Charles Franklin Shaft was born in 1840 in Herkimer, Herkimer County, New York, the son of New York natives Jacob V. Sr. (1810-1886) and Margaret Jane (Putnam, 1820-1861).
Charles’ parents were married in 1836 in Geneva, Ontario County, Ohio, although both were living in New York at the time. They settled first in Canastota, Madison County, New York -- where Jacob had been living -- but soon moved on to Herkimer County, New York where they were living by 1840. By 1848 they had moved westward and were living in Shiawassee County, Michigan; and by 1850 had settled in Woodhull, Shiawassee County where Charles was attending school with his siblings (including his older brother John would would also enlist in the 3rd Michigan Infantry). By 1860 Charles was living with his family in Owosso, Shiawassee County. (Jacob Sr. remarried in 1863 to one Jane Offen Reed, in Venice, Sandusky County, Ohio.)
Charles stood 5’10” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was a 21-year-old farmer probably living in Owosso’s Second Ward when he enlisted in Company G on May 13, 1861, with his older brother John. According to Frank Siverd of Company G, during the first battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on Sunday, July 21, one of the Shaft boys (he does not mention which one) was taken prisoner, along with Joshua Benson and Oscar Van Wormer, all of Company G. They were captured, wrote Siverd, “by four rebel scouts; they discovered the boys, and they showing too much pluck to be marched into the rebel camp, let them go. It is presumed they made pretty good double quick time from that to camp.” By the first week of September Charles was in the Regimental hospital suffering from a slight fever.
By early December Charles was in the general hospital in Alexandria, suffering from typhoid fever, but he quickly recovered and by the first of the year had rejoined the Regiment. He remained present for duty through 182 and 1863 and reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Owosso’s 2nd Ward.
Charles was probably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864, along with his brother John. In fact while on furlough Charles married his step-sister, Ohio native Sanana or Susanna Reed (b. 1847), on January 23, 1864, at his father’s home in Sherman Township, Huron County, Ohio. And they had at least one child: Cora (b. 1874). The very same day his brother John married Mena Reamer, also in Sherman. Charles and Sana had at least two children: Matilda (b. 1867) and Cora (b. 1874).
He probably returned to the Regiment with his brother on or about the first of February.
Sometime in early May of 1864 he was wounded slightly in the right arm, and was absent sick in the hospital but had probably returned to duty by the time he was transferred to Company F, 5th Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the 3rd and 5th Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.
Charles was wounded, probably in one of his wrists and hands, on June 16, 1864, near Petersburg, Virginia -- possibly at the same time his brother John received his mortal wounds -- and was subsequently hospitalized. Charles stated later that while the regiment was charging the enemy’s works at Petersburg on June 16, he was struck in his left hand by a musket ball. The ball entered “his hand between the thumb and the first joint of the forefinger, passing through the hand into the forearm and through the wrist joint coming out in front just above the wrist joint rendering his left wrist useless.” He was admitted on June 21 to Lincoln hospital in Washington, DC, where he was a patient in late November of 1864 when he applied for a transfer to a hospital in Detroit to be “nearer home.”
His request was denied, and by early December of 1864 he was still a patient at Lincoln hospital when it was reported that he had been recommended for transfer to the Veterans Reserve Corps (VRC) (Curiously his military service record notes that he “has yet two years to serve and is perfectly able to do the duty assigned to him. He is not a fit subject for transfer.”)
He was eventually reported to have been transferred on May 19, 1865, by G.O. No. 6, to the VRC, but in fact it appears he was actually transferred to the 7th Company, 2nd Battalion, VRC, from Lincoln hospital as early as late December. Certainly by early January of 1865 he is serving with the VRC. On April 24, 1865, he was transferred to the 16th Company, 2nd Battalion VRC, and discharged at Washington, DC on August 23, 1865, from 16th company, 2nd Battalion VRC.
It is unclear if Charles ever returned to Michigan -- his wife had remained in Ohio while he was in the army and he returned to Ohio after the war. By January of 1866 he was living in Oxford, Erie County, Ohio when he applied for and received a pension (no. 87902) in 1867.
By 1870 Charles father was living in York Station, Sandusky County, Ohio, when he applied for and received a dependent father’s pension (no. 140,250) -- based on the service of John Shaft, Charles’ brother who died during the war, and drawing $8.00 per month by 1870.
Charles lived in Ohio the rest of his life, eventually settling in Clyde, Sandusky County, but he was never able to work after he returned from the army and by the late 1870s he and his family were forced to relying on the aid of the Township. By 1880 Charles was working as a laborer and living with his wife and children in Clyde, Ohio.
Charles died, probably of consumption, on September 6, 1881, in Clyde, Ohio, and is buried in an unmarked grave in McPherson cemetery.
Susanna applied for a widow’s pension (no. 287255), but the certificate was never granted since she died just five months after Charles, in February of 1882, leaving their only child an orphan. Subsequently a minor child’s dependent’s pension application was filed and approved (no. 238465).