EMMIT LATTA, A PERSISTENT YOUNG SOLDIER
By Christopher A. Schnell, reprinted from the Lincoln Editor by permission of Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, #1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, Illinois, Copyright, all rights reserved.
During the Civil War, Army regulations required all recruits to be over the age of 18 and under 35. However, this regulation failed to keep young boys ages 13 to 17 from joining the army to serve as musicians, or lying about their age to serve in the Army. So was the case for 15-year old Emmit Girdell Latta of Friendship, New York. Emmit's father, Samuel Latta, had sent his oldest son on a business errand and without his father's knowledge or consent, young Emmit enlisted in Co. F, 1st US LIght Artillery on December 5, 1864. While in camp with his company at Fort Morgan, Virginia, Emmit was thrown from a horse and injured his arm on January 5, 1865. A few days later, Emmit's father wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, asking that his young son be discharged from service. That letter reads as follows:
Affidavit of Samuel E. Latta - 10 January 1865
Application for release of a Boy 15 years old from service. This is to certify that my son Emmit G. Latta was born on the 28th day of May 1849 in the Town of Wirt Allegany Co New York and that I the undersigned am his Father and that I sent him on other business from home and that without my knowledge or consent he was induced to enlist into co F 1st U.S. Light artilery and is now at Fort Morgan, on Arlington hights and that I wish to have him discharged.
Yours & c - Samuel E. Latta, Friendship, Allegany Co., NY
To the hon Abraham Lincoln, President, US, Washington DC
P.S. will get this endorsed by two Congressmen if required
[Certification] Sworn to and subscribed before me this 10th day of Jany 1865. Sam Drury, Justice peace.
A few days later, President Lincoln ordered the Secretary of War to discharge Emmit from the service. Emmit Latta's pension records indicate that he received a discharge at Fort Morgan, Virginia on April 7, 1865. However, Emmit again enlisted as a private in the Union Army in Company I, 19th NY Cavalry Regiment. 15-year old Emmit entered his age as 17, and his father signed the consent this time, listing him as 16. After the war ended, the Army honorably discharged Emmit on July 19, 1865. A year later, he re-enlisted as a private in Company A, 4th U.S. Infantry, where he spent his time as an engineer, helping to locate railroad beds in the Rocky Mountains and exploring the Yellowstone region. Emmit was discharged from service at Fort Fetterman, Wyoming, in 1869. He returned to Friendship, New York, where he married Ms. Lura Merriam Brown of Wilcox, Pa. on August 27, 1879. She was the daughter of Jefferson L. and Helen Amanda Merriam Brown. To this marriage there was born three sons. Emmit later made a name for himself as an entrepreneur and inventor, eventually patenting scores of improvements for bicycles and typewriters.
Information for this article was found at http://www.lincolnlegalpapers.org