Friday, February 24, 2023

Sergeant Charles Mount, 20th Ohio Infantry

I have looked at this empty envelope before because it was addressed to Camp King, which was a recruiting center for Civil War soldiers in nearby Covington. Many soldiers enlisted and/or mustered in at the camp near the Kentucky Central Railroad, including numerous ones I have researched.

For some reason, I had never paid attention to the soldier’s name on the envelope, but I am correcting that oversight now with this look at the short life - and much shorter military career - of Charles Mount, a volunteer in the 20th Ohio Infantry regiment.

Charles Green McChesney Mount was born November 9, 1825 in Highstown, New Jersey to parents Hezekiah and Charity Mount. He had eight siblings, including sisters Jane and Catherine, whose names are written on the envelope, likely having sent this to him from Davenport Centre, New York in January 1862. (The envelope is addressed to the care of Captain Elisha Hyatt of company A instead of Charles’ company I, so perhaps Hyatt’s unit was in charge of receiving and distributing the regiment’s mail at Camp King at the time. Another possibility is “missent” means it went to the wrong company.)

On April 23, 1850 Charles married Phebe Roberts in Knox County, Ohio, and in the same year they lived there as boarders. He found employment as a house joiner in the construction industry. 

By 1860, he worked as a carpenter and his family, now including four children, still lived in the same county.

On November 20, 1861, he enlisted as a private in company I of the 20th Ohio in Fredericktown in Knox County, and received a promotion to 1st sergeant on March 10 of the following year.

The 20th Ohio had organized at Camp King per Ohio Civil War Central or, more likely, at Columbus, Ohio, according to  the National Park Service  which reports the unit organized on September 21, then “moved to Camp King near Covington Ky., and mustered in October 21,” meaning it basically came together at both places. (Covington is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, so the location does makes sense despite being in another state.)

Camp King

It had originally been a three-month unit, but had now reformed for a three-year term, which was the standard for most Union regiments by this time.

The Ohio Civil War Central website linked previously provides more details on the regiment’s movements while Charles served under its banner.

The regiment’s colonel, Charles Whittlesey, “was a graduate of West Point, an engineer, and a geologist and supervised the erection of defenses around Cincinnati, Ohio.” One of those defensive positions, Fort Whittlesey, in what is modern-day Fort Thomas, Kentucky, was named in his honor. (Fort Thomas was itself a United States military installation that was named to recognize another Civil War soldier - General George H. Thomas.) 

Fort Whittlesey

Through early 1862 this regiment “principally guarded batteries in the vicinity of Covington and Newport, Kentucky.” (Newport was across the Licking River from Covington and Camp King, and near what became the city of Fort Thomas.) These batteries were among the defenses of Cincinnati, a key Union supply city during the war. In September of 1862, after the 20th Ohio had left, these defenses became important during the scare known as the “Siege of Cincinnati.”

Some men of the 20th Ohio traveled a short way south to handle troubles arising in Warsaw, Kentucky in late 1861, as discussed here and here.  

The regiment headed to northern Tennessee, where, in February of 1862 it came under fire from Confederate forces even while remaining in reserve at the Battle of Fort Donelson. It then remained in Tennessee and fought in the second day of the Battle of Shiloh on April 7. It was still in that area in May when Charles went home on furlough due to his health. 

Phoebe’s widow’s pension file provides more details on the timeline and Charles’ condition. 

In early February of 1862, he left the army, having received a furlough to go home to recover from a fever. At that time, he likely carried all his personal possessions, including this envelope and its contents, home with him. He likely missed the- Fort Donelson adventure. 

Dr. Thomas Potter, who had been Charles’ family doctor, cared for him, and the treatment worked, allowing Charles to return to his regiment.

A few weeks later, however, he fell sick again, and on May 21 received a twenty-day furlough to return home.

The doctor’s statement reports that Charles was now suffering from a disease of gastro enteric character with bilious complications, (i.e. a sick stomach  and/or intestines, with nausea and/or vomiting). The doctor gave him an unnamed “usual treatment” for such an illness, but without much success.

He received a twenty-day extension to his furlough on July 21, along with the continued expectation that he would return to his unit - still at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee as of the date of the extension - within the allotted time.

Charles did not improve and was eventually discharged from the army due to disability on August 25, 1862. His discharge certificate, signed at Camp Case in Columbus, Ohio, described his condition as a “habitual debility of constitution caused by disproportionate organization of body. He will never be able to do the duties of a soldier.”

Dr. Potter pointed out that Charles had never suffered from that intestinal illness before. He was “laboring under said disease when he was discharged, contracted in the service.” 

“Other credible witnesses swear to his good health prior to enlistment.”

After his discharge, Charles “lived & lingered along for about a year, sometimes worse & sometimes better,” before his condition deteriorated at the end of August 1863.

The physician believed that the sickness was not “induced or aggravated by the personal habits of the soldier” as Charles was “of good moral temperate habits.” 

Charles passed away on September 3, at his home in Fredericktown and was buried in Knox County’s Forest Cemetery.

Phebe received a pension of $8 per month, plus an additional $2 for each of her five children - including the youngest, a son named Elliot, born on June 24, 1862 as Charles was possibly still at home on furlough - until they reached age 16. memorial # 77289988

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