John A. Pattee


John Pattee was born in Huron, Michigan on June 5, 1844. John was raised on the family farm; when he enlisted, his occupation was listed as "farmer". Reportedly, John was quite musically inclined. His mother gave him a violin which he continued to play throughout his life.

John Enlisted in Company K August 5, 1862 at Huron. He had few days to say goodbye to his friends and family before he was mustered into service on August 14, 1862. He was 18 years old.

Notice how youthful Pattee looks in the photograph at left. He would have been about 66 years old. The enlargement at right shows John in 1860, before his enlistment.

Shortly after joining the Iron Brigade, there was a call for volunteers from their ranks to man the "Iron Brigade Battery", 4th U.S. Battery B. John was among those who volunteered. The particulars of his service with the battery are not known. He was "with the guns" at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg. By October 1864 all volunteer soldiers assigned to the Battery had been returned to their original regiments and replaced with newly recruited regulars. John Pattee served with the Battery for a total of 18 months.

John went with the 24th Michigan to Camp Butler, and was present for Lincoln's Funeral. The photograph below was taken while the regiment was at Springfield. The caption reads: "Surviving Members of the 24th Michigan Volunteers Awaiting Final Discharge June 5, 1865. It is one of a very few photographs taken of the Regiment in the field. John Pattee is the soldier marked "Dad". John Mustered out with the Regiment on June 30, 1865.


John was quite proud of his wartime service. He attended "Michigan Day at Gettysburg" in 1889. He was also a member of the Fairbanks #17 G.A.R. Post in the early part of this century.

After his discharge, John returned to Michigan, although his activities prior to 1880 are unknown. Sometime around that year, he married, and fathered at least three children: a daughter named Belle, and two sons.

The photograph at right was taken outside a theater in Battle Creek (the poster advertises a Vaudeville show). Based on the uniforms, and the apparent age of Pattee, the image is believed to date from 1917 or 1918. The partially illegible notation on the back reads: "Mr. J.W. Pattee and his two sons *** age 38,*** age 26, Battle Creek Mich." The woman in the photograph is unidentified. She may be the Belle.

Sometime before 1904, John Pattee promoted himself to Colonel and formed a Vaudeville act called the Old Soldiers Fiddlers. John came up with the idea of creating a band composed of himself, two union veterans and two confederate veterans. Their performances consisted mainly of civil war era ballads and reels. Apparently none of the group, including John, could read music. Most, if not all of their billing indicates that they were "Vaudeville's Greatest Novelty Act." It seems that John Pattee was a self-promoter in more than one sense.

The Old Soldiers are known to have performed in the Iron Brigade tent at the 50th Anniversary Reunion at Gettysburg in July 1913. A photograph of the group onstage survives (see below). Presumably his old comrades did not object to his new "rank".


Eventually old age took it toll and the group dissolved. The "Colonel" remained very active as is evidenced by this photograph. The following is written on the reverse side.

Dear Belle & All
-------------------
If you & all is not too old you can find just below the my name in the picture the following in small type ------ The Famous Old Fiddler. Just above my name, also in small type -- The Oldest Living Elk. If you can't locate it, George or some of the younger people can find it. Your Loving Father.

 

The New York Times included the following notice in the December 28, 1924 Listen In on Radio Column:

Colonel John A. Pattee, old soldier fiddler and favorite of WEAF's radio audience, will never stand before a microphone again.  This unfortunate news came with word of his death which canceled his radio barn dance from WEAF scheduled for Saturday evening, Dec. 20.

Colonel Pattee was 80 years of age and a Civil War veteran, having served in the Twenty-fourth Michigan Volunteer Infantry, called the "Iron Brigade," which opened the Battle of Gettysburg.  On numerous occasions he has appeared on WEAF's program's, playing the old dance tunes on his fiddle just as he played them before the Civil War days.  His voice, calling out each tune in the fashion of the country fiddler won for him a warm spot in the hearts of radio listeners.


A large number of items related to the Old Soldiers Fiddlers have survived. Some examples are shown below in chronological order.


The comments read:

Col. J.A. Pattee & Co. of Old Soldiers Fiddlers Holding a reception stage with the G.A.R. Post.
Family Theater, LaFayette, Ind. Jany. 20/1904


The comments read:


Vaudeville's Greatest Novelty Act
"Two Boys in Blue" "Two Sons of Dixie"
Playing the Old Time Tunes - "Way Back 'Fore de War"
Col. J. A. Pattee Originator and Director
Late of the 24th Mich. Infantry, "Iron Brigade, " Army of the Potomac
Permanent Address ===Huntington, West Virginia

Photo Courtesy: Roger L. Heiple, CGBD86A@prodigy.com



The comments read:

This scene represents that portion of the old battlefield of Gettysburg over which Gen. Pickett's famous charge was made July 3rd 1863.

Col. Pattee's Old Soldier Fiddlers as they appeared on the opening bill at B.F. Keiths New Theater, Toledo, O. September 25, 1911.


The handwritten comments read:

Col. J. A. Pattee's "Old Soldier's Fiddler's", The Blue and the Gray, As they appeared at the Iron Brigade Headquarters Tent on the Old Battlefield at Gettysburg during the 50th Anniversary of the Great Battle held July 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th 1913.

The musicians are identified from left to right: Wolfe, Saviers (1913 & 1914), Col. Pattee, Hawsworthy (??), and Norcross.


Descendant: Richard M. Wallach rwallach@bna.com
1910 Vaudeville Card Photo Courtesy: Roger L. Heiple, CGBD86A@prodigy.com
Other Photographs from the Author's Collection



Last Updated: 12/25/00
Webmaster: Rob Richardson
robr@advnet.net
1910 Vaudeville Card Photograph Copyright 1997 Roger Heiple
All other material Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 Rob Richardson