My Union Ancestor
GEORGE W. DURYEE
Co. A, 4th Michigan Infantry
4 x great-grandfather of Tad D. Campbell, PCinC
George W. Duryee was born at Seneca Falls, Seneca Co., New York on January 22, 1820, being the fifth of eight children of William and Sarah "Sally" (Groot) Duryee.
In 1835 his parents moved to Michigan to settle on land provided to his father by the government for service during the War of 1812. George remained in New York with relatives until 1837 when he came to Florida, Hillsdale Co., Michigan, where he joined his father's family, helping with the farming and clearing of the land.
On August 17, 1842 he married Julia Howell. She was born May 5, 1825 at Phelps, Ontario Co., New York and was the daughter of James Brown and Sarah J. (Stage) Howell. They had six children, four boys and two girls.
In the summer of 1851, George Duryee, in company with three of his brothers and a nephew, traveled to California in search of gold. They made the overland trip by horse and ox team via the Santa Fe Trail, traveling across the plains and deserts and occupying four months in the journey. They had many adventures of thrilling interest, encounters with Indians and wild beasts, but escaped without more serious mishap than the loss of some of their stock.
They mined for two and a half years in El Dorado County, probably in the area of Uniontown, near Placerville. His efforts proving futile, George and his brother, William H. Duryee, returned to Michigan in November 1853, making the trip by the ocean route and crossing the Isthmus of Panama. One brother, Cornelius Groot Duryee, remained in California, married there and raised a family.
After his return to Hillsdale County, George Duryee bought eighty acres of his father's homestead, the same being kept in the family until 1914.
On February 9, 1864, George Duryee, along with his sons, James and William B., enlisted in Company A, 4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry to serve a term of 3 years. George was described as being five feet, eight inches tall, with a light complexion, black eyes, and dark brown hair.
The regiment was soon engaged in Virginia at the battles of The Wilderness (5-7 May 1864), Laurel Hill (8 May 1864), Po River (10 May 1864), Spottsylvania (12 May 1864), Ny River (21 May 1864); North Anna (23 May 1864), Jericho Mills (24 May 1864), Noel's Turn (26 May 1864), Totopotomoy Creek (30 May 1864), Magnolia Swamp (1 Jun 1864), Bethesda Church (2 Jun 1864), and Petersburg (18 Jun 1864).
While George Duryee's two sons accompanied the regiment to Virginia, he remained in Michigan during the early part of his service. After only eighteen days he was granted a furlough on 27 Feb 1864, to report back on 8 Mar 1864. Upon his return he was sent to the rendezvous at Jackson, Michigan, where, on 14 Jun 1864, he was detailed for duty at the headquarters of the draftee rendezvous. On 26 Jul 1864 he was again granted a furlough for seven days. Letters from him dated 29 Mar 1864 and 26 Jun 1864 shed some light on his absent from the regiment and frequent furloughs. Both letters place George in Jackson, Michigan, the first of which mentions that he is sick with the mumps. Additional evidence of his condition is furnished by Dr. Silas Hemingway of Hillsdale who stated on 4 May 1864 that George Duryee had "a severe inflammation of the lungs & liver, with bleeding from the lungs & is still very feeble & wholly unable to do military duty or to travel to his regiment . . ." Despite his ill health, George truly wished to do his part and told Deputy Provost Marshal James Leonardson in May 1864 that he "shall do every duty required of me to slaughter rebels."
In June 1864, due to most of the three year enlistments being up, the 4th Michigan Infantry was sent back to their home state via Washington DC, reorganized with veterans and additional recruits and sent to the Western Theater where they were involved in the defenses of Nashville and Eastern Tennessee. George Duryee's health improved and he was well enough to accompanied his regiment on this new assignment, having joined them at Cairo, Illinois on 7 Oct 1864. They participated in engagements at Decatur, Alabama (28-30 Oct 1864), New Market, Alabama (19-20 Nov 1864), and Murfreesboro, Tennessee (30 Nov-20 Dec 1864).
A letter contained in George Duryee's pension file from one of his commanding officers, Robert R. Newkirk, dated at Adrian, Michigan on October 10, 1866 states:
"...he was under my command from the time he left this place until he died or went to the hospital. His disease came on him while in the service and what finished him he was compelled to march while on our march from Knoxville to Jonesboro he gave out and was sent to Hospital at Bulls Gap, Tennessee and was sent from there to Nashville where he died on the 3rd of May 1865. I tried hard to get him in to the ambulance while on the march but the officer in charge of the ambulance train bluffed him off and made him walk so by the time he got to Bulls Gap he could not stand up. He was a faithful and good man and always done all he was able to. The widow should have something and any further information I can give I will do freely."
The official records of the unit state that George W. Duryee died on May 5, 1865 in USA General Hospital No. 1, Nashville, Tennessee of cerebro-spinal meningitis. He was buried in the Nashville National Cemetery. George's personal effects included one flannel shirt, one wool blanket, one rubber blanket, one canteen, and three dollars cash. His widow received a pension for his service until her death on March 6, 1899.
George W. Duryee's eldest brother, Isaac Groot Duryee, served as Chaplain for the 81st New York Infantry. He contracted disease during his term of service, came home sick after the war, and died in early 1866.
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