“I have been drafted into the United States service. As far as I know, I am the only one in Ohio. I feel anxious to know if any other Sabbath-keepers have been drafted from any other place.”
So wrote Martin Kittle to the editor of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald in October of 1862. It is a curious letter for several reasons. While the Civil War was heavily discussed in the pages of the Review, seldom were the names of individual soldiers disclosed. Kittle precisely stated that he was drafted, but Federal conscription did not become law until 1863. So how could he be drafted? And finally, what did his Civil War service entail?
Martin Luther Kittle was born in New York State in November of 1835, the son of Horatio James and Susan Sophia Kittle. Known as H. J. or H. James Kittle in publication, the senior Kittle was born in Ontario, Canada in 1809. At an undetermined date, he moved to New York where he most likely married, then later moved to Ohio. It was while living in northern Ohio in 1856 that the Kittles joined the growing Adventist movement under the teaching of Elders Jesse Dorcas, George W. Holt and Merritt E. Cornell. The Kittles had previously attended a Baptist church.
James was a frequent correspondent in the Review. His letters express keen curiosity, deep desire, and an unwavering commitment to understand and follow the Bible better. In a letter to the Review published on December 31, 1857, James related that his wife and his son (presumably Martin) joined him in his beliefs. James was also involved in church leadership in Ohio. In early June 1857 he was one of five members appointed to manage the tent purchased for evangelistic use in the state.
On October 30, 1859 Martin Kittle married Catharine Forman in Putnam County, Ohio. The newlyweds settled temporarily near Fremont in Sandusky County, Ohio where Martin’s parents and younger siblings James, Charles, and Emma lived nearby. It was here that, tragically, Susan died of a bilious fever (an obsolete term for any fever accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes jaundice–the defining symptoms could indicate a number of diseases, but bilious fever is now thought to most commonly refer to malaria) on August 9, 1862. Just two months later, Martin was drafted by the state of Ohio. It must have been a discouraging time for the Kittle family.
Quotas, drafts, and deferments
The state of Ohio ranked third, behind New York and Pennsylvania, in the count of men sent to the Union Army. But Ohio sent more men per capita than any other state. So it seems surprising that any compulsory recruitment methods became necessary. However the state was heavily split between Peace Democrats who resisted Abraham Lincoln’s policies and Republican supporters of the war. This may have contributed to the shortfall in Ohio’s enlistments when Lincoln called for 300,000 new troops on July 2, 1862.
The Militia Act of 1862 quickly followed Lincoln’s call for new troops. It authorized states to draft soldiers if their quotas were not met by August 15. There followed a series of actions that resulted in Ohio drafting 12,200 soldiers on October 5, the date Martin Kittle was likely called up. Out of this number about 2,900 received deferments, another 4,800 voluntarily enlisted, and 1,900 found means to evade the draft. In the end only 2,600 men were involuntarily mustered into the Army. As events played out, Kittle may have ended up among the 4,800 deferred men.
As his letter indicated, Kittle was sent to Camp Mansfield, a temporary military base that operated only during 1862. Constructed on farmland formerly owned by E. A. Stocking, Camp Mansfield’s sole purpose was to process newly recruited soldiers filling Ohio’s quota for the Union Army. It was located near 700 Spring Mill Street in Mansfield, Ohio.
What Kittle did in camp apart from writing to the Review is unknown. In his letter he expressed opinions indicating his prior resistance to fighting. “I did think it wrong to go to war; but the pieces in the Review on that subject changed my mind, and made duty look clear.” Kittle resigned himself to God’s “sweet, sustaining Spirit” and then closed his letter with: “Brethren, remember me in your prayers, that I may be kept by the Lord’s power.”
But his home congregation did more than pray for him. We know this because in the November 25, 1862 issue of the Review, a second letter from Kittle was printed recounting how he was released from duty after only one week in camp. Henry Hodgson, the elder of the church in Jackson Township, Sandusky County, Ohio, was dispatched to Camp Mansfield in order to seek Kittle’s release. Hodgson, like H. J. Kittle, was a leader among the early Adventists in northern Ohio. In 1870, if not before, he was granted a ministerial license. He also served in a number of capacities in the Ohio Conference, including as secretary and a member of the conference committee. Exactly what he did or said to facilitate the younger Kittle’s release from military service is not recorded. Kittle’s statement is brief and emphasizes his relief at his change in circumstances:
In two hours after the arrival of Bro. Hodgson sent for that purpose, and just one week from the time of my entrance into camp, I was a free man without having to take the oath that I believed it wrong to perform military duty, which was a great relief to my mind. I started for home with a heart full of praise and gratitude to the Ruler of nations, who I believed, had rescued and placed me where I could live out his truth and thus honor his name.
Kittle’s release from service in 1862 did not preclude his required registration for the national draft in June or July of 1863. Kittle registered as a farmer from Hancock County, Ohio, probably near Findlay to where he and his wife had apparently relocated prior to his draft in October 1862. But Kittle was never again called up for service.
moves and mysteries
Following the war, both Martin and H. J. Kittle moved their households to Clark County, Illinois. The senior Kittle had married a widow with three children on December 10, 1863 while still in Ohio. Martin and Catharine had four children of their own. Ida S. was born in 1861 in Ohio. She remained in Clark County, Illinois marrying Simon Wright in 1878 and John Serwise in 1890. She died sometime before 1905. Albert E. was born in 1862 and as a youth, accepted Christ. But he abandoned his faith after independently seeking adventure further west. He returned home in 1888 sick with tuberculosis and died on August 9 of the same year. Esther A. “Esta” was born in 1864 and died in 1927 in Paris, Illinois. She married Jerome Hedges in 1883. Elizabeth “Libbie” was born in 1876 in Clark County, Illinois. She married Francis Hosea on June 16, 1894 in Illinois.
But there’s more to Libbie’s story. Although she married in Illinois in 1894, on December 30, 1893, both she and her father, Martin, became members of the new Seventh-day Adventist church in Graysville, Tennessee. Those familiar with the history of Southern Adventist University will recognize the Graysville name as the location of an early precursor to that university.
One can only speculate as to why Martin and his daughter moved to Graysville. The rest of the family stayed in Illinois and Martin’s previous moves were in the company of extended family. Graysville attracted a significant population of Seventh-day Adventists, but it seems doubtful that Martin and Libbie would have left family in Illinois for the sake of joining a larger Adventist community. This is out of character. But Elder Robert M. Kilgore who started the Graysville church had just moved from the Illinois Conference where he was president. It was Kilgore who invited Colcord to start a school at Graysville in 1891, and the Kilgores and Kittles were neighbors in Graysville. Did friendship with Kilglore influence Martin’s move? Did he work for the school in some capacity? Martin’s obituary, published after his death on September 8, 1905, was written by the school’s principal, Tenney. But there is no evidence that either Martin or Libbie were ever employed at the school.
Another line of speculation has to do with Libbie. Apart from the Illinois marriage record, there is no information about Libbie’s husband. In 1900 she was living with her father. The census recorded that she had been married for six years and was not widowed, although that could be a mistake in the census record. But her husband was not listed. Was she divorced, abandoned, or escaping an abusive relationship? There is just no hint of what happened. Libbie’s membership in the Graysville church ended May 8, 1908. This may have been the date of her death. Libbie was the principal beneficiary of Martin’s will. The other daughters inherited a dollar each.
Despite the mysteries of Martin Kittle’s later years, it is certain that he remained faithful to his first love, the “Ruler of the nations” whom he was confident rescued him from a Civil War army camp.
Sabrina Riley is an independent researcher and consultant in Northern Virginia. Her current research interests include the Seventh-day Adventist military experience and her family’s genealogy. She may be reached at The Family Archivist .