Charles Nelson was born in 1842 in Canada.
His family probably moved from Canada to Ohio (where his sister Harriet was born in 1849), then on to Michigan sometime after 1849. By 1860 Charles was a boiler maker living with his sister Harriet and the Dr. Adua Sherman family in Tallmadge, Ottawa County. (Sherman had himself been born in Canada in 1823 and his wife Lydia born in Ohio in 1833; their daughter Abbie was born in Canada in 1853.)
Charles stood 5’5” with black eyes and hair and a dark complexion and was 19 years old and probably still living in Tallmadge when he enlisted with his parents’ or guardian’s consent in Company I on May 13, 1861. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) He received the Kearny Cross for his participation in the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, and was wounded on July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was subsequently hospitalized through November, but eventually recovered and returned to duty. Charles reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Solon, Kent County, was presumably on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864, probably in Michigan, and probably rejoined the Regiment on or about the first of February.
He was wounded severely in the leg and taken prisoner on May 6, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia, and was transferred as a prisoner-of-war to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He was reported as a prisoner through November, and it is possible that he died in prison.
There is no further record, and no pension seems to be available.
(There is a pension reported for one Charles W. Nelson, who served in Company E (?), Thirty-fourth Michigan infantry – although in fact there was no 34th Michigan infantry or cavalry. It is possible that this was the Third Michigan Charles Nelson. In any case, he was living in Canada when he applied for a pension, no. 1693708.)