Eli Pence was the last surviving Civil War veteran from Champaign County, Ohio, where he
was born on January 20, 1842 and died on January 23, 1941, shortly after turning 99. He was also the only soldier from the 45th OVI to attend the regiment's 60th and last reunion, in August 1933, and was almost certainly its last survivor.
Born the son of Samuel Pence, whose father Daniel had come to Champaign County from Virginia, Eli was sixth of nine children. His father died at the age of 35 in 1845, when Eli was only three years old. His mother remarried a year later to Adam Apple, also of Champaign County, by whom she had four more children. Eli, however, was raised by relatives, undergoing what his biography in the History of Champaign County (W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1881, pg. 761) describes as "many deprivations." On August 4, 1862, at the age of twenty, he enlisted as a private in the 45th OVI and was mustered into Company H, which was largely raised from Champaign County.
Eli was promoted to corporal on May 1, 1864 and was mustered out on June 12, 1865 at Camp Harker, Tennessee. His company suffered heavy losses in killed, wounded and
captured, particularly in the siege of Knoxville and the battles at Philadelphia and Holston
River, but Eli escaped with only a slight wound to his right shoulder at the Battle of Resaca.
After the war, Eli returned to Ohio and, on March 4,1866, married Rachel A. Shroufe, the daughter of a prominent Champaign County family. A year later he settled on the farm in St. Paris that was his wife's birthplace and was to be their home for many years. The couple had six children: Orlando, William, Samuel, Mary Ellen, Emma and Thirza Ann. Rachel died at the age of 72 in 1918 and on September 2, 1921, Eli remarried, to Ellen Walker, a widow from Plain City, Ohio, aged 62. This match between an elderly widower and widow was unusual enough to warrant an article in the local newspaper, The Champaign Democrat, on September, 27 1921:
St Paris Man Weds at 78 A widow of 62
An event of more than usual interest occurred last week at Plain City when
Eli Pence, aged 78, retired farmer, of St. Paris, was united in marriage to
Mrs. Ellen Walker, aged 62, of Plain City.The marriage ceremony was
performed by Rev. Sprouce, Baptist minister of Plain City and the couple
went to housekeeping in the bride's home in that place. Both have been
married before and have families. Mr. Pence is one of the best known
residents of St. Paris and Mrs. Pence is well known in Madison and Union
Eli took an active role in G.A.R. and regimental reunion affairs, becoming the reunion
organization's last president. On August 16, 1933, he was the sole remaining 45th OVI
veteran at the regiment's 60th reunion, held in Urbana, Ohio. (For a fuller account of this
reunion see the Reunion page.) Eli also attended the Blue-Grey Reunion in 1938, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. He lived long enough to see the start of World War II, which he had predicted in his remarks at the 60th reunion. Eli Pence died on January 23, 1941 and was buried in Rosedale Cemetery, Adams Township, Champaign County.
Eli's older brother Isaiah also served in the Union army, enlisting in the 13th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in April 1861 and mustering out in August of the same year. Meanwhile, four of Eli's cousins, Elijah, John, John Dugan and William Pence, served in the 45th OVI. Elijah enlisted as a private on July 28, 1862, at the age of 25, and mustered into Company E. He was captured at Philadelphia, Tennessee on October 20, 1863 and died a prisoner at Richmond, Virginia on March 4, 1864. John enlisted as private on August 11, 1862, at the age of 26, and mustered into Company C. He was mustered out on June 12, 1865 at Camp Harker, Tennessee. John Dugan enlisted as a corporal on August 8, 1862 and mustered into Company H. He died of typhoid fever at Covington, Kentucky on October 8, 1862.William enlisted as a private on July 5, 1862, at the age of 24, and mustered into Company E. He mustered out on June 12, 1865.