Less than a week before Christmas 1863, Martha Naomi Wilcox inscribed a photograph to her father away at war. The careful, halting cursive script belied her 14 years. Martha’s father, 43-year-old farmer John F. Wilcox, had joined the ranks of Company A of the 116th New York Infantry more than a year earlier.
The 116th participated in major operations against Port Hudson, La., in 1863 and Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in 1864. The rigors of camp and campaign sidelined Wilcox with a back injury and smallpox, and these disabilities contributed to his early departure from the army with a medical discharge in July 1864. Described as a physical wreck due to wartime exposure, he died in 1890 at age 81.
Wilcox outlived his daughter by a decade. Martha succumbed to the effects of consumption in 1880 at age 31. Her husband, John J. Shear, survived her.
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