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Federal (USV)


Joshua G. Towne

(1841 - 1921)

Home State: Massachusetts

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 21st New York Infantry

Before Antietam

Age 21, he enlisted in Buffalo, NY on 1 May 1861 to serve two years, and mustered in on 20 May as a Private in Company B, 21st New York Infantry. He was promoted to Corporal on 16 November and to Sergeant on 1 May 1862.

On the Campaign

He was seriously wounded in the left leg in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862.

The rest of the War

He was treated at the US Army hospital in the German Reformed Church in Frederick, MD from 1 to 8 October, then furloughed. He mustered out with his Company on 18 May 1863 in Buffalo.

After the War

By 1869 he was a cashier with American Express in Milwaukee, WI.

The story of how Wisconsin became a great bicycling state began in earnest on January 7, 1869, when Joshua G. Towne peddled his velocipede -- the wood-and-iron forerunner to today's bicycle -- in what is believed to be the first ride in state history. It is easy to imagine Towne bouncing clumsily down the frozen midwinter streets of Milwaukee, crashing into icy ruts as his "boneshaker" -- a name later used to describe these simple machines -- creaked and groaned beneath him. Towne made such an unusual sight that the local newspaper reporters turned out to witness his ride, making him something of a local celebrity on the spot.
By 1893 and to at least 1900 he was a bank bookkeeper and clerk in Salem, MA, and he had retired there by 1910. He was still in Salem at his death in 1920, from chronic nephritis (kidney disease), not quite 80 years old.

References & notes

His service from the Adjutant General1 with Antietam wound detail from the Chronicles.2 Hospital detail from the Patient List.3 Personal details from family genealogists, the Wisconsin State Journal of 11 May 1870, the Salem City Directory (1893-4), and the US Census of 1900-1920. The quote above from Jesse J. Gant and Nicholas J. Hoffman's Wheel Fever (2013), citing the Milwaukee Sentinel of 7 January 1869. His gravesite is on Findagrave.

He married Alice G. Emery in Milwaukee in November 1870 and they had a daughter, Alice (1875-1876). He married again, Mary Howard "Nellie" Holland (1857-1945) in Portland, ME in June 1883 and they had 4 children.


02/17/1841; Salem, MA


01/30/1921; Portland, ME; burial in Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, ME


1   State of New York, Adjutant-General, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York [year]: Registers of the [units], 43 Volumes, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1893-1905, For the Year 1899, Ser. No. 20, pg. 296  [AotW citation 28157]

2   Mills, John Harrison, and 21st Regiment Veteran Association of Buffalo, Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment New York State Volunteers, Buffalo: 21st Reg't. Veteran Association of Buffalo, 1887, pp. 293-294  [AotW citation 28158]

3   National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and Terry Reimer, Frederick Patient List, Published 2018, first accessed 17 September 2018, <>, Source page: patient #57  [AotW citation 28159]