Charles William Hennrich
Co. D, 27th IA Infantry, Civil War
~researched & written by Carl Inwalson
Born on January 12, 1844, Charles William Hennrich (Carl to his mother) was one of nine children born to Jacob and Phillippine Hennrich. Fredrick (1842), Charles (1844), Ernest (1847), Frederick W. (1848), Wilhelmina Minnie (1851), Elizabeth (1851) and Henry (1853) were born in Werdorf, Germany. This was a time of heavy emigration from Germany, Ireland, France and other European countries due to revolutions, crop failures, religious persecution and a desire for a better life. Germans were aided by associations (verein) in the United States and, in 1857 the Hennrich family immigrated to Clayton County, Iowa, where two more children were born, Amelia (1857) and Lezetta (1859).
Iowa had prospered during the wild and giddy speculation of 1856-1857, but hard times began to settle down on Clayton County as early as January 1857. The soil provided a good living, and the surplus products of the farm could be exchanged for the few simple manufactured articles which the settler was obliged to have but, for those in debt, times were hard, many lost their farms, grain prices were depressed, banks failed and interest rates were high. Many immigrants returned to Europe, but Jacob, Phillippine and their children stayed.
Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, war followed and thousands died from wounds, chronic diarrhea, typhoid and other diseases. More men were needed and on July 7, 1862, Iowa Governor Sam Kirkwood assured the President, the State of Iowa in the future as in the past, will be prompt and ready to do her duty to the country in the time of sore trial. On the 9th, the Governor received a telegram asking him to raise five regiments in addition to those already in the field.
On August 20, 1862, Charles signed a Volunteer Enlistment agreeing to bear true and faithful allegiance to the United States and enlisted at Garnavillo in what would be Company D of the states 27th regiment of volunteer infantry. He was described as being 5' 6" tall with brown eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was mustered into service on September 13th at Camp Franklin in Dubuque. At eighteen years of age, Charles was old enough to serve but still, according to regulations then in effect, needed parental consent. Phillippine said his father begged of you to stay here but, on September 27th, more than a month after Charles enlistment, Jacob acceded to his sons wishes and, at Elkport, signed a Consent in Case of Minor saying Charles was eighteen and I do hereby freely give my Consent to his volunteering as a Soldier.
Charles wrote frequently to his parents while he was away and they sent letters to him. All were written in German and translated many years later by descendants*. Due to an Indian uprising in Minnesota, Charles said General Pope has given orders that no soldiers from Iowa or Wisconsin were to leave pending further orders. The 21st Infantry had started south on the 16th and was briefly held at Rock Island, but was allowed to continue when the government learned it had already left Camp Franklin but, on October 11th, the 27th Infantry was ordered to go north to report to General Pope. They spent a month in southern Minnesota without encountering any hostile Indians and on November 4th were ordered south to Cairo and from there to Memphis. On January 15, 1863, Charles was briefly hospitalized due to a breaking-out on both arms. He rejoined the regiment in February and told his parents that quite a few were sick in other companies, but Company D was generally in good health since they were practically all German.
Except for a brief expedition to Arkansas, the first year of their service was in Tennessee supervising former slaves who loaded wood onto trains, guarding the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, and appropriating sheep, cattle, swine, horses and mules from every farmer who had not taken the oath before the 4th of July. On January 28, 1864, they were ordered to embark at Memphis and report to General Sherman at Vicksburg. From there they marched east and over the railroad bridge at the Big Black River where the 21st and 23d Iowa infantries had routed entrenched Confederates during the previous years Vicksburg Campaign, but only the advance guard encountered the enemy before the regiment started a return to Vicksburg on February 20. Charles told his parents the regiment might go to Texas where his father wanted to go a few years ago and assured them he was well. Henry Waterman, he said was also well. They were a couple of buddies and will not fail each other in time of need.
They didnt go to Texas but in April, 1864, became part of Nathaniel Banks abortive Red River Campaign in Louisiana. On the 9th, William Shaw's brigade, with the 27th Iowa, was positioned in front, across the road from Mansfield, with other units to their left and right and artillery ready to fire over their heads. Flushed by success on the 8th, the rebels were up before dawn on the 9th and headed south toward what they thought would be the remnants of a demoralized Union army. In the Battle of Pleasant Hill, artillery started firing about 4:30 in the afternoon as they started their advance on the Union troops ahead of them. John Walker's Confederates were checked by the 27th Iowa and other units in Shaw's brigade until, about to be flanked, the 27th was ordered to fall back and escaped with heavy losses through a narrow passage before reforming in a renewed advance that ultimately turned defeat to victory and forced the Southerners to withdraw. For the 27th Iowa this was their first major battle and they had stood the test well.
On the 13th from Alexandria, Charles signed a letter written for him by one of his comrades and telling his parents it got pretty hot and a bullet wounded me in the arm and of course gave me a lot of pain. But the bone was not broken and I think it will not be long before it is well again. Many were so badly wounded that they will remain cripples for life, and therefore one cannot but say that I have had luck in my misfortune in that I was not shot dead. He could say more, but I think this is now enough for I am myself not able to write for it is the right arm which is wounded and just in front of the elbow through the fleshy part. If they wanted to write to him he said they should send it to Alexandria and mark it Wounded in Hospital. His mother did write and, thinking of the 13th when he wrote from the hospital, she said I dreamed that night I had you in my arms and you were dying. On May 9th he was able to write his own letter and when they received it everybody in the house cried for joy, she said. While Charles assured his parents that he was well, the wound was serious enough to bother him the rest of his life.
Charles received a furlough and, after returning to the regiment, was detached in August and saw duty in Illinois (I am a watch at the headquarters of our brigadier-general) and Tennessee where he served several months as a provost guard. The regiment was mustered out of service on August 8, 1865.
On March 28, 1867, Charles married Henrietta Wilhelmina Kukuk in Garnavillo. The first of their ten children, Amelia, lived only eight months and their second child, Frederick, about two years. Other children included Edward (1872), William E. (1874), Linda C. (1877), Wilhelmina Emily known as Minnie (1878), Bertha J. (1881), Otto J. (1883), Carl H. (1886) and Emma E. (1890).
In 1878 they had a farm near Le Mars in Plymouth County when Charles signed the first of many applications for a pension and said he was partially incapacitated by the arm wound. The first pension surgeon said the musket ball had taken a downward course striking the bone and was removed soon after the injury. Most doctors agreed, but one said part of the bone was removed trying to find the ball. Ball never was found. Regardless of whether the ball had or had not been removed, the arm was weak and, he said, greatly interferes with his work on the farm. A monthly pension of $4.00, payable quarterly, was granted and later increased, and, in 1885, while living in Maurice, Sioux County, he applied again. By 1889 and only forty-five years old, he said he has been compelled to abandon all manual labor and hire all his work done which claimant cannot afford.
Charles and Henrietta moved to South Dakota (where two of their children lived) for about ten years, but moved back to Iowa in 1910 and lived in Ireton. They visited frequently with their children living in the area and enjoyed visits from Edward and Otto who had moved to Denver and from William who lived in Le Mars and in 1924 visited in his new Ford touring car. In 1926 they spent the summer with their daughter Minnie (Hennrich) Knowlton in Iowa City and in 1928 celebrated their sixty-first wedding anniversary. When asked how they had met the struggles and hardships of life so successfully, lived so long and been able to raise a large family, Mr. Hennrich said that he would recommend to the rising generation plenty of work and trust in God. Two years later they moved to Iowa City to live with Minnie.
Hennrietta was eighty-seven years old when she died in May, 1935. Charles was receiving a $72.00 age-based monthly pension when he died on February 9, 1937, at ninety-three years of age. Theyre buried in Iretons Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
*Charles' letters can be read online at the 27th Iowa Infantry website (opens in a new window)
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