Short Bio of Sgt. Ezra Hamilton O'Neal

The inscription on the tombstone reads: Sgt. Ezra H. O’Neal, Co. F, 73, Ohio Inf. The grave is located in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery, Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Colorado.

The bloodiest battle of the Civil War was at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The number of Union casualties at Gettysburg has been estimated at 23,000, including over 3,100 killed, while the number of Confederate casualties may have been as high as 28,000, including over 4,500 killed. It was the bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War. The battle occurred from July1-3, 1863. Ezra was there.

Ezra Hamilton O’Neal was born on 29 February 1840 Washington County, Ohio. Ezra was born twelve days after his father Joseph died. I know nothing of Ezra’s childhood. On November 18, 1861, at age 21, he enlisted as a private in the Seventy-third regiment, Company F for three years, served two year 3 months, attaining the rank of Orderly Sergeant. He was honorably discharged in February, 1864.

In case you’re wondering, “What is an orderly sergeant?”. His duties include the conveyance of orders. He is usually a first sergeant and first sergeants generally run the company.

On July 3, 1863, Ezra was severely wounded. He received a wound to the knee that caused it to lock in a bent position, the severity of which I have no knowledge. July, 1863, to February, 1864, was spent convalescing.

Ezra married 18 year old Mary E. Harkins on November 27, 1867 in Washington County, Ohio. They had three children: Thomas, O.H., and Susanna. Thomas died on April 25, 1891, at aged 21, and O.H. died when he was 13 days old.

In 1870, Ezra was living with his wife Mary, age 19, and son Thomas, age 1 in Belpre Village, Washington County, Ohio. Mary died of consumption on February 27, 1877 in Belpre after what I assume was a protracted illness. By 1880, Thomas, age 10, and Susanna, age 5, were living with their maternal grandparents, Thomas and Eliza Harkins, in Belpre Township.

In 1900, Ezra was living Elk Mountain, Routt County, Colorado. He died in 1932 in Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Colorado, in the household of Courtney Ives. Courtney provided care for Ezra in his twilight years.

Ezra requested a pension under the Pension Act of May 1, 1912. In the request to the Bureau of Pensions, he indicated he did not have proof of his date of birth, and further stated, he had no living relatives. His daughter Sue A. Tucker wrote to the Bureau of Pensions in Kansas on 24 Oct 1914 wanting to know if Ezra was alive and drawing his pension. It’s not clear that the Bureau responded to her inquiry.

Apparently, when Ezra left Ohio he didn’t keep in contact with his children or their grandparents. Susanna preceded her father in death, dying on December 31, 1922 in Parkersburg, Wood County, West Virginia. A town just across the Ohio River from Belpre.

The question that haunts me, “Why the move to Colorado?” What made him leave the state where he was born and raised, leaving his children and siblings behind. Was this due to the tragedies he suffered up to that point in his life: his father’s death, the war, his injury, the loss of a child and wife. Did all of this cause Ezra to flee? Was he haunted by the loss of what could have been? Did he fear he couldn’t properly support or raise his children on his own? Was he battling psychological problems related to his war experiences? Or where there other reasons? I don’t know what to make of his actions, and who am I to judge anyway. RIP

Obituary from the Steamboat Pilot,Friday, March 25, 1932

Edward* H. O’Neal, veteran of the civil war, passed away Thursday, March 17, at 7:20 in the morning. His passing was like a sleep from which he did not awake. While he had been in bed for about two months, he was ill, but gradually growing weaker. He had celebrated his 92nd birthday-anniversary February 29.

  Funeral services were conducted under the direction of A.W. Heyer at the Congregational Church Sunday at 2:30 in the afternoon. The casket was brought from the mortuary to the church by an escort of American Legion men. The Legionnaires accompanied the procession to the cemetery where the usual ceremony of the Legion were given.

 The pallbearers were Arthur Campbell, Claude Luekens, C.E. Seymour, and L.E. Chalmers, members of Leo Hill Post No. 44. The only civil war veteran left in this section, Michael Dorr, attended the services. Rev. H.C. Payne made a short talk. Members of the choir who sang two hymns were Miss Rachel Wood, Miss Dee Stukey, Ray Monson and Reverend H.C. Payne. “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere” was selected as requested by Mr. O’Neal some time ago. The service was simple, as he had requested it to be.

Mr. O’Neal had retained interest in current affairs up to the last, was unusually mentally alert despite his nearing the century mark. Aside from a period spent in a hospital following being wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, he said he had never had a sick day in his life. He came to Colorado in 1873 from Ohio and to Routt County in 1880, settling on a homestead on Mad Creek.

 Mr. O’Neal spoke rarely of his experience during the war or of the pioneer days in Routt County. He was not of the adventuresome type, contenting himself with his work on the ranch, his duties as a cook for cattle outfits and with his books during his leisure time.

* Whoever wrote the obituary got Ezra’s first name wrong. It was not Edward.

Ezra is my 2nd great-uncle. I feel a strong connection to him. I’m not sure why that is the case. Maybe it’s just his tragic life story.

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