May 22, 2012

Charles Doty, Union Soldier

My great-grandfather, George Washington Doty,
son of Joseph and Sarah True Doty, had five siblings:
Emeline, born 1840, died 1903
Sarah, born 1842, died 1921
William True, born 1845, died 1918
Charles, born 1846, died 1865
George Washington, born 1848, died 1910
Helen Maria, born 1850

Charles Doty was the second son and fourth child of Joseph and Sarah Doty, born on August 25, 1846 at the homestead.   In the 1850 and 1860 census, he was shown living with his parents in Raisinville Township, Michigan. 

In August 1864, Charles turned 18 and he wasted no time before enlisting in the Union cause.  On September 26, 1864, he went to Monroe and enlisted as a private in the Michigan 18th Infantry Regiment, Company B. 
This regiment had organized originally at Hillsdale on July 2, 1862 when a call for 300,000 men went out from President Lincoln after McClellan's defeats.  Michigan was to supply over 11,000 of those men.  The ranks were quickly filled and the regiment left the state on September 18, 1862 for a one year term.

Charles caught up to his regiment about October 11, 1864 near Decatur, Alabama.  The regiment was trying to capture enemy trains in that region and they were pursuing any Confederates who tried to stop them.  They defended Decatur successfully against General Hood and were officially stationed there on November 1, 1864 under the command of Major Hubbard.  On November 25, they left Decatur, marching along the railroad line about eighty miles to Stevenson where they built fortifications, remaining there until December 19, 1864.  They were then ordered back to Decatur where they stayed doing garrison duty until January 11, 1865 when the regiment proceeded by train to Huntsville for post duty.

Charles served through the winter, but fell ill and died February 28, 1865.  I've often read that disease was the biggest killer of the war because so little was known about treatment and how infections spread.  Usually the cause was intestinal diseases like dysentry or diarrhea, but then pneumonia and tuberculosis also were prevalant.  Sanitary conditions were poor in the camps and diseases spread quickly and lethally.  The 18th Michigan Infantry with 1372 men enrolled lost 297 to disease and 11 that were killed in action/wounded in action, so the unit was a perfect example of how disease could affect a regiment.  (Read more about the 18th Michigan Infantry here.)

How long did it take the news of Charles' death to travel back to Michigan to his parents and siblings?  So far, I have not been able to find any notice of his death in the newspaper, an obituary, a death certificate or even his burial place.  My guess is that he was buried quickly near Huntsville and perhaps his grave is unmarked. He does not appear on any national cemetery databases.  I wonder if a photo of him rests in the elusive Doty Bible, last seen in Toledo, Ohio and now missing from the family?

The rest of his regiment spent until April 1865 in Huntsville and then went to Nashville where they were mustered out in June 1865.
Charles Doty, a patriotic eighteen year old soldier, son and brother, was undoubtedly left behind.

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