Biography of Thomas Tarbell
Tompkins County, NY Biographies





Tarbell, Thomas B., was born in Delaware county, N. Y., March 21, 1800, his parents coming from Southern Vermont and the parent stock back four generations from Saxony. Lydia Miller was born in East Lansing, March 12, 1804, her father, Joseph Miller, coming from New Jersey. He owned a very large tract of land running north and south from the road leading west from the Baptist church and was the owner of slaves until about 1790. A descendant of his last one freed is now (1894) living in Ithaca. Thomas B Tarbell and Lydia Miller were married October 15, 1823, at East Lansing. The issue of that marriage was thirteen children, ten boys and three girls. The first child a daughter, then eight boys in line, the seventh, born May 16, 1838, in the west part of Groton, N. Y., was called Doctor Tarbell. Young Doctor like all the rest of the children, was brought up on a farm, going to school winters and working on the farm at home or for neighbors in the summer. In 1857 he started out for additional educational advantages and attended the fall term in Homer Academy, hiring a room and boarding himself, his whole expense for this term, room, books, provisions, etc., being $18.75. He taught the winter term (1857-58) in the first district north of Peruville and the following fall attended again at Homer, and returned and taught in his own, known as the Benson district, teaching and attending school alternately until 1861, when he was in school at Ithaca, expecting to enter Union College in September in the class of 1865. But when Fort Sumter was fired upon in April, 1861, he volunteered as a private in Company A, Second Regiment, the first military organization to leave Tompkins county. Early in May he was made sergeant; in November, 1861, second lieutenant; in February, 1862, first lieutenant, and as such volunteered to lead a forlorn hope of one hundred men across the Chickahominy River in front of Richmond on June 2, 1862, to drive the enemy's sharpshooters back so that General Woodbury's engineers could work on a new bridge which was needed by McClellan's army, north of Richmond. The day was successful, Lieutenant Tarbell, with a squad of his men, escorted Woodbury during the day back nearly one half mile in the enemy's country. There was where he won his captaincy from President Lincoln in United States Volunteers, which was given him in October, 1862. At Malvern Hill, July 4, he was called by General Newton to serve on his staff. He had been with his company at Bull Run, July, 1861, and in all its skirmishes and battles through the Peninsular campaign. From now on he served as a staff officer with General Newton at South Mountain, Crampton's Pass, Maryland, and Antietam, till November, then with General David A. Russell, Third Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps, till March, 1863, when by order he was sent to General Whipple's division, Third Corps, and was with him at Chancellorsville, May, 1863, where General Whipple's division was so terribly slaughtered, General Whipple being mortally wounded. Captain Tarbell was the only member of the staff not wounded or killed. The remnant of General Whipple's division being divided among the. other two divisions of the Third Corps, Captain Tarbell was sent to Third Corps headquarters early in June. He served with General Sickles in the Maryland and Pennsylvania campaigns and rode with him on the Gettysburg battle ground July 1, 1863. The story of the part the Third Corps took in that memorable engagement fills a bright page in history and is too well known to need a word here. Captain Tarbell served with the Third Corps till it was disbanded. He was then assigned to the Cavalry Corps, serving with Generals Chapman, Wells, and Wilson through all the campaigns in the summer of 1864. He was captured by Mosby, September 91, 1864, near Winchester, Va., and sent to Libby Prison, from there October 10, to Salisbury, N. C., October 15, transferred to Danville Prison, February 18, retransferred to Libby, where he suffered, as only Union prisoners know, all the torments of cold, filth, hunger and disease. When parolled February 22, 1865, he telegraphed his confidential clerk, Professor S. B. Howe, " Out of prison. Purgatory has no terrors." On arriving at Annapolis, Captain Tarbell was granted a thirty day leave of absence, Although he was captured September 21, his friends in the North had no tidings from him till in January, 1865, and for a long time mourned him as dead. Captain Tarbell married Mary L. Conant, March 14, 1865, at Peruville while enjoying his thirty day leave of absence. He was officially declared exchanged March 28, and ordered to report to General Sheridan for duty, on expiration of leave of absence. On his way to the army he stopped a few days in Washington and was present in Ford's Theatre on the night of the assassination of President Lincoln, April 14, 1865. He received a commission as major by brevet in United States Volunteers, for meritorious services. He left the United States service in August, 1865. After Cornell University opened in 1868, he attended five terms; was elected county clerk of Tompkins county in 1870, and reelected 1873. He is now engaged in the life inurance business, representing the Equitable Life Assurance Society as general agent and has a very large range of duties. He is a total abstainer, using neither tobacco or liquor. In religion he was raised a Baptist, in politics a Republican, a scholar of Greeley's New York Tribune. His home is now with his family at No. 10 North Geneva street, Ithaca.

From:
Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York
Including a History of Cornell University
Edited by: John H. Selkreg
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, N. Y. 1894


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