Orrin C Tooker was born in Geneva, New York in 1832. He enlisted twice first at Adrian, New York, 10 September 1861, then again at Plymouth, New York on 24 September 1861 into the 15th Regiment of the United States Regular Army Infantry.1 He was listed as a physician 30 years old with light hair, blue eyes and light complexion. He was 5 ft 6 inches in height and served as a Hospital Steward.
The first of ten letters I have from Orrin is dated 14 February 1863, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and begins Dear Esteemed Friend, written to Timothy G Miner. Partial excerpts from these letters are included in this summary of Orrin's story, followed by the full letters and transcriptions. Opening the correspondence with Tim he wrote, I was highly gratified to hear from you & feel that you were justified in writing in the absence of your father...... I have the memorandum book referred to, yet in my possession & if I do not Succeed in seeing your brother [Parkhurst Miner] within a proper period of time, it will afford me much pleasure to send it to you by mail.
Originally, Orrin had written to William Miner, Tim's father, about having a "memorandum book" that Orrin wanted to return to the family. William was away from home for some reason and not able to reply to Orrin's letter so Tim sent a reply. Presumably, this memorandum book had been a possession of John W Miner who served with the 84th Illinois Volunteers. It was one of the duties of the Hospital Stewards to make sure the soldiers possession were returned to the soldier or their families. It appears that Orrin had a memorandum book that had been identified as John's which had been found after his death at the Battle of Stone River at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In the letter, arrangements were made for Orrin to try and locate Parkhurst, who was also serving in the 84th Volunteers, and deliver the book to him. In many later letters Orrin showed an interest in Parkhurst by asking about how Parkhurst was doing.
In the first letter I have, Orrin replied to Tim's letter which apparently asked if Tim might write Orrin. Orrin was delighted to comply. They later exchanged photos but the photos were not kept with the surviving letters.
In his letters Orrin mentioned that he would like a lady friend as around him are only "Copperheads", i.e., those of rebel sympathies, and hopes that Tim might be able to find him one. 18 April 1863, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Orrin wrote; In your Pike's Peak expedition, you of course learned just a little of Soldiers life, but there is nothing like getting used to it. I have long since made up my mind to double up and quit this life of celebicy, for it dont suits me a bit, but I will have to acknowledge that I chose a poor agent to interceed for me, when I called upon one to look me up a wife, who had not acumen to get one for himself.
During these letters Orrin learns of Tim's brothers, Aaron and James Miner, who are trading along the Mississippi. 4 June 1863, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Orrin wrote; I trust your brothers may meet with success in all their laudable efforts, down the Mississippi. Give them regards when ever you write...The health of the troops is excellent, weather warm, times lonsome, butter & milk scarce & roads dusty generally.
When he next wrote they had moved a bit but are still near Murfreesboro, Tennessee 10 July 1863, Camp Winford, Tennessee, Orrin wrote; We had a severe march from Murfreesboro, being a large share of the [trip] out of rations. For two days at a time we have had to live on pounded wheat & popped corn alone, with water. The roads have been so bad from successive rains We left Murfreesboro on the 24th of last month & it has rained every day until yesterday; that together with being obliged to ford rivers, prevented the rations from coming up. Who would'nt be a Soldier? The troops are ordered to move again at 3 o'clock in the morning so Orrin, writing before the move, doesn't know when the letter will be mailed. 16 September, 1863 Camp in Georgia, Orrin wrote; You talk about dust in your Country. I wish you could see the dust we have to travel through every day, a little less than knee deep. It has been very dry all though the country, for I have seen no rain of any consequence for many weeks...We are now stuck way up here between the mountains in the State of Georgia, 40 miles from any place & 15 miles from where the rebs are in force. I dont know where we are bound for in the morning but I hope to go to the front. The rebs are retreating & we are taking some few prisoners, but there is no news of importance to communicate.
The predicted departure in the letter of September 16 takes the troops back to Chattanooga where they participated in the siege of Chattanooga which ended with a big battle on November 23 and 24. On 4 December 1863, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Orrin wrote; You may perhaps be aware that we had another battle on the 25 & 26th of last month? We were victorious & met with comparatively small loss. We took upwards of 50 peices of artillery & many prisoners & our troops have advanced towards Atlanta Ga. some 30 miles. I think that Bragg's army is more completely routed & broken up this time than at any time before...I wish this war might end, but it is hard to tell where the end is going to be.
Tim and Orrin seem to engage in pulling each other's leg about the need for a wife as seen in the above letter of 18 April 1863. Orrin shared his remembrance of the previous Christmas with more humor in his letter. On 4 January 1864, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Orrin wrote; Christmas came here, about the same time that it did in Illinois, but SantaClaus "played out" on us & we did not even have anything good to eat. New Years came & passed away in the same manner. I think that by the next time Christmas comes, I will be where I can have a good dinner, at least.
Orrin re-enlisted for 5 years on 9 February 1864 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was given a leave to go north. When he returned he continued with the 15th Reg't through the end of the war. He was finally discharged in 1866 after 5 years of service.2 On 1 April 1864, in Graysville, Georgia, Orrin wrote; I was glad to hear from you again & would have written you before but, Ive been on furlough & had a good time with my friends. I went east as far as New York & found everything in good condition… He is still looking for some lady to write to him. Orrin had been trying to get Tim's sister Mattie to write to him. She seems to have written a few times but had indicated that she was not much interested in Orrin so he asked …Cant you find for me some nice lady whom you can recommend, that will not only allow themselves to be loved, but who will reciprocate the feeling?
The regiment moves on and he wrote his next letter after the battle of Resaca, Georgia May 14-15th. On 17 May 1864, Resaca, Georgia, Orrin wrote; We have been in the field of battle just ten days and been under heavy fire for the past of 7 days. I'm now sitting upon a stump trying to write to you, therefore you will please to excuse from for using a pencil, for pen and ink are nearly "played out." We have driven the enemy about 11 miles & they continue retreating and fight as they go... Tomorrow will probably bring us in contact with the rebs again… Their supplies are brought by the railroad and he had hopes they will continue to be supplied with rations. The cars are keeping close behind us so that we will probably be well supplied with rations all the time. Genl Sherman is acheiveing one of the most brilliant victories of the war. We hope to be in Atlanta ere' long. The news from the army of the Potomac is very encouraging & our troops are all the inspired with new Zeal. There is no telling at this time, the loss on either side, but is no doubt but it will be much more than it now is, before the battle is closed. I trust the war will be ended, this summer.
As a physician he had not been fighting on the battlefield but had to deal with the resulting tragedy and chaos. He gave a glimpse of his feelings in this letter of 2 June 1864, Near Atlanta, Georgia, Orrin wrote; Your letter found me, in the enjoyment of good health, though the heat of the climate, the hard-ships of a long campaign and the hopes & fears necessarily attendant upon it, are by no means sources of comfort...But amid all these scenes of painful suspense and carnage, we have many things to be thankful for & everything to encourage us onward in the good & glorious cause for in which we are engaged. Our efforts have been crowned with success & victory after victory has been the remuneration we have recieved for our exertions & midnight watching, but yet the sacrifice so noble yet how terrible, ie: that of so many lives of brave and valiant men & those too who if they had lived would have been useful & honored citizens, ornaments to society and & the pride of their native land...At this point the enemy hold a very strong position from which it will be very hard to drive them, unless time is used as an instrument in the work & the defences about Richmond are such that I think Genl Grant will feel disposed to take the place by seige, rather than sacrifise too many lives in assaulting of the place; this too will necessarily take time. But we will trust in the Lord and do our duty as soldiers & in the end the "right must prevail.
The last of Orrin's letters saved by Tim was written on 16 September 1864 and told of his endeavors to act in a Christian manner in the face of the vices that abound in the army.
With You, I feel that we should regard our future & eternal interest more highly & make renewed efforts to serve our Lord better, and love him more. You have the privileges of the sanctuary of God, & of hearing his blessed word preached to a dying world, while I am left to battle alone with the vile, influenced by which I, as a soldier, am surrounded from day to day & month. With all this I can say that I am not a stranger to the vices of army life, whisky, cards profanity & the like have no other influence than to cause me to hate them the more & live morality the more.
Earlier Tim invited Orrin to come visit him and his new wife in Illinois. Orrin again mentioned looking forward to being able to visit Tim and is eager to do so when he is free. The letters end before the end of the war so there is no clue if Orrin is able to go to Illinois for a visit. I believe that Orrin ended his days in Wisconsin so possibly he made it to Illinois for a visit. This ends the official military record with no mention of an injury during Orrin's army experience nor has a pension record for him nor a widow's pension been found.
On the 1870 U S Census, Orrin C Tooker, 38 born in New York, is found in Ottawa, Waukesha Co.,Wisconsin with a wife Willmina, 28.3 By the 1880 US Census he had moved to Lyndon, Juneau Co., Wisconsin with his wife 'Willmna' and an adopted son John.4 As found on his tombstone 'Dr. Orin C Tooker' born 1832 and died 1894 was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Columbia Co., Wisconsin and his wife, Willmina born 1842 died in 1916 and is buried there as well.5
15th Regiment U S Infantry
15th Regiment Infantry was formed 3 May 1861. One can follow the movements of the 15th Regiment by the places from where Orrin wrote his letters. By the end of the Civil War, the regiment had fought in 22 major engagements. Orrin joined the regiment in the fall of 1862 so he would have been around for the Battle of Shiloh near Corinth, Mississippi on 6-7 April 1862.
"The two days of fierce fighting resulted in nearly 24,000 dead, wounded or missing, the 15th Infantry was the first new infantry regiment to engage in battle in the Civil War." The fighting continued on to the Siege at Corinth in 29 April - 30 May. They fought at Perryville October 9 then march to Nashville, Tenn., October 17-November 7, and duty there until December 26.
including Cumberland Mountains and Chickamauga, August 16-September 22; Chattanooga November 23-25. They continued on to advance on Murfreesboro, Tenn., where they were engaged in the December 26-30, Battle of Stone's River lasting from December 30-31, 1862, and January 1-3, 1863. They were stationed near Murfreesboro until June, 1863.6
They were involved in the Atlanta (Ga.) Campaign from May 1-September 8, 1864. Next was the Battle of Resaca, Georgia, May 14-15. The regiment was then at Atlanta, Georgia., until September 28 when they moved on to Chattanooga September 28-30, then back to Lookout Mountain and stayed duty there until July, 1865.7
1. National Archives, Record Group 94 (Office of the Adjutant General)< Compiled Miltary service record; Record Group 15 (Department of Veteran Affairs0, Orrin C Tooker, MD 15th Inf Illinois, Enlistment papers Entry 91
(1798 - 1894) 1st Series.
2. Ancestry.com; September, 2014 http://interactive.ancestry.com/8667/WIM123_114-0176/89194?backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fc gi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fgst%3d-6&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnSearchResults
3. Ancestry.com; 1870; Census Place: Ottawa, Waukesha, Wisconsin; Roll: M593_1743; Page: 390A; Image: 497; Family History Library Film: 553242; September 2014.
4. Ancestry.com,1880; Census Place: Lyndon, Juneau, Wisconsin; Roll: 1430; Family History Film: 1255430; Page: 429B; Enumeration District: 191; September, 2014.
5.http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=tooker&GSfn=Orin&GSmn=c&GSby=1832&GSbyre l=in&GSdyrel=all&GSst=51&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=117424970&df=all&; September, 2014. Photo by Mary Dutcher.
6. http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unrginf2.htm September., 2014 7. Ibid.,
This material generously provided by Jeannette Maxey.