Private Charles S. Ainslie
Co. D, 14th US Regulars, Army of the Potomac
Charles S. Ainslie was born in Kilso, Roxburgshire, Scotland in 1839. He was the youngest of six children in a farming family. The family emigrated to Hartwick, NY, where they continued farming.
Charles enlisted at Cooperstown, NY on March 20, 1862 in the 141h US Regulars as a private. He was the only member of his family to serve in this war. He then travelled to Ft. Trumball, CT, for training. His enlistment papers noted he was 23 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a ruddy complexion.
Charles wrote many letters to his family about his experiences in the war. He seemed to enjoy the life of a soldier believing it to be far easier than farming. His letters did show a concern for the impact of farm labor on his father.
In early June he was excited to learn that the 14th Regulars were moving to Washington, DC. He had an oppo1tunity to march through the city and then the unit camped east of the city. From Washington, DC, the 14th Regulars moved to the Peninsula for its first taste of combat. The unit fought in the Peninsula Campaign and at the Second Bull Run.
At bloody Antietam, his letter to his sister speaks of a fight with the rebels while on reconnaissance and returning to sleep on the ground with only a blanket for shelter and warmth. He writes of a successful Union cavalry engagement and finally the retreat of the Union forces.
Charles was next in the Battle of Fredericksburg. He writes of the heavy artillery bombardment of the city and when he crossed the river into Fredericksburg, his words were, “it looked pretty hard there was hardly a house but hed holes in it with bullets and good many houses was burned down.” It was nearly dark when they reached the battlefield (Marye’s Heights) and he later wrote that it was “one of the grandest sights ever I beheald .” After an hour, the fighting ceased and “we comensed to carry our wounded off the field of which there were a great many it took them the greater part of the night.” The remainder of the night was spent on the battlefield trying to sleep. The next morning Union forces fell back across the river to an encampment at Henry House. Charles noted that the rebels had “clear advantage of us.” In this same letter he writes that he will not need to many when he returns since he knows how “to cook my own vituals & wash my own cloths.”
The next letter was written on April 20, 1863 from a camp near Falmouth, VA. Much of the letter is about the need for news about family and farm. He mentions receiv ing orders to turn in all extra clothing, his shelter tent, keep one blanket and be ready to march at any time. This appears to be in preparation for Chancellorsville. He also mentioned General Hooker broke his leg in a fall from his horse.
Charles’ letters covers his time at a camp near Bankers Ford, He also said of the Battle of Gettysburg, “We went to the field dubel quick about 5 o’clock at night we was on the left the hill I don’t think it hed any name it was remarkable only for its rockyness we withdrawn up in line behind the second brigade. that we did not have a chance to tier althow we was under tier all the time at last the rebels camedown the woods on our right and was going to flank us when we was ordered to fall back but our men charged and drove them back again after we lost about 150 min our regiment on the 4111 of July while you was having mirrey times at home. I took a strool over the battlefield they were then ju st comensed to burey the dead it was a sorrowful sight to see so many laying helpless.”
The last correspondence from Charles was written at Cattlot Station, VA on April 4, 1864. He tells of Grant taking command of the Army and that 14th US Regulars are a part of the Fifth Corps. He complains the rains have continued for two weeks.
The 14th US Regulars crossed the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford on its way to what was to become one of the bloodiest and important battles of the Civil War. . . The Battle of the Wilderness. The Fifth Corps under General Gouvenor Warren established its headquarters at Ellwood.
The 14th US Regulars were among the first to engage the rebels. On May 4, 1864 they held the right flank at bloody Saunders Field.
Private Charles S. Ainslie was killed on May 5, 1864 in the Battle of the Wilderness fighting for the survival of his adopted country. He was buried in an unmarked grave.