|Just 199 days prior to General Robert E. Lee signing armistice papers with General Ulysses S. Grant, Alexander Arnold reported for duty and enrollment in Company A, 59th Regiment, Indiana Infantry at Jeffersonville, Indiana on 23 September 1864. He had been drafted and he was 44 years old.
The war had demanded President Lincoln begin an “enrolling and calling out of the national forces.” Each state proceeded with the drafting in its own way and produced the number of troops required. Probably because of his age, Alexander’s call came late in the war — or perhaps because Indiana was short of their quota.
Alexander was born in Rockcastle County, Kentucky in 1820 to William and Ann Arnold. The family moved to Indiana, where he married Elizabeth Roberts in 1843. When he reported to the Army they had two sons and one daughter, all grown. According to his draft papers Alexander was dark haired, blue eyed and stood 6 feet 2 inches, the same height as General George Washington.
He was “retained at General Draft Headquarters, Indianapolis, Indiana, pursuant to orders from the War Department” which came dated April 29, 1865 and he was mustered out. The delay was explained in a testimony given in 1899 for Alexander’s application for an invalid pension.
The testimony, given under oath states “Claimant was vaccinated some time in the month of February (1865) while in camp at Indianapolis, Indiana and immediately after being vaccinated claimant’s body and face broke out in sores and his eyes became swollen and sore. Claimant continued to complain of said ailments and as a result ‘there from’ claimant gradually became all most [sic] blind, Am not qualified to state the extent of claimant’s injury year by year since was vaccinated, but at the present time and for the last fifteen years he could hardly see his way and is totally unable at this time to perform manual labor of any kind.” And the witness, William Sticker, “…verily believes that the condition of claimant’s eyes are due to being vaccinated at the time and place above mentioned.” Alexander’s petition for pension was granted and he was awarded $16 per month for the remainder of his life.
One wonders what a man nearly totally blind did for the rest of this life. His military contribution was nil, but his service to his country might have been in being a friend to many. His obituary stated a large crowd of persons of all ages attended his funeral to say farewell to “Uncle Alex” as he was known. He died on 23 July 1904 and is buried at Mount Tabor Cemetery in Palmyra, Harrison County, Indiana.
Arnold, Alexander, Pvt. – Co. A, 59th IN Infantry, GAR McPheeter Post #182, Fredericksburg, IN
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