Pvt. Charles H. Demarest, U.S. Army


USflagPvt. Charles H. DemarestUSflag


United States Army

Private, Co. C, 19th Mich. Inf., Aug. 7, 1862 - June 10, 1863


Private Charles Henry Demarest (b. June 27, 1842 near BroadaIbin , Fulton County , N.Y.) was the oldest of 3 sons of William W. Demarest (b. 1813 d. 1894) and Lydia Steenburgh Demarest (b. 1822 - d. 1882) of Girard, Branch County, Michigan to serve in the United States Army during the American Civil War. Charles was the nephew of Henry N. Demarest (b. 1827 - d. 1900) and Sarah Steenburgh Demarest (b. 1828 d. 1903) of Tekonsha, Michigan; he was also the first cousin of their son, James Henry Demarest (b. 1854 d. 1928) and the grandson of Nicholas P. Demarest (b. 1787) and Jane Brouwer Demarest (b. 1791).

Charles H. Demarest and his uncle, John N. Demarest (b. 1818 - d. 1863) both enlisted in Company C, 19th Mich. Inf. at Coldwater Michigan on Aug. 7, 1862 for a period of 3 years. Charles was 20 years old at the time while his Uncle John is listed as being 43 years old by service record documents (see biography of Pvt, John N. Demarest). Both men were mustered in at Dowagiac, Michigan on Sept. 5, 1862. Pvt. Charles H. Demarest was paid a $25.00 bounty for enlisting as was his Uncle John. Nephew and uncle left Dowagiac and Camp Willcox via the Michigan Central Railroad on Sept. 14, 1862 and were initially posted at Camp Hooker. near Gravel Pit, Ohio (by Cincinnati) Sept. 20 - Oct. 14, 1862 in order to defend against Confederate forces crossing the Ohio River.

The 19th Mich. Inf. then marched across the Ohio River into Covington, Kentucky and proceeded down to Florence, Crittendon, Falmouth, Cynthiana, and Paris on its way to Lexington, which it reached on Oct. 29, 1862. While posted at Lexington, the 19th Mich. Inf., 33rd Indiana Inf., 85th Indiana Inf., and 22nd Wisconsin Inf . were joined together to form the Ist Brigade (Coburn's) within the 3rd Division of the Federal Army of Kentucky; this brigade was commanded by Colonel John Coburn of Indianapolis. These 4 infantry regiments in Coburn's Brigade would see action together for the remainder of the Civil War.

The 19th Mich. Inf. was then successively posted at Nicholsville, Kentucky (Nov. 13, 1862) and Danville, Kentucky (Dec. 12, 1862) - the location of Camp Dick Robinson, recently evacuated by C.S.A. forces under General Braxton Bragg. During this time, many members of the 19th Mich. Inf. died from illness - both nephew and uncle apparently escaped serious sickness at this particular time.

Confederate General John Hunt Morgen's "Christmas Raid" of 1862 provided some excitement for Pvt. Charles Demarest and the men of the 19th Mich. Inf. as they marched in pursuit of the Confederate cavalry from Danville to Lebanon, Kentucky in bone-chilling rain on Dec. 26 -28, 1862. Coburn's Brigade was then sent to Louisville, Kentucky on Jan. 26, 1863 before being loaded onto river boats for transport down the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers to Nashville Tennessee where they arrived on Feb. 7, 1863. In Nashville, the men of the 19th Mich. Inf. exchanged their Austrian .55 caliber rifle muskets for new Enfield .577 caliber ones.

From Nashville , Tennessee , the 19th Mich . Inf . was next assigned to foraging details in the area of Brentwood, Tennessee about 10 miles south of Nashville. In early March of 1863, Coburn's Brigade was ordered to reconnoiter the Columbia Pike as far south as Spring Hill, Tennessee and forage for foodstuffs. On March 4, 1863 the 19th Mich. Inf. and the rest of Coburn's Brigade clashed with Confederate cavalry of General Earl Van Dorn just south of Franklin, Tennessee. The next day, March 5, the 2,837 men of Coburn's Brigade (including both Demarests in the 19th Mich. Inf.) were in a 5 hour battle with Van Dorn's army (about 6,000 soldiers) at the town of Thompson's Station, Tennessee.

During the battle of Thompson's Station, both Demarest nephew and uncle saw their regiment outflanked by Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest's cavalry and captured with the rest of Coburn's Brigade. Total Federal losses were 48 killed, 247 wounded, and 1,151 captured or missing; the 19th Mich. Inf. started the battle with 531 men - 20 were killed, 92 were wounded, and 419 were captured / missing by the end of the day.

Pvt. Charles Demarest and the rest of the 19th Mich. Inf. were then marched from Thompson's Station to Tullahoma, Tennessee by way of Columbia, Lewisburg, and Shelbyville - 75 miles in 6 days. On March 11, 1863 they were loaded onto open cattle cars and were railroaded through Chattanooga, Knoxville. and Greenville, Tennessee on their way to Lynchburg. Virginia, and ultimately the Confederate capitol city of Richmond, Virginia where they arrived on Mar. 21, 1863. Both Demarests were imprisoned in the infamous Libby Prison with their comrades.

In Libby Prison, the Yankee prisoners experienced swarms of lice, no heat, rotten meat (when available - mule), and Confederate guards that would shoot at POWs who stuck their heads out windows for some fresh air. Pvt. Charles H. Demarest and his uncle were released from Libby Prison on Mar. 30, 1863 or sometime during the month of April; being first repatriated at Annapolis, Maryland, then sent to Camp Chase, Ohio (near Columbus) where Charles was listed in his service records as being "sick in hospital" through June of 1863. His uncle, Pvt. John N. Demarest, had earlier died in Camp Chase on May 1.

Pvt. Charles H. Demarest is again recorded as being "sick in hospital at Camp Dennison, Ohio" for July and August of 1863. During that time, the 19th Mich. Inf. had been reorganized and reunited with the 33rd Indiana, 85th Indiana, and 22nd Wisconsin Infantry regiments in Franklin, Tennessee - thus reforming Coburn's Brigade. Pvt. Demarest rejoined the 19th Mich. Inf. in September of 1863 near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

On Oct. 4-5, 1863, the 19th Mich. Inf. skirmished with Confederate cavalry under the command of Major General Joseph Wheeler before the Federal troops were sent to McMinnville, Tennessee - arriving there on Oct. 25, 1863. At McMinnville, Pvt. Charles Demarest experienced guerrilla warfare waged by Confederate partisans and "bushwackers" - not unlike that used on United States soldiers during the Viet-Nam War a hundred years later. "Body counts" were taken daily of killed guerrilla / bushwackers and a policy of "no prisoners taken" was practiced by members of the 19th Mich. Inf. and their shadowy adversaries. Pvt. Demarest was posted in McMinnville,"winning hearts and minds" through April 21, 1864 when his regiment and Coburn' s Brigade left for Chattanooga, Tennessee to participate in General William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

The 19th Mich. Inf. reached Lookout Valley, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on April 30, 1864 to join up with General Sherman's army. Pvt. Demarest and Coburn's Brigade left Chattanooga on May 3 and camped on the Chickamauga battlefield their first night in Georgia; this was done amidst bullet-riddled trees and half-buried bodies from the previous September. May 7, the 29th Mich. Inf. confronted C.S.A. General Joseph Johnston and his Army of Tennessee at Buzzard's Roost. Georgia. At this point, Pvt. Charles Demarest became ill and was admitted to the hospital in Chattanooga. Tennessee on May 11, 1864.

Pvt. Charles Demarest is listed as "Absent" from the 19th Mich . Inf. and "sick in hospital" from May 11, 1864 through February of 1865; he was transferred from Chattanooga to a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee in september of 1864. The exact nature of his illness is not known at this time. During his absence, his comrades in the 19th Mich. Inf. engaged Confederate forces at Resaca, Cassville, New Hope Church, Golgotha, Culp's Farm, Peachtree Creek. Atlanta, and Savannah, Georgia.

According to his service records, Pvt. Demarest apparently rejoined the 19th Mich. Inf. sometime in early March of 1865 - just in time for the battles of Averysboro (Mar. 16, 1865) and Bentonville (Mar. 19, 1865) in North Carolina. Coburn's Brigade and the 19th Mich. Inf. arrived in Goldsboro, North Carolina on March 23, 1865; there General Sherman re-fit his army before cornering General Joseph Johnston's Confederate forces near Raleigh, North Carolina on April 13. The 19th Mich. Inf. and Pvt. Charles Demarest heard of General Robert E. Lee's surrender and President Lincoln's assassination while in Raleigh, North Carolina; Confederate General Johnston's Army of Tennessee was formaIly surrendered to General Sherman on April 26, 1865 - the American Civil War was finally over.

Seemingly allowing his body to relax after the war was over, Pvt. Charles H. Demarest was once again "sick and in hospital" as recorded for April 28, 1865 this time in New Bern, North Carolina. He apparently recovered enough to participate in the Grand Review of the victorious Federal troops that occurred in Washington, D.C. on May 24, 1865; he was then mustered out of the United States Army on June 10, 1865 near Washington, D.C.

Demarest Marker Pvt. Charles H. Demarest of Company C, 19th Mich . Inf. returned to Coldwater, Michigan sometime between June 26-29, 1865 and was reunited with his family and friends in Girard shortly thereafter. Charles H. Demarest died October 13, 1912 in Branch Co. Michigan and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. Girard, Michigan.


by Kenneth Elburn Byrd - Indianapolis, Indiana


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