William Boyle, USA/CSA

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William Boyle

Birthplace: Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Francis Boyle and Margaret Boyle
Brother of Solomon Joseph Boyle, USA/USN; Mary E. Boyer; George Boyle; Sarah Belle Winram; Edward Boyle and 1 other
Half brother of Anna Boyle; Joseph Boyle and James Edward Boyle

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Immediate Family

About William Boyle, USA/CSA

William Boyle was the son of Edward Boyle of Ireland and wife Margaret Corrigan, also of Ireland. He was born c.1838 and lived in the Storrs district of Cincinnati, Ohio.

William appears on the 1850 US Census for Ohio, listed as a 12 year old white male, born in Ohio, and living with his parents. Others in the household at this census were Edward Boyle (age 40), Margaret Boyle (age 32), Solomon Boyle (age 11), Mary Boyle (age 8), George Boyle (age 7), Sarah Boyle (age 6), Edward Boyle (age 3), John Boyle (age 18 months), Margaret Sullivan (age 18), and Morris Day (age 30).

At age 18, on July 13, 1855, William enlists in the army for a five year term and is assigned to 2nd Cavalry, Company K. On his enlistment papers he is described as fair-complected with blue eyes and light brown hair, and standing 5'4-3/4" tall. He was a stonecutter by trade.

The Second Cavalry was a newly formed regiment of the army. The new recruits were assembled and sent to Missouri for basic training and then were sent to Texas to fight Indians and Mexican bandits, and to protect the settlers. It was an elite organization. The troopers rode the finest horses and were issued the latest equipment and firearms. The officers were handpicked by Jefferson Davis, secretary of war for President Franklin Pierce. Thus the regiment was known as "Jeff Davis's Own." Most of the officers, like Davis, were West Point graduates and southerners. The regiment was known for the outstanding quality of the sixteen general officers it produced in the 6½ years of its existence. Eleven of these became Confederate generals, and the Second Cavalry supplied four of the full generals of the Confederate Army -- Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Edmund Kirby Smith, and John Bell Hood. The Second Cavalry had five years of distinguished service on the Texas frontier and border. It had driven the Indians far beyond the fringes of settlement and had attacked and defeated the Comanches deep in their heartland. It had also helped the Texas Rangers to combat Juan N. Cortina, and to bring peace to the lower Rio Grande valley. Thorough in reconnaissance, persistent in pursuit, and successful in battle, the Second United States Cavalry made a significant contribution to Texas frontier history.

William completed his term of enlistment in July, 1860 in Texas. He did not come home to Cincinnati and was not included in the 1860 census with his family. It is not clear if he stayed in Texas. He was deeply influenced by his military commanders and, when the Civil War broke out nine months later, he enlisted in the Confederate Army. Based on statements from his family, he either lost a leg or lost the use of a leg while serving in the Civil War, and needed crutches to get about.

Boyle Poisoning

By 1866, William is again living with his family in Cincinnati. William enlisted in the army shortly after the death of his mother. While he is in Texas fighting Indians, his father remarries and has a new family of three children. William joins the Confederate army during the Civil War and comes home a damaged man, unable to work at his previous trade of stonecutting. While he has fought on the losing side, his brother Solomon fought on the winning side. The term "PTSD" had not been invented yet, but surely this man was a candidate.

In late January or early February 1868, four members of the family are poisoned, and two children die. Step-brother James Edward died on February 4, and step-sister Anna died five days later. His father and step-mother awee gravely ill but survive. Suspicion falls upon William for the poisoning and he is arrested and faced an inquest by the grand jury. It is believed that pitcher of drinking water had been poisoned. The post-mortem on little James proved his death was caused by arsenic.

  • The father testifies how he thought William was to blame, that he had come back from the war a cripple going about on crutches and refusing to get a job, and that he had not one redeeming quality.
  • The step-mother's sister Eliza McKenzie testified that there had been trouble in the family, that William would not speak to his step-mother or the young children, but did speak to his father.
  • Sister Mary accused William of killing the boy, claiming he had nearly done so two years before in a drunken rage, and that he used abusive and threatening language towards them.
  • Brother Solomon testified that he had not seen the pitcher and had not heard his brother threaten the family. He testified that the only person to see the contents of the pitcher was Mr. McKenzie.
  • Other neighbors and visitors to the home are called to testify, but they all say that they had no knowledge of William obtaining poison or wanting to harm his family.

The verdict of the grand jury is that James died of arsenic poisoning by person or persons unknown.

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William Boyle, USA/CSA's Timeline

Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States