A Work in Progress Whatever Became of Private Edward Loony?
by Gordon Thorsby
The story of Edward Loony is truly a work-in-progress and one that may never be resolved. Unfortunately, we rarely discuss the half-stories because there are missing beginnings, middles, and ends. For Edward, he possesses several holes. The following could be an interesting story if we could uncover more of it. Until then, the story is filled in with theories, guesses and more questions.
The Library of Congress sometimes has some records. The National Archives often has some records that tell portions of stories. The State Archives for the unit a soldier was from can have something and then collections in libraries can be of assistance. For Edward, his family would be the best source because Edward seems to have been just a common soldier who has too many missing parts about his life. There are the Ancestry.com's, and Family Tree sites. In all of these options, Edward Loony was able to evade all but two, William Belknap's regimental rosters and his headstone in Annapolis documenting his death. Edward Loony is almost entirely lost to our history.
Here is what we know from various sources (listed below).
Edward Loony was a farmer outside of the small village of Chesaning, Michigan when he enlisted in Company E as private in the 14th Michigan Infantry. It was the day after Christmas, 1861 when he signed his name for a three-year enlistment. How old was Ed? He was 43 when he joined. Wow! An infantry soldier carried a twelve-pound musket, a an average sixty-pound pack with literally everything to survive, 40-60 rounds of ammunition and he tolerated bad food, horrible living conditions, brogans for shoes and endured western theater mud and heat. This could not be easy on a nineteen-year old. For a forty-three year old man, it would especially difficult. It is reasonable that Edward left at home a wife, children and a farm that may have been tended in his absence by the wife and children, old enough to do work around the place. Military pay would have to support them when it came. It is a guess that Edward enlisted in the 14th with very strong feelings for fighting.
The 14th Michigan transported by rail to St. Louis and arrived at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee on April 17, 1862, less than two weeks after Shiloh. The army was still recovering from the fight on the adjacent field where the worst battle in American history at the time. Edward would probably have been part of the advance onto Corinth, Mississippi and this is where the story becomes increasingly murky.
How Edward Loony is only told by what we know and that is from a headstone in Annapolis, MD that marks Edward Loony's death. We conclude Edward lies there where he died and probably from disease or illness. Officially, Edward Loony was discharged July 1, 1862, due to a disability (likely of disease.) The discharge on July 1, was common in that the bureaucracy of the army was simply doing its paperwork and he may have died later. The added mystery is that he was discharged in Detroit. At best, one might surmise that Detroit performed the paperwork to absolve the Federal government of further responsibility due to Edward's illness or other causes. In other words, Edward's actual existence was in limbo.
We have no death certificate indication of his death. Generally, the reasons a soldier was in Annapolis was awaiting official exchange, recovering from wounds or long-term illness, or a member of the medical staffs and sanitary commissions. If Edward had been wounded or was ill, he would have been in locations in Kentucky, Indiana, or Ohio.
The theory is that Edward was captured at some point, became ill as a result of imprisonment as prisoner of war or was wounded/already ill when captured. During possible imprisonment in Richmond, VA, he was released/parole and transported to Annapolis. Richmond would move Edward toward the east and closer to a parole and this might be the reason for his being in Annapolis. Annapolis was a holding area for paroled Union soldiers awaiting official exchange.
A note: Discharge for disability connotes disease, physical impairment, complications from wounds, or a myriad of other reasons that prevented carrying out soldierly duties. Being 43 was enough for many soldiers. However, his death in Annapolis this might indicate there were greater reasons.
There was one last indication of Edward Loony's existence. There is an obelisk marker in Michigan to forty-two unknown soldiers erected by Grand Army of the Republic Post #121. No documentation exists as to who specifically the 42 were. Private Edward Loony, a hometown boy is theorized as one who did not return home.
There was a John Loony on earth at the same time. He too was a Union soldier. His life is also unknown except he was a New York volunteer. They might have been related because Edward's neighbors were mostly from western New York and John was a New York volunteer. John Loony died August 3,1863 and is buried at the Soldiers and Sailors Cemetery in Washington, DC. His headstone says Unknown, NY. Then again, neither may be related. It is only a thought.
GAR Book Post #121 "Paps Thomas".
Dyer, Frederick Henry. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion.
Michigan in the Civil War: Regimental Histories and Personal Narratives Online," Belknap, William, Bentley Library, University of Michigan, originally published 1908.
National Data Research, Inc. 2022.