John B. Battles (102nd USCT)

John Bolden Battles was born on June 7, 1833, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Battles, a free Black family, left Albemarle County sometime after 1850 and settled in Ohio. John later moved to Niles, Michigan, with his brother James and his sister. On June 10, 1857, he married Barbara Winborn, and they had seven children: Charles, born April 14, 1859; Edward, born January 30, 1861; Reuben, born March 20, 1863; Ellen, born April 14, 1865; Thomas, born circa 1868; Susan, born December 16, 1875; and Martha, born January 31, 1879. Before enlisting, he and his brother James lived together and worked as carpenters in Niles.

Battles enlisted as a private in the Union army on August 31, 1864, and mustered in on September 5, 1864, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His service record describes him as 5 feet, 11 inches tall, with black hair, black eyes, and a dark complexion. He and James served in Company B of the 102nd USCT Infantry Regiment. Two months later, on November 7, 1864, he was promoted to corporal, a rank he held until the end of the war. His regiment served a wide range of functions on duty throughout Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia. He later claimed to develop conjunctivitis in the eyes due to "powder burn," possibly near Deveaux Neck, South Carolina, in December 1864. He mustered out on September 30, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina.

After the war, Battles returned to Niles, where he worked as a carpenter and joined a local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, Frank Groves Post #64. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1875, and then to a soldiers' home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1901. Battles applied for a pension in 1887, insisting he was "nearly totally" disabled. His application was approved two years later, on November 27, 1889, for a "disease of [the] rectum." By February 1907, he was receiving $15 a month. Battles died of jaundice on February 19, 1908, in the Grand Rapids Soldiers' Home. His wife Barbara subsequently received a pension until her death in Chicago on June 24, 1911.

Name:Battles, John B.
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
102nd Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored TroopsB
Branch of service:Army
Enlistment1864-08-31Niles, MIaccepted31Free
Muster In1864-09-05Kalamazoo, MI
Muster Out1865-09-30Charleston, SCMustered Out
Residence at enlistment:Niles, MI
Rank In:Private
Rank Out:Corporal
Highest rank achieved:Corporal
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Battles, John B.Battles, John B.621307application-invalid
Battles, John B.Battles, Barbara896265application-widow
Battles, John B.Battles, John B.416051certificate-invalid
Battles, John B.Battles, Barbara667953certificate-widow
Birth date:1833-06-07
Birth date certainty:Exact
Birth place:Charlottesville, VA
Death date:1908-02-19
Death place:Soldiers Home Hospital Grand Rapids, MI
Causes of death:disease: jaundice
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Charles
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Edward
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Reuben
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Susan
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Ellen
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Martha
Battles, John B.parent ofBattles, Thomas
Battles, Barbarawife ofBattles, John B.

Compiled Service Record for John B. Battles, RG94, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; Pension Records for John B. Battles, RG15, NARA, Washington, D.C.; United States Federal Census, 1850, 1860; Death Certificates for John B. Battles and Barbara Battles, accessed through; Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., “‘A Just and True Account’:” Two 1833 Parish Censuses of Albemarle County Free Blacks,” Magazine of Albemarle County History History 53 (1995):114-139; "J. B. Battles," Grand Army of the Republic: Michigan Department,