Two Burials for One Man

February 12, 2014

There exists a mystery that I raises more questions than answers, about a pair of bodies buried in two different national cemeteries, that both belong to Private Theodore Goodrich, Company F, of the 18th New York Infantry. Thirty-six-year old Theodore Goodrich served alongside his brother Allen in Company F. Allen was mortally wounded at Crampton’s Gap, but Theodore finished his enlistment and mustered out with the 18th.

           

Goodrich returned to his wife and three-year old daughter in Albany, but like so many recently returned veterans, he eventually raised his right hand again. In February 1864, he joined the 7th New York Heavy Artillery. This regiment had a turbulent run on the front and bloodied themselves through several hard fought battles, and it should be noted that thirty-one former 18th members joined the 7th Heavy.

           

When Confederates overran their position near Petersburg on June 16, 1864, Goodrich was one of many from the regiment to be captured. Prisoners were pushed to the Deep South and Goodrich soon found himself in the overcrowded hellish prison of Andersonville. Like the thousands around him, Goodrich came down with an unshakable diarrhea which nearly killed him.

           

On December 13, 1864, Goodrich was lucky enough to be paroled and transferred to a U. S. General Hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, but his sufferings at Andersonville followed him and his health was fixed on a point-of-no-return. On December 21, 1864, Goodrich died from diarrhea at the Annapolis hospital and was buried thereafter in a nearby cemetery for soldiers [present-day Annapolis National Cemetery].

           

His wife remarried after the war and their daughter received a monthly stipend from her late father’s government pension. Goodrich was dead and buried, but on June 29, 1892, a man by the name of Theo Goodrich applied for admission to the Soldiers’ Home in Togus, Maine. This person was granted admission to the home after he presented a certificate of service which showed he was Theodore Goodrich from Company F of the 18th New York Infantry. His dates in-and-out of service, occupation, height, and eye color matched, and his age in 1892 properly reflected seventy-two. Two glaring mistakes that show that this man could not be the original Theodore Goodrich was the fact that he gave his birthplace to the Soldiers’ Home as being Detroit, Michigan, when it should have been Albany, and he listed himself as a widower, yet Theodore Goodrich’s wife was by then remarried and very much alive as a resident in Wisconsin.

           

This mystery man lived as Theodore Goodrich for several years at the home and continued to draw a government pension for his service in the 18th, yet the man denied having done any subsequent service in any other organization during the course of the war. Within this pension, this Theodore Goodrich complained that he had fingers on his right hand fractured after a Confederate struck him with the butt of a musket at the battle of Bull Run, but this man was obviously unaware that the 18th was never close enough with the enemy at this battle for hand-to-hand combat to occur, and no record exists that Theodore Goodrich suffered from any similar injury. When asked to provide corroborating oaths from comrades, this person cleverly claimed that these witnesses, “have died or gone where I do not know.” Either way, it worked out for this man who claimed to be Theodore Goodrich, and he died at the Soldiers’ Home on January 14, 1897. He was buried with full military honors at the Togus National Cemetery, and today is marked with a headstone that displays his service with the 18th.

           

Did the real Theodore Goodrich die during the war? Did the real Goodrich go into hiding? Was the Goodrich in Maine an imposter, cloaked as a dead soldier in order to get care in Soldiers’ Home? My inquiries to both cemeteries have been returned without any extra leads. This is just another unanswered mystery that continues to toil this historian.

 

 

SOURCES

New York State Adjutant General’s Office. Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York, for the Year           1899. Registers of the Eighteenth Infantry. Albany, N.Y.: J.B. Lyon, 1900. [Page 998]

------. Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York For the Year 1897. Registers of the Seventh and Eighth           Artillery in the War of the Rebellion. Albany, N.Y.: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., 1898. [Page 137]

 

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. (NARA)

            Pension Record of Theodore Goodrich, 18th N.Y. Infantry. Record Group 15.

            Pension Record of  Theodore L. Goodrich, 7th N.Y. Heavy Artillery. Record Group 15.

            Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938, Togus, Maine, for Theo Goodrich. Record           Group 15.

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