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Wed by the “Famous Fighting Methodist Preacher”

One spring day in 1864, John W. Widney and Mary A. Fitzwater Brown were married in Orange, Ohio. The newlyweds were accompanied by John’s mother, Eliza, and Mary’s brother, John. Also present was the Methodist minister who presided over the ceremony, Granville Moody.

Among the Union army’s most colorful colonels, Moody started his service in 1861 with the 74th Ohio Infantry. Detached to be the commander of Camp Chase Military Prison in Columbus, Ohio, he impressed the Southern soldiers confined there. When the rebels received word of his departure in mid-1862, they promised him the same benefits if the tables were ever turned. “Should Colonel Moody, at any time, become a prisoner of our (Confederate) government, we hereby earnestly request for him the highest consideration and treatment, as a proper acknowledgment of his kindness and care for us.”

Carte de visite by M. Witt of Columbus, Ohio. Mike Medhurst Collection.
Carte de visite by M. Witt of Columbus, Ohio. Mike Medhurst Collection.

About six months later at the Battle of Stones River, Moody came very close to being a guest of the Confederate authorities when his horse was shot from beneath him. Moody himself suffered a bullet wound in the right calf and narrowly escaped a fatal wound when one or more bullets shattered a revolver he carried in his right breast pocket. More bullets shredded his uniform so much so that one man called him the “Ragged Colonel.”

The rigors of camp and campaign took a toll on the 50-year-old Moody and prompted his resignation in May 1863. It was accepted with regret.

About a year later, the famed fighter united John and Mary in holy matrimony. He left them with this unique marriage certificate. John joined the 147th Ohio Infantry a month later and served for three months. Afterwards he returned to his wife, and they started a family that grew to include three children. John lived until 1910, and Mary died in 1915. Both outlived Moody, who died in 1887 with a brevet rank of brigadier general in recognition of his war service.


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