Charles E. Jayne of Stony Brook joined the Union Army on November 27, 1861. He was the First Lieutenant in the 102nd Regiment. While enlisted Charles would write letters home to his parents as often as he could as many soldiers did. In these letters he gave details of his life in camp and the expectations he and his comrades had contemplated of what battles may lay ahead. He did his best to assure his parents that conditions were not that bad and to not believe everything they read in the newspapers.
Excerpt: Fort Carroll May 1st 1862
“I never felt in better health in my life than at present You have no idea (nor neither had I) of the comfort of a tent I do not see but what I have as many comforts here as if I was at home- In regard to our living we live in as good as style as I ever I have plenty of fresh beef Shad of the finest quality in great abundance puddings made of hominy rice. bread &c pies made of prunes which was very good”
The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 and tore at the very fabric of American life. The United States still a fledgling nation struggled to come to grips with the idea of slavery. The issue raised both philosophical and economic questions, both on a vast scale.
For the South, slavery made possible the huge cotton plantations which allowed their economy to thrive. In the North however, the stony land and harsh winters had kept slavery from becoming a dominant force in the quality of life. Yet, the relationship between northern and southern states forced both to assess the role slavery played in American life.
It was against this background that Charles E. Jayne and America’s other young men, whether wearing blue or gray fought in the Civil War. With frustrating feints and too-bloody battles, with brother against brother, with the slaves hungering for freedom even as some feared it, the Civil War played out.
Excerpt: In Camp 3 miles from Winchester June 16th 1862
“Did you see the complimentary notice given us in N.Y Tribune? no doubt but what you did- It was from Genl Saxton Provost Marshall of Harpers Ferry complimenting our untiring energy in making Harpers Ferry impregnable-which we certainly did
by fortifying Maryland Heights which overlooks the opposite side of the Potomac in Virginia for six miles not only overlooks but commands- It seems by information received afterwards that we were besieged by Jackson for five days & nights (which we did not then Know) and in the most iminent danger had Jackson Known in the first instance of our exact force we would have certainly been all cut to pieces. Had the enemy taken Harpers Ferry the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road would have been in their possesion which they Could have used and run down to Washington if not Could have blown it up which would have left Banks totaly isolated cut off from all supplies and reinforcements. So you see the 102nd Regt together with some two or three Penn regiments were the pivot upon which the affairs of Nation were hinged. Why your son is a hero and if heroism is so easily gained I shall take a contract to be five or six heros before I return – It is said that Jackson sat down and cried when informed of the battery spoken of.”
While many men lost their lives in the Civil War, Lieutenant Charles E. Jayne made it home long before the wars end, due to a gunshot wound in his forearm. However, the war continued on without him. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freeing “all slaves in areas still in rebellion did not take effect until January 1, 1863 Sherman did not march through Georgia until the fall and winter of 1864. And Robert E. Lee did not surrender his 27,800 Confederate troops at the Appomattox Court House until April 9, 1865.
Charles E. Jayne lived out the remainder of his life in New York as a ship handler and merchant. While he never married, Jayne took care of his elderly mother Sophia until her death in 1911. Charles died shortly after on April 23, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York at the age of 78.
Article by Jessica Giannetti