Abner Delos Austin – Company I, 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry

John Delos Austin is the earliest known ancestor in my Austin family tree. Few details of John Austin’s life are known. In a census taken in 1850 at the Twenty-seventh district of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan; it is reported that John Austin was born in 1807, somewhere in the state of New York. He was married to a woman by the name of Anna. She, too, was apparently born in New York State, in the year 1813.

It is written in another source, however, that John Austin was born in Michigan, and that his wife, Anna Maria, was born in Scotland. This latter source also states that Anna’s maiden name was “Yolman” or “Golman” (the handwriting is illegible). (Certificate and Record of Death, Abner Delos Austin, October 20, 1901).

It is believed that John Austin was a laborer and traveled to areas where work was available. This is probably what led John and Anna from their native New York to what was then part of the western frontier — Michigan. By the year 1840, the Austin couple had taken up residence in Redford Township, Michigan (Census, Redford Township, Wayne County, Michigan 1840). It is here that John and Anna began raising their family, beginning with the birth of their eldest son, Charles W., on October 10, 1844. Two years later, on April 20, 1846, their second son, Abner Delos, was born. (Throughout his life, including his military career, Abner Austin claimed to have been born in Canada, however State of Michigan census records during the time of his birth indicate otherwise.)

The four Austins continued to live in southeastern Michigan. In a September 18, 1850 census, John Austin and his family are said to be living in the Twenty-Seventh district of Detroit. This time, however, a new name appears. John Ross, then twenty-two, is thought to have been a boarder with the Austin family. The same census states that John Ross was born in Canada. It is logical to conclude that this could also be a visiting friend from upper New York, since, in those days, the distinction between lower Canada and upper New York was hard to determine. Another strong possibility is that the Austins had hired John Ross as a farm hand. Since the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, wheat farming and processing was a major industry in Lower Michigan. Perhaps John Austin had decided to settle in Michigan and give farming a try, rather than continue his former nomadic lifestyle in search of industrial work.

In 1851, tragedy struck the Austin family. John and Anna both were killed by the cholera epidemic that had been ravaging southeastern Michigan since two years before. Seven-year-old Charles and five-year-old Abner were orphaned. Nothing is known about the fate of John Ross.

It is believed that with the death of their parents, Charles and Abner were placed in one of the two orphan facilities in existence in the Detroit area in 1851, St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphan Asylum and the Protestant Children’s Home. It is most likely that the Austin boys were taken to the latter home. Until 1852, it was the policy of the Protestant Children’s Home that orphaned children were taken into the homes of members of the association. In any event, as cruel as it may seem by today’s standards, Charles and Abner were separated after the death of their parents and they were eventually taken in by different foster homes. The Austin boys were never legally adopted by their foster families; therefore they retained their birth names.

Abner Delos Austin, my Great Great Grandfather, was taken in by Charles and Eliza Milroy who owned farmland neighboring the Austins’ Redford Township home. Austin family legend says that Abner referred to Mrs. Milroy as “Ma.” Charles Milroy, who had at one time worked his farm in Livonia, Michigan, was at this time living in Detroit and could have possibly met the Austins there, as he was working as a butcher and possibly owned a meat market. However, after some time, the Milroys decided that city life was no longer for them and planned to return to their farm on Six Mile and Inkster Road (which was, at this time, called Milroy Road). Mr. Milroy probably realized that he would need a good farm hand in coming years. He chose young Abner Austin. The Milroys later had five children of their own between 1852 and 1866.

Abner lived with the Milroy family until 1861, when, on April 12th, the American Civil War began with the firing of Confederate batteries onto the Union‑held Fort Sumter. On this fateful morning at Charleston, South Carolina, the political and social tensions between north and south in the last several decades were amassed.

This day would prove to substantially alter the lives of many young men all over America including Charles and Abner Austin. Both Austin brothers undoubtedly possessed an intense desire to go to war, romanticized as war was in those days. As in the words of Stephen Crane: “… marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all …” Unfortunately, for young Abner Austin, war would not prove to be all that he had imagined it to be.

President Lincoln had been planning a draft for several months in 1862. During the Battle of Shiloh (April 6‑7, 1862), the Confederates had inflicted tremendous casualties upon the Union Army. The Army of the Potomac suffered a series of defeats in seven days at the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia and it was also experiencing a colossal desertion rate. To compensate for these enormous losses, Lincoln called for 300,000 more volunteers on June 28, 1862. Six regiments were to be organized in Michigan alone.

A war rally was held at the Campus Martius at Detroit, Michigan, on Tuesday, July 15, 1862. There is a good chance that either Charles or Abner were there. It is fascinating to imagine that the estranged brothers could both have been there, each totally unaware of the other’s presence.

The rally was announced the day before it was held in The Detroit Free Press that urged:

“To arms! The Union is now in its greatest peril. Unless the people rush to the flag, the days of American glory will be gone forever. Let the meeting be marked by harmony, enthusiasm, patriotism. Let every man forget his party and behold only his imperiled country.”

We Are Coming Father Abram

The rally turned out to be a turbulent affair, as many southern sympathizers showed up to disrupt the assembly. Among them was the Copperhead Bent, a Fifth Column group of the Civil War. Despite the violence, the great war rally in Detroit spurred many like it in Wayne County, where there was an air of excitement which captured the attentions of many young men. Abner Austin was undoubtedly caught up into this pandemonium. He may have seen the fife and drum corps marching by each day and he may have seen the gleaming brass buttons on the uniforms of the officers who spoke at the war meetings. He and many young men in Wayne County, Michigan, must have yearned for a local regiment to be formed.

Their wish was granted by an unlikely source. Michigan Governor Austin Blair, a devoted patriot, was burdened with the job of having to raise the six regiments in answer to President Lincoln’s call to arms and stated that the huge task of assembling a regiment from the Wayne County area had to wait. The governor’s wife, nonetheless, insisted that he would need every able-bodied volunteer that he could get and, finally, Governor Blair agreed to rally the boys in Detroit.

Thus, the Twenty-Fourth Michigan Volunteer Infantry was born on July 17, 1862. Judge Henry A. Morrow of the Recorders Court was appointed as colonel and Sheriff Mark Flanigan of Detroit became lieutenant‑colonel. The position of major was left unfilled until the regiment arrived in the field.

Later, at Fort Lyon, Virginia, Colonel Morrow selected Captain Henry W. Nall of the Seventh Michigan Infantry. The adjutant was James J. Barnes from the First Michigan Infantry. The chaplain was William C. Way and the surgeons were the best in the business.

The captains were as follows:

Company A: Captain Edwin B. Wight
Company B: Captain Isaac W. Ingersoll
Company C: Captain Calvin B. Crosby
Company D: Captain William J. Speed
Company E: Captain James Cullen
Company F: Captain Albert M. Edwards
Company G: Captain William A. Owen
Company H: Captain Warren G. Vinton
Company I: Captain George C. Gordon
Company K: Captain William W. Wight

Despite all the reports of men dying in such bloody battles as Shiloh, as well as the low wages, volunteers poured into the regiment.

Abner Delos Austin enlisted in the United States Army at Redford, Michigan on August 2, 1862, at one of the first major war rallies for the Twenty-Fourth. On his enlistment form, he was described as having gray eyes, brown hair, a light complexion, and standing 5′ 4″ tall. At the time of his enlistment, Abner claimed to be nineteen years old when, in reality, he was barely sixteen. At a time long before most people were able to provide documentation of their age, verbal confirmation of being 18 or older was considered adequate proof for enlistment. Because honor and integrity were greatly important in those days, many underage volunteers are said to have placed into one of their shoes a slip of paper with the numbers “18” inscribed upon it. This way, the boys felt they would be telling the truth when responding to recruiters that, yes, they were “over 18.” Perhaps, sixteen-year-old Abner Delos Austin did so as well.

Abner Delos Austin Civil War Army Enlistment

Abner was mustered into Company I of the Twenty-Fourth Michigan Infantry on August 14, 1862 at Detroit, Michigan. He was paid one month’s salary in advance, $13, plus a $4 enlistment premium.

Once the regiment’s ranks had been filled, equipment and uniforms were passed out at Camp Barns, which was situated on the old State Fair Grounds between Woodward and Cass Avenues. Companies C, F, H, I, and K were the last to arrive at camp on Friday, August 15. Once uniformed, the men began drill. They were taught the difference between hay foot and saw foot. With much time and effort, the Twenty‑Fourth began to look less like a pack of schoolboys and more like formidable war machine it would later become.

On August 26, 1862, the regiment received its colors. It marched down Woodward Avenue to the Campus Martius where that first big war rally had been. Colonel Morrow proudly spoke:

“This is the flag of the United States, and it shall never be any other. I have a check from a citizen of Detroit for the color‑bearer, Abel G. Peck of Nankin, and a further assurance of one hundred dollars in the event of the flag not being lost in battle ‑‑ as it never will be.”

The regiment then returned to camp and held a huge open house. It is very likely that Charles and Eliza Milroy came to Camp Barns to say farewell to their eldest “son”.

That same day, the Twenty‑Fourth was ordered to the Eastern Theatre of Operations. General Order No. 170 from the Adjutant General of Michigan directed them to Washington, D.C. Soon, it was a mad rush packing and saying goodbye for the last time.

At last, the order to “fall in” came. At 5:00 p.m., August 29, 1862, Abner Austin and the Twenty‑Fourth Michigan Volunteer Infantry marched out of Detroit, Michigan and into history. Many, if not most, of these brave, albeit naive, young men would never see their homes again.

The Twenty-Fourth marched to the Michigan Central Wharf. Companies F through K were loaded onto the Cleveland and companies A through E were placed on the May Queen. Thousands of people watched the regiment start up the gangplanks and, as soon as the men were aboard, they hurried to the rails, where they waved farewell to their families. Once the ships disappeared beyond the horizon, the crowd cleared and the loved ones went home. Many thousands of prayers were whispered that night, including those uttered softly at the home of Charles and Eliza Milroy.

After what had to have been a long and dreary journey, considering the excitement these young men were undoubtedly feeling, the ships docked at Cleveland, Ohio the next morning. It was here that the regiment boarded a train for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They arrived in Pittsburgh on Saturday evening, August 30, 1862. The Twenty‑Fourth arrived in Baltimore, Maryland at noon the next day. They were fourth in line awaiting rail transportation to Washington, D.C. The waiting must have been unbearable.

Finally, on Monday morning at 3:00 a.m., the regiment was loaded into cattle cars headed for Washington, D.C. Once they arrived in Washington, they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and crossed into Virginia. It was here that Abner Austin was first shown the horror of war. The regiment had been delayed while a train of wounded men and corpses came in from Manassas. He had probably begun to wonder if he had done the right thing by leaving the farm and joining a war ‑‑ something he knew nothing about. Abner was, after all, was only a boy of sixteen. Who knows how he handled such hellish experiences.

The regiment later reached its field destination of Fort Lyon, Virginia. This first night truly showed the young men of the Twenty‑Fourth that the life of an infantryman was not nearly as glamorous as they had once thought. They had no tents or any other form of shelter as winter began to descend upon the hills of Virginia.

William Young, Co. G, 24th Michigan Infantry, another of the 24th Michigan's youngest members. This image gives us an idea of how 16-year-old Abner Delos Austin might have appeared in the typical Iron Brigade frock coat but prior to receiving his black Hardee hat in March of 1863 (Source: Ray Russell).

William Young, Co. G, 24th Michigan Infantry, another of the 24th Michigan’s youngest members. This image gives us an idea of how 16-year-old Abner Delos Austin might have appeared in the typical Iron Brigade frock coat but prior to receiving his black Hardee hat in March of 1863 (Source: Ray Russell).

At this time, the Twenty-Fourth Michigan joined the ranks of the highly respected Iron Brigade of the West, under the command of Brigadier General Solomon Meredith, which was also called the Black Hat Brigade for the handsome dress Hardee hats they wore. The Iron Brigade consisted of three Western regiments from Wisconsin and one from Indiana and was well-known on both sides as one of the fiercest fighting units in the Union Army. They were extremely proud of their designation as First Brigade, First Division, First Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Their presence on the battlefield with their tall black hats is said to have struck unprecedented fear into the enemy. Once received by the Iron Brigade, the men of the Twenty-Fourth were subjected to rigorous training beyond imagination. Then they marched onward to Fredericksburg where their newly acquired talents were first put to the ultimate test.

The Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862) was one of the early pivotal battles of the Civil War. The contending forces were the Union Army of the Potomac with 120,000 troops and 312 guns under General Ambrose Everett Burnside and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia with 78,000 men and 270 guns.

After the Battle of Antietam in September, General Robert E. Lee, in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, withdrew from Maryland to Virginia, and the Union government decided that a counter-offensive was in order. Burnside intended to cross the Rappahannock River at several points and surround and capture the city of Fredericksburg as a preliminary to launching a general offensive against the rebels. The crossing was held up, however, because of a delay in shipment of the pontoon train essential for the crossing.

During this time, Lee, who had at first decided to wait for the Union forces thirty-six miles south of the city, moved to the river and fortified the area surrounding it. The Union Army crossed the river and was met by frontal attacks from the Confederates. They defeated the Army of the Potomac, which withdrew to Falmouth, Virginia. The Army of the Potomac lost 12,650 men. Abner Austin’s first battle was a disaster.

All through the long, bitterly cold winter, the Union and Confederate forces lay facing one another across the Rappahannock. In February of 1863, Private Abner Austin appeared for roll call, but for reasons unknown forfeited $5 of one month’s pay by sentence of court-martial. In the Civil War-era military, such penalties were often given for relatively minor infractions. On March 27, 1863, the men of the Twenty-Fourth Michigan, who had been dubbed “The Featherbeds” by their comrades as a reference to their being the newcomers of the brigade, were finally assigned their own black Hardee hats, bringing them fully into the fold of the great Iron Brigade.

Come spring, the Iron Brigade found itself heading into Spotsylvania County, in eastern central Virginia, to Chancellorsville. This battle was fought on May 2‑3, 1863, and the Army of the Potomac, now under General Joseph Hooker, numbered about 130,000. The Army of Northern Virginia, still under Lee, numbered about 60,000.

After the catastrophe at Fredericksburg, Hooker, who succeeded Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac, had restored the army’s morale and thoroughly reorganized it. Planning to turn the Confederate left flank and to break off Confederate communications with Richmond, Hooker began by sending his First and Sixth Corps under General John Sedgwick, with orders to contain the enemy on April 27. Hooker then moved the remainder of his army west about twenty-five miles to Kelly’s Ford, crossed the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers and, on April 30, came upon Lee’s left flank.

Lee began to react by maneuvering his troops under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson against the Union forces. On May 1, Hooker began a march on Fredericksburg, but he was surprised when he ran into advance elements of the Confederate Army and he returned his troops to their fortifications. On May 2, Lee ordered Jackson to make a wide detour around Hooker and assault his right flank. At 6:00 p.m., Jackson attacked the Eleventh Corps under General Oliver Otis Howard and stampeded it. Jackson was shot and mortally wounded by his own men, who thought his advance escort was a detachment of Yanks.

Meanwhile, Lee had made a series of successful attacks on the Army of the Potomac from frontal positions and soon the entire army was immobilized. On May 3, Lee, along with troops under General J.E.B. Stuart (who replaced Jackson), assaulted the Union front and flank. Hooker withdrew his troops to strong defensive positions, and Lee was deterred. Confederate reinforcements drove Sedgwick’s advance back over the Rappahannock on May 4‑5. Hooker withdrew on May 5, as Lee had prepared to advance against him.

This second defeat in two battles must have had quite an effect on the young men in the Twenty‑Fourth. Abner Austin, along with all his comrades, probably thought that the regiment was doomed from the start. What they did not understand, however, was that while the Union Army suffered 17,300 casualties, the Confederates lost 12,800, which the latter could not replace. The tide of the Civil War was starting to turn.

After this battle, the Iron Brigade began its march northward. Lee had divided his army into three corps: the First Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General James Longstreet; the Second Corps, by Richard Stoddard Ewell; and the Third Corps, by Ambrose Powell Hill. He formulated a plan of attacking the Federal forces on their own ground, in Pennsylvania, hoping to capture Washington. He hoped to end the war and force the Union into recognizing the independence of the Confederacy. Lee crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, marched up the Shenandoah Valley, crossed Maryland, and concentrated his troops on Gettsyburg.

"Iron Brigade" by Don Troiani, depicting the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in action in McPherson's Woods at Gettysburg. (Used with permission.)

“Iron Brigade” by Don Troiani, depicting the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in action in McPherson’s Woods at Gettysburg. (Used with permission.)

It is on July 1, 1863 in the woods at McPherson’s Ridge, west of Gettysburg, that Abner Delos Austin saw the end of his action with the Twenty‑Fourth Michigan Volunteer Infantry. Suffering a gunshot wound to the left hand, Abner was one of 397 out of 496 Twenty-Fourth Michigan soldiers lost that day. With an 80% casualty rate, the Twenty-Fourth Michigan tops the Federal casualty list for the Gettysburg campaign and second overall for both sides, exceeded only by the Confederate 26th North Carolina Infantry regiment, with which the Twenty-Fourth was directly engaged in McPherson’s Woods.

The bravery of the Twenty-Fourth Michigan and young men like Abner Delos Austin on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg was instrumental in the Federal victory there. While the first day’s engagement is considered to have been a tactical victory for the Confederates, it was a strategic victory for the Union forces. At the close of the first day’s fighting, the Federals had won the battle of position in that they held the key terrain on Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and Little Round Top when reinforcements arrived. The Federal victory over the next two days of fighting was entirely dependent upon holding this defensive position.

The beautiful 24th Michigan monument at McPherson's Ridge - Gettysburg.

The beautiful 24th Michigan monument at McPherson’s Ridge – Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg changed the tide of the Civil War in favor of the Union Army and led the Confederates to their ultimate surrender on April 9, 1865. It was a decisive engagement in that it arrested the Confederates’ second, and last, invasion of the north, destroyed their offensive strategy, and forced them to fight a defensive war in which the inadequacies of their manufacturing and transportation doomed them to defeat. Had the men of the Iron Brigade and the Twenty-Fourth Michigan not prevailed in their mission on July 1, 1863, the outcome of the Civil War may have been very different.

Abner was one of the 14,531 Union soldiers wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. Overall, with 51,000 casualties in three days, the Gettysburg campaign stands the bloodiest battle in American history. At Gettysburg on July 1, 2 and 3, 1863, more men fought and more men died than in any other battle before or since on North American soil.

The 24th Michigan memorial at Culp's Hill, Gettysburg.

The 24th Michigan memorial at Culp’s Hill, Gettysburg.

In addition to the beautiful Twenty-Fourth Michigan Infantry monument that stands today on McPherson’s Ridge, there is a second, smaller marker located at Culp’s Hill, southeast of Gettysburg, where the remaining members of the Twenty-Fourth Michigan gathered after the first day’s fighting. It reads:

“24th Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Iron Brigade: Of the 496 men who went into battle on July 1, 1863, 99 answered roll call here on the morning of July 2 – 3, 1863.”

Young Abner Delos Austin was not among them.

Abner Austin was admitted to Ward B of the Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital, at West Philadelphia in July of 1863. In August of 1863, he was reported as absent from the Twenty- Fourth’s roll call and reported as wounded.

In December of 1863, Abner Austin appeared for roll call at Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital and was given back pay for July and August 1863 by Major Richie, with back pay for May and June 1863 still owed to him. Private Austin remained at Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital until January 25, 1864, when he was granted furlough. He was to report back to the hospital twenty‑eight days later but he did not return.

On February 19, 1864, Private Abner Austin was listed as absent without leave from Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital. His description was sent to Invalid Corps Headquarters.

On March 4, 1864, army administrators in Detroit issued an Order to Report for Private Austin, ordering him to immediately report back to Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital.

On March 19, 1864, a descriptive list was released from the Eighth Company, Second Battalion Invalid Corps, later known as One Hundred Sixty-Second Company, Second Battalion Veteran Reserve Corps. Private Austin was described as a nineteen-year-old farmer (he was actually only seventeen at the time) with a gunshot wound to the left hand.

On March 28, 1864, Abner Austin mysteriously appeared present on the Officers and Enlisted Roll of Culpepper, Virginia General Hospital. Here, Abner Austin apparently found a friend in an officer by the name of Holtzman, who described Private Austin as showing “good” character in the hospital and related:

“ … metacarpal bones of middle, ring, and little fingers have been fractured … and are badly united. The hand is now nearly useless. This soldier was with his company at the battles of Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862), Fitzhugh Crossing (April 29, 1863) and Gettysburg (July 1, 1863). A brave and good soldier.”

There can be much “fanciful speculation” about young Abner Austin’s journey from West Philadelphia to northern Virginia in the winter of 1864. It is quite likely that, in addition to his physical wounds, he also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the horrors of Gettysburg. Perhaps, when granted furlough on January 25, 1864 from the hospital in West Philadelphia, he wandered, lost and disoriented, until he found his way to the hospital in Virginia in late March.

In late April of 1864, Private Austin appeared as present for roll call at the Depot Camp of the Unassigned Veteran Reserve Corps at Cliffburne Barracks at Washington, D.C. On June 10, 1864, he was transferred to the Forty-Eighth Company, Second Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps. He remained with the Veteran Reserve Corps until the end of the war. Abner Delos Austin was honorably discharged from the United States Army, at the age of nineteen, at Washington, D.C., on June 26, 1865.

After the war, Abner Austin returned to the Milroy farm where he took care of Mrs. Milroy until her death. She had been paralyzed for several years before she passed away and Abner stayed to watch over her.

My Great Great Grandfather Abner Delos Austin pictured with his family sometime between 1889 and 1897. You can clearly see the Gettysburg battle wound to Abner's left hand. Abner is seen wearing a Grand Army of the Republic medal, as he was active as a member of the Marshall M. Beach Post No. 267 of the Grand Army of the Republic located in Farmington, Michigan from 1889 through 1899. Left to right: my Great Great Grandmother Mary Elizabeth Turner Austin (1854-1913), Harry Delos Austin (1884-1955), my Great Great Grandfather Abner Delos Austin (1846-1901), and my Great Grandfather Perry James Austin (1882-1944). Note: third son Irving Leroy Austin (1897-1954) was not yet born at the time of this photo.

My Great Great Grandfather Abner Delos Austin pictured with his family sometime between 1889 and 1897. You can clearly see the Gettysburg battle wound to Abner’s left hand. Abner is seen wearing a Grand Army of the Republic medal, as he was active as a member of the Marshall M. Beach Post No. 267 of the Grand Army of the Republic located in Farmington, Michigan from 1889 through 1899. Left to right: my Great Great Grandmother Mary Elizabeth Turner Austin (1854-1913), Harry Delos Austin (1884-1955), my Great Great Grandfather Abner Delos Austin (1846-1901), and my Great Grandfather Perry James Austin (1882-1944). Note: third son Irving Leroy Austin (1897-1954) was not yet born at the time of this photo.

After Eliza Milroy’s death, Abner married Mary Elizabeth Turner (whose family owned land across Six Mile Road) at Redford, Michigan on February 22, 1881 at age 34. They were wed by Pastor E. B. Moody at the Redford Baptist Church in the presence of William Turner and Julia Martindale. Abner and Mary established a farm of fifteen acres and owned a house which Mary reported being worth $800 in 1902. They had horses worth $100, cows worth $100, and chickens worth $100.

Abner Delos Austin in the 1890s.

Abner Delos Austin in the 1890s.

It was here in Elm, Michigan (now Livonia) that Abner and Mary raised their family. Perry James (the author’s Great Grandfather) was born on February 20, 1882; Harry D. in April of 1884, and Irving in August of 1897.

I recently stumbled upon this picture of my Great Great Grandparents Abner Delos and Mary Turner Austin in the January - February 2009 issue of "Michigan History" magazine. They are photographed with Union Civil War veterans and their wives on the steps of the Farmington, Michigan Masonic Lodge at a Memorial Day GAR reunion in 1899. Gr Gr Grandpa Abner is the younger gentleman standing in the doorway toward the back with the left side of his face partially obscured by a flag. Gr Gr Grandma Mary is the lovely, fashionable young woman seated in the light-colored hat and skirt, second row right. Digital photo courtesy of the Farmington Community Library Heritage Collection.

I recently stumbled upon this picture of my Great Great Grandparents Abner Delos and Mary Turner Austin in the January – February 2009 issue of “Michigan History” magazine. They are photographed with Union Civil War veterans and their wives on the steps of the Farmington, Michigan Masonic Lodge at a Memorial Day GAR reunion in 1899. Gr Gr Grandpa Abner is the younger gentleman standing in the doorway toward the back with the left side of his face partially obscured by a flag. Gr Gr Grandma Mary is the lovely, fashionable young woman seated in the light-colored hat and skirt, second row right. Digital photo courtesy of the Farmington Community Library Heritage Collection.

Abner Austin lived into the twentieth century. He died on October 20, 1901; the immediate cause of his death was stated to be exhaustion and paralysis. In an army pension application filed by Mary Elizabeth Austin on December 8, 1901, Robert and Eliza Turner summarized Abner’s life:

“We are personally acquainted with Mary E. Austin and were acquainted with Abner D. Austin. (We) knew them both when they were young people before they became of marriageable age and we know that neither of them were ever married until they married each other on February 22, 1881 and they lived happily together as man and wife until Abner D. Austin died October 20, 1901. We were not present at the marriage but they came directly to our house after being married and stayed at our house a number of days. We know that Abner D. Austin never served in the Army or Navy prior to August 2, 1862. We knew him as a boy before he was old enough to enlist. We know he was a sound and healthy man when he enlisted and when he came (home) from the Army, he was a sick and broken down man. His troubles followed him until he died … and he died from troubles received in the Army.”

Abner Delos Austin Grave Clarenceville Michigan

Mary Elizabeth Austin died on May 12, 1913. Abner Delos and Mary Elizabeth were laid to rest in the Turner family plot in the Clarenceville, Michigan Cemetery, in present day Livonia. Much later, in 1955, Abner and Mary’s middle son Harry, would be buried nearby.

Abner’s older brother, Charles W. Austin, enlisted at Waterford, Michigan on August 16, 1862 at the age of seventeen. He was a private in Company A of the Fifth Michigan Cavalry, part of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade under the command of flamboyant, young Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer. Custer’s Wolverines comprised the most famous cavalry brigade of the Civil War, which performed a central role in some of the Civil War’s most important battles. It suffered the heaviest casualties of any Union cavalry brigade. To read my Great Great Grand Uncle Charles W. Austin’s story, please click here or use the link bearing his name on the right.

Family legend has it that Charles and Abner Austin, brothers orphaned and separated as small children and who, as teenage boys, fought side-by-side without even knowing it during the bloodiest battle in American history, were never reunited until late in life, when they discovered one another’s names on Civil War pension rolls. While this has never been documented, it is our hope that Charles and Abner were indeed able to find one another before they died. It is ironic to consider that the Civil War, which tore countless American families apart, could be singularly responsible for bringing this particular family back together again.

9 Responses to “Abner Delos Austin – Company I, 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry

  • Worked the Indiana History Train last fall. As I blogged about what I learned, I came across the Civil War site. Just now able to get around to reading the various and interesting blogs.

    My gggrandpa, William O. Taylor, also served in the Civil War via Indiana. He was already middle aged when he joined near the war’s end, but saw battle in Tennessee. I suspect he joined after one brother died at Andersonville Prison, GA and another was sent home to die of dysentery. So, it was with great enjoyment I read your information about your own ancestor.

    • Hi there, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about my ancestors as I did about yours, as well. I always appreciate hearing from other Civil War descendants. Thanks!

  • Very informational.

  • Very interesting blog! I’ve always been fascinated by the Iron Brigade and particularly by the 24th Michigan — not sure why. I’ve stood where they fought so valiantly at Gettysburg. It was a great experience.

  • Very nice story.

  • The GAR Pic is awesome! I am involved with a museum dedicated to the GAR in Eaton Rapids MI.

  • I have copied over 100 images of men in the 24th Michigan I will check to see if I have ever found one of Private Austin.

    • That would be GREAT, Dale. Thank you! Please let me know if you find anything.

  • My great great grandpa Joshua Harrington fought in the 24th. He was a replacement. I’d love to find a photo of him for our family.

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