|Death: ||Sep. 14, 1901|
Oliver H. Atwood, was born in Pennsylvania, about 1835, although, he had claimed, in his application for the Civil War pension, that he was born in New Jersey. All documentary evidence points to his birth in Pennsylvania, with the 1830, 1840 and 1850 census records showing the family residence in those years as Pennsylvania, as well as the fact that, in the 1850 census, Oliver's siblings are all shown with Pennsylvania as their birthplace. Unfortunately, Oliver's name is not on this last census record, as he was, by then, a seafarer, and was obviously away at sea. His parents were Holmes and Anne Atwood, and the family were resident's ofSpringville, Pennsylvania, through these years. Holmes' name could not be located on the earlier 1820 census. The 1850 census record for the town of Springville, Pennsylvania, shows farmer Holmes Atwood, aged 52, a native of Connecticut, with his Pennsylvania born wife, Anne, aged 39, and their children, all born in Pennsylvania, Gilbert, aged 20, Mary Anne, aged 17, Richard, aged 16, Hosea, aged 13, Charles, aged 10, Morris, aged 8, and Amanda, aged 5. By the time of the 1860 census, Oliver's parents had moved to Illinois, where some of his siblings were also residing, though with different families. Their two children, Morris and Julia Atwood, aged 18 and 11, respectively, were residing at the home of farmer William H. Mitchell, and his wife Mary, at Mayfield township, DeKalb County, Illinois. Charles Atwood was residing as a farmhand at the home of farmer Norman Mitchell and his wife, Catharine, at Cass township, Jones County, Iowa. Gilbert Atwood, whose name is also shown sometimes as Gifford, and also as Guilford, was resident, in 1860, as a farm labourer, with his wife Mary, and their daughter, Polly, also at Mayfield township, Illinois. Amanda Atwood, shown as a servant, aged just 15 in 1860, was residing at the home of farmer Oscar L. Peas and his wife Jane, at Burlington township, Kane County, Illinois. Oliver himself, had left his family at an early age, and was indicated to have served, during the Mexican War, in battery F of the 4th United States Artillery, though a search of the United States Army Register of Enlistments does not show either his original name of Oliver H. Atwood, or of his assumed name of James Riley, as being an enlistee. He later applied for a Mexican War pension, citing his service in this particular unit. It is assumed that, if he did serve, he may have used another alias. After the Mexican War, he took up a seafaring career, first serving as a "greenhand" aboard the Archer, in 1852 (which departed for the Pacific whaling grounds on October 4, 1852), then aboard the vessels Levi Starbuck, Ohio II and the Euphrates, in 1857; the Euphrates was a whaling vessel which operated out of New Bedford, and departed from that port for the Pacific whaling grounds on October 15, 1857, returning to the United States on April 6, 1861. Oliver's father had mother, in the meantime, had moved to Burlington, Illinois. Subsequently, and for an undisclosed reason, Oliver assumed the name of James Riley when he enlisted on September 25, 1862, at Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, for three years service in company D of the 155th Regiment of New York Infantry. He was appointed 5th sergeant in the unit on November 8, 1862. Company muster rolls for May and June of 1863 show that he was absent and in confinement at Fort Norfolk, and that his rank had been reduced to private. Subsequent muster rolls for the company indicate that, by July, 1863, he had returned to the unit, as a private. The March and April, 1864 rolls indicate that, during this period, he had gone to Montrose, Pennsylvania (Montrose is only ten miles from his childhood home of Springville), and returned, and was due to the United States, the sum of ten dollars for transportation. The reason for his visit back to Pennsylvania was because he had obviously been corresponding with a lady friend, namely Nancy L. Taylor, the daughter of Aaron Taylor of Springville, and Oliver was married to Nancy, on April 16, 1864, at Springville. Shortly after, he returned to his regiment, and, by July, 1864, he had again been restored to his rank of sergeant, and was promoted to sergeant major on December 24, 1864. At some time, during this final month of 1864, he was sent on furlough. The company muster roll for January and February, 1865 shows that, on February 15, 1865, he was once more reduced to the rank of private by his regimental commander, but was again promoted to 1st sergeant on April 2, 1865. He was mustered out with the company at Washington, D.C., on July 15, 1865. In later years Atwood claimed, in his pension application (for service in the 155th New York), that he hadbeen wounded in the right thigh by a gunshot wound, at the battle of Reams Station, Virginia, August 25, 1864, though the regimental record contains no indication of this wounding.
Four of Oliver's five brothers had also served in military service during the Civil War, with one brother, Richard W. Atwood being killed in action, and a death notice, in a Pennsylvania newspaper, in 1864, giving the following obituary: "Death – 1864 – Atwood, Sgt. Richard W. – Died June 6th of wounds received at the battle of Resaca, May 24th, Sgt. Richard W. Atwood, amember of Co. C, 105th Ill. Vols., son of Homer Atwood, formerly of Springville, Susq. Co., Pa., and one of the five brothers serving since the beginning of the rebellion, namely: Morris, Co. H, 13th Ill. Vols: Hosea, orderly sgt. Co. F, 65th Ill. Vols: Charles, Co. K, 1st Iowa Cav; Oliver, color sergeant,155th N.Y. Vols, Corcoran Irish Legion."
His brother Morris, died in 1888, and is buried at the Kingston Cemetery, DeKalb County, Illinois, and another brother, Hosea, died in 1909, and is buried at the Collins Cemetery, Story County, Iowa.
Oliver, after the war, indicated that he had resided, as a labourer, at Sycamore, Illinois, in 1873, and also stated, in his later pension application for Civil War service, that his first wife, Nancy, had died at Aberdeen, Monroe County Mississippi on September 6, 1870 or 1871 (the year is shown differently on two pages of his pension application). Confirmation of his residence is shown in the 1870 census, for the township of Aberdeen, Mississippi, where he is shown residing there as a farmer, aged 43, native of Pennsylvania, with wife Nancy, aged 33, also a native of Pennsylvania, and with their children, Gracey, aged 4, born Pennsylvania, Dora, aged 2, born Pennsylvania, and son Lewis, aged 1, born in Illinois. Oliver later indicated, in his pension application that he had been a resident of White Rock, Ogle County, Illinois, in 1873. From all these documents and statements, his places of residency can be stated as being in Pennsylvania between 1866 and 1868, then in Illinois in 1869, in Mississippi in 1870, and probably 1871, and back in Illinois about 1872. At some later stage he came to Australia, where he was married, a second time, to Mary Reid, at the the Victorian town of Beechworth on January 25, 1886. For an unknown reason, Oliver used the alias, James Riley, when he lived in Australia, as a resident of the Victorian town of Wahgunyah. As with many of those veterans who were natives of America, they seemed to have had a past that they wanted to conceal, and left family and friends behind, to live "down under". He was admitted to the Ovens District Hospital, at Beechworth, Victoria, on September 10, 1901, suffering from acute alcoholism, and died on September 14, 1901. Atwood was buried, as James Riley, at the Beechworth Cemetery, on September 17, 1901, and some ninety years later, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Bob Simpson, of Beechworth, the grave of Riley was finally marked with a gravestone supplied by the Veterans Administration, in Washington, D.C. What became of his three children from his first marriage, as well as the subsequent whereabouts of his second wife, Mary, is unknown.
Created by: Terry Foenander
Record added: Apr 16, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 108632960
What a fascinating life you led Mr. Atwood. You had the pioneer spirit of adventure and as a veteran.Bless you and to all who loved you.|
David W. Rixon
Added: Jul. 26, 2013
What a fascinating life you led Mr. Atwood. Bless you and to all who love you.|
David W. Rixon
Added: Jul. 26, 2013
Added: Jun. 2, 2013