MELVILLE INGHAM was the son of Solomon W. Ingham and Lydia Gadd. Melville was born in Iowa in May 1847 but his mother passed away not long after he was born. His father had been a pioneer Methodist Circuit rider in northeastern Iowa for many years but was pastor of the Methodist church in Toledo Iowa at the time the Civil War began in 1861. when Melville was only 14.
By early 1864, many Toledo families, including the Ingham's next door neighbors, the family of William Goit, had lost a husband, son, or brother in the Union cause, and even though he was not yet 17, Melville decided it was his turn to serve his country. He enlisted into the 14th Iowa Infantry Company G, the same company William Goit had served in before his death. The company roster lists young Ingham's age as 19 at enlistment in January 1864 but it is uncertain whether that is a clerical error, or if Melville "hedged" on his age a bit to make sure he was accepted into the regiment.
Three months later, Ingham's company was on the march in Louisiana on the Red River Campaign, where he participated in the taking of Ft. deRussy, and in the severe battle of Pleasant Hill, where many of his companions were killed, badly wounded, or taken prisoner. It was a costly victory, and fruitless, as the falling Red River forced the Union forces to withdraw short of their goal, the taking of Shreveport. Ingham later fought with his regiment in campaigns through Mississippi and Missouri.
In November 1864 the 14th Iowa Infantry had been in the field three years and most of the veterans mustered out. Ingham and the newer recruits, and a handful of veterans who had volunteered to stay longer for extra duty, were then consolidated into three companies and renamed the 14th Iowa Residuary Battalion. They were stationed at Camp Butler on the outskirts of Springfield Illinois, as the War began winding down.
They were still in Springfield when word came of the shocking assassination of President Lincoln. When the train arrived carrying Lincoln's body from Washington to Springfield for burial, the 14th Iowa Battalion were among the men selected to act as escorts and honor guards, bearing Lincoln's coffin to the Illinois Statehouse, standing guard as he lay in state, serving at the funeral, and then in the procession to the cemetery for entombment. Some of the men also served as guards at the cemetey afterwards. At a young age, Melville Ingham was already a hardened combat veteran, and an eyewitness to, and particpant in, one of America's saddest events.
After the War Ingham married, began a family, and then moved to Columbus Ohio, where he spent the remainder of his life living until just two months short of his 50th birthday. He was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus Ohio.
Below are his entry in the Iowa rosters and his obit:
Ingham, Melville C. Age 19. Residence Toledo, Tama County, nativity Iowa. Enlisted January 20, 1864. Mustered January 23, 1864. -- Consolidated into Company A, Residuary Battalion Fourteenth Infantry. Mustered out August 8, 1865, Davenport Iowa.
DEATH OF CONDUCTOR INGHAM
Patrons of the High street car line will greatly regret to learn of the death of Mr. Melville C. Ingham, who for a number of years has been a conductor on that line of the Columbus Street Railroad company. About ten days ago he was taken ill with a complication of typhoid-malarial fever and pneumonia. Later heart trouble was added to his affliction, and was the cause of his death about midnight last night, at his home, 22 Woodruff avenue.
Mr. Ingham was a man of retiring disposition, though active and energetic, and regarded by the company as one of the best conductors in its service. He leaves besides his wife, three children to mourn. They are Mrs. M. E. Swanson, Miss irene Ingham, and Mr. Francis Ingham, who is also in the employ of the street railroad. Mr. Ingham was a member of Acorn lodge, Woodmen of the World, of this city, and of the Odd Fellows and G. A. R. in Galena, his former home. He was also identified with the Third Avenue M. E. church, and the funeral services will be conducted by Dr. McElfresh, pastor, and Dr. J. C. Jackson, jr., former pastor of that church.
Columbus Dispatch Wednesday March 10, 1897.
Recently the museum at Traer Iowa has published a War diary and an extensive collection of letters from Ingham's fellow soldiers in Company G of the 14th Iowa. Ingham is mentioned a few times including a close call where he barely escaped an enemy sniper's bullet as they camped on campaign in Mississippi. Members of the Ingham family, or anyone interested in detailed first hand stories of the War told by the front line soldiers themselves, might find the book very interesting. It is almost three hundred 8 x 11 pages packed with first person accounts, hardbound with a beautiful cover. It can be found at the museum website --- www.traermuseum.com