12 An American Archive: George Truesdell


George was the fifth of seven children of Wheeler Truesdell, he was nine years younger than his brother Charles, and the last son of the family. He was born in 1842, and was just 19 years old when the Civil War started. He was appointed 1st Lieutenant of Co. H of the 12th NY Infantry in May of 1861. George was promoted captain in September of 1861 and served in several battles before being wounded at Gaines Mill in June of 1862. Gaines Mill was part of the Seven Days Battle that took place on the peninsular of Northern Virginia as Gen. Meade tried to move north of Richmond, cutting it off and hopefully capturing the capital. He was met by General Lee and his army of Northern Virginia and decisively defeated in most of the encounters. At Gaines Mill, Gen. Meade had placed Gen. Porter with his V Corps facing the Confederates that had gathered at the Hanover Courthouse. After a brief artillery exchange the Union troops moved back to fortified positions at Gaines Mill. Gen. Butterfield held the left side near the swamp with the 15th Mich, the 17th NY, the 44th NY, the 83rd Penn. and the 12th NY. The initial assault came from the center right with the Confederates making good gains. Then Gen. Longstreet came crashing through the swamp on the left, decimating the 83rd Penn and forcing a general retreat from the field, with nightfall preventing the complete capture of the V Corps. Gen. Butterfield had briefly rallied the 83rd by grabbing the standard and urging the men to rally, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor for this act. It was probably witnessed by George Truesdell has he was right behind the 83rd, in Co. H of the 12th NY. George was wounded and out of action, but likely saw Maj. Gen Butterfield raise the standard until he too was wounded, Both were captured by the advancing Confederates as the Union Army retreated back over the river and out of Virginia. The prisoners were held in the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond. It was a brick warehouse with eight rooms, each 42 by 103 feet. Constantly overcrowded and unsanitary, the conditions there caused many deaths after capture. George was paroled one month later with another captain for Lt. Colonel W. J. Price of the 8th Infantry of North Carolina. Maj. Gen Butterfield was paroled at about the same time. George was unable to remain in a front line unit and spent the remainder of the war as paymaster of the 12th NY as a Lt. Colonel. The commandant of the 12th, elected by the officers, was George Geddes, the same man who had given his brother Charles a start in the engineering field. George went to Michigan University, worked in civil engineering, real estate, and municipal railways. He married Frances Pringle, and they eventually settled in Washington, D.C. He was one of the dignitaries at the dedication of the Washington Monument in 1885, acting as an aide to Gen. Sherman. He was also on the planning committee for the inauguration of Pres. Teddy Roosevelt in 1904. Always interested in investing in land or commodities. George was on the board for the Good Enough Silver Mining Company of Tombstone, Arizona. The Good Enough Mine was the first of the several silver mines in this part of Arizona, and was so close to the town that miners could walk to work. When it finally played out in 1903, it had produced hundreds of thousands of dollars of silver. It is now reopened in 2007 as a major tourist attraction in Tombstone. George apparently convinced Col. Fessenden that the mine was a good investment and the archive has a stock certificate issuing one hundred shares at ten dollars a share. In 1887, George and his wife Frances jointly purchased the Gales Estate, north of Washington, D.C., and divided the land into an attractive suburb. George also started the Soldier’s Home Railway to provide public transportation to the center of the city. Truesdell spent $500,000 in preparing the 87 acre parcel of land. He called it Eckington, and it had a provision of no liquor stores and no manufacturing. In 1894 to 1897 George served on the Board of Commissioners for the District of Columbia, essentially a city councilman. He made many political connections that continued until his death in 1925.

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