CHARLES GLEASMAN, A CIVIL WAR SOLDIER’S LETTER
Charles J. Gleasman was born in 1843 in the Town of Ava, Oneida County, New York and was a son of German immigrants Johan Valentine and Johannah Buttinger Gleasman. He spent his early years working on the family farm and learning the trade of carpenter.
When the Civil War began Charles’ two uncles, George and Gottfried Gleasman, of Ava quickly enlisted with the 97th New York Infantry. The fire of patriotism burned within Charles and he, too, sought to enlist. Eagerly he asked his father for permission to enlist and was refused as his father considered him too young to serve and he needed Charles to help work the family farm. It has been handed down in family lore that Charles pestered his father about enlisting. Either Valentine reluctantly agreed to let Charles enlist or Charles enlisted without his father’s permission. His enlistment papers give a clue that Charles enlisted without his father’s permission.
On 9 August 1862 Charles Gleasman enlisted as a Private in Company “H”, 117th New York Volunteers. According to his enlistment papers, Charles stated his age as 21 when, in reality, he was 19. Other statistics from his enlistment papers stated “Charlie” was five feet, seven inches tall, had a dark complexion, dark hair and blue eyes. His trade was listed as a carpenter. (If he had had his father’s permission, there would have been no need for Charles to lie his age.)
The following letter, written by “Charlie”, was received by his older brother David S. Gleasman of Ava, New York on 2 December 1862. It is the only letter written by “Charlie” to survive through time. (Verbatim)
Heads quarter of 117th regiment, Camp Morris
Dear Brother David,
I take the liberty to write
to you a few lines to inform you that I am yet in good health and feel very
well. I will also let you know that I received your letter last night. I
was very glad to hear from you. You wanted to know how I get along. I
get along very well and most generally have enough to eat. Sometimes
we are short for one day or so but not very often.
There is great disease in our regiment. Most of our regiment have the yellow fever or the jaundice. They are very sick but I have not had it yet. We are now in Maryland. One expects to be called in the battlefield before long. They are preparing for a battle. The hardest battle that ever was since the war commenced. Perhaps it will be the last one. But it is doubtful. There are 100,000 on the rebel side and 150,000 on our side. It is only 20 miles from here where it will take place. It is in Fredericksburg. If our folks will take that then we are all sound. The Five Oneida is there. They will soon be in the fire. I hope we will go there soon. We are not afraid to fight.
Our folks are in a line of battle in Fredericksburg. They are eight men deep and the line is ten miles long. So you can judge what a force we have got. It will probably take place in eight or ten days.
You wanted to know what kind of food we get. We have bread and meat and coffee and rice and beans. But we are short sometimes. The weather here is cool and rainy and very windy. We see nothing here but heaven and soldiers. Last Sunday there were 10,000 men of cavalry went by here. I wish you could see the cannon fired. We have got to build forts here. But we don’t work very fast. We expect to get paid this week or next. And then I will send some money home.
News I don’t know very much at this present. I will write you more news next time. When you get this letter, read, give it to Godfrey. I should write to you before but I didn’t have any paper. I had to beg this sheet and I won’t get a chance to buy any. I am hoped to hear from you very soon.
My best respects to you,
be sure and put the directions on just
as it is here.
c/o Capt. A. R. Stevens
Washington, D. C.
Charles J. Gleasman was wounded in action in the “front of Richmond” on 29 September 1864. Official records listed it as a gun shot wound of the left leg. Charles’ leg was amputated sometime in October 1864. After surviving the surgery “Charlie” died from a sudden hemorrhage at the amputation site on 19 October 1864. He was buried in Section A, Grave Number 3820, in the National Cemetery on the grounds of Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia.
Thus, Johan Valentine Gleasman lost his son Charles, his brothers George and Gottfried in the Civil War. All three men were eager to enlist to serve their country and all three died. The names Charles, George and Gottfried (Godfrey) have been repeated in succeeding Gleasman generations in honor and memory of those who were, indeed, patriots.
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