George Redfield Spalding, Following in His Father’s Footsteps

George Redfield Spalding

George Redfield Spalding was born on January 25, 1877 in Monroe, Michigan, a continent away from Blairgowrie, Scotland, where his father George W. Spalding began his life. In 1843, George Redfield’s grandparents, Andrew and Isabella immigrated to the United States and settled on a farm in Monroe, Michigan.

After serving with distinction in the Civil War and advancing from the rank of private to General, George W. Spalding returned to Monroe and married Augusta Lewis on December 6, 1871. They eventually had four children:  Emma Spalding Sterling, Elizabeth Spalding Orvis, George Redfield, and Isaac Lewis Spalding. George W. Spalding built a successful business career, including two terms as Monroe postmaster, Treasury Department special agent, Monroe mayor, lawyer, two terms as a Republican Congressman from Michigan, and Director of the First National Bank in Monroe.

A Complicated Career – A Family Tradition

Following the pattern and dedication of his ambitious father, George Redfield forged his own ambitious career which branched out in as many directions as that of his father. After graduating from West Point in 1901, the United States Army Corps of Engineers commissioned him second lieutenant and assigned him to the Philippines with the 1st and 2d Battalions of Engineers, with the mission of building roads and performing bridgework. After earning a promotion to First Lieutenant in April 1903, he returned to Washington D.C. to serve with the 2d Battalion of Engineers at Washington Barracks from December 1904 to June 1905. He also did surveying work in Manassas, Virginia from May 1904 to September 1904.

Alice Minnie Ruff Spalding

While he was on leave from September 11, to October 10, 1904, George Redfield Spalding married Alice Minnie Ruff on September 17, 1904 in Washington, D.C. She was born on April 11, 1880, in Washington D.C. to Albert and Alice Ruff and received her education and taught school before she married George. The Spaldings had three children:  George Redfield was born on July 5, 1905; Alice Margaret was born on May 28, 1907; and Albert Ruff was born on March 31, 1914, in Kansas.

In the time tested tradition of Army wives, Alice and their children followed  First Lieutenant George Spalding around the country while he fulfilled his assignments with the Army Corps of Engineers. The assignments continued to appear in rapid succession. First Lieutenant Spalding worked with the 2d Battalion of Engineers, Washington Barracks from October 1904 to June 1905 and then under the immediate orders of Major Sibert with the Pittsburg Corps of Engineers from June 1905 to November 1906. From November 1906 to June 1907, he was the Chief Engineer Office of the Southwest Division.

From July 1907 to January 1908, First Lieutenant Spalding was Engineer Officer, Department of the Colorado and from January to February 1908 he served under the immediate orders of Colonel C.E.L.B. Davis, Corps of Engineers in Detroit and took temporary charge of the Detroit District, river and harbor works from February 1908 to March 1908.  He served under the immediate orders of Lieutenant Colonel Townsend, Corps of Engineers in Detroit, Michigan from March to July 1908 and on June 2, 1908, First Lieutenant Spalding received a promotion to Captain, Corps of Engineers.  Beginning on August 1, 1908, he supervised various works of fortifications and rivers and harbors in Jacksonville, Florida and spent the next three years spearheading building a harbor in Tampa, building the St. Johns River jetties, and starting the inland waterways canal. He also received the Carnegie Medal for saving the lives of two drowning men. [1]

First Lieutenant Spalding spent the next three years of his career as an instructor in the Army Field Engineer School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After that he was promoted to Major and assigned to superintend the First River and Harbor District in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Major Spalding had writing as well as administrative and teaching talents which the Army utilized by asking .him to write training manuals. His manuals included Notes on Bridges and Bridging and Training Manual in Topography, Map Reading, and Reconnaissance. The Encyclopedia Britannica is one of publications that printed his article on “Light Rails, Military.”

Serving with General John J. Pershing

Major Spalding’s left the Harbor District in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, to go to Fort Myer, Virginia, as an instructor at the training camp there. In 1917, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Divisional Engineer Officer, in charge of defense and offensive training on the staff of General Pershing. While serving on General Pershing’s staff in Europe during WW I, he organized Engineer Corps administration and he was promoted to Colonel. In France, he commanded the 305th Engineers, was Division Engineer of the 80th Division, and served as Chief Engineer with the 5th Corps, First Army, and Third Army. He then was Assistant to the Chief Engineer, American Expeditionary Force. At Trier, Germany, he was a member of the Dickman Board on Organization and Tactics.

He  received three medals during the war, the Distinguished Service Medal, the French Legion d’Honneur, and the Belgian Order of Leopold. After the Armistice he was a member of the Superior Board which was in charge of the occupation of Germany and the demobilization of U.S. Forces from Europe until July 1919.

More Assignments and Promotions

 After he returned to the United States, Colonel Spalding  took a position as an instructor at the General Staff College in Washington D.C., and returned to the grade of Major. In 1920, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he worked in Florence, Alabama, as District Engineer and completed the Muscle Shoals Dam. Returning to Louisville, Kentucky as District Engineer, he completed the Ohio River project that he had begun in 1916.

On July 1, 1931, Lieutenant Colonel Spalding was promoted to Colonel while a Division Engineer of the Upper Mississippi River Commission, a position he held until 1935. His next assignment took him to Washington, D.C. in the Office of the Chief of Staff and then to Fort Humphreys, Virginia, as Commander of the Post and Engineering School. In New York, he served as Engineer of the North Atlantic Division. In 1936, he was promoted to Brigadier General. In 1938, after suffering a heart attack, he and Mrs. Spalding retired to their home in Florida.

Serving in Another War and Another Retirement

Recalled to active duty in 1941, Brigadier General Spalding served from 1941-1945 as executive officer for the Division of Defense Shipping and Storage Section . His assignment involved coordinating requests for aid that foreign countries submitted. He resigned from his post at the end of World War II.

After his retirement, Brigadier General Spalding and his wife Alice moved to Bradenton, Florida. George Redfield Spalding died on June 28, 1962 in Bradenton, Florida and he and his wife Alice, who died on December 31, 1966 are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

A Daughter Remembers

Brigadier General George Redfield Spalding

Brigadier General George R. Spalding

Brig. Gen. George R. Spalding was born in Monroe, Michigan, 25 January 1877. His father, George Spalding, who was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, came to America at the age of twelve and settled with his parents in Monroe, Michigan. George Spalding, senior, was also a Brig. Gen. and served with distinction in the Union Army during the Civil War. He subsequently served his country as a congressman from Michigan and while in Washington, his son George R. Spalding acted as his assistant. Gen. Spalding’s mother, Augusta Lewis, was also from Scotland and was loved by all who knew her.

George R. Spalding graduated with the Class of 1901 from West Point. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. His first assignment was in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. The engineers were building roads through the interior during George’s service in the Philippines and he often said, “The most valuable service to the Engineers during that troubled time was performed by the mules. Mules could always detect a Moro ambush, and the Engineers were many times warned of danger by their so-called ‘stupid’ helpers.”

west point 1901

After two years in the Pacific, Lt. Spalding was stationed at Washington Barracks which was at that time the Engineer School. While in Washington, he was made an Aide to President Theodore Roosevelt. Also while in Washington, he met Alice M. Ruff whose family were long-time residents of Washington. Alice and George were married on 17 September 1904 and were never separated, when it could be prevented, until Gen. Spalding died.

Leaving Washington Barracks, George was ordered to Pittsburgh under the command of General Seibert where he helped to start the Ohio river series of dams which would eventually bring the river up to the “nine foot stage.” (Years later, in 1929, while serving as District Engineer in Louisville, Ky., he completed the Ohio river project. This accomplishment was marked by a ceremony attended by, the then President of the United States, Herbert Hoover.)

Following service in the Pittsburgh District, George had a series of duties which in the space of two years sent him to St. Louis, Denver and Detroit. In 1908, Captain Spalding was ordered to Jacksonville, Fla. as District Engineer. While there, he built the St. Johns river jetties and started the inland water-ways canal. It was George Spalding who recommended a harbor in Tampa which was at that time, a very small port. Also while in Jacksonville, he saved two men from drowning and received the Carnegie medal of which he was always proud.

From Jacksonville, George was ordered to Leavenworth, Kan. as instructor in the Department of Engineering in the Command and General Staff School. There he and his family had a taste for the first time of real post living. The “family” by this time consisted of George and Alice and two sons and a daughter.

After leaving Leavenworth, George served as District Engineer in Cincinnati from 1915 to 1916 and in Louisville from 1916 until 1917. While in Louisville, war was declared and George was asked to write manuals which would be of help to Engineers in the field. Some of those manuals were used in the Second World War.

As a major, in 1917, Spalding was sent to Fort Meyer Training Camp and there he served training troops until he was sent “overseas” with the 305th Engineers, of the 80th Division. The men who served with him in the 305th have always called him “The Colonel”, no matter what his rank became later. Also, those men kept in touch with George even though they became civilians at the end of the war. Most men who served with him in times of stress really loved and respected him.

In France, George Spalding was made Chief Engineer of the V Corps after leaving his regiment, serving under General Sommerall, and then later was made Chief Engineer of the Third Army under General Dickman. During the war, he received three medals: Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Honneur, (Officer), French, and Order of Leopold, (Officer), Belgian.

After the war, George Spalding was sent to the General Staff College at Washington Barracks, Washington D. C. as an instructor. This detail was almost a “coming home” as George and Alice had started their married life at Washington Barracks. Four years of the warmth of post life for the family seemed to dim the separation which the war had caused.

In 1923, Lt. Col. Spalding was assigned to the post of District Engineer at Florence, Ala. and given the important task of completing the Muscle Shoals Dam, now known as the Wilson Dam. This work and other engineering assignments, i. e. District Engineer at Louisville, Ky. and Divisional Engineer, Upper Mississippi Valley Division, St. Louis, Missouri related to the development of US rivers and harbors earned him the high regard of professional and military engineers. The following quote is from The Waterways Journal of 11 August 1962, published after General Spalding died.

“In the 1920’s, with the rank of colonel, George R. Spalding made his mark in river circles as District Engineer in Louisville while several lower Ohio river wicket dams, particularly No. 46 at Owensboro, Ky. were under construction. In the fall of 1929 the US Engineers abolished the Division Engineer offices at two or three cities on Western rivers and stationed Colonel Spalding in St. Louis as Division Engineer for all western rivers north of Cairo. His territory stretched from the Allegheny River in New York state to the Mississippi in Minnesota and the Yellowstone River into Yellowstone Park. Col. Spalding filled this vast responsibility with ease and efficiency. He also had great ability for getting along with anybody and everybody and especially for cutting through red tape.” After leaving the St. Louis Division in 1933, Col. Spalding was ordered to Fort Humphries, Va. as commander of the Post and the Engineering School. From there he was sent to the North Atlantic Division, New York as Divisional Engineer, and then to Washington, D. C. as Assistant Chief of Staff G-4.

On 31 July 1938, General Spalding was retired from active service due to a heart attack. He and Alice then made a home for themselves in Bradenton, Fla. where he regained his health. Subsequently, when he was recalled to duty on 15 Feb 1941, he was ready and willing to serve his country once again. He returned to Washington and was made the Liaison Officer between the Headquarters, Army Service Forces, and the Office of Lend Lease Administration during the period of 1942 until 1944. For this service, he was awarded the Citation for the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. The Citation quotes at the end, “As a result of his constant devotion to duty and the brilliant manner in which he accomplished his assignment, General Spalding has contributed markedly to the successful prosecution of the war.”

Once again retired, General Spalding returned to Bradenton where he lived quietly and in good health with Alice. On 28 June 1962, George died peacefully in his own home. As “old soldiers”, he died with his “boots on”.

General Spalding is survived by his wife Alice, who was with him until the end; two sons, George and Albert, and a daughter, Mrs. L. R. Wirak; eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Many things can be said of George, but none can say that he didn’t live a full life, with fun and work each getting its share.Alice S. Wirak, daughter[2]


[1] George Washington Cullum and Edward Singleton Holden.  Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.(Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1910) p. 651

[2]  George Redfield Spalding’s daughter Alice wrote a memorial article about him.




Veteran Family Portraits- Lewis and Spalding


Isaac and Sophia Redfield Lewis

George W. Spalding and Augusta Lewis Spalding

George Redfield Spalding and Alice Minnie Ruff Spalding

Isaac Lewis – Monroe Pioneer and Toledo War Veteran

Isaac Lewis, George W. Spalding and George Redfield Spalding survived three different wars and were proud veterans all of their lives. Their wives Sophia Lewis, Augusta Spalding, and Alice Minnie Spalding walked and worked alongside them and were proud veteran advocates all of their lives.

Born in Derby, Connecticut on September 25, 1804,  by the time he turned 22, Isaac Lewis had moved to Clyde, New York and he married Miss Sophia Redfield there.  The couple eventually had seven children:  Mary Eliza Lewis, died 1866. James Henry Lewis, 1829-1848; John Redfield Lewis, 1832-1833; Harriet Lewis Taylor, 1836-1912; Augusta Lewis Spalding, 1839-1923; Emily Lewis, 1841-1926; and Frances Lewis Marsh, 1846-1933.
In his earlier career at Clyde, New York, Isaac served as one of the first lock tenders on the Erie Canal and he had the honor of opening the first canal boat passing through the Canal and carrying New York Governor DeWitt Clinton who in turn carried a barrel of Lake Erie water to mingle with Hudson River water. In his capacity as lock tender, Isaac also opened the Erie Canal lock when General Marquis de Lafayette navigated the canal on one of the Erie Canal boats.

Isaac and Sophia Lewis lived in New York until the spring of 1835, when the family settled in Monroe, Michigan. Almost as soon as he arrived in Michigan, Isaac became involved in a war, as well as many peaceful enterprises. In 1835, the states of Michigan and Ohio were embroiled in a border dispute over ownership of “the Toledo Strip,” present day Toledo and Maumee. Historians later dubbed the dispute “The Toledo War.” Throughout 1835, the argument escalated with both Michigan and Ohio maneuvering and sending out militias to conduct minor skirmishes, fortunately with no deaths on either side.

On December 14, 1836, Michigan accepted a compromise negotiated in Congress, where the Michigan Territory relinquished its claims on the Toledo Strip to the state of Ohio in exchange for being admitted to the union as the 26th state and with 9,000 square miles of land in the Upper Peninsula between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The Detroit Free Press called the Upper Peninsula a wasteland covered with perpetual snows, but when prospectors found valuable deposits of copper and iron ore the dissatisfied citizens and the Detroit Free Press changed their attitudes.

Isaac Lewis didn’t fight in the front lines of the “Toledo War,” but he did make cannon balls for the Michigan militia. He had learned the trade of molder and started a foundry in Monroe, the first foundry in Michigan outside of Detroit. After the Toledo War had been settled, Lewis continued his foundry work and in 1839, he and his foundry cast all the gear wheels for the Michigan Southern Railway. He is listed as contributing $50.00 in an 1846 list of Michigan Southern stockholders.[1]

Turning his attention to plows, Lewis produced and introduced an improved plow to the farmers of Southern Michigan. The plow quickly became a favorite tool to help its owners plow their fields and the Lewis Foundry cast most of the machinery to build the saw and grist mills for Southeastern Michigan. Isaac’s reputation came to the attention of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the mowing machine, and when he needed a top-notch mechanic to build his first mowing machine, he chose Isaac Lewis. Isaac built the mowing machine and led a series of experiments with it on the Caldwell farm, west of Monroe.

Isaac Lewis channeled his mechanic ability in other directions with the help of three United States Presidents. President Franklin Pierce appointed Isaac Lewis supervising inspector of steamboats, a position that he held through the administrations of Presidents Pierce, Buchanan and part of President Abraham Lincoln’s terms.

After he retired from the foundry, Isaac Lewis opened a book and stationery business at 27 Front Street, operating it for many years. His business is listed in the Michigan State Gazetteers for several years, including 1867-1868, 1875,1877, 1879, and 1881. [2]

Inspector of the Poor and Elder of the Presbyterian Church

Isaac Lewis looked to his community as well as his business interests. On October 20, 1863 he was elected superintendent of the poor and served for any years. He became widely known throughout the state. One of his biographers, John McClellan Bulkley, in his History of Monroe County Michigan, told the story of an encounter Isaac Lewis had with one of his fellow state superintendents of the poor. One Sunday morning, one of Michigan’s Superintendents of the Poor came to the residence of Isaac Lewis and after introducing himself, he told Isaac that his schedule was so crowded that he needed to inspect Monroe County’s Poorhouse on the Sabbath. Isaac Lewis looked at him sternly and said, “If your duties are so numerous that you have to violate the Sabbath, you had better resign. Anyway, you cannot inspect our poorhouse on that day.” With that, Isaac bid him good morning, and closed the door.[3]

Tending to the spiritual as well as the business side of his life, Isaac joined the First Presbyterian Church Monroe, and served as an elder for many years. When in 1837, the church members had a falling out, he joined 28 others who withdrew and formed the Second Presbyterian Church with Reverend R.S. Crampton, pastor. Isaac served as one of the elders of the newly created Second Presbyterian Church, and when the two Presbyterian churches reunited in 1839, he continued to serve as an elder in the church until his death on November 17, 1889 at age 85. His widow Sophia and five daughters survived him. His contemporaries described him as a “gentleman of the old school and a Democrat.” He is buried in Woodland Cemetery.[4]

Isaac’s wife Sophia Redfield was born in Junius, New York on February 19, 1812. After she and Isaac were married in Clyde, New York in 1828, they came to Michigan across Lake Erie from Buffalo to the mouth of the River Raisin and settled in Monroe. They had eight children, with their five daughters surviving them.

In 1835, just a few years after the organization of the First Presbyterian Church, they joined it by letter. From the time of their joining the Presbyterian church, Sophia worked zealously to add to its foundations until illness confined her to her home. Any part of her church work was her delight and she was the oldest living member of the First Presbyterian Church when she died at age 88 on August 7, 1900. She is buried in Woodland cemetery beside her husband Isaac.[5]

Isaac and Sophia’s daughter Augusta Lewis and her husband George W. Spalding made valuable contributions to the next generations of veterans.

The Civil War Generation – Augusta Lewis Spalding and Colonel George Spalding


George W. Spalding was born in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland on November 12, 1836 to Andrew and Isabella Spalding who were rock-ribbed Presbyterians and raised their children with the same granite certainties. He immigrated to the United States with his family in in 1843, when he was seven years old. The family settled in Buffalo, New York where George attended the local schools, and then 1853, Andrew Spalding purchased a farm on the River Raisin near Monroe.

Working and living on the farm until he was 24, in the winter of 1860-1861, George accepted a teaching position at a district school and in the spring of 1861 his fellow citizens elected him clerk of Frenchtown,  Monroe Township, running as a Douglass Democrat. His clerkship hadn’t been fully launched when the South fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, launching the Civil War. George quickly enlisted as a private in what would become Company A, Fourth Michigan Infantry, mustered into the United States Army in May 1861. Colonel D.A. Woodbury served as the Colonel of the Fourth Michigan, with George Spalding First Sergeant.

In the summer of 1861, the Fourth Michigan Regiment moved through Baltimore toward Bull Run, but stopped at Fairfax Court House where it established a courier line between the telegraph office and General Irvin McDowell’s headquarters at Bull Run battlefield. That same summer, Sergeant George W. Spalding received a promotion to first lieutenant and assumed command of Company B of the Fourth Michigan. In July 1861, the Union Army reorganized and General George McClellan formed the Army of the Potomac.

In the fall of 1861, First Lieutenant Spalding was commissioned captain and the Fourth Michigan Infantry assigned to General Fitz John Porter’s Corps. The regiment performed picket duty and survived several sharp skirmishes with the Confederate forces, eventually arriving at Yorktown. At Yorktown, General Porter requested Colonel Woodbury to send an officer and thirty picked men to scout the Confederate position at Yorktown to learn its strengths and weaknesses.

Colonel Woodbury chose Captain Spalding for the mission and Captain Spalding scouting successfully, received a gunshot wound in the left shoulder as he performed his mission. The army began moving again, so Captain Spalding declined the leave of absence he had earned and commanded his company with his arm in a sling. He and the Fourth Michigan participated in the battles in the advance on Richmond and at New Bridge, Captain Spalding again was wounded. A rebel officer had surrendered to the Captain, but fired his rifle when he was within ten feet of Captain Spalding, the shot tearing away his pistol and belt and inflicting a painful wound.

By this point in the Civil War, the Fourth Michigan Infantry had fought in battles at:

  • Hanover Court House, May 26, 1862, in Hanover, Virginia, part of the Peninsula Campaign.
  • Mechanicsville, June 26, 1862
  • Gaines Mill, June 27, 1862
  • Savage Station, June 29, 1862
  • Turkey Bend, June 30, 1862
  • White Oak Swamp, June 30, 1862
  • Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862

The Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862, took a heavy toll on the Fourth Michigan Infantry. Colonel D.A. Woodbury, and First Lieutenants Richard  Dupuy and Morell A, Rose were killed and Captain George Spalding severely wounded in the left of the neck and reported killed in press dispatches. The total loss in the Fourth Michigan Infantry in six days included 53 killed, 144 wounded and 52 missing.

Captain Spalding accepted the offer of a leave of absence, but when he was about to depart Brigade Commander General Griffin handed the captain a sealed letter addressed to Michigan Governor Austin Blair. The letter urged him to promote Captain Spalding to major and the Governor commissioned him a major of the Fourth Regiment, but Captain Spalding waived his promotion in favor of the senior captain and shortly accepted the position of Lieutenant Colonel of the 18th Michigan Infantry.  Lt. Colonel Spalding and his regiment were ordered to report to General Lew Wallace, commander at Cincinnati, Ohio, then threatened by an attack from Confederate General Kirby Smith.

The 18th Michigan Infantry advanced over the Ohio River and into and over the Dry Ridge of Kentucky to Lexington, where it camped over the winter of 1862-1863. The campaign opened early in the spring of 1863, and the Confederates were driven out of Kentucky. Shortly after this, the 18th Michigan Regiment followed orders to report to General William Rosecrans, Army of the Cumberland. When  the 18th Michigan Infantry arrived at Nashville, Tennessee, Lt. Colonel Spalding found himself appointed Provost Marshal of the City of Nashville.

The Provost Marshall’s Most  Perplexing Task

As Provost Marshal of Nashville, Colonel Spalding had almost absolute power. The full manpower of the 18th Michigan Infantry reported to him for duty as provost guard and the military and civil police of the entire city of Nashville reported to and received orders from him.


In his turn, Lt. Colonel Spalding received an order from General Rosecrans in the early weeks of July 1863 that must have made him shake his head and sigh. The order from General Rosecrans directed Colonel Spalding to arrange for all of the prostitutes living and working in Nashville to be seized and transported to Louisville.

General Rosecrans had not taken leave of his senses. He knew that hundreds of Union soldiers were suffering from venereal diseases, a reality that was nearly as dangerous to soldiers as fighting in battles.  (By the end of the Civil War, the Surgeon General of the United States Army had documented 183,000 cases of venereal diseases in the Union Army.) General Rosecrans also knew that Nashville with its notorious Smokey Row, a two block-long stretch of brothels, had earned the reputation of being a hub of prostitution. Before the Civil War, Nashville had a documented 207 prostitutes, but by 1863, common wisdom fixed the number at approximately 1,500 prostitutes.

To a degree, the General could even understand the lure of prostitutes. Uneducated farm boys far from home, men missing wives and sweethearts, fear, boredom, loneliness- the General understood why the soldiers allowed the women to snap up their money, but he knew that he had try to stop the epidemic of syphilis and gonorrhea that decimated the ranks in the regiments. Even though he understood, General Rosecrans ordered Colonel Spalding to proceed with the roundup. Colonel Spalding didn’t have any trouble finding the public women, but deporting them posed more of a challenge. [6]

The during the second week in July Colonel Spalding met John Newcomb, the captain of a new steamboat called the Idahoe. Backed by General Rosecrans and other officials, Colonel Spalding ordered Captain Newcomb to take the Idahoe on a maiden voyage north – probably Louisville, but Colonel Spalding didn’t pinpoint a specific destination. Rosecran’s staff and Colonel Spalding furnished Captain Newcomb with enough rations to last the passengers to Louisville, but after that they were left to their own devices.

By July 9, the Nashville and other newspapers were reporting that the “public women” were being loaded onto the steamboat Idahoe. Eventually 111 public women were loaded aboard the Idahoe and sent down the Ohio River to Louisville. After a week’s trip down the Ohio River, they reached Louisville, but they weren’t allowed to land. They traveled further on down the Ohio River to Cincinnati. Many of the women became ill during the voyage because of the lack of food and other conditions, and finally the Idahoe turned around and chugged back to Nashville.

Lt. Colonel Spalding had to come up with another plan, and using his analytical mind he reasoned that since these public women would overcome any obstacle to be with soldiers for money and that these soldiers would overcome any obstacle to be with women for money, and since these were the facts of soldier and public women life, he would see to it that the encounters between them would be safe. In cooperation with the Union Army in Nashville, Lt. Colonel Spalding established the first system of legalized prostitution in the United States. When the public women arrived back in Nashville, Lt. Colonel Spalding created a system of registering prostitutes that resembled the plans in place in several European counties. The regulations that he used to manage the public women of Nashville included:

  • Requiring that each public woman register and be issued a $5 license complete with her name and address, and a record be kept of the license.
  • Appointing a skillful surgeon as a Board of Examination to give each licensed public woman a weekly examination and certificate to verify her health and ordering the diseased public women to receive hospital treatment.
  • Establishing a suitable hospital for sick public women and collecting a weekly tax of 50 cents from every licensed public woman to defray the hospital expense.
  • Arresting public women plying their trade without a license and certificate immediately, and sending them to the workhouse for at least thirty days.


(A Prostitution license that George Spalding signed in 1863.  National Archives.)

The majority of Nashville’s public women appreciated Lt. Colonel Spalding’s program that offered no danger of arrest or prosecution and a significantly healthier prognosis for their lives. By early 1864, more than 352 public women were licensed and at least 100 had been treated and recovered from venereal diseases, but the reforms for public women and their clients didn’t last beyond the end of the Civil War. In 1865, the Union Army no longer controlled Nashville and the public interest in licenses and hospitals for public women faded into other issues. Yet, in the 21st century, the few counties in the United States allowing prostitution use a regulatory system strikingly similar to the one that Lt. Colonel Spalding created out of desperation.[7]

Lt. Colonel Spading didn’t remain as Provost Marshal of Nashville long enough to witnesses the entire effectiveness of his program for the Nashville public women. In February 1864, he resigned that position to become a colonel in the Twelfth Tennessee Cavalry and he immediately became command of a cavalry brigade ordered to take charge of the Nashville and North Western Railroad. Large bands of guerillas infested the entire length of the Nashville and North Western Railroad, but within a few months Colonel Spalding and his men had eliminated all of the organized guerilla bands along the railroad.

His next orders assigned him to command a division of the Cavalry called the Fifth Division, A.C., with headquarters at Pulaski, Tennessee. Colonel Spalding and his men were ordered to protect the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and during the summer and fall of 1864, the Colonel and his troops constantly battled General Philip Roddy, General Joseph Wheeler, and General Nathan Bedford Forrest who consistently tried to destroy the railroad. When General John Bell Hood invaded Tennessee, General George Henry Thomas ordered General Spalding and his division to try to prevent the Confederate forces from crossing the Tennessee River, and to report his observations and estimates of the Confederate opposition.

Once he arrived at Florence, Alabama, Colonel Spalding discovered that the Confederates had gathered a strong force on the opposite side of the Tennessee River, and he immediately sent a message to General Thomas that General Hood’s entire army was poised to invade Tennessee and would cross the river near Florence Alabama. General Forrest’s cavalry covered the movements of General Hood’s army. Several battles were fought between these two armies in what was called the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, including Spring Hill and Franklin.

At Nashville, General Thomas reorganized his army and on December 15, 1864, the Confederates attacked and the Union Army put General Hood’s Army to flight. Colonel Spalding and one hundred picked men were selected to follow the remnants of General Hood’s command until the last man had crossed the Tennessee River. Colonel Spalding and his men broke the Confederate lines, scattering them in all directions and captured many prisoners, including General E.W. Ruckel.

Colonel Spalding was severely wounded in the left knee during the Battle of Nashville. General George Thomas issued a general order, complimenting Colonel Spalding for his bravery and he was brevetted brigadier-general for “gallant and meritorious service” in the Battle of  Nashville.

On Feb. 8, 1865, the regiment went into camp at Eastport, Miss., where it remained until May 11.    The new General Spalding was assigned to command the First Brigade, Fifth Division Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, and ordered to report to Major-General Pope’s headquarters at St. Louis, Missouri. After General Spalding arrived in St. Louis on May 17, 1865, General Pope assigned him to command the District of Northern Missouri at Macon and from there he was assigned to a district in Kansas with headquarters at Lawrence, Kansas. General Spalding’s command was mustered out of the service on October 24, 1865 and he returned home to Monroe, Michigan.

A Busy Civilian Life


Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

According to his obituary, the Civil War transformed General Spaulding from a strong Douglass Democrat to a granite Republican, “one of the most vigorous and aggressive ones in Michigan,” equal to his granite Presbyterian faith. On July 27, 1866, General Spalding received an appointment as U.S. postmaster for his hometown of Monroe and he served this term as postmaster until December 15, 1870.[8]

In 1871, the United States Treasury Department appointed him Special Agent, a position that he filled for four years. His duties included traveling to the Rio Grande River to report on the commerce between Mexico and the United States. The year of 1871 proved to be a personally significant one for General Spalding. He married Augusta Lewis on December 6, 1871 and they eventually had four children:  Emma Spalding Sterling, Elizabeth Spalding Orvis, George Redfield, and Isaac Lewis.

In 1875, General Spalding joined the First National Bank of Monroe and forged a four decade career with the bank. In 1876 the citizens of Monroe, a Democratic town,  elected General Spalding, a strong Republican, mayor, and in same year he was elected president of the Monroe School Board. As well as fulfilling his personal and business obligations, General Spalding found time for the study of law and  in 1878, he was admitted to the Michigan bar.

Although he had previously been a Democrat, General Spalding changed his political stance to Republican, chairing the Monroe County Republican Committee for several years. He stumped Monroe County for Republicans and frequently made speeches in Lenawee and Hillsdale Countries, where he gathered many warm friends and admirers who considered him a good citizen and an honest man.[9]

From 1885-1897, General Spalding served as a member of the board of control of the State Industrial Home for Girls, located in nearby Adrian, Michigan. The Michigan State Legislature created the State Industrial Home in 1879, under the administration of Governor Charles M. Croswell and the influence and effort of Laura Haviland, the Quaker Abolitionist who fought for freedom for slaves and the rights of women.

The mission of the first Board of Control of the State Industrial Home included choosing the location and providing buildings, appointing officers, and in general, making the Industrial Home functional. The first Board of Control members were: Charles T. Gorham of Marshall; William H. Waldby of Adrian; Mrs. S. L. Fuller of Grand Rapids; Mrs. C.B. Stebbins of Lansing; and Miss Emma Hall of Ypsilanti, with Governor Croswell an ex-officio member. General Spalding’s experiences in the Union Army, and especially with the Nashville public women and his political offices since returning home provided him the broad range of experiences that made him an invaluable Board of Control member of the Michigan Industrial Home for Girls.[10]

Besides his other activities, General Spalding expanded his political career to include serving as a Republican member of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses from March 4, 1895 to March 3, 1899, representing Michigan’s Second District. During the Spanish American War of 1898, he supported the United States President and U.S. forces with the “vigorous, clearheaded judgment of a statesman and a soldier.[11]

The government again appointed General Spalding as Monroe Postmaster on February 20, 1899, and he held that office until February 13, 1907. When his second term as postmaster ended, he returned to practicing law and agricultural pursuits. He made time to pursue personal interests and he was a member of Monroe Commandery No. 19, Masons, and the only living Charter Member of the Knights Templars of Monroe. He joined the Joseph R. Smith, GAR Post, and the Loyal Legion of the GAR, a Detroit organization composed of men who had assumed great risks in battle.

50th Anniversary of Gettysburg – Family Photograph

General Spalding established his business career by joining the First National Bank in 1875. In 1877 he became director and cashier of the bank and in 1892, he advanced to president. In 1911, he was re-elected to the presidency of the bank and held that position from 1877, until his death on September 13, 1915.[12]


Monroe’s Grand Old Man

 The erect form and sturdy walk of General George Spalding were familiar to Monroe residents for years and even when trouble with his eyesight made his steps unsteady he walked to the bank and around town as usual, showing no signs of advancing age. During his entire career, General Spalding enjoyed a well-earned reputation as a witty, persuasive speaker at patriotic and other gatherings. Whenever organizers of public events advertised General Spalding on the program as a speaker, a crowd almost always collected to hear and applaud him.[13]

When General Spalding died at 5:00 o’clock in the morning of September 13, 1915 at age 79, word of his death spread quickly around the city of Monroe and a steady stream of friends made their way to his resident at 159 South Macomb Street to pay their respects. As soon as they heard of his death, Monroe businessmen planned a public and military funeral for General Spading.  Monroe Mayor Betz issued a proclamation urging every businessman to close their establishments from 2:00-4:00 on the afternoon of the funeral.  Captain Isaac C. Godfroy, was in charge of the military services as marshal of the day. The Light Guards, GAR, City and County officials, Spanish American War Veterans, the Bar Association, and the Masonic officials attended the funeral in a body.

General Spalding rested in a flag draped coffin  in the Presbyterian Church in Monroe from 11:30 to 2:00 p.m. the day of the funeral, Wednesday September 15, 1915. Dr. W.C. Burns conducted the services and he was buried in Woodland Cemetery, Monroe.[14]

The General’s obituary in the Petersburg Sun emphasized that his brother William Spalding was a long-time resident of Petersburg.[15]

Augusta Lewis Spalding,  the General’s Wife

The General’s wife, Augusta Lewis Spalding who survived him by eight years,  was born in Monroe on September 3, 1839, the fourth of seven children of Isaac and Sophia Lewis. She grew up in a strict Presbyterian household, both parents were deeply involved in their local Presbyterian Church and they tried to instill Calvinistic principles of hard work, honestly, and patriotism in their children.

As she grew up, Augusta appreciated her father’s skill at molding items in his foundry and her mother’s dedication to the church and their love of America. When the South seceded from the Union in April 1861, and old friends and acquaintances including George Spalding left to join the fight to preserve the Union, Augusta decided that she had to do something too. She and several other dedicated local women organized the Monroe Ladies Soldiers Aid Society with the mission of furnishing hospital supplies and other items that the general government didn’t provide to the Smith Guard Soldiers of Monroe. An executive committee of 16 local women were elected from the newly formed group which held its first meeting on July 29, 1861 at the home of Mrs. J.M. Oliver. Augusta Lewis was elected the new treasurer of the group. From its beginnings in 1861 to the end of the Civil War in April of 1865, the young ladies demonstrated untiring energy, perseverance, and genuine patriotism for the Union Army.

When the Union soldiers, including George Spalding, returned from the War, like any soldiers, they hurried to rebuild their lives and establish homes and families of their own. George Spalding established a business and political career and then turned to establishing a home and family of his own. On December 6, 1871, he and Augusta Lewis were married in Monroe. George was 34 and Augusta was 31. The Spaldings had four children:

Emma Spalding Sterling was born on November 17, 1872. She married -William Sterling Jr. and she died in 1964.

Isaac Lewis Spalding was born on March 4, 1875 and he died in 1952.

George Redfield Spalding born on January 25, 1877 and he died in 1962

Elizabeth Thurber Spalding Orvis was born on June 25, 1879 She married Harry Orvis and she died in 1968.

Augusta Lewis Spalding died on November 11, 1923. The Monroe Evening News reported her death with the headline “Esteemed Woman Called by Death.”

Mrs. Augusta Lewis Spalding, widow of the late General George Spalding, died at her home, corner of Third and South Macomb Streets, Sunday night at 10:40 o’clock of pneumonia. Mrs. Spalding was one of the best known women of this city and her many friends will learn of her death with sorrow. Her husband was a Civil War Veteran and served as postmaster of this city. Funeral services will be held Wed. afternoon at 2:30 o’clock at her late home, Third and Macomb streets. Friends will kindly omit flowers.[16]
(Next:  George Redfield Spalding and Alice Minnie Ruff Spalding)


[1] John  McClellan Bulkley, History of Monroe County, Michigan:  a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests. Volume I. (Chicago, New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1913) p 368..

[2] Michigan State Gazetteer Listings of Isaac Lewis, Books and Stationery.

[3] John McClellan Bulkley, History of Monroe County, Michigan (New York: Munsell & Company, 1890) p. 525-526.

[4] John  McClellan Bulkley, History of Monroe County, Michigan:  a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests. Volume I. (Chicago, New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1913)p. 436.Talcott Enoch Wing, History of Monroe County, Michigan (New York: Munsell & Company, 1890) p. 50
[5] Monroe Record, August 9, 1900, p. 1.

[6]  The Civil War, Sex and Soldiers

[7] ; The Curious Case of Nashville’s Frail Sisterhood by Angela Serratore,, July 8, 2013.;The Nashville Experiment, New York Times;

[8] “Monroe Mourns Citizen’s Death.” The Record Commercial, Thursday, September 16, 1915, page 1, column 1

[9] That Reaction.”Hillsdale Standard, October 6, 1868, page 2. General George Spalding of Monroe whose name occupied a place on the Democratic state ticket for Auditor General two years ago is out for Grant and Cofax.

[10]  The State of Michigan’s Industrial Home for Girls

Report of Michigan Industrial Home for Girls

[11]“Monroe Mourns Citizen’s Death.” The Record Commercial, Thursday, September 16, 1915, page 1, column 1

[12] Congressional Biography- George Spalding

[13] “Monroe Mourns Citizen’s Death.” The Record Commercial, Thursday, September 16, 1915, page 1, column 1

[14]“General George Spalding Dead After An Illness of Two Weeks.” Monroe News Courier, Monday September 13, 1915, page 1, Column 5

[15] Petersburg Sun, September 17, 1915, p. 1

[16] Monroe Evening News, Nov. 12, 1923