The Belle Isle Prisoner 
 A Civil War Soldier Behaving Badly 
Williams Co, Oh


Pamela Pattison Lash

"War is hell" stated William Tecumseh Sherman, the famous Ohio Civil War General. Modern readers can only imagine what life was like in a Confederate prison, such as the infamous Belle Isle facility. Psychologically speaking we can not know what demons were unleashed in men's minds that greatly impacted their future behavior; or, was this experience an excuse for men to act badly? You be the judge.

Heslip William Shaffer, the son of Samuel and Mary Ann (Powell?) Shaffer, was born on 27 May 1840 in Coshocton Co, OH.  His father Samuel was a Pennsylvania native, born c. 1806 and his English mother was born on 1818.  They may have been married in Muskingum Co, OH on 29 Aug 1839.  Further research is needed to confirm this.  The Shaffer family was enumerated in Jefferson Twp, Wms Co, OH in 1850 as Samuel 44 PA; Mary 32 EN; Heslip 10 OH; Isaac 8 OH; Andrew 6 OH; Lydia 4 OH; and Joseph 2 OH.  By the 1860 Jefferson Twp census one finds Samuel 53 PA; Clarissa 41 OH; John Fulkerson 19 OH; Isaac 17 OH; Lydia 13 OH; Joseph 12 OH; Seth 4 OH; and Clarissa 1 OH.  Mary Ann Shaffer, the mother of Heslip, had died on 13 Jan 1855 and was buried in Rings Cem, Brady Twp.  Samuel, the widower, married Clarissa (Trucks) Fulkerson Van Nortwick, on 1 Sept 1855 in Wms Co (V2 p157, Marriages).  Clarissa was twice a widow and apparently the mother of both Seth and little Clarissa who later died on 1 July 1861 and was buried in the Lash Cemetery, Jefferson Twp.  Samuel Shaffer was a personal property taxpayer in the 1867 Jefferson Twp records but his further whereabouts are unknown to date.  There is a Samuel Schaffer (note spelling) whose death is recorded as 21 Apr 1870 (V1 p2, Deaths).  Clarissa Shaffer (1819-1889) was buried in the West Jefferson Cemetery.

            Amanda Jane Dehart, daughter of Gilbert and Lydia (Ball) Dehart, was born in Knox Co, OH, on 15 May 1843.  Her parents were married there on 18 Aug 1842.  Gilbert brought his family to Jefferson Twp, Wms Co, OH sometime before 1859 and was enumerated in the 1860 Jefferson Twp census as Gilbert 41 OH; Lydia 41 OH; Senica 15 OH; Clayton 13 OH; and Sophronia 5 OH.  They lived next door to their married daughter Amanda and her husband Heslip W. Shaffer who married in Wms Co, on 20 Jul 1859 (Marriage V3 p65).  Heslip and Amanda became the parents of daughter Eva Della on 14 Dec 1861.

            Responding to the call to serve his country, Heslip enlisted in Co C 100th OVI as a private and was detailed as a nurse at Lexington, KY.  On 8 Sept 1863 he was captured at Limestone Station, TN and served time at Belle Isle Prison until Mar 1864 when he was released and hospitalized in an Annapolis, MD facility suffering from kidney disease, scurvy, chronic diarrhea, and piles.  Heslip was honorably discharged and returned home to wife Amanda and daughter Eva.

            Heslip, a grocer, paid personal property tax in Madison Twp 1867.  From the 1870 Pioneer, Madison Twp, federal census Heslip was listed as 30 OH along with Amanda Jane 27 OH; Eva D. 10 OH; and his sister Lydia J. 23 OH.  They lived next door to Gilbert Dehart, a mail carrier, 45 OH; Senica 22 OH; and Sophronia 15 OH.  Gilbert’s wife, Lydia, died in April 1868 but her burial place is unknown at this time.

            According to the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court Records (Journal 7 p540 – May 1871; Roll 23 case number 42) Roll 23 (#42) Amanda, a Pioneer resident, appeared in court requesting a divorce from Heslip.  She stated that he was a habitual drunk for the last three years.  Amanda’s 15 year old sister, Sophronia, by written deposition, testified that on 18 Sept 1870 while Amanda was visiting relatives in Knox Co, she (Sophronia) had committed adultery with brother-in-law, Heslip, on numerous occasions and had recently given birth to a child on 11 May 1871, about 3 months after Amanda had discovered the affair.  Neighbors of Amanda and Heslip also testified to the accuracy of Sophronia’s testimony along with her father, Gilbert Dehart.  Williams Co, OH Births, V1 p33, bears out these facts that on 11 May 1871 Charles L. Shaffer was born to parents HW Shaffer and Sophronia P. Dehart.  Amanda was immediately granted a divorce with reasonable alimony and child support.

            Amanda soon moved to Iowa City, Johnson Co, IA, where she married Lewis Dyo Chambers on 21 Dec 1872.  Amanda did not have any other known children.  She died on 19 Oct 1907 in Daylight, TN and was buried on the farm of a CG Howells.  Her daughter, Eva, first married Daniel Francis Davis on 7 Jan 1882 in Schyler, Colfax Co, Nebraska; later she married Frank Hughes. 

Sophronia Dehart, again according to Wms Co, OH Birth Records became a mother on 10 June 1874 to son Fred in West Unity (Birth V1 p73) with the father of record as Marion Paton.  Sophronia later traveled to Iowa and married Robert Cook McCleery on 17 May 1878 in Creston, Union Co, IA.  Robert died there on 16 May 1885 and Sophronia passed away on 10 Sept 1903 in Perry, Noble Co, OK.  She was the mother of three McCleery daughters.  The whereabouts of baby Charles L. Shaffer is unknown at this time.

            Amanda and Sophronia’s father was living in Millcreek Twp 1880 federal census p491A as a widower along with his widowed sister-in-law, Clarissa.  Gilbert died on 26 Apr 1885, Wms Co (Death V2 p33) and was buried in the West Franklin Cemetery, Fulton Co, OH along with his mother, Mary, sister Martha A, and brother Peter.

            So what happened to Heslip?  He next married a Rose/Rosa A. and had a son, Isaac Newton Shaffer, born 17 Feb 1872 in Newark, Gratiot Co, MI; the baby died on 18 Mar 1872 and his mother followed on 17 Aug 1872 from childbirth complications.  Heslip’s third wife, Fidelia Dean, daughter of Luther Dean, was born c. 1849 in Pennsylvania.  She and Heslip had the following three sons, all born in Newark: unnamed male (10 Dec 1877 – 11 Dec 1877); Luther A. (1877, may be a twin); and Newton (April 1880).  The last two sons plus the parents were enumerated in the 1880 Newark federal census p532C.  At the age of 36, Fidelia died on 22 June 1885.  About three years later Heslip applied for a CW pension on 2 July 1888.  He later died on 10 Oct 1895 and was buried in Ithaca, Gratiot Co, MI.



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