Monday, September 10, 2012

Englishman sees great-grandfather for first time

Bob Ballan of Surrey, England holds copies of photos of his great-grandfather, 16th Connecticut 
private Fellow Dixon Tucker. From Wethersfield, Conn., Tucker deserted at Antietam and fled to 
England. Ballan had never seen a photo of Tucker until his wife discovered two on my blog.
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Two men in the 16th Connecticut deserted during the Battle of Antietam and fled to England. One of them, 18-year-old private Fellows Dixon Tucker of Wethersfield, Conn., decided to stay in his adopted country. He got a job as a clerk in a shipyard near Liverpool, married a Scottish woman and fathered nine children. The son of a clergyman, Tucker returned to the United States at least once, "his comings and goings being known only to his friends. He declined to avail himself of amnesty ... preferring exile."

Hazel Ballan and her husband knew
nothing about Antietam until 2009.
Although familiar with some of Tucker's history, his English descendants have no idea why he deserted the Union army. And they didn't know what he looked like.

Until last week.

On the Internet late one night, Hazel Ballan discovered photos of Tucker on my blog. She excitedly woke her husband in their home in Surrey, near London, to show him the photos of his great-grandfather — the first time Bob Ballan had seen images of the young man who enlisted in the Union army on July 21, 1861, at Old Academy Hall in Wethersfield.

What was her husband's reaction?

"I had to shake Bob awake ... , " she e-mailed me. "So I think confusion is the answer!"

Hazel said she envisioned Fellows being much taller, like her father-in-law, John. Wearing his Sunday best in a carte-de-visite photograph taken at Henry Keets' studio in Liverpool sometime after his desertion (see below), the slightly built Tucker appears to be about 5-foot-7, perhaps an inch taller.

At the Battle of Antietam, Confederates routed Tucker's regiment in the 40-acre Cornfield, many of the soldiers fleeing to the rear. Tucker, who died in England in 1893, skedaddled much farther than that — 3,700 miles farther east.

Hazel Ballan recently answered these e-mail questions about her husband's long-lost — and now found again — ancestor.

Fellows Dixon Tucker enlisted in the Union army on July 21, 1862, at Old Academy Hall in
Wethersfield, Conn. The building now houses the Wethersfield Historical Society.
What did you know about the history of F. Dixon Tucker?

Hazel Ballan:  Amongst other things, I did know about Fellows' desertion. What his family, especially his mother’s family, would have made of it is anyone’s guess, but I don't think they would have been proud of him at all. That, for me, is maybe the reason why he felt he could never return home -- the shame would have been too much.

Fellows’ paternal grandparents were David (1770-1865) and Cynthia Tucker. Their son, Mark Tucker (1795-1875), who was a congregational minister born in Whitestown, was Fellows’ father.
Being a minister, there is an amazing amount of information about Mark available online but sadly no photograph -- unless someone out there knows better. Mark's first wife was Harriett Sophia Lord, and he had four known children by her before her death in 1841.
Fellows Dixon Tucker, an 18-year-old private in the
16th Connecticut, deserted at Antietam and fled to England

(Photo courtesy Tad Sattler via Connecticut State Library)

Fellows’ mother was Eliza Palmer Tucker, nee Dixon, (1808-1867), who married widowed Mark on 25 April 1843. Eliza was the daughter of Nathan Fellows and Elizabeth Dixon. Information from the Biographical Directory of the US States Congress 1774-2005 states that Fellow’s maternal grandfather, Nathan Fellows Dixon I (1774-1842), was the first Senator from Rhode Island and had served as a colonel in the state militia. Fellows’ maternal uncle, Nathan Fellows Dixon II (1812–1881), was a member of the State House of Representatives 1841-1849, 1851-1854, 1858-1862 and 1871-1877.
Fellows’ cousin was Nathan Fellows Dixon III (1847-1897), a United States Representative and Senator from Rhode Island.

As far as I have found, Fellows only had two full-blooded siblings:

  • Fanny Moss Tucker (1845-?). She married Anthony Adelbert Ethelston Waldburg Barclay and then, after being widowed (as I have found out since reading your research), Italian-born Guiseppe Dominici. I believe that Fanny Moss Tucker was incorrectly recorded as Frank M. Tucker, a male, on the U.S. 1860 census.
  •   Mark Tucker (1849-?), who married Cora May Goodrich.
Fellows’ movements after deserting in 1862 are somewhat hazy to say the least, but I did find a 26-year-old "gent," F. D. Tucker, listed on the Wisconsin passenger’s list returning from Liverpool to New York on 3 April 1871. Whether this was actually Fellows is uncertain, as I have not found a record of him returning to Liverpool afterwards. If it was him, maybe he found himself ostracized by his family even after being away for 10 years.

Fellows married Scottish-born Agnes Lawson Finley on 1 June 1873, in Liverpool in the county of Lancashire, England. They went to have nine known children, one of whom was their daughter, Annie Sloan Tucker. Fellows worked as a mercantile clerk before his death, aged 49, on 11 October 1893. He was living at 3 Lesseps Road, Liverpool at the time and left effects worth £70. His daughter, Annie, married William Charles Ballan on 7 December 1908. They only had one child, John Avon Ballan. My husband, Bob, is John's son.

Carte de visite of F. Dixon Tucker taken in Liverpool, England. 
(Photo: Connecticut State Library, George Q. Whitney Collection.)

Do you have an interest in American Civil War history?

Ballan: Since finding out that Fellows was a deserter, I have been trying to sort out in my head what it was all about. A simple outlined story would be appreciated as USA history was only touched on in my school days!

Have you ever been to Antietam?

Ballan: No, neither of us had even heard of the place till 2009 when I found Fellows’ service record and the regimental history.

Have there been any tales about F. Dixon Tucker handed down through the family through the years?

Ballan: None at all. The family knew nothing about him until I started researching the family tree and found Annie Sloan Tucker with her parents and siblings on the UK census. This had her father’s birthplace as the USA, which came as a great surprise.

                       VIDEO: John Otto farm, where Tucker's regiment fought at Antietam.

If you could ask Fellows Dixon Tucker one question, what would it be?

Ballan: I suppose most of your blog followers will think it should be: “Why did you run away?” But it's not.

Let me explain: I am a volunteer researcher for the non-profit making UK web site Epsom and Ewell History Explorer and, along with another volunteer, have been tracing the lives and deaths of the men and women whose names appear on all our borough’s WWI memorials. All our findings so far can be found via this page.

Because of my WWI research, perhaps I have more of an insight into the horrors of that war and others, and a small understanding of how shell shock could and did affect some men who found themselves in these frightening situations. None of us, unless we too have been under those awful, unimaginable conditions can sit in judgment.

So my question to Fellows Dixon Tucker, my great grandfather-in-law, would have to be:

“What were you doing between 1862 and 1873?”

As we say in England, “Answers on a postcard please” or via this blog!


--"Military and Biographical Data of the 16th Connecticut Volunteers", George Q. Whitney Papers, Connecticut State Library, RG 69.


  1. Anonymous6:16 PM

    He was probably scared sh___less about being exposed to the horrible carnage around that he witnessed there and fled til no one could could catch him. (luckily,or he most certainly would've been shot!) I wonder if he suffered from PTSD, in later years?

  2. Thank you for posting this. A friend of mine owns a letter written by Rev. Mark Tucker written in 1840 that he plans to sell on e-bay soon. Let me know if the Tucker descendants are interested in purchasing it prior to posting on e-bay. He may sell it for what he has invested in it. -- Griff

    1. Griff: Send me an e-mail with more details to John Banks