| What happened .......?
Ellingwood's military record from the National Archives gives the bare facts of the "unfortunate affair." It starts with a request for leave written "near Stevensburg, VA" on 9 Apr 1864, addressed to Nelson V. Stanton, adjutant of the 15th MVI. Ellingwood says: "I would respectfully ask leave of absence for (4) four days in order to visit Massachusetts for the reasons of seeing my father who is dangerously ill. Very respectfully "...... etc. The routing slip shows that the leave was approved up the chain of command.
Hardly one month later special Order No. 169, dated 6 May 1864, was issued in Washington DC. In extract no. 20 of that SO, it states: "By direction of the President, Captain L. H. Ellingwood, 15th Massachusetts Volunteers, is hereby dishonorably dismissed the service of the United States, he having secured a leave of absence, on a telegram from his brother, to the effect that his father was "at the point of death," which statement was entirely false, and for failing to return, immediately, to his command, after the deception had been discovered. Commanding Generals of Armies and Departments will publish this Order to their respective commands." Signed by order of the Secretary of War, E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant General.
The file contains innumerable copies of that order, both printed and handwritten. It appears that they were sent, as per the directive, to every command in the Army. The copies are receipted by differing commanders in widely scattered places all over the country. Aside from this, the file contains only his muster roll cards and a few applications for previous leaves on medical grounds. Perfectly justified in light of his wounds.
There is no rebuttal from Ellingwood in the file. I was hoping to hear more of his side of the story. There is one tantalizing clue -- a stamp on one of the copies from the adjutant general's office, dated 1888. This suggests that perhaps Ellingwood did apply for a pension. (Dishonorable discharge generally means no pension will be authorized.) If he did apply, then perhaps the file would contain his side of things.
Still a lot of open questions here. Did Brother Ellingwood send the telegram on his own initiative? Or was he put up to it? Given the travel time between Stevensburg, VA, and Beverly, MA, in those days, what is "failure to return immediately"? (It is nearly day's drive even today.) Given the communications of those days, how did the "deception" become known to the command? There is not even a full month between Ellingwood's application for four days leave and the dishonorable discharge. That is extremely fast turn-around time for such a procedure, even by today's standards.
Clearly the men of the 15th did not consider him guilty of shirking or something dastardly. I cannot imagine they would have invited him to the reunion just five months later if they did. He was present at the reunion dinner in 1864 and "explained at length the circumstances of the affair which caused the order of his dismissal."
The tone of the reunion program suggests that everyone considered it something of a misunderstanding that would soon be cleared up. There are a number of open questions here. There is no listing for him in the 1870 MA census or in the 1890 Veterans' census. (My copy of that last is however incomplete.) Where did he go after the war, and what did he do?