Charles H. Church

Charles H. Church was born December 5, 1838, near Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan, the son of Stephen Van Rensselaer (1813-1868) and Susan M. (Olds, 1816-1872).

Stephen was born in Massachusetts and Susan was a New York native. They were married on January 2, 1837 in Pittsfield, Washtenaw County, Michigan eventually moved to Williamstown, Ingham County where they were residing in 1841. By 1850 Charles was living with his family in Phelpstown, Ingham County, and in 1860 he was working as a farm hand and living with his family in Williamston, Ingham County.

Charles stood 6’1” with blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was 22 years old and still living with his family when he enlisted as Second Corporal in Company G on May 10, 1861. (Company G, formerly the “Williams’ Rifles”, was made up predominantly of men from the Lansing area.)

Charles wrote frequently to his family, and those letters were privately published by one of his descendants in a pamphlet entitled, Civil War Letters by Chas. H. Church, a Collection of Letters from Church to his Parents in Williamston, Michigan. The following extracts are from this collection.

On May 14, 1861, shortly after Company G arrived in Grand Rapids, Charles wrote home that in his opinion his company was the best of all those organizing into the Third Michigan at the old fairgrounds south of the city, and that they had good food and good wages. In mid-June the regiment left western Michigan and arrived in Washington, DC on Sunday, June 16. By early July he was writing that much of his time was spent foraging through the countryside looking for fresh fruits and vegetables, although he enjoyed himself “very well” on the Fourth of July. “It was not,” he wrote, “the way I have been in the habit of celebrating the 4th. The 3rd I was corporal of the gard [sic] which kept me up all night which made me feel somewhat sleepy but still on the 4th I in company with my friends the non-commissioned officers went on a pleasure excursion. We visited several camps. Some were disposing [?] Lager beer by the cay full -- others were preparing for a dance in the evening. They were laying the floor. About 2 miles above us the soldiers got up a free dance where the southern ladies turned out to cheer the soldiers -- they are very sociable & make the best of company. Abut 4 o’clock P.M. cramped two ducks & lots of chickens which we made a grand stew of. We live well at present; I spend half my time rambling about the country getting fruits of all kind & looking at black girls which are very numerous. There is about a dozen on every plantation.”

On July 10 Charles took the opportunity to visit Alexandria, which he wrote home “is a large place and looked very desolate. About half of the business houses are unoccupied & the windows are all stoned out.” That night, “we had a powerful rain, [and] I was ketched [caught] in it when I was returning to camp about 8 o’clock p.m. I enjoy myself well & ramble about the country & see various thing[s] which is [are] pleasing to me & generally come into camp with a good supply of vegetables which makes [a] great addition to our meals. We live on the upper shelf.”

On Thursday, July 18, the Third Michigan was engaged briefly at Blackburn’s Ford along the Bull Run near Manassas. On July 20 Charles wrote from the Bull Run battlefield.

I am well & where I can hear the balls whistle every few minutes. We left our camp on the Potomac the 17th [of July] for Fairfax Courthouse & we drove the enemy before us all the way. They had their batteries all along the road to Germanville [Germantown]. We burnt the buildings that had the secession flag on & at Fairfax the devils run. We kept right on driving their pickets in until the 18th at Bull Run where there is about 40 thousand. Our Brigade marched up in [to] about a half a mile of their battery & sent out skirmishers & they ran down in about ten rods of their pickets. When the Rebels opened fire upon them there was about ten to one of the Rebels & our men had to retreat with the loss of about a dozen. Our Regt got off without the loss of a man. When our Brigade attacked them of a little more than three thousand men we thought there was about our number. They shot their rifle and cannon balls all around us. Shot one man’s head off & shot several more, besides there has been several shot accidentally by our own men. Yesterday morning there was four men shot accidentally. I was standing right by one man when he was shot through the back of his head. This morning there was a man hit in the back. The ball had lost its force so that it did not hurt him. I was standing in about six inches of him. The cannon balls have pass[ed] by in about six inches of me & grape shot falls all around us like rain. We are laying back for reinforcements. We calculate to attack them tomorrow & then we will have a big fight. . . . Last night we laid awake expecting an attack. We could hear the Rebels talk and give command[s] to the pickets. They were shooting at our pickets all night. I have not hear[d] how many of our pickets were killed the day our brigade attacked them & had to retreat. They hurrahed & laughed & yesterday they were around picking up the knapsacks that we left. Tomorrow will be our turn. Our reinforcements are coming in every hour by [the] thousands. We have got in our regt two men that offered their services to fight -- they know the country well. [This may be Walter Mundell and/or Ben Gooch, either or both of whom may have been born and raised in Virginia.] The braves [?] took one of the rebels yesterday & hung him up on a tree. The Southerners have left their farms & fled. The soldiers take all they want -- milk their cows, eat of their hens, make fire of their fences, feed up their oats & tear down their wheat shocks to make beds of & clean the country as they go. The country looks forsaken & dreary. We are in sight of the Cumberland Mountains. We fare very well. We shot hogs -- take all calves for veal & two-year-olds for steak. We have no Captain & our First Lieutenant is bushed & our orderly Sergeant is sick & so we have to do as the rest do. I send my best respects to all. Excuse [my] haste in time of battle.

By the end of the month he informed his family that he was well and “safely camped on Arlington Heights. The battle of Bull Run & the junction [at Manassas] was a bloody one. About one thousand killed on each side. We opened fire on them about ten o’clock last Sunday & kept up the fire until six o’clock p.m. when we were ordered to retreat [which] was made in a destructive manner; the wagoners were very scared & run their teams so that some of them upset their wagons. Others unhitched their teams from their wagons & left [them] along the road loaded with provisions & ammunition & about sixty in numbers horses lay dead & strewn all along the road.” In describing the battle, Church wrote that he “was placed as a picket guard away down closest to the woods right in sight of the devils where they would come out in an open spot & shoot at us. The bullets would whistle around me & once in a while the rifle cannon balls would pass close by our heads. We thought no[thing] of it than if some little boys were throwing pebbles at us. Some of the boys went along picking blackberries unconcerned about their lives. After the battle I went to the hospital & saw the surgeon amputate their limbs. Such screaming & yelling I never heard. It was rough but I am getting used to it. I helped to carry some of the dead & wounded. One was shot through the head & took all of his face -- he lived six hours until they bled him to death.” One curious incident, however, attracted Charles’ attention.

One man [Homer Morgan] belonging to our Regt shot himself Sunday morning about three o’clock in the morning [and] he was found about 6 o’clock a.m. about 40 rods from where we slept. That night I helped fetch him in. I saw a man that escaped from the rebels in the hottest of the battle & [had] a long talk with him about their situation & forces. He says they are better armed that we are. They have minie & Sharps rifles & a revolver & Bowie knife but are poorly fed. They have seven hundred Indians under the best of drill a[s] skirmishers commanded by 4 chiefs & four hundred negroes -- a drilling they are one hundred & fifty thousand strong in Virginia. Most all of their forces are in Virg. & the Union men & free negroes that they take they put to hard labor. Gen. Scott is sending home all of the three months’ men. There is thirty thousand troops expected this week. The next time we march after them they will have to hunt [for] their holes & draw it in after them. The calculation is to tar the woods & burn it -- the devils have got a perfect den at Bull Run but we are a going in to it & drink a few sociable old toasts.

On August 1 Charles was promoted to First Corporal. A week later he wrote home that the weather was very hot in Virginia, his company had a new captain and that the Regimental colonel Dan McConnell was “a tyrannical old devil” and that the “boys are all down on him.” (In fact, citing ill health, Colonel McConnell would resign in October.) The Regiment was engaged in cutting and clearing large tracts of land for use by the army. “There is three hundred men sent out to chop everyday.” He added that “There is a half dozen peddlers on the camp ground everyday & they are strapping the boys very fast of their money. Potatoes are two dollars a bushel, peaches are $4.00 a bushel & other things in proportion but the boys think nothing of it. Some of our boys paid half a dollar for a drink of water when we were at Bull Run. Artemus [Newman] is not very well at present. A man by the name of Gascal [Gaskill] in our company was shot in the head yesterday by a member of company B. He is not dangerously hurt, [as] he is so to be around. It was done accidentally. The man was cleaning his gun & he took a cap and snapped it on his gun & off it went. The buck shot scattered all around & one hit Gascal in the head & the others with the ball went through a tent tearing the tent & shattering a gun stock etc.”

By late August he was writing that “on the 21st our regt. moved up the [Potomac] river near the Long Bridge right back of Fort Albany along next to the 2nd Mich Regt. It is a very pleasant place. We can get a full view of the city. We are three miles from the city. We have not guards around our camp. There are two guards detailed from our com[pany] as provost guards. They are stationed on roads etc. There is one hundred men sent out a chopping from the regt & they have a good time generally in cramping peaches & green corn. We [have had] some bully old times. today we have brigade inspection & there is a general scouring amongst the boys to see who can take out the brightest gun etc. on this side of the river. The troops are busy in building up the forts & clearing up & drawing large guns & planting them etc. All busy lively times. We are getting our clothes & blanket[s] now. They [are] much better than state clothing. I am happy to hear that the boys are somewhat anxious to enlist & come & see the war ended. I think they would see a great many new things which would be leasing to them.”

On September 6 he wrote his parents that the army was still engaged in building forts around Washington. “There has [sic] been five companies detached from our Regt to build a fort. It is a mile from our former place of encampment. It is a very sightly place. It overlooks all the other forts. We will have a large range for our guns. It is named after our Gen. [Israel] Richardson [of Michigan]. I think we will man the fort. We have done all the chopping & we have got the fort nicely commenced & they have sent us up two large cannon to protect ourselves with in case the enemy should attack our lines.” And “The Fort that our boys were to work on the first of last month they have named Fort Mich. If we keep on as we have done we shall monopolize this side of the river. The Mich. boys have done well so far. As to our living -- we live on the top shelf. We have everything to eat in the vegetable line for we have no guards out and go out & come in heavy load[ed] with stuff that they cramp.” He also reported that McClellan and recently visited the Regiment and “took a view at our work & he gave us the praise of doing the most of any other [Regiment] on this side of the river & we should have it [a] little easier.” He added that it was rumored the enemy was about to attack, but by October 1 he informed his family that in fact “The rebels have left Munson’s Hill & our troops are marching on after them. We have marching orders. We are packing up to move this afternoon. I do not know where to. I think the secesh will get well warmed up this week.”

On October 4 Charles informed his family that “We have plenty to do & have the best of living. The 8th [Michigan] Regt is camped near the city on Meridians Hill. Dorm Fuller sends word to me every few day to come over & see him. I have not had a chance to go & see him. Jim [William J.] Moore is in the 5th [Michigan] Regt -- he is sick at present. As to the fort the work goes on; finely [finally] they have mounted several large guns & finished the magazine.”

By mid-October however, the Regiment had still not moved and were as busy as ever in building forts. On the 13th Charles wrote that Richardson’s Brigade, which included the Third Michigan, took possession of Fort Lyon the day before. “It is a very large fort, [and] it is calculated to mount sixty guns when finished. It is about two miles southwest from Alexandria. The country here appears to be very rich. There is some splendid dwelling houses about here. Today we have had inspection as usual. . . .” Nevertheless, he added that “Vegetables are very high here, potatoes -- one dollar per bushel & everything else according[ly].” And, although Church still prophesied that they were going on the offensive soon, in fact he was only certain that the Regiment was to go out on picket near Mt. Vernon within the week.

On the 27th Charles wrote that while “Everything is all right & quiet” still “The secesh are holding us pretty tight.” About the only activity in the regiment was the routine of picket duty.

On November 14 Charles wrote home that

I was out on picket three days with a squad of men. I enjoyed myself extremely well in visiting the old farmers & hear them tell their stories. The majority of them do not know enough to come in out of the wet. The last day I was on picket the secesh cavalry came to Accotink one mile from our picket lines & stopped to a house to ask a few questions & one of our boys were [sic] in the house & and as soon as he saw them he saw there comes the dam[n] secesh & runs out the back door & jumps into the road & cries out go home you dam[n] secesh & fires his piece off at the Lieut. The ball struck him on the top of his head taking off the hide & hair & he ordered his men to about face & be off for dixie & our boy came into camp through the woods on double quick & that frightened the citizens & they grabbed whatever they could & away they came for our picket line for protection. The woods were full of niggers of all size[s]. The next day our Brigade went out as far as Pohick church four miles below Accotink & only one secesh to be found & he was a small sickly looking soldier armed with a Miss [?] rifle. Looking for his Regt he said. One of our boys helped ketch him. He was in our guard house until today when they took him to headquarters. As to the fort the work goes on finely. Our Regt sends out two hundred men to work on the fort about every day. As to our pay I think we will [have] received it by the end of next week. Yesterday there were seven negroes [who] came to our picket lines from the Manassas Junction.

On November 16 Church wrote home of his hopes for career advancement, in particular he hoped to get a commission in a company of cavalry then being organized (presumably in Michigan) by a friend of his. he also wanted his father to put in a good word for him in Michigan.

I have done my duty in every respect & am capable of doing it up as high as captain. I have studied Hardie’s 1st vol. of Tactics enough so that I can drill a company & do it correct[ly] and now I am in the Sec. vol. of Hardie on the drill of the Battalion. But the informant has been under guard about a dozen times & now he has charges preferred against him by our orderly Sergeant H. L. Thayer which I am sure will go hard with him. The reason he wrote such stuff. He said Art or I wrote to Williamston that he got put under guard several times. I presume that is the reason that he wrote that lie. You can tell the old sneak & such friends that they need not be alarmed about us, for we can take care of ourselves & do as well as any of the boys. You stated that Dick was trying to get up a com[pany] & Eli was 1st Lieutenant etc. I should like to be 2nd Lieutenant in that com[pany] I can take & drill a com[pany] right up to the handle. I wish you would talk with Eli & try to get me that position. If they will take hold you can do it. If Dick will offer me 2nd Lieutenant & send me a letter to that effect I will try & get discharged on that reason. He may have to send to his Colonel & get his consent. Do the best you can & I think it will be all right. Siverd, our 2nd Corporal, the fellow who enlisted us at Williamston, is about to leave our com[pany] & take a Lieutenancy in a com[pany] in Colonel Quinn’s Regt. If he can go, I can. Siverd & I are great old chums & I shall take the same course that he does as to getting off. If I get the offer I shall send a letter to Eli with this concerning this matter etc. If this thing can be brought about have Dick write to me wishing to have me in his com[pany] & he will procure me a commission by the consent of the Colonel of his Regt. etc. I think Lawyer Barnes could inform you what to do & would be a helper.

On November 26 he wrote that “Things are very quiet about here at present” and the thought they might go into winter quarters where they were since “There has been a requisition made of a million feet of lumber to build our barracks etc.” Of course, he also thought the war would end before next July. He related further how he spent much of his free time studying leadership and tactics books. Charles observed that “Business is being renewed in Alexandria very fast now.”

The Third Michigan went into winter quarters at a place called (by the Michigan Regiments) Camp Michigan. On New Year’s Day Charles wrote home and described his Christmas.

Christmas morning about 2 o’clock we were aroused by the beating of the drums. We came out. They called the roll & gave us orders to have our breakfast at 3 o’clock & be ready to march at 5 o’clock. At 5 we started for Pohick church followed by three Regt of infantry, two batteries of artillery and two com[panies] of cavalry. The most of us made up our minds that we should have a merry Christmas but we were disappointed. We went beyond the church & no enemy to be seen & so we stacked arms & rested about two hours & fired one gun off in the direction of them. Got no answer & so we returned to camp hungry & tired. We had traveled about thirty miles. As to New Year’s everything is quiet. Last night I was corporal of the guard. Up all night. About 12 o’clock I could hear the roar of cannon in the direction of Washington & the sound of muskets out on our picket line. The firing of cannon was the saluting on the coming of the New Year. The musket firing was on the coming of a few unwelcome secesh which salute they much dislike & quake at the sound. The duty we have to now is drill. Mostly com[pany] drill in the forenoon. Battalion drill in the afternoon. As to drill we not beat very easy. Eli F. Siverd is out orderly now. Thayer has gone home a recruiting for this Regt. Probably he will be at Williamston & there father can see him & he can tell him all about us etc. Last Friday I went to Washington where I had a good time. Gen. Rosencrans was at the Willard Hotel & several other distinguished gentlemen. In the evening I went to the theatre & saw the Elephant. Washington is the place for styles etc. I saw several things that I should [have] liked to buy & sent [sic] home for New Year’s presents. But come to look it all over, it would cost me one hundred dollars to serve you all & being trouble with the shorts, I gave up the idea & so will send you all my best wishes etc.

By the middle of January all was still quiet in Virginia and there was little activity in the Third Michigan camp but the routine of garrison life.

As to war matters here [Charles wrote on January 17] everything is quiet with the exception of now & then a picket man gets dumped by the secesh pills. The picket duty now is done by one Regt at a time & then they stay out three days at a time. Gen. Richardson’s Brigade have just received the Austrian rifles -- they are regular old paunch openers. I think now we can send some of the devils to their long homes. The night the old Pensacola run the blockade, the secesh made so much firing at the boat that it kept us awake. But still not a shot hit her. I should think that the devils would get ashamed of themselves & hole up. We have received our pay once more & a jolly set of boys can be seen coming into camp. . . . As to the weather -- it is regular spring weather. The labor that I had to do today was taken [sic] charge of eight men & build bunks for our guards in the guard house which took them two hours. This is the kind of labor that I lke. Plenty of money & good clothes. I have two shirts which I paid $5.00 dollars for & they are well worth it, & other things according[ly].

On February 1, 1862, Church wrote home that “Everything is quiet here - a little bayonet exercise, dress parade etc. makes our exercise. Today I have been busy in trying to help a squad of men to work on a cookhouse, but we have it ready for the roof. Two hours work here is a big day’s work for the boys.” In fact, Frank Siverd, also of Company G, wrote on February 8, 1862 describing the winter quarters of some of the Corporals in Company G. Church and Artemus Newman shared hut number 6, the ‘Lansing House’. “This is an independent joint stock company, and the Lansing House of Camp Michigan is probably not much unlike the original Lansing House where Jipson finely entertained travelers in the woods bordering Grand River. It is built of logs eighteen by twenty feet -- was first covered with a dirt roof, but the sacred soil has such a propensity to become mortar that the roof only seemed to prolong the storm. It usually rained inside the house for three days after it quit outside, which induced them to put on a roof of hewn logs. The occupants of the Lansing House have an advantage over the rest of the company, as the officer of the day cannot see when the lights are extinguished, hence they retire when they please. They evidently live to eat in this institution. Go there when you will, night or day and you will find some person cooking and others eating.”

On March 17, Siverd wrote that Church was in the Regimental hospital at Yorktown, with fever, while Siverd and the rest of the Regiment was aboard a steamer off Alexandria. By March 19 they were just arriving at Fortress Monroe, Virginia to join in the opening of what would be called McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, “Surrounded by over one hundred boats & amongst them there is the noted boat the Monitor that drove in the rebel’s gunboat the Merrimac . She is a peculiar[ly] constructed thing. Draws 14 feet of water only two feet above water except the two guns. Today is a day of amusement with me & Art. The Army of the Potomac is directed in a different direction in which everybody was expecting the Manassas Movement was all for a little rubbish. The devils ran like niggers. (Poor deluded creatures) The 17th we embarked at Alexandria & ran out about two chain’s length and anchored until 1 o’clock p.m. the 18th & then the whole fleet pulled off down the river & arrived here in stone’s throw of the said place at 4 o’clock p.m. 19th inst[ant].”

On March 23 they were still at Fortress Monroe. “We are now under Gen. Wool’s command & have a new Brigade General, General Hamilton commands our brigade. We are now the 3rd Brigade. General Richardson is a Division General now. There is [sic] about 25 thousand troops here now. Our camp is about a mile from that once beautiful & prosperous city [of] Hampton -- [which] the rebels applied the torch to last fall. It is now the most desolate place that is ever seen. Peach trees are in blossom here now. Oyster & clams are in abundance. Art & myself stroll along the shore and gather the oysters & have some great feasts. We can hear the rebels’ guns when they fire them & see the smoke on Jewell’s Point. In sight of here is where the little Monitor thrashed the old Merrimac. There is about two thousand negro contrabands here. They are a jolly set. Our Captain [Jefferds] has shown the white feather & is in Alexandria playing up sick. I think there soon will be a shift in the com[pany] officers etc. We have not received our pay this payday. I think we will have to lay over 4 months. I have two watches now -- both hunter cases -- if thought it would be safe to send one off, I would send one to you.”

By April 6 they were some three miles from Yorktown, Virginia, when Church reported home, with some “very sharp skirmishing agoing on about all the time. This afternoon there has been several cannon balls passed over our heads. Tomorrow I think the ball will open early in the morning.” He wrote that it was 9:00 p.m. and very tired and that he expected to be up at 3:00 a.m. and “to be off to the ball.”

On April 29 Charles wrote his father from near Yorktown that the Regiment was still “busy in getting ready for a great battle.”

We have now over twelve different works to mount -- large siege guns. In our duty is one day or night’s work & then rest a day & then one day or night’s picket duty & so they keep us busy. We were on picket the 16th next to the Vermont boys when they got trapped by the secesh. Here is where we stand picket with cannon & have sport a popping it to them etc. Co[mpany] I of our Regt is detached to run the sawmill that the New York papers spoke so much about. Run by soldiers etc. Our brigade lies near the mill to the left of the Yorktown road -- right in front of their main fortifications. Occasionally they throw a shell weighing eighty-four pounds close to our camp & then there is a great rush amongst the boys to get the scattered shell. Last night 4 of our companies were out on fatigue till 12 o’clock p.m. & it was very dark. Today it is rainy. General Heintzelman compliments our Regt for their coolness exhibited on the 16th & whenever we are on duty where the cannon balls are bursting all around us there is music in the whistling of a ball. Yesterday we received our pay. I received $26.00 & sent you by express $20.00 directed to Lansing. . . . Last night we were out on picket -- several shots were exchanged on he right -- no damage done. One of the boys of the Alabama 9th deserted to our Regt. He said he was pressed into service about six weeks ago & his mother told him to desert the first opportunity & he improved it. I could write a great deal but you can get the news a great deal soon[er] in the New York papers. Their correspondents are busy raking up the news all about here. They get all & a little more. The New York Herald is our favorite paper now. There is some very hot arguments amongst the soldiers about the Nigers [sic]. What will be done with them? The mass of the soldiers are in favor of having them put upon some island & shoot the first one that attempts to leave it. We give the Nigers [sic] no quarter. The majority in our company is Democratic. Our officers are all here now. Homer Thayer has got a position as clerk for General Berry.

Charles was reported sick in late June of 1862 in the hospital in Yorktown, and again in July of 1862, but in fact, he fell ill on May 16 at Cumberland Landing and was sent to Wheaton hospital, on the York River, on May 22. On June 14 he wrote his father from the hospital that he “had the fever but I am now so I can walk all around. Last night I had a bathe [sic] in the York river.” He estimated that some 1600 sick soldiers were in the hospital.

On July 4 Church was put aboard a steamer for transport to a hospital in Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island, and on July 11 he wrote home that he was in a new United States general hospital which had been in operation about one month, but he observed that the “It is a beautiful place.” Some seven hundred men were transported from Virginia to Rhode Island aboard tow ocean steamers. “We left Yorktown on the 4th [of July] & it was a happy 4th to us. We got into the ocean the same day about 6 o’clock p.m. & arrived at this place the 6th. We are treated with the greatest kindness by the citizens of Newport, Providence & several other places. They bring in clothing & provisions by the wagon load & give it to the soldiers. I am gaining strength here quite fast. When I left Yorktown it was as much as [I] could do to walk. The reason was we did not fare any better than some farmer’s hogs. Nothing fit to eat & no care, but things are conducted on a different scale here. The governor has looked into the matter a little & he says the soldiers has [sic] got to be treated better, hereafter those that stop in this state.” Regarding his previous hospital experience along the York River, Church flatly declared, “Dr. Wheaton is a drunken mean old puke.” But at Portsmouth Grove, his “tent sets on the bank of the Narragansett bay. A good place to bathe in the salt water & we improve it. We get a cool breeze here all day.”

On August 31 he wrote home that he had sufficiently recovered his strength to return to Virginia and his Regiment. “I left Portsmouth Grove the 17th [of August]. We came down the East River to New York City & stopped there a half a day & I got quite a sight of the city of Brooklyn & Jersey City. Art is tough and well.” On September 4, following the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29, 1862, Charles wrote home that the Regiment was “badly cut up and encamped near Fort Lyon. They got here yesterday afternoon. They look horrible. Hungry & dirty.” As for himself his health was good and he was back with the Regiment. Charles thought that the regiment would spend the next six months recovering its strength.

By the third week of September he was detached with the Ambulance Corps in Stoneman’s Division near the defenses on the southside of the Potomac. On September 19 Church wrote to his father that “I am acting sergeant of the Division Ambulance Corps. I have a horse to ride & am well equipped & can go to & fro at my ease.” He thought General Stoneman another Phil Kearny. “There is six Regts in our Brigade,” he wrote, “& it is still a small brigade. Little Mack is still the man. He is making them smell frustration in Maryland, I think now those blackhearted sons-of-bitches of the North will dry up if they don’t when the soldiers get loose they will make some of them have sore heads. Eli has got a very honorable position -- that is what a man gets by having friends & money. I hope he will be able to sustain his dignity & become a man of note, but it is a going to require a great effort.” He closed by adding “I live on the fat of the land now.”

Edgar Clark of Company G wrote home on September 24 that “I was talking to one of our company by the name of Church who is with one of the ambulances that care of [for?] the dead and wounded on the battlefield and he said he went one day this week under a flag of truce into the rebel lines where the Battle of Bull Run was fought about three weeks ago and he said there were hundreds of dead men, Union and Rebel, on the ground, still unburied, with all of their clothes stripped off of them.”

In October Charles was still employed as an ambulance driver near Poolsville, Maryland. On October 29 he was with the ambulance corps when he wrote to his father that his health was good and that he had “a good horse to ride & not much to do & receive twenty-five cents a day extra. I am Commissary Sergeant of the Ambulance Corps now -- the best position in the corps. We are now under marching orders & I think we are going into Va. to locate for the winter. As to your selling the little farm -- I think at present you had better keep the place than to sell it for one-half what it is worth & at present the little state of Michigan is about the best place to live in, in the Union. Sell the cattle & build a house & make yourself as comfortable as you can, & when this rebellion is settled then it will be time to relocate.” Charles noted that “Lieutenant Mason is now with his company & I think he will soon be a Captain of Company G.” In any case, he seemed cheerful and in good spirits. “I am living on the best that the country affords. Our mess is composed of six men. We have a niger [sic] cook. Mr. Stone & myself tent together in No. A tent -- plenty of room & everything is lovely as the boys say. You stated that you had written several letters to me & had not received an answer. I have answered every letter that I have received from you. I have been somewhat negligent this time on account of business & the moving of the [ambulance] park.”

The Regiment reported Church as absent sick or wounded in the hospital in late November through July of 1863, but in fact he was still serving with the ambulance corps.

I am still in the ambulance corps [Charles wrote on November 25, 1862]. Yesterday I rode down to the Rappahannock [River] in company with one of the sergeants & viewed the rebs on the bank opposite side of the river. Our guns are in position on the bank of the river -- ready to open on the city at any moment. Our boys have great times a cracking jokes with the rebs. We have had a long & very crooked march. Today there was a review of our Division by General Hooker. We are about to draw twelve days’ of rations etc. Expect there will be something done before they are destroyed. There is a great deal of work to be done in building bridges & repariing [the] railroad. I suppose the Black Abolition[ist]s are in high glee since McClellan has been removed & the soldiers mourn the loss of their Little Mack (their all). I am glad to hear the Democratic Majority in our county. Art [Newman] is in Georgetown hospital & as his being promoted & being such a great man is all gamon & they all can blow about me. I can take care of myself & as for old Mart, I can! I can! thrash the dung right out of him or any other coward that will lay back at home & blow. I am living on the best that the land offers & have a good A tent & everything is lovely & the Goose hangs high!

Charles was still on detached service with the ambulance corps near Falmouth, Virginia, in late December of 1862 when he wrote home to lament the recent union fiasco at Fredericksburg.

I am sorry to say that the proud and splendid Army of the Potomac is once more badly defeated, on account of poor generalship. It is horrible to see the brave men marched out on the field & slaughtered by the thousands without gaining a single point - which is the case in the battle of Fredericksburg! General Burnside may be capable of commanding two hundred thousand men, but we can’t see it! General Geo. B. McClellan we are quite sure can do it. For he has proven himself one of the most ablest generals in the U.S.A. allowing me to call this country United -- which you know how much they are United. Give the boys Little Mack & they are always ready to fight. Our division was extremely lucky. In this last slaughter the loss was very slight. The ambulance train was very busy in drawing the wounded in the different divisions. The rebs were a little rough at times on our stretcher bearers for they fired on us several times while we were out on the front after the wounded. They wounded one of our stretcher bearers & drove the rest into a ditch.”

The following morning, December 30, he wrote that “we received marching orders & where we are a going is more than we know but I presume the orders is on to Richmond! We are now in splendid quarters & as for me I have abundance to eat & am happy as a man can wish for s soldier. Last night I drew flour, potatoes, onions etc. for the boys from the commissary.”

From Camp Pitcher, Virginia, near Falmouth, Church wrote to his father on February 1, 1863 that he was well “as usual” and that they have gotten themselves “cleaned up again after the great stuck-in-the-mud movement. The ambulance corps had quite an easy time on the last move. We all got back with the exception of one poor horse which we left stuck in the mud. We received orders today to be ready to move tomorrow but the move is for wood. The wood is played out around here. I think we will move down near Belle Plain, eight miles.”

On February 24, still at Camp Pitcher, he wrote that the weather is “the coldest I have very witnessed in this state. It commenced snowing on the 21st inst. & ended on the 22nd leaving about one foot of snow which is very rough for this country & more so for the poor soldier that [sic] cannot get but a little wood. Wood is very scarce here. They have to use fine brush etc. The soldiers are getting good rations now. They get soft bread every other day & flour in between which is still better for the boys are all good on the pancake bake & when the soldiers all get home they can show the woman how to get a quick & cheap breakfast. Two hardtack & a little warm coffee is a soldier’s meal.” On March 30, Church wrote to his parents that he was still with the ambulance corps of the Third Brigade, camped at Camp Pitcher, and that he eagerly awaited the order to move out on the spring campaign. “I was glad to hear the order read to the Regt for the officers to have their loose baggage sent away & their marching load should not be over twenty pounds. Pack mules are to be used in the Regt instead of wagons & it looks [as] if we would soon have something to do.” But in the meantime,

To kill time there has been two great days of sporting in the way of running horses, foot races etc. The first was over at the Irish Brigade on St. Patrick’s Day, where all the sporting men turned out to help celebrate the great day. There was several races run. One race [was] for a thousand dollars. They run a hurdle race a mile circle with three ditches & through hedges to jump. The Colonel of the Seventh N.Y. Vol. won the money. The last great hurdle race was got up by our division a fun days since & it was a day of sport. There was [sic] two races run by the horses in the ambulance trane [sic] won both races & had a gay feast on oysters. My little horse runs quite sharp for the Army. The casualties in the Great Sporting was two men killed & several hurt. Horses 4 killed & several injured. All to the expense of Uncle Sam.

On May 20, Church wrote to his father for the past few days he had been busy engaged “transporting the wounded from U.S. Ford to the railroad” and that it was very tedious work. “They had laid on the battlefield until they were nearly dead & fly-blown & maggotty. A great many of the poor wounded were burnt to death on the field. The woods caught fire from the bursting of shells.” But they were “now in our old camp & a good prospect of remaining here for a spell. Troops are leaving for home every day & soon this will be a very small army unless soon reinforced up. As far as news you get it all & more too in the papers & so I will close by stating that the ambulance corps is in a flourishing condition & I never enjoyed myself better.” Regarding the “defeat” at Chancellorsville on May 3, “As for this last defeat they lay it all to the Dutch [German soldiers of the] 11th Army corps. They run like sheep, but still they this Army wants Geo. B. McClellan.”

By early August Church was back with the Regiment. On August 9 he wrote home that

We have done some gay old marching since we left the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, up to this point on the Rappahannock six miles from Warrenton (South) at the noted Sulphur Springs which has been a great summer’s report for the gay & festive ones. There has been a great many thousands dollars laid out in buildings. One building for sleeping purposes supported five hundred beds. The principal building was two hundred feet in length -- large pillows [?] one side fifty feet high & from that smaller one flanked out to the right & left in a half circle. Nearly encircles the springs & in that circle is nearly an acre of ground which is a splendid grove. . . . The water is said to be very cleansing to the human system. If so, which I cannot doubt will be highly beneficial to the Division, for most of the men partake freely. The water tastes very pleasant but O, God! how it smells (rather stinks) -- two skunks in one hole well punched up is no comparison.”

Regarding the new draft he was rather shocked at the recent behavior of the New York City mobs, Charles wrote home

There is a prospect of our remaining here some time & wait the movement of the draft & so we deem it prudent to build us good summer quarters which are all nearly finished. There has [sic] been several old Regts sent from the 3rd Corps to keep the New York mob down which they are bound to do. There seems to be a great deal of trouble with the draft. I cannot see why they attempt to resist the draft as long as they have got to come out -- why not come along like men & see the show out. Those cowardly pups ought to have General [Daniel] Sickles & the old Third Corps to deal out a few rations which were given them to deal to the rebs [presumably at Gettysburg where Sickles lost a leg]. They would willingly spare a few rounds at present. The longer they lay back -- the harder it is for the old soldiers that are anxious to end this war & get home & enjoy the luxuries of life etc. And there will be no peace or comfort until the south is thoroughly whipped out & that is as sure to be as the sun rises, or rather the world revolves.

The Third Michigan was in fact one of those regiments detailed “to keep the mob down” and by the first of September the Regiment was in Troy, New York to provide security for the draft. As for Church, on September 5 he wrote that he “never enjoyed myself better. We have done everything that [the] heart can wish for & our boys have really fell [sic] in love with the people of Troy. Our camp is thronged with the citizens day & night. The boys are hourly invited to take dinner or tea with them. We are quartered at the Courthouse in the center of the city.” New York City, on the other hand, “was the roughest place that we have visited since the war. We were there nearly ten days -- so we got some idea of the city.”

A month later the Regiment was back in its old haunts near Culpeper, Virginia. Apparently Charles had been scolded by his father for not writing often enough. “You seem to have but little confidence in my regards for home & parents. You are greatly mistaken & are laboring in a fog & as I have told you before & I will state it again I answer each & every letter I received from you. You must remember that many a soldier is disappointed by not getting lost mail.” In any case, he went on to say that the “”great excitement here now is enlisting in the Veteran Corps [i.e., reenlisting]. Our Regt are [sic] nearly all a going for it [not so]. They have the privilege of going home to reorganize which will take 8 or 9 months & stand a chance to be formed into cavalry as a Regt [not so]; I would like three years more in cavalry first rate.”

From Bealton Station, Virginia, Church wrote home on November 2 that his “health has not been very good for the past 4 weeks. I have had quite sore lungs. My weight is 160 pounds now - rather light for me.” He also lamented the continued marching. “We have had a long & rough march. We stop[ped] Thursday in a place & then up in the night as soon as day & off, but I think we will soon come to a stand on the Rappahannock.” In any case, what was important was that he was “with the company & fare very well. Tell mother she need not be troubled about my reenlisting without I can make a big thing of it & there is no sight at present & the old Third is past reenlisting & the most of them think of being sweet home again. [Earlier Church thought differently; see his letter of October 6.] . . . .Everything is quiet at present. They have got the railroad up to Warrenton Junction. Our Corps has had a large detail of men from each brigade to work on the road but soldiers’ work does not amount to much. To pass away time we are called out occasionally to witness the shooting of some poor soldier that has tried his skill in running etc.”

Army life seemed to agree with Charles.

On November 22, he wrote from Brandy Station “as far as character is concerned -- I am ten times better a man that I ever was before this war & it is the best school I ever attended and therefore the people need not be troubled about my welfare & as far as such animals [women?] to write to -- I can find enough in Alexandria without sending to Michigan”. He was also feeling “better now than I have been for several weeks & feel as well as ever. The weather for the last 24 hours has been very rainy & this morning it cleared up & today is a very pleasant day. The indications are now that we will soon move for the enemy. This morning there was an order read to us that we should only carry 5 days’ rations instead of eight which creates quite a good feeling amongst the soldiers.”

Church reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia (no credit being officially reported for the reenlistment) and in January 1864, went home on veterans’ furlough along with the rest of the reenlistees.

On February 11 Charles wrote home that he returned to the Regiment on February 6 and “the roar of cannon & musket firing was plain to be heard. When I got to camp my Brigade were [sic] out to the front & so I went to a farmer’s house & turned in for the night. The Brigade got back on the 7th without seeing the Johnnies but the 2nd Corps found a few as you see by the papers. I am busy at present in building a cabin. We expect the three companies that went home as organized company back immediately & then the thing will run much better.” He added that he was acting Sergeant Major, “as usual” and that while on his way back to the Regiment from Michigan he laid over “in Detroit & got my state bounty & I see that there has been an order granting all veterans the local bounties & I wish you would look to my bounty.”

Throughout February and March Church sought to have his reenlistment credit changed so that he could gain a larger bounty. Indeed, the bounty credit continued to plague him. On March 18 Charles wrote his father “I received your letter stating that local bounties were play[ed] out in Lansing & have neglected answering for the reason that the Colonel sent a request to the Provost Marshal in Washington to have company G taken off of the credit of Lansing & let us assign ourselves to the different towns & cities to suit ourselves & I have been waiting for him to get an answer but it takes so long I thought I would write. You seem to think that I had the power of crediting myself but the Colonel took that privilege away from us entirely & thought he was doing a fine thing for us. If he gets our credit changed I will send you a new certificate on some other locality.” He added that on March 16 “our corps had a splendid review. Today our brigade had a drill. Colonel Pierce, our Colonel, is commanding of the brigade. I am quite busy lately in assisting the Adjutant. I have the consolidated morning report to make our every morning. We have orders tonight to be ready to march at a moment’s notice for the Johnnies are crossing the Rapidan [River].”

By the end of March Charles had at last gotten his bounty changed and was now trying to get it credited in the Fourth Ward, Ann Arbor. Meanwhile in Virginia, he wrote on March 30, “Times are a rather dull at present here & wet & cold. Last week we had ten inches depth of snow & the mountains are covered with snow now.”

On May 1, Charles informed his father that he was well. “The weather is very fine. General [Ambrose] Burnside has come up with his Corps & relieved the 5th Corps on the railroad. It has been quite dark here since Burnside came here with his Black Division. I received a letter from Sarah with a few lines in a half sheet.” He was still wrangling with the bounty credit problem, however. “I have sent my certificate to Lawson H. Watkins to have him see what he can do with it. I understand that the bounty is fifty dollars down & the balance in a bond of one hundred dollars. I have requested him to send you the bounty & have the bond run to you.” Like the dutiful son he was, he also enclosed “twenty dollars. I would send you fifty if I had not lent the Lieutenant Colonel thirty dollars. I think that we will soon go for the Johnnies. If I have good luck -- I will send home money enough to buy me a small drove of hogs & go to packing pork.” It was the last time his family heard from Charles. He was killed in action on May 6, 1864 during the battle of the Wilderness, Virginia,

One of Church’s comrades in Company G, Edgar Clark wrote on May 20, 1864, to Church’s father, describing Charles’ last moments.

Our Regiment went on a charge May 6th and after going until the rebels shot fell thick and fast all around. We fell back and to our surprise he did not fall back with us. We charged and drove them 2 miles and when we were forced to fall back he was in advance of the Regiment standing behind a big tree and we fell back and he followed the Regiment and in doing so probably was killed as a good many of the Regiment fared the same fate. There was a skirmish line ahead of all and they say that they saw him laying dead and one in the Fifth Mich [infantry] who are with us say they helped bury him. Some of our Regiment saw him and they say he was wounded in the bowels and fell back a short ways but was compelled to give up. The johhnies soon held the ground that we had gained and all that he had with him fell into the enemy's hands. Our Regiment with you mourn his loss for he was a good soldier and a brave man. The Captain of the company will officially inform you when circumstances will admit and will inform you of the circumstances connected with his decease. Any information you wish to make will be immediately communicated to you by me. We have lost two thirds of our Regiment since we left on this campaign. Many brave officers and men have been killed. We mourn their loss.

His body was never recovered and he was presumably one of the many unknown dead buried in the Wilderness and Spotsylvania battlefields.

Captain D. C. Crawford of Company G, after having returned home to Lyons upon his release from the service, wrote to Mr. Church on June 17, that “all hope is lost that your son Chas was killed on the 8th day of May at Wilderness, Va. I have waited in hopes that I was mistaken but I think there is no doubt of his death. He had gone ahead of the Regiment to the skirmish line, and was shot just as we received an order to fall back. We had been out to feel of the enemy's works and was within 15 rods of them when he was hit and could not be got off the field. I shall make the proper releases this week so that you can get his back pay and bounty.”

This was confirmed when Charles’ father received a reply from one of his comrades, E. W. Marsh, who was in Harewood hospital in Washington when he wrote on July 2, 1864, that indeed “Your son was killed the 8th of May in the Wilderness as Captain Crawford stated and I don’t know nor correspond with anyone by the name of Brennon. . . . If you see the Brennons [?] please ask them why they started any such thing in my name as it is not agreeable to me to have anyone at home think I would tell anyone what I did not know myself and if your son had been hurt I should have written to you as soon as I had learned his whereabouts. He was Sergeant Major of the Regt and was one of my best friends.”

In about 1897 Charles’ younger brother James (b. 1859) and sister Emma applied for pensions (no 649,588), but their applications were rejected and certificates never granted.