Charles Wright was born on October 19, 1838, in Springwater, Livingston County, New York, probably the son of Samuel (b. 1794) and Sally (b. 1798).
Both New York natives Samuel and Sarah were married, probably in New York before 1824. In any case, they settled in New York where they lived for many years. By 1850 Charles was attending school with three of his siblings and living with the family on a a farm in Springwater, New York (his older brother Louis was working as a carpenter). Charles left New York and moved west, eventually settling in western Michigan where by 1860 he was working as a carpenter living with his older brother Louis (or Lewis) in Wyoming, Kent County.
Charles stood 5’7” with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 22 years old and probably still living in Kent County when he enlisted in Company A on May 13, 1861. (Company A was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of whom had served in various local militia units before the war, specifically the Valley City Guards, or VCG, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.)
Throughout the war Charles wrote frequently to his family in Michigan, the letters which have survived were written primarily to his older sister Maria and her husband Aaron Skinner. (Both New York natives, Maria and Aaron, who was a wealthy brick manufacturer, lived in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward in 1860 and in 1870.)
The Third Michigan left Grand Rapids by train on the morning of Thursday, June 13, 1861, and arrived in Washington, DC on Sunday, June 16, when they went into camp at the Chain Bridge above Georgetown Heights along the Potomac River. Charles wrote on Monday, June 17, that they
arrived here safe and sound yesterday and having got rested and to feeling kind of natural thought I would write before I got shot or taken prisoner. Now I will write about our journey and how we fared although I have not a very good place to write on a goods box out of doors about 6 miles from Washington. . . . We arrived at Detroit about sundown and [took] the boat for Cleveland. We arrived at Cleveland the next morning amidst shouts and cheers. We got a cup of coffee and proceeded on our way at 10 o'clock for Petersburg, Pennsylvania. We were cheered all along the road by men, women and children and was showered with bouquets to I should think the amount of 1500. Before we got through Pennsylvania we proceeded to Harrisburg and changed cars and loaded our muskets to prepare to go through Baltimore. We arrived at Baltimore the next morning at daylight and . . . marched through without [being] molest[ed] and a handsomer city I never saw with I should think about 100,000 inhabitants. People looked at us as though they would like to do something but [dared] not make the attempt. There was a great many stars and stripes a flaying there and 1,000 troops for the Union stationed at Baltimore or 1 mile from the city in camp. Maryland is the prettiest County I ever saw. Wheat is almost ready to harvest. This morning we all went over into Virginia this morning to bathe. The enemy is about 30 miles from us but we have a strong force to oppose them. We arrived at Washington Sunday at 10 o'clock A.M. and marched out six miles where we are now there is regiments all around us one from New York and the Detroit regiment. I would like to write you a great deal more but have not time at present. I am in good spirits a great deal better than when we marched through Baltimore. The rebels have evacuated Harper's Ferry, and burnt the bridge which [cost?] 500,000 dollars.
Charles was up early on July 6 when he began his letter home to the Skinners at 6:00 a.m., to tell them that he had just received a letter from home.
When the mail came in to our camp our boys all crowded around captain Sam Judd expecting to get news from their friends and I was one of the lucky ones as you see by my answering yours. We have the President's call for 400,000 men and $4,000,000. Now there is a chance for those we left behind whom said they was sorry they could not go with us. Our camp is quiet. There is occasionally a rebel spy taken. We expect marching orders soon. We intend to make short work of it and to march to the rebels' capitol. When we do march we have orders from Old Abe not to let any more of our prisoners go after they take the oath but to keep them until peace is declared. We have not lost but one of our men since we came here and he died in the hospital last Sunday. None of our men has been shot. We have nice weather now,not warm enough to be uncomfortable except at noon I can't see much difference between the climate here and the climate at G.R. We have good water now, it comes form a pipe leading from the city reservoir. Tell Aaron I wish he would come and join us but he should bring along his own gun for the guns [here] kick so they kill at both ends. We practice target shooting every day. I have been to Washington and saw all the great sites. [I] was in the Capitol and Patent Office [and] saw the clothes Washington wore [and] his sword and saw General Jackson's coat [and] saw all the medals presented to different persons here presented by foreign nations and a thousand other things too numerous to mention. I saw F. W. Kellogg the other day but to speak to him. We are to have a new suite of clothes today from the government and some government pay. But now I must close my letter for the mail carriage is about ready to start for Washington. Now be sure and answer as soon as you can for you don't know how good it makes me feel to get a letter from any one at this critical time.
From Hunter’s Farm (also called “Camp Hunter”), on August 20 he wrote his sister Moriah that “the weather here is rather cool for we have had 4 or 5 days of rainy weather and we have quite a number on the sick list. It will be 4 weeks tomorrow since we came from the battle and I have had but one pass to go out . . . since we arrived here and that was to go to Alexandria [with] (Corporal) [William] Chamberlain.”
They then went to Alexandria and visited the Marshall house where Colonel Ellsworth was killed.
[W]e went upstairs to the fourth story and there in one corner of a small room was a little hole which went out on the [roof] in which was the very same flagstaff which bore the secession flag which Ellsworth took down and which now bears the flag he raised. The flag staff was about 40 feet long and at the bottom it was about 6 inches [though] it was considerably whittled and we took the liberty to whittle it a little more and I send you and Aaron a small piece of it as a token of that horrible event. I saw where the bullet lodged that killed Ellsworth; it lodged in a plank in an adjoining room after passing through a door. . . . There is [sic] two war steamers 12 guns each anchored in the river near the city. The city [Alexandria] had a population of 20,000 before war broke out, but now it is nearly deserted, only a few stores are open; splendid mansions are closed and everything has the appearance of a once rich and prosperous city (now the grass grows in the streets). I was informed by a mechanic that resided there that two-thirds of the inhabitants are Secessionists and that they had secret meetings. We took dinner with a gentleman that informed us that he had a farm off 4 miles and that the Northern cavalry had destroyed a large field of oats of his and that he had lost 4 niggers which he thought had gone off with our army but did not know where they had gone but they had run away any how which he said was $4,000 loss to him and he seemed to feel very bad about it. Of course we sympathized with him he was no doubt a secessionist but very rich. We had fresh codfish and boiled corn bread but no butter, potatoes, which was a good meal for us poor soldiers. He seemed to pity us for the thought the north would get licked. There is soldiers stationed on every corner of the [city] but now I must close my letter for the drum beats for parade. I will send to you a figure -- 6 -- that I tore off of one of the inside doors of the Marshall House. I wish you would send the (eagle) for we don't get any news from Washington until we get the (Eagle). We are under very strict subjection, don't get any papers from Washington nor do we hear of any movement of troops for they all move after dark when they do move. Our wagoner [James Gillespie] informs us that troops are constantly pouring into Washington and 60 pieces of cannon came the other night. Ed writes that father has been sick but is getting better. I hear from home every week and I should be as glad to hear from you as often or oftener. I got a letter from Lewis dated 11th and one from Thomas, he writes his boys walks alone. I have not heard from Harvey or do I know where he is. We have to get up here at sunrise and have to stay up until 9 o'clock. We have reveille at 5 A.M. o'clock, breakfast at 7 -- and sick call at 8; woodchoppers ball at 8:30, guard mounting at 9, dinner at 12 o'clock, Battalion drill at 4 P.M., dress parade at 5, supper at 6, roll call at 9, lights out at 9:30, which you see keeps us rather busy. Our fodder is getting better since McClellan has taken [charge] we . . . have blue pants now. They are building a large fort about 1/2 mile from us on a very high hill; it will be over 1/2 mile long and large enough to mount 25 cannon. Our battalion are cutting the woods off of the country. We have cut or slashed over 200 hundred acres since we have been here. The navy yard is opposite our camp. Practice firing every day now.
On October 5, 1861, Charles wrote from Arlington, Virginia, that the Regiment was still under marching orders
and have been for a week and don't know when we will be ordered to march and for another reason that is because you have not received my likeness. I sent it most 2 weeks ago and sent one also to mother which they have received and wrote to me since I was over to Washington and had my likeness and sent one to you and one to mother at the same time and shall be very sorry of you do not get it. The weather is very warm here, warmer than it has been for some time but the evenings are cool. We expect to go to Aquia creek when we march, for the rebels are concentrating there with the supposed intention of crossing into Maryland. We have apples here in abundance which we get from peddlers for 2 cents apiece but very nice. We have fresh oysters brought to our camp and sold at 37 1/2 cents per quart, just taken from the shell. Henry is at work at his trade; I hear from him occasionally. Ed is at home; I guess he has given up the idea of enlisting. We are now in Heintzelman's division of the army which we expect will keep to the left wing of the army. The rebels have retreated from Munson's hill back as far as Manassas. Our pickets now go to Fairfax and I hear a little beyond also to 5 miles beyond Falls Church.
There was no “action” for the Regiment that year and by the first of the year the Third Michigan was in its winter quarters at Camp Michigan, near Alexandria, Virginia.
We are having a little winter weather at present. The snow is about two inches deep, which fell night before last and now it rains and I guess before morning it will melt away. I received your kind letter and was glad to hear that your folks are all well. If Aaron was here he could have fine sport a hunting possum. The boys have catched [sic] several alive, by cutting down trees which they were in. Did you ever see one? They are very thick here, and the negroes know how to catch them. they are about the size of a wild cat, have a tail like a rat. Our officers had one cooked the other day and ate it for dinner. I never tasted of them. I believe they are as fit to eat as a rat and no more. At present I am quite comfortable. There is four of us in one tent. We have a small stove, and two blankets apiece. We have two ticks filled with straw. Our tent leaks but a very little when it rains. So you see we live quite comfortable.
You spoke of sending the Eagle. There is two or three boys in our company that get the Eagle daily, so I guess you need not bother with it, for I can borrow one when I want to see one. Ed and Lewis have both sent me papers at different times, but I never received them. I suppose they miscarried. I see by the Eagle that you don't get very correct news. We have news peddlers in camp every day from which we can buy if we have money, the Washington Republican or Baltimore Clipper. Captain Judd's wife is here now. They live in a log house, close by, that I and the boys built for him. Lieutenant George Judd is in the Rapids now having gone home on a furlough for fifteen days. Perhaps Aaron has seen him. The Pensacola ran the blockade the other night without sustaining any damage; twenty-two shots were fired at her from the rebel batteries. We hear the cannonading here very plain. What do you think of the way we spent Christmas? I thought when we started our march that morning that we were going somewhere to have a Christmas dinner (we did have a Christmas dinner) but it was at Pohick Church and the bill of fare was bread and bacon which we relished very much.
The artillery men got the start of us that day, for when coming back from Pohick they shot a nice roaster pig and threw him on their ammunition wagon and declared they would have a Christmas supper, at all events. I have just wrote to mother. I received a very good letter from her the other day.
I see by the papers that people are getting uneasy again about this army lying still so long. F. W. Kellogg was heard to say not long since that McClellan was a damned fool for lying here so long idle that he could take half our army on the Potomac and march through to Richmond (he did say so), for I heard one of our officers say that he was standing very near him when he made the remark. Now, I wish that all such men was here with a good rifle apiece, and I could have the pleasure of being one of the many thousands to drive them before me at the point of the bayonet straight through to Bull Run or Richmond. I will bet they would turn and fight us upon receiving the first volley from the enemy. They are cowards that talk so. All that old Frank Kellogg is fit for is to stay here and Frank envelopes for us soldiers which come very handy when hard up for change. Now McClellan has planned two or three campaigns this winter and about the time he would get ready to give the order to march our spies would inform him that Old Jeff -- by some means or other -- had found out his plans and was fixing with all haste to receive him where he/McClellan least expected it. Therefore we would have to give it up and try to catch the traitor that revealed his plans, and now I say let George B. alone, and leave the management of this war to those that have the power to manage it. George knows their movements as well as he knows his own. He once got vexed and told the president if congressmen was to domineer over him he should have nothing to do with planning this campaign. I think and so does every one in the service that George B. McClellan knows more what he has to do than all the congressmen and outsiders. The Fifth [Michigan infantry] lost one on picket last Sunday; he was shot by a rebel through the head. Also there was one wounded.
By the end of March the Regiment was on the move and a month later Charles wrote his sister from near Yorktown, Virginia.
I have been working in the entrenchments. I worked all one day in the rain and catched [sic] cold. The folks at home may talk about McClellan's inactivity, but if this is it, I don't never wish to see active service. Co. I of our regiment runs a rebel sawmill day and night, sawing timber for mortar beds and magazines, whilst the rest of us work at digging day and night and standing picket. But now it is most done, although it may be a week before the siege commences, still it may begin tomorrow.
We have paid no regard to the weather but worked rain or shine and not only this regiment but a hundred others. I know but little about what is going on on our right or left wing, as every man is obliged to work if not sick. We are encamped in the woods, just far enough so that the rebel shells do not reach us. Two or three shells however exploded in our camp doing no injury. Our cannon fire about on an average one shell every half hour and the rebels the same. The rebels are trying hard today to shell our sawmill but can't quite reach it [and] the shells fall or exploded about 100 yards short. We take advantage of the night, and have built three redoubts in the thick brushes in the edge of the woods, also a complete rifle pit from one to the other and within one thousand yards of their forts and I expect we have just as good works all along our lines. The redoubts are now done and 32- and 64-pound rifle cannon are mounted in them. The rebels will wake up some fine morning and find the trees and bushes cut away from before a splendid lot of heavy artillery and mortars which will knock their nigger earthworks higher than a kite.
We left Fortress Monroe April the 14th, arrived here after two days marching. We was detained a short time on our march at Big Bethel, in consequence of a slight skirmish there, between our advance guard and the rebel picket. I as well as every one here am confident of our success here, although the rebels no doubt will make a desperate stand here. They are supposed to be one hundred thousand strong. We have lost but one since we have been here, and we did not exactly lose him, but he lost both legs by a cannon ball while we were on picket. The Second regiment lost one man the same way. It is one year since I enlisted, but it don't seem so long to me. I think of being at Grand Rapids next fourth of July. What do you say won't we have a good time. I will bet I will take my girl our a riding if I can find her. Rebel deserters come into our lines thick and fast; 150 came in one night last week. One rebel colonel and major came in and gave themselves up the other night. They report one rebel brigade under arrest for refusing to fight, their brother Irishmen on our side, having seen our green flag, which our Irish regiments bear. I might write a dozen pages and then not write half I have seen since I left the Potomac. McClellan's headquarters is only one mile from here. I guess he loves to hear the booming of cannon. I hope to see no more in the northern journals about our inactivity, for it is all a humbug. Let people come here and say we are inactive and might have whipped the rebels so long ago and I will drive them off the Peninsula with my bayonet.
Two weeks later, Charles wrote his family from near Richmond, Virginia, to say that
now that we have drove out the rebels and are in pursuit and have had a battle, I will write you again, to let you know that I am still alive and well. We are encamped by the roadside 18 miles beyond Williamsburg. We are waiting for our trains to come up with provisions. One of our boys got a Grand Rapids Eagle today and in it was an account of the battle of Williamsburg, which was partly correct and partly wrong for we have lots of reporters, for different papers following us up and they do not always give a correct account of things in general. Our brigade was in the battle with the exception of my regiment which was close by and waiting and anxious to get orders to go in. It was the 5th Mich. that made that brilliant charge on the enemy's works on the left instead of the Minnesota regiment as stated in the Eagle. The papers speak of the brigades of Hancock and Birney fighting so desperate and they only, but this is a mistake. Our brigade is not mentioned which is Berry's brigade, and no troops fought more desperate than the 2nd, 5th, and 37th N.Y. When our brigade arrived on the battle field the rebels were driving Sickles' troops and cutting them awfully. We heard of it and our brigade threw off their knapsacks in a pile or different folds along the road and double quicked through the mud knee deep on to the battle field and the 5th regiment was ahead and they charged on the enemy and drove them back at the point of the bayonet out of a rifle pit and fought them hand to hand. The 2nd regiment deployed to the right of the 5th and commenced fighting. We were ordered to stand as a reserve. The 37th NY made a charge also and were repulsed and repulsed the enemy in return again.
Our brigade lay on their arms all night after fighting until dark. I was wet to the skin and had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours. Next morning it was found the enemy had evacuated. I went over the battle field and saw piles of dead rebels. I saw a dead rebel and one of the 5th's dead lying side by side each one had the bayonet of the other through the body, so you can see how close they fought.
Our brigade sergeant said yesterday our folks had buried 1,300 rebels. Our loss is four hundred killed and seven hundred wounded. The 5th lost in killed and wounded, 145. The 2nd regiment lost 45, the 37th NY lost 75. Our regiment only one.
Our general and also General Heintzelman gave our brigade great praise for their bravery. We ask no more praise than is due us and that we will get when the truth is known. Other brigades fought as well as ours, for all that I know but no better. Our Brigadier General has wrote to Governor Blair stating the truth of the battle and highly complimenting us for unflinching bravery on the battlefield.
It was nearly two months later before Charles wrote Aaron and Moriah. From near the James River, he wrote his brother-in-law Aaron Skinner on July 9,
I suppose you have the accounts of all the battles that was fought, on our retreat (if it may be called a retreat) so I will not try to give you a description of all that happened to our division.
And as to other division[s] I know but little about. At any rate our regiment was not in any of the battles, but was under fire, every day, from the rebs cannon. We lost only one killed and two or three wounded, but several were taken prisoners. Our brigade was used to support our battery. Although the 5th regiment had a little brush at one time and lost 40 or 50 killed and wounded.
The rebels followed us pretty close, but when they got too near, the order would be given several miles ahead to about-face and place the artillery (which was no small fry) in position and when we got to the appointed place we turned on the rebels and drove them back with great slaughter. Although the fighting was done mostly with artillery only, think what a sight, 15 or 20 batteries, six guns to a battery, all drawn up and every man to his post ready to give the rebs a dose, as soon as they made their appearance. Our batteries, some of them were spoiled, I hear by over-charging them. Our battery had 3 pieces condemned yesterday, by the inspector of artillery. We have got one of the best batteries in the service, or was before they spoiled the guns. The boys said they put in 3 charges at one of grape and canister. But they have made a requisition for three new guns. Our battery is commanded by Captain Thomas, a regular officer and lies about 6 or 8 rods from our camp. I talked with some of the prisoners and they cursed our artillery. Their loss is believed to by all the men I have heard speak of it to be three times our own. We had the advantage of choosing the battle grounds and always took the open field. I have been about half sick for the last week but have stuck by the regiment always. I have not been in the hospital since I have been in the service. I think we can whip the rebs any day they chose to pitch on to us. We have been reinforced since we have been here with 20,000 troops. We ought to have fifty more and then the rebs would the strongest, but now the boys think one Yankee is good for three rebs. It is evident that the rebels today have more troops in the field than we have. How do the people (and particularly the Home guards) take the call for more troops? Will Michigan raise her quota without drafting? I hope so. Ira Hiler is here now. I do not keep my word in regard to being home by the fourth, but tell Moriah I meant the next fourth (1863). Don't allow a man in your presence to slander McClellan, for there never was so good a retreat made since the beginning of the word as Mc made; under the circumstances the rebels might have cut us in two, cut off our train and raised the old nick with us if they had had as good a general as we had. George B. McC. is a trump and I as well as every man in this army will stand by him as long as we can carry a gun (I have been in one battle if I did not get killed).” He added that the “3 Michigan regiments [2, 3, and 5] now muster for duty less than 800 men. We are all put together, and commanded by Major Pierce. Lee Kelly and I tent together now he is well having got over his wounds. It is very warm now. We are 3 miles from the James River. Other troops hold the advance.
On November 13, 1862, he wrote his family from near Waterloo, Virginia. that they were expecting
to move every moment & perhaps to fight as the rebs are bothering our outposts occasionally. Perhaps you don't now our exact location; it is four miles southwest of Warrenton and in the Bull Run mountains & near the blue ridge mountains. We regret the removal of our noble general but still think it may be for the best and we must uphold the administration for we are sworn to. It took us completely by surprise. We do not doubt Burnsides' ability. He is a good general, and his headquarters is now at Warrenton. Our officers some of them threaten to resign, but I guess it will all blow over. A, it is discouraging to us soldiers, here in the field, battling for the Union and the constitution, too know that we have traitors at home, who are striving to destroy and conniving against our administration. If we are opposed to our President's proclamations and the administration, then the whole substance of it is we are traitors. I have pointed my gun at rebels here, but I would shoot a northern traitor with more reluctance. I have been reading today the account of the Democratic mass meeting held at New York City lately, and by the speeches made there I see how the people at the northern Union party, as they call themselves, are working at old Abe and the administration. I wish a thousand bombshells could have bursted [sic] over the heads of that assembly. Well as you say I think we have been too lenient with the rebels heretofore, but now as we move over this sacred soil of Virginia we confiscate everything in the shape of a horse, or beef (or any other man). Our division you must know has drove the rebel pickets from point of rocks and Leesburg, to our present post. We have cleared the way for the main army which lies at Warrenton and Manassas, but are moving up slowly, and one of these days you will hear of one of the biggest fights ever recorded in history. Our division is commanded by General Stoneman. Pleasonton's cavalry is attached to our division. We have plenty of fresh pork now days. Our general allows us to kill and confiscate all the beef and pork we need, for our own use. Our cavalry pick up all horses and cattle in the country as fast as we advance. We have taken a few rebs since we commenced this march. Our cavalry took a major last week early one morning in bed with his wife; he it seems had come home to see his family and we advanced searching the premises found him at his mansion, enjoying himself. He belonged to General Longstreet's staff. Moriah you wanted to know if I had good books to read, and kept good company evenings. My god what a question, and how I had to laugh when I read it. Moriah we have marched almost every day for the last two weeks until 10 to 12 o'clock P.M., and the first thing we do is to go for a rail fence, tear it down and build a fire near the stack of arms, lie down with my feet to the fire and sleep until morning. Or sometimes I go for a hen roost, catch a hen and sit up until 2 or 3 o'clock and cook it in a spider for breakfast. As for books we don't see any for we have all we can lug without .
Harvey writes that he is doing well at lawyering [sic] now days I am glad to hear it. We have not had but one snow storm this fall, and that was but a flurry and thawed off the next day. It is pretty cold here in the mountains. We have all the clothes we can carry; we have a good overcoat, and a blanket and that with our tent is a pretty good load for us to carry in our knapsacks. Yesterday a scouting party came in and reported the rebels advancing in three different roads, in force so our division struck tents and marched out three miles beyond Waterloo to meet them but our cavalry being in advance of us with a battery of flying artillery, soon caused them to retreat, as they did not like the idea of tackling General Kearney's old fighting division, as we are called throughout the army. Our officers and men wear a piece of scarlet on their hats to designate Kearney's fighting division, by order of General Heintzelman. There is more about this which will tell you if I live to see you which I am in hopes I shall, although we are contracting a large amount of fighting and it must be done very soon.
I had a letter from Ed to day he is at home, helping father gather apples. I wish I was there too. I would have liked very much to see Uncle, he must be very smart of his age. A, the people here about the country are not backward in speaking their minds. Our company stood guard at a ford on the river a short time since, and a farmer came to our post and talked with us. He said he was a secessionist and all his neighbors also, and that the rebels stood guard at the same place the night before, but he hid to escape being taken as a conscript. We find lots of such fellows here but have no orders to arrest them. They are a poor ignorant set, and to cowardly go in their army and fight, and I told them so. You ought to hear them plead when we get at their harvest or get after a nice pig with our bayonets. I am glad Kellogg is elected, also glad George Judd is defeated.
I would like to get a pair of knit gloves, first rate if you have a chance to send a pair by any one that is a coming out here. I wish you would, and I will send the money to pay for them. I intend to send you fifty dollars to keep for me the next pay day, which will be in about six weeks. We don't have a sutler with us now, they can't get supplies so far.
By the winter of 1862-63 the Third Michigan was in its season quarters at Camp Pitcher, near Falmouth, Virginia.
It is raining today [Charles wrote on January 27, 1863] and seated in my comfortable mud hovel, with a good fire and plenty of paper and ink at hand I will try and write you a few lines, hoping to receive an answer soon.
You have, no doubt, heard of our undertaking to cross the river again, ere this. It was a serious affair, for Burnside, for we all got stuck in the mud and could not move our artillery, so we returned to our respective camps, after lying about in the mud and rain for two or three days. I think it was lucky for us, for we were the first to cross the river had it not rained I think we would have seen lots of fighting, but I suppose they considered us equal to the task. However we are back in our camps again as comfortable as ever, although we accomplished nothing. Burnside has resigned, and General Hooker is in command of the army and perhaps he may try his luck at crossing the river. Tomorrow we get our pay for two months service, although we have five months due us. But I understand, we are to wait one month and then we will be paid the other four months pay. Therefore I will be unable to send any money home at present, but about the first of March I will send forty or fifty dollars. Lieutenant D. S. Root of our company has just returned from Mich. having been absent on furlough for the period of twenty days. I had a letter from Lew and Mary yesterday. They were well, and M. said you were to make them a visit, if there should be snow enough to make sleighing this winter. We have had no snow here in two months, and now I think we are going to have long rains and muddy weather. If so there will be no news to write you of importance for some for the artillery cannot be moved when it is very muddy for there are so many heavy wagons and so much artillery that it cuts the roads up. Tomorrow there is to be a review of our division. I understand (although it may not be true) that this army is to be divided up and sent to different places on the Coasts where they can cope with the rebels more advantageously. But it is all talk and there may be no truth in such a report. We do not get clothes as plenty as we used to, for some reason, and I guess Uncle Sam is getting hard up. We have enough for all I know, but we can't always get clothing just when we would like to. I am wearing about an old pair of shoes with the soles off because I can't get any at the quartermaster's and the consequence is I have a bad cold and get my feet wet every time I go out. The sutler has boots to sell but they are too cheap, only 12 dollars a pair, and you know I always was rather proud and if I have boots I must have boots. I have not had only one pair of boots since I have been a soldier. Well I guess this letter will interest you in a horn. There is nothing a going on so what can I write? By the way I received a letter from Thomas yesterday. He said he was a nation by himself and did not correspond with any of our folks. But he said he had a boy most two years old and the smartest boy in Michigan. Of course he the boy must take after his father. I also heard from Henry; he is working at his trade in Lyma or Lima (how is it spelt?, I have forgotten).
A week later he wrote that nothing of any importance had occurred in the camp since he last wrote.
It has rained the last 48 hours and there is fair prospects of its continuance, for as much longer space of time. The rain has rendered it so muddy that it is almost impossible to get supplies to the army. I believe the army is being reorganized in a measure. There is quite an excitement prevailing today in our camp, from the fact that there is a report in circulation that we to be consolidated with the 2nd and 5th Michigan regiments. Whether it is true or not I am unable at the present time to state, although if it be so we will all find it out before many days have passed. The men seem considerably dissatisfied in regard to the idea of being so used. If it should prove true, that we are to be consolidated, then there will be a good many noncommissioned officers reduced to the ranks from the fact that there will be too many, and therefore it will be necessary to reduce those whom have obtained by their fidelity and good behavior an honorable promotion, from ranks, to the ranks again. If such be the case then what honor is there in being an officer? For instance, a new regiment comes into the field and undergoes the privations and hardships of soldier's life for a few months until they get reduced to one-half their number when first mustered in, and are consolidated with another regiment. Of course there will be too many officers after consolidat[ion] so the regiment that holds its organization will hold its officers also in preference to the other. However I shall not worry myself about it for the present. But if it should be so and we are consolidated with the 2nd and 5th, we will lose our organization, and will be called the Second Michigan, because the 2nd is regiment is larger than the 3rd or 5th. So you need not be surprised to hear that I am reduced to the ranks. Although it will be no disgrace, it will be a scandal and a shame. Well enough on that subject. At the present time all is quiet in the army. We drew a loaf of bread yesterday to every man, and there is a bakery being constructed for our division, and we expect soon to be supplied with plenty of the needful article, bread. Lieutenant Adams formerly of my company and now here for the purpose of getting his discharge for disability, having received a severe wound in his right shoulder, which has totally disabled him from the use of his arm in the battle of seven pines, has had his discharge returned, disapproved, to these headquarters, stating that although he was deprived of the use of one arm his bodily health was good and he should be returned to duty. Now this is one of the most absurd ideas I ever heard of, to hold a man in the service after having lost the use of an arm, and suffering the pain he does every day, for indeed he does suffer, for I see him every day, and to return his discharge papers disapproved. Now there are thousands discharged every week, who are well as a great many of our men that are doing duty every day. They have only to pretend sickness and get all the medicine they can, and take it, and I know if I would go to the sick call every morning for one week I could soon make myself a fit subject for the hospital, and y using deceit and cunning a month or two I could soon get my discharge. And so it is, that a great many get out of this service. But I consider the medicine worse than the disease. There are a great many strange things occurring now days.
I expect every day to see a negro regiment brought round to parade with us or perhaps to be consolidated with the gallant Third. I think I would like to mess with or sleep with a big buck nigger, but perhaps by so doing I might shine around the wenches, pretty creatures. Oh, but I forgot now they are free and just as good as a white man, and a [damn] sight better, as I heard a man remark the other day.
Now it is most time for dress parade, and I must close my interesting epistle. You don't write as often as I would like to have you although you may be busy now days perhaps more so than myself, for the most we find to do is to get our wood to burn, which by the way is getting to be considerable of a task, as the woods about here are all chopped off and we are obliged to cut up the brush and chop down the stumps.
On February 11 he continued his discussion of the developments occurring in the Army of the Potomac generally and in the Third Michigan particularly
The army is being reorganized, and some portions sent away, as I understand to Fortress Monroe. Our brigade have been on picket for the first time this winter. We were out three days and a distance of 5 miles. It is very muddy here at present. The name of our camp, you may think is a funny one. It was named after a major, belonging to our brigade, who was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg. Aaron, I would to send you a gang of contrabands, but I am afraid you would not get much work out of them. They are so confounded lazy. I am aware of the existence of a class of traitors, you spoke of in your letters, for I buy a paper most every day. We have a similar set of beings here, but we have a way to take care of them. But as a general thing those who make the loudest demonstrations against the Proclamations of the President are big cowards and never was in a fight. So we consider them harmless, and pay but little attention to them. We are now under very strict discipline, more so than ever before. We are inspected every day, by our colonel, and once a week by our general. There is a strong inner guard kept, to stop stragglers and deserters. Also a mounted patrol. Desertion has become very frequent, and now it is becoming dangerous for deserters. I am glad to see some energy exercised to prevent so much of it. Our Orderly Sergeant, C. H. Van Dusen, has gone to the Rapids on a furlough, for fifteen days. He started yesterday morning. His parents live in Grand Haven. Lieutenant Pelton, who was missing at the battle of Fredericksburg, is dead; he died at the Libby prison, Richmond. Perhaps you have heard of it before this. I have not received the cake which Rosan sent me yet, but I presume it will be here soon, if the Provost Marshal's tribe don't devour it before I get my paws on it. There is no news to write you this time of any importance. I think Charley would do to join the Sharpshooters and pick off rebel officers, here in the battles. Aaron you must watch the traitors at home and we will punish them here at the south. I wish our regiment could go to Michigan as provost guard with instructions to arrest every many who utters secession sentiments or speaks against the government. What fun we would have. You would have to enlarge the jails. There ought to be a sever punishment inflicted on all such subjects.
A week later he wrote to Maria and Aaron that the weather had turned warm and was now rather pleasant. Most importantly, for the army at least,
the roads that have been so muddy are fast drying up. There is no news of importance to transmit to you this time so I will fill at least part of my letter by making some enquiries as to affairs at home or in Michigan which by the way seems more like home to me than anywhere else. I have heard of the arrest and confinement of one John Byrns in your city. He was formerly of my company and after the battle of Fair Oaks (in which he was not a participant) he deserted and has never been heard from until now. He always was set down by the boys as a coward and we all know he is a thief. The day before the battle of Fair Oaks he was detailed to go to the rear and across the Chickahominy and guard our knapsacks which had been previously sent back in anticipation of a battle. He robbed some of the knapsacks of clothing and found other articles which were afterwards found with him. So he pretended to be wounded after the battle, and got passage to Washington. There he waited upon Cap. Geo. Judd, and in a few days forged a furlough and deserted. Now if it is so they have got him locked up in jail at Grand Rapids, I hope he may be sent here to be punished; such a mean low lived coward deserves punishment at the hands of his own officers and men. I know all the boys would like to see his head shaved and the letter D branded upon him, for even that would a light punishment, for such a coward as he.
Lt. Colonel [Byron] Pierce is promoted to Colonel and Ed Pierce his brother has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. . . . Lieutenant Root, who has command of our company is now a captain and some other promotions have taken place in our regiment, although they are strangers to you I think. I believe I wrote you of the absence of our Orderly Sergeant, Charley Van Dusen; he will be back in about one week. I understand that the State Legislature has authorized the consolidation of the reduced Michigan regiments. Do you hear anything of it? We are living very comfortably here at present; have soft bread every other day. Wood is very scarce. When we came here last fall it seemed, and really it was like coming into a great woods, but now it is all chopped away and a good share of the stumps are cut close to the ground and used for fuel.
From near Potomac Creek, he wrote home on April 9, that the Regiment encamped along the creek on April 2, a distance of but three miles from their old Camp Pitcher.
We have camped with great regularity [Charles continued], and expect to stay here a good while. Our camp is in the woods at present but soon we will clear the woods away by using the timber to build our houses; we are on a side hill, the hill sloping to the east and in the distant we can see the sails of vessels on the Potomac, and we are within a few rods of Potomac creek. In all I think we are in a beautiful place, wood and water handy and good. Our shanties are nearly completed. Mine is quite. I have built my dwelling eight by twelve feet square and five feet to the eaves; our shanties are all in a row, that is, each company, and four feet between tents. They are all built of one size, and four persons to one tent; my tent is called by every one the best in the company, which is easily accounted for by my being a carpenter. My tent is built of small logs and mud to stop up the cracks; our beds are built one above the other in one of the tent. They are built of poles laid close together and bows laid on for a substitute for feathers. Have got a nice little fire place, also a floor made of logs split and laid together the flat side up. In all, I think we have a very nice dwelling.
Yesterday we were reviewed by the President, and was out all day; there was said to be 80,000 soldiers present. At any rate there was quite gathering. I must say I never saw Old Abe look so humbly, as he did yesterday. He rode by us within ten feet of us with his hat off and every one remarked how homely he is. At any rate he smiled as though he did not care if he was homely. General Sickles was there. I suppose you know he is our Corps commander now. Our colonel is a fixing up his quarters pretty nice and indeed everything looks as though we were to stay here some length of time. At least I hope so. I had a letter from Caroline the other day. She wrote that Horace had got his discharge and was at home. I have not heard from home in a good while. I see by the Eagle that our banner is on exhibition at the Post Office; have you seen it? Doctor [Walter] Morrison is home on a furlough; perhaps you may see him. One man has died in his absence. Three deserters arrived the other day under the president's proclamation. They had been absent nearly 14 months, and belonged to company H and deserted because they did not agree with their captain. So say they. Well I must get ready for brigade inspection, which is to come off today. We have inspection quite often now days.
The eatables consisted of one large fruit cake, a cake of maple sugar, a nice piece of dried beef, some dried berries and a few apples, and various other articles which I thought was a very nice gift. Lewis said he had all the work he could do, at his trade. How does Lawyer Wright make it: is he getting rich as well as popular? I am glad to hear he is doing well.
According to Henry Parker, also of Company A, during the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 2, 1863, Charles “was struck by a limb of a tree (or something else) in the eye, and as the regiment was then falling back and Sergt. Wright could not see he asked me to lead him out, and I felt it my duty to assist him. I took him to a brick house used as a hospital and remained with him till morning.” Parker stated in early August of 1863 that “Sergt. Wright is now sick in Alexandria.”
Charles was indeed reported as absent sick in the hospital from June of 1863 through July and in the convalescent camp, Alexandria, Virginia from August through October. On August 9 he was at Camp Convalescent when he wrote home.
I don't know when I shall see the regiment again. I expect to be put into the Invalid Corps, as I am not pronounced fit for active service, although I may be kept here a few weeks more and perhaps then sent to the regiment. Indeed I cannot tell a great many are going to the Invalid Corps. Besides a good many are getting discharged. The latter I do not expect nor do I want it. Now that I have stayed my time most out, I am willing to stay the remainder of my time. I am pretty well satisfied, however that I have done about my share in putting down the rebellion, but I am willing to do more, if there are none that are willing to tender their services, to put down this wicked rebellion.
I think Lee will make one more desperate effort to take Washington this fall and go in on the make or break policy, and certainly if he does not succeed in taking Washington he is a gone up community and as regards his ability to take our Capitol I think he cannot take our first abattis or carry our first line of rifle pits. I think if Lee or Jeff could inspect our massive forts and earthworks defending Washington, he would not undertake it. The siege of Charleston is progressing finely and we expect soon to hear of the fall of that city. M. you spoke of me buying my farm. Well I don't know but soldiers would make good farmers, but I think some would be as good carpenters or mechanics. What say you? I will think of farming after I can see whether it is to be free soil or slave soil.
It is very warm here at present and I hear of a great many cases of sunstroke in Washington, and in the army. The paymasters are busy paying off the army now. Aaron, Johnny Hannars and J. Senate are here, I saw them today. Hannars got a saber cut on the head at Gettysburg; [and] Senate got dismounted and hurt some. The belong to the 6 Michigan [cavalry]. Have you heard from John Norton since the battle of Gettysburg? His regiment done some hard fighting and perhaps he was hurt. I am glad to hear that Cap. Judd has got a beautiful monument, and I expect to see it some day.
On October 2, 1863, he wrote home that he was still in the convalescent camp because “the surgeon will not let me go for he said I was not able to do duty in the field, that is at the regiment.” This did not, however, bother Charles in the least.
I am very contented to stay for we have a very easy time of it here, and we don't have to cook our own victuals, nor sleep on the ground. You see M. my patriotism is somewhat marred. I shall hereafter profit by the lesson, and abide by the old adage let well enough alone. The 19th day of this month I will be 25 -- hem -- old enough to get married when my time is out, don't you think? Well I declare I don't know what to write you today, so you must excuse me if I write something that is a little soft. They are target shooting up here about 1/2 mile at Fort Richardson and they have got one gun of an extraordinary large calibre I should judge by the way it shakes this old rookery at every discharge.
This month the forts around Washington are allowed to fire so many shots per week, and now I expect we will have plenty of that peculiar music, the whizzing of shell and solid shot. I received three pair of boots from your city this week. Three of us sent to Reardon's for boots; William Lee, sergeant of my regiment is here, is a brother-in-law to Reardon, and proposed sending for three pairs, one pair for himself and one for Sergt. Long and one pair for myself. They were sent by express and came through safe. They cost us eight dollars per pair here. They are heavy calf and was exactly what I wanted. There were square toes and look so odd. The boys here all laugh at us and one fellow the other day asked me how long since I came from the Old Country, and pointed at my square toes. At any rate I am told that they are all the go at the north now. That is to say they are fashionable, and so of course I am bound to keep up with the fashions, if there is danger of getting my head knocked off down here. Well, I dread to see it rain so much here for the soil is clay, and you know that is rather sticky when there is too much rain.
Lewis wrote to me the same day, and after Mary died. I was very sad indeed to receive such an announcement. Mary was a good woman and made Lew a good wife. I suppose Lew is half crazy. Mary used to write some excellent letters, but alas she is no more; peace be with her. Then Lon Ganmet is in jail. Well I guess he had better quit making threats and go to acting. There is one sure thing, if lawyer Wright don't write me a letter pretty soon, I will drop him from my list of correspondents. I have not received a letter from him in nearly two months, and Thomas I have given up ever hearing from him. I saw a statement in the Washington paper that the draft would commence in Michigan on Monday next. Deserters arrive here every day and are camped by themselves and a strong guard placed around them. Townsend Luce, of the 3rd Michigan is here; he was catched [sic] at Detroit; he thinks he will be shot. Aaron you have not got so you leave off your old tricks I see. M. writes you have been hunting and killed a deer. I intend to hunt a dear too when I get out of this plagued service. Well never mind, the 10th of June 1864 is not far distant, and even now I begin to lay awake nights counting the days and weeks intervening. But I don't think our regiment will ever go home in a body, for the recruits will be retained until their time is out and of the old veterans there is not more than 25 or 30 in the regiment for duty. The rest you know where some of them are. Under the sod and in hospitals and various places. Copperheads are getting very scarce here in the army, it is very seldom you can hear one peep they are getting ashamed of themselves, and of their party. At one time last winter when Hooker had command of the army, I feared there would be mutiny in the army, the men would insult their officers, and in some cases refuse to do duty, and some officers were as bad as the men, but now everything goes off smoothly and there seem to be perfect harmony in every department.
He was still convalescing a week later when he wrote from camp near Fort Barnard, Virginia, “As it is Sunday and inspection is over, I will drop you a few lines. There is something mysterious about my letters, I have not received a letter in a month. There is lots due me; there are several Wrights in this camp besides your humble servant, and perhaps they get mine. There is one Charles Wright belonging to the 13th Connecticut regiment so hereafter direct yours to barrack 12 and I guess I will get my mail. Yesterday I sent you a picture of this camp which is very correct. Today I also send you a Washington newspaper. Hope you will receive them both. The lower picture of the two, is the colonel's headquarters. I will also send you a ring of my own manufacture. It is made of a beef's bone, not a secesshe's shin bone.”
By mid-November Charles was still at the convalescent camp.
We are having very fine weather now days and it is hardly cold enough to have a fire except mornings and evenings. About 150 deserters were sent to the army this morning under guard. They looked like a lot of rebels. They were dirty and ragged and some had no coat or vest. One of them said he had enlisted as a sub[stitute] seven times and got 300 [dollars] each time. I wish you was down here to eat oysters with us; we have plenty of them now days, at 10 cents a dish or all you can eat for a quarter [of a] dollar.
I will try and take home with some laurel leaves and also some burrs when I come home. I suppose I might get a furlough for 30 days if I should try now, but I think as I have been away so long I can stand it until next spring; the going home part is very pleasant also the visit I should have, but the coming back is what I should not like. I tell you I have learned the price of freedom since I belonged to the government and there will be a great rejoicing in this child's heart when I am extricated from the folds of Uncle Samuel, and set free to go where I please and come when I get ready, and wear whatever clothes I like, and particularly to change my boarding place when the one I have does not suit. Well I guess that will do for that kind of an explanation of the value of freedom.
There are great changes made in this camp, officers are fixing up their winter quarters, and you would be pleased to visit our cook houses and see what we have to eat and how it is cooked. Potatoes are boiled by the barrel full at one time, also beans are put into the great kettles a barrel at a time. Coal is used for fuel. Two cook houses cook for about 5,000 convalescents at the present, but there has been as high as 8,000 here at once; from 5-25 are discharged every day for disability, and so goes the wheel of fortune. Men are arriving every day as well as going away. The rebel Mosby put up at the Marshal house at Alexandria the other day, and escaped detection. He is a cunning rascal but will get catched [sic] one of these days.
He was taken sick sometime in late November and transferred to a general hospital in in Washington, DC where he remained until about the middle of January, 1864, when he returned to the convalescent camp near Alexandria. “I arrived at camp this morning safe and well,” Charles wrote on January 15. “Ira is also well. I have not had any more of those spells, but don't know when I may. I think some of reenlisting and if I do, you may expect me home in a few days. I will get $75.00 down here before I start, and I will go to Michigan to get my State bounty. Aaron, I have not seen the paymaster yet but will go over tomorrow. Please excuse this short note for I am very tired and sleepy. I have reformed.” He closed by saying that he was “not too sure of reenlisting. The sun shines warm and in the roads it is muddy. There is some snow in the fields.”
Three days later he wrote
I have just returned from Washington and, as I did not succeed in getting my pay I feel duty bound to inform you of it. The pay master said he could not pay me for two weeks to come as he had been paying so many men that had furloughs and discharges of late, but he said he would be over here to pay us by the first of next month, and now A., if you need the money before that time please write and let me know and I will try and borrow it and send it to you. I have been to Washington on a court martial and it was adjourned until tomorrow and I have got to go again. It has rained most of all day and the frost is most out of the ground. Ira is here yet and is not very well. Lots of houses in Washington are dressed in mourning. The smallpox is raging fearfully. All the public buildings are dressed in crepe, for that senator that died the other day. It is very dull times here at present. I have changed my mind once more about enlisting, and it is now settled in my mind that I shall quite the service the 13[th] day of next May for good if I should be so fortunate as to live so long. I have joined the temperance pledge and I know I will be tempted a good many times but I hope I have got too much of a mind of my own to be persuaded by anyone. I have withstood a number of temptations today and I find that there is comfort in denying myself when I come to reflect. Whiskey has always been my worst enemy and now that I have got the upper hands of that enemy I mean to keep it. It not only injures the one that drinks but it injures his friends and relatives. Moriah I stewed some of those berries and we had a good meal of them with bread and coffee. I wrote an apology to Harvey yesterday and also to Mother and Lew and I guess that will excuse me now until my time is out.
There are but few soldiers & officers about Washington now they are afraid of the smallpox, I guess. I guess those boy[s] in my regiment will see the day that they will be sorry for reenlisting, but that is their business not mine.” He reenlisted as a corporal at Camp Bullock, near Brandy Station, Virginia on February 15, 1864, crediting Grand Rapids 3rd ward. On April 15, 1864 he was at Brandy Station when he wrote home that he “had a good visit home, and at Springwater [New York] Father went with me to Springwater and returned home when I did. Ella is quite a pretty looking little lady, but Lizzie does not look so well, as I expected from the description you gave me of her, although she looked very well, and there seemed to be something on her mind that troubled her, poor girl.
Well here I am once more at the old business and it comes very natural to turn out in a row at daylight at the sound of reveille, and answer to name. Today nine of my company went out on picket ; my turn will come next time. I am very glad I did not have to go this time for it has rained for three days and is very muddy. They have to go to the front nine miles distant and stay four days. Well I will tell you something about my journey here from Father's. I left home on the 28th ultimo, went by the way of Elmira to Harrisburg and thence to Baltimore arrived at Washington the 31st and as I could not get transportation, that day I stayed and went to Ford's theatre, in the evening. [I] saw Mr. Forest the tragedian. Old Abe was there; the play was the most sublime I ever saw, but the title of the piece I have carelessly forgot. At any rate It was about the downfall of the Roman empire and some parts of the lay was very affecting, many shed tears. The house was crowded well. I had to stay all the next day at W. because the cars were full and I could not get a seat or even a chance to stand up; so the next morning I took the ferry boat and went over to Alexandria. Next morning took cars for Brandy Station. I arrived here at night on the 3rd. Capt. said it was just as well, and two that went with me have not returned yet. They may be punished. Every one here seems to think Richmond will fall in the spring and peace will be restored by next winter. No one will be happier than I, if such is the case.
I sent you my photograph, while at home. I drawed [sic] the other $50.00 at Detroit when I came through; Ed and Henry had changed so I did not know them; Em is the same old sixpence; mother and father looked younger than I anticipated. I had a good time at Susan's; Ed has a good time there with a Miss -- Beckwith that boards at Susan's and goes to school. She is a real train. I found Ed very steady. Well I have seen the Captain about my bounty. If there is another appropriation made by the country to pay any more bounty on any of the calls hereafter I will be credited so as to draw the bounty and I will send to Aaron a paper so that he can draw it for me.
By Spring Charles had recovered his health and was back with the Regiment. On April 18 he wrote
We are having delightful weather and reviews and inspections are the order of the day.
My health is first rate now, and as I am pretty well used to a soldier's life I can get along very well. I received a letter from Ed yesterday; he is at Bloomfield yet, but talks of going to see Henry. I don't think Lew will go to Idaho, do you? He is anxious to get some money and tells you that for an excuse for his constant dunning. Poor old fellow, he is the same uneasy and miserable old fellow as ever. I do not wish to say anything, but surely he does act very strange about some things. Em said he bought an album and it was too large for his use. After he had made the purchase, he concluded to but another which he did, and E. asked him for the one which did not suit him. But no, he could not give it away, after E. had done his washing for two or three week for nothing. I think he always did think more of strangers than of his relations. Susan and Emy spoke of his old overcoat; really I should think he would buy a new one; how miserable he did look with that old rusty coat. I don't care what he thinks of me, but I was ashamed of him; he pretended to be doing so well, and at the same time run around visiting with an old seedy overcoat. He spoke of the people at B. & Canandaigua being so proud. I was astonished, for I am sure they were very plain both in dress and appearance. I liked Susan's folks very much, and Ed. is a perfect gentleman, just what he should be, and I would be very glad if I could saw as much for Lew. Guys folks are good company and know how to please their visitors. henry is a little wild as I used to be, but he will get over that in a few years. The army has cooled me down, and I think a similar does for him would have a good effect. I found Horace and Caroline living very comfortable and pleasant, and also Dealia. In fact, when a person talks of their pride, I can't see any too much. If Lew had a little more he would be thought more of. Well now I guess that will do, for once I was determined to free my mind on that subject, some time, so thought it might as well be now as ever.
Charley, your letter was a funny one, I must say. Has your Uncle recovered yet from the effects of the dose he took? You must be careful or you may get fooled so some time when you are out a cooning, so Scoopendyke, look out.
We are in sight of the mountains here, and the tops are covered with snow yet; last night we had quite a severe frost, but today it is very warm. Moriah I am glad you are pleased with that photograph. I have got a photograph of Ed, Henry & myself, all in one picture which is very nice. Ed had them taken at Canandaigua, and I got one; perhaps if he has not given them all away he will send you one. Next time I write him I will tell him to send you one.
Our division had a review the other day by General [Winfield S.] Hancock & General [George G.] Meade. They say we made a good appearance. Today I see a heavy column moving off over the hills towards the rear, I guess for the purpose of a review. We are so situated here that we can see for several miles around; our regiment pickets at the foot of Pony mountain. Now I will close my letter hoping to receive an answer soon. I guess I will not get any County bounty.
Shortly after the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, Virginia, May 6 and May 12 respectively, Charles wrote from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to tell his his mother in New York that he was all right.
I arrived here yesterday from the battle field. I am all right with the exception of a slight sickness. I passed through the great battles safe with the exception of a slight wound on the finger which however does not prevent me from doing duty, was it not that I am worn out with fatigue. Our regiment was reduced to 80 men when I was sent here. We have suffered terribly; have been in seven severe engagements with the enemy since the 6th of this month [May]. Our regiment have lost upwards of two hundred men. There is no fighting today. The army is receiving reinforcements now, I suppose you read the papers. I am under General Hancock of the second corps, Birney's division. I have received no mail since we marched. Many a poor fellow whose time was most out was slain. This has been the severest battle of the war. Our corps captured upwards of 5,000 prisoners. Preparations are being made for another battle soon.
The rebels are within nine miles of here. Fredericksburg is full of wounded and sick although they are being sent to Washington as fast as possible. Now good bye. I expect to be well soon. I was taken prisoner once but got away shortly after. Excuse this short note as well as the dirt accompanying it.
Edwin, Charles brother, wrote to Maria in late May that “Charley has had a hard time and no doubt is more sick than he wishes to write about. Poor boy, I feel heartily sorry for him and only hope he will be unwell until the armies get through fighting so that he will come out safe for I think he has done his share this campaign.”
Charles was transferred to Company A, 5th Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan regiments on June 10, 1864, and on July 3, Charles wrote his sister from near Petersburg, Virginia, that
tomorrow my turn comes for picket, which (by the way) is not very dangerous on our part of the line at present, for we do not fire at each other. The army are taking a short rest at present. I have been all through the battles before Petersburg, with the Second corps,Birney's division. The weather is terrible hot, and we have not had any rain for a month. I tell you it did seem hard to part with the boys who went home, but we are good for the rebs yet what few of us remain. Since my return to the regiment from the hospital at Fredericksburg, I have marched over 70 miles and been in about a dozen fights and charges but our regiment have not lost very heavy; our regiment number about 80 for duty. We are consolidated with the 5th Michigan, and there is no more 3rd Michigan, so direct to the 5th hereafter. General Pierce commands our brigade. This is indeed the hardest campaign of the war. Such terrible carnage, I never dreamt of but if I live through it I shall not be sorry for what I have sacrificed in health and comforts for my country. You no doubt heard of the capture of a brigade of our troops on the 22nd ultima. At the time our regiment was on picket immediately on their left and we had to fall back about 1/2 mile; my camp had Lieut. and four men captured.
“(July 4th) Well I had to quit writing last evening for I had no light, so I will finish this morning. We get a plenty of hard bread and coffee & sugar to eat, but our clothes were getting pretty old, and our regiment drawed [sic] new clothes, so this morning the boys appear in the rifle pit with new pants and shoes. We are very hard up for water, one well supplies our regiment, which we dug since we camped here. We got up at 3 o'clock this morning and stood under arms until sunrise evidently expecting a charge of our works by the enemy. There was considerable picket firing all night. I think General Meade is laying siege to their forts on the right of us about two miles. I would like to write you more of the particulars of this great campaign but have not got the time. I hear from mother, Caroline, Delia and Ed occasionally. I never received one letter from Uncle Justus. I received a letter from Judge Robinson the other day and answered it while on the advance line under fire. We had been kept in front so long that I begun to think we never would be relieved, but the next evening the 9th corps relieved our corps; for five days and nights our brigade did not get one hour's rest; we were digging rifle pits in the night and skirmished and fought day times. The boys would dig like dogs because they knew it was for their own safety, but when morning came we would have to advance and other troops come up and occupy our pits. The disaster on the 22nd was caused by the cowardice of Birney's staff; not one of his officers came on the line during the engagement and therefore the rifle pits were dug so as to allow the rebels to get on our flank; the regiments all dug their pits as best as they thought, each regiment ignorant of the precise position of the next one [ad]joining. It was in the thick bushes and hilly and uneven ground.
He added to “Aaron, I saw the captain about my certificate and he said he would go to General Pierce and get the certificate, so if I get it before I mail this letter I will send it, if not I will send it as soon as I get it. You may draw the money and use as you like, and of the rebs should conclude to give me a discharge here and I fail to connect. you can consider yourself $100 ahead, or in other words if I get killed I will loan you the money for a period of 100 years at 10 per cent. Anna, I would like to get a strawberry short-cake now, and then please get one done for dinner today for you know this is the fourth of July; . . .” Three week later he wrote that
We have had a good rain on the 19th and it was a good thing for the army, for we were about dried up. The siege of P. is progressing favorably as far as I have been able to learn. Our corps is held in reserve, an honorable position, and we are camped about 2 miles south of our front lines. We have to go up to the front and work by detail. Our regiment was out day before yesterday, and expect to go again tonight or tomorrow. Aaron please get all the bounty if possible. . . . I suppose you don't hear much about the old Third regiment now days now we have been consolidated with the 5th, well we feel about as large as ever. What do people think of Grant? Do they have confidence in him as heretofore? I do really think he will get Richmond before next winter. You must not think he or we are idle now days for I tell you we are digging like moles; our division turned out the other night and dug 24 hours without sleep . . . so you can judge whether we work or not. I think we have dug more all ready than McClellan did in his whole campaign and one of those fine mornings the Johnnies will be awakened up with a terrible noise. We are in hearing of picket firing night & day; they keep up a continual fire on some parts of the line, not ours though. Well, you take the papers so you can read all about what is a going on, so I will not write any more on that subject. In fact, I have so little rest that i do not feel like writing at all; now please write us as soon as possible and all the news. Where is Hiler? tell him to write if you see him.
On August 4 he wrote to Maria and again registered a complaint about the mail, as he was particularly concerned about his reenlistment bounty.
I think there is something wrong about the mail. I wish you would write me as soon as you get this and let me know about the bounty.
I have understood that I could not get any country bounty. How is that? I see by the papers that the 3rd Michigan is at Grand Rapids. I wish I did not belong to the 5th then I might be home too. Some of our old boys are getting up companies I see. success to the new Third.
We returned from that late raid north of the James, without loss to our regiment but returned to support the 9th corps while they blowed [sic] up that fort, and the whole affair was a fizzle, with heavy loss on both sides. I guess our generals will make up their minds that negro troops won;t fight any better than white ones. We are having a good rest, now, and we are not liable to do much right away. We got paid yesterday, but I dare not send any money away now, for the mail communications are not all together safe I think.” And on August 23, he wrote that “I dare say you have read all about the exploits of the 2nd corps while over the Jim River. Well we made it pretty hot for the Johnnies while we remained with them. But we received orders and marched back on the night of the 18th inst. We came immediately here to the front line where we have been ever since. We are about 20 rods from the rebs, but have made an agreement not to fire on one another unless an advance is ordered. The 5th corps had a severe engagement day before yesterday with the rebels and repulsed them with heavy loss. Well,I received the stamps, and am much obliged to you for your kindness. You wrote about that bounty. You and A. can agree upon what use to make of the money (after you get it), for my part I don't care what you do with it. We have been paid off, and before we crossed the river, myself and bunkmate had a good square meal. After we got paid and we footed up the bill which amounted to something over four dollars. Perhaps you would like to know what we had, that it should cost so much. Well I will tell you, as near as I can remember, we had butter at 60 cents, cheese, at the same price, per pound and a can of roast chicken, at ten shillings and soda crackers at 50 cents per pound and some other little nic nax, at sutler's prices. While we was waiting for the boats at City Point, I went to a eating house and paid one dollar for a very plain meal. So I have come to the conclusion to dry up on that kind of arrangement and live on my rations of hard tack and pork, sugar and coffee. Every night here we have to lay low for our batteries and the rebs get to fighting and the way the shells whiz over our heads, ain't slow. We had two wounded yesterday by shell. We have had lots of rain lately as well as you. I am glad to hear that the people are recruiting for our regiments, for I can tell you, before the war ends there will be several more drafts and if we ever overcome the rebs we have got to work in earnest for their army is no small affair, and we have got lots of fighting to do yet. The rebs seem as determined as ever to beat us and we have got to keep our armies filled up and keep wearing them away, and if our cat has the longest tail we will undoubtedly whip in the end. But only think what a pile of lives are to be taken yet. A shell at any moment may come over here where I sit writing behind the pits and put an end to several of us. But I live in hopes and try to keep cheerful under the most trying circumstances. I am up every night more or less and have to watch the rebels to prevent any treachery on their part, but I don;t think they are anxious to open the ball. We expect to be relieved tonight and go back to rest and draw rations;movements are going on with both armies, but what they amount to I do not know. I expect to bring back a wife when I return from war, so look out for a buxom Virginia gal.
Charles was still expressing concern about his bounty when he wrote to Aaron the last day of August that
I thought of writing you once more concerning my County bounty. There was an agent here yesterday from Michigan who was authorized to pay the vet bounty, to those who had received none, or rather those who wished to be assigned to Port Huron, and furthermore I have learned that the County of Kent was a paying $150 and the city of Grand Rapids $100 making in all $250, and now if some one does not take an interest in my affairs (as regards getting bounty) I will not get it. I wrote to the Judge about it yesterday and thought to make it a sure thing, I would write you and ask you to see to getting it for me, and if you need any more certificates, I can send them. Please write about it at your earliest leisure.
I hear today the McClellan is nominated for President by the Chicago Convention, and by the Peace Democrats. Do you think he will run very strong? We are building a line of forts from the left of the 18th corps to the rail road. Grant seems determined to hold the Weldon rail road. Our regiment is working on one fort and doing picket duty in front.
In mid-September Charles wrote home to the Skinners discussing the upcoming presidential contest.
The peculiar situation of affairs has induced me to write you a few lines today, and as I have not heard much from the Old peninsular state since the nomination of McClellan for the Presidency by the Chicago Convention of Copperheads and want to hear from you very much.
How does the draft go, in Michigan? Do you have any in the city? I understand that they have drafted in Gaines [Township]. Well, perhaps you would like to know what the soldiers think of the Chicago nominee. Well, I have been unable so far to find but a very few that think of voting for McClellan. My Orderly Sergeant has made a bet of $50.00 that McClellan will not be elected and I guess there will be a considerable interest taken in the Presidential campaign by the soldiers, for they are beginning to discuss politics while digging and working, as well as while lying about camp. For my part I think we will surely have our old vet Abe, to steer us through the perilous storm of rebellion and my opinion of him is that he is a better man than any the United States can afford at present to run the government for another four years, and you may rest assured that the soldiers will support him except a few McClellanites that are so ignorant that they don't know what else to do, and would sell their votes for a drink of rum. Well, we have been stirring up the Johnnies a little in front of us. Last Saturday night a part of our 3rd brigade captured a picket line of rebs in front of them and on the Jerusalem plank road, and held their pits but turned them so the next night our brigade had to straighten our line so as to connect with the 3rd brigade pickets. We did it however without loss, for the Johnnies heard of our intentions and fell back for fear of capture. But now it is dangerous for any one on picket to show themselves. Now is the time for you, Aaron, to come down and try your skill in marksmanship. Just get a rifle and come along, for you can go out to the front line and shoot as much as you like. But understand there are two points in this matter. You must not only be sure and hit your mark, but be sure and not get hit. There is more generalship in the latter (I think) than in the former.
We are having some sport here amidst all the danger. last night there was a lot of recruits a drilling back of our camp about one half mile, and in the open fields. The rebs got a glimpse at them and fired some of their 32s over us and amongst the recruits. You would have laughed I guess, to have seen the skeedaddle. Well we are losing a man or two every day now, from picket firing. Out of our regiment we have had two killed and five wounded since last Saturday. It is 9 o'clock evening and have lost none of the day. My turn comes to go on picket tomorrow evening. I am on every third day, stay 24 hours have pits dug large enough for five or six men. Most danger is when we are relieving the old guard, or picket. We have got a rail road now from City Point, to six mile station on the Weldon road. Some of Grant's building.
Charles made no mention in his September 14 letter that he was court-martialed on September 10, 1864, for “straggling,” in that he absented himself from his company without permission for six hours near Deep Bottom, Virginia on or about August 13, 1864. Although he pled guilty to both specification and charge, he told the court “that he had been unwell for several days previous and that on the day in question he applied to the surgeon for a pass to fall out, and was refused, although he was granted on the next day.”
He was found guilty and sentenced to forfeit $6.00 per month for 6 months. On September 29 he wrote his sister that
I was very glad to hear that you are well, and that you will not have any draft in Kent, but it seems strange that I am not entitled to any County bounty. They count me as one towards filling some call of the President's I am sure, and why not get a bounty as others have? Well, never mind I shall not reenlist again. Well there is a grand movement a going on of the whole army and perhaps ere this reaches you you will hear of another great movement and perhaps the decisive struggle for Richmond or Petersburg the key to Richmond. Our corps trains and all extra baggage has been sent off to City Point and last night the rebels charged our picket lines and got repulsed and then the mortars and cannon commenced and kept up a furious cannonade for about two hours. The 9th & 5th corps moved to the left last night and today the 10th moved to the right and in fact the whole army is up to some deep movement but all is quiet not a gun has been fired on our front today; we of the 2nd corps was ordered up at three o'clock this morning and struck tents packed up and here we are yet under orders to move on a short notice. But I ventured to take out my portfolio and write you a few lines, at all events.
We hear of victories everywhere which is quite encouraging. I wish you would write often, and if not so long for a few lines from home every week keeps me in good spirits. I will send you some money to get me some postage stamps.
From near Petersburg, he wrote on October 2, 1864, that “there has been a great change in the situation” since he last wrote on September 25 (or perhaps 29),
so I concluded to scribble you a few lines today to let you know that I am alive and well. Our division was in the fight yesterday on the left but we was not. Our regiment was left in reserve to guard our rear and protect our supply trains. However we may get into a fight yet. It seems the fall campaign has commenced and if so there will be fighting more or less until cold weather. By that time I hope we will get Richmond. We get a great many conflicting reports from the left. One is that we have taken one line of works and one that our troops had been repulsed. But you know we do not get the right news when we are not there to see for ourselves.
We have had considerable rain for the last 48 hours. At all events I will write often unless we are called on to fight, and then if we are I will not have an opportunity unless we are relieved for a few hours, for even when we are not directly engaged with the enemy, they keep us on the move all the time from one place to another back and forth and it is very fatiguing work.
At present we are very comfortably situated; we are in the rear line of works with our backs towards Petersburg. Myself and eight are camped in a fort, called Fort Stephens, and at a distance of 1/4 mile is the main portion of the regiment. We are broke up in detachments about the same as ours, with some larger ones; one regiment holds about 1/2 mile of works and we are to guard against reb cavalry, if any should think of coming around in our rear to attack our wagons.
We have received large reinforcements within the last two weeks, and mostly recruits; negro troops are becoming very unpopular of late for they have evinced a good deal of cowardice in a great many instances which I could relate, which has come under my own observation. We were relieved by a regiment of niggers on the front of Petersburg the other day. Where white men would walk up straight under picket fire, negroes would make themselves perfectly ridiculous. A ball would pass over their heads 20 feet and they would be so terrified as to drop flat on their faces and get up and declare that it was a close call for their black pates. It was negroes who caused the failure on the mine explosion and they have caused a great many other failures in this campaign. I protest against giving the negroes all the praise and say that it is a shame that they are put into regiments of white troops as is the case in some Mass. regiments. I have not heard from Hiler yet. I hope Aaron will get well again soon so as to resume his occupation.
Charles was court martialled a second time, on November 1, 1864.
It was alleged that he “did cowardly remain absent from his Company and Regiment from the time that they were about to become engaged with the enemy on the 27th day of October, 1864, till they had returned inside of the intrenchments [sic] on the 28th day of October, 1864.” His comanding officer, Captain Daniel G. Converse (who had also served in the Old 3rd before consolidation of the two regiments in June of 1864) testified that “On the forenoon of the 27th day of October, 1864, [Charles] received permission from me to step out of the ranks for a necessary purpose, promising to return to his place promptly. He did not return and I sent for him, but he could not be found. He remained away from the company during the engagement [at Boydton Plank road] and until we had returned inside the entrenchments on the 28th” of October. Sergeant Major Joel Guild testified that Charles did not return to his company until sometime in the afternoon of the 28th.
In his own defense Charles testified that he “stopped to get a canteen of water, and placed my gun against a tree. While so employed my gun was stolen and a poor and useless one left in its place. I concluded to get another one before I rejoined my Company, and when ready to join the command could not find it. I was also unwell at the time. . . .”
He was found guilty and sentenced to forfeit $10.00 per month for 10 months, and be paraded in front of his regiment for two hours a day with a placard on his back marked “coward.”
Interestingly, his commanding officer, Captain Daniel G. Converse of Company A, wrote on June 12, 1865, to the Adjutant of the Fifth Michigan infantry, that since Wright had performed the latter portion of his sentence, “the forfeiture of pay be remitted on account of the brave and soldierly good conduct of said Wright during the late campaign.” On November 17, he wrote his sister from Fort Davis, near Petersburg,
We are in the same fort on the Jerusalem plank road as we were when I wrote you last, and as the weather is getting exceedingly cold, we have constructed temporary winter quarters, but we do not sleep in them but every other night, and in the intervening time we are awake on the picket lines.
We feel that we have some cause to complain of our hard usage, in as much as there are troops lying only a short distance to the rear who are having a fine time of it. They do no picket duty whatever and but very little duty of any kind. But they tell us that said troops are mostly composed of recruits and conscripts and it would not be safe to trust them in such a responsible position, that they would get gobbled, etc. etc.. Well now all this may be true enough, but then may I ask why in the name of God don't they send them back home, if they are good for nothing. They never can learn youngen [sic] how to do fatigue and picket duty. Besides, it would give them a faint idea of what fighting is. What good are raw troops if the old ones have got to do all the fighting. I tell you such work almost makes an old Vet curse his maker, as well as it surely makes him curse the generals of this grand Union army.
You remember I presume of a disaster on the picket line of the 1st division of the 2nd corps. We we picket on the same ground now, and we had just returned from the grand reconnaissance on the left about two weeks ago, and I was detailed for picket along with 40 men of our regiment and it was while we were on our way for the picket line to relieve the aforesaid pickets that the disaster occurred. It was in substance as follows. The pickets allowed the rebels to march down through a strip of woods to our picket line, and without firing a gun, the rebels marched the whole length of the division line and relieved our pickets and took them off to Richmond (pity it was not to hell). So a few frightened yanks came flying through the woods to inform somebody that the rebels had relieved them but supposed at first they were our men (what a supposition that was) Yankee pickets from Petersburg. Well, we of course made up our minds to have our picket line back or have a fight so our brave captain who was also detailed for picket ordered us to load our rifles, and we proceeded cautiously to our picket line, and behold, there was neither rebs or yanks in the pits. So, we took possession of the line and also our old picket guns, and a lot of knapsacks etc. But the strangest thing connected with this affair is that not a gun was fired, until about 1/2 hour afterwards the rebs though we had not replaced our pickets and came down on us, another class of beings altogether, and made of different material. So we politely sent a few volleys of musketry into them and they went quicker than they came, and left us in undisputed possession of our old line, the same as we now occupy. The pickets who allowed themselves to be captured belong to the 111th & 69th New York regiments and we hear that every member of the 69th regiment voted for McClellan, also a large majority of the 111th. And our officers think that there was some treachery among our own men. However, it was so disgraceful that our own papers never gave a correct account of the affair. So you will pardon me for occupying so much space in my letter to give a true statement of the disgraceful affair. Officers belonging to those said regiments upon that occasion, were seen to throw away their swords and run to the rear.
Well now I will write of something else. I am sorry that Harvey is so foolish as to blame you for a fault of mine. I am sure you did not prevent me from visiting him at Middleville. I supposed the matter was all settled satisfactorily long ago, for I wrote an apology to him, and he has written me several very good political letters this summer, and I am expecting another every day. I am pleased to hear that the election passed off quietly, and also to learn that Lincoln is almost surely elected. Sorry that the Judge could not have come to the army of the Potomac instead of Atlanta, for I should have seen him undoubtedly. Well, I voted for father Abraham, as also did 154 others of our regiment and 65 voted for little McC. That, I think, is about the average of the voting of the western troops. Every thing was quiet on election day, but at night we had a splendid cotillion with the Johnnies on the front lines.
I believe you asked me in one of your letters if Jennie ever wrote me. She has wrote only one letter since I as at Harrison's Landing on the Peninsular [Campaign] in 1862. And there is another personage of some renown who has discarded me, perhaps my political views, and that person is Mr. Tom Wright. He has not written me a line for over two years but I kept on writing as if nothing had happened until he owed me three letters and then I began to think, that he either did not wish to hear from me or had formed an association with that worthy class of knights called Copperheads. So I very unceremoniously discontinued our correspondence now. I come to look over those long words above am afraid you will think I am studying dictionary or gray mare down here, but rest assured such is not the case. The most I study is how to get enough to eat.
By early December the Fifth Michigan was heading for winter quarters. On December 5, Wright wrote that
We, of the 2nd corps, was relieved by the 9th corps on the 29th ult. and we moved on the left of the army and where we are now and have built winter quarters.
How long we will have the benefit of our fine shanties it is hard to say, for there is some indication of a fight. The 6th corps have arrived here and gone to the front. The Dutch Gap Canal is completed and there are a lot of fine monitors in the river above City Point.
There are none who know that you have got my bounty.
We received a fine lot of chicken and other fixings on Thanksgiving Day, and in quantity sufficient for two meals, and for the same we are very thankful, not to Michigan but to New York. I don't know why it is, but it does seem as though Michigan was the poorest state to provide for her soldiers of any state in the Union. But never mind. I don't intend to always soldier, if I should live to see the end of this war. On the other hand I think the rebels are receiving reinforcements. I do not have to go on picket now but about once a week, and then we are in the wood, where it is warm, and do not see any Johnnies. We do not hear from Sherman. I hope he will gut the south and Grant will crack the shell and away goes the Southern Confederacy.
The 9th army corps were deserting in a frightful manner before we relieved them. Mostly recruits and conscripts and all McClellan men. But, of course the papers are not allowed to publish any such information for the benefit of the public at the north. I received a letter from Caroline, and one from Dealia last night and they wrote me lots of news. Horace is at the oil regions in Crawford County, Pa. Henry is there also. Tom and family have been visiting in York state. Guy has bought a lace and moved. Oh you can bet I am posted, if I do live way down here in Virginia I do not hear from Jennie any more (guess to use the Virginia term) she has soured on me. We are having very fine weather now. You can judge for yourself, how warm it is. I am writing without a fire, or a door to my shabang, and my fingers are only a little cold. Well now I guess I will quit for my bunky is getting sleepy and wants me to turn off the bunk so he can turn in, but the brass band is playing over at brigade headquarters and it sounds so good I can't sleep, so I will fill this sheet anyway.
I received a fine stock of postage stamps from Skinner's the other night and I will try and use them up as fast as possible. I heard from the new Third the other day. They were down in Georgia and had been in a four day fight, and lost five men out of the regiment in killed and wounded. With two exceptions that regiment has a lot of cowards for officers, Lieut. Moon, formerly sergeant of my company is not one of them nor is John Sumner captain of that regiment. But Col. Houghton used to always be taken with the shell fever when near the battle field.
The day after New Year’s Charles wrote home that General Byron Pierce, commanding the Brigade, had suspended all drills and “fatigue” exercises in order that the troops could celebrate the New Year.
So we can celebrate if we can find any way of doing so. I will, by writing to you. The weather is mild and pleasant, all the snow having disappeared. Well, I am sorry you have to depend on me for news from your relatives in York state, but if I can write you any news I am willing to do so. I received a letter from Ed. a day or two ago; he wrote me about his Christmas sleigh ride and about a tree he had made for Sabbath school children, etc. about being at home and the folks were well. I suppose you would like to hear what is going on here. Well there is nothing new in particular. We are lying in camp and doing our usual amount of guard and picket duty. The weather is not so cold here as in Michigan. We have not had over 1/2 inch of snow this winter but have had some cold winds. We have nearly enough to eat. Sometimes we are hard up for bread. I went on picket last time with three hard crackers and a ration of coffee and nothing else. But that is no uncommon thing here with us soldiers. We fare hard and expect to while we are in the service. Some of the boys are receiving boxes from home with butter, cheese and dried fruit and tobacco, etc. I would like a little fine cut tobacco, but I suppose it would be too much trouble for you to send it, so never mind.
We expect to get some new recruits this winter. The 1st U.S.S.S. are put into our regiment now, but they were only about 30 men for duty so it is no great reinforcement for us. We expect to draw the Spencer rifle soon. They shoot seven times without loading. I wrote you a letter on Christmas which I presume you have received ere this. I received a letter from Harvey a few days since; he said the Judge was making him a visit and also said he was very busy now day. Ed sent me Thomas’s photograph; he looked rather thin. I suppose you are having good sleighing in Michigan now. You thought I was rather hard on Michigan folks, as far as sending and providing their soldiers with stuff. Well, I may have been, but I have been in the service 3 years and a half and never received or knew of the people of Michigan sending the soldiers any but once, and that was after we returned from the Peninsular Campaign. We received a lot of canned fruit and preserves, just the stuff for sick folks. We are not sick, only of war, and we will try and end that as soon as we get recruited up again, for you must know there never was such a campaign as that which we have just passed through.
By the end of March federal forces in Virginia were on the move, and from near Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, Charles wrote on March 26, 1865, that
The 9th corps had a severe engagement, the particulars of which you are acquainted with I presume.
To counteract those demonstrations of the rebels we were ordered out here on the left and attracted the rebs and drove them into their main works; the prevailing opinion of all is that the rebels are trying to attract our attention so as to evacuate. We are watchful here on the left, and if they start, they will find the Union army close upon them.
Upon the morning of the fight I was detailed for picket, therefore we pickets had to make the first attack, which we did on double quick time we rushed on to the 37th regiment North Carolina Vols. (rebs.). They did not show much fight, but we were close to the main line of work of the rebels and they shelled us furiously when we advanced to the charge reb pickets threw down their guns and with hat in hand came into our line. I escorted two fine fellows back to our picket line and turned them over to the rear. No pickets captured more than our own number; they said the Confederacy was gone up and they cussed Old Jeff and the whole Confederacy; we returned to camp today but perhaps ere this reaches you we will be on the move again.” And on April 14, from near Burkville, Virginia, he wrote that “We arrived here last night all tuckered out; we return from the pursuit and capture of Lee and his army; I cannot write the particulars at this time. We expect to move every moment. Our regiment lost but a very few; Lee's surrender was the grandest thing of the war; rumor says we are going to Danville from here; we had a short but decisive campaign; I have not seen a paper since last month; the rebellion is about played out. I will try to be home by the fourth of July; all goes well.
Two months later, Charles was at a camp near Arlington, Virginia, when he wrote that the Fifth Michigan had arrived at Arlington on May 25
from Burkville via Richmond and Fredericksburg. We left Burkville on the 2nd inst. and have marched a distance of about 175 miles. We have forded small rivers and marched crosslots and through dense forests and have fetched up at the Capitol without much loss; a few have dropped dead from over-marching and heat. As for me I have enjoyed the march remarkably well. On the 17th while we was in the vicinity of Occoquan River there came a terrible storm of hail and rain, with thunder and lightening. We were obliged to sit up that night with our rubbers over our heads and all the sleep we got or rest after marching 25 miles we got in a sitting position. So you see we have had to endure some hardships even since Lee Surrendered. We are camped in regular style now in a good healthy location, and we expect to remain here until we go home, which will not be long,I think perhaps two weeks. I shall be satisfied if we get home in three weeks from the present time. Sherman's army is arriving and there is pretty lively times here now. Strict discipline is enforced in every camp and every thing passes off smoothly. Of course, we are all anxious to go home first, but we are subject to orders, and are obliged to obey. My health is first rate, and we drawing good rations and sufficient quantity yesterday I tasted the first mouthful of bread since the first of April last. We read the news yesterday of the capture of Old Jeff and I hope a mob will seize him from the authorities and hang him, for he may be tried by court and banished or let off. The old devil he should be made an example of. But I guess Andy Johnson will not have much mercy on him. You must write me some of the news. I can't get hold of any. Here we are not allowed to go to Alexandria or Washington,nor can we hear anything about what they intend to do with the Old Vets. We have all sorts of flying reports. One is that the Old Vets are not to be discharged but I don't place any credence in what I hear about camp. At all events there has not been any such order issued to my knowledge. We can get Washington papers and New York Tribune and Herald every day if we choose, at 10 cents a copy. Now I must close my letter and build up our bed for I don't like to sleep on the ground any more.
Charles was reported as a provost guard at division headquarters in June of 1865, and was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
After the war Charles returned to Michigan -- although he may have lived briefly in Noble County, Indiana.
He was working as a carriage-maker probably in Berrien County when he married Michigan native Electa Minerva Welfortin (b. 1846) on September 4, 1867, at Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, and they had at least two children: Nellie (b. 1868) and Frederick (b. 1871).
By 1870 Charles was working as a farmer and living with his wife and daughter in Niles’ First Ward, Berrien County. By 1880 he had settled his family on a farm in Vicksburg, Kalamazoo County.
Charles died at his home in Vicksburg on July 22, 1880, and was presumably buried there.
In 1890 his widow applied for and received pension no. 314,714. She was living in Vicksburg in 1890.