Category Archives: Military

A Young Soldier’s Death, But Not From a Bullet

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Anthony Joseph Caito

Anthony Joseph Caito, photoceramic on his tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus.

Anthony Joseph Caito was the son of Gatano/Gaemtino and Mary Caito. He enlisted to fight in World War I in July 1918. By October of that year, he was dead. He was just 23 years old.

Anthony (or Tony, as he was called in the 1900 and 1910 census) reported for basic training at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio. Camp Sherman opened in September 1918 in response to the rapidly-growing need to train Army recruits. The camp was the third-largest in the country and had more than 1,300 buildings, including barracks, a hospital, and a library. The Ohio Historical Society refers to it as “a small city.” Indeed, Camp Sherman nearly quadrupled the population of Chillicothe.

Tony arrived in Camp Sherman in the summer of 1918. Something else arrived at camp shortly after that: the Spanish influenza. The flu swept through the camp. Eventually, Camp Sherman was quarantined to prevent the illness from spreading further into Chillicothe.

Almost 1,200 men in Camp Sherman died from the flu. Anthony Joseph Caito was one them. He died 11 October 1918 and was laid to rest in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Columbus.

Anthony Caito tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus. Photo by Amy Crow.

Anthony Caito tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus. Photo by Amy Crow.

References:

  • Caito, Anthony death certificate, #39698 (1918), viewed on FamilySearch.org.
  • Caito, Anthony Joseph, tombstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. Photos by Amy Johnson Crow.
  • The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18. Columbus, OH, USA: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1926, p. 2433. Viewed digital image on Ancestry.com, “Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918.”
  • Ohio Historical Society, “Camp Sherman,” OhioHistoryCentral.org.
  • Ohio Historical Society, “Marker #7-71 Camp Sherman,” RemarkableOhio.org.

An Industrious Sober Man Was Eber Johnson

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When we think of the Civil War, we tend to think of the participants in two groups: young soldiers in combat and old white-haired veterans who later sat around telling tales of their days in the war. What is often overlooked is the toll — both physical and mental — that the war took on those who returned home.

When he enlisted he was a farmer and has always followed said occupation. Don’t think that his disease has been aggravated in the least by intemperance or any bad habits as Mr. Eber Johnson was always regarded as an industrious sober man prior to his enlistment.┬áSince his return from the U.S. service he is still a sober man but unable to perform any manual labor to amount to anything.

Those words are from John Murnahan in his affidavit on 11 March 1886, filed as part of Eber Johnson’s application to obtain a Civil War pension. Eber, my great-great-grandfather, had been a private in Company D, 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery. He enlisted in October 1864 at the age of 41 (older than most enlistees). He was discharged 25 July 1865. Though he served just nine months, the war had a devastating effect on him.

After his death in January 1894, Eber’s widow Ann M. (Stephens) Johnson applied for a pension. In her application, she states:

My property consists of forty one acres of land with a cheap frame house and log barn left to me by my husband in his will. Valued at about 200 dollars. My tax on said property is $4.50 annually. I have no personal property outside of my household goods. I have no income of any kind outside of the third I get off of the 41 acres of land.

What happened that caused Eber to go from an industrious man to not being able to perform manual labor, to the point that his widow was left with just 41 acres of land and “a cheap frame house”? Those of us looking back can’t be completely certain, but in Eber’s mind there was no doubt as to what caused his physical decline. It was one long, arduous march from Knoxville to Bean Station, Tennessee in December 1864.

That it was on a forced march from near Knoxville to Bean Station, Tenn. It was in the middle of Winter and we had to leave our overcoats, knapsacks, etc and it was so severely cold that the water would freeze to our pantaloons.

Whether or not that one march was the direct cause of Eber’s decline is a matter of debate. One thing is certain: the Eber Johnson who returned home in July 1865 was not the same man who left in October 1864.

Eber’s pension application was eventually approved. The amount: $12 per month.

eber-johnson

Eber Johnson’s signature. Declaration for Original Invalid Pension, 23 May 1885. Pension application 541396.

Reference:
Eber Johnson, Civil War Pension file, application 541396.