Charles Stark

Charles Stark was born on January 8, 1837, in Champlain, Clinton County, New York, the son of Reuben (b. 1797-1877) and Mary (Gentile).

Vermonter Reuben married Mary around 1821, possibly in New York. In any case they soon settled in Clinton count, New York where they lived for many years. Indeed, Reuben was living in Champlain, New York in 1830 and in 1840. Reuben moved his family to Michigan and by 1860 Reuben was living in Wright, Ottawa County and Charles was working as a farm laborer and living with his two older brothers (James and Hiram) and their families in Tallmadge, Ottawa County.

Charles stood 6’0” with gray eyes, brown and a light complexion and was 24 years old and residing in Lamont, Ottawa County when he enlisted as Eighth Corporal in Company B on May 13, 1861. Charles was appointed Sergeant on January 1, 1862, and was present for duty through the end of the year. During the battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, Starks was color bearer for the Regiment. “While we were in company formation,” wrote Ezra Ransom, also of Company B, in 1917, “ready to do our ‘bit’, Charley Starks, color bearer, again showed the white feather by pleading sick, advancing to the front of the line he told the Colonel -- who was a short distance in front -- ‘Colonel I am sick & can’t bear the colors in battle’. The Colonel called for a volunteer & I who had often taken Starks place before, stepped through the line from the rear. . . . ‘I’ll take them Col’. ‘Starks you may take that man’s gun & get into the ranks, this [h]as occurred too often’ or words to that effect.”

For reasons unknown Charles was reduced to the rank of private on December 13, 1862, probably as a consequence of a regimental court martial, and shortly afterwards was on detached service as a teamster with the Brigade. He was treated briefly for diarrhea from January 1 to 5, 1863, but soon recovered and returned to duty.

He was probably a teamster detached to the ammunition train in February of 1863, was reported at Brigade headquarters in March, and was serving with the Brigade ammunition train from April through July. In October he was at First Division headquarters, and a teamster in First Division from November of 1863 through January of 1864. Charles was at Brandy Station, Virginia, working as a teamster in the First division, Third Corps ammunition train in late December of 1864 when he wrote home, presumably to his cousin Reuben Randall who had been discharged two years earlier from the Third Michigan.

I guess you began to think I have forgotten you entirely but I believe I have a faint recollection of seeing you. Well I am about as healthy as I have been since I left home. We are having very easy times at present. We have inspection every Sunday. I saw Ben Curtis [from Tallmadge, Ottawa County and in the Fifth Michigan cavalry] and Lou a short time ago. If I can get time I shall go and see them this week. We have had a very warm winter so far – not very little snow or rain. The roads are quite dry. I think the army will soon strike out again for parts unknown but you will soon hear where we are after we start.

Well I suppose you are having a good time these months and a few days and I will begin to have a good time if I am alive and well at that time. I suppose those old veterans cut a big swell while they were at home. That big bounty was a big thing but I could not see the point this time. My eyes are getting so I can’t see so quick as I could when I enlisted.

Abe [Palmer] is driving here in the same train that I am in. he is all right. Abe and I have some pretty good times if we are in the army.

I will have to hurry this to a close. Give my best wishes to all the girls and some of the married women.

He was a teamster in the Brigade wagon train from February through April, in the ammunition train in May, and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864, at Detroit.

Charles married English-born Mary Alice Smedley (b. 1845) in New Boyton, Pennsylvania, on February 20, 1865, and they had at least two children: Frank Sidney (b. 1866) and Bertha (b. 1870).

After his discharge from the army, Charles may have returned to Michigan, or he may have lived briefly in Pennsylvania; he was apparently in Ohio in 1866 when his son was born. In any case, he did eventually return to his family home in Ottawa County and by 1870 he was working as a farmer (he owned $3000 worth of real estate) and living with his wife and children in Wright, Ottawa County. (His parents still lived in Wright in 1870.)

He lived in Ottawa County until about 1876 when he moved to Dubuque, Iowa where he lived for about eight years. In 1880 he was working as an engineer and living with his wife and son in Dubuque. In about 1884 he moved to Kansas where he lived for about two years and eventually moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By 1890 was a resident of the Northwestern branch of the National Military Home in Milwaukee. Charles and Mary were divorced in 1891, and apparently Mary was living in Chicago.

According to her testimony Charles deserted her sometime around 1899 and never returned. In any case, he was still living at the National Home in 1897 and 1898 but eventually returned to Michigan., probably to Cedar Springs.

He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, a Protestant. In 1891 he applied for and received pension no. 985,856, drawing $6.00 in 1900, and $15.00 by 1907.

Charles entered the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 3420) on July 16, 1900, and listed himself as a single man. He was discharged several years later, and was apparently back at the National Home in Milwaukee in 1892 and 1905. In any case, he was probably living in Cedar Springs, Kent County when he reentered the home on September 18, 1908, and was dropped on September 24, 1910, returning to his residence in Cedar Springs where he was living at no. 33 R.F.D in 1907, 1909, 1911 and 1912; indeed, he probably split his residence between the Home and Cedar Springs .

He was apparently being taken care of by one Eva Fitzsimmons when he died of cancer of the gall duct in Solon Township, Kent County on September 13, 1912. Charles was buried at Solon cemetery.