“Old Baldy” of Andersonville

8 02 2010

Issuing Rations, Andersonville Prison, Ga, 8/17/1864, NAR 165-A-445

Earlier today, I received the following email from a reader:

I have a poster from my great-uncle’s G.A.R chapter – E.T. Wood Grand Prairie Minnesota – dated only 28 Feb (no year).  It is advertising  a “Fire” with a band, glee club, sowbelly, beans hardtack and coffee – free to all.  There are also several speakers.  One is my uncle, and two others were locals.  One has me going.  “Old Baldy” of Andersonville will speak of his experiences ’64 ’65.  I was trying to date the poster from the range of the dates the speakers died.  I am not having much luck; so, thought I would try to identify “Old Baldy”, who is evidently not Gen Meade’s deceased horse.  I believe it would be  circa 1880-1900, but would like to pin it down a little closer.

“Old Baldy” appears to be mentioned in Herman Mellville’s poem and again in POW first-person accounts, but always as ‘Old Baldy.” Do you have any idea who this soldier might be or a resource who can help me find him?

The only battle I can find (not looking really in depth) with a 28 Feb date is: Battle of Island Number Ten.  My uncle was in the Ind 7th Calvary, and although in the general area dealing with Nathan Bedford Forrest, I am not sure this particular battle would have a lot of significance for him.  At any rate, any ideas of how to trace “Old Baldy” and the year of this Feb 28 G.A.R. poster, without heading for Minnesota, would be appreciated.

Best Regards,

Linda Ferguson

Alexandria, VA

To which I replied:


Here’s what I’ve found so far:

In this book:

12 Months in Andersonville: On The March—In The Battle—In The Rebel Prison Pens, and at Last in God’s Country, by Lessel Long, Private Co. F, 18th Indiana Infantry.

See page 137.  It seems “Old Baldy” was a preacher in a Chicago Battery and an inspirational prisoner at Andersonville.
If you’d like, I can post your question on the blog and see what any readers turn up.

Linda responded:

Darn! I saw that, but missed the Chicago, preacher part.  A speaker from Chicago could have easily traveled to central Minnesota. I did find a pension turned down for a “Henry King” who was called “Baldy” in Andersonville 64-65, but he was from Ohio. 

If you wouldn’t mind placing “Old Baldy of Andersonville”  in your blog, it might lead to the man’s identity.  Thanks for the offer.

Subsequently, I found the case of Henry King in Decisions of the Department of the Interior in Appealed Pension Claims, Vol VI.  The text notes that affidavits confirming King’s claim to be “Old Baldy” were perhaps not kosher.

I’m not well read on Andersonville, and I’ve never heard of this “Old Baldy” before (I’m only familiar with George Meade’s horse).  Is it possible that “Old Baldy” was so iconic that more than one person claimed to be him; that he was an amalgam of several people; or that he was perhaps more legend than fact?

Any help you can give to Linda will be greatly appreciated.

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