Abraham Jay Buckles was born 2 August 1846 near Muncie, Delaware, IN. He was the second child of Thomas Newton Buckles and Rachel Graham. It appears that about 1852 Thomas, in the company of his brother-in-law, James Madison Graham, succumbed to the lure of California gold. Thomas must have returned at some point, as the youngest child, J. Newton Buckles, was born about 1857, however in 1860 Thomas is found on the census for Vacaville, Solano, CA. Abraham was living with his grandparents, Abraham and Elizabeth Buckles in Centre Township, Delaware, IN. His mother and siblings were living next door.
History of the bench and bar of California:
Abraham Jay Buckles was born in Muncie, Indana, August 2, 1846. He was sent from home to live on a farm at the age of six years. In the winter season he attended school.
When the war broke out in 1861, he enlisted in a company raised at Muncie, under the call of the President for volunteers for three months' service. He was not yet 15 years old, and his grandfather would not permit him to go. When the call for troops to serve three years was made, he enlisted again. June 21, 1861, and, informing his people that he was determined in the matter, they made no further opposition. He went to Washington in Company E, 19th Indiana Infantry, which afterwards became a part of the famous fighting "Iron Brigade" of the Army of the Potomac.
Why he was sent to live with his grandfather, rather than stay with his mother I have no idea but as she was close by I can only imagine at the worry she must have felt at this time. Not only did Abraham enlist, but his older brother, Francis did as well. Francis would not return home.
Abraham's Medal of Honor Citation says very little:
BUCKLES, ABRAM J.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company E, 19th Indiana Infantry.Place and date: At Wilderness, Va., 5 May 1864.Entered service at: Muncie, Ind.Birth: Delaware County, Ind.Date of issue: 4 December 1893.
Citation: Though suffering from an open wound, carried the regimental colors until again wounded.
The Medal of Honor was awarded to Abraham for one instance of bravery in a single battle but this barely tells the tale of his Civil War service. Abraham was wounded several times and in the end he lost a leg. The History of Solano and Napa Counties, California gives a detailed and thrilling account of his service:
He was a lad of fifteen years when the tocsin of war called able-bodied men to the defense of the country and in June, 1861, he was among the number who responded to Lincoln's first call for three-year men, being attached to Company E, Nineteenth Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Mustered in at Indianapolis, his regiment became a part in the second Battle of Bull Run. In that engagement he was shot through the thigh and was confined in the hospital for three months, after which he again offered his services and took part in the first and second battles of Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, being attached to the color guard. It was his ambition to be the color bearer of his regiment and for that reason stationed himself on the left so that he would be next to the bearer and ready to take the colors in case the color bearer was injured. The bearer was wounded in the morning, and young Buckles promptly picked up the colors, which he proudly carried until the afternoon the same day, when he, too, was wounded, having received a shot through the right shoulder. Handing the flag to his comrade next in line, he was taken from field and was confined to the hospital for several months. His anxiety to be in the field of action once more secured his release before his wound was entirely healed, but he was able to resume his old post as color bearer and was serving in this capacity in the Battle of the Wilderness, when he was once more disabled, this time being shot through the body. As before, in spite of his intense suffering, he did not allow the colors to disappear, handing the flag to young Devilbuss, who lost his life soon afterward. At the Battle of the Wilderness the regiment became scattered in the rush through the woods, and inasmuch as he could see no field officer, Color Bearer Buckles led the charge himself, the men promptly following, and in the conflict Mr Buckles received what was thought to be a mortal wound, being shot through the body. In spite of the fact that he was so badly wounded as to be given up for dead, he managed to make his way to the rear, when the ambulance came up he was taken to the temporary hospital. The examining surgeon pronounced his case hopeless and would not even probe the wound, the same being true of his treatment in the field hospital, to which he was removed. Finally, when orders were issued to remove the inmates to Fredericksburg, Buckles sent for the physician and begged not to be left behind. The doctor replied that his orders were strict and as he had been given up to die, could not be removed. He remonstrated that the physicians had said two days before that he would die and that he found himself no worse, and finally obtained the promise that if he could stand when the ambulance came he would be removed to Fredericksburg and receive proper care. To make the promise good, Buckles stood with the aid of sticks for crutches, and was taken to the hospital, and as soon as his wounds were given attention he began to recover. He was able to rejoin his regiment before the Battle of Petersburg, having been promoted and commissioned second lieutentant. During all this time, however, his wound remained open and remained so until early 1870. While on skirmish duty, March 25, 1865, he was again wounded, this time in the right leg, which necessitated amputation seven inches from the body. His honorable discharge followed two months later, May 15, 1865, after the close of the war. He was awarded the medal of honor by congress for meritorious conduct upon the battlefield of the Wilderness, May 5, 1864. He returned home to Indiana, battle scarred and disabled, and as yet a mere boy in years, not nineteen years old.
Abraham returned home and went to school. He work variously as a teacher, a clerk and at other jobs as he could find them. On 5 December 1865, in Delaware County, IN, he married Louisa B. Conn and to them two daughters were born, Lola Bell in 1867 and Addie Jessie in 1868. In his spare time he undertook the study of law and in 1875 was admitted to the bar.
Abraham must have retained a relationship with his father as he moved his family to Solano County, CA in the spring of 1875 were he became quite successful. Again, from The History of Solano and Napa Counties, California:
In the spring of 1875 he was admitted to the bar and immediately thereafter came to California and located in Dixon, Solano county. Opening an office for the practice of his profession, the recognition of his exceptional ability and justice in the handling of legal complications was apparent from the first, and was the forerunner of a large and influential clientele. Substantial recognition of his ability came to him in 1879, when he was elected district attorney of Solano county under the new constitution, and at the close of his first term he was re-elected, serving altogether over five years. In 1884 he received the nomination for the office of superior judge and as the successful candidate he took office in January, 1885, and for over twenty years thereafter he held the office continuously. In April, 1905, he was appointed by Governor Pardee from the superior bench as one of the judges of the appellate court for the third district, and after the close of his term he again took up the practice of law, at this time locationg in Fairfield. As on former occasions he was successful in building on a commendable practice but he was not long allowed to confine his attention to private practice. Judge Devlin, who had been elected superior judge in 1908, held the office just one month and twenty days, when pressure of private business made it necessary for him to resign, whereupon Governor Gillett appointed Judge Buckles to fill the unexpired term.
Abraham remained on the bench until his death 9 January 1915 at a hospital in San Bernardino County, CA. He was buried in Suisun-Fairfield Cemetery, Fairfield, CA. You can visit his memorial at Find-a-Grave.
Abraham was my 1st cousin, three times removed. I was with my 2nd great-grandfather, James Madison Graham, that his father left for California.
This an updated article that originally appeared at Apple's Tree, 25 March 2009
History of the bench and bar of California: being biographies of many remarkable men, a store of humorous and pathetic recollections, accounts of important legislation and extraordinary cases, comprehending the judicial history of the state
By Oscar Tully Shuck
Contributor Oscar Tully Shuck
Published by The Commercial printing house, 1901
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Feb 20, 2008
pages 672 – 675, viewed at Google Books, 24 March 2009
History of Solano and Napa Counties, California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the counties, who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present time: History by Tom Gregory and other well know writers; Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California ; viewed at ancestry.com 8 Feb 2009.