My great-great grandfather Henry Oakes (aka Henry Oax, Heinrich Ochs, or Henry Ochs) was born December 24, 1846 in Hesse-Cassel (Germany). He, his father John, mother Anna, and brother Conrad arrived in New York on April 22, 1852. Anna died by 1856, and John remarried to Wilhelmine Mager. In 1860, the family was living in Greenfield, Wayne County, Michigan.

Henry enlisted in Company F of the 24th Michigan in August 1864 in Detroit. He was not quite 18 years old. He missed Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, but joined in time for the siege of Petersburg. He joined the regiment at Weldon Railroad, Virginia on September 7, 1864. The regiment participated in the fighting at Hatcher’s Run in February 1865.

cof24thmi
Roster of Company F on a broadside published c.1865 (from University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library – http://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bhl/x-bl006906/bl006906)

On February 11, 1865, the 24th was ordered to Baltimore and then to Springfield, Illinois for rest and recruiting at Camp Butler. While there, they were the military escort at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral on May 4, 1865. According to Henry Oakes, “J.D. Sheldon[?] was promoted to Lieut. shortly after we went to Lincoln’s funeral at Springfield, O. or Springfield, Ill. We stayed then till we came home to Detroit to be discharged.” On June 19, 1865, they left Camp Butler by train for Detroit. On June 28 at 5 PM, they had their last dress parade and the regiment was mustered out on June 30th. About the time immediately after that, Henry said, “When discharged from 24th I guess I was at my parents. I don’t know where else I could have been. They now live some 2 ½ mi. W. of Dearborn – John Oakes.”

june1865
Last orders to the 24th from the Detroit Free Press, June 30, 1865, page 1

Henry reenlisted in the 18th U.S. Infantry (3rd Battalion) on December 4, 1865. During January to March, 1866, the 3rd Battalion was going through organization and instruction at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. They left there on April 20, 1866 and reached Sedgwick, Colorado on May 31, 1866. According to Henry, “We got to Salt Lake City [Fort Douglas] about 1 of July 1866. Fired a salute there on the 4th. Drew pay and clothing and then a pile of them deserted and I was put on detached duty. My gun was taken from me and I was put on a horse and a revolver given to me and a detachment of 4 of us with a non-commissioned officer put out to apprehend deserters for $30 a head. I can’t think who the officer was in charge of that detachment nor who the men were nor what companies they were from. I have no idea how long I was on that duty. Couldn’t tell whether 3 or 5 months of the time but I know we brought in a deserter every once in a while.” In December 1866, the 18th was reorganized: the 1st Battalion stayed the 18th Infantry, the 2nd Battalion became the 27th Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion became the 36th Infantry. Henry’s enlistment ended on December 4, 1868.

Here’s what happened to Henry after that according to his deposition from his Civil War Pension File: “When I was discharged from the regular army I went as brakeman on the U.P.R.R. [Union Pacific Railroad] – ran from Laramie to Rollin Springs. Brake man a little less than a year – got my left hand [?] [?] and was in a hospital with that in Laramie City. I can’t tell how long. Went braking again on same route. I can’t say how long then the whole crew was “pulled off.” I laid round Laramie I don’t know how long and I kind of think I came from there to Detroit. No I worked quite awhile at the European Hotel at Laramie City as 2nd(?) cook. Then I had charge of the dining room there quite a spell. Then to Detroit. Was brought to Detroit and put in House of Correction for 5 years for horse stealing. Had started herding cattle and was roped in. Was taking 3 horses from Laramie to Ft. Bridger for a man whose name I can’t recollect and was arrested with the horses in my possession. The man who sent me with the horses kept a [?] house at Laramie and he skipped out.”

hoaks_deposition
Henry’s account of his “horse stealing”

So Henry was sent to the Detroit House of Corrections for 5 years for horse stealing in Wyoming Territory. He was received at the jail March 28, 1871 and was let out August 30, 1875.

nicholson
Response from Superintendent Joseph Nicholson of the Detroit House of Corrections to the pension investigators about Henry’s tenure at the prison

Week 48 (Nov. 25-Dec. 1): Thief

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