A Civil War Incident in the life of Charles Coleman
Note: Sarah Andrus is the sister of Charley Coleman who along with his brother, Milton, were the first peace officers to die in the state of Wisconsin. This document was written by Sarah 25 years after it occurred (so was written in approximately 1887) and represents the sights, sounds, and emotions of a very important time in our country's and our area's history.
In looking over some old letters, and papers that had been laid away, and forgotten for over a quarter of a century, my mind was carried back to an experience I had during the Civil War, which I have been requested to relate. At the time of the breaking out of the Rebellion, I was living with my parents at Maxville Wisconsin. The country was new, and as yet there had been no regiment formed in our section, but the Presidents call for seventy-five thousand volunteers aroused the patriotism of five boys in our midst. Namely Gilbert Dowd, Irvine Clark, Jackson E. Webster, John Doughty, my cousin, and my brother Charles Coleman, all of whom, except Gilbert Dowd, were mere boys. It is of my brother Charles that I wish particularly to speak.
In looking back it seems but yesterday that we were all at home, Father, Mother, brothers, and sisters, with a group of sympathizing friends who had dropped in to bid the boys goodbye. The boys had suddenly attained to the dignity of United States soldiers, and were looked upon by the little assemblage as heroes. I am inclined to think that they took the same view of themselves. Charles in particular looked fully an inch taller as he straightened himself up and marched about the place for days beforehand with what was intended to be a soldierly bearing. He was of an ardent, enthusiastic temperament, and with the help of his two younger brothers finally obtained our parents permission to enlist, for he would not go without their consent.
When the time came to part I told him if he should be sick, or wounded to let me know, and I would come to him. The boys went to Wyocena where they enlisted in the 10th Wisconsin Volunteers, Co. D, and were known as the five Methodist boys. We only received mail twice a week in those days, and that was by stage. As the days went by, we looked forward with feverish anxiety to mail day. Very often a flying rumor would reach us of some desperate battle in which the 10th was engaged, and always badly cut up.
However the 10th, aside from some skirmishes, was not engaged in battle until Oct. 8th 1862 at Perryville Ky. No definite news of the battle reached us until three weeks after. Some one sent us a paper containing a list of killed and wounded, among them was "Charles Coleman, seriously, and perhaps fatally wounded in the head". (In the picture to the right you will see a reenactment of the Battle of Perryville KY.)
Those of you who have passed through a similar life experience can well imagine how our faces blanched as each in turn examined the list, and read over and over the fearful words. We sat around the old fireplace until far into the night, and when father in broken accents committed the absent one to the care of our Heavenly Father at the family alter, the burden of each heart was "Lord bless Charlie, and bring him safely home". We retired, but not to sleep. At an early hour the whole household was astir. In the meantime I could stand the suspense no longer, and determined to go in search of my brother. Contrary to my expectations my parents did not seriously object, so before noon on that day I was on my way. Father brought me to Durand, where I took a boat for Wabasha, from there to La Crosse, where I was obliged to stay over night. From La Crosse I took the cars (train) to Minnesota Junction, changed cars there for Chicago, and from there to Michigan City, where I changed cars for La Fayette Indiana. From there to Louisville which place I reached on Friday evening, and stayed at the Louisville hotel. On leaving Durand Mr. Theodore Lewton had kindly given me a letter of introduction to his Uncle Mr. Graham a resident of Louisville. Not finding him at home, I left the letter, and my card, and began my search among the hospitals for my Brother.
At hospital number seven I found Gilbert Dowd, who had been wounded in the arm at the battle of Perryville. On seeing him I looked around anxiously, and said "Oh where is Charles? To reassure me he laughed, and said "Charlie's all right I saw him after he was wounded carrying water to the soldiers. No doubt he is with his regiment now." After talking for a while I returned to the hotel. That evening Mr. Graham called, kindly offering to assist me in any way he could. The next morning I again called upon Gilbert Dowd, and was again assured that Charles was not seriously injured, and was probably with his regiment. In the afternoon Mr. Graham with his wife, and daughter took me out for a drive. In view of the difficulties that stood in the way Mr. Graham advised me to return without trying to see my brother.
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By: Sarah Jane Coleman Andrus