This story of Ozro Blanding Foster was derived from a biography written in his lifetime by Ida Porter, a daughter. To this was added research from internet sources of Civil War records and Census enumerations. Collaboration was done with Bob Waxham, historian of the Waxham family in America. To which was blended old, almost forgotten family stories and photos collected by my mother. -great grandson Larry Ozro Dean
Ozro was born May 3, 1841 in Kalamazoo Michigan, the first child of Alonzo Foster and Betsy Blanding. In 1844 the family moved to La Porte Indiana (incorporated 1835). They were here for the arrival of the railroad and the1850 US Census which found Ozro along with 3 younger siblings, sisters Aurilla [or Orilla] M. and Adelade and brother Orlando Horace. The Blanding family was in Silver Creek, New York and perhaps already familiar with the Thomas Waxhams when they arrived in La Porte in 1858. Anyway Ozro became friends with Alfred Waxham, a tall light hair boy with penetrating dark eyes of his own age and grew sweet on younger sister Adelaide Waxham. However by the 1860 census, the Foster family had moved again this time to north Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana.
Alonzo had a number of sisters, but only one brother, Lionel. We know from census records that Lionel left Vermont for Canada and married Carolina. In Canada they had 5 children. By 1856 they had moved back to Swede Point, Boone County Iowa. After completing high school, Ozro took a 6 month teaching course given by professor Burlingame at La Porte. He then taught school at Swede Point, apparently a guest of his uncle Lionel and there became close with his cousins Will and Theo.
When the Civil War started, Ozro returned to La Porte, and along with Alfred, enlisted in Company C of the 48th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, which was officially organized at Goshen Indiana, December 5, 1861. The term "volunteer" was a slight misnomer as enlistees were given regular army pay [$13/month] and allowances [$3/month clothing]. The Regiment wintered and trained at Paducah, Kentucky. While Ozro and Alfred were in the same unit, they soon parted for Alfred fell ill and died April 27, 1862 of "lung fever". Meanwhile, Ozro had received a field commission to second lieutenent based on his experiece as a school teacher, and was sent to General Grant's Headquarters to be regimental laison. He got there just in time for the Battle of Shilo, April 6-7, 1862. The Regiment was assigned to Grant's Army of the Mississippi and moved out in May to Corinth MS, and saw first major action at the Battle of Iuka MS, September 19, 1862. From there they went to sieze control of the Central Mississippi Railroad then moved to Memphis Tennessee in January 1863. They campaigned south through April with a number of skirmishes that eventually encircled Vicksburg MS with assaults made on May 19 and 22. The unit remained at the Siege of Vicksburg until the capitulation on July 4, 1863.
While still at Vicksburg, General Grant offered Ozro a command in 11th Lousiana Infantry (African Descent) which was reformed as the 49th Regiment, US Colored Infantry in March 1864. His name is displayed on plaque #C-61 at the African American Civil War Memorial. Taking command of a colored unit was made especially risky as the Confederate States issued a regulation requiring the hanging of any such captured Union officers. However Ozro was more concerned with the pay increase, to $115 per month for his promotion to 1st Lieutenant in November 1864.
His unit helped secure Avery Island, Lousiana (since made famous as the location where Tobasco Brand sauce is made) salt mines. Another task was work on the cut-off canal for the bend of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.
After Lee surrendered in 1865, Ozro was involved with the restoration of the Jefferson Davis mansion, Brierfield Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi [near Vicksburg]. While this was the Davis home before the war, neither Jeff or Varina returned afterwards. Residing at Beauvoir, Biloxi MS, he willed the plantation to Varina on his death, but she moved to New York City instead. It was adjacent to the Hurricane Plantation of older brother Joseph Davis which was burned by the Union troops. After the war, Joe donated use of the farm, the nations third largest cotton producer, for the benefit of former slaves.
A letter from Lt. O. B. Foster to Capt. J. H. Weber, Skipwith's Landing, Miss., 30 Nov. 1865: NA, BRFAL, Assistant Commissioner for Western District of Mississippi, Register of Letters Received [A-9251], was quoted by Steven Hahn in his November 1997 article in Past and Present titled "Extravagant expectations' of freedom: rumour, political struggle, and the Christmas insurrection scare of 1865 in the American South" O. B. and other officers reported on the difficulties of the newly freed former slave men.
Finally Ozro was mustered out with the 49th Regiment on April 28, 1866 at Vicksburg. The work at Brierfield is possibly where he met Pvt Lewis Dent , who had enlisted 23 Aug 1863 in Washington County Mississippi, Company E, 58th Regiment US Colored Infantry, an outfit that was garrisoned at Natchez for the duration of the war and mustered out April 30, 1866. Emancipated by the war, Lewis chose to travel with O. B. afterwards for a short period. This picture was taken and treasured by Ozro as a keepsake. His civil war diary on the other hand he burned at the instigation of my aunt Mary who chided him mercilessly. The only census reference to Lewis Dent was the 1890 special veteran schedule which shows him back in Washington County Mississippi. Dent may have been his slave holders name, as his Civil War pensioner's record shows he also went by Lewis Griffin and his wife was Susan Griffin. Filed for disability in 1883 and died in Mississippi, in about 1918. Mississippi marriage records has him wed to Susan Blackburn , 18 Dec 1900 in Washington County but they were living in the same household for the 1900 Census.
During the war, Alonzo Foster and family moved to New London, Iowa. Ozro returned to La Porte and married Adelaide in August 19, 1866, and then they both went to New London, where William H. was born in 1867. O. B. joined the Mason Lodge, #28 at New London in August, 1867 and was a lifelong participant, at Keystone Lodge #62 at St Joe NE, Doniphan Lodge #85 where he was secretary for 14 years, and finally at Ansley Lodge #176. The Masons honored him with a funeral ceremony. O. B. also participated in the GAR from its inception. At Doniphan NE post 65 he served as commander, adjutant , quartermaster and National Aide de Camp positions. His gavesite was marked by the GAR. At the same time he was practicing member in good standing with the Methodist Church which also provided a funeral.
The 1870 US census has the extended family in New London as 3 adjacent households-
Uncle Lionel 57 and Carolina 56 are not far away, in Burlington, Des Moines County IA. He is selling life insurance, his older son Theo 22 is the deputy clerk for the District Court and Will 19 is a printer [printing court documents?]. O. B. mentions meeting cousin's Will and T. G. Foster in his Civil War reunion letter. At that time he mentioned that Will had been cashier of the First National Bank of Iowa [in Burlington] for 39 years.
Gertrude Ann was also born in New London, in June just after the 1870 census was taken. Ozro then took his family to St. John Missouri where he taught school for four years, and where Alonzo Ernest was born. Then 1875 on to Medicineville MO where Harry Albert were born but died at 8 months. From there they moved to Warsaw, Iowa, in 1877 teaching and farming and where Lilly May was born, she lived just 2 years.
Betsy, Alonzo, Marcia and Aurilla however stayed in New London IA. Marcia married Ludlow and had 2 children, Ray and Nina. The 1885 Iowa census has Ray living in Alonzo's household. Family tradition is Nina was raised in O. B.s household. Marcia later married a Civil War pensioner, Albert Halley in Nebraska and they had children Charles and Lily before he passed in 1900. Orlando took his family to Elm Grove IA for the 1880 US census which included daughters Bertha and Jesse. Lionel may have cashed in his insurance he is not found in the 1880 enumeration. In 1879 Ozro and Adelaide moved to Hall County Nebraska where they proved up a timber claim (5 years) just east of the brand new town of Doniphan [incorporated 1884], where Ida Jane and Cora Viola were born.
1880 saw the indians encamped near Doniphan on the Platte wiped out with typhoid epidemic. The hail-storm of July, 1884, destroyed buildings and damaged the crops in parts of Hall County. In Grand Island the eastern wall of the Union Pacific car shop was blown in, a new building near the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad depot was moved three feet, and from a point north of Grand Island southeast to Doniphan, and beyond, growing crops, trees and small buildings, were pounded into the ground, broken or removed. The blizzard of 1886 was the worst on record, people caught outside had difficulty figuring a direction to go for shelter.
On November 6, 1887, burglers tried to rob the bank by blowing up the door with dynamite. It started a fire that destroyed all of main street and most other buildings in Doniphan. All of the city records were lost along with the cemetery records. The new Cedar View cemetery is where the family was eventually buried (Nancy Bell, wife of William H. Foster, served on the cemetery board), Adelaide in 1909, O. B. in 1933 and William H. in 1942.
The GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Union civil war veterans) Nebraska Department post #65 was organized at Doniphan June 20, 1881. At this time the GAR essentially followed the rules of the Masonic Lodge, which perhaps explains his success. He was also counted in the official Nebraska Veterans census of 1895. At the peak, the Nebraska Department GAR had membership of 10,000 men, but over the years it naturally dwindled by attrition. In 1922 it was down to 1731 and the state organization officially ended operation in July 1949. The last GAR member to die in the USA was in 1956. O. B. wrote a letter covering his trip to the 27th reuion of his original Civil War unit, the 48th Indiana Volunteers. During this trip he retraced a number of former locations, including La Porte and New London and visited with friends and relations. The GAR Ansely Post #180 had 108 charter members in 1884, but by 1918 when O. B. was the Adjutent, it was down to just 11.
Ozro and family left this idyllic paradise and moved on to Ansley NE in 1894, owning and running the Bradly Hardware until 1901, then farming. Ansley was a railroad town, built 8 years previously on the Burlington route. His brother Orlando and Mary E made the trip to Ansley, and they had 3 children, 2 alive in 1910. Lon and Leota also stayed at Ansley along with Nina Ludlow who married Alfred Wilson Wentworth here. The Wentworth families moved to Oklahoma prior to 1905. Adelaide died in 1909 and for the 1910 census, O. B. (wrongfully written as Orlando) was in a boarding home but in 1920 his sister Orvilla [or Aurilla] Bradford was staying with him in Ansely. From 1910 to 1920 he travelled, first to the Civil War reuion at La Porte IN, then with Ida to Silver Spring NY and later with Cora to California. O. B. moved to Broken Bow where his daughters, Ida and Cora could take care of him, in the 1930 census he was staying with Cora.
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