Three Portage County Brothers Fight for the Union but only one survives

by John Milligan

The Civil War was a period of great loss and sadness, claiming the lives of thousands of young men. For Willam Gridley and his wife Clara, loss would become an all too familiar feeling.

Born in 1807 and bound to a Connecticut farm until age 21, patriarch William Gridley’s opportunities for education were limited. He chose to run away from the farm at the age of 19, two years before his service was set to finish.

Gridley moved to Massachusetts where he studied millwrighting before becoming an industrious mechanic and carpenter. After performing a series of odd jobs and trades, Gridley married Clara Bedortha and moved to Kent, Ohio.

The Gridleys remained in Kent and had five children. When the war broke out and the nation looked to its reserves of young men to fight, William Gridley offered up his own sons, Talbot (sometimes known as “Talbert” in various recordings), William Jr. and Benjamin, saying: “My sons; go – Freedom is better than gold.” Unfortunately, he would lose two of his three boys to the war.

More about Portage County and the Civil War

    *Medicine in the Civil War: Primitive and Painful

    *Four Portage County African-Americans honored with monuments, markers

    *County residents among the witnesses to Lincoln’s assassination

    *Three Portage County soldiers received a Medal of Honor

    *Persistent Patriot: Samuel H. Cole of Franklin Mills enlisted in the Union military four times

    *Three Portage County brothers fight for the Union but only one survives

    *Changing sides: John Thomas chooses the North

    *Portage County residents were not in total agreement over the draft system

    *Coverage differed among Portage County’s newspapers during the Civil War

    *Two poets interpret the Civil War and its impact on their Portage County neighbors

    *Portage County soldiers detested anti-war factions

    *Portage County’s Buel Whitney provides spiritual counsel to those on the battlefield

Benjamin enlisted in the Union Army and was sent to West Virginia where he served as an escort for baggage wagons. Shortly after his stint in West Virginia, he received a leg wound that would restrict him to a hospital bed for the next 30 days.

After returning to the battle field, Benjamin broke his leg at the Cedar Mountain Battle and was captured by Confederate forces. William Gridley Jr., also a captive at the time, was allowed to tend to Benjamin’s wounds. William stayed with his brother Benjamin until the latter passed away as a result of his injuries.

Like many other soldiers, William Jr. suffered poor health throughout the duration of the war, having been afflicted by measles and neuralgia. His suffering ended when he was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Pennsylvania.

Of the three Gridley brothers, Talbot had the longest military career. He enlisted in 1961 as a Private in Company F of the 7th Ohio Infantry. He was mustered out in April 1863 but reenlisted less than a year later into Company D of the 171st Ohio Infantry. He was again mustered out with the entirety of his group at Johnson’s Island, Sandusky, Ohio.

After the war, Talbot moved to Traverse City, Michigan and worked as a gunsmith and carpenter. He married and had one daughter. He was credited as using his skills as a carpenter to help build some of the first buildings in Traverse City.

William Gridley Sr. died in North Royalton Halloween morning 1891 at the age of 84, joining the two sons he lost nearly 30 years earlier. Talbot would follow 10 years later in 1901 when he died of heart disease at the age of 67.