By Kris Leonhardt
As Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Army of the Potomac marched toward Richmond in May of 1864, they entered the dense woods of Virginia. There, they were met by the Army of Northern Virginia led by Robert E. Lee.
Trudging through unfamiliar territory and further encumbered by the thick underbrush, the Union offensive became inundated as they advanced through the area. What resulted was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
The two-day struggle left many Union soldiers injured or lifeless. Among the injured was Portage County’s own Henry Curran.
Curran, who’s family had come from Illinois to Plover to run a store in the mid-1800s, had enlisted in the 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Army in 1861. There he served in the numerous battles that constituted the Union offensive during America’s struggle between the North and South.
Struck below the left knee by a bullet from a muzzle-loaded rifle, Major Curran was hospitalized and later mustered from active service.
After returning to the Stevens Point Area, Curran married Addie Walker and entered into the hotel business with his brother John. Here the family grew to six members, which included children John, Florence and Henry, Jr., as well as an adopted son, Russell Walker.
Considered modest, pleasant and astute, Curran became well-known throughout Portage County and respected and admired in Stevens Point, earning him a long-time position as the city’s postmaster.
As Curran retired for the day on the final eve of April in 1907, the now 67-year-old seemed the picture of health. As a heavy smoker, he had been admonished by his doctor to curb the habit, an addiction he fought to control.
As he relaxed from the day’s work, he relayed to his brother that he had some concern over the pain he had been experiencing in his chest that evening. Undeterred, he spent the evening reading a book by the faint glow of a lamp, fighting the urged to light up a pipe; finally retiring to bed at 11 PM.
The next morning, Curran spoke with his wife as the couple prepared for the new day at hand. As the sound a factory whistle cut through the air, Henry mentioned it was already 5:30 AM.
Everything went about as usual, until Curran’s wife noticed Henry gasping for breath. Calling out to Henry’s brother John to summon the doctor, Addie attended to her husband; however, when the doctor arrived it was too late.
News of Major Curran’s death hit the air instantly that May 1st morning. As the news rippled through the city, stunned residents struggled to understand why the seemingly healthy postmaster had been taken so quickly.
Henry Curran is laid to rest in Forest Cemetery in Stevens Point.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: PO Box 51, Marshfield, WI, 54449 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.