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 O’Harra, sent 16 grandsons to fight in the American Civil War. Two were killed but others came home wounded or with serious war-related ailments. Sam was among the latter.
The story of Sam Brantner’s Civil War service, return to his home in Pickaway County, Ohio, his years of wandering, and his deteriorating physical condition is told through his pension application records – and the pension application of Priscilla Brantner. Ms. Brantner was Priscilla O’Harra’s youngest daughter and Sam’s mother.
On August 1, 1893, Priscilla Brantner filed an application for Civil War pension benefits as the mother of Samuel Brantner, deceased, a veteran without wife or children.
mother, now 65, wrote that she has been living in
“The regiment to
which Samuel belonged was sent home from
The year was 1865. Sam was 19 years old. He stayed with his family at Circleville for a year.
“During this year… Samuel had chronic diarrhea,” his mother writes. “I knew this for I waited upon him. The spells of diarrhea would last five or six weeks. He would have a dozen or more operations a day”, she explained delicately.
Sam Brantner worked around the Circleville area as a farm laborer. The diarrhea was a constant companion. Samuel was a healthy boy before he left for the army, his mother recalled.
maybe, my son went to
While visiting his
“I think that a
letter I got from people there stated that my son died either at the Commercial
From Samuel's brother
On August 5, 1893, John D. Brantner provided an affidavit in the pension application of his mother. Among other information, John offers:
“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 came to
From Brother Charles
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 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.
From Others Who Knew Sam Brantner
"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
Whitehead was acquainted with young Brantner for 10 or 12 years before enlisting
with him at
Brantner, a cousin, recalls attending a funeral with his father at
Then We Have Sam’s Own Application -- Alive Not Dead!
A very much alive
Samuel Brantner of
In papers filed
February 19, 1890, we learn that this 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, for a period of three years. He was mustered out at
documents in 1897 and 1898 from
A Surgeon's Certificate dated December 5, 1900, lists Samuel Brantner as 58 years old, 5'9 1/2" tall. Weight 155 pounds. Causes of disability include rheumatism, eczema, scurvy, impaired hearing, general debility, rupture of left side, and weakness of heart.
By 1907, Sam is
living at Tenino,
At one point in 1908, Sam’s pension application was rejected on the grounds that he had not yet attained the age of 62 years. Sam’s given birth year changes, it seems, with each document filed. Perhaps, this eligibility date is the reason for the discrepancies. Eventually, he receives a pension of eight dollars per month.
In 1910, he is
Sam Loses An Arm
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."
since leaving the service is listed as: One
Sam is admitted to
the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, National Home for D.V.S.,
One of the last
documents in the files is 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?
Brantner somehow attempt to 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 Neely from
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...
In an August 18,
1893, affidavit of John W. Smith, we learn:
"I was on the police force here (
“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 got to be nothing but skin and bones before he died.”
In an August 19, 1893
affidavit of William Cole: "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 hair was sort of a brown, was not right black and not red.
“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 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…
So What Did Happen to Sam Brantner?
Perhaps, enough is enough 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, to the best of my knowledge, 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 Illinois 6 DEC 1890, application 483.3116. And one for Brantner himself filed in Minnesota 8 DEC 1896 application 1183.506 Certificate 947873.)