Bay City Times – May 30, 1938 (Page 1 & 2)
Only Three Survive Here To Tell of War Of 60's
(Click name to see individuals death article.)
Seventy-three long years have passed since the last gun boomed, since the last man was slain, since Lee turned over his sword to Grant at Appomattox.
In the minds of most, the Civil War, the greatest four-year struggle between two sections of a torn nation, is a matter for the history books alone.
Two wars have been fought since by this country, and fear of another is uppermost in the minds of many even today.
But today, as Bay City harkens back to the 1860's in their efforts to do honor to the memories of those who fought, there still remain three men in the country who took an active part in the great war of “brother against brother and father against son.”
Time has taken its inevitable toll from the ranks of those who wore the blue and gray. Not too many years ago it was a common sight on Memorial Day to see the ranks of blue marching with the rest in Memorial Day parades.
Death Cuts Deep
A few years later even the most placid observer could see where death had left holes in the column, and a short time after the marching itself was eliminated. The veterans rode.
Time brings us to this Memorial Day with but three Civil War veterans remaining of the many who a few short years ago so proudly bore themselves as the memories of their dead comrades received their just veneration.
Three old men. Not even a handful of the number who once paraded. But those three still tenaciously cling to the life that was spared them during the boom of funs, the whistle of shells and the tornado of death that was the Civil War.
Those three are Martin Heath, 94, 1606 North Grant street, B. F. Groomes, 92, 607 West Jenny street and T. E. Webster, 83, 900 Fifth avenue.
Each served in the Union army during the war, Groomes spending the longest time in actual fighting, starting his war career at the very beginning of the internal strife.
Grooms first saw the light of day on July 9, 1843, at Georgetown, Kentucky. When he was 12 years old he went to Boston and enlisted as a drummer boy in the First U.S. Dragoons, a cavalry unit.
Entered Army Early
There was a reason behind young desire to enter the army. His father wore a colonel’s uniform, and as the good natured Groomes of today smilingly says, “I had fight blood in my heart. I guess.”
A short time after Groomes enlisted, the Dragoons went west, where Indians were continually ravaging the frontier with tomahawks and scalping knife. There Groomes saw three long years of service in battling the redskins, growing from drummer boy into a full fledged solider despite his youth.
Soon, after that the war broke out and the Dragoons were ordered to the front immediately.
Grooms started his active fighting career in the First Brigade of the First Division, First Army Corps. He was under Gen. George H. Thomas, whom he terms “a fighter, first class”. Groomes took part in 64 battles of the war some of hem major engagements. He was wounded once a piece of shattered cannon ball caroming off a tree and into his forehead just over his left eye.
Discharged from active service in September of 1865, Groomes traveled for some time before coming to Bay City, where he entered the lumbering business. For 30 years he worked in a supervisory capacity at lumber mills here before retiring.
Heath is a native of Port Huron, having been born near there on Sept. 13, 1843.
On Aug. 6, 1863, when he was almost 20 years old, Heath enlisted in Co. D, 16th Michigan Infantry, and served throughout the duration of the war.
In Many Battles
A veteran who survived many a battle, including some major engagements, he was present at Appomattox when Lee surrendered. During his long war career he took part in the famed battles at Gettysburg, Antietam, sometimes described as the most bloody engagement of the entire four-year fight, Fredericksburg, Hanover , and the siege of Yorktown.
He was wounded only once, that time on the left forearm during a battle in Virginia, and still bears the scars.
Heath was discharged from the Union army on July 8, 1865, and shortly after that came to Bay City, where he has lived ever since.
Possessed of remarkable memory, despite his advanced age, he can snap out dates, fact and figures on many of the major battles in which he took part. His hearing is impaired by the passing of years, but his mind is still as keen as in the days of his youth.
Heath planned to take an active part in today’s ceremonies, when eh and his comrades are paid tribute for the service they rendered their country many, long years ago.
The third member of the remaining trio of Civil War veterans, Thomas E. Webster, is perhaps the better known to Bay Cityans than the other two.
Born In New York.
Born Sept. 1848, the son of Ebon and Margaret Webster, young Tom ran away from his home in Otsego county, N. Y., to enlist in the northern army of Co. E., 2nd New York heavy artillery.
Throughout 1865 and ‘65 he was in the service, finally seeing the Northern triumphant and the South’s rebellion crushed.
Upon being honorably discharged from the army, he entered the Delaware Literary institute at Franklin, N. Y., two years later entering Cornell university as member of that institution’s first freshman class.
After three years study at Cornell, he was forced to leave because of ill health, but went back to his books again at the University of Michigan, where he studied for a year in the law school.
He came to Bay City from Ann Arbor in 1874 and became associated with the late Windson Scofield. Webster was admitted to the bar in 1875. After he had been with Scofield for three years he was made a member of the firm, not long afterward was elected to judge of probate. He held that office for eight years and at same time was a member of board of education.
When the Mutual Building and Loan association became incorporated in 1890, Webster became secretary. In 1910 he was appointed attorney for the association.
Webster’s home at 900 Fifth avenue is a house which he built years ago.
Seventy three years is a long time, but Bay City still has three men who fought to preserve the Union which was born and bred in strife and blood. Today “Bay City, located in one of the states whose unity was preserved mainly through the sacrifices of those three and all their comrads m pays the trio its just and due homage.