1866 Nathan found employment at Newton & Thompson Manufacturing Company in Forestdale, a village in the eastern part of Brandon, but was unable to hold his position as the work was too heavy for him. Later in 1866, he went to work with James Cady, a photographer in Brandon. He was with Mr. Cady until October or November 1867, when he set up his own photograph gallery in Brandon. Nathan employed his sister, Ida, as an assistant.[5]

Despite his ailments, Nathan, now 29, met and married 18 year old Maria A. Severy on September 29, 1869 in Brandon.[6] Maria was born in Chittenden, Rutland County, Vermont on August 26, 1851, the daughter of William W. Severy and Elizabeth Wetmore.[7]

Two months after his marriage, Nathan, on 5 Nov 1869 entered into a formal lease with Sylvester F. Paige of Rutland for a photographic gallery that Nathan occupied in a brick building in Brandon. Paige owned the building on the north side of Park Street. Nathan occupied the second floor which contained six rooms, including a picture gallery and dwelling.[8]

In 1870, Nathan, 30, and Maria, 19, were living in Brandon where Nathan was still employed as a photographer with assets valued at $1,000. Also living with them was Nathan's 21 year old sister, Ida E.[9] As a photographer, Nathan managed the California and New England Stereoscopic Company.[10] Ida worked with Nathan as a photographic assistant until the winter of 1872. During this time he frequently had sick days. Some days he was unable to sit up. The exertion of getting up as he termed it: Puts me all out of breath.

From the winter of 1872 to the spring of 1876 Ida had left Brandon, but saw Nathan every few weeks. His aliments instead of diminishing seemed on the increase. In May 1876, Ida again moved to Brandon and occupied a part of the house in which Capen lived. At that time, her brother was employed as a clerk in Dr. C.S. Boyington's drug store, a position that he secured in the early spring of 1876. Nathan later lamented that: I tried to make a living from the practice of Photography, but I was not able even to do that.

C. Smith Boynton was a graduate of the Medical Department of Bowdoin College, class of 1864. He practiced medicine in New Hampshire from time of graduation until June 1875, when he moved to Brandon and went into the drug business. Soon after taking up his residence in Brandon, Boynton became acquainted with Nathan Capen and in the early Spring of 1876 employed him as clerk in his store. During this time Nathan was subject to attacks of rheumatism, sometimes so severe as to require absence from duty, or an avoidance of voluntary movements, as much as possible. These attacks were frequent, three or four each year, and during his employment at the store he had two attacks of vertigo, stupor, etc., which appeared to be due to obstruction to the heart's action.

Dr. Charles Backus of Forestdale was Nathan's family physician before he left for war. He was the first to treat Nathan after the war. Backus treated Nathan for three or four years. It was Dr. Backus who first told Nathan that the difficult breathing that he had been troubled with ever since about May 1865 was heart disease, and that is was the result of rheumatism contracted in the service and in line of duty. Dr. Backus died in Brandon on May 11, 1876. He only treated Nathan for three or four years. Then Nathan moved to Brandon Village and Dr. O. G. Dyer became his physician.

Henry Powers, Nathan's comrade from his second enlistment in Virginia, had settled in Ripton, Vermont after the war and practiced medicine. In the years 1876 and 1877, Henry bought many of his drugs from Dr. Boynton and quite often saw Nathan. Henry observed that:

I found him suffering more or less from what appeared to me as heart disease demonstrated by shortening of breath, coming on suddenly one time while I was trading at Dr. Boynton's Drug Store. I think it was in the summer of 1877 that Capen was suddenly absent and on enquiry Dr. Boynton informed me that he had one of his heart attacks. [11]

Nathan, his wife, Maria, and six year old son, Lee, lived on Carver Street in Brandon in 1880. Nathan was still employed as a druggist. Residing with them was Anna Grimes, 17, who was a servant and a seamstress who had emigrated from Ireland.[12] The following year, Nathan was the sole proprietor of Carrotine, the Gilt Edge Butter Color and Maria was a dressmaker with a shop on Seminary Hill in Brandon.[13]

Nathan remained with Boynton in the drug business until September 1884, when Boynton relocated to Burlington, Vermont. After the drug business closed, Nathan may have been a salesman for a while.

In the autumn of 1889, Nathan had a severe attack of grip, was very sick and was succeeded by a severe cough. During the continuance of the cough, he incurred a hernia. On September 5, 1889, Nathan filed a declaration for pension under the general law, for rheumatism and heart disease. The claim was approved for rheumatism. However, the claim for heart disease was rejected on the ground that "a ratable degree of disability was not shown from said alleged cause since date of filing."

After filing his original claim, Nathan persisted to try and get recognition for his heart disease. He was examined nine times by boards of surgeons. The first certification from the surgeons' board came on February 5, 1890. The board stated that it failed to find any symptoms of rheumatism, but did note that: "His heart was said to have been somewhat enlarged, and there was a murmur with the first sound. His weight was 209 pounds."[14]

The seriousness of Nathan's ailments may have abated somewhat in 1890. During that year, he was healthy enough to be Brandon's Federal Census Taker.[15]

Nathan was next examined, August 12, 1891, and the board certified "the man is quite fleshy and the sounds of the heart are not distinct as they otherwise might be, but are regular in rhythm and no intermissions. We are unable to find any ratable heart lesions in the case."

Another examination, made December 23, 1891, failed to disclose any organic disease of the heart. His weight during this examination was 215 pounds.

The next examination was made October 12, 1892, when the board certified that the heart's apex impulse could not be felt; that there were no murmurs, but action was weak and "heart fatty." There was no evidence of rheumatism found.

Nathan field a claim for a pension increase, June 19, 1897, in which he asked that a pension be allowed for heart disease from the date of original declaration. When this claim for increase was acted upon the claim for pension on account of heart disease was not reopened, but the rate was increased for rheumatism. Hypertrophy and dilatation of the heart were found when he was next examined, March 16, 1898. There were no murmurs.

About June 20, 1899, Nathan was stricken with paralysis. He lost "his mind power of speech and use of limbs and for a long time (a number of weeks) was not expected to live." For weeks, his attending physician, Dr. O.G. Dyer considered his chances of recovery not at all certain. Dr. Dyer had been his family physician since about 1875. Nathan was unable to converse with anyone, or feed himself. He often would make the effort to get up, and as often would fall to the floor unless rescued by his attendant. After a time his mind cleared, and his powers of locomotion improved, enabling him to walk.

Dr. O.C. Baker of Brandon, examined Nathan along with Dr. Dyer. Baker stated:

In June 1899 I saw him a few times with his attending physician and found him suffering from cerebral embolism due to a vegetation breaking loose from his endocardium and entering a blood vessel in the brain causing loss of speech and loss of sensation and motion of right arm and right leg. He has regained the sense of motion and sensation to a good degree and improved very much in speech but still suffers from aphasia. He is wholly incapacitated from doing either manual or mental labor and in my opinion will always remain so.

Nathan was examined again on July 27, 1899. One physician from the board of surgeons examined Nathan at his residence. He found a mitral murmur and stated he did "not find sufficient history of rheumatism to warrant saying that it is the cause of heart disease, but that it is due to fatty condition." Undaunted, Nathan filed his second declaration for increase, April 11, 1900, and realleged heart disease, but again reopening was denied. The rate, however, for rheumatism, was increased to $8 per month. On the same date, Nathan filed another claim for pension. This claim was under the Act of June 27, 1890 which broadened the scope for pensions for Civil War veterans.

On 17 Oct 1900, Nathan received the results of another recent examination that failed to reveal that he had "valvular disease of heart."[16] That year, Nathan, Maria, and their 26 year old son, Nathan L. were still living in Brandon. Boarding with them were Kate P. Bresee, 37, and Mary E. Bresee, 22.[17]

On April 3, 1902, Nathan filed a third declaration in which he asked for a reconsideration of his claim for pension on account of heart disease, reiterating that it was contracted during his military service. The bureau finally rejected this claim on the ground of no record or medical evidence of treatment in service, or at discharge; and that he failed to satisfactorily establish that origin in the service or continuance since discharge. Nathan appealed to the Secretary of Interior on April 7, 1902 for a reconsideration of his claim:

for the reason that by the rejection of his said claim under the Act of July 14, 1862 he has been unjustly treated. That he has been a continual sufferer with "disease of heart" ever since the winter and spring of 1865, and he feels confident that a re-consideration of his allegations and all supporting evidence will be means of his receiving the full justice to which he believes himself entitled.

A week later, on April 14, 1902, he also entered an appeal regarding his rejections, through an attorney. He again contended that he had been unjustly treated:

that he has been a continuous sufferer with "Disease of heart" ever since the winter and spring of 1865, and he feels confident that a reconsideration of his allegations, and all supporting evidence, will be the means of his receiving full justice to which he believes himself entitled.

More examinations followed. Certificates of examination dated October 15, 1902, and November 5, 1902, failed to describe a valvular heart disease. The ultimate conclusion was that "rheumatism did not cause the disease of the heart, and inasmuch the particular lesion is clearly a fatty degeneration, same could have nothing to do with rheumatism."

Dr. Dyer observed in early 1902 that Nathan would think of something he wished to say, and commence a sentence when the idea would forsake him. When trying to recall the thought, but failing, Nathan would exclaim: I don't know!! In 1902, his rheumatic condition was still prevalent and his breathing labored. When he exercised, his feet and hands would swell. He was a "pronounced invalid."

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior in a decision sent to Nathan in a September 30, 1903 letter, stated: "The facts in the case do not warrant the conclusion that the disease of the heart, with which the appellant is suffering, and for which he claims additional pension, is due in any manner to his military service."

Nevertheless, during the same time period, Nathan received a response to his April 11, 1900 claim for a pension under the Act of June 27, 1890. It took over three years, but on October 15, 1903, Nathan was awarded the maximum pension rate of $12 per month for rheumatism, dating back to October 15, 1902. Nathan's pension was subsequently increased to $17 per month from Dec 20, 1905 for rheumatism only.

The stroke that Nathan suffered in 1899 had left him in a "mental condition." In 1906, his condition was worsened when "taking a ride" caused him "nervous shock, collapse" which left him in a "dazed" condition.

Physicians examined him again on July 23, 1907. Now, Nathan was 67 years old, but still 5 feet, 6 inches tall. His weight had been reduced to 180 pounds and his hair was now gray. His rheumatism caused him to rise from a chair slowly and with difficulty. It was very hard for him to stoop over. He was practically helpless. His knees jacked forward, and he was unable to dress or undress alone. He fed himself with difficulty, but could not cut his food. He could not always attend calls of nature alone, and often soiled himself.

Nathan's heart had suffered fatty degeneration. His nervous system was seriously deteriorated. He couldn't express himself; was all mixed up; and often unable to answer correctly. His speech was hesitant. He walked tottering and sideways with a cane, and would get lost in his house. It was not safe for him to leave home. The examiners ultimately concluded that Nathan could not be left alone.[18]

Nathan died on February 4, 1908 in Brandon at age 67 years, 8 months, and 7 days.[19] Maria received a widow's pension of $12 per month commencing June 3, 1908. She subsequently moved from Brandon to Ohio, where she resided with her son.

Maria was living at 166 W. Wooster Street in Bowling Green, Ohio in 1926 drawing a widow's pension of $30 per month. She died in Ohio on June 23, 1926.[20] Nathan and Maria are buried in Brandon.[21] Only child:

i. Nathan Lee, b. 29 Sep 1873;[22] living at home with his parents in 1900; m. 15 Jan 1908 Mabel Grace Woodin. At the time of his marriage, Nathan was a clerk residing in Brandon, where the marriage occurred.[23]

Grace was born in 1878 and died in 1921. She is buried with Nathan's parents in Brandon. Children, born in Bowling Green, Ohio:

i. Ellsworth Woodin, b. 29 May 1909.

ii. Harold Severy (twin), b. 24 Jun 1911.

iii. Elizabeth May (twin), b. 24 Jun 1911.


1. Hayden, Rev. Charles Albert. The Capen Family: Descendants of Bernard Capen of Dorchester, Mass. Revised by Jessie Hale Tuttle, Minneapolis, Minn., 1929. Pages 118-119, 183-185, and 237-238.
2. Census, 1850, Vermont, Addison Co., Goshen, 11 Sep 1850, p. 31. Nathan Capen and family; and Census, 1860, Vermont, Addison Co., Goshen, 7 Jun 1860, p. 24/74. Nathan Capen and family.
3. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
4. Census, 1890, Vermont, Rutland County, Brandon, [Nathan S. Capen was census taker], page 8: Nathan S. Capen.
5. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
6. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780; also Marriage certificate. Nathan S. Capen of Brandon, 29 years old, photographer, b. Goshen. Dad Nathan Capen. Mom Rebecca Hooker. Maria A. Severy of Brandon, 18 years old, b. Chittenden. Dad William W. Severy. Mom Eliza A. Wetmore. Married 29 Sep 1869 by C.A. Thomas.
7. Marriage certificate. Nathan S. Capen of Brandon, 29 years old, photographer, b. Goshen. Dad Nathan Capen. Mom Rebecca Hooker. Maria A. Severy of Brandon, 18 years old, b. Chittenden. Dad William W. Severy. Mom Eliza A. Wetmore. Married 29 Sep 1869 by C.A. Thomas.
8. Chamberlain Papers, Book "C," Brandon, Vermont Library. Cites Brandon Deed 31:491, 5 Nov 1869.
9. Census, 1870, Vermont, Rutland Co., Brandon, Brandon P.O., 19 Jul 1870, p. 64/329. Nathan S. Capen and family.
10. Inscription on the back of a N.S. Capen stereoview.
11. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
12. Census, 1880, Vermont, Rutland Co., Brandon, ED 169, p. 20. Sidney Capen and family.
13. Child, Hamilton. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Rutland County, Vt. for 1881-2. Syracuse, NY, 1881. Page 270.
14. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
15. Census, 1890, Vermont, Rutland County, Brandon.
16. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
17. Census, 1900, Vermont, Rutland Co., Brandon, ED 179, Sht 4. Nathan Capen and family.
18. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
19. Vermont Vital Records. Death. Nathan Capen, age 67 years, 8 months, 7 days; born in Goshen; father Nathan Capen; mother Rebecca Hooker. Parents born in Goshen. Died 4 Feb 1908. Brandon, VT.
20. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
21. Brandon Cemetery Inscriptions. Nathan S. Capen 1840-1908; Maria A. Capen 1851 1926 (no VT death record).
22. Civil War Pension Record, Nathan S. Capen, #726,780.
23. Vermont Vital Records. Marriage. N. Lee Capen m. 15 Jan 1908 M. Grace Woodin. Groom res Brandon; age 34; clerk; b. Goshen. Father Nathan S. Capen, b. Goshen. Mother Maria A. Severy, b. Chittenden. Officiating Robert L. Thompson, Methodist. Brandon, VT.

Contributed by William J. Powers, Jr., Lake Dunmore, VT.,


Death of N. S. Capen, a Veteran of the Civil War.

N. S. Capen, for many years a prominent citizen of this town, died yesterday at his home on Carver street, the probable cause of death was the result of a shock suffered several weeks ago. Besides a wife he is survived by one son, N. Leo Capen. He was a member of C. J. Ormsbee Post, G.A.R.

Source: Burlington Free Press, February 5, 1908
Courtesy of Tom Boudreau.