Charles Henry Barlow


Charles Henry Barlow (ca. 1877)

These letters were written by Charles Henry Barlow (1840-1890) who enlisted in Co. K of the 4th Michigan Infantry on June 20, 1861 at Adrian for three years. Charles was mustered into the regiment on 20 June 1861. He was badly wounded (shot in lung) at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and discharged at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, on February 19, 1863. At the time of his discharge his weight had been reduced from over 180 pounds to less than 100 pounds. He was a farm hand by trade. After the war, Charles resided in Leroy, Michigan.

Charles was the son of Daniel S. Barlow (1812-1865) and Jane Lewis (1816-1855) of Livingston county, Michigan. Charles married Caroline “Carrie” Eleanor Thompson (1843-1892) in March 1877. Children: Elizabeth (1878-1948),  Charles Lewis (1879-1958), Lydia Jane (b. 1882), Lester Henry (1883-1955), and Leeland Noble (1885-1967). Carrie also married Wells Cross. Charles was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Leroy, Michigan.

Sources: ” Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War 1861 -1865, vol. 4″, also known as the “Brown Book” and personal research from the soldier’s Compiled Military Service Records and Pension Application file from the National Archives.


These two letters were  written by Private Charles Barlow to his friend, Charles Bates, who was living in Dexter, Michigan. The original letters are located at the Bentley Historical Library, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Friend Charley,                                                       Washington D. C.    July 6th, 1861

I received your welcome letter on the morn of our departure for Washington and have been so busy since and I could not get time to write. You say [that] unless I write [to] you [that] you will go in under Jeff Davis. Well now, I’d rather see the devil than to find you with the old navy revolver in hand. So I guess I’ll write. We had an interesting time on the way to Washington but of all the states I have seen yet, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, I like Michigan better than all. Yes, Good old Michigan is the lace for me. Not that I am homesick. Far from it. But it looks better, the air seems cooler [and] freer, and the girls are better looking. That’s so that I ain’t seen a hardly decent looking woman since I left Michigan, and nothing extra since leaving Dexter. We had a grand time [on] the fourth [of July] here. [I’ve] seen all the big men of the nation, Lincoln, Scott, Clay, Fremont, and quite a lots of more of them. We went through the Capitol Building, the White House, Patent Office, Museum, and [we’ve] seen the Washington Monument, and everything wonderful. I could tell all [that we’ve] seen if I should write [for] a month. I never a noise till I came here. Early in the morn of the 4th the guns began to roar, 64 and 32 pounders. I tell you, it made everything get.

Now Charley, do the fair thing with the girls. Kiss nine or eleven for me. Tell them of the bold soldier boy who has an interest for them. Give my love to all. Martha in particular. Tell her I wear a couple of red ribbons tied in the buttonholes of my oil cloth cape, the ones [that] she tied on it, I shall wear them till dead or discharged, in remembrance of the girl I left behind. But don’t you plague her for in the language of an obscure poet:

Tis sweet to love I hear them say

But can’t believe ’tis so

Because I loved the other day

And was I happy…No

No for they kept on plaguing me

About those sweet black eyes

Until I came at last you see

From loving to despise

You need not think [that] I’m love cracked 1000 miles away. It is because I never pay postage on blank paper and when I can’t think of anything else to write, [I] go [to] it on anything to fill [the paper] up. But do as I tell you and give my best respects to Mrs. House and Mr. and Mrs. Olmstead. Eri is well. He is on guard tonight or he would write too. He is a little discontented on account of our hard fare. Well, it is rather tough but I bargained for worse fare than hard bread and salt pork rinsed down by cold water. Don’t you tell Mrs. House [anything] but what we had good times for it might worry her on his account. Some of the [men of the] regiment wish they had never seen the army and cuss the day they ever enlisted. Perhaps you will find out who it is but I am not at liberty to tell at present. As for me, I am tough and expected to see hell before the war was over when I enlisted. You will never hear, I hope, that I failed when the tug of war comes. Now Charley, write soon while I remain yours truly,

C. H. Barlow

PS 1/2 past nine and back in the evening July 6th. It is rumored that we march in the morning for Virginia. Good bye, C. H. B.



Charley,                                                                Washington D.C.   Aug. 3, 1861

Your welcome letter was dull received, the one of July 10th. I got [it] while at Fairfax Station on Sunday morning, 21st inst., while the guns were popping every second down at Bull Run. I was so exited that I could not read nor do anything but walk back and forth within the lines. I tell you Charley, you don’t know how it makes one feel to get as near as that( 7 miles) to a battle and then be tied up. But we had to obey orders and could not help our boys in the fight. We stayed at the Station till five o’clock when we were ordered to the Court House, 4 miles up the road and our company was detailed as picket guard. About 12 o’clock that night the Colonel was ordered to fall back to Washington, so he retreated without calling us in. Well there we stood till 3 o’clock when we found out [that] our regiment had retreated 3 hours before. When we fell back to the Court House [we] packed our knapsacks and followed on after them. By this time the road was crammed full of panic stricken soldiers, teamsters, and civilians, [all] fleeing from the field of battle. The sight was painful to behold. Wagon loads of wounded men came jouncing along over the rough roads and their groans sound in my ears [still] yet. Here was a cannon, there was a capsized baggage wagon, guns laid here and there, all along the road. It was indeed, a sickening sight. Everyone got [back the] best way he could. Our Company kept together and we arrived at Arlington Heights at 5 o’clock in the morning where the rest of our regiment had laid down to rest. I never was so tired in [all of] my life as I was that morn. We laid down on the ground and slept soundly till night when we went into an old house and stayed all night. The next morning we came across the long bridge to Wash. City [and] up to our old camping ground and drove [tent] stakes again, after a wild goose chase of 8 days where we are yet. As soon as we had settled down I wrote you a letter. But you have not got it, you say. There is some foul play somewhere. Either our postmaster did not do his duty or it was lost. Eri {House} wrote you two days  before and you say [that] you didn’t get that yet. It beats hell, our officers, our postmaster, quartermaster, and commissary ain’t as good as a white pine dog with a bobble head. But Charley, it was not our fault that you did not get letters so don’t get out of patience. I will make it up in the future but I shall not write any more till I get our money to pay postage. I don’t believe in the doctrine of compelling our friends to buy letters. You will have to pay for this letter about 4 times what it is worth. Money is [as] scarce as honest secessionists here. I have not seen a cent in 6 weeks. You say it is hard times in Michigan and seem to be discouraged, besides [yourself with] a notion of enlisting. Now Charley, you don’t know what it is to be hard up. What you would call hard up, we would call the top shelf of enjoyment. While you can get good bread and butter to eat, we have nothing but hard biscuit and salt beef or pork and poor water. While you have good soft beds to sleep on, we have  to lie on the ground, rain or shine. You are your own boss, we are subject to the strictest discipline. While we are making 11 dollars per month, you are making at least $20. You have a farm to see to while we, myself or most of us, are poor devils fit for nothing else that is. We have nothing else to do. You said [that] you wanted [that] I should tell you just how it is and I will do it. Charley, we have tough fare, though not any worse than I expected when I enlisted, but tough enough, I tell you. We have for breakfast baker’s bread, salt pork and coffee, one loaf of bread a day or 10 ounces. Bread, cold water, and pork for dinner, sometimes bean soup, though not often. For supper [we have] bread, if you don’t eat it all up before, which is often the case, and pork, and tea. When we are on the march we get hard biscuit and salt beef, rinsed down with cold water if you can get get [it]. If not, with any kind of liquid [that] you can get. Now Charley, that is our experience and you think [that] you would like it, why enlist [then]. I bargained for all of this at first so [I] am not disappointed and am going through [it]or [will] die trying. But many would give all [that] they possess to be back in Michigan again. We drill 8 hours a day, everyday but Sundays and are not permitted to go downtown at all. Eri and William Fields are well and in good spirits as well as the rest of the boys in Company K. You have heard most likelier this of Capt. [Alexander D.] Crane’s resignation and [of James] Mulloys? We expect orders to march for Va. in a few days. Probably before you get this we shall be in the field again. I am not in the habit of giving advice Charley, until it is asked for, but I will for once to you. If I was in your place I should not enlist yet till it is absolutely necessary. But wait, if you do enlist you will see the times that you will wish that you was back in the land of bread and butter again. There is lots of young restless young devils left yet that ain’t got nothing else to do, like me for instance. Wait till they are all gone. Then it will be time enough then. Now Charley, you must write [as] often as you can. It does me 5 dollars worth of good to get a letter from you anytime. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends, Mrs. House and Martha in particular. Tell them [that] I have not forgot[ten] them yet and would like to hear from them. We got new uniforms this afternoon (dark blue cloth). Tell the folks [that] we have, all of us, good pluck and 40 rounds of ammunition in our cartridge boxes and we [are] bound to wipe out Bull Run and die decently. Our money is coming in a few days the Colonel says.

Yours truly, C. H. Barlow





Charles also sent the following letter to his friend Charles Bates of Dexter, Michigan. This letter is provided through the courtesy of the Dexter Historical Museum.



Miner’s Hill, Va.
February 11, 1862

Friend Charley,

After a long delay, I will write you again to let you know that all is well with your soldier friend Barlow [and I am] in hopes this will find you & the rest of the Union population (girls particularly) in the same fix. The health of Co. K was never as good as at present. Indeed, they are tougher than sin, stewed down & multiplied by 7, & are fully prepared to try our steel with the rebels.

There is nothing going on here but the same old story day after day, week after week — viz: reveille, roll call, dress parade & tattoo, week in & week out, until we are heartily tired of it. We have laid here so long that some of us begin to feel symptoms of the gout. For my part, I am so fat that it is hard work to get around at all.

It is now over 8 months since we bid you all goodbye & started for the seat of war via Adrian. Since that memorable May morning (to us) we have learned the art of soldiering pretty thoroughly, I assure you. I have seen the time since then that I would [have] given five dollars for a glass of cold water or a piece of bread, or even a dry board to sleep on. I have been two months in the hospital — part of the time I never expected to see camp again. From Georgetown to Annapolis & back again to Miner’s Hill, where I find myself at latest accounts, tough as a salamander, fat as a cub (weight 185 lbs) & never better prepared to fight (or die if necessary) & never expect to be [better] than at this present moment so let come what may [and I] will try & meet any emergency as becomes a U. S. soldier.

Now Charley, write often & I will try & do better hereafter. Give my best respects to Mrs. House, Mr. & Mrs. Olmstead, & all inquiring strangers. Love to all the lovely Union lovers. Tell them this is my platform.

If ever I marry in my life
Or if in love I fall,
A Union girl shall be my wife
Or I’ll have none at all.

God bless them all in every clime
In every state & land,
Of Union sentiments sublime
The girls of Michigan

Of all that are to me most dear
In health or time of need,
They always kindly volunteer
And never will secede.

To me no charms have foreign curls
Though decked with jewels grand,
Like the true blue Union girls
The girls of Michigan.

— C. H. Barlow, USA


“Old Boys of the Fourth” written by Charles H. Barlow (1887)