The Story of California Joe
With the popularity of Truman Head's
media sharp shooting fame,
Colonel H. Berdan makes hay
His Civil War
by Floyd D. P. Øydegaard
The newspapers stated that Truman Head was born in Philadelphia
(actually Otsego, New York; the newspapers had it wrong, as usual),
about 1820, (Truman lied about his age when he joined the 1st USSS),
and after falling in love with a fair damsel and being "forced" to never
see her again, (by her father!), Truman headed for California to find his
fortune in the gold that flowed in every stream. He was very lucky in
making a few good claims and donated $50,000 of it to The Philadelphia
Old Soldiers Home (so the newspapers stated). He was "farsighted"
enough to be the first one of Company C to purchase a Sharps Rifle.
His exploits and his aim became legendary with that Sharps. The Union
needed heroes and they made fantastic articles and
his image would be
etched in every weekly publication.
However he was discharged do to his actual age, although they said he
was having trouble with his eyes (must have seen him with
one avoided in the 19th century!
Also being over 40 was a sure sign that one had to be a little senile).
The Muster records for Truman Head state; Age 42 years, height 5 feet 7
inches with light complexion, L.B. eyes D.B. hair, born in Otsego, N.Y. with
occupation as Hunter. He enlisted Sept. 14, 1861 at Washington DC by
C.H. Hosmer (2Lt.), for 3 years and was discharged Nov. 3, 1862.
On Aug. 26, 1861 he was on "Company Muster-in Roll" at Detroit, Mich.
as private, in Capt. Duesler's Co., Berdan's Sharp Shooters. Next
"outstanding" entry states; Sept & Oct 1862 Absent Sick, Clifburn(sic)
Hosp. Washington, Due him $14.00 from 2 Auditous(?) roll.
Co. C Muster Roll shows date of Dec 31, 1862 with remarks that he
has been "Dischgd Nov 3/62." The final notation has these notes;
Truman Head, Priv., Co. C. 1 Reg't U.S.S.Shooters, age 42 years,
(never aged a day?) Appears on Co. Muster-out Roll, dated W
Petersburg VA, Aug 20, 1864 with last paid to Nov 3, 1863.
Remarks state "Dischg'd Nov 3/63 Washington D.C. by order
Gen Martindale. Dischg'd on Surg. Cent of Dis Nov 4/62. See off...."
here it was torn and lost.
The last bit of information was his discharge paper;
"Army of The United States Certificate of Disability For Discharge.
Private Truman Head of Lieut Jas. H. Baker Company "C" of the
1st Regiment of United States Sharpshooters was enlisted by
Capt Duesler of the 1st Regiment of U.S.S.S. at New York City
on the 4th day of September 1861, to serve 3 years; he was
born in Otsego Co. in the state of New York is 52 years of age,
(lied about ten years!), 5 feet 7 inches high, Light complexion,
blue eyes, brown hair, and by occupation when enlisted a Hunter.
"During the last two months the soldier has been unfit for duty
at Cliffburne Genl' Hospital October 3, 1862 Surgeon U.S. Vols
in charge. I certify, that I have carefully examined the said
Truman Head of Lieut Baker's Company, and find him incapable
of performing the duties of a soldier because of 'Senility and
Impaired Vision.' Discharged this fourth day of November
1862, at Washington D.C. by Henry Bryans, Surgeon U.S.
Vols in charge."
Cliffburne USA General Hospital at District of Columbia
verifies his presence.
NOTE: This Is not the same California Joe that rode as a scout
for General Custer during the Indian Wars. Although they have similar
characteristics, Custer's man was Moses Milner. Unlike Truman, Moses
was a story teller.
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