Civil War Soldier Samuel Brantner:
A Strange Case of Identity Theft?
By Dianne O’Connell
(Sam’s first cousin, four times removed)
Sam Brantner’s grandmother Priscilla sent 16 grandsons to fight in the American Civil War.
Old Priscilla O’Harra came to the
Priscilla was the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran
Jacob Slagle of
The younger Priscilla married Daniel Brantner
The father, Dan Brantner, was said to have died at the First
Battle of Bull Run, which would have been
Brother John went first. He served in Company E, 85th Ohio Volunteers from May to September 1862.
“I was wounded accidentally by a revolver dropping from a man's belt and going off, while I was on duty guarding prisoners,” John recalled. The wound was in his right leg.
The next year,
Eventually, young Charles and 13 cousins, all from Pickaway county, went away to war. Two cousins were killed and others came home wounded or with serious war-related ailments.
The story of Sam Brantner’s service, return to Pickaway, and his years of wandering is told through his pension application records – and the pension application his mother filed on her own behalf believing that her son had died many years before.
The soldier’s mother, now 65, writes that she has been
Her son Samuel served in
“To the best of my knowledge my son Samuel was never married and has no widow or minor children; had he been married, I should have known it,” the mother states.
Sam came home from the army in 1865 a seriously ill young man of about 19 years. He stayed with his family at Circleville for about a year.
“During this year from discharge, Samuel had chronic diarrhea,” his mother says. “I knew this for I waited upon him. The spells of diarrhea would last five or six weeks and he would have a dozen or more operations a day.
“The regiment to which Samuel belonged was sent home from
In about a year, Sam began to feel a little stronger and went to work on his Uncle Joe Brantner’s farm at Lockburne. The mother recalled that she did not received letters from her son during the five months he was in Lockburne but had heard from him through others. Sometimes he was pretty well and sometimes it was reported that the diarrhea had returned. Sam came home for a while to Circleville, and the next fall went back to the farm.
Sam Brantner worked around the Circleville area as a farm
laborer until 1868 or 1869. The diarrhea
was a constant companion. Samuel was a
healthy boy before he left for the army, he mother recalls. He was never “very fleshy”, but was
particularly thin when he came home. Dr.
Jesse Thompson of
Samuel left for
“From LaCrosse, maybe, my son went to
Priscilla finally received a letter from Sam “about three
months before his death.” He told his
mother that the diarrhea was still plaguing him and that as soon as he was able
to travel he planned to return home to
“He never told me in his one letter where he worked or what
he worked at in
The way she heard of Sam’s death was through a gentleman
named Barton. Mr. Barton was visiting
his brother in
“I think that a letter I got from people there stated that
my son died either at the Commercial Hotel or
“My son's body, I understood, was kept three days while
efforts were made to find his family.
But these efforts being fruitless, the body was buried at
“My son never made application for pension for chronic diarrhea because he told me that he scorned the idea of being a pensioner as long as he could earn his own living. While in the army my son Samuel sent me some money pretty nearly every payday, sometimes more, sometimes less. He would, after his return from the army, give me money whenever he could earn enough, but he was not always able to work.
Priscilla added, “Ever since my husband's death in 1859, I have been dependent upon my own manual labor for support; my son and daughter at home have helped me some; they give me a home and I work to earn it; and my son in Kansas once in a while remembers me. Otherwise, I am dependent on my own efforts; have no property and no income, and nothing to fall back upon except my prospective pension....."
And from Samuel's brother
In it he states that he is 53 years old, a carpenter, making
his home with his mother and sister at
John notes his own war service and states that he came home
from the war in September of 1862, immediately going to work at Bloomfield,
about a year, he states he “came west to Riverton (Jimtown),
“I was not at home in Ohio when my brother Sam came out of the service and what I know about his physical condition at that time, namely at discharge, is only from what mother wrote me and what my brother himself afterward told me,” John writes.
“When the coal shaft at Riverton was opened, about 1865 or
6, I was a pit boss in the mine and gave employment to my brother Sam. My folks had come from
“When I first saw my brother Sam at the coal mine, he was in pretty fair health, but he complained to me after that of chronic diarrhea frequently. I do not know how long he had had it. I was not at home when he entered the service or when he came out of it; but I had his word for it that he got it in the army. I would not swear that there is where he got it, but he told me he contracted it in the army. I never saw any letters he wrote from the army in which he complained of any sickness he had there or any wound or injury. My mother told me of his sickness right after he came home.
“My brother Sam while with me at Riverton after 1865 was a
drinking man. He would not drink
steadily but go on sprees. He did not
drink hard until after I left Riverton.
I never saw him after that. He
And from Brother Charles
Charles Brantner of Cherokee,
"I was in the lumber business with Samuel Brantner my brother in the summer and fall of 1876 and know he was sick nearly all of that time with chronic diarrhea. I also know he was sick with chronic diarrhea when he came home out of the army. For a long time afterwards he was confined to the house. I know this because I was younger and was at home and had on several occasions to go after different medicines for him. Once I remember I had to go in the country and dig roots of blackberries for tea for him."
And from Others Who Knew Sam Brantner
Let's review a handful of the many affidavits filed in this case:
"There was no better boy soldier in the service,"
states Henry Shannon, first sergeant of the regiment where Samuel Brantner came
as a recruit in the winter of 1863-64.
Young Brantner, all of 17 years of age, served through the
Thomas B. Whitehead was acquainted with young Brantner for
10 or 12 years before enlisting with him at South Bloomfield, Pickaway Co.,
Ann O'Harra, Sam’s cousin, recalls that when Sam came home he was so weak he could hardly walk and was suffering from chronic diarrhea.
Michael D. Brantner, another cousin, recalls attending a
funeral with his father at
But Then We Have Sam’s Own Application -- Alive Not Dead!
Crossing paths with Priscilla’s application was an
application filed by a very much alive Samuel Brantner of
19 FEB 1890: Adjutant
General's Office: Samuel Brantner was
enlisted as a private in Company A, 90th Regiment, Ohio Vol. Infantry on the
11th day of December 1863 at South Bloomfield, Ohio, by W. D. Hudson and was
mustered into the United States service as such for the period of three years;
on the third day of February 1864 at Columbus Ohio, by Lt. Nelson, U.S.A.
Mustering Officer, and that he was mustered out at Victoria, Texas by order of
War Department on the third day of October 1865. He was enrolled as a recruit and was
Sam files documents in 1897 and 1898 from
A Surgeon's Certificate dated
His residency since leaving the army is listed as 15 years
Still working on his pension, Samuel F. Brantner files an
"My dear Senator:
In response to your undated communication, received the 23rd instant,
relative to the pension case, certificate number 947,873, of Samuel F.
Brantner, who served in
Never a man to quit easily, Sam Brantner files additional
Samuel is now a resident of the Soldiers Home, Orting,
Sam Loses Arm
Later on in August of 1912 we learn that Sam has only one arm. His left arm is "off at the shoulder having lost it while working in the woods through carelessness of others."
His residency since leaving the service is listed as: one year in
Sam is admitted to the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, National
Home for D.V.S.,
Next we have a handwritten note from Samuel F. Brantner to
U.S. Commissioner for Pensions,
Samuel F. Brantner was dropped from the pension rolls on
But Hadn't Samuel Brantner Died Back in 1881?
An inquiry to the National Archives and Records
Administration resulted in a packet of extraordinary materials related to the
pension application on behalf of Priscilla Brantner, mother of soldier Samuel F. Brantner.
Priscilla believed that her son Sam had died in September 1881 in
However, as we have already noted, this application was
complicated by the pension application of a man claiming to be this same Samuel
F. Brantner living in the state
Did Priscilla Brantner somehow fake her son's death? Did her son fake his own death? Did some other Samuel Brantner actually die
The affidavit from the "special examiner" Joseph
"There never was a hospital in
"J. H. Scull and Brothers, druggists, furnish drugs for city paupers, but their books show simply "pauper" and in no case is a name given...
"It is the same with McFadden, the only undertaker of
Neely continues with further listing of
“He worked here for several months in the blacksmith shop of Buck McKinney, who is now dead. He appeared to be a very healthy, strong man when I first got acquainted with him. Later he commenced complaining of the running of the bowels and went to the city poor house and as deputy marshal I was there every day and saw him. He had fever and running of the bowels and got to be nothing but skin and bones before he died.
“I know he died in the fall because I remember his body was held several days trying to get word from his people. He had no family here and I do not know where he came from or anything about his having served in the army.
“He did not go on sprees here for I would have been sure to have arrested him if he had done that."
And in an August 19, 1893 affidavit of William Cole: "My name is William Cole, am going on 64
years old, a laborer here in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I have been here in
“This Brantner was a young man about 33 or 35 years old, middling build, not very tall or heavy, his fair was sort of a brown, was not right black and not red. I don't remember anything peculiar about him.
“I do not know now long he lived here, but I knew him for
about six months before he died. He was
helper for Buck McKinney in his blacksmith shop.
“This Brantner had no family here and I do not know where he
came from or anything of his having been a soldier. While he was working at
“After I had known him about six months I was passing the old brick house down in the lower part of town where they keep the paupers who are sick. I saw him lying there on a cot before the door, sick and these people were so neglected, I stopped to speak to him and after that went several times to see him.
“He had the flux and in two days it weakened him down as fast as a common sickness would in a month. He got very weak and thin and died in just about a week. I am sure it was the flux from the way he suffered. I know the difference between the flux and diarrhea. He passed blood. I would maybe not have remembered so well about his name if it had not been for my visiting him while he lay there sick and so neglected. I think it was in the fall of the year.
“I helped to bury him; he was buried as a pauper by the city. There was no service, no friends of his at his burial. He was just hauled out on a drag. I made a statement in this case several months ago, but am unable to say now how I fixed on September or October 1881 as the date of Brantner's death."
And then the
“He informed me that his name was Samuel Brantner. I took him to the city poor house and in a
day or two, he died of this complaint.
He died in year 1881 and was buried here in the
So What Did Happen to Sam Brantner?
Perhaps, this is enough information concerning this very sad case. I can certainly understand why the mother believed that her son had died in the fall of 1881 of chronic diarrhea, flux, running of the bowels, or more politely, dysentery.
Priscilla had every reason to believe her son had died. But this had to be the wrong Samuel Brantner.
I did a little Internet research. And sure enough there was another Civil War
veteran by the name of Samuel Brantner. This one served in Company D, 10 Batt'n
Virginia Reserves. (4
This is a case of mistaken identity, not identify theft. There is more than one sad story here. One story of two soldiers, one from the north and one from the south, both trying to take hold and live their lives after the Conflict, beleaguered with the continuing ravages of wartime disease.
And yet another story of two mothers, one in Illinois and another we suppose in Virginia, neither one of whom ever really learned what happened to their son Sam Brantner.
(For those who want to explore this case for
themselves, there are two Civil War Pension applications to request: one for
Priscilla S. Brantner, mother of veteran Samuel F. Brantner, filed in