James Alexander Beggs was the son of Isaac Beggs. His mother may have been Elizabeth Walker, but it is not known for sure. He was born April 14, 1826 in Mercer County PA. Mercer County had been for quite a while, home to many of the original Beggs family  from Ireland. No doubt James heard many an Irish brogue growing up!

On July 3, 1850 he married Elenora Davis, daughter of a tailor from the District of Columbia. They were married in Montgomery County, Ohio.

In 1858 Elenora and James had a son, David Carson Beggs.  DC Beggs would become great-grandfather to Bob, Vance, Marcia and Kathy.

In 1861 after Lincoln had been elected President of the United States, the South Carolina legislature perceived a threat. Calling a state convention, delegates voted to remove the state of South Carolina from the Union known as the United States of America. Eleven states would become the Confederate States of America and the foundation for the Civil War would be laid.

On June 29th, 1863 James Alexander enlisted as a blacksmith/farrier in Company A 5th Individual Cavalry Battalion, Ohio. A voluntary cavalry.

The National Archives in Washington DC maintains thousands of military records. Through them, I obtained the records for James. Within the records, mostly pension requests, a small glimpse of who this man was and how his life changed can be found.

From a pension request dated 11th of Sept. 1863: “James Alexander Beggs was placed on duty to do some blacksmithing for his company and was riding from Camp Tod (near Cleveland) to Camp Chase Ohio to prepare the shoes for some of the horses for marching, and in crossing a wooden bridge over a ditch in said Camp Chase, his horse slipped and fell and on falling, fell on upon him severely injuring his  back and right hip.”

July 15, 1883 Private Frank Wolf provides this: “…..I was at the blacksmith shop about 20 yards distant and saw the fall. He was helped by some of the guards to get the horse off.”

James gives his own description of the ensuing events: “I treated myself with petroleum oil and such liniments as we had for use in treating our horses for hurts and sprains” ……After 4 or 5 days at home “I then started for and overtook the above command at Maysville Kentucky. At that time there was no surgeon with the Battalion and there was none until fully one month after that.” James was never treated.

Throughout the course of the rest of his life, James continued to apply for an increase in pension. Friends and relatives provided sworn statements over and over again. As the years marched on, it is apparent that James’ health deteriorated painfully.

From a statement by John Falkenback, 20 Feb. 1884: ” I have been acquainted with the above James A. Beggs for 28 years last past. We worked together in the same blacksmith shop before and at the time he enlisted in the above service, and I know he was then a stout man, in sound health….when he came back home from the army in 1864 I know he was sick or afflicted with some kind of trouble in his back and could not do any kind of work for a considerable time……from time to time he worked at places such as the carriage blacksmith shops of E &HF Booth, Thomas Anderson, Chris Brodbeck, and others, but he was always  so afflicted with trouble in his back he could never perform a full days work…..After working steadily at a place for one or two weeks he would seem to break down entirely and had to lay by and rest for several weeks before he could get strong enough to work again.”

Carriage maker Christopher Brodbeck, Feb. 20, 1884: “…..After that I went into the carriage business myself and he worked for me off and on from two to five weeks at a time up to about three years ago, when he seemed to become entirely worn out and broken down wholly unable to perform any manual labor at all by reason of the weakness in his back and spine. He was taken to City Hospital where I visited him.”

During this time, James shows up in strange places on the censuses. I thought he was in a boarding house, that maybe he and Elenora had separated. Remember, initially this is the time in their lives and relationship when their children were young. I think now perhaps, those “boarding houses” were in fact City Hospital…..

Towards the end of his life, doctor’s reports describe a man physically, emotionally and mentally broken. His body bent and twisted. His shoulders rounded and caved forward.  His hands contorted and paralyzed in an awkaward position that prevented him from grasping anything at all. Eventually he could not even lift himself up in bed. His death certificate lists cause of death as “paralysis and La Grippe”.

While we do see statements and signatures of James’ daughters for the pension requests, the  is no sign of James’ son David C. Beggs being involved with any of the sworn statements as to his father’s health. However, James’ gravestone is the largest in the family plot in Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus Ohio. Perhaps a telling tribute from a son and family  to a husband and father lost.

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