|Delaware G.A.R. Post Named for Berkshire Township Native|
CORPORAL GEORGE B. TORRENCE
George B. Torrance was born on a farm near Sunbury in Berkshire Township of Delaware County, Ohio on January 4, 1839.(1) (The family name is usually misspelled Torrence in censuses, military records, and printed materials, however in family records the name is consistently spelled Torrance.)(2) His father was Moses Shaw Torrance and his mother was Eliza (Smith) Torrance.(3) Both were natives of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area and born in 1802. He had a younger sister, Mary Elizabeth, who was born in Berkshire Township in about 1842.(4)
The 1860 census places George at a boarding house in Columbus. He was a “fireman” working on the steam engines of the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad. One morning in June 1861, he was on his engine, “Old Pap Loomis,” at Columbus ready to start the run to Cleveland. Two neighborhood boys approached him and urged him to enlist in the army for the war to save the Union. He immediately climbed down from the engine, made his way to Delaware City, enrolled in the local Company C, Fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry (4th O.V.I.) for “three years’ service.”(5)
George proved himself to be an exceptional young man and soldier. In a war when most men entered the service as privates and were discharged as privates, he was promoted in a relatively short time (December 1, 1861) to corporal(6) and seemed destined for even higher rank. He had clearly caught the attention not only of Company C’s command but also that of the regiment’s. In the fall of 1862, George was serving as “acting color sergeant,”(7) which was the highest honor a Civil War soldier could be given.(8) The color sergeant was greatly respected and courageous. It was his duty to carry the national flag into battle. But this was far more than just an honor. The color sergeant was a vital part of the regiment’s command and control system. When the regiment went on the attack, alignment with the color sergeant guided the direction of the regiment. While he set the direction of the regiment, the corporals of the color guard concentrated on the cadence and provided a base for the rest of the unit to guide their formation. Through their actions, they maintained the regimental march discipline and order.(9) It should be added that these men at the regiment’s front and center were virtually unarmed. They were ordered to not fire their muskets – unless the flags were threatened with capture.(10)
In the fall of 1862, the 4th O.V.I. was a part of the Army of the Potomac under the command of the recently appointed Major General Ambrose E. Burnside. In December, the Union forces moved to meet the Army of Northern Virginia in what is now known as the Battle of Fredericksburg. On the 12th, the Union troops were amassed for the attack. After an artillery duel the next morning, the dense Union columns moved out to attack. All the assaults against the Confederate lines failed with heavy casualties. It was a disastrous defeat for the Union. The statistics tell the story. In that one day’s action, the Army of the Potomac lost 12,600 men, the Army of North Virginia, 5,300.(11)
Among the Union dead was Corporal George B. Torrance. In the January 9, 1863 issue of the Delaware Gazette, Acting Orderly Sergeant, Company C, 4th O.V.I., William A. McDermott, reported George’s death: “I regret to state that Corporal George B. Torrence was instantly killed while bearing our Regimental colors. The old Flag is now doubly dear to us, it being saturated with the blood of our noblest comrade.” A vivid description of the scene was written much later in the Fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regimental History: “Wounded men fall upon the wounded; the dead on the mangled; the baptism of fire adds more wounds and brings death to the helpless ones; as we look back the field seems covered with mortals in agony; some motionless, others are dragging themselves toward the rear; occasionally the shell or cannon-ball that comes into their midst sends arms, hands, legs and clothing into the air; our colors for a moment are down, for our noble color-bearer, Geo. B. Torrence, falls, having his head blown from his body, leaving his blood and brains upon comrades and the flag.”(12)
Military records state that George was “interred in [the Fredericksburg] National Cemetery.”(13) There is no separate grave for him, for over 80% of the soldiers are unidentified.(14) But that does not mean that he was forgotten by his comrades of Company C. When the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Post 60 was chartered at the Delaware County Court House on Thursday, April 21, 1881, it was named for the county’s fallen hero, “George B. Torrence.”(15) Had he survived, George would have been a living model of the G.A.R. motto: “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty.”
The history of the 4th O.V.I. states that “finely executed portrait of Torrence by J.F. Ledlie adorns the Post room.”(16) There is some interesting information regarding this portrait.
As stated above, George had a younger sister named Mary Elizabeth. She married Joshua Ledlie Dunlevy (born on November 4, 1834 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) on September 30, 1861. On the same day, he enlisted in Company D, Twentieth Ohio Volunteer Infantry as an “orderly sergeant.” After three years’ service, he was discharged as a First Lieutenant at Vicksburg, Mississippi on April 28, 1864 and returned to Delaware County. He and his family later moved to Allen County, Ohio and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Mary died in Pennsylvania on July 13, 1890 at the age of 49. Joshua died (date unknown) in Pennsylvania.(17)
As mentioned above, the portrait of George B. Torrance for the Delaware G.A.R. Post 60 was done by J. (Joshua) F. Ledlie (born in Ohio in about 1842). It turns out that he was a cousin of Joshua Ledlie Dunlevy. On August 23, 1862, he enlisted in Sunbury, as a private, for three years’ service in the same Company D, 20th O.V.I. as Dunlevy. He was mustered out as a private at Washington, D.C. on May 31, 1865 “by order of [the] War Department.”(18) In the census of 1870, he is listed as a “photographer” living in Delaware City; in the 1880 census, he is listed as an “artist.” Joshua was “mustered” into Torrence Post 60 of the G.A.R. on May 24, 1881.(19) At some point, he moved to Kansas and then to Pasadena, California.(20) When he died (date and place unknown), his body was returned to Crawford County, Kansas to be buried with his parents and other members of the family.(21) Some information regarding Joshua Ledlie’s art is to be found at the National Portrait Gallery Library in Washington, D.C.
Let us pray that though such gallant men as George B. Torrance die, their memory shall never fade away!
Compiled from various sources by John W. Quist
Military History of Ohio. H.H. Hardesty Publisher. Toledo.
1886 edition (with information
Spelling of the family name: It is spelled more than two ways:
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