Sailor & Soldier of the American Civil War

Edward Forrester Reffell (1830 -1889)

In his relatively short life, Edward Forrester Reffell had more exciting life experiences than most of his time. Born in Ringwould Kent to William Reffell and Elizabeth Parry, he served both in the Royal Navy and on the Union side during the American Civil War, later becoming a cab driver. He also had two wives.

Following in the footsteps of his father, on 12 March 1855 Edward Forrester joined the Royal Navy, working his way up to the rank of assistant paymaster on the following ships; HMS Niger (1855), HMS Centurion (1856), HMS Maeander (1858), HMS Blenheim (1859) and HMS London (1859). He was awarded the Crimea Medal on HMS Niger on 20 January 1856.

On 23 February 1856, he married Caroline Elizabeth Leshley at St Marylebone. Caroline was his first cousin, her father James being the brother of Mary Ann Leshley (Madame Caballero) and a half-brother of Edward’s father William. Edward and Caroline’s only child William Edward was born on 29 July 1857 in Marylebone, but died at sea in 1874. Caroline died in 1857, possibly during childbirth.

In 1862, Edward married a girl from Monmouth called Sophia Collins (born 1838), and they were to have three more children, the first of whom Ellen Blanche was born that same year.

Edward Forrester’ s American Civil War experiences began when he enlisted as a Private on 7 July 1863 at the age of 32 on the Union side in Company A of the 11th Infantry Regiment of New York. The last record of him in America was in Company D of the same regiment on 13 June 1865. More needs to be researched here, but his son Edward Henry was born during 1869 in the United States although he kept British citizenship.

By 1871, most of the family was back in the United Kingdom, where second wife Sophia was in Monmouth with her mother Annie. In 1874 daughter Florence Elizabeth was born in Fulham, followed in 1878 by Nelson Horatio in Islington. In the 1881 census Edward Forrester is a cab driver in East Ham.

After such a very eventful life, Edward Forrester died at the early age of 59 and the death was registered in the district of Ongar. Sophia died at the age of 62 during 1900 at West Ham. It is also of note that the naval theme of given names continued down the line, with Horatio, Nelson and Forrester being present in many subsequent generations.