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Glimpses of Soldiers' Lives: Private Charles Osgood

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Private Charles H. Osgood of Company C, 16th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment
Private Charles H. Osgood of Company C, 16th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment

Though Charles Osgood long outlived the American Civil War, his story with the Union army shows the War's lasting impact on its veterans.

Osgood enlisted at Concord, New Hampshire on October 18th, 1862. He was 19 years old at the time. He joined the 16th New Hampshire Infantry, which was the second regiment to be formed after President Abraham Lincoln called for additional volunteers to serve for nine months. Though it included many young men like Osgood, the majority of its members were of middle age, and a significant number were older.

At the start of the war, Osgood was lucky. The regiment traveled by foot, train and steamer to New York, but was then divided. Osgood's C Company, along with two others, were assigned to stay in New York, while the rest of the regiment's companies were ordered onboard the Eastern Queen a small Boston-to-Bangor steamer never intended to make an ocean voyage. "Much doubt of its seaworthiness was expressed," remarked Daniel E. Howard, the regiment's Captain, in his report.

It is difficult to imagine how miserable the voyage must have been for those soldiers. The Eastern Queen faced rough seas and harsh storms, and became so damaged that it was forced to come ashore for repairs before continuing the journey.

Bombardment of Port Hudson by Admiral Farragut's fleet
Bombardment of Port Hudson by Admiral Farragut's fleet... Illustration in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1863 June 27.

After about two weeks in New York, Osgood and the other soldiers excluded from the torment of the Eastern Queen boarded another steamer, the Mississippi. In the words of Howard, who was also able to avoid the first trip, they were given "very commodious quarters" and experienced a "very pleasant" passage.

The pleasantness continued for a few weeks. The regiment expected to join a battle, but it was decided their aid was not needed. The soldiers were paid at the end of January, and could use their earnings to "learn for the first time what a real orange was."

Cyprus swamp on the Opelousas Railroad, Louisiana
Cyprus swamp on the Opelousas Railroad, Louisiana. Illustration from a sketch by A.R. Waud, in Harper's weekly, 1866 Dec. 8.

In March the regiment witnessed the siege of Port Hudson, including the explosion of the commodious Mississippi's magazine. It then withstood a "Mud March" across the Louisiana swamps, fording waist-deep streams and foregoing sleep almost entirely. The regiment aided in a prolonged attack on Fort Burton, going six weeks with no water but the swamps' overflow. Many of the regiment joined in the final successful attack on Port Hudson come July. Finally, the regiment marched the long route home, arriving in late August.

Osgood married Fannie Weston in June of 1865 and settled back in Milford, New Hampshire. But the atmosphere of Louisiana, and the hardships of the swamp sieges, would continue to plague him. In 1891, at age 48, he filed a pension request, explaining that he was "unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of 'General malarial poisoning' (contracted in the miasmatic climate of Louisiana, while in the service and in line of duty) and sequential disabilities." A doctor's report dated later that year describes him as having a spell "nearly every month for the last 12 years."

Over the next decade, Osgood's documents show his deteriorating health and increasing pension requests. In 1901, the examining doctor deemed him "totally and permanently disabled for the performance of any manual or light work." But he and Fannie, in her words, "struggled along" with their poor health. They had been married for over 61 years when Osgood died, on March 14th, 1926.


"16th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment (Union)" The American Civil War Research Database. External link
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Compiled by: Ann Tyler Moses, Liljenquist Family Fellow, 2012. Last updated 2012 July.
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  November 8, 2012
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