Friday, October 08, 2010

Charles D. Spang

Charles D. Spang, alias “Charles A. Woolcott,” also known as “Sperry,” was born in 1835 in England or New York.

According to one story, Charles had supposedly served in the Mexican War, although he would have been only about 12 years old at the time.

In any case, Charles married his first wife, New York native Helen E. Holbrook, on July 19, 1857 (they were divorced in the 1870s), and they had at least one child Ellen (b. 1859). They were living in Michigan by 1859 and by 1860 Charles was working as a master mason and living with his wife and child in Muskegon, Muskegon County. In April or early May of 1861 he was elected First Lieutenant of the “Muskegon Rangers,” the militia company organized in Muskegon which would form the nucleus of Company H.

Charles stood 5’8” with black eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was unable to read or write and was 26 years old and probably living in Muskegon when he enlisted as First Lieutenant in Company H on May 13, 1861. He resigned on October 30, 1861., for reasons unknown. A hint comes through in a letter from one of the men of Company H. Apparently the captain, Emery Bryant was out sick and Spang had been in temporary command. Charles Brittain wrote home on October 9 that “the captain is not released yet and I don’t know when he will be but I hope he will be before long for I don’t like Charley Spang at all.” Although the record is unclear as to why Spang resigned, his first wife claimed years afterward that he was discharged for drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

In any event, Charles returned to Muskegon where he resumed masonry work -- indeed by 1863 he was working as a mason in the city. Curiously, he reentered the service as a Private in Company H, Third Michigan infantry on January 5, 1864, probably at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Pittsfield, Washtenaw County and was mustered the same day at Grand Rapids. (Charles has the distinction of being the only officer known to resign and return to the Regiment as a private soldier. One other officer, Captain Adolph E. Birkenstock of Company C resigned and reentered the service as an enlisted man in a New York Regiment. Andrew N. Miller was the only other man to leave the Third and reenter it again, amidst a series of enlistments in and desertions from Ohio and Pennsylvania Regiments.)

Charles joined the Regiment on February 17, 1864, at Camp Bullock, Virginia, and was shot in the left hand on May 9, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Virginia. He was admitted on May 13 from the field to Emory general hospital in Washington, DC, and was still absent wounded when he was transferred to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He remained absent wounded through December of 1864. In June of 1865 he reportedly returned home to recuperate, and he remained absent sick until he was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.

It is not known if Charles returned to Michigan after the war. He claimed in his pension application of 1880 that after the war he settled in Baltimore, Maryland, and he was living at 44 Lexington Street in Baltimore in 1880. He eventually received pension no. 199,003.

For reasons which remain unclear, sometime after the war he assumed the name of “Charles Woolcott,” and even his brother-in-law Leon Frederick, was at a loss to know exactly when or why he made the change. It may have been due to the fact that Spang eloped on May 10, 1884, with Sarah E. Frederick (b. 1866), whom he married in New York City and they had at least three children: Mabel E. (b. 1891), Flora M. (b. 1894) and Charles F Chandler (b. 1897). Or, perhaps it was to avoid some other legal or personal entanglement.

In any event, Charles and Sarah subsequently moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania under the assumed name of Woolcott. He was residing in Philadelphia at 1225 Heath Street in 1886 and at 1758 Alden Street in 1890 when he was employed as a canvasser; in fact Spang lived on Alden Street from the mid-1880s until his death in 1901. That same year he was examined on November 24 for an increase to his pension and the physician found Spang to be basically in sound health with the exception of his wounded left hand and that he was nearly completely blind, and required an attendant to lead him. The doctor observed that he was a “poorly nourished man” and was afflicted “With marked nervousness.”

The family physician, Dr. C. Chandler testified in 1902 that he had treated Spang for many years for ailments which virtually incapacitated him “from earning his living and supporting his wife Sarah E. Woolcott who displayed the greatest love and affection and care for the poor blind man. Assisting in the support of themselves and” their three children “that I delivered” between 1891 and 1897. “They were a family that I respected and won my deepest sympathy by the untiring care to each other and struggle to pay their way, support and educate the little ones born to them. They were always kept clean and nicely dressed and it gives me great pleasure to commend Mrs. Sarah E. Woolcott as a dutiful wife.”

Charles died of dysentery on August 24, 1901, probably at his home on Alden Street in Philadelphia, and was buried in Northwood cemetery, Philadelphia.

In October of 1901 his widow, applied for pension no. 750,723, and was living at 1950 Walbrook Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland.

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