Civil War Pension of Charles M. SMITH

Many thanks to Jon Holcombe for generously sharing the Civil War Military and Pension Records of Charles M. Smith who served in the 12 NY Cavalry. Charles M. Smith was the son of James R. & Rhoda (Marsden) Smith, born Aug. 8, 1839 in Texas, Oswego County NY. He, as others from Oswego did, served in the Civil War from 1862-65, in the12th Calvary, was promoted to Corporal (History of Oswego; 1865 Census). Charles died Oct 22, 1920 and is buried in the New Haven Rural Cemetery with his wife and other family members. 
*More information on the 12th NY Cavalry, including a complete roster and unit history can be found at: 


   The National Archives and Record Administration files show that Charles M. Smith applied for and received a pension under "soldier's certificate No. 922811" (Can
No 18986, Bundle No 34). The title page of his papers lists his rank as Corpl with service in Co B 12 NY Cav. The promotion to Corporal occurred on June 30, 1864. His signatures on the various papers received from the NARA compare favorably with the signature on the note found among the papers from the MacCallum estate.

   The NARA file contains several items of information, including the fact that Charles, " while on duty at New Bernie, N.C. on or about Fall of 1865 __ 1865, __ was
disabled by deafness of both ears." He was treated at the Regimental Hospital. His service was from enrollment on August 29, 1862, to his honorable discharge on July 1, 1865 by reason of close of the war. The pension application was in 1895 when he listed three subsequent disabilities, being reumatism, kidney trouble, and
disabled wrist. At that time he lived in Demster. Other papers included affidavits from others that attested to his infirmities including the fact that his wrist was broken
when he was doing carpentry work and fell off a ladder in January 1889.

   Charles' personal information was that he 5' 8" with dark eyes and dark complexion. The family information included a response to a questionnaire in early 1915, listing his wife, maiden name not clear, but probably Mary E. Alderich, who was his only wife and who had died 4 years earlier, their marriage, and the single child, Frederick D. Smith of New Haven, Oswego Co NY.

   The military records from the NARA show his various pay vouchers, his enlistment form, and cancellation of a desertion charge lodged against him when he did not
appear for his final discharge. These records show his voluntary enlistment on August 21, 1862 at Oswego City NY, for a period of three years. He was transferred from Co A to Co B on May 20 1863 and was promoted to corporal on May 1, 1864.

   The continuing muster rolls for Co. B, 12 Reg't N. Y. Calvary, show him "present" through June 1865, well after the end of the Civil War. Charles M. Smith, as he was always designated on the records, "Appear(ed) on Returns as follows: 
May 1865 On extraordinary duty on courier lines." Again, this was after the war ended.
The next record, "Muster_out Roll" for Charles M. Smith, from Raleigh NC July 19, 1865, under remarks, states as follows: "deserted at Halifax NC, July 1 1865.
Due US for one Sabre, Pistol & account ??? complete also carbine sling & swivel stolen Book mark: 3682 a (EB) 74." Another record in the materials states "NOTATION, Book mark: 3682 _ a _ 1874, War Department AGO, Washington Dec 15, 1885. The charge of desertion of July 1, 1865 against this man is removed and he is discharged to date July 1, 1865 under the provisions of the act of
Congress, approved July 5,1884. Discharge certificate furnished by War Department Dec 18, 1885. The notation of Jan. 31, 1884 is cancelled." 

   Perhaps someone can interpret what happened here. I am given to understand that after the end of the war that many soldiers were either told they could go home and
did, or were discharged from a medical facility. In the case of Charles M. Smith, he was a special courier just before the muster out and perhaps he was simply not
present for the final call. The NARA did not send any copy of an application that he might have submitted to change charge of desertion so the official basis for the removal is not known. Would anyone have any further information on this? In any event, the supposed desertion was AFTER the war was OVER, and therefore not a desertion in the face of the enemy, and most likely it was an administrative problem that was later corrected. Certainly if there had been a serious problem, he never would have been awarded a pension in a later year. An actual desertion just before honorable discharge simply makes no sense what so ever, and at best was a shabby way to treat one who served honorably in such a horrible strife. 

Jon K. Holcombe descendant of the sister of Charles M. Smith] 

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