About the Orr Brothers

I have titled this virtual archive of letters “Reluctant Yanks” because it seems clear to me that neither brother had any interest in fighting in the federal army — particularly after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Joseph F. Orr and his younger brother, B. Franklin Orr, were ardent Democrats and held little interest in seeing the liberation of Black Americans, let alone fighting for them — or worse still, fighting with them. They strongly supported the Copperhead movement and praised the speeches of Clement L. Vallandigham. They also placed the blame for the war squarely on the Republican Party and wished to see the Union restored “as it was” through a compromise with the Confederate states.

From the letters we learn that both Orr brothers were drafted in Columbiana County, Ohio, in the fall of 1862 and, as such, were compelled to serve 9 months duty. Though both brothers survived the war and were discharged, both of them died in 1863 from disease contracted in the service.

The Letters

These letters were purchased by an acquaintance of mine who asked me to transcribe them and authorized me to publish them on this blog for the benefit of historians or family history researchers. There are 15 letters in the archive that were written by privates Joseph Frederick Orr and/or his brother Benjamin Franklin Orr during the 9 months that they served in the 76th Ohio Infantry. Additionally, the archive includes the following letters written by other family members:

Two letters written by Noah Frederick (1790-1877), the grandfather of Joseph and Franklin Orr.

12 November 1854 (to wife Hannah)
7 July 1859 (to daughter Nancy and son-in-law James Orr)

One letter written by Margaret Ann (Frederick) McCaskey (1817-1862) to Nancy (Frederick) Orr.

5 April 1857 from Rockford Township, Caldwell County, Missouri

One letter written by Mary Jane Ramsey of Greene County, Indiana to Orr Cousins.

1 June 1862 from Greene County, Indiana.

One letter written by Belmina (“Belle”) S. Frederick (1836-1887), the aunt of Joseph and Franklin Orr.

15 September 1863

Three letters written by Franklin Ramsey (1839-1924) of Co. C, 21st Indiana Infantry (1st Indiana Heavy Artillery) to his cousins, Joseph Frederick Orr and Benjamin Franklin Orr.

18 February 1863 from New Orleans, Louisiana
24 April 1863 from Baton Rouge, Louisiana
26 July 1863 from Port Hudson, Louisiana



Frederick Family

Noah Frederick and wife, Hannah McAllister

James John Orr (1812-1885) — the father of Joseph and Franklin — was born in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and came with his parents to Columbiana County, Ohio, when he was a toddler. James married Nancy Florence Frederick (1820-1902) on 27 June 1839 in Columbiana County. Nancy was the daughter of Noah Frederick (1790-1877) and Hannah McAllister (1793-1868) of Columbiana County. Nancy’s siblings included:

  • William Henry Frederick (1812-1875) m. in 1839 to Catharine Quinn (1821-1893) and moved to Indiana. They later moved to Rockford, Caldwell County, Missouri.
  • Mary (“Polly”) Frederick (1814-1815)
  • Margaret Ann Frederick (1817-1862) m. James McCaskey, Jr. (1808-1888) and moved to Rockford, Caldwell County, Missouri prior to 1860; later Pleasant, Monroe County, Iowa
  • Mary Jane Frederick (1823-1901) m. in 1846 to John Butler Orr (1819-1897)
  • Hannah M. Frederick (1826-18xx) m. in 1854 to John A. Myers
  • Noah Frederick (1828-1892) m. in 1858 to Sarah Curry (1840-18xx). Noah served in Co. F, 46th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War.
  • Belmina (“Belle”) S. Frederick (1836-1887) m. in 1868 to Thomas J. Grafton (1807-1885)


Orr Family

Joseph Orr — the grandfather of Joseph and Franklin Orr — was born in Ireland on December 15, 1788. His wife, Jane Kelso, was born on January 14, 1794. To date, little is known about the family before they removed to Columbiana County, Ohio about 1813 — only that they were in Pennsylvania before they settled in Lisbon, Ohio. Joseph and Jane raised a family of twelve children. He is listed as one of the early tailors in Lisbon and is enumerated on the census of 1820 as engaged in manufacturing. By 1828 he is listed as a householder on Section #31 in Elkrun Township in Columbiana County. Joseph farmed and ran a hotel on his property. In 1831, Joseph was elected to the post of township trustee in Elkrun. He held the post for one year. On December 28, 1847, Jane Orr died in Elkrun.

Two years later, on July 5, 1849, Joseph married Elizabeth Bowman. The marriage ended in divorce in June, 1850 with Joseph suing her for fraud. She was awarded $100.00 in alimony. Joseph married for a third time on August 27, 1850. His wife, Elizabeth Cushman sued him for divorce in September, 1857 on grounds of extreme cruelty. Joseph died one month later, on October 26, 1857, in Elkrun Township.

Both Joseph and Jane are buried in the Carlisle Cemetery in Elkrun Township near their property. Other Orr family members who are buried under a spreading old tree in the “Orr row” are:

William Morlan Orr, a son of Joseph and Jane Orr.
Mary A. Orr, a daughter of William Morlan Orr and Nancy Cannon.
Franklin Orr, a son of Joseph and Jane Orr
Joseph Frederick Orr, the son of James and Nancy Frederick Orr, grandson of Joseph and Jane Orr.
Benjamin Franklin Orr, the son of James and Nancy Frederick Orr, grandson of Joseph and Jane Orr.

Joseph and Franklin Orr died in Columbiana County following discharge from Co. F 76th OVI during the Civil War.